WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES TABLE OF CONTENTS, FOREWORDS ETC.

WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES

"When the iron bird flies, and horses run on wheels, The Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the World, And the Dharma will come to the land of the Red Man."

Prophecy by Lord Padmasambhava, the teacher who introduced tantric Buddhism to Tibet from India. ( Eighth century C.E. )

Copyright ©Ashley S.C. Howes. All Rights Reserved. Contact: ashley.kos@gmail.com

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES TABLE OF CONTENTS, FOREWORDS ETC.

Dedication:

To all sentient beings, my mothers and fathers since beginningless time; especially to those of them who have more recently manifested as teachers, parents, wife, son and friends.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES TABLE OF CONTENTS, FOREWORDS ETC.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Dedication Preface Introduction to Buddhism and the Author’s Approach

CHAPTER ONE THE ULTIMATE REVOLUTIONARY ...................................... 13 CHAPTER TWO ENLIGHTENMENT AND IGNORANCE, THE BASIC BATTLEGROUND ............................................................................................. 25 CHAPTER THREE ANIMAL TALES ................................................................. 31
INTERLUDE: THE BIRTH OF OUR WORLD ..................................................................................... 34

CHAPTER FOUR INTRODUCING THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARIC EXISTENCE....................................................................................................... 37 CHAPTER FIVE THE HELL REALM................................................................. 41 CHAPTER SIX THE HUNGRY GHOST REALM ............................................... 43 CHAPTER SEVEN THE ANIMAL REALM ........................................................ 45 CHAPTER EIGHT THE HUMAN REALM.......................................................... 49 CHAPTER NINE THE JEALOUS GOD REALM ............................................... 53 CHAPTER TEN THE REALM OF THE GODS .................................................. 56
INTERLUDE: THE BODHISATTVA BUFFALO ................................................................................. 60

CHAPTER ELEVEN KARMA AND REBIRTH................................................... 64 CHAPTER TWELVE THE THREE MARKS OF EXISTENCE .......................... 71
INTERLUDE: THE BODHISATTVA AND THE STARVING TIGRESS ......................................... 76

CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS....................................... 79

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN THE TRUTH OF SUFFERING .................................... 82 CHAPTER FIFTEEN THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING......................................... 87 CHAPTER SIXTEEN CESSATION.................................................................... 89 CHAPTER SEVENTEEN THE PATH IS THE GOAL ........................................ 92 CHAPTER EIGHTEEN TAKING REFUGE IN THE THREE JEWELS .............. 96 CHAPTER NINETEEN THE SITTING PRACTICE OF MEDITATION ............ 100 CHAPTER TWENTY MINDFULNESS AND AWARENESS ............................ 109 CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE SHILA, SAMADHI AND PRAJNA ........................ 113
INTERLUDE: THE PASSING OF THE CROWN .............................................................................. 117

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO INTRODUCTION TO MAHAYANA ...................... 121 CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE AWAKENING HEART ..................................... 125 CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR .............................. 130
EDICT OF WHOLESOME HUMAN CONDUCT................................................................................ 134

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE ENLIGHTENING ACTION .................................... 135 CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX TONGLEN: THE PRACTICE OF KINDNESS AND COMPASSION................................................................................................. 139
INTERLUDE: A LIVING CHAKRAVARTIN...................................................................................... 144

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN INTRODUCTION TO VAJRAYANA................. 146
DEDICATION OF MERIT ..................................................................................................................... 153 Further readings ........................................................................................................................................ 160 Contacts for Meditation Instruction.......................................................................................................... 161

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Dedication Preface Introduction to Buddhism and author's background Chapter 1 The Ultimate Revolutionary: a short story of the early life and enlightenment of The Buddha. Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Interlude Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Interlude Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Interlude Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 The Basic Battleground - what is the self? Animal Tales A Buddhist tale : Prologue, the Birth of the World Introducing the Six Realms of Existence The Hell Realm The Hungry Ghost Realm The Animal Realm The Human Realm The Jealous God Realm The God Realm A Buddhist tale : The Bodhisattva Buffalo Karma and Rebirth, The Good News and the Bad News The Three Marks of Existence A Buddhist tale : The Bodhisattva and the Starving Tigress The Four Noble Truths The Truth of Suffering The Cause of Suffering The Cessation of Suffering

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Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Interlude Chapter 22 Insert: Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Insert: Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Interlude Chapter 27

The Path is the Goal Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels The Sitting Practice of Meditation Mindfulness and Awareness Shila, Samadhi and Prajna A Buddhist tale : The Passing of the Crown Introduction to the Mahayana : The Open Way. Prajnaparamita, The Heart Sutra Awakening Heart Bodhisattva, the Spiritual Warrior Edict of Wholesome Human Conduct Enlightening Action The Practice of Kindness and Compassion A Living Chakravartin Introduction to Vajrayana: Sacred Nowness

Dedication of Merit

Poetry by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Further Readings and Sources

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PREFACE In 1981, I lived in Boulder Colorado working as Governor and Head Tutor to Master Gesar Mukpo, Sechen Kongtrul Rinpoche. Born in America of a Tibetan father and English mother, he had been formally recognised at the age of three as a the reincarnation of his father's teacher. His father's full name and title was the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche XI. The Vidyadhara had been raised from an early age to be both the abbot of an important group of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries as well as the governor of the province of Surmang in Eastern Tibet. During a meeting with the Vidyadhara about Master Gesar’s Buddhist studies, I mentioned that I was having a hard time knowing what to present. Even though of course the Vidyadhara’s many books were 'quite good' (!), they were not really suitable for younger readers. Because there was no other material available for younger students, I was having to guess what was appropriate; there should be more that we could do than tell stories about great yogis of the lineage practising in mountains in days gone by and turning the whole world into gold. He agreed but then to my astonishment suggested that I should write something in this regard. Although gratified by his faith in me and proud to have been asked, I blithely ignored his suggestion completely until this time more than fifteen years later when it has now seemed feasible to make a go of it. The result I leave the reader to judge for him or herself. As far as I can tell, it seems that the book is not really suitable for the very young reader but rather for (perhaps) young adults with enquiring minds (of any age) and it is now offered in that spirit. Once I started to write, the work took on a life of its own and what results is simply a basic rendering of my admittedly limited understanding of the teachings. That being said, in all things I am indebted to my precious teacher who dedicated his life and all his many talents - indeed genius - to fully and thoroughly transmitting the ancient but still vibrant teachings and practices of the Buddhadharma to our modern, international world.

Ashley S. C. Howes Tharpa Ngêjung (Liberated Renunciation).

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INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM AND THE AUTHOR'S APPROACH "When the Iron Bird Flies" is offered as a basic introduction to the life and teachings of the Buddha. However, rather than presenting an objective or 'academic' overview, it tries to highlight the journey or 'process aspect' of the teachings - that which makes them so valuable - from the point of view of one who himself has studied and practised them. Although on occasion broaching some quite complex material, hopefully, it is both informative and entertaining for a reader with little or no previous knowledge of the Buddhist teachings, or ‘Buddhadharma’. In this volume, after an introductory section which includes a short story of the life of Prince Siddartha up until his enlightenment, the bulk of the book gives an overview of the methodology he subsequently developed. Also, there are some brief appendixes with additional material including mythology, traditional textual excerpts and contemplative poetry. 'Questions and Exercises' have been included at the end of each chapter to help if this book is being used as part of a course. Although usually quite the contrary in the Buddhist tradition, in the West it has been said that 'those who can't do, teach.' As most of my friends will wholeheartedly concur, in my case this is most eminently true! In my defence, let me say the following: on the one hand, those who teach Buddhism are most often empowered masters from Asia not from our culture; on the other, most Westerners who write about it, though they are from our culture, tend to do so from an academic background with little practical experience and therefore tend to translate the tradition into conventional - and often overly intellectual terms. I am neither a realised practitioner nor a trained scholar so hopefully can serve as a bridge between the two. That being said, I would like to reiterate that although I have for many years contemplated this material and worked with it personally in my daily life I make no claim to having truly mastered or even really understood any of it, so any and all of the comments in this book should be taken with liberal servings of both Oriental and Occidental salt! The basic structure of the teachings presented in this book represents my attempt to synopsise in a very simple way how they were presented to Westerners by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, my teacher. They are by no means complete but hopefully give a view of the basic journey. Perhaps at this point, it is helpful to review the basic schools of Buddhism to see where this book may or may not fit in. The Buddha taught roughly 2500 years ago in Northern India. There are numerous orally transmitted texts, said to be the remembered transcripts of his teachings. From these teachings and over the centuries, there have emerged three main strands of Buddhism, which in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are known as the Three Yanas. Yana means vehicle, i.e. 'that which takes you places'. The first yana - and the one that flourishes to this day in Thailand and Sri Lanka especially - is the Hinayana. 'Hin' means 'narrow' or 'direct'. The Hinayana teachings are detailed, disciplined, precise, direct. Most of the monastic orders emphasise the Hinayana

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teachings. The second yana - and the one that enjoyed the most influence in India, China and Japan in the first millenium after the death of the Buddha - is called the Mahayana. 'Maha' means great, as in very expansive, vast, glorious. The Great Vehicle involves developing and manifesting extraordinary compassion and heart. Mahayana scriptures tend to be either dismissive of conceptual, or 'square' thinking - blowing intellect out of the water by mercilessly out-intellecting it - or highly poetic and inspired. Mahayana teachings also involve much inspired faith and compassion, in spirit much resembling the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ, for example. The third yana - and the one that mainly exists in Tibet and now in the West - although for many centuries it flourished in Japan and China - is the Vajrayana (or 'tantrayana'1). 'Vajra' means 'indestructible'. Because the basic nature of mind is inseparable from the basic nature of reality, therefore it is before existence or non-existence, ego or non-ego. Being unborn but always present and experienced as vivid awareness, it is indestructible and all-victorious, or 'vajra'. Therefore, all states of mind can be worked with fearlessly, including even so-called neurotic or fearful ones. From the enlightened point of view, the journey from ignorance to realisation is an illusion since so-called 'enlightenment' is allpervasively ever-present. Because the Vajrayana teachings can only be studied with a living master who has received the necessary transmissions and training, they do not explicitly feature in this book. Rather, I have mainly introduced some of the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings, especially those which my teacher emphasised and which relate with the sitting practice of meditation, the technique he emphasised above all others. So this book introduces the basic teachings from the point of view of my particular Tibetan Buddhist approach. Not all schools agree on the above synopsis, by the way. Hinayanists tend to discount Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. There are hardly any Mahayana-only schools around today, but they would tend to include Hinayana and exclude Vajrayana. The Vajrayanists include all three. Orthodox Hinayanists tend to regard Mahayana and Vajrayana practices as rather fanciful teachings that are either unnecessary additions at best, or downright perversions at worst. In all three schools, there are monastic and lay traditions. In the Vinaya, (the Hinayana schools monastic code) there are many traditions. Perhaps the most well known are the five basic precepts (the full list includes over 200): Not killing, stealing, lying, having sex, or using intoxicants (such as alcohol or other drugs). Lay Buddhists can take one or more of these precepts on a daily basis, but usually only monks and nuns do so. The Mahayana precepts tend to emphasise generosity, discipline, patience, exertion,
'Tantra' literally means continuity, or thread. Because there is no fundamental difference between, confusion and wisdom, therefore there is unbroken continuity from beginning to end of the so-called path from one to the other. The word tantra is similar in meaning to yoga, which means ‘union’, again the idea being that wisdom and confusion are essentially inseparable, as are body and mind, sacred and profane etc.
1

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meditative awareness and penetrating, intelligent awareness, and monastics usually include the main Hinayana precepts as well of course. Indeed this is true for the following yana as well, in that each one builds on the one before rather than transcending or negating it. Vajrayana precepts involve binding oneself to the view that everything experienced is sacred. Again, especially with the monastics, the previous precepts are also taken, although with the lay practitioners each yana seems to be complete within itself and the commitments are more to do with attitude in general rather than specific precepts per se. In each tradition, there are many, many schools of thought, methods of transmission, debate, techniques and meditations. For this reason, it is hard to precisely define what 'Buddhism' is in any of the schools, let alone in all of them. In fact many buddhists don't like the word 'buddhism' at all, insisting that the Buddhadharma is a methodology, not a belief system or 'ism.' And so on. Within Tibetan Buddhism there are four main schools. It is not necessary to go into detail about the similarities and differences here. Suffice to say that my teacher was a lineage holder of both the Kagyü and Nyingma Schools, the two which are most known for emphasising practice over academic study and whose teachings are structured and presented accordingly. So hopefully the way the Buddhadharma is reviewed here is one that allows the reader to see how the teachings of Lord Buddha are essentially methods that must be practiced to be of any value. That is the approach of my teachers' traditions, and the approach I have tried to follow in this introductory volume. In any case, all Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana schools feature the Refuge Vow and the Four Noble Truths, which are herein discussed. All Mahayana schools feature the Bodhisattva Vow and have teachings on Shunyata, Compassion and the Six Paramitas, so these are included. Specific monastic teachings have been avoided mainly because I am not a monk and am not familiar with these teachings. The more advanced Vajrayana techniques and teachings have only been very lightly touched on. As is perhaps too often repeated in this book, the Buddhadharma is more a set of practical techniques and guidelines to be worked with experientially rather than a philosophy or belief system. For this reason, reading a book - no matter how well it is written and who has written it - cannot give the reader more than a glimpse of this very experiential tradition. This book is not especially designed for those who are already of a spiritual bent. The teachings of the Buddhadharma, being over twenty five centuries old, have contributed greatly to world culture. Until recently, of course, this was mainly in Asia where most major periods of national expansion and cultural sophistication were accompanied by the dominance of or great interest in Buddhism. Indeed, it seems reasonable to suppose that the teachings of Christ were much influenced by the Mahayana teachings, which they so much parallel, particularly as he taught during a time when they were so prevalent in the major Asian civilisations. So for those who are interested in our world, its history and culture, which nowadays must of course include Asia, understanding some aspects of this particular contemplative approach should be of service.

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One note: heading most chapters I have included quotations from both Oriental and Occidental sources. Especially during the rather playful section during which the realms are introduced these may seem a bit thick on the ground. They are offered mainly to show how the themes discussed are fairly universal in terms of our common, human experience. The more serious references, especially during the latter part of the book, of course also demonstrate that the author is not merely making the whole thing up! For centuries now it has been said that the Dharma is like fresh bread: although the yeast culture, recipe and baking skills have been handed down for countless generations, still the loaf that comes out aromatic and warm from the oven is the best to eat. The knowledge and skills have been transmitted with respect and affection for centuries, but the results are there to be savoured today. In this way, the Dharma is always fresh, up-todate - and tasty. Please enjoy!

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CHAPTER ONE THE ULTIMATE REVOLUTION
A short story describing the early life of Prince Siddartha up to the attainment of enlightenment. Although many of the names and places accord with traditional sources, all dialogue and other flourishes are descriptive embellishments furnished by the author.

About 2,500 years ago, in the city of Kapilavastu in the Himalayan Kingdom of the Shakyas, a young Queen called Mahamaya, wife to King Suddhodhana, gave birth to a son named Prince Siddhartha.2 Shortly before the birth, Queen Mahamaya had dreamt she ascended into a heaven where a white elephant with six tusks entered her side after which a great assembly of beings bowed down to her. The next day she summoned the Royal Seer, Asita, who informed her that her dream was most auspicious. Although his speeches were often somewhat flowery in style, what he said tended to be both significant and far-sighted. "Your Majesty," he proclaimed, "according to previous incontrovertible signs we have witnessed on earth here in the kingdom and witnessed above and through our dreams in the heavens, and according to previous sacred prophesies and revelations, and most especially the most recent quaking of the earth last night, this mighty roar heard by all your subjects although no movement was observed, no harm befell even the smallest and most tender of beings, no infant wailed, no bird afrighted and this great joy today that is felt in the hearts of all your subjects for we know not what reason: without doubt, an event of great and profound importance is unfolding. "However, this your auspicious dream in which, white as snow or silver, surpassing the sun and the moon, the greatest of elephants, with beautiful, shapely feet and six great tusks, unsurpassably exquisite in proportion and appearance, that you dreamed has entered your side, is, coming at this time, a sure sign that you are with child and that this child will be either a Chakravartin, a Great King of unsurpassed influence and power in our world, or will become a Buddha, an Enlightened One, the wisest and most accomplished of spiritual leaders, he who will show the way for all beings trapped in cyclic existence so that they no longer need confusedly stumble on the path from moment to moment, from life to life, from ignorance to suffering, from hope unto fear, from birth unto death. "Your Majesty, rejoice that you are the bearer of such great tidings for your Lord and King, His Majesty the Illustrious Suddhodhana, to whom a son and lineage holder is born of unparalleled magnificence in this world or any world, for us, your loyal and devoted subjects, and for all human beings who for countless years hereafter will find their lives and potential uplifted because of this precious, noble birth which we all await with great joy, love and yearning. Thank you, Your Majesty, for this your kind and most auspicious service to us all."
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Siddhartha means : 'he who accomplishes his purposes'.

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The joy which abundantly welled up in The Royal Seer's old heart in contemplating the splendour and goodness of what was soon to be was also like a sword that mortally wounded him, for he was at the same time overwhelmed with sadness in contemplating that he would not live to witness these events. He died soon thereafter, and if he was later reborn to become a student of The Awakened One this story does not tell. Shortly thereafter, the Shakya kingdom enjoyed the best harvest in living memory and the fruits and vegetables were larger, more succulent and more tasty than they had been in many an age. During the fall, there were so many elderberries, raspberries, blackberries and loganberries that the children in the kingdom walked around with smiles framed by permanently stained lips. Winter was calm and clear with days of bright crisp sunshine framed in clear blue skies that only occasionally delivered fluffy white snowfalls which made the whole world pristine and resplendent. Sadly, and despite these auspicious tidings, Queen Mahamaya died soon after giving birth to her son. He was raised, therefore, by his father and his father's sister. Although Prince Siddhartha did not know of this prophesy, his father the king did, of course, and because of it went to great lengths to ensure that everything was so luxurious and perfect that the Prince would not for a minute consider the spiritual life but grow up to become a great and powerful king, someone to expand their fame and glory in the region. Indeed, Prince Siddhartha excelled at archery, cavalry riding and other martial arts and was generally outstanding in all he undertook. At the palace, handsome guards and attractive maidens were always there to grant his every wish. Because he was a prince, they made sure that he had the best of everything, that no harm came to him, that he was spared all unpleasant sights, sounds and smells. At the age of twenty seven, he married a lovely princess from a neighboring kingdom and together they had a son named Rahula. But the outer paradise so deliberately foisted on him by his father contained many hidden pressures. Although he had resisted these on occasion as any young person will, he had always taken it for granted that the world was basically how it seemed. At the same time, just like any intelligent young person who sees that so many aspects of society are hypocritical, he felt he should strive to make a difference. He had many interesting philosophical discussions with many of his peers - for this was a time of great cultural openness and the educated classes were well versed in philosophy - but the world seemed fairly straightforward: rocks were rocks, trees were trees and there were good riders and bad riders and he was one of the better ones. So although on some level he was quite happy, on another things were not quite what they seemed, for Prince Siddhartha was a young man of unusual intelligence, curiosity and kindness. Dissatisfactions, first felt as small, almost unnoticed doubts and feelings of claustrophobia, gradually surfaced as a more definite sense that he should do something more meaningful with his life. As he approached his thirtieth year, the constant perfection of his luxurious surroundings was wearing so thin as to be almost transparently threadbare. He was beginning to see

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through the veil of luxury and optimism to an underlying anxiety that was the foundation for all the pleasures and opulence at the gilded surface of life at the Court. Everyone there was so concerned about their behavior, about playing their part properly, fulfilling their roles. In fact, if they did not do so, they could be cast back into the poor villages and slum areas, a disgrace to their family and friends - and to a certain degree, this was true for him too. Even though he was the royal prince destined to inherit the throne one day, he was constantly scrutinized lest he be found wanting in all the qualities that everyone from his father on down expected of 'the royal heir'. Sometimes it felt to him like they were all phonies playing the parts of phony people with phony feelings in a phony paradise and that they all wanted him to be phony too. At some point, this all came to a head. THE FOUR ENCOUNTERS One day, accompanied by Chandaka his chariot driver and bodyguard, he was going on his way through Kapilavastu to visit one of the royal gardens on the outskirts of the city. He had been doing this more of late since life in the palace was becoming a bit tedious and confining. As usual before such a journey, the citizens were told to make the way clean and not show anyone or anything ugly or unpleasant which might spoil the sublime mood of a Royal Prince. But on this day, they happened upon an old woman. Now Siddhartha had seen older people before, of course, but his father was still in his early fifties and only good-looking and mainly young people served at the Court - which he seldom left. However, here in front of him on the path, far from such well manicured surroundings, was an old woman, bent almost double, clutching a cane and wheezing. Every minute or so she coughed violently, at which point she would have to stop walking whilst terrible convulsions racked her frame; it was a wonder that she could stay on her feet at all! Her eyes were bloodshot and she seemed very tired and stiff, and every movement seemed painful. Frothy spittle bubbled around her wrinkled mouth, inside of which he could see a crooked selection of teeth, some yellowing and some actually black and rotting. He was disgusted and frightened but also concerned. He looked at her and at her wrinkles and saw that she seemed dusty and dry, inside as well as outside. Her bony and arthritic knuckles protruded grotesquely and he noticed large blotchy spots on her wrists and forearms. Her hair was not shiny and dark like most people's, but instead it was grayish, wispy and lackluster. Her nails were horny, cracked and filthy. As he passed by, she squinted up at him through milky, failing eyes. "What is the matter with this woman," he enquired of his driver, "that she looks so wrinkled and dry and seems to be in such pain?" Chandaka was upset that the old woman was in their way, oblivious of the usual custom of not showing herself when the Prince passed. Obviously she was too old to remember such things. "Your Highness, there is nothing wrong with this woman other than the fact that she is very old." "What do you mean, Chandaka, 'very old' ?"

