When Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche visited, he so tightly interwove the teachings of compassion and wisdom that new understandings and connections arose between the teachings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, their practices & mantras and what actually occurs in our world experience. Personal mistakes in daily behavior became visible, their root causes comprehensible and remedies revealed. Remaining in Hawaii after Precious Rinpoche’s departure, reflecting now on some of the sacred and transcendental teachings he revealed.
Rinpoche began his teaching on compassion and wisdom by having us reflect upon what it is “to be a Buddhist”. He pointed out the comic irony of saying one “is a Buddhist, but does not practice”. If one respects Shakyamuni Buddha sincerely enough to say that one “is a Buddhist”, then one must respect not only Shakyamuni Buddha’s life and example but also his teachings on how exactly to effectively end our suffering. One logically begins with his first teaching- the Four Noble Truths: 1)There is suffering. 2)There is a cause, origin, root of our suffering. 3)There is a path to end our suffering/ to stop the cause of suffering/ to cut the root of suffering. 4) the path is to Analyze the causes and effects of actions. Choose actions that lead to the elimination of our sufferings.
Buddha taught an active not complacent method. Each thought and action must accord with virtuous motivation, virtuous action, everything we do aiming for virtuous effect of cutting the origin of our suffering. Moreover, if we are Mahāyāna Buddhists, we must aim to end not only our suffering but also the suffering of others.
For example, when Shakyamuni Buddha was alive, feeling compassion at the sight of other’s illness, age, and death; seeking wisdom attainment, he scrutinized cause and effect of all he thought and saw, aspiring to renounce everything unless it lead toward an end to suffering. Recognizing that the system of caste and the religion in place failed to address the suffering of sentient beings-he rejected them. Leaving his palace behind, humbly begging for food only when needed, gratefully eating whatever, including meat, was offered to him, he and those who followed him rigorously renounced luxury. Their motivation: Self discipline mind to understand all effects as having a cause, establish pure, positive virtue action as cause, and aim toward wisdom attainment as effect through following the eight precepts and meditation. As mendicants with begging bowls, when cause and effect put meat in their bowls, their humility accepted it, their minds on renunciation and acceptance with view of emptiness aiming toward wisdom stabilization.
When the stronghold of the Buddha Dharma later shifted to Tibet, winter snow prevented growth of summer foods, the impoverished nomads depended on meat, blood and products of their cherished animals for their survival. Again, eating meat not by choice. Times have changed. While one might say “Oh the Buddha himself ate meat. They ate meat in Tibet.” One fails to accurately see through the lens of changes in circumstance that have occurred and fails to actively assess and apply cause and effect assessment to modern day conditions. In this part of the world, at this time, most of us are not mendicants who renounced luxury of royal birth with a begging bowl in hand. When surrounded by abundance of vegetables and fruit, if we happily profess to “being a Buddhist,” while blithely requesting steak at a restaurant- actively choosing food from the suffering and slaughter of others, we have failed to follow Buddha’s teaching to use human discernment to analyze cause and effect and create a path that will end suffering. We have also not disciplined our mind to make virtuous choice as cause to lead to compassionate wisdom. If we wish to hold Buddha’s compassion and wisdom we must practice them.
After conferring the Avoloketishvara empowerment, Precious Rinpoche also gave the pith instruction to maintaining the strength of any Buddhist empowerment: When reciting a practice, as one imagines the sacred syllables radiating out into all realms, bringing compassion, healing and the release of suffering to all beings, it is crucial to strongly visualize that one’s ordinary body has been completely transformed to the specific Buddha or bodhisattva’s body mind and speech.
This step- you strongly believe this “body of the Buddha or body of the Bodhisattva” is true- is the key that protects and develops the blessings from any empowerment.
When introducing us to mind training through the 5 Doors of Tibetan Zen, Rinpoche had us giggling when he recounted that so many people tell him “Oh it’s too much trouble to visualize all those deities and recite all those mantras, I want to practice ZEN ! “ but ha! To train the mind through stillness is the most difficult ! Tilopa, erudite scholar, realized that he had no control whatsoever over his mind. Despite excelling at philosophy and debate, his mind remained totally impelled by karma. Facing the fact that he was unable to still mind for the length of time it takes a girl to milk a cow, Tilopa left the monastery seeking a method, a cause for wisdom stabilization. Wandering, he came upon a brothel which during the day produced sesame oil by grinding sesame seeds. He saw his chance to simplify. Yes, A monk, staying at a brothel, he did nothing but grind seeds, focusing 100% on the sesame seeds in his hands, for 12 years. Tilopa actively chose to train his busy mind away from seeking causes of happiness or busy mind dialog toward focus upon just the sesame seeds to be ground. Disciplining his mind to stabilization, he attained complete realization. In turn when his student Naropa sought realization, Tilopa assured him that if he explicitly followed everything exactly as Tilopa instructed for 13 years, Naropa too would experience realization! After explicitly following Tilopa’s every instruction for 12 years, Naropa’s Guru devotion, refuge and renunciation 100% pure, all of Tilopa’s mind realizations transferred and merged to Naropa’s Heart! Through the thread of these lineage masters and the devotion of their disciples, arose “mind one with the sky” as was described by Milarepa.
Rinpoche inspired us that anyone can make use of the keys presented by the master and perhaps even go even beyond, given devotion, determination and persistence. We have all we need!
Rinpoche urged us train the mind by going inward. Be happy! “Stop being the police officer of others ! Observe our lovely mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, grandmothers, grandfathers calmly, with a joyful heart!” As Tilopa himself discovered, the process of attraction and aversion to eye perception, harsh judgemental vision of others, the mind quick to seek and criticize, or compete, all of which have become habitual patterns for most of us, everyday, horribly wastes our spiritual energy. This disturbance occurs through sound imputation too, as well as through all the other senses, harshly compounding into the physical and mental exhaustion we experience on a daily basis. Incessant attraction and aversion arises through our perception of all we experience. If we seek wisdom attainment we must transform this way of perceiving! How ? Usually we look beyond the eyes at objects, or we hear beyond our ears at the objects in the field of focus lying beyond the eyes, ears and so forth, liking or disliking external objects…Tibetan zen methods train us to observe calmly without “interaction between subject and object”. Train the mind by keeping the eyes open, yet keeping the spiritual energy, the inner relaxation energy, inside.Rinpoche had us practice together making us laugh at mind’s inability to hold still even for 60 seconds.He had us gaze softly just for short periods now as we begin to train. With the eyes resting in eyes’ gaze itself, letting mind rest within the faculty of vision itself. Likewise rest the mind through focus on the faculty of hearing and so forth- for all of the senses. This pratyahara withdrawal from the senses creates a space of deep internal calm in the mind where 6 senses remain aware, yet without a focus that distinguishes object from mind.Rest in equanimity, develop clear sight, saving energy, protecting the mind. Without grasping/ pushing away, reactively judging, forms, appearances and experiences will become soft like rainbow awareness. The result? Eye consciousness goes into a deeper level. Mind perception refines. With practice, all sense faculties soften expansively.
As far as sound and the other senses go, purify motivation! Even when we can not totally transform the karma of others we CAN always hold compassion in our hearts, always finding a way to be kind and helpful to our lovely mothers! there are always things that we can do: “Be nice! Be kind ! Make your mind brighter handsome and beautiful, do not do evil things, do not speak critically, be evil or judge others or be jealous or be anger toward others. To purify ear and sound use voice to be kind. ‘’Use voice to think and say kind words to all your lovely mothers!Think I love you to the child, dog, cat.Recite songs of love and harmony to others.”
Precious Rinpoche thus prepared us for Manjushri Boddisattva’s wisdom empowerment. In the afternoon Rinpoche revealed the crucial role of Manjushri Boddisattva’s capacity: Whenever there are two things: ears and eyes, or two people- any two things-any place and at any time- there will always be space between the two in which some confusion, some Māra will try to create discord. Therefore, as Buddhist practitioners, we must always be mindful to hold compassion and wisdom in the space around us for at any moment the Four Māra may swiftly, unexpectedly try to arise! This is for certain ! Therefore we must be vigilant ! If we intentionally call wisdom to occupy space, such as the space between two mindful people, then harmony will exist and will be guarded, and much can be carefully accomplished ! If we are careless, then it is certain that some Māra will swiftly enter, occupy the space, take over, and there will be discord, strife and chaos. This applies to the interior of our mind as well as to all external situations and relationships in our lives as the 4 Māra are always, at every moment ready to intrude taking myriad forms and disguises, disturbing moods, feelings, body sensations to confound and destabilize the mind. Rinpoche gently suggests we would be wise to Cultivate wisdom power through undertaking the cultivation of Manjushri’s practices. Learn to have Manjushri’s wisdom carefully guard the space!