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"As time goes by, Your Highness, everyone will look like this in one way or another." This was shocking. "Everyone," he repeated. "If that is so, why have I not seen this before?" "People who are really old or sick are not allowed in the Palace since they are of no use to either His Majesty or any other member of the Royal Family," said Chandaka. "Well, Chandaka, how old is she?" "Sir, that is Padmini, who used to be one of your fathers courtesans around the time you were born. I believe that she is now about 65 years old." The Prince reflected that at the time he was born this woman in front of him was only about five years older than he was now. As he looked at her further, he seemed to remember her as an attractive courtesan well-known for her beauty and sense of fun. He found it hard to believe the way she looked now, so alone in the world, so tired, so destitute. As he stared at her, looking confused and disturbed, Chandaka became anxious, fearing for his sensitive master. Hoping to reassure the Prince he added, "please, Sire, do not worry overmuch. Everyone who does not die beforehand either through sickness or accident will become like this. It is quite normal." Again that point: 'everyone'. "I know about old age, of course, but I never really saw it before, how painful and difficult it must be. But 'everyone'? How can this be? How can I go on enjoying all these pleasures of mind and body, these feelings of humor and fearlessness and yet I will end up like this, with a wandering mind and a feeble and collapsing body? And you just say it is 'normal' and that I should not worry?" "Your Highness. This is the way that it has always been for human beings. It is said that we are paying for bad deeds in previous lifetimes so that is why we are doomed to die and suffer, otherwise we could live in pleasure forever, never changing, always perfect like the gods. That is why only those in good health and of pleasing appearance work at the Royal Palace. In this way, you and the other members of the Royal Family can maintain a joyous and uplifted state of mind, akin to the gods, so that you can lead us with wisdom and confidence, not being negatively influenced by the trials and sufferings of ordinary human life on this lower plane. In this way, you make our country noble and uplifted and all of us benefit from your grace and gentleness." If anyone had asked the Prince if this is what he believed, he would have had to confess that he did, but that he had never really thought it through. At the same time, he realized that although he had in fact seen older people before, he had lived as if in a dream and not considered that these realities applied to him as well. Although he had seen, he had never bothered to really look. He felt both moved and foolish at the same time. That year, a drought had led to a poor harvest so many of his subjects were sick. The next person they came across of any note was a young man about 29 years old. He was almost the same age as the Prince, but what a difference! This man, although once of fine form and well muscled, was terribly thin. Despite his dark skin, he was a sort of grayish-yellow colour, like dusty stone. He was squatting by the side of the road and his eyes were slightly filmed over, as if with a whitish slime, bulging out of his head and yet somehow

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absent looking. He looked like an unhappy toad. His breath was coming and going in painful gasps and he was clutching his side in pain. His legs were shivering and his hair was both oily and sweat-streaked with flies walking all over it. He smelt of stale sweat and when he coughed, the Prince got a pungent, sickening whiff of unpleasant stomach odors. He felt like throwing up himself. Although disgusted and slightly frightened, his curiosity and generous nature got the better of him. "Hello, my friend, how are you?" he asked. The young man almost managed a smile and was about to say something polite but then he rolled his eyes upwards whilst a greenish-brown fluid of spittle oozed out of the corner of his mouth; his stomach heaved as if there was something inside him trying to force its way out. Instead of polite conversation, all he could manage was a groan; then his eyes flashed in anger as if to say: 'look, I know you are a Prince and all that, but I cannot sit here and chat about my disposition as if I were one of your cute horses or fancy harem ladies.' As the Prince recoiled from the sudden fire in the man's gaze, Chandaka stepped in to explain. "Sire, this man has what we call the wasting sickness. It often happens when there is a drought because then foul, invisible organisms multiply in the water supply and especially those who live near the animals tend to get ill." "How long will he stay this way?" asked the Prince. "Well, Sire, to tell the truth none can say. But some people are ill for several weeks and then slowly get better - although they may be weak for quite a while and sometimes never recover their full strength; but this poor chap looks like he won't get better at all, Sir. You see how his cheeks are hollowing out and his breath is painful? Come, Sir, we really must get away. You know what His Majesty would do to me if he found out I was letting you see all this. And also, we have no proof, but most of us believe that you can catch the spirit of the illness by staying too close to him. Don't you feel your spirits sinking just by being so close to him?" The Prince nodded. He turned to leave even though in his heart he actually yearned to embrace the young man and somehow take the pain away from him so that he could be whole and cheerful again. As he sat back down in his carriage and drew the curtains closed, the gold gilt on the armrests took on a frivolous and even cruel glint; the sufferings of this young man and the old lady seemed much more real and poignant than the elegant finery of his royal accoutrements. He no longer felt like lounging in the royal gardens and ordered Chandaka to turn back. It was a hot and dusty afternoon and although the Prince was tired and saddened by this shortened journey, he also felt challenged ; even his wife and child whom he loved very much had never touched his heart so deeply in this way. But soon he started to imagine what it would be like to arrive back at the palace. The servants would carefully bathe his feet and arms in clear water, and then dry them with cool, white damask. He would proceed into the Inner Court where the menservants would be dismissed and he would be alone with all his courtesans. They would undress him playfully amidst much laughter

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and giggling and then lead him to the royal baths where they would wash away the dust and cares of this gritty, troubling world outside. They too would undress and join him in the bath and he imagined the pleasure of feeling their voluptuous young thighs and breasts against his skin, of seeing their laughing mouths, their ruby lips, their bright teeth, their eyes beaming with affection and inviting gazes. After drying him with perfumed silk and flower petals, they would rub his entire body in oil scented with sandalwood and lead him playfully into the pleasure chambers where all the delights they had been trained to offer awaited. However, as they rounded the last bend before the palace, his daydream was abruptly interrupted: there by the side of the road lay an old man. Surrounded by his family, he was lying on a raised wood-and-canvas platform, his back arched and his feet stretched out grotesquely in the agony of fierce cramps. Even though he was under the cool shade of a large cottonwood tree, sweat lay pearled and quivering on his forehead, dripping off his arms and legs to the dusty ground below. As the Prince's carriage pulled up, the man was fighting for each breath, each of which seemed a further torment. The next hour lasted forever. The Prince stood next to the family, watching with deep concern. Finally, with a dying rattle, or snore, the man's last breath wheezed out. There was a long, deep silence as the assembled family realized that the man in front of them would breathe no more, that he would no longer live among them, eat with them, laugh with them, struggle with them, love them. Gradually the sense of loss in their hearts welled up into bittersweet tears flowing down their tender, downcast cheeks. The Prince too, not even knowing who it was, felt deeply saddened. All was silent, save for the leaves in the tree above rustling softly, breaking the late afternoon sunlight into gentle, feathery caresses over the dead man and his heartbroken family. Somehow, he felt that all that he held dear in life, all that held his life together, it too was breaking up, like a mosaic separating into the thousand separate pieces from which it was made, breaking up like the myriad, quivering shadows of the cottonwood leaves gently dappling the tender scene before him. He felt sad and relieved - and also quiet. The world and his heart had seemed to stop along with the life and struggle of this old man. They proceeded home in vivid and poignant silence: inside his brocade-curtained carriage compartment, the light softly brushed luminous, rainbow-hued pastels across his white silk trousers. Every sound was as fresh and pure as a highland spring, from the fluty warbling of birds as they settled down to rest at the end of the day to the sweet-toned tingling of the halter bells as they slapped gently against his horse's cheek with each stride. Time slowed; he could feel each silver and purple lacquered pebble crunching against the gold-leafed wooden wheels as they proceeded along the final pathway that approached the Outer Court compound.

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However, just before the Outer Gate stood a man dressed in nothing but a loin cloth. Chandaka started to speed up in order to avoid him but the Prince commanded him to stop. "Good Day, Sir," he said. "Good Day, Your Highness," replied the mendicant. The man, although bereft of any possessions apart from a battered old wooden bowl and a loincloth, nevertheless carried himself uprightly, with serene and friendly dignity, radiating a sense of kindness and peace; even though he had addressed him correctly and with respect, he did not seem any more impressed by the Prince than by Chandaka. Siddhartha was affected by his presence. Somehow the simplicity of the man's bearing fit his heightened, reflective mood. He said nothing, not trusting himself yet to speak. As if in response to a question, the mendicant stated: "I am ridding myself of all impurities and attachments to this life so that I can attain a state of pure bliss, of perfect and undying tranquillity. In order to do this, I have renounced all cares and responsibilities in this world, I practice austerities and meditations, and depend on the generosity of others for what little food I eat. In this way, I hope to be reborn in a higher and happier realm both now and in future lives." The Prince, having no food in the carriage, asked Chandaka to give the man a silver coin; however this worthy refused it saying: "Kind Sir, I have no desire for money and the actions of buying and selling, picking and choosing. I take food only for my sustenance. Please keep your coinage and I will wait for a passing farmer who, in order to earn good merit, will give me some of his produce. I thank you for your kind offer, but silver and this old man do not agree. Since all things in this outer world are illusory including our bodies and senses, I have renounced attachment to them." After bowing respectfully to both the Prince and Chandaka, with simple, unassuming dignity he went forward, gradually disappearing into the mysterious silence of the deepening dusk. The Prince was quiet and thoughtful as they finally entered the Palace courtyards. Again, although he had seen many renunciates, monks and wandering yogis before, in this case it was as if for the first time. LEAVING THE PALACE He allowed himself to be led first into the palace, then into the lily-soft arms of his laughing courtesans who quickly escorted him into the inner chambers; but he felt as if he were in a dream. All was transparent and hollow, as flimsy as their gossamer garments. He felt sad that apart from being beautiful and catering to his fleeting desires they had no real life outside these upper bedrooms; also he remembered Padmini. He was so quiet and self-contained that these sweet-hearted ladies, feeling the depth of his mood, gradually became silent too as they bathed him. Once this was over, and still without saying a word, he bowed tenderly to all of them and withdrew from that chamber, never to return again.

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Quietly, he went to where his wife and son lay sleeping together under a canopied bed, Yasodhara's graceful arm cradling the head of his beloved son, Rahula. He loved both of them most dearly. Yasodhara was aware of his yearning to find complete liberation. They had often discussed such things and she had always stated that she would follow him if ever he chose to leave the palace on his quest. But he knew he must do this on his own. When he had found the Way, he would return to teach it to her. Looking at his wife and son sleeping peacefully, he knew that he must leave now, before the morning. Without waking them, he retired to his quarters asking once again for Chandaka. "Chandaka, my friend, I have need of your assistance and your discretion." Chandaka bowed and said: "Sire, I have sworn my life in your service; command what you will." "Chandaka, I have decided to leave the Palace and find out more about the causes of these sufferings that I saw today. If each of us can at any time be struck down by painful illness or death then all of our pleasures and well-being are no more than temporary illusions; how then can I sport and play and say that I am serving to better the lives of my people when such terrible fates will surely befall each and every one of them? Furthermore, since even as King I will have no power over these things, to continue pretending to a confidence and strength that is in actuality based on deception would be a disservice to my subjects, indeed a breaking of the Royal Oaths. For the first time in my life I know what I must do to be of any true service to my beloved subjects and indeed to all mankind. I must get to the bottom of all this and find an antidote. "Inform no-one of this until after I am gone, at which point you must tell my father the King that I have renounced the throne leaving Rahula, my son, as the Royal Heir to the Kingdom." "But Sire," said Chandaka, "if I am to obey your command, that means that I will not stay with you and I took an oath to protect You and Yours. Surely you would not have me break my word?" "Chandaka, my friend, you swore an oath to protect the Prince of the Shakyas. I will no longer be that Prince. Furthermore, as fond of you as I am, I must take this journey alone; that is the only way. Come, and fulfil my wishes this last time." Chandaka wept. In a short while they had outfitted the Prince in a simple white cotton loincloth, a pair of sandals and a white shawl. He refused any more clothing or food. Chandaka tried to encourage him to take more, or to at least take another servant to carry more for him. "Where I am going," insisted the Prince, "I will find what I need along the way." From Chandaka's grief-stricken point of view they had made ready in a stunningly short period of time. It seemed like barely five minutes since he had heard the summons to go to his beloved master. Now in barely a few more, his whole life would be shattered. He thought of alerting the King but realized that even if he could live with having broken his word to the Prince, if the Prince were forced to stay in the Palace because of his betrayal, he could no longer serve him with either honor or pleasure. No, he had to help his master do what his master had commanded, no matter the sadness and misgivings that he felt. All was ready.

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Passing through the outer gates, Prince Siddhartha acknowledged a salute from the guard on duty for the last time as a member of the Royal Family. Mounting Kanthaka, his faithful white stallion, he rode quietly into the welcoming darkness, leaving behind the palace which had been home for his entire life. When he reached the nearby forests in the mountain foothills, along with gentle words of farewell he bade Chandaka to lead Kanthaka home to the royal stables and report on the night's events to his father and wife. Then he proceeded into the dark forest on his own. For several years he lived the life of a wandering ascetic, renouncing all wordly cares and devoting his life to discovering spiritual wisdom. There were many spiritual teachers in India at that time who, through extraordinary efforts, had mastered sophisticated trance states and could even perform miracles. Siddhartha studied with the best of such yogic masters of the day and indeed the two most advanced formally requested him to act as their lineage holder. However, although the trance states that he mastered were authentic, they still did not answer the basic questions that he had begun with: if we are alive and all doomed to suffer, to be sick, to age and to die, what is the cause and what is the solution to that suffering? No matter what trance state one masters, at some point it ends. It is another albeit sophisticated and sublime - form of entrapment; it is still fool's gold. So he left his teachers and for many years practiced extreme austerities, sometimes with companions sometimes alone. Perhaps if he learned to completely overcome any tendencies of desire, any laziness of spirit, he would become pure enough, direct enough to attain the goal. However, even after a long time depriving himself of food, sleep, comfort, security, having lived in the wilds, in the jungles, in fear and terror, in the depths of depression and starvation, having mastered all such challenges to the point that he was about to die of starvation, the desired insights and abilities still eluded him. Extreme asceticism was not the way. ENLIGHTENMENT Finally, he did what all of his successors even to this day must do: he made a vow, a commitment. In his case, having at some point sat down - in this case under a pipal tree in a very pleasant grove by a river - he decided that he would never leave that spot alive until he had penetrated to the core of the questions whose answers still eluded him indeed, as it turned out, until he had thoroughly penetrated into the essence of reality. Soon after he made this vow, a pretty young buffalo herder-boy approached and asked if he would not like a nice mat to sit on and then a girl from the village offered him a nice bowl of rice simmered in fresh milk and spices. Having not had a decent meal during his long period of extreme ascetic practice, he assented. And then, body and mind feeling so much at ease from being looked after properly, he relaxed. Resuming his meditation practice but still holding firm to his avowed intention, that night, he attained what is known as enlightenment.

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Interestingly enough, it is said that when Prince Siddhartha was about nine years old he was sitting in a field under a rose-apple tree watching some farmers ploughing and that in a similar way he relaxed. He did not move for a few hours - and at nine years old that is a bit like an entire lifetime! After a while people noticed something extraordinary: although the sun was moving through the sky as usual, the shadow of the tree under which the young Prince was sitting hadn't changed position since he sat there! Because of his age and lack of life experience this was not full enlightenment, but of course it demonstrated for all with eyes to see his great spiritual potential. After attaining complete enlightenment, at first he was relieved and delighted with his discoveries but then felt concerned because the whole thing was too simple, too basic to communicate to others. It was so simple, in fact, that they would never be able to believe him! However, after walking in the woods alone for many weeks and pondering things deeply, he found a way. This way he called The Middle Way, a methodology which avoids all extremes, extremes such as, for example, good vs. bad, happy vs. wretched, tight vs. loose, belief vs. non-belief, certainty vs. uncertainty, and pain vs. pleasure. The way encourages the practitioner to depend mainly on him or herself, on personal discipline, effort and inspiration, a way which allows us to see our basic delusions directly and in so doing to realise our true nature for ourselves through direct personal experience rather than through theory or concept. Nowadays, it is also known as the Buddhadharma. Buddha means awake, as explained above; dharma means teachings, truth or law. So Buddhadharma means the teachings of how to be awake.

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Comments to the Story You might feel that many aspects of the life of this prince of long ago have little to do with us today. After all, we live in a modern society with advanced forms of transport and communication and democratic social systems. How many of us have to face the problems of being a Prince or a Princess? Well, one could also argue that today's society, precisely because of its sophistication and complexity, has allowed a much greater percentage of us to experience the benefits of such a life than has ever been the case before: you have probably had more than enough food every day and a bed and a roof over your head every night of your life - unless you go camping for fun; and you can expect to live to a 'ripe old age'; also you can read what you want, study what you want, become what you want. In some sense, therefore, your life is not only as good as a royal prince's of yore, it is actually better since from birth on he had so little choice about who to be unless he was willing to leave conventional society and all of the comforts that went with it. We don't have to do that nowadays because most of us live in societies where rigid class systems are supposedly a thing of the past. But let us agree that we are a bit like a Prince or Princess of yesteryear in terms of our standard of living and our opportunities. Does this mean that the moral of the story is that we should leave our homes and families and go off into the woods to meditate and then become enlightened and then 'hit the lecture circuit'? Not necessarily. Again, their tradition was that if you wanted to become an ascetic that was legal but you had to leave your family and house and change your name forever; you couldn't renounce the world and be a prince at the same time. Nowadays, we are all free to decide what we want to do and who we want to be, so it is not necessary to leave the world - only to find it! In any case, Prince Siddhartha was not so much concerned about or controlled by tradition as he was moved by compassion. Basically, he realized that he had a job to do and that sitting around in the Palace enjoying himself in archery contests and with the lovely young ladies in his harem and playing with his son - although quite enjoyable would not get that job done. Then, having made up his mind, he acted. After a long time and much hardship, he accomplished his aim, came back to the conventional world as a master - no longer as a Prince - and taught others how to do the same without having to go the same false ways that he had suffered through. There are two types of bondage and two types of revolution: from without and from within. The most powerful of the two in each case is from within. If you are physically imprisoned, that does not mean that your heart, your thoughts, your spirit are also imprisoned. But if you are imprisoned by ignorant ways of perceiving, even though you run free and naked through a field of spring flowers with a whole symphony orchestra serenading you all the way, you are still enchained, you are no more free than a slave. Prince Siddhartha embarked on the path to find out for himself how we have become imprisoned, being sandwiched between life and death and seemingly have neither knowledge nor control over either. After all, if we are the ones experiencing birth and death, surely we should be able to understand that process completely? How can it be an

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unknowable mystery when we ourselves are in the process of living it ourselves, right now? What is the mechanism of the ignorance that covers up what is in front of our noses, in the depth of our being? The commitment that this young and gifted Prince made so many years ago instigated the ultimate, fundamental, inner revolution. Because of his dedication and exertion, he saw it through to the end and then developed many methods for others so they could follow his example should they choose to do so. 3 Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5 Why did Prince Siddhartha leave home? What four things did he learn that encouraged him to renounce ordinary life? What aspects of his life as a Prince relate to yours? Describe how your parents may have over-protected you in the same way as King Suddhodhana did for Prince Siddhartha. If you wanted to attain 'enlightenment', how would you do it?

In ancient times, the main way to develop wisdom, to explore wisdom, was to explore oneself. Nowadays we feel that we might need telescopes or microscopes to penetrate reality. But in fact, our bodies, minds and senses are essentially as real and complete as anything else in the universe, and all we need is to know reality is to know ourselves. For example, although our human eyes may not perceive microscopically, they do function in the same spheres of light, depth, space, dimension. The same is true for all our senses, as well as mind.

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CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE ENLIGHTENMENT AND IGNORANCE, THE BASIC BATTLEGROUND -WHAT IS THE SELF? "The suchness is in everything, pure and without any distinction. All beings therefore have the essence of the tathagata." 4 "To see a world in a grain of sand And heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour." 5

"Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower - but IF I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is." 6 After he attained what is now popularly known as enlightenment, Prince Siddartha became known as the "The Buddha". Budh in Sanskrit means 'awake' so 'the Buddha' simply means ' The One who is Awake'. What he experienced was simple, profound and magical. He perceived that everything - every object, every plant, every event, every sense perception, every thought, every moment - is completely sacred and good, beautiful and precious, complete and perfect. This he did not by making machines with which to observe the world outside, but by working very, very hard for many years to accurately experience who and what he was. By experiencing the reality of himself, he thus also experienced the reality of the phenomenal world and how it functions. Then, he developed methods still used today by people the world over so that they too can penetrate to the core of reality and enjoy the true splendor and magic of being alive. Although enlightenment, or being fully awake, is something that each of us can experience, it is never what we think. It is easy, but it is hard. It is the most natural thing in the world but it goes against what most of us want and do every day. It is not about giving up everything and going to India or some exotic foreign land or creating an underground, counter-culture or even a so-called 'New Age' for that matter. It is simply about paying attention to what is already right in front of our eyes, echoing in our ears, under our noses. When we actually do this, we appreciate the greenness of grass, the
Maitreya: The Light of Wisdom, Shambhala Publications, p 31. Tathagata means the 'thus-gone, thus-come thus-perfected one' - it is one of the ten titles of the Buddha which he himself used when speaking of other Buddhas. 5 William Blake, 1757 - 1827 Auguries of Innocence, l.1 6 Alfred Lord Tennyson, 'Flower in the Crannied Wall', 1869
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blueness of sky, the wetness of water, the humor in laughter and the dignity of living and dying; large and small, living beings or simple objects such as rocks - and even plastic monkey-drummer toys from Hong Kong - all participate equally in a universe that is essentially alive, awake, magical, sacred. The Buddha also realized that just saying this was not enough. After attaining enlightenment and spending several weeks on his own in a forest trying to find a way to communicate his discoveries, he developed various methods to help us to wake up from the confused dreams which cloud over the brilliant sun of our inherent nature. Assuming that the world and each one of us in it is sacred and magical as the Buddha has said, why do we not see that? The answer is simple but hard to truly understand. It is a three letter word and it goes like this: 'E' 'G' 'O'. Yes, that is why we do not really know who or what we are, because we think we are ourselves, we think we are a self. Well, you might say, "what is wrong with that? Isn't it obviously true? Any fool can tell that I have my own body, my own thoughts and ideas. I decide when to cross the road. I decide when to put my spoonful of cornflakes in my mouth and I can stop chewing any time I want. Once I swallow them, they go into my stomach and nobody else's. Right? Is anybody else wearing my shoes right now, sitting in the same place, with the same face, the same freckles, the same flies buzzing around them? If I am not me, then does that mean I am the same person as that nut over there on 25th St. shouting at someone to hurry up because the light just changed?" The answer, of course, is "No". But think about it....does that really prove you exist? Let us examine ourselves through the lens of some of the teachings of the Buddha which reveal that our seemingly solid idea of who we think we are might have a few holes in it. So, you are sitting in your chair reading this book. As you already said, 'nobody else is'. But it is also true that nobody else ever will in the same way, at the same time, with the same things happening around, the same noises, the same mosquitoes, the same smells, the same time and date on the clock. Each event is unique. Let us take this further. Once you were a baby. If you live long enough, you will be an old man or old woman. Take a look at your face in the mirror. Is it the same face as the one you had 5 years ago? Will it be the same in 10 years time if you live that long? No. We can go further. Is it the same face now that it was 5 minutes ago - or even 5 seconds ago? On the inside is the blood the same, are the cells exactly the same in your skin, your eyeballs, your flesh? Is your tongue in the same position? Also, it might look the same on the outside, but are exactly the same things happening outside it: the same angle of the sun reflected in the eyeball, the same subtle breezes in the room, the same smells and sounds, the same thoughts? Think about it. You would have to stop time, stop the sun from moving, the wind from blowing, the leaves from swaying in the breeze, the blood from coursing through your veins. Even our planet is charging along at 400,000 miles an hour, or whatever. (You might want to

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actually go look at your face in the mirror. Really take a good, long look. You are changing every second. So: who are you?) All around you everything is changing from moment to moment, including yourself. It might seem like you are the same person, but in fact, you are not. "Well," you might say, "the things around me keep changing so I will grant you that my body keeps changing after all, we know that all our cells are replaced every few years and we are getting older every day - but I don't change, not really, I don't care what you say, but this is what I experience." But think: Are you really the same person as when you were a newborn baby? If not, when did the change happen? All at once, or little by little every moment? Is the old man you see the same person as the 7 year-old boy who climbed up trees eighty years ago to get an apple to throw so delightedly at his neighbor's dog caught snoozing in the sun? Again, maybe you think that some things change, but that nevertheless an essential 'me' remains. But can you find this 'me'? Where is it? Is it the thoughts you think? But they keep changing too, from baby thoughts to old man thoughts. Do you have the same thoughts now as when you were in your mother's belly? Will you have the same thoughts after you are dead - and buried or burnt? No. All we can say is that although it feels like we are a solid, unchanging person, in fact everything is always changing - including ourselves - so we cannot really prove we are here, there or anywhere else for that matter. According to the Buddha's teaching, this sense that we are a solid, continuous person living in a solid, continuous world is illusory. It seems like it is there, but if we look and look and look, we can't actually find it, touch it. So although we are real and are alive, of course, nevertheless, it is remarkably similar to how a dream is real whilst we are dreaming it but not when we wake up. At the same time that our solidity as independent beings is in question, also the Buddha states that in fact everything is interdependent, meaning that there is no one sole cause or essence that is the ultimate core, creator or shaper of reality and events. Everything is interdependent. In other words, for each leaf to exist in the way it does, each moment, each person, each phrase, everything around it and that happened before contributed to its existence in the particular way, form and time it appears. Everything is connected to everything else. In his own time, this simple idea was quite revolutionary, since the Hindu belief is that there is a permanent self that migrates from body to body and that we shed our bodies from incarnation to incarnation, like a snake shedding its skin. They believed that this human life was indeed like a dream or an illusion, called Maya, but that somewhere else existed a real and more permanent reality that they could be reborn into if they did the right thing, a reality where the pure, uncontaminated 'dreamer' dwelt. In the modern West, although many of us don't like to admit it, we have related notions. For example, we tend to think of the physical world as being comprised of dead matter or

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'elements', and some sort of spark happens and then there is this marvelous thing called 'life'. Life is a separate and somewhat permanent thing that somehow animates dead matter which on its own is a bit like dead snake skin; many of us believe that there is a soul or life-force that somehow animates the body. This is very similar to the old Hindu notion of reincarnation. So in some sense, our bodies are regarded as mechanical bits and pieces that are inhabited by this mysterious life-force, which is similar to the Hindu 'dreamer' or atman, the secret of which we keep trying to discover in ever smaller and smaller cross-sections of physical reality - even down to the subatomic. But as we peer through our microscopes and telescopes, as we analyze our dreams, consult psychologists and study philosophy, have we ever stopped to consider: what about the space in which all this is happening? Again, according to the Buddha, everything is alive, sacred and awake. Or rather: everything exists in alive space. This is somewhat the opposite of what we usually think. It is so awake and even intelligent, in fact, that at some point it looks at itself and says "Aha! What have we here?"; and then: "it must be me!"; and then: "look how intelligent I am that I can see myself from a particular point of view!" That is how ego starts. It is like a cat that suddenly sees its own tail and then chases it! Because we feel that we exist independently we blindly assume that it must be true. 7 At the same time, we can't actually define or prove who and what we are. This is because whilst we are so busy splitting hairs - and atoms for that matter - at the same time we are just as busily ignoring the space. One traditional analogy is that of the potter's wheel. It spins round and around and lo and behold: a pot is produced! We may not know who we are exactly, but we can say: "Look, look at me, I am a marvelous pot. I am something. I exist! I was made so therefore I must exist." And if the Buddha himself were to come up to us and say: " Look, Pot, I hate to disturb you but you are not really a pot, you know, you are just a temporary collection of particles spinning around and if you just stopped you would dissolve back into the fantastic and intelligent space which you really are," we would say: "Oh really? But I can feel how solid I am, I can compare myself to other pots around, I can be protected, I can be cherished" and so on. The Buddha found a way for us to see how we are in fact just fooling ourselves, being so drunk on our own sense of self-importance that we are actually missing out on reality. We can look up, look out, we can see into our true nature which is the same reality as that which exists all around us, which we are a part of and inseparable from. This way is called meditation. This is neither a history book nor a meditation manual - nor is it designed to convert anyone. The teachings of the Buddha have greatly influenced many civilizations in world
Rene Descartes, Le Discourse de la Methode, 1637. "I think therefore I am. " Also expressed as: "Cogito ergo sum".
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history up to now, albeit until recently mainly in Asia; as such, it is worth learning about. At the same time, because the thrust of the teachings is geared toward developing a sword of insight which can only be forged in the fire of experience, it is impossible to understand much of this tradition without practical, hands-on experience. Just like being truly awake, meditation cannot easily be described; it must be experienced first hand - and this is not because it is so mysterious or refined as so many of us imagine. For example: can you describe what the colour orange looks like to a blind man? Can you describe to someone who has never had any what mustard tastes like? Or can you really tell anyone what the morning sky looks like, or what the wetness of water is like? No, not really, and yet these are such simple, basic things. In the same way, even the Buddha cannot describe what enlightenment or meditation practice is like. It is not that it is so extraordinary, not at all; indeed, it is because it is the most ordinary thing there is. It is simply seeing clearly what and who we are, moment by moment, looking directly into the face of reality, actually being instead of being distracted in habitual preoccupation or, we could say, habitual hallucinations. For each and every one of us it is the same; and for each and every one of us it is different, unique and highly personal. The teachings and methods have nothing to do with belief and non-belief. They simply help you to pay attention to what is happening, to really examine your own experience, your life. Indeed, they should not be taken at face value. They are to be thought about, argued with - disproved even if you can. However, that being said, they are also designed to be studied in conjunction with actual, regular meditation practice. This is the only valid gateway, as opposed to just understanding the concepts from a book or from listening to a friend. Without some real experience in this regard, most understanding and discussion of the basic ideas will be pointless. The basic technique of meditation practice is described in Chapter 19 and you should feel free to try it. 8That being said, you should also understand that it is very difficult to make real progress in meditation without working with a living teacher. Even the Buddha studied for many years with several masters before he finally went off on his own to finish the job. It is one thing to read about how hot chili peppers are: it is another to actually bite into one! In the last chapter, we heard the story of the life of the Buddha up to his enlightenment. Now we are ready to examine some of the basic teachings and practices he developed and which have been handed down for over 2,500 years from teacher to student, from the distant past to the living present in which you can examine them and yourself - right now. Questions: 1 What does 'sacred' mean to you? 2 Describe ‘ego’. 3 What do you think enlightenment is?
Because it is best to work personally with a living instructor, various addresses and contacts are given in the appendix for those who are interested in learning more.
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4 5

Imagine that you are the Buddha and write a poem expressing delight in your discovery. Try to prove that you exist and show where you are at any given time.

Exercises: • • • • Lie down on your back on a nice sunny day with some clouds. Look up at the sky and notice how they are always changing, even though sometimes you can't quite see it. Or look at a tree on a day without any wind. It is always still, but it is always moving. It is alive. Look at a rock, at the earth. Look at things. Take your time. Sit in a field and close your eyes. Listen. It is never exactly the same thing twice. Each moment is fresh. Sit in a public place quietly for at least 15 minutes, looking around. (you don't have to act strangely or anything). Just be there. Let the room become alive. (Good to do in subways, airplanes, hospital corridors, classrooms, dining rooms, on the toilet anywhere, anytime!)

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES 0, CHAPTER THREE ANIMAL TALES

CHAPTER THREE ANIMAL TALES "Pride, Envy and Avarice are the three sparks that have set these hearts on fire." 9 It requires a great deal of maintenance to keep up the illusion of a solid self when everything is constantly changing - including us. In order to generate this illusion of a solid, independent personality which is separate from its surroundings, we have to maintain and protect it. The mechanism by which we do this is called 'selfhood' or 'ego' - ' I '. Ego is like a central headquarters through which we experience, maintain and control our existence. There was a film made in America during the 1980's called Star Wars. There were some two-legged machines made by the evil 'Empire' that looked like a cross between a dog and an ostrich. In the head part were some real people who manned the controls. They were like the ego of the thing - what was actually 'alive' in it. All the visual and auditory data plus instructions from their commanders was processed and then they would control knobs and levers so that the beast could walk forward or back, shoot, roar, whatever. This is a bit like our ego which feels like it is what is really alive and so tells the machine of our mind and body what to do and where to go. Thus we say: "I moved my hand, or 'I' felt 'bad'." Now, of course, they have to decide what to do with anything else 'out there'. The basic concerns are: is it friend, enemy or neutral? Everything out there falls into one of those three categories - or more usually more like an exotic cocktail blend of them. There might be a neutral forest, but because the enemy are using it to hide in, it is hostile. But basically there are just these three possibilities: 1 You can draw in anything that seems friendly or helpful i.e. pleasant; 2 You can push away or destroy anything that seems threatening i.e. painful; 3 You can ignore anything else because it is of no use or threat i.e. you are indifferent. If you watch animals, you can see that they go through these mechanisms very clearly. First they check something out to see whether or not it is dangerous; if so, they make protective noises or gestures or go away or attack. If they want to eat it or draw it in they approach, still ready for strategy number one if necessary and then, if all goes well, they eat it or use it to build their nest with or whatever. If it is neither a threat nor good to eat what do they do? - they ignore it, and go to sleep, or more likely they look for something else to go through all this with. Many animals spend all their lives doing nothing but this, with occasional maintenance pit-stops for washing or peeing.

9

Dante Alighieri , The Divine Comedy (1310-1321), Inferno.

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These three strategies are known as passion, aggression and ignorance. Traditionally, they are represented as a cock, a snake and a pig. Sometimes the pig has the cock and snake tails in his mouth because the other two really come from, and are just exaggerated aspects of, ignorance. They are not necessarily wicked. It is just that if you want to maintain a separate existence you are forced to continually go through these things. Think about it. Can you think of another tactic? It is almost certain that you will come up with one of these three: push away, draw in, ignore. All three are dedicated to the efficient and safe maintenance of your individual existence, your 'me'. Passion, aggression and ignorance are like the primary colours of red, yellow and blue. You can make any colour you like from them and there is no limit to the number of tints you can come up with and then combine further. Similarly, you can have a jealous fit in which you attack the person with whom you are upset (aggression), or you could use your jealousy to try to seduce them back in (passion) or to just sulk and leave them alone (ignorance). If you think about it, jealousy is what happens when you want to draw someone in and they don't respond the way you want so their action undermines your passion and then you feel aggressive toward them which whole procedure can be described as confused i.e. ignorant! You can use passion to draw someone in to your little circle of friends; and you can use passion so intensely that it actually denies someone else the space to be themselves, becoming in effect hostility, or aggression; you want them so much to be your friend or agree with you that you become a monster in their eyes, an enemy, a threat; there is no room for the other person anymore because your passion, in aggressively denying them, has ignored them completely. It is endless. This is how ego creates the emotional texture to give it a four-dimensional sense of existence. It is both subtle and obvious, from the little things we think, say and do, to the ways in which large countries formulate and implement political systems, strategy and even wars. Think about it. So, like the controllers in the mechanical Star War Dog-Ostriches, we are so busy processing the information to figure out how to respond that in some sense we forget who we are and become a behavioral machine, an imitation life form, a slave to what we are supposedly the master of. We are so anxious to fulfill our mission, our project, that in fact we become the project. And of course, something happens to short-circuit our systems or trip us up - and these things always happen when we can't see them properly because they are out of range of our mechanical perception-getters and suddenly, either as machine or as an organic life-form, we are dead meat! In order to maintain our existence in certain environments - such as city, suburb, country, jungle, childhood, job, old age, France, Africa, USA etc. - we emphasize certain tactics and emotional styles over others. There are six main descriptions of being based on how these approaches manifest and co-mingle. Because they in fact create the environments in which they flourish, you could say that they are the true driving force behind creation and

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so-called evolution. Known as the six realms of existence, they are the subject of the next chapter. Questions: 1 2 3 Describe passion aggression and ignorance in terms of your own experience. Try to come up with other strategies in which you maintain yourself and then see if you can relate them back to Passion, Aggression and Ignorance anyway. If you disagree with these three either a) come up with other ones or b) refute the whole thing and defend your point of view.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES INTERLUDE, A BUDDHIST TALE PROLOGUE, THE BIRTH OF THE WORLD

INTERLUDE: THE BIRTH OF OUR WORLD “THE REALM OF DESIRE”
Lord Buddha: "Long indeed is the æon: it is not easy to calculate by saying: 'So many years, so many centuries, so many millenia, so many hundred thousand years'." "But can an illustration be given, Lord?" "It can," replied the Exalted One. "Just as if there were a mighty mountain crag, four miles long, wide and high, without a crack or cranny, not hollowed out, one solid mass of rock, and a man should come out once every hundred years, and with a piece of soft silk should lightly rub it just once: sooner would that mighty mountain crag be worn away by this method, sooner be used up, than the æon. "Thus long, brother, is the æon: of æons thus long, many an æon has passed away, many a hundred æons, many a thousand æons, many a hundred thousand æons." 10 After the previous kalpa ended, since there was no longer a physical world, many beings were born into a mental, or god, realm which still exists today. Here, even though they had no bodies as such, every experience was a delightful combining of light and joy. As they became more familiar with this existence and developed different textures and levels of joy, a universe gradually developed made mainly of air and then gas and then water. As subtle movements between these substances gradually gathered in momentum and strength, just as the gods discrimination of textures of joy, of light, of perfume and of sounds waxed in intensity and variety, so increasingly more powerful winds gradually caused a sense of form to solidify as actual matter; at first this was like light bubbly scum, then like skin on top of rice pudding, and then like a rich, creamy custard, beautiful in taste, colour and smell. So as the gods appreciation of joy developed more textures and weight so did their surrounding realm gradually become more and more substantial and solid.

Samyutta-Nikaya, re-translated from "Some sayings of the Buddha” p 27 Shantarakshita, A survey of Buddhism.

10

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES INTERLUDE, A BUDDHIST TALE PROLOGUE, THE BIRTH OF THE WORLD

The gods at that time were still without bodies, living off joy alone, shedding their own light. The sun, moon and stars did not yet exist, nor did time, as we know it. However, as they gradually learned to appreciate colour, sounds, smells taste and even touch, slowly they began to nourish themselves on these more solid forms of joy that were formed from appreciating their environment and gradually they even developed a craving for these experiences. Consequently, their bodies became more and more solid, and they lost their radiant luminosity, so the sun and the moon appeared as did the cycles of time as we now know them because of a gradual waxing of the cycle of alternating degrees of higher pleasures and lower pleasures which could be compared one from another. So working in this way together, the increasingly earthy appetites of the god beings whose original existence consisted of simple joy alone without even a body, gradually created both a world with many different things to enjoy, such as sea, earth, clouds, sun, moon, stars, wind, grass, trees, and many different types of fruits and vegetables. At the same time, their bodies became more and more solid; so much so, indeed, that they actually depended on physical food for survival. What first had been a purely mental pleasure had now become a necessity. At first, the sort of fruits they could eat were somewhat magical. Each person had his own plant, which produced a corn-like fruit and each day; as one fruit was eaten, another would appear at the rate of one a day, which was all they needed. But gradually some people ate more than one fruit a day and some fruits were different in different parts of the world so also these god-people became more and more different from each other. Those whose foods and appetites were less heavy, were less coarse and dark than those who were eating more solid substances. So individuals began to differ and then to compare each other and those that felt more beautiful and superior developed vanity and pride and those who felt inferior or less beautiful developed anger and embarrassment. At some point, when food and bodies had developed to be almost as solid as we know them now and a grain similar to rice had appeared, people were so used to comparing and making distinctions based on vanity that soon thereafter the organs of the male and female sex developed. After this, the faculty of comparing and choosing developed further into lust for members of the opposite sex, which alternates between great delight and anxiety. To protect their mates from others, they began to build houses and develop the idea of private property; and in order to eat the type of food that suited their particular type of appetites, sometimes they planted their own crops and then had to protect them from others lest they be stolen. They realised that in order to survive and protect themselves from thieves and wandering bandits, they gradually organised themselves into communities and created Kings and Queens to oversee their mutual protection. From satisfying simple, almost ethereal appetites, whole solid worlds and societies with greed and fear had evolved involving real suffering.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES INTERLUDE, A BUDDHIST TALE PROLOGUE, THE BIRTH OF THE WORLD

Along with pleasure from satisfying appetite, there was pain when appetite was unfulfilled or the bodies in which they experienced these things were hurt, or became sick, or grew old or died. At the same time that all these difficulties undoubtedly had been formed, nevertheless it was and is also true that life, in all its millions of forms and different experiences, is a magical, miraculous affair that, with hard work and an uplifted attitude, can be lived and enjoyed. This is how we went from being long-lived god-beings living off mental joy alone, to struggling, suffering beings who have to be careful of our lives and our property. All of these developments took countless hundreds of millions of years and are still going on today, even as we speak. However, in this way, the night of space without beginning or end gradually gave way to the dawn of life, with all its myriad forms, colours, sounds, smells, touches, stars, planets, sun and moon, species, climates, races, cultures, thoughts, feelings and languages, gestures, tears and laughter. The story 11 is only just beginning.

11

This story is based on traditional Tibetan folk tales.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES

CHAPTER ONE
THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARIC EXISTENCE

CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARIC 12 EXISTENCE "As we go along from moment to moment, day to day, life to life, awareness and our thoughts keep shaping the life we lead. Cumulatively, the effect is tremendous. We can create for ourselves a tunnel lined with rags and deprivation or an open world of wealth and genuine communication - dark worlds, bright worlds, moderate worlds - so many different worlds can be created based on karma 14 we keep creating through our thoughts and projections." 15 "Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you." 16 "I dream you and you dream me; please don't wake me. As long as I dream, you still exist; Collared in a doze I'll grab you and bring you to me."17 "What goes around, comes around." 18 "Big fleas have little fleas upon their back to bite 'em; And little fleas have smaller fleas and so ad infinitum" 19 The Buddha noticed that everything arises, lasts for a while, and then goes away. Everything. Whether you believe in a solid, permanent ego or not, it still works that way from birth, to living and through to death. Each thought or feeling is that way too. It arises, it goes along for a while and then something else comes up - perhaps you suddenly fall off your bicycle - or a pterodactyl lands in your lap! The key word here is 'everything': people, flowers, buildings, bees, love affairs, football games, breakfasts, lunches, picnics, moods, moments, conversations, dinosaurs, planets, stars and solar systems. Everything. This is a simple but also profound point. The very last statement that the Buddha uttered before dying was: "whatever comes together falls apart." Egos also seemingly arise, dwell and then cease. According to the Buddha, sentient beings - those beings who are alive, who feel things, who are born, live and then die 12

Entering the Stream, p66, Shambhala Publications. Karma means action, also known as the law of cause and effect. See Chapter 11. Entering the Stream, p66, Shambhala Publications. Song on MTV Song on MTV Song on MTV Edgar Allen Poe.

14 15 16 17 18 19

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CHAPTER ONE
THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARIC EXISTENCE

dwell for a while in the following worlds, or realms, known as the Six Realms, one of which is the Human Realm. These realms too arise, dwell and then cease no matter how real and permanent they might feel. They are the living dreams in which we play out our lives. We mentioned passion, aggression and ignorance as being perhaps the driving force behind evolution. From the point of view of the teachings which follow, the realms are the many dramas they direct and produce, the creative force which results in the endlessly ongoing cycle of birth, dwelling and dying. These Six Realms of Existence are a description of where we find ourselves now as human beings. They can be regarded as a scientific definition of the external world, 20 but it is not necessary to do so. If you find the following descriptions of the hell or god realms unbelievable, that is fine. In fact - and this is definitely the most helpful way to look at them - they also describe the six main emotional states that we go through as humans, day after day, mood after mood, moment after moment. The Buddha's teachings help us to understand and really appreciate our human-ness rather than encourage us to 'transcend' it. As you will see, the main saving grace about being human is that we have such a broad range of experience. The palette with which each of us paints our lives offers a complete range of emotional states leading from hell to heaven and back again. Indeed, it is said that humans are the only beings who taste all six; that is what is so special about them, since only in a realm where you are not completely stuck do you have a chance to wake up out of the dream. However, all is not rosy. It is said that all of these realms are part of the 'desire realm'. The problem with desire is that it creates an endless cycle, or self-perpetuating loop, of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Before you get what you want you have a sense of need, which is also a form of insecurity. After it is over, you again feel insecure and want something else. So there is constant need and alternation between satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Simply put, these six realms are descriptions of various levels of intensity from the most subtle, mental, exquisite and pleasurable to the most intense, solid, excruciating and painful. Although somewhat a factual description of our world, their main service is to point out the endlessly cyclic nature of our minds and experience. For example, your household may be somewhat stuck in one type of realm or atmosphere, and then you go off to school which is another; then you have a jolly meeting with a group of friends and that is yet another. They can be described and experienced separately, but, like primary colours, they can mix themselves one with the other to create endless combinations. In the title to this chapter, you might have noticed the word samsaric, which comes from samsara. Samsara literally means 'journeying', but in this context it also means 'cycle of
For those who like cosmology : according to Buddhist cosmology, we are in Jambudvipa, the Realm of Desire. Desire is that we want things, we want to live. See Prologue, The Birth of the World..
20

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CHAPTER ONE
THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARIC EXISTENCE

existences'. It is as if we are on a spinning wheel. Sometimes we are on top and everything is fine and heavenly, but then, gradually or suddenly, we are going deeper and deeper down and everything is negative or hellish. It is constant. It never stops. The Hindu beliefs were that if one did good deeds, one could end up on top of the heap and stay there forever, which is similar to beliefs about heaven in so many other traditions. What the Buddha discovered was that because all states of mind are impermanent you cannot find a permanent resting place even in a trance or god realm; sooner or later you have to come down again, which is why it is described as a spinning wheel rather than a one-way ladder going up to heaven. By cutting through the chains of desire that bind us to the constant craving for experience, we get off this wheel altogether. But that is later on. First, we need to examine our spinning journey on the wheel. Just for fun, let's start at the bottom...

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CHAPTER ONE
THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARIC EXISTENCE

Questions: 1 2 Who ever lived so happy for a day As to have been unmoved by any sense Of guilt or rage, unvexed by some affray, By pride or envy, passion or offence?" 21 Comment on these verses. Have you ever noticed how your mood affects how you see things? Give some examples.

Exercises: • Look at a tree for just one minute without doing anything else. Can you do it without getting side-tracked? Try again. • Look at yourself in the mirror and make angry faces and then happy faces. What happens?

21

Chaucer, The Man of Law's Tale, Penguin edition.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES

0, CHAPTER FIVE
THE HELL REALM

CHAPTER FIVE THE HELL REALM "Each intense torture is a psychological portrait of oneself." 22 "Each of us bears his own hell." 23 "Thou are a soul in bliss; but I am bound Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears Do scald like molten lead." 24 In this realm, everything is intensely claustrophobic and either extremely hot or extremely cold. Extremely. There is no room for feeling any pleasure or relief whatsoever because everything is constant torment. If there are other people in here with you, they are your enemies - or the gaolers who torture you. The same excruciating things happen over and over again because there is no way out. Hell beings live in places filled with flame, ice, molten iron and horrible gaseous fumes. Their bodies, though made of the same type of substances, are extremely sensitive to pain and covered with tattoos as well as the scars of endless wounds - not to mention boils, blisters and festering sores. You find yourself in manacles and chains, being constantly whipped, beaten and tortured. As a human, this is the sort of emotional space you experience along with intense anger or suffering, like when you are being tortured. Some city neighbourhoods, for example, are hellish in that everyone around is unfriendly, you have the feeling that your life can be on the line at any moment, that there is no safety or comfort at all. This sort of negative intensity can also happen in seemingly ordinary and lovely surroundings. As a child, for example, when your brother took your ice cream away that one time too many maybe you suddenly felt completely frozen in hurt and anger. Whenever you are very angry, there is always intense claustrophobia along with it, a fear or sense of being trapped. That sense of 'cannot stand it', of being trapped and imprisoned, that is the hellish aspect. There seems to be no way out of resentment and pain. It has happened. That is that. In Hell, you are trapped, in pain, frozen, angry. Not nice. All desires for pleasure, for relief, for freedom, for space, are completely frustrated. You are trapped in an intensified burning or freezing situation. It is extremely painful and there is no way out. If you think about it, this is how you feel when you get very angry: either boiling over or freezing up. Your heart is compressed. Everything is claustrophobic. Although still very much alive and a human being, at the same time, it feels like hell. Indeed, we can even say that you are in 'human hell'.
22 23 24

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Publications. Virgil, Aeneid,70-19 B.C. Shakespeare King Lear 1605.

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0, CHAPTER FIVE
THE HELL REALM

Questions: 1 2 3 4 "Each of us bears his own hell." 25 Comment on this quotation. Describe places, cities or countries you know of that are like hell. Describe your personal hell realms. If the hell realm is partly produced by our ‘projection’ of it, what is a projection?

Exercises: • Look at yourself in the mirror and make intense angry faces, gestures and noises for at least one minute. What happens? Now answer question 4 again.

25

Virgil, Aeneid, 70-19 B.C.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES Chapter Six, THE HUNGRY GHOST REALM

CHAPTER SIX

THE HUNGRY GHOST REALM

"In the hungry ghost realm, there is a tremendous feeling of richness, of gathering a lot of possessions; whatever you want you do not have to look for, but you find yourself possessing it. And this makes us more hungry, more deprived, because we get satisfaction not from possessing alone but from searching. But now, since we have everything already, we cannot go out and look for something and possess it. It is very frustrating, a fundamental insatiable hunger." 26 "To the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet." 27 "Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." 28 "Without hope, we live in desire." 29 In this realm, you constantly yearn for a satisfaction you cannot have - or so it seems. Traditionally, a hungry ghost, or preta , is depicted as having an enormous belly as large as a mountain but a mouth with an aperture only the size of a pin-head; imagine trying to satisfy your hunger with so big a stomach and so tiny a mouth! You are constantly wanting more, needing more, craving for more, but your mouth is not big enough to satisfy your desire. Even if your mouth were bigger, you would not be able to find enough because of course you are somehow always in a place where there is not enough of whatever it is you want. As a human you feel helpless and lacklustre, or the victim of cravings over which you have no control. If you are poor, you yearn for wealth but feel unable to attain it, you are not smart enough, not brave enough, your education was all wrong; you are consumed by your own poverty mentality. You have no friends even though you want them because you are not worth knowing and the more you feel that way the truer it becomes. You have become a human hungry ghost, haunting the fields of your life - wherever you hope for happiness (including perhaps your past or your future) - and yet feeling that you do not deserve such a thing. Even when you get everything you want, you are constantly on the prowl for more because you know there must be more somewhere. But where? Not nice either, although you want so much for it to be better. It is also the realm where you might be born in a very poor country where there is no food and you have to watch yourself or your child slowly starving to death, withering away in the cruel sunlight of this cruel world.

26 27 28 29

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Publications. The Holy Bible Proverbs 27:7. Ibid, 31:7-7 Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (1310-1321) , Inferno.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES Chapter Six, THE HUNGRY GHOST REALM

This is a miserable and wretched realm, where not anger, but compulsiveness and depression rule the day - or rather our life. It is the realm where you are addicted, or you want to stop smoking but you cannot, you want to have a good time but you cannot, you want to touch your lover but you cannot, you want to be, to have, to do, to think etc. etc. etc. but whatever it is: you cannot. So in this realm, your desire is frustrated because you don't have or get what you need in order to be satisfied. Everything is just out of reach. That is why you are a ghost. You have a body, but you cannot really touch or communicate except with other ghosts, but that is no fun since they are all miserable too. You can haunt others, but you cannot make real contact. You always feel left out. You are the ghost of the person you really want to be.

Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 "Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." 30 Comment on this quotation. Describe people, situations, countries, cities or neighbourhoods which feel or which make you feel hungry-ghost-like. Describe what things in life you think you can't do because they are too much, too difficult, out of reach. What problems do you have with your looks as a man or a woman? The first quotation that describes how you possess everything you want but always want more, and much of the description in this chapter about not being able to get what you want, seem to be contradicting each other. See if you can put them together somehow.

Exercises: • Look at yourself in a mirror and make miserable faces and noises for at least one minute without stopping. What happens? Then make very greedy, passionate faces, like you can never get enough of something delicious or desirable. What happens? Try going to one of the most expensive stores or areas in town and see if you feel any sense of poverty, of not belonging, of being left out. Don't dress up before you go. Then try it another time a few days later, but this time dress up.

30

The Holy Bible Proverbs, 31:7-7.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES Chapter Seven, THE ANIMAL REALM

CHAPTER SEVEN THE ANIMAL REALM "Anything unpredictable fundamentally threatens the basic pattern. So that apparently sane and solid situation without a sense of humour is the animal realm." 31 "Third Fisherman: 'Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.' First Fisherman: 'Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.' " 32 "Man is a successful animal, that's all." 33 "The behaviour of an individual is therefore determined not by his racial affiliation, but by the character of his ancestry and his cultural environment." 34 "My dear, I don't care what they do, as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses." 35 If you are born as an animal, you may have lots of different characteristics. There are hundreds of thousands of species of insects alone, and zillions of each particular one. Animals come in a truly amazing variety of shapes and sizes but all of them share the same common limitations: their behaviours are basically fixed from the time they are born, determined by their bodies and environments; and their environments are perceived according to their physical and behavioural makeup. Animals come with different colourings, skills, mating rituals, habitats, diets, ways of doing things but as endless as it all is, each one has few real choices as to what to do. If you are an ant, you cannot be a butterfly. As splendid as all of your skills are, they have a mechanical quality: you have to do what you are told by your programming, your genetic code. Many animals live in constant fear of having their life threatened or ended. If you are a fish, nine times out of ten you spend your entire life trying to eat someone else or avoid being eaten. All your neighbours are out to get you in the great competition known as 'the survival of the fittest' - unless you are sufficiently boring, ugly or poisonous in which case they just might leave you alone. Or you are a slave, a beast of burden, or your skin is used for shoes or belts and suchlike and your other body parts may be used for glue or soap or even musical instruments; or your flesh is somebody's breakfast; or your tusk is somebody's earring or knife handle. Animals are limited in this way, but that does not mean there is no intelligence involved. Look at the tail of a peacock. What an extraordinary thing! Look at the organisation of an
31 32 33 34 35

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Publications. Shakespeare, Pericles 1608. Remy de Gourmont 1858 - 1915, Promenades Philosophiques. Franz Boas 1858 - 1942, Race and Democratic Society 1945. Mrs. Patrick Campbell 1865 - 1940

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES Chapter Seven, THE ANIMAL REALM

ant-hill or a bee-hive. Imagine how marvellous it must be to fly like a goose across the ocean navigating by sheer instinct, or like the beaver being smart enough to build a dam to make a lake and then knowing how to build a house under water - all without having to go to school or pass an exam or get a license! There is no end to what animals can do, to how they can manifest. But unlike humans who go through all six states constantly in terms of fast-changing emotional and cultural atmospheres, animals tend to be stuck with who and what they are born as. Nevertheless, they too express all six realms; there are god-like and hellish animals and everything in between. That is yet another reason why they are so fascinating and why we learn so much by observing them. But, despite the evidence of great intelligence in their creation, with all animals there is a definite limitation. Some moths, for example, grow wings that look exactly like the faces of the owls that might otherwise eat them. How do they know to do this? It has been proven statistically that this is much more than just random genetic mutation and indeed many regard this as proof of the existence of a higher power, a god of creation. But no matter what the explanation or belief, the fact remains that the moth's personal level of intelligence and the sophistication of its design seem to have almost nothing to do with each other. In other words, the moth has no idea why its wing has grown that way an no ability to change it. That is why animals are limited: they are cut off from their innate intelligence by the sophisticated solidity of the extraordinary life form in which they are trapped; their behaviour is defined and limited by the bodies in which they have taken birth. Of course, as humans, we tend to share these physical limitations. How many of us can grow a second nose just by wishing for one? Again, though, what is more interesting here, as with all of the realms, is to consider the ways in which we are animal-like in terms of emotional styles. For example, 'human animals' are like this too. They may be very intelligent, well-dressed and sophisticated but they are just behaving or performing 'going through the motions'. It is not so much their bodies that limit them but the situations which seem to shape and control them, including their good and bad habits. This is similar to the animal's body situation. Sometimes, of course, they are not intelligent, but sleepy and stuck. In fact, all human animals are stuck, imprisoned by their beliefs and their behaviours, their 'cultures'. Most of us experience this again and again throughout our lives, every day: we just go ahead and do that same dumb thing without even thinking about it for a second, or we find ourselves in the same old situation again, or honking out that same silly laugh, twitching that same funny twitch. In other words, we may begin by assuming a style, a way of being, but then after a while, it seems to take over and we are no longer in charge of our own behaviour. Instead of playing the part, the part plays us! One of the main characteristics of the animal state, is lack of humour. A human animal might enjoy telling jokes at the bar and slapping his thigh with each boisterous guffaw, but his laughter is sort of mechanical and forced - a bit like a donkey's bray for example and you get the feeling that he has laughed at this same joke or the same type of joke for

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years now. Indeed, if you were to come back on another Wednesday night five years from now, you would probably see him there again, pretending to have a sense of humour by parroting the same basic jokes (most of which, funnily enough, are often about how people and animals behave in predictable, typecast ways). There is a fundamentally ignorant quality to this seriousness or pseudo-humour. The animal is seemingly unaware that he or she is trapped in a style - although humans become quite embarrassed when their behaviour is exposed because that challenges them to open up beyond the usual limitations they like to 'nest' in. So basically, the animal realm is populated by creatures of habit and the sad part is that this is where most of us live all the time. We have physical habits - ways of making noises, moving our heads, reacting, laughing, eating, sleeping, things we like and don't like - that control us all the time. Indeed, traditionally it is said that the vast majority of us with human bodies are basically human animals, not 'real' humans. It is as if we have turned ourselves into a computer program, a machine, that has lost any connection to its heart. Maybe it is human (see next chapter) to have had the creativity to invent and operate such a thing, but it is very animal to actually be like one, to follow one's programming, as it were. Habits are a form of slavery, of self-imposed limitations and boundaries. Habits can be physical, mental, emotional or cultural. True freedom is not just having opportunity in terms of circumstance and legal codes, it is being truly awake and open. As Trungpa, Rinpoche said: "The warrior never becomes a slave of his deeds." 36 Another favourite animal realm behaviour pattern is playing deaf and dumb. Human life is extraordinarily rich and brilliant, filled with possibilities, with the splendour of life in all its myriad forms and dynamics. 'Human animals', however, often just ignores all this and pretends that nothing is going on. They are much more interested in the chatter of a talk show than the sunshine playing on the leaves outside the window of their dark, cosy den; or they just sulk and pretend that they are not really in the room when you come in to say 'hello'. The animal-realm human : much better than the first two, but still pretty grim. Have you ever actually seen a monkey chuckle? In the same way, have you noticed that the laughter of some people is more a noise than a true expression of humour and delight? That is animal behaviour and is not the same as a true sense of humour. There is a hint of choice here because at least there is variety, but once you are in a body, you are stuck and in many cases, you are so dumb that you don't even see the variety that is all around you, pulsing, dancing. For example, although some animals can be trained to perform, they cannot really dance artistically, just as a dog can howl along with the radio but never really sing in tune with it. They may mate, for example, but they cannot make love.
36

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche , Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Shambhala Publications.

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Similarly, 'human animals' may laugh at jokes, but they don't really have much of a sense of humour about real life - especially their own. No matter how sophisticated their performance, their costume and perfume and so on, it is no more than that: a performance. They can never be real artists. They are terrified of improvisation, of change, of surprises, or even, heaven forbid, of the joke being on them! Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Describe any habits you have in terms of body habits, speech habits and mental habits. Describe human cultures or behaviours you find especially animal realm-ish. Describe first sophisticated, then dumb ‘human-animal’ behaviour. What do you do when you suddenly bump into someone in the street? What is your first experience every day when you wake up, then what do you do?

Exercises: • • Look carefully at what happens when you say 'hello' to someone. One minute mirror exercise. Just look at yourself whilst you are brushing your teeth and combing your hair, or putting on your makeup. Or act like any animal you know. What happens?

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CHAPTER EIGHT THE HUMAN REALM "There is something extra connected with the human realm, a very strange kind of suspicion which comes with passion, and which makes human beings more cunning, shifty and slippery. They can invent all sorts of tools and accentuate them in all sorts of sophisticated ways so as to catch another slippery person, and the other slippery person develops his or her own equipment of anti-tools... Finally, we are unable to accomplish such a big undertaking. We are subject to birth and death. The experience can be born, but it can also die; our discoveries may be impermanent and temporary." 37 "A true German can't stand the French, Yet willingly he drinks their wines." 38 "I am the man, I suffered, I was there." 39 "Man is a tool-using animal...Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." 40 "A poor degenerate from the ape, Whose hands are four, whose tail's a limb, I contemplate my flaccid shape And know I may not rival him Save with my mind." 41 "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." 42 "In looking at objects of Nature while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-glimmering through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolic language for something within me that already and forever exists, than observing anything new." 43 Buffalo Bill's defunct who used to ride a watersmooth-silver stallion
37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Publications. Goethe Faust 1808 - 1832 Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892, Song of Myself. Thomas Carlyle 1795 1881. Aldous Huxley, 1894 - 1963 First Philosopher's Song. J.F. Kennedy 1917 - 1963, Inaugural Address, Jan 20 1961. S.T. Coleridge, Anima Poetae 1805

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and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat Jesus he was a handsome man and what I want to know is how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death 44 "From day to night joy changes as the tide. Who ever lived so happy for a day As to have been unmoved by any sense Of guilt or rage, unvexed by some affray, By pride or envy, passion or offence?" 45

The human realm is the lowest of the 'Three Higher Realms'. The previous three are known as the Three Lower Realms because you are just going down or stuck somewhere that is either unpleasant or limited. In this realm, unlike the previous three, there is a lot of choice, a lot of flexibility, a lot of creativity. There is promise. You are still earthbound and there are limitations, of course, but you can choose your behaviour. You don't just have food, it can be 'cuisine'. You don't just survive, you could have enlightened society. You don't just walk around naked, you can wear fine clothes, and even when you go to the bathroom, there is a special room for it. Indeed, in modern Japan, in some well-to-do establishments, music automatically plays when you sit down on the toilet! How interesting the human realm is! It is constantly changing. The other realms, even the higher ones, are stuck with their body or state of mind for a whole life. A pig, although one of the most intelligent animals around, is always a pig, with only a narrow range of feelings and situations that engender feeling; but a human has lives within lives. Each day we go through so many realms; in our lives, we can change roles and identities in terms of jobs, countries, relationships, styles. Indeed, the human realm is the only one where we can experience all six and keep going around and around. The human is sophisticated, intelligent, energetic, witty, and constantly preoccupied with what to do next. Life is filled with choices. The dominant emotion, or atmosphere, is passion: passion for other people, ideas, books, money, travel, food, sex, knowledge, power, insight, science, a better lawn than my neighbour's, a better pillow, a bigger bomb, a better pancake recipe. It is endless. Also, in the human realm we can feel love - not just for the attractive members of the other sex - but for all beings; we can laugh, we can have a genuine sense of humour, we can be inquisitive, we can enjoy ourselves, we can feel real delight; and we can cry. Most

44 45

e e cummins , Portraits 1923 Chaucer, The Man of Law's Tale.

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importantly, this is the only realm where we can experience genuine heartbreak, not to mention full-blown compassion. Because of all this, the human realm is in many ways regarded as both the most intelligent as well as the most painful. In the human realm we can be aware that we are born, we live for a while and we die. This is because we are aware and can observe that we are always going through changes. In other words, we can compare this and that, and this 'now' from that 'then'. We have discriminating and evaluative memory and intellect so we can understand that life does not go on forever, that things are not as solid as we might first have thought. We are not actually stuck, even though we might be overly driven by our endless curiosity, passion, sense of exploration, intrigue, intelligence, whatever. This might not seem like much, and to tell the truth most of us ignore it all the time as if we will live forever or our scientists will find a way for that to happen; but it is important: it means that we have the intelligence and the opportunity to liberate ourselves from being trapped from birth in a particular body or mind-set. We are constantly experiencing change: change in the weather, in our ages, in our friends, in our feelings, in our opinions, in our money - in our everything. Because of this, we can look at ourselves, at the shift from happiness to sadness, pleasure to pain. Indeed, we love looking at ourselves, which is why there are so many stories, books, films, dramas and television broadcasts in this realm. Most animals can only see things in terms of their survival but humans love to see things in terms of their meaning, their implication, their storyline. Animals just see the outer object, not the inner subject matter. Have you ever seen an animal watching a movie? It is interesting: although we know that such things are an illusion, still we can get swept away in them, identifying completely and personally with the images, the story. Have you ever been terrified whilst watching a horror film? This is how the 'real-life' realms seem so real. One of the main characteristics of the human realm is a sense of humour because we can see the many-sided aspects of pain and pleasure. We also see how they go together and therefore get glimpses that the whole thing is a mirage and so our point of view is always changing. That is why Buddhas can teach here, because this is the realm where we can actually wake up out of the dream. Because we see birth, old age, sickness and death we can learn to flavour the tasty food of our changing, multifarious experiences with the spices of wisdom and discipline in order to take full advantage of the precious opportunity that this life affords. Questions: 1 2 3 What are your great assets as a person, and what are your dreams for a good life? Write a poem about eating breakfast, or going for a walk, or breaking up with your lover, or losing a loved one, or autumn. Recall and record all the emotional states you went through in one day.

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4 5

How many different roles in life do you have to play every day (lover, student, wife, boss etc.). Comment on the following poem: "In looking at objects of Nature while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-glimmering through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolic language for something within me that already and forever exists, than observing anything new." 46

Exercises: • Go to a cafe with a friend or on your own for a little while. Then later, write about every thing that happened in just one five minute period during that time. Try to remember as much as you can about what your saw, heard, smelled, tasted, said and even thought. How many pages could you fill? Now write about five minutes of worm life. Look out of your window and describe what you see that is obviously human vs. any other realm that might have been out there. Mirror exercise: Talk to yourself about how good you are, or be someone else, or be someone else telling you how good you are. Make a speech as if you were king or queen, or poet, or scientist. Or your best friend. Tell a joke. Have a little fun with it. What happens? 'what happens' also means notice the changes from before, during and after the exercise.

• •

46

S.T. Coleridge, Anima Poetae 1805.

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CHAPTER NINE THE JEALOUS GOD REALM "The realm of the jealous gods is the highest realm as far as communication goes; it is a very intelligent situation... It is as if a person were born as a diplomat, raised as a diplomat, and died as a diplomat." 47 "What is not clear, is not French." 48 "Princes are like to heavenly bodies, which cause good or evil times, and which have much veneration but no rest." 49 "I am holier than thou." 50 "There are people whom one should very well like to drop, but would not wish to be dropped by." 51 "The Pope! How many divisions has he got?" 52 "I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory." 53 "Envy that glowers at favour like a thief And gloats to see another come to grief." 54 Jealous Gods (Asuras in Sanskrit) are dominating and ambitious. They know that if they aim straight and make the right moves, one day they will be on top like those who have got it made, like the more superior gods whom of course they envy. They are frightfully intelligent and they are the centre of their world. Their intelligence never sleeps so they are like a watchtower with a 24 hour guard; their job is to make sure that nobody gets in and that nobody climbs higher and faster than they do, that they don't get out-ranked. Of course, they always live at the best addresses, the ones that everyone else would like to have on their custom-made stationery. The dominant emotion in the Jealous God realm is paranoia and high-level competitiveness. They are jealous if you do something that they cannot see because it might be a threat and also it means that they are not the centre of your world the way they believe you and everyone else thinks they should be. They are jealous because they aspire

47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Publications. Antoine de Rivarol, Discourse sur L'Universalite de la Langue Francaise, 1784. Francis Bacon, 1561 - 1626 Essays, Of Empire. The Holy Bible, Isaiah 65:5, Lamentations. Samuel Johnson 1709 - 1784, Boswell's Life of Johnson. Joseph Stalin, quoted by Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm 1948. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola, spoken by Robert Duvall Chaucer, The Physician's Tale.

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to become completely happy and at their ease like the Gods of the next realm and they are in a constant state of struggle to get there. Still, they are gods because anything less is beneath them or their ambition and because they do have real power, real accomplishment, a considerable degree of mastery over mind and body. Because they have to struggle so hard, they feel that everyone else is either a threat or a possible threat (which is the same thing) - or a useless worm not worthy of their attention. That is why they are so paranoid: they have to be on guard all the time. That is also why they can never relax, which is why they cannot be really relaxed gods. Asuras are either in their tower, shooting arrows at attackers from their specially designed slit windows, or they are storming somebody else's. Of course, in a realm such as this, there is a lot of quarrelling in the air, too, not to mention the invigorating clash of rapier upon rapier! The 'human asura' might be a powerful person in his school or village, a famous international businessman in Hong Kong, a crime boss in Tokyo (perhaps that is a somewhat hellish version of asura) or a politician patrolling the corridors of power in Washington D.C. Power and paranoia: that is the name of the game. The canyons of Wall Street are filled with asuras, who in days, hours or minutes even are constantly fighting for the same piece of the pie, struggling to outsmart, outwit and outdo each other to get that pot of gold at the God's end of the rainbow, to make their fortune (whilst more than likely taking it away from someone else). 55 And, of course, as with all these realms, asura-type feelings are experienced by all of us in all walks of life in many ordinary ways in the form of jealousy, competitiveness, paranoia, restless ambition etc. In terms of humour: when they find something funny, it is usually about how stupid somebody else was, about how they failed; for some reason they find this amusing. An asura in fine form will not be able to understand that others may not share their ambition and success; as soon as the cellular phone is introduced on the market, for example, the asura will of course be one of the first customers. Even if they have only been out a month or so, he will simply not understand how anyone else could do without one. In any case, they don't really care about others except in so far as their paranoia must need guard against attack from them. Suffering and sensitivity are forms of weakness, of failure. In this realm, perhaps, are also many dedicated religious people who believe they have found the true path and that all others are beneath them, even possibly deserve death for not believing in the true faith. If they die in service to the True Faith, it will only serve to help create the splendid world that an asura is dedicated to achieving by any means possible. Success is what counts. A glorious realm if you like that sort of thing, but heartless and cruel, glittering and brittle.

55

Of course, this is not to imply that everyone is like this in Wall Street. This is just an example.

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Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Who do you despise and/or envy and why? Be honest. How would you define being successful? What do you have in your character that is better than others? Do you like to win? How do you imagine it before it happens and then what does it feel like when it does happen? Describe cultures or civilisations that you think are particularly asura-like.

Exercises: • • Go on another shopping trip. This time, really dress up and go to some places where you can feel truly superior. Live it up! Give the sales assistants a hard time! Mirror exercise: Be superior and lecture to someone who you know is a real 'dweeb' about how to shape up. Posture. Be superior. Get into it. What happens? Do you really know you are? Are you really all that together? Get paranoid. Really. What happens?

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES Chapter Ten, THE REALM OF THE GODS

CHAPTER TEN

THE REALM OF THE GODS

"That maintaining oneself is a state of samadhi, perpetually living in a state of absorption and peace; it is the realm of the gods, which is known as the realm of pride.... in other words, it is intoxication with the existence of ego." 56 "I almost had to wait." 57 "Can heavenly minds yield to such rage?" 58 "Fortune is like the market, where many times, if you can but stay a little, the price will fall." 59 "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." 60 "Ever the latter end of joy is woe." 61 " These visions could be seen as expressions of neutral energy, rather than as gods to save you from samsara or demons to haunt you." 62

When you are a God, you've 'got it made' - of course, because you're the one who made it! There is no struggle any more. Basically, you dwell in self-satisfied pride. Actual gods do not have solid bodies for they exist in realms of perfect pleasure and ease. They sit on soft clouds. Every smell is transcendent perfume, every taste is pure nectar. Time seems to have stopped - or is just one exquisite drop of glistening, delectable ambrosia after another. It is said that one day in the god realm takes as much time as several million years in hell and several hundred years for a human. The main emotion here is one of self-absorption, or pride. Complete satisfaction rules, usually of a very sophisticated and pure type - but on the human level it can also be just the sense of having what you want, of being satisfied. Sometimes, human-gods can be hard to spot. They have nothing to prove, and their life is safe and pleasant. This is sort of an animal human-god. However, this can also be a highly sophisticated state, such as that of an advanced meditator who has learned to tune in to endless inner bliss - or in some sense any other highly trained expert. Or it could be a millionaire/king who has everything done perfectly: a perfect garden, a perfect butler, a perfect wife, a perfect meal, a perfect bank balance. 'Just Perfect'. 'How lovely!' 'How
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Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Publications. Louis XIV, attributed to a remark when a coach he had ordered arrived just in time. Virgil, Aeneid 70-19 B.C. Francis Bacon, 1561-1626 Essays, Of Delays. The Holy Bible, Proverbs. Chaucer, The Nun's Priest's tale in the Canterbury Tales. Trungpa, Rinpoche Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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Nice.' Or again it can be an ordinary (animal god) person who goes to work, has a regular paycheque and is thoroughly happy with everything. This is the realm without worry, where there actually is peace and contentment, so it can just be a fantastic mood, or an experience of great pleasure during which you are thoroughly absorbed in feeling good. Even though it may not last long, whilst it does you are in a sort of god realm, enjoying the ice cream nectar-flavour of the moment. The only problem with all of these of course, whether a permanent birth or a fleeting mood, is that they don't last. At some point even if you are an actual god, it is said that your cloud starts to bulge or sag, that your ambrosia is not right, that your body is beginning to smell bad; then you become desperate and either you slip down into the asura realm trying to make it back up to the happiness you thought was yours forever, or you go straight to hell, frozen or burnt by intense anguish and resentment, unable to get out, overwhelmed by a sense of loss and entrapment. Similarly on the human level, your ongoing condition, be it the life of a pampered millionaire or a fleeting mood, starts to change. Before, everything was perfect, everything fit together; now suddenly, things feel 'off ': the flowers on the mantelpiece are drooping; one's perfect world is collapsing; one's perfect state of bliss, or just one's good mood is melting away - including of course, that ice cream! In nearly every love affair this is the inevitable progression. As is often said, and just as often experienced: "the honeymoon is over." Perhaps it is not actually ending but you start to worry about how to make sure it lasts; and as soon as you do that you realise that it has already ended in some sense and now you are being a jealous god, not a god anymore, and then you start to play through all the tactics you might use to get around this predicament and you are a human and then you repeat mindlessly what you have been doing so you become so deadened and numb by the constant survival pressures that you find yourself becoming an animal, and then you become miserable and convinced that you can never get anywhere even if you do survive and you are now a wretched ghost, hungering for existence that you can't ever really enjoy and then you become twisted, resentful, hardened, bitter and perhaps even harsh and wicked and you end up in hell. This is the awful thing about the god realm whether exalted or ordinary: it has to end, and since there is an ignorant quality throughout in that as long as you are happy you are quite willing to ignore anything else, when it is time to wake up it is quite painful and the anguish you feel can be intense enough so that you freeze in fury or fear in which case you don't even have to slip down one at a time but you just go straight to a hot or cold hell where the whole things starts over again. To review: once again, the main point in contemplating these six realms is not to worry about whether or not they are a scientifically accurate definition of the physical universe. In terms of our experience, if we cannot perceive them physically then their existence is only theoretical anyway. The main point is that we do live in and journey through realms such as these: good ones, bad ones, indifferent ones. The cycle is simple and endless: by

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fixating on feeling good, we create realms that alternate between exquisite pleasure on the one extreme and exquisite pain on the other with endless millions of combinations in between. These realms exist both in different places and times and also simultaneously. For example, to the hell realm being, water is a boiling or freezing source of torment; to the hungry ghost it is pus and poison; to the animal it is something you instinctively drink in order to survive (or indeed 'home' if you are a fish); to the human it is good for quenching thirst or making into wine or as a tool, i.e. for manufacturing computer chips; to the asura it is a treasure that must be captured or worshipped; to the god it is divine, ambrosial nectar. We all get tastes of this in our lives as humans. To different people, the same sunny day may feel very, very different: for some hellish, for others fantastic. Also, our lives contain many realms on a regular basis. Your family life might involve lots of anger and disappointment, a form of hungry hell; then you go to your job or school where you are very competent and competitive - perhaps asura-like; at the end of the day, you go to a movie with some friends and no matter what the subject matter - violence or romantic love - whilst you are in the movie theatre it is a form of god realm in that no harm can befall you, you are entertained and happy for a while (or perhaps animal realm in that you feel safe and neutral). The bottom line - or rather the spinning wheel around which all realms revolve - is that as real as they feel whilst we are in them, none of them last. Until we stop identifying with them so much, it just goes on and on and round and around forever: this spinning wheel of samsaric existences. God Realm Questions and Exercises: 1 2 3 4 5 Describe your idea of being perfectly happy yourself, and then someone you know or who have read about that seems perfectly happy. Describe situations or cultures that seem to embody the god realm. Describe the happiest moment of your life. Describe the ideal holiday. After that, analyse it in terms of the realms. Have you ever felt like everything was going your way and then suddenly something came along to mess it up? Describe.

Exercises: • Mirror Exercise: Look at yourself and see how splendid you are. Take time. Your eyes, your lips, your nose, your skin, your intelligence. You are not a worm or a gargoyle. Appreciate yourself, your body, your mind. Love yourself. What happens? Then look at everything terrible that you can see. What happens?

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Six Realm Questions: 1 Describe a day when lots of things happened and you went through many emotional states or a tie when you suddenly changed from feeling one extreme feeling one minute to a very different one soon after. Now see which realm, if any they seem closest too. Try to think of realms that are not covered by the above six. Now, try to see if you can fit them in somehow. Describe a god-realm type animal, a hungry ghost god, an asura human, a hellish human, a hellish animal, etc etc. Describe a meal with six people, each of which is a different realm type. What would they order, how would they dress and how would they talk together? Describe different animals that reflect each of the realms and why. Pick which realms you feel most relate to passion, which to aggression and which to ignorance and explain why. Describe a realm in terms of a) a mood b) a city c) a lifetime. Analysing films from the point of view of which realm they mainly deal in is a lot of fun. Many of us wonder why there is so much sex and violence on film. Maybe it is because this is the type of lower realm projection that we find most attractive. Comment.

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Six Realm Exercises: • Look in a mirror and smile, then laugh (if you can do it genuinely). Now frown and then shout. Now look sad and wretched. Take your time. Can you feel your emotions building up? (That's how realms happen. We take them - and ourselves - too seriously.) Sit quietly for a while and see where you go in your mind. Describe the journey in terms of the basic theme, and then in terms of which realm you think it best approximates. Go to a public place and watch people. What realm are they in? Are they aware of it?

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INTERLUDE: THE BODHISATTVA BUFFALO 63
A bodhisattva is someone who has taken the vow to be kind to all beings and not to leave this world until every single one has achieved complete happiness. Bodhi means awake and sattva means fearless being, so a bodhisattva is fearlessly awake. When you are truly awake, you feel the suffering of others even more acutely than your own and, out of the goodness of your heart, desire to help them. The following story was told by the Buddha one day to his young cousin, Ananda, who also served as his main attendant, and describes one of his previous lives as a Bodhisattva. Patience only exists when exercised under duress Virtuous beings are grateful to those who hurt them, even regarding such harm as a great service. Once the Bodhisattva took birth as a wild buffalo. Stern and dark, with raging, red eyes glinting brightly through his shaggy coat caked in mud, he appeared awesome and frightening. But even though he was born as a creature with so fierce and brutal a nature, for whom acts of kindness and virtue are usually unknown, for so many lifetimes had he practiced kindness and generosity that they still ruled his behaviour. 64 Now it so happened that in the same wooded valley there lived a proud and naughty monkey who liked nothing better than a good laugh and especially loved teasing the lumbering, angry-looking buffalo. After first throwing sticks and stones and getting no response, he experimented further until he realised that he could do pretty much anything he liked to his patient and gentle victim. It is often this way, even amongst people, that those with cruel or spiteful natures take advantage of those who are meek and kindly. When they meet someone who might fight back they themselves are as meek and humble as any young monk, only because they are frightened, of course. Sometimes, whilst the Noble One was sleeping in a stand of cool bulrushes or napping under the shade of his favourite pipal tree, the monkey would suddenly leap on his back and, peeking over the top of his head, poke at his eyes or even yank his horns and then swing back and forth from them. When the buffalo was hungry, sometimes he would stand right in front of him on the sweet clover to keep him from grazing. Every once in a while he would even poke into the Noble One's ears with a stick!

Extracted and rephrased with permission from The Marvellous Companion by Dharma Publishing Even a virtuous person like the Bodhisattva after countless lifetimes of excellent service must still have had certain karmas to work through. This in itself is a lesson to us to be careful with our behaviour all the time and learn to lead lives that cause no harm to ourselves or others. Because of past good deeds not only did he retain his fundamentally generous and noble nature, but he was born as a powerful animal that did not need to kill others in order to maintain this body.
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63

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When the buffalo wanted to go into the water, the monkey would climb up on his head and cover his eyes, or sometimes he would beat him with a stick pretending to be his driver and force him to go in other directions. And through all this, the Noble One, the Bodhisattva, endured these shenanigans without frustration, irritation, annoyance, impatience or anger, being quite untroubled, for in fact, he was grateful to the monkey and indeed considered all these actions of great benefit. So it is that lesser beings continually walk on a path that leads away from discipline and good behaviour whilst good-hearted, superior ones, due to exercising virtue, patiently endeavour to benefit even those who only know how to hurt others and cause them harm. One day the yaksha 65 of a bamboo grove next to the meandering stream where the Buffalo loved to linger and cool himself, having witnessed these insults to the Buffalo for so long and wanting to find out why on earth he put up with them in this way, placed himself in the path of the Buffalo whilst the malicious monkey was riding him. "Wait a minute," he said, "why are you so incredibly patient with that creature? Are you that monkey's slave? Or did he win you playing cards or something? Or are you afraid of him somehow? Don't you have any idea how strong you are? Why do you let him get away with this, torturing you, ordering you around where you don't want to go and turning you into his beast of burden? What's going on here, my friend? "With your powerful, pointed horns, one toss of your head and you could split a mountain open as well as any bolt of lightning and 'so long' mountain'; your thundering hooves in their fury could easily trample solid granite into sand, and 'so long' granite; your body is an enormous, solid and compact mass of sheer, bulked up muscle, a veritable powerhouse. Your powerful nature is known in all the domains of animals and also men, some of whom worship the strength you represent. Even the majestic lion, king of beasts, fears to arouse your wrath. "So why don't you do something with this rascal? Go ahead! Jab him with your horns, or crush him under your hooves! Why suffer that rogue to torment you, and why do you just sit there putting up with it as if you were a powerless little kitten? Do you think that by being kind to him he will get any better? Haven't you noticed that people like that just take advantage of the kind-hearted and, like spoiled children, keep going from bad to worse? No, no, no, my friend, not all medicines go down sweet, some of them are hard to take and unless you give him a little of the rough stuff, his arrogance and insults to you will only increase, like an infection."

‘Yaksha’ means beings of the desire realm, usually inhabiting trees and mountains and usually friendly to humans.

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The Bodhisattva gazed steadily at the excited yaksha and spoke soft words in praise of the virtue of patience. "Of course I know that this monkey is arrogant, not to be trusted as a friend and weak both in body and character; but that is exactly why I put up with him every day. What is patience when applied only with people superior to oneself, or far surpassing one in power and strength? What is there to put up with when dealing with people firm in virtuous and decent conduct? No, the real challenge is in bearing the cruelties imposed on us by those weaker than ourselves, even though we have the ability to overpower them. "Ill-treatment at the hands of the weak is the greatest opportunity for patience on the part of the strong. Why should a kind and virtuous person use his strength in order to lose his firm state of mind? What good would that do? Besides, having an opportunity to develop and demonstrate patience is a blessing in itself since it depends on others to help create the situation. Why then should I give in to anger? Would it not be ungrateful of me to harm others when all they are doing is providing me with a further opportunity to clear away my own weaknesses?" "But then you might never be free of his persecutions," said the yaksha. "How do you propose to put him in his place without laying aside your patience?" The Bodhisattva replied: "wanting to destroy the cause of one's suffering or wanting happiness through hurting someone else will never bring any good in the long run, so happiness can never be achieved that way. My persistence is an attempt to wake him up. If he refuses to learn, however, sooner or later he will probably attack another creature with a fiery temper who will punish him. After he has learned his lesson, he will no longer do these things to me and so I will be rid of him." These words amazed the yaksha and filled him with joy. With a sense of humbleness and reverence. "Truly, this is well said." Joining his palms together at the level of his heart and bowing his head toward the Noble One, he praised the Bodhisattva with the following kind words: 'It is inconceivable to me that a beast such as yourself should behave with such impeccability. How is your nature possessed by such sublime virtue? You must be an animal only in outer form alone; inside, you must actually be a higher being practicing austerities in the forest, which is your hermitage. How happy am I to have met one such as you in my domain? How joyful am I to witness such purity and generosity of conduct. How glad I am that it is within my power to help you without abusing your patience!"

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Moral: "Be grateful to everyone." 66

A slogan from Atisha, a 9th century master who, along with Padmasambhava, helped bring the dharma to Tibet.

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CHAPTER ELEVEN KARMA AND REBIRTH THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS "The world is made and produced by Karma; beings are the result of and have originated from it as motive; they are divided into groups and status by it." 67 "Karma is motivation and what has come about thereby. Motivation is mind's activity; What is set up by it are bodily and vocal activities." 68 "The instant that has continuity Is described as the creator of karma." 69 "When stirred constantly by cold air Even gently flowing water solidifies like a rock; When a confused mind is stirred by a craving for dualism, Even the formless becomes solid." 70 "The universe does not have laws. It has habits. And habits can be broken." 71 " What goes around, comes around." 72 Once we get born into a realm what keeps us there? For example, why are we always growing - first bigger, then older? We can't control or prevent this: it just happens. Well, according to the Buddhadharma, everything arises because of a combination of many causes. For example, in order for you to read this book you have to have a body, a pair of eyes, a place and time, money to have bought it or a friend to have given it to you; there were trees and people to make the paper and those who wrote and printed it; there is the fact that we learned a common language or it has been translated into your own, the invention of the printing press (in China 73) over a thousand years ago etc., etc. And each of these causes depends on hundreds of others. This is equally true for events both in space or in time so every moment is the result of millions of other contributing moments.
Mahakarunapundarikasutra, from The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Ch. 6, by Gampopa, Shambhala Publications. 68 Abhidharmakosha, IV, ibid. 69 Light of Wisdom, p 80, by Padmsambhava, from The Threefold Knowledge, Shambhala Publications. 70 Saraha, 210 - 270 BC. 71 The naked Dr Dannyboy in Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, 1984 72 Song on MTV 73 The Chinese probably invented the first real printing press. The earliest known 'mass-produced' printed book is "a Buddhist sutra, struck off in 868, .. from wooden blocks, for free distribution". From "The Chinese, Their History and Culture" by Kenneth Scott Latourette.
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Each of these moments has four parts: arising, dwelling, ceasing and nothing. You may say that these are artificial concepts, that in fact all four are part of just one continuum, one thing. You are somewhat right. But still, is the nothing stage the same as the dwelling stage? Is the arising stage the same as the ceasing stage? No: so you are somewhat wrong as well. Welcome to the wonderful world of Buddhist 'logic'. Another example: you are waiting for a bus when you remember that you have left your money at home; you check around and find some spare cash in a back pocket and so you relax and think about other things. Even though you may have been thinking about something else, at some point there suddenly arose the thought: "Uh-oh, I forgot my money." That is the arising: before there was no such thought, now there is. The fiddling around until you find some in your pocket is the dwelling: you are working your way through it. Then at some point it ends: you find the money and so the situation is resolved; that is the ceasing. The nothing part is that there is a gap between one and the other after which usually something else arises. Not just long, complex thoughts or experiences like this but each moment in mind - for example when we switch from seeing to hearing - can be broken down in this way and the shortest ones are said to last about 1/60th of a second. Again, for every thing/moment that arises there have been many causes or seeds; millions upon billions of things have come together; and each moment is the result of yet more causes which produce yet more effects, effects which are then causes of something else. Since we need causes to keep a seemingly continuous event - like our body-life - going and since each moment is the result of new and ever-changing causes, nothing lasts forever because you can't have an identically repeating set and you can't go backwards. In a way, as quantum physicists have been discovering, we are like a swarm of bees. As long as there are enough participants, the swarm is alive. But if too many outside forces come along to scatter the individual participant bee-causes who make up the swarm (including habitat, weather, source of food, pesticides, death and birth of the members etc.) then the swarm can no longer be re-assembled and ceases to exist as such. In some cases, there are no more bees; in some cases individuals break off to create different swarms. This law of cause and effect is known as karma, a Sanskrit word which in this context means two things: 'events/actions' and 'volitional actions' - actions produced by intentions. Events are the moments or events as described above. We could just say 'action' or 'happening'. A karma is something that happens. A bouncing ball is a karma. The sound of a car horn is a karma. In other words, there is no psychological or personal aspect involved. It is just an objective thing that happens, like a raindrop hitting the pavement, one of millions of unwitnessed, unrecorded raindrops. The second and related meaning is what is most often used and more importantly refers to how more personal 'event karmas' occur. In this case, events (karmas) are themselves the product of previous karma(s) coloured by the energy or atmospheres - moods, if you like - coming from our intentions. There are good and bad or pleasant and unpleasant

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intentions. These create the realms that we have already been contemplating. This is how rebirth occurs constantly from moment to moment and life to life. It is from this meaning that so many notions of that infamous thing referred to as 'reincarnation' are developed and often grossly misinterpreted. Rebirth is both bad news and good news. By birth we do not just mean being born as a human person, but simply the birth of a new moment, situation or set of events. Ignorance begets more ignorance, passion begets passion and aggression begets aggression; also, once you have mixed one colour with another on your palette, you can't unmix them. So because each new set of samsaric causes produces future samsaric situations, or 'birth', rebirth is 'Bad News'. However, life is fundamentally open. Every moment you can decide what you want to do. If you learn from your mistakes you can do it differently next time. More importantly, even if you are about to die of starvation you can choose whether to face your death with courage or despair. Every moment is open, changing, flexible. It is more like a fourdimensional mosaic than a locked box. So rebirth is also 'Good News'. In some sense, everything occurs in a vacuum, like outer space. If we roll a ball in one direction it will keep going forever. If it bumps into another ball, this sets off a reaction with the same amount of energy between the two balls that can then relate with more balls and so on and so on. Similarly, if we generate aggression or a bad atmosphere, it will keep on going forever and create more aggression as it interacts with other people, places, things and so on. And again, there is no going back - once you have jumped out of the airplane there is no getting back on board! Although this explanation follows the simple logic that for every effect there was a cause and vica versa, in practice it is hard to see. Some causes produce immediate effects and some produce gradual effects: when you plant an oak seed, even though that takes only a minute or so to do, it's a long time before anything like a real oak tree comes along. Some things are fast: the moment you place sugar on your tongue you taste sweetness; when you open your eyes you see sunshine. Some things are obvious: if you get in the bath, you will also get wet. Some are subtle: subtle things can produce subtle effects - but also enormous ones, like the splitting of an atom; again, tiny seeds can produce mighty oaks. Some causes produce effects that are very different from the cause: if you eat beans (grown by a farmer in Mexico) the effect might be gas (in an elegant apartment in Paris three years after their being harvested) ! So the law of karma does not necessarily mean that everything is mechanical and predictable - far from it. There are an infinite number of variables in the causation mix all the time. The traditional analogy for this is again the potter's wheel: it just takes one good push and then it spins on and on for a long time until a new cup is born (and a cup is very different event/ karma/ effect from the push of a leg and the resultant spinning of the wheel) which is still around several hundred years later when Socrates drinks poison out of it!

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Since we are each born because of certain particular causes, therefore our birth and death belong to each of us and each of us alone; this life and both the causes and the effects it produces, the further karma it generates, are ours to deal with and nobody else's. We are responsible for every aspect of our life and must learn to act in such a way as to create no further causes of harm (samsara) for ourselves or others. Some people incorrectly think that karma means that everything is pre-destined 74: "it was just your karma to have that car crash on holiday in Israel." Although true, that does not mean it was pre-destined: if you had acted differently - which you could have - the crash would not have happened. After the fact we can say "that was karma", but that does not mean it was pre-destined. What is more important: analysing why the car crash happened or dealing with its effects? Let us assume that there was no physical injury, in which case the effects are mainly psychological: perhaps you are very nervous afterwards, you can't sleep well and make a mistake the next day which costs you your job. That too is 'karma'. Or perhaps things have been going so badly in a relationship with your partner that as soon as you so much as look at that person you get upset. This is what happens in war too. We don't see our adversaries as fellow humans anymore, just as 'the enemy' - any of them, all of them. As soon as we see them in the field or in the sky we hate them. Perhaps we cannot even really see them, but we hate them anyway: we shoot them, we bomb them, we crush them, we kill them. So the aspect of karma that is most important is how much of it remains as residue, how much of our history we carry around as baggage affecting our posture, our outlook, our energy - our 'volitional' intentions. Karma is what
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This is has been an issue of great fascination since as long as there have been humans with enquiring minds. Here follows an excerpt from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales from the Nun's Priest's Tale written between 1386 and 1400 [Penguin edition] : "But that which God's foreknowledge can foresee Must needs occur, as certain men of learning Have said. Ask any scholar of discerning; He'll say the Schools are filled with altercation On this vexed matter of predestination Long bandied by a hundred thousand men. How can I sift to the bottom then? The holy doctor St. Augustine shines In this, and there is Bishop Bradwardine's Authority, Boethius' too, decreeing Whether the fact of God's divine foreseeing Constrains me to perform a certain act - And by constraint I mean the simple fact Of mere compulsion by necessity Or whether a free choice is granted me To do a given act or not to do it Though, ere it was accomplished, God foreknew it, Or whether Providence is not so stringent And merely makes necessity contingent. But I decline the matter....."

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we have to work with. Karma is all there is. Indeed, what we call 'Life' is just karma playing itself out. As mentioned in previous chapters, all six realms take place in what is known as 'the realm of desire'. Desire means that we desire to feel things and we prefer them to feel pleasurable vs. painful. Thus, so-called 'good' karma is the absence of intense suffering and fear and so-called 'bad' karma is the presence of intense suffering and fear. Actions that create good karma breed further good karma and vica versa. This is how the realms are created and perpetuated. The problem with 'good' karma is there is still an element of 'bad' karma in it because you are perpetuating self-hood, your own pleasure, your own safety; and as we have seen, you will inevitably have to rely on passion, aggression and ignorance to maintain the process. For example, god realms are karma dressed up as 'good', but no matter how fantastic the costume party, at some point it ends and then you have to get up the next day in the same old birthday suit as the day before - or maybe it's worse than that: you might be in prison! The Buddhadharma gives us methods to prevent creating more karma, either positive or negative, by working egolessly with whatever karma we have, with whatever arises in life. One of the main thrusts of the teachings is to stop creating karma - good or bad - and indeed to step off the spinning wheel of samsara altogether. You may have heard that 'Buddhists believe in incarnation'; but if there is no such thing as ego, who (or rather we should say 'what') is re-incarnating? So-called 'reincarnation' happens on two levels. Again, there is the moment to moment level: as each moment ends and a new one arises, you 'reincarnate' again as 'me' in this body, this mind. Then there is life to life: as each life ends, there is a gap and then you have a new life, with a new set of mind/body combinations to identify with as ' me ' - if you are lucky enough to be reborn as something that can think it is a 'me' that is! 'Reincarnation' - a term that is often used in daily conversation - is more usually referred to in the buddhadharma teachings as 'rebirth'. Because rebirth happens constantly on a moment-to-moment basis, each moment is a new dawn, a fresh 're-birthing' process. You have a karmic tendency now to be involved with a certain body situation as it grows and ages. Our oak seed, for example, has the karmic potential to become an oak but not a pine tree. At some point you die and then some of 'your' energy will keep going, but it won't be 'you' anymore: the coincidence of things that are 'you' will have died never to reassemble or be reborn. Even if 'you' are 'reborn' as a god or a multi-millionaire, it will not really be 'you', just different aspects of karmic/realmic residue. The volitional karma, the atmospheres of the realms you favoured - hatred, pleasure whatever - will have recoalesced as ongoing energy after 'your' 'death'. Just like when one thought process ends another begins, when one life ends another begins that is related to the previous one. However, that is a new 'I'. The person you now know as 'I' will be gone forever never to live again. 'I' can produce causes for future rebirths in the constant round of pleasure and pain in the six realms - but they will never be 'me' again. Because rebirth is ongoing,

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death is ongoing. So the real significance behind so-called 'reincarnation' or rebirth is that we will all die. Isn't Buddhist logic fun? Let us take a classic example: a new candle is lit from the flame of a previous one and then the old flame is blown out and the new one is left burning. You have a different candle, or body, but is it the same flame or life-force or 'me'? As you would expect with Buddhist logic, you can answer that with both a 'yes' and a 'no', but also with a 'neither'. In fact, what you have is a transference of energy - in this case heat. The heat from Flame 1 is enough to get the wax in the wick on Candle Two hot enough to act as fuel for a flame which is both the same and different from Flame 1. Each moment is a new flaming karma. What has actually been transmitted is energy, in this case heat, thanks to the karmic causes of things like flame, wax, candle, wicks etc. being in the right place at the right time - also the result of previous karmic causes. Another traditional example is that of a river: if you look at a river, you can see that it is never actually the same; there is always new water flowing by. It is a recurring situation or energy pattern but it is never actually the same one. So it is the same river, but at the same time, it isn't. 'The river' is just a concept. Similarly with so-called rebirth, energy flows from moment to moment and birth to birth. For most beings in this 'desire realm', the most basic pulse of that energy is our craving for experience, for life, for survival. So yes: there is rebirth; but no: 'I' do not get reborn. What 'I' does is generate certain volitional tendencies that end up (blundering into a birth that is) best fulfilling the wishes of those tendencies. This process goes on forever until you learn to let go of it. So again, rebirth can be very bad news because it means that you constantly create and recreate suffering, selfishness, fear and pettymindedness i.e. samsara. Whether we 'believe' in re-incarnation or not is irrelevant because beliefs are just thoughts. It is the volitional energy of the thoughts, feelings and actions that matters and moreover how to work with that moment by moment right now in our actual lives. Each moment can be a fresh birth, an opening, or it can be a stale, artificial form of continuity which, as stated in the quotation at the top of this chapter, is 'the creator of karma'. Continuity means that you translate each new moment into the situational language of the previous one, the previous 'me' (thereby creating time, by the way, which is another illusion). This is a somewhat stuffy approach, if you think about it. Indeed, samsara is an altogether 'stuffy' affair. So karma (samsaric karma) is both what we transcend and what we use as fuel for the journey. The ongoing process is what is of real interest, not beliefs or conceptual labels including any idealised and imagined destinations such as 'enlightenment'. The point is not just to learn how to generate so-called 'good' or happy karma so that we won't suffer: we have studied how all realms are impermanent but that there is a constant cycle, or wheel, from one to the other. No, the idea is to get off the wheel of producing karma. That is what is really meant by liberation, or nirvana. 'Nirvana' is not a permanent state of bliss or a blank mind without thoughts and therefore without suffering or any other problems: it is cessation, it is getting off the spinning wheel altogether.

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Again, the Buddhadharma is not about learning how to be happy all the time in this or the next life nor is it about developing magical 'happy' powers: it is about becoming free of the chains that bind us to the constantly spinning wheel of cyclic existence, of samsara. This is the truly profound revolution that the Buddha set in motion, which is why his teachings were first described as 'The Turning of the Wheel of Dharma', meaning a new dharmic wheel versus the same old samsaric wheel. By wakefully penetrating to the core of our ignorant confusion we undo it. For that too follows the law of karma: just as there are causes for ignorance and fixation, so too there are causes for awakening and liberation, causes which we can deliberately set in motion. By the way, if you find this chapter a bit hard to follow, please don't worry. This is complicated stuff. Indeed, although 'karma' and 'reincarnation' are two of the things that many non-Buddhists have heard a lot about, in fact most practicing Buddhists spend little time wrestling with them since indeed they do become very complicated very quickly! So if you don't find this sort of thing to your fancy, don't worry. Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Describe everything that goes into the life of: a blueberry bush, tree, mouse, ham and cheese sandwich or a favourite object in your life. Describe any examples of actions or attitudes which produce effects. It is said: " The so-called continuity or instant is false, just like a chain, an army, and so forth." Why is an army not an army or a chain not a chain? Elaborate. “So the real significance behind so-called 'reincarnation' or rebirth is that we will all die." Comment. "'Nirvana' is not a permanent state of bliss or a blank mind without thoughts and therefore without suffering or any other problems: it is cessation, it is getting off the spinning wheel altogether." If that is the case, is it not the same as death? Comment.

Exercise: • Go watch a river. What are you seeing?

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CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE THREE MARKS OF EXISTENCE 75 "The so-called continuity, or instant Is false, just like a chain, an army, and so forth." 76 "A human life is similar to a flash of lightning in the sky fading away the moment it has appeared. The Vinaya Scripture describes this: 'Like the mountain river flowing into the ocean, Like the sun or moon approaching the western mountain, Like day and night, hours and minutes quickly go by; The lives of people pass in this same way' ". 77 "Remember: it is not given to man to take his possessions with him. No one goes away 78 and then comes back." 79 You may well have found our little tour of the six realms quite entertaining. Still, try to imagine what it is actually like to be tortured for one minute, five minutes, every day for a week, or being in hell for an entire lifetime; or imagine falling down from a paradisical god realm where every experience for an entire life was truly blissful. A terrific amount of hardship and suffering is involved in this business we call 'life'. You might say that this is all just imaginary, but if you have studied any history or keep up with the news you know that a lot of what happens in reality to millions of people everyday is much more intense than anything we can ever imagine. Truly, samsara is 'no bed of roses'. 80 Presumably, most of you who are reading this live in the developed countries, especially in the West and Japan. We have a pretty good time of it, at least on the surface. But most 'old' people will tell you these same two things: first, that life is truly a precious miracle and blessing, but also second, that it can be very hard and that each of us will at some point undergo trials involving intense challenge, difficulty and pain. If we consider the plight of the many hundreds of millions of people alive today who do not know where their next meal is coming from, who are at constant risk from war or disease, we can see that in fact for most people life is fraught with danger and intense suffering. Imagine actually being a fish. You spend all your life trying to eat other fishes or avoid being eaten yourself. Imagine actually being eaten alive! Terrifying prospect if you really think about it; and 'somebody' somewhere is living this experience every second, not just imagining it.

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In Sanskrit, the " Trilakshana", traditional teachings of Lord Buddha. The Two Truths, from the Light of Wisdom by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p. 143. 77 The Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p 103. 78 i.e. diies. 79 The Song of the Harper 2650-2600 BC from Ancient Egypt, the tomb of King Inyotef. 80 Or perhaps samsara is a bed of roses: it seems great until you actually lie down in it and feel the thorns hidden within!

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In the Buddhadharma, another overall description of life is called “The Three Marks of Existence”. They are called 'marks' because they are evidenced in everything that we experience. Observing them in everyday life can be most helpful. The Three Marks of Existence are: Impermanence; Egolessness; Suffering. Impermanence: everything that happens is impermanent, everything. Every Thing. Every person, every sentient being, every thought, every object. All is in a constant state of change, of movement. Nothing is still and therefore nothing remains the same and therefore everything is impermanent. This is why no 'secret' technique that can put you in a state of mind such as a type of god realm can save you, and why there will never ultimately be any method that can guarantee you worldly success - or at least success without ups and downs. Every state of mind and every life is impermanent. Death will come to us all. Even if every single person in the world were to read this book, each one of them will be dead - and in a relatively short period of time. Every cup, every plate, every pair of shoes, every building that you see, every paving stone, every post box, every bird, every day, every sunrise, every sunset, every thought, every feeling, every emotion, every love affair, every argument, every chocolate chip cookie (no surprise there!) will not last, is impermanent. Egolessness: because of this impermance, every being that exists is without a permanent, unchanging self. Ultimately, therefore, the self is a fiction, like the picture in a movie. You move all the different frames fast enough and shine light through them onto a screen and it seems that something continuous is there; but it is just a series of independent frames giving the illusion of reality. To most of us, the idea of egolessness seems rather impossible if not a little depressing. But if it really is true that everything is impermanent and changing from moment to moment - including us - then what is it that is permanent that we can call our true self? Is it our memories? But they too change from moment to moment. We would like to believe there is a convenient bank of memories - always there somehow - from which we can make withdrawals whenever we please. But it is not always there. Ask a very old person if they can remember everything in their lives. Can you? Even if the memories are 'in there' somewhere (as has been more or less proven by modern science) do they last after your brain is buried or burnt? And in any case, is a memory the same as an experience? Of course not. Moreover, if your ego changes from moment to moment, how can you have a permanent, unchanging self, with or without memories? How? Maybe you think it is permanent 'for a while' as long as we are alive and then it goes away forever. Does this make sense? For example, is the young baby the same as the old woman? Is the high voice of the baby the same as the cracked, deep voice of the old man? Where does the ego start and stop? If you cut off your little finger, is your ego still alive? How about your hand, your arm, both

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arms, both legs? Take out a kidney, and then your eyes and your ears: now you are just on life support, with no eyes, no ears, no hands or arms or legs, an iron lung, a plastic heart and just a brain: presumably now you are also in a coma. Maybe there is still an ego. But when you die - for one day you will just like all the rest of us - what then? Maybe the ego is connected with the body and when the body goes, so does the ego. But can you separate your ego, 'yourself', from your body? If not, how can you then separate it from parts of the body such as your organs, your limbs and that first, amputated finger? (i.e. was a part of your ego amputated along with that little finger?) If so, how can you separate it from the air you breath, the earth you walk on, from light, wind, the stars, space? If you can't separate the ego from space, then how can it be 'yours' and not someone else's? How? Remember, this teaching or dharma is not saying that ego or individual existence is 'bad' or that we are not alive and not individuals; rather that it saying that ego is not as solid or real as it seems and that much of what we take for granted is based on fallacious thinking. Think about it. Suffering, you will no doubt be delighted to learn, is covered in some detail in a later chapter. However, in terms of these Three Marks it is important because remember we are not just talking about abstract scientific or philosophical principles of impermanence and egolessness: we are talking about our living, human experience. If you are alive, there is suffering. Why? Because in order to maintain your existence you have to guard against attack, to provide yourself with nourishment and constantly keep your spirits up. Even if you are a worm there are good days and bad ones, good fields and bad, good meals and bad. The whole process involves feeling, it is sensitive, you are exposed and vulnerable. Even if you are more tough, like for example a well-armoured hard-shell crab, 81 you still have a soft centre and it frightens you and hurts if your eye is scratched. You are constantly involved in the painful business of maintaining yourself in the face of constant challenge and change. So being alive means constantly feeling. So the fact that maybe you are not really an ego doesn't mean that you don't exist and have no feelings. No: we are alive, we do have feelings AND our ego is a myth. (Try writing that into a computer program!) So to be alive at all you are in a constant - if sometimes covered-over - state of suffering. Sometimes it feels 'good' and sometimes it feels 'bad'. Instead of suffering we could perhaps also say 'sentient' or 'having feelings'; but suffering is better because there is always a painful aspect in there somewhere. Even if you feel fantastic for a little while, as soon as the mood starts to fade away there is an immediate and underlying sense of disappointment - or even panic. Often the mood starts to fade because you start worrying about whether or not you can keep it going - a combination of "Oh no" and "Uh oh, what next?" Part of the reason the previous mood felt so good was because it was in contrast to an underlying anxiety that is in the background all the time.
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Ironically enough, one of the crabs main and most dangerous predator is the ultra-soft octopus!

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Most love affairs are like this. You depend so much on your lover to make you feel good that you might end up watching him or her like a hawk in case they make a wrong move in which case they wouldn't make you feel good anymore. We always want to be happy, and we are always checking ourselves, worrying about whether we are happy or not or how to stay happy now that we are. This underlying anxiety is what is known as suffering. These three marks are not really either good news or bad news; rather, they are real news - which of course is the only news worth hearing. In fact, because of impermanence there is room to change and grow; because of egolessness, there is a gap that can be exploited to discover a greater world, a world beyond our petty hopes and fears; and because of suffering there is a tremendous range of texture to our experiences. Exploring all this is the function of meditation practice and all the other teachings developed by the The Buddha and his successors over the last 2,500 years.

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Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Describe impermanence in your own words. How do you feel about the notion of egolessness? If you disagree, try to prove that you exist. Give examples of suffering in terms of your own experience. Describe something in this world that is not subject to the three marks. Describe your favourite movie or story and see if there is any aspect of the three Marks that makes it especially interesting or poignant. 'Spring and Fall' by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1880:

" Margaret, are you grieving Over Goldengrove unleaving? Leaves like the things of man, you with your fresh thoughts care for, can you? Ah, as the heart grows older It will come to such sights colder By and by, nor spare a sigh Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; And yet you will weep and know why. Now no matter, child, the name: Sorrow's springs are the same. Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed What heart heard of, ghost guessed: It is the blight man was born for, It is Margaret you mourn for." Describe what this poem means to you. Think about how you will die one day. How does that make you feel? Exercises: • Go to a cafe or any public place where you can easily sit and watch people. Try to feel how they are feeling. Notice the way they move, their facial expressions, their eyes. How much suffering do you see? What is suffering? Listen to some Beethoven or other great classical master and see if you can hear them saying anything about these three marks.

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INTERLUDE: THE BODHISATTVA AND THE STARVING 82 TIGRESS
The impartial compassion of a Buddha touches every living being resonating in each of his previous lives and in the hearts of all living beings before, during and after his nirvana. “Once upon a time, many kalpas ago, the Bodhisattva lived as a Prince called Mahasattva who did not delight in power or fame instead choosing to live out his live in a simple hermitage in the forest where he practiced meditation. His joyful existence attracted students, many of whom gained spiritual insight and led virtuous, contented lives. One day on retreat in the mountains, with only one student in residence, whose name was Ajita, The Bodhisattva passed by a dense thicket of mountain bamboo from which, faint but clear, issued a parched, mewling sound. Peering into the bushes, he saw a pitifully weak tigress with five little new-borns clustered around her, hungry and desperate for food. The mother tigress must have become seriously ill after giving birth. Although she was now sick, terribly weak and obviously on the point of death by starvation, when she saw the Bodhisattva, she still managed a faint growl such was her sense of devotion to the young members of her family.
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After a short while, the mother tigress stopped growling at the Bodhisattva but, so acute was her hunger and distress, the irritation took root and, in confusion, she started growling at her children. At first he thought that because of her dire sufferings she was merely annoyed by their constant pleading, but then he noticed that every time one of the little ones got closer to her mouth, she started salivating and her pupils narrowed as a tiger's do before fixing on their prey. In fact, she was so hungry, and so strong is the instinct of self-preservation in beings of a lower order, that he saw that she was actually on the point of devouring one of her own children. "Alas," cried the Bodhisattva to his student, "behold the cruelty of clinging to a self: a mother will even feed on her own children to satisfy her instinctive appetites! This, my friend, is the wickedness and futility of samsara! Who would willingly go along with such instincts if he could see where they ultimately lead? Go quickly to the nearest village and try to find some milk and I will do something to keep her attention until you return."

Extracted and rephrased with permission from The Marvellous Companion by Dharma Publishing. 83 Maha means ‘great’, sattva means ‘being’.

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Although it is bad enough leading a life in which one instinctively kills others in order to survive, having to kill one's own children is infinitely worse and causes even more suffering in future existences. As he saw with his compassionate wisdom the direful suffering of the tigress both now and in the future, the Bodhisattva became overwhelmed with pity and a powerful, heartfelt desire to help her no matter what surged through him. As the mother again made as if to eat one of her cubs, he realised calmly and clearly that the only thing that could save the mother and her offspring from complete misery and tragedy was an immediate serving of flesh. Even had there been time, the Bodhisattva would never dream of taking the life of another animal. No, the only flesh available was his own. Calmly and clearly, and yet still overcome with a sense of deep love for the tigress and her children, he decided to offer her his own flesh. Unafraid equally about both of what others might think of so outrageous an action and whatever pain might be involved, his will hardened and at the same time he felt a great sense of freedom and joy surging through him as he saw clearly what needed to be done and what he was now committed to doing. His whole life up to this point flashed before him and he felt as if he had previously been living in a dream but that now, for the first time, he was truly awake. He removed his robe and carefully hung it on the overhanging branch of a nearby tree. Gently, he removed his sandals and placed them beneath the robe. Now he was naked. He felt the sunlight on his skin, the warm summer breeze softly ruffling his hair; he appreciated the vivid contrast of the rich, green leaves in the bamboo grove with the dazzling orange and black stripes of the suffering tigress who lay in front of him, softly breathing; he heard the soft rustling of the leaves brushing against each other and the feeble mewing of the tiger kittens. The faint smell of jasmine and honeysuckle, mixed with the sharper musk of frightened tiger, was both fragrant and pungent at the same time. He felt great sadness to be leaving this world and at the same time great joy that out of ardent love for this suffering family he could help prevent further sickness and pain from happening to them. Naked and barefoot, he stepped toward the tigress and offered himself to her. But although she could growl, she was so weak from illness and hunger that it was too hard for her to lift her head from the ground. Seeing this, the Bodhisattva realised that just offering himself was not enough: he would actually have to serve himself up too! So he broke off a stick from a nearby bamboo and, using the sharp edge where it was broken as a knife, cut himself in the hand between thumb and index finger, where a main artery is found. Then he offered his bleeding hand to the mouth of the tigress. First, all she could do was lick up the blood with her tongue as it splashed in front of her. Once she had done so, her strength revived enough so that she could bite and eat his flesh.

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When Ajita 84 returned later with milk for the cubs , there was nothing left of his master but a few bones and his cloak and sandals. Because they were so neatly arranged, Ajita realised what had happened. Sorrow and pain overwhelmed him, but even more he felt moved by such extraordinary selflessness. After he returned to the other students of the Bodhisattva and had told them all that had occurred, great faith arose in all of them and they understood that although many hardships might lie on the path, each was a precious opportunity to develop real love, kindness and compassion for all beings without thought of self or fear of pain. They returned to their practice with renewed sadness, respect and confidence, vowing always to bear in mind the suffering of others before themselves and always to be kind. It was I, Ananda, who was the Prince Mahasattva, at that time, and you who were Ajita, my chief student and attendant."

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The Buddha said of this story: “It was I, Ananda, who was the Prince Mahasattva, at that time, and you who were Ajita, my chief student and attendant."

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0, CHAPTER THIRTEEN
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS "Due to realising that the gods have the pain of death and transmigration and that humans suffer from striving, The intelligent person has no desire for even the eminent might of gods and men. Thus the wise and the followers of the teachings of the Tathagata Perceive what is suffering, what is its cause, and what is its cessation." 85 "The sickness should be acknowledged and the cause of the sickness relinquished While the medicine should be applied in order to attain the state of ease. Likewise, the suffering, its cause, its cessation, and the path Should be acknowledged, relinquished, realised, and applied." 86 "No pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of truth." 87 "Truth is great and its effectiveness endures." 88 Before becoming enlightened, Prince Siddhartha had realised that even though he was a prince still he was powerless against certain higher powers such as suffering, old age, disease and death. This is just as true for us today in our modern middle class world as it was for him then. As much as we may like to think otherwise, progress and technology cannot ultimately protect us from these any more than the kings and queens of old, although, like them, it can make certain basic improvements. So Prince Siddartha felt that his role as ruler and protector was compromised in that he had no power to protect his subjects from these basic and universal afflictions. After all, it was the sworn duty of a king to protect his subjects from harm and to look after their welfare. In the light of these inevitable calamities, what use was it to serve as a king? It would have been hopeless as well as hypocritical. He could not, in good conscience, even take the royal oath. So he roused his courage and made up his mind. Having done so, he left his home and family to get to the bottom of the human condition, to find a way out of what he saw as a cosmic trap. To review where we are so far: we have investigated the 'battleground', the seeming split between awake (enlightenment) and asleep (the confused states of samsaric ego). We have contemplated the basic realms of existence that we travel through from moment to moment and life to life as well as examining some general aspects of those realms, such as karma and the three marks of existence. Building on that foundation, we are now ready to examine the core teachings of the Buddha in terms of what to do about this
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From the Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications. Uttaratantra from The Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications. Francis Bacon, 1561 - 1626 Essays of Truth. Ptahhotpe, 2400 BC (Ancient Egypt).

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THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

predicament. You see, he realised that it is really not important to know how and why things have happened: what really is important is to learn the right way to wake up to our true nature, to find a way out of the trap. 89 For that reason, all of his teachings are concerned with how we make our way on that journey, that path. These most basic and classic teachings of the Buddha are known as the Four Noble Truths. They contain all the other teachings that he subsequently developed. They are: 1 2 3 4 The Truth of Suffering; The Truth of the Cause of Suffering; The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering; The Truth of the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.

Logically speaking, they are simple and straightforward. That being said, however, they contain profound implications, namely: there is a basic problem involved with living but there is also a solution to that problem, a solution that we can experience for ourselves. Instead of 'truth', the word 'fact' could also be used so 'the Four Noble Truths' could well be called 'the Four Facts of Life'. We shall use the word 'truth' because that is the usual one, but remember to think 'fact' to yourself as well. In the teachings, truth is traditionally described as what you have both learned and then also experienced for yourself. You should not take anything for granted or blindly believe in anything you read or hear just because you trust the source or because it seems to make sense or because other people believe it. They are 'Noble' because they are of fundamental significance and because they teach us how to lead our lives worthily and with dignity. After The Buddha attained enlightenment, he felt very good in body and mind - in fact he felt marvellous: awake, clear, delighted, unburdened, fantastic! But at first, he could not determine how to communicate his discoveries because they were too simple, too basic, too ordinary. It is interesting that his final solution was to begin by teaching, not about how marvellous everyone could feel, but about suffering. Obviously, there is a somewhat blunt and unpleasant aspect to this but : a) it is better to deal with the truth and b) we have to start where we are and c) since he was obviously a realised and radiant Buddha, his listeners could see that there was (and of course there still is) good news in there somewhere which d) indeed comes along in the second two truths. As the next chapter analyses in more detail, where we are is suffering. Suffering is our basic energy, it is part of our life force, our drive to be alive. We can no more deny it than we can fight it. In fact, not fighting against it is the first step to learning how to work thoroughly and completely
[See Appendix. Wisdom Publications: The Culamalunkaya Sutta, p 533, Middle Length Discourses]
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with who and what we are. Suffering itself is not the problem; it is all the ways we use to avoid and perpetuate it that are the problem. Suffering is like the elements, like the weather. It just is. It is a truth. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes sad, sometimes strong and sometimes weak. This does not have to be denied or changed, but it does have to be acknowledged, worked with and actually appreciated. Questions : 1 How would you define 'truth'? 2 Comment on the logical structure of the Four Noble Truths. 3 If you disagree with this premise, write a forceful argument refuting it all or some of its parts. Don't just come up with an unrelated alternative, actually try to shoot it down and be as specific as possible. 4 Comment on the quote from Sir Francis Bacon. Why is pleasure involved here do you think?

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN THE TRUTH OF SUFFERING "Surely there is nothing more wretched than a man, of all the things which breath and move upon this earth." 90 "Knowledge by suffering entereth." 91 The first Noble Truth is the Truth of Suffering. This truth states that the one thing common to all sentient beings is the fact that we suffer. Many of us like to think that this is not so or that if we behave properly or are successful we should not feel any pain. But at best, this is only temporary. In fact, we all struggle to maintain our existence - even a successful one. This truth is especially relevant for anyone interested in a spiritual path. If you think that everything is OK or that your faith will somehow protect you from harm, think again. Better yet, begin again. And begin at the beginning with this simple, uncompromising truth. We will suffer at least the following things as explained at some length below. Again, please don't regard them as scientific definitions so much as practical examples of what we all go through in our lives at one point or another. Each one of us should explore them personally to see how they may or may not relate with our experience; so be flexible and creative in translating these descriptions into your own personal experience and ways of looking at things. There are traditional eight descriptions of suffering, all of which are fundamentally the same: (i) The suffering of birth. We like to think of the moment of birth as being beautiful and romantic - which it often is, of course; but in reality, it is usually quite painful, terrifying and dangerous for both mother and child. No wonder the first thing we do when we are born is cry! The passage out of the cosy sanctuary of the womb into the violently constricting birth canal is truly a perilous ordeal; then being suddenly exposed to the harsh light of existence with cold and hot winds around our tiny bodies and the unfamiliar elements is terrifying. It is like being alone in outer space without a spacesuit, or suddenly being plunged naked into a stormy, freezing ocean. Birth also refers to those many times in our lives when we are suddenly thrust into new, unfamiliar and therefore threatening territory, either physically or emotionally. For example, it might be when we change schools or jobs or even just meet someone for the first time. And, of course, on a more subtle level, each moment is a new birth.

90 91

Homer, the Ilyiad c 700 BC. Elizabeth Barret Browning, A Vision of Poets 1844.

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(ii) The suffering of sickness or being hurt. At some point in our lives, we will be sick. Even if it is only a cold, there is a sense - however slight - of helplessness and insecurity that comes along with it. Of course there are many more serious illnesses. In terms of being hurt, the body can be likened to the paints in an artist's palette: there is literally no end to the intensities, depths, textures and storylines that physical pain can take - from tiny itches to deep, searing internal pains, such as the pain of childbirth for a mother, or passing a kidney stone. Imagine what it is like to have leprosy and watch your fingers rot off. Also, it has been reported that every year millions of people in Africa die of sickening malaria fevers which come from the bite of the mosquito. Think of it: millions - not hundreds or thousands, but millions - each one a person just like you or I; millions of them each year - and that is just one of the many, many diseases that are afflicting real people even as we speak. All of us in one way or another are subject to illnesses of some kind during our life, or the threat of them. And whenever you are sick, you suffer not only with the various pains involved in the illness but as well with the accompanying feelings of fear, loneliness, unwholesomeness and vulnerability. That is the secondary meaning of sickness, namely a sense of fundamental insecurity, that we can never truly be safe. Perhaps the reason why so much of the news in the media concerns disasters, crime, terrorism and war is because they reminder us that we can never be truly safe, or maybe we are studying how to avoid similar dangers ourselves. For we can all be hurt somehow, we are vulnerable, we are subject to fear. (iii) The suffering of old age: on top of birth and sickness, there is old age. If we are fortunate enough to live that long, we will each experience old age - which is difficult, to say the least. If you are a relatively young person reading this, imagine yourself one day as an old person with wrinkled, 'liver-spotted' skin. Your shiny hair will be faded, frizzled and falling out. Your graceful hands and elegant gestures will be stiff and shaky. If you are a woman, your attractive figure with all its seductive curves will be sagging and 'baggy', or emaciated and bony. If you are a man, most of your muscles and strength will have left you. Woman or man, it might be hard even to bring a teacup to your mouth without spilling it and scalding yourself. When you sip the tea, it hurts your teeth and gums terribly. It might even hurt to laugh. Your senses - for example your faculties of sight and hearing - may dim although it will still be painful just to see and hear things because of their intensity. Your tongue loses its sense of taste and moisture; your stomach finds it hard to digest the foods you once enjoyed. Your mind wanders easily and lacks the strength developed from years of training and hard work. Perhaps even worse, you find yourself becoming more distant from the ones you love because you are too slow for them, or because you cannot see them or hear them as well, or because the world has changed faster than you have. Whatever the reason there is nothing you can do to prevent it: world leader, famous celebrity or just 'ordinary Joe or Jane', the world is passing you by, dreaming a different and fresher dream. Young people look at you as if you were from another planet, as if you had never fallen in love, had dreams or wanted to change the world for the better.

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Sir Winston Churchill, a great statesman, soldier and artist, was known the world over for his courage, his great love of life and his sense of humour. He said that old age was no more than 'like being a log waiting to be thrown on the fire.' You can't do much anymore and all you are good for is being burnt up into ashes. As with all of these truths, the teachings are not saying that this is all that happens during old age; but if we think we can enjoy an old age in which none of these types of pain arise, we are fooling ourselves. This truth also refers to the fact that we are constantly ageing, which means constantly changing, which means that whatever we do to avoid it, at some point whatever we have built up, whether physically or mentally, will collapse, will be lost to us. Even if by some miracle you have none of these problems, it is very hard to face up to the fact that soon you will die, which of course - in case you were wondering - is the next one! (iv) The suffering of death: death, although it might release you from the pains of old age or other sufferings, is terrifying and also very, very sad. Imagine suddenly having to say goodbye to everything you love including your friends, family, house, country, clothes, books, stories, thoughts - even your body, even your very life! This is very sad and there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent it. Also it is frightening. Even as a young, strong adult in the prime of life it would be frightening to suddenly find yourself surrounded in a dark alley by a bunch of armed gang-members about to kill you. Now imagine finding yourself in a different universe where everything that used to work, including lungs, heart, mind, hands, thoughts, etc. is suddenly of no use. Even if you believe there is reincarnation or a happy afterlife or 'post-death experience', still the prospect of leaving and losing everything we have ever known and loved is not easy even to think about since it goes against most of our instincts for self-preservation. So although someone might have told you that there is another life or a heaven after this one, the fact is that you cannot really be sure; more importantly, you really will have to have to say goodbye to everything known and familiar. Imagine what it is like to breath your last breath, to actually let go of : breathing, of sunshine, of the breezes on your skin, of the blue sky, or birdsong, of being with friends and family, of watching your grandchildren playing in the garden, of the taste of apples in autumn, of strawberries in summer, of snow in winter, of laughing at a joke with your best friend - even of brushing your teeth! Imagine what it is actually like to have to say goodbye to your body, to this marvellous life you now have. It is hard to even imagine, isn't it? If it is so hard even to imagine, think about how hard it is to 'live through' - which of course we don't - none of us! Think about it: every single person who is alive right now will soon be dead: Every Single One of Us, including me, and including you. The point here is not to become depressed, but also not to deny the truth either. The next three go together. They are a more immediate description of how we experience suffering psychologically moment by moment. They are:

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(v) (vi) (vii)

not getting what you want or wanting what you didn't get yet (passion); getting what you don't want or not liking what you got (aggression); not knowing what you want, but feeling unsatisfied anyway (ignorance).

In some sense, they are already in the first four, both in terms of major traumas and minor irritations. They are constant and subtle. They provide the thread with which we weave the cloth of our everyday experience of being alive. The next time you feel uncomfortable or upset about something, see if it fits into one of these categories. Also, in a way, these explain so many of our feelings. We spend most of our lives dealing with emotions, emotions of all sorts : good ones, bad ones, agonising ones, delightful ones, emotions, emotions, emotions. Nearly all of them have an undercurrent of suffering, of pain, including the pleasurable ones if you think about it. There is feeling, emotion. And all feeling usually relates to some sense of passion, aggression or ignorance as defined above. (viii) All-pervasive suffering. This is a sense of underlying burden and anxiety involved in maintaining and propping up our existence. Although in some sense this one includes all the above, here there is an additional twist. We are talking about our experience; we are talking about suffering. Is life really suffering all the time? You might say: 'what about when I go swimming on a hot summer's day and dive into the pool and it feels fantastic? Is that suffering?' In some sense 'no' but in some sense 'yes'. It does feel great, but partly because it is in contrast to the stifling, summery claustrophobia you felt before you dove in. In other words, if you hadn't been so hot and uncomfortable, it wouldn't have felt such a relief to be in the pool. Most of the time when we think we are happy, it is because we are experiencing relief at the fact that whatever was giving us a problem is over or that we know that at least for now we can relax, that there is no threat now or in the immediate future. In other words, our happiness is dependent on pain. Without pain, we don't know how to be happy. Without tension, we have no reference point with which to enjoy being relaxed and at our ease. So suffering is the screen, or backdrop, on which we project our fantasies and experiences of success, ease and delight. You can't have a world of pleasure without having a world of pain at the same time.

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Questions: 1 2 3 4 If you have ever given birth or watched someone do it, describe what it was like, both good and bad. Describe your own sickness or the sickness of a friend or family member. How did you feel when someone you knew died. Try to remember details. If you have seen a corpse, describe what that was like. Ask a grandparent or an older person what old age is like, and then ask them what they felt like when they were your age, what they did, how they looked. Look at pictures of them then if you can, ideally every five years or so from childhood to now. If suffering is unavoidable, does that mean we have to be depressed about it?

5

Exercises: • • • Notice people's faces. Try to notice signs of suffering. Look at a happy, or laughing person. Then look twice. What do you see? Then look at them again later. Say to yourself out loud: "Suffering is unavoidable in life". How do you feel when you say this, what is your reaction? Do you feel any resistance to this notion? If so, take a good look at it, or even better, try to prove it wrong. Ask a friend what they think about this notion and then really listen to them as they reply.

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES Chapter Fifteen, The Cause of Suffering

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING

"Due to the great demon of co-emergent and conceptual ignorance, From the solidified habitual patterns of grasping and fixation, And the different perceptions of worlds and inhabitants, The six classes of beings appeared as a dream." 92 "The defects of the root of existence spread from the notion of a self." 93 "Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?" 94 The Second Noble Truth states that suffering has a cause which is craving, wanting or desire. We need and want so much in order to feel safe, secure and happy; we need food every day, and we want it to taste good which gives us pleasure. When we experience such pleasure we feel better. We want to wear nice clothes so that we look good and so that people like us - at least on the outside. We want to handle ourselves well, we want to do well in life, to help others, to be kind. We also want a lot of negative things not to happen: we want not to have accidents, illnesses, physical or mental pain; we want not to be separated from our loved ones. Basically, we are hooked on wanting to be alive and happy. As it says in the American Constitution, we feel we have 'the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' Unfortunately, that is often all it is: a pursuit. Often, suffering is described as being perpetually bewildered, confused, anxious. We are like someone who is fighting drunk and who ends up just lashing out with the first available weapon or strategy that comes to hand or mind. We don't know what is wrong, but we do know we have to fix it somehow. We don't know how to fix it, but we know that fixing it will in some way involve feeling better. The imagined light at the end of the tunnel is a sense of satisfaction, of pleasure, of ease, of relaxation, of success. This is what we crave, this is what we want. This is the 'conceptual ignorance' and 'grasping and fixation' mentioned in the quotation at the beginning of the chapter. The two go hand in hand. We suffer mainly because the satisfaction we crave conflicts with what is actually happening. Even after we get what we want, when it is later taken away or changes - as it always does - we suffer. Just as perfidiously, we worry that our good state of mind might evaporate, so we have to run around protecting our sandcastle from the inevitably approaching tide. This constant grasping, craving, wanting, concern, need - call it what you will - is like fuel poured into our airplane to keep it flying: we don't crash but neither do we ever land. Ignorance/craving is pretending that being in the plane is natural, that we never have to come down to earth again. So we keep going on suffering so much because we want to stay 'high' up there, to feel good.
92 93 94

Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, The Light of Wisdom by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p78. Guhyagharba tantra ibid, p 79. Samuel Johnson, 1709 - 1784, Vanity of Human Wishes.

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Craving is what keeps us fascinated with and therefore tethered to our realm - whichever one it happens to be, whether a short-term mood or a full-blown lifetime in hell. We are completely pre-occupied with who, what and where we are. Try sitting quietly and notice how quickly you get caught up in a series of thoughts, daydreams and physical sensations and then notice if you are hearing the birdsong, the wind, the traffic. Probably, you got caught up in discursive mind, just like that. That hooking mechanism, that ceaseless tendency we have to be fascinated with something or other - from the smallest thing to our lives, our careers, our business, our families, our countries etc. - that is craving, desire, right there. Don't let the words such as 'craving' 'ignorance' or 'bewilderment' obscure the meaning but try to notice how we get caught up in things, how we create and get stuck in our realms. Craving is the mechanism of 'stickiness', the glue that holds samsara together. Questions: 1 What do you really want? 2 What makes you happy? 3 Describe happiness? 4 Describe a day when you were truly happy. Don't be cynical or anything, just describe it, the whole day. 5 Define 'craving' in terms of your own experience. 6 Can you see how desire, or craving, is a fuel? A fuel for what? 7 If you disagree with any or all of this, make your case. Exercises: • • Sit quietly somewhere for ten minutes and watch what happens with your mind. Did you hear the birdsong? All the time? Where were you? If you can't handle the idea of ten minutes, try just 30 seconds!

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN CESSATION "When thoroughly understanding samsara, That itself is called nirvana." 95 "All sentient beings are buddhas themselves. However, they are obscured by the temporary stains. When these are cleared away, they are enlightened." 96 "The universe does not have laws. It has habits. And habits can be broken." 97 The Third Noble Truth is the Cessation of Suffering. 98 This truth states that suffering can end, can not be. It is simple logic: if we let go of craving and wanting things all the time we will run out of what fuels this endless suffering. We can land on the good old earth. There are many different levels of cessation. Sometimes we just let go and then experience a sense of peace or fulfilment. We have been like a ping-pong ball from struggling to be this or that all the time, being whacked from one side of the table to the other. Instead, we just let go. This is perhaps similar to what happened to the young Prince Siddartha as he was sitting under the tree watching the farmers. But there is more than that. The first two Truths are involved with samsara, the spinning wheel of confused and selfish existence. The second two are involved with nirvana, which means cessation or 'extinction'. This notion contains some profundity; it is deeper than just being suddenly stunned into silence or temporary relaxation - or disappearing altogether into 'the Void'. Let us examine this a little from the point of view of logic. If there is cessation of suffering, does that not negate the first noble truth? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that cessation of suffering means that suffering can be banished. No in the sense that you can never get away from it by simply ignoring it and hoping it will go away or by trying to change it into something else. Also, cessation is the third truth, not the second; the progression is not 1) Suffering 2) Cessation of Suffering. No, in the middle there we have the cause, the origin, of suffering. Because of that, we can say that if this cause can be
The Lelag, from Padmasambhava, the Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p 82. This quote expresses the heart of the Buddhadharma's teachings and approach. It is not necessary to use machines to understand reality. We ourselves are of the nature of reality and we possess all the faculties of ignorance and of knowing. The following quote expresses this one step further. 96 The Two Segments, p 82, ibid. 97 From ‘Jitterbug Perfume’ by Tom Robbins, 1984. 98 The word for cessation in Tibetan is 'gogpa' which simply means 'prevention', in this case the prevention of suffering.
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boycotted then the suffering will not arise. (The way in which this is done is answered by the Fourth Noble Truth) And remember that 'suffering' here means all eight types as described in the First Noble Truth, including birth and death. This is a tall order. So this truth states that the cause of suffering can be removed and when that happens then the effect of that cause - suffering - will cease to exist. You may feel that this is too intellectual and logical and that the notion of cessation should not tax the brain cells so. But since the palace of the Buddhadharma rests on the foundation of these four truths, and although they are essentially simple, nevertheless they are worth examining logically because they are, amongst other things, a statement of logic in themselves. You see, they are like a description of how an old man remains standing by using a cane. 1 2 3 The old man being able to stand represents suffering. He can stand only by using a cane; this cane represents the cause of suffering. Now: what happens if the cane is taken away? BINGO! That's how cessation works. Please note that it doesn't work by suppressing suffering or replacing negative thoughts with positive ones or any other form of mental or physical brain-washing, mind control, motivational or behavioural therapy etc. etc.: no, this is much more simple and also much more radical.99 If you want to uproot a weed permanently you must remove the entire rootworks otherwise it will just grow back again - and probably stronger the next time. True cessation works by simply taking away that cane. Simple logic, but again, very profound. This is partly why the Buddha spent so long on his own wondering how to present the teachings. They are so simple, so very, very simple that most of us cannot even see how far-reaching they are, how deep they go, how truly radical they are. The experience of cessation, or nirvana, is not just a blank slate as so many naively imagine; indeed, it is a very personal one. There are many types and levels of cessation that are described at length in multitudes of meditation manuals, but the important thing to understand is the each one of us experiences them in our very own and very, very personal way. This is yet another classic example of Buddhist logic: the experience of egolessness is deeply personal! Cessation is something that you will experience when you journey properly on the path. This path, or journey, is the subject of the next Noble Truth.

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Radical comes from the Latin radix, meaning root. Nowadays it means of or pertaining to the root, or origin. Mainly it means extreme, especially as regards change from excepted or traditional norms. From the point of view of the teachings, samsara is the most basic of such commonly excepted norms and this third noble truth proposes a profoundly radical solution.

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Questions: 1 What do you think about the fact that the chapter on suffering is so long and this one on cessation is so much shorter? 2 Describe any feelings of liberation you have had, what they were like and what happened afterwards. 3 First describe in some detail how you imagine liberation, enlightenment, nirvana. 4 Now reflect that, whatever you have described, it probably has not much to do with the actual experience. Is this a fair comment? Exercises: • Try to look at an object for 30 seconds without thinking about anything else. Experiment with different length of times and different objects. Tip: pick simple things like rocks and pieces of blank paper, things that don't have too many different features, parts, writing etc.

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN THE PATH IS THE GOAL "The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." 100 "The superior man does not set his mind either for anything or against anything; what is right he will follow." 101 "One must not always think so much about what one should do, but rather what one should be. Our works do not ennoble us; but we must ennoble our works." 102 "One of the problems we might have with this is whether we have to use our imagination or whether we actually experience some sense of relief, or freedom. The truth of the matter is that somehow imagination doesn't play a very important role, and for that matter it doesn't help at all in getting results." 103 The Fourth Noble Truth is The Truth of the Path, or Way. In order to develop cessation, we need a method, a way. The path is something we tread day by day, moment by moment. It is not so much that there is a destination but that there is a journey, a process. This is a very important point. Just as there is no saviour who can say magic words or bless us and then we will be free, so also is there no uniform destination that we will 'get to'. The path is something you must tread yourself, step by step, one step at a time. It actually is possible to be alive without being side-tracked by the first two truths. At the same time, these truths are always there. There is no way of avoiding or getting around them. But they can be dealt with. Indeed, they are the basis, the ground of our path. The Buddha's teachings are known as 'The Dharma' or more correctly 'the Buddhadharma'. 'Dharma' is a word that means both teachings and truth. This is because for something to be true, you have to experience it for yourself, otherwise it is just words, or someone else's story. So no truth exists unless it is true for us, unless we can experience it for ourselves; that is why there can be no external, objective truth, god or law to be worshipped and blindly obeyed. Truth changes from day to day, from situation to situation - at least in terms of experience. So the Buddhadharma is not a belief system or a set of ideas that can automatically save you; it is more of a guide than a set of rules and regulations. This is the fundamental difference between it and many other religions. Again, the only truth that counts is the truth that you experience for yourself. This truth is first pointed out to you in the teachings and then it is tested in the fire of meditation practice which contains no dogma. This path is sometimes referred to as The Eightfold Path which is explained in a little more detail later on in this chapter. However, the essential way or technique, the
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Lao-tzu, c 604-531 BC Confucius, 551-479 BC, the Analects. Meister Eckhart 1260-1327 from Work and Being. Trungpa, Rinpoche, Hinayana-Mahayana 1974, Talk Eleven.

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experience that permeates them all and that allows any possibility of understanding them, is the sitting practice of meditation. Without such meditation practice none of teachings, especially the ones which follow, make any sense. This is precisely because sitting practice is pure, undiluted experience which requires no beliefs or concepts. It is a way to experience oneself directly without the crutches of entertainment, concept or wishful thinking. There are some things you simply cannot get from books, and the experience of direct, contemplative awareness is one of them. However, many of the teachings in the Buddhadharma help us to learn the alphabet of our experiences so that we can read the pages of our lives. Again, though, reading them is one thing; discovering their true meaning for ourselves is another. Just as nobody or no external higher power can save or liberate us, so also can nobody can imprison our spirit or prevent us from waking up. In the same way, nobody can do meditation practice on our behalf either. We have to do it ourselves. The Noble Eightfold Path is the traditional way of describing how to behave like a Buddha in everyday life. Here are the Eight Ways, in brief: Right View: Right view can be said to be the opposite of wrong view - which involves having preconceived notions about who we are and what is happening. Right view is open versus closed, warm versus frozen, alive versus dead. With wrong view, we see everything in terms of ourselves. With right view, we just look out, as it were, without a preconceived notion of who we are and what we are seeing in relation to 'me'. Right Intention: 'Right' comes from the Sanskrit 'samyak', which means complete, whole. The idea here, in terms of intention, is that you work with what is as being complete and whole rather than trying to add your versions on top of reality, which is what creates so much pollution and confusion. So your intention, your motivation, goes along with things as they are rather than things as your ambition or pride or fear or laziness would like them to be. Right Speech: The first two have more to do with attitude, or mind. Now we are getting more into the realm where action happens, in this case speech, or communication in general, how we interact with our world. Right speech expresses how things are rather than our conceptual or neurotic overlays of how things are. So our speech can be an expression of reality, of sanity, of clarity, rather than a medium for further confusion or self-centredness. Right Conduct (or Discipline): Basically, our actions reflect simplicity and reality rather than confusion. This is the same as the one before, but in terms of general behaviour rather than speech alone. Right Livelihood: What we do in society, how we inter-relate and serve others in terms of our ongoing survival is also direct. If we put things in, we get things out. If we are of some benefit to others, we have some reward. And again, our way of earning our living does not cause further pollution or confusion. So this one is more to do with how we function in society on an ongoing basis, our place or role in the world. Right Effort: Right effort comes from openness versus closedness. Indeed, there is space, room in our minds. Each moment is a dawn of fresh new possibilities, of new

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moments. This sense of ongoing dawn is energising, delightful, invigorating. This is right effort. This one is involved with how we keep going. Right Mindfulness: Now we are going back to mind, again, but mind joined with body, actions and behaviours moment to moment. In some sense, these are the two that relate to result, or fruition. Mindfulness is paying attention to what arises moment by moment and also being aware of the context, or space, in which this awareness is taking place. This is explained in more depth in Chapter 21, where 'right mindfulness' is discussed as both mindfulness and awareness. Right Samadhi: 'Samadhi' means 'to establish' or 'make firm'. The idea here is that our meditative state and our ordinary, daily state of mind are continuous, continuously open and fresh, continuously precise and on the spot. So although everything is constantly changing, at the same time, we are established, or firm, in ongoing samadhi, or ever-fresh awareness. This one, if you like, is the result of all the previous ones. That being said, when we do one fully and properly, the others naturally follow. Today most Buddhist schools emphasise meditation practice rather than getting into each one of the eightfold paths in great depth. Why is this? Each culture has its own way of transmitting livelihood, proper conduct, how we structure family and relationships and suchlike so it is hard for a religion to define all the rules of conduct in daily life. However, even assuming we do lead a correct and generally decent life at least on the outer level, if we do so without right view as defined above, no real benefit will come from it. Right view comes from having one's body and mind properly lined up with reality; this is related to right samadhi which comes from right meditation. So meditation is the key. If you can join meditative awareness with your everyday life, then the Eightfold Path will unfold naturally. The way we develop right meditation, which is usually referred to nowadays as mindfulness and awareness, is what we look at in the chapters on meditation practice. In English, saying 'there is a way to get there' means two things: on the one hand it implies an actual, literal path which one can follow; directions can be given and you end up at Macdonald's, for example. But 'way' also means the manner in which you get there. This way is not necessarily a linear progression in time or space from Point A to Point B, rather it involves conducting oneself in the right 'way' or manner. So the goal of this journey is to tread on the path in the right way. In short, by behaving like a Buddha, we become one. The way or the manner in which we journey is the destination. We journey here and now to arrive here and now. We get to here and now by being here and now. If you think about it, how could it be any other way? (No pun intended!) For example, no matter how many gallons of 'then' or 'later' you pour into your soup, and no matter how long you simmer or boil it, you will never get a 'now' soup. Never. So the way of the Buddhadharma is the way to live life moment by moment. When we do this completely, with full awareness, we are awake, we are fully enlightened, we too are Buddha. This is why it is so often said: "the path is the goal." Questions:

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1 2 3 4

5

What are the Four Noble Truths? Please describe them, not just list them. If you disagree with any aspect of the dharma so far, explain what and why and be prepared to defend your position in class. What is your sense of path in terms of a spiritual discipline, where does it start and end? The path of the Buddhadharma has been described as a journey without a goal. In the light of what you have studied so far, what do you think about this notion: how can one have a journey without a goal? It has been said: ‘Enlightenment is everything that you always feared and never wanted.’ What do you think about that in the light of what has been discussed so far?

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN TAKING REFUGE IN THE THREE JEWELS "Be islands unto yourselves. Be a refuge unto yourselves. Do not turn to any external refuge. Hold fast to the teachings as a lamp."
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If you want to go on a long, difficult journey, first you have to decide to do so and then you must not give up after you begin. So you must make a commitment otherwise you simply won't keep going. Basically, this is true for any sustained and worthy endeavour in any aspect of our lives, including business, marriage and family life, for example. Traditionally, those who decide to commit to the path of the Buddhadharma, take what is known as the Refuge Vow. Taking refuge is like leaving home and finding shelter elsewhere. Imagine that you have led a lovely life with good parents in a small town somewhere. You have done well at school, you have good friends and everything but you want to know more about the world. You decide not to work on the family farm, for example, not to just marry and settle down straight away in your community. No, you decide to journey, to discover a wider world. So after a nice farewell party you leave home and off you go. You have some adventures, some good, some bad, and then you come to a large city like New York. Once there, over the years, you go through many experiences, many highs and lows, victories and defeats, all very different than anything you would have encountered if you had stayed back home on the farm. Then one day you decide to return home. But things are no longer the same. Your parents seem naive and even narrow-minded; they are also older and feebler. Your old friends have little or no idea what the larger world is like, the 'real' world that you have been through, and there seems to be no way that you can communicate it to them. Even if nothing much has changed, the atmosphere in the now tiny town seems so different; it is so simple and so self-contained that all the things you did back in the city seem slightly unreal, like a dream - or perhaps it is the other way around and this is the dream and the city-life is real. Perhaps it is better here, saner here, perhaps not; it's hard to tell. However it may be, even though you come back home, the emotional home you left will be gone forever; you took it with you and lost it in the city. Taking refuge and treading a spiritual path is like this too. If we work simply and honestly with ourselves in meditation practice, if we allow everything and anything to come up without judging and editing it, then one way or another we will expose ourselves to all our personal heavens and hells, our extremes. This is like leaving our usual way of acting and reacting, our 'home'. So meditation practice, simple as it is, can involve profound changes.

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Lord Buddha, Mahaparinirvana Sutra, 2:32 (lamp during the night-time).

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By developing mindfulness and awareness, we grow a new pair of eyes, a pair of 'dharma eyes' as it were, and once we begin to see the world with these eyes, we can never go back to our habitual ways of seeing again. We may try, but it will never be the same. For example, imagine that you are a child who doesn't know how to read but who loves looking at books; you see the pictures and the texts, you love to feel them, smell them, handle them. But then one day you learn to read. At that point, they are no longer the same. You can never see those books in the same way ever again. You may still love them, but never again in the same way. We imagine that we could study the dharma and maybe learn something interesting, something that will help us to learn, to 'grow spiritually' but perhaps above all, something to bring back 'home'. This treats wisdom and experience as if they were a diamond: you work hard for a long time, you work devotedly with your meditation practice, and then after a while you imagine you will have earned that diamond of wisdom and realisation; you can put it on your finger and bring it back home to show off to your friends. But it does not really work that way, because what we are really talking about is learning to go beyond ourselves, to embrace change, to learn to mix our minds with space as the Buddha did. That is really leaving the home of habitual reference points. So once we embark on the path, we change, we learn, and much of this learning involves unlearning, much of our action is un-doing, much of what we develop is learning to let go of mistaken ways of interpreting and perceiving, letting go of deeply ingrained habits. In other words, going through such experiences will change us. Indeed, if they didn't, what would be the point? If we don't want to change, better not to begin. If we do begin, better to finish. So, assuming that one has decided to undertake such a journey, one takes the Refuge Vow. A vow acknowledges and seals your commitment to forever leave the home of habitual patterns, of self-centred spinning around and around. Basically, it involves making a commitment, or decision, to keep going until the very end, never to give up. Conventionally speaking, refugees are those who have lost their country, their nationality. They have left home and are seeking refuge, or shelter, elsewhere, but they have no real country of their own. For example, there are Tibetan refugees now living in India who escaped from Tibet during the Chinese invasion; the Indian government has granted them 'refuge'. They have a place to live and can earn money and survive; but they have no citizenship or passport, so they are both protected and legally homeless at the same time. They are political refugees seeking shelter from the storm that swept over them and deprived them of their country. Similarly, Buddhist refugees take spiritual refuge from the storm of samsara in 'The Three Jewels' which are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (the Buddhist community). Like conventional refugees, they are both protected and homeless at the same time. 'Jewels' means that they are precious because they are what makes life truly precious. Let us now examine these separately.

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The Buddha: we take refuge in the Buddha not because he can save us but because he had to experience 'buddhamind' on his own and the same holds true for us. Also we take refuge in the fact that our basic nature is the same as his, that we too are fundamentally enlightened. We take refuge in the fact that just like him, we can do it and we have to do it ourselves because nobody else can save us or do it for us. So we take refuge in the Buddha as example and guide rather than as saviour or magic charm. We stand on our own feet, responsible for whatever happens to us in life. In this sense, the path of dharma is often defined as being 'non-theistic' because taking refuge in the Buddha means that we acknowledge that no other power can save or protect us. The Dharma: we take refuge in the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. It is said that "all dharmas agree at one point" and there are thousands of ways of expressing this point and thousands of points which can express this. But all fundamentally agree that there is suffering, there is a cause of that suffering, there can be a cessation of that suffering and there is a way to effect that cessation. The Dharma also implies the practice of meditation which is the main method of the path as explained in the fourth truth. So we take refuge in practice and study as the way to realise enlightenment, to fully wake up. The Sangha: the Sangha are those teachers and students in the past, present and future who like ourselves have taken Refuge in the Three Jewels. In this community or fellowship we do not necessarily take care of each other in terms of social welfare, such as money or emotional needs. Rather, it is as if we all stand in such a way as to make a giant circle together; so we do create something together mutually, but each person stands on his or her own without any support. Of course, we can help each other to be strong enough to stand, but the main way we do this is by helping each other to practice and study - in other words, to sit! The sangha is a group, or society, of independently strong members who are each committed to the path of wakefulness. In fact, it is not about joining a group so much as becoming part of a lineage, a tradition, an outlook, a way. In order to take the Refuge Vow formally, one repeats the phrase: "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha" usually in the presence of another person who is an acknowledged Buddhist teacher who also, of course, has taken the vow. Having taken the vow one is now a 'refugee' and are automatically part of the sangha, part of a lineage of practitioners that has existed continuously since the time of the Buddha. As usual, it is helpful to consider what this means in terms of what we don't take refuge in, or what we renounce. By taking refuge in the Buddha, we renounce belief in a higher or any other power - real or imagined - that can save us; our wisdom is innate and it is up to us to uncover it ourselves. By taking refuge in the dharma, we renounce reliance on external philosophies or systems to make us happy or successful as well as renouncing reliance on those actions that perpetuate samsaric suffering. By taking refuge in the sangha, we renounce