Reflecting on monkey mind/ human mind- If we aim for compassion and wisdom stabilization as Precious Rinpoche has been describing, then we have a chance to a calm, clear, stable human mind . Actively Pursuing happiness, the mind will always be changing like that of an angry monkey throwing things at tourists! Surely Monkeys have good reason to throw things at us! Humans have stolen their homes, stolen their habitats even tortured imprisoned and killed them. it’s horrible! It makes perfect sense that they are upset but we ourselves do not need this kind of reactive mind! Seeking happiness and a relief from distress… how many times has our mind changed even just this morning – in a few hours? Actually, the Buddha nature is calm, pure and stable from the beginning, then slowly slowly irritations disturb the mind- slowly hunger, thirst, attachment, jealously, if you don’t get something it or someone takes what you have… afflictive emotions arise. All animals have these same emotions. Death is inside of us, but at this very moment remember ! we have this human mind which can still be developed, stabilized and steadied through the 9 stages of mental stabilization concentration. As body learns to remain totally calm, relaxed, to calmly support the transforming mind, we must be vigilant at every moment of every day, awake or in sleep and strategize how to make the most of our human capacity. If reborn as a pig or a dog or some creature, will we be able to read or cultivate cultivate mind training ? No ! We would only be able to only bear young, over and over, try to raise them and keep them safe from whatever other creatures would wish to kill us. Now we have human discernment and capacity, we must actually use them! If we cultivate like a monkey for our feelings of happiness and self satisfaction there will be countless arisings of Māra and sufferings of chaos. Instead, we must learn to stabilize compassion for others and work toward stabilization of wisdom attainment!
Rinpoche inspired us to renounce monkey mind by recounting stories of wisdom stabilization’s effects brought about not only by His Holiness the Dalai lama in consecutive lives but also recounting astounding feats of capacity stabilized by simple self-disciplined practitioners in these current times as he nudged us to begin.
How to begin ? He urges us to begin holding compassion mind gently, and training eyes as begins the Prajñāpāramitā. Sit with eyes open, gazing with various methods he clearly outlined day before At first only in just 30 or 60 second increments, following with a rest pause and repeating over and again. Overtime, consistently, day by day, senses, perception and mind refine compassion grows and our awareness of experience softens , perception softens and becomes subtle, emotions stabilize, compassion broadens, wisdom stabilizes luminous mind arising. Rinpoche described this the day before. But on the second day of practicing meditation in Rinpoche’s care it was ever so slightly easier and the eager readiness and determination in the room was palpable.
Rinpoche began the teaching of Machig Labdrün and Chöd that afternoon by gently cajoling that he has seen how people are eagerly attracted to the Chöd practice as it looks like fun but most people don’t ask why they are actually practicing or consider seriously what it means that the practice is “to cut off the ego”. He calmly explained to begin with cutting the Māra in your mouth that tells you to eat animals -then extend your understanding to cut off all the Māra, pacify all the demons, ease the suffering of the dead, the sick, mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicts, and the tremendous suffering of those in other realms, like the Nagas, local nature spirits, hungry ghosts, and hell beings- ease the suffering of all the beings in all the realms…Actually a very serious practice ! Remember the Chöd is also a constant practice! Every time we eat, we have the chance to cut off Māra! Shift your daily eating to subdue the first Mara ! From there begin the Chöd of Mächig Labdrün!
Mächig in the 10th century was likewise very smart and serious thinking. When she received the Chöd empowerment at 16, she was able to so clearly visualize the wisdom empowerment instructions that she absorbed into her body the actual tantric practitioners who invisible to others had appeared from the pure lands to confer their blessings. The real tantric masters entered her body, she spoke sacred languages, merging with the wisdom practitioners of the pure realms. As Precious Rinpoche taught:‘’Beyond receiving the empowerment, she effectively practiced the Chöd given her so sincerely and diligently, also studying prajna Prajnaparamita heart sutras-The great wisdom of emptiness so intently, that she realized accordingly: The View: emptiness !
Action: compassion! Job: cut through the ego wisdom subdue the Mara !
Form inner, ? Form outer, ? all the Same !”
Through Mächig Labdrün’s example and those of the cultivators described in his teachings, Precious Rinpoche taught that through the very teachings he had just given us during the week Avoloketishvara’s stabilized compassion practices and Manjushri’s wisdom power cultivation, combined with our effort in meditation, and our disciplined cultivation of Mächig’s example through the Chöd, we can completely transform our perception of the reality as we train our own internal process of perception, such that all appearances are perceived softly as one perceived transparent rainbows, compassion merges with wisdom, mind stabilizes, ease of awareness arises even in difficult circumstances.
Rinpoche meticulously revealed and intimated how this mind training which he had gently extended to us is the root cause for the apparently miraculous effect of rainbow body in the lives of the ancient and modern day victors. Cultivating with beginnings as laypersons with simple lives, this very active process of transformation of consciousness can become the key that leads to sublime compassion and wisdom stabilization and for some to the attainment of rainbow body. He made these teachings utterly applicable and inspiring. We are profoundly moved to continue. We in Hawaii shall practice alone and together and eagerly await his return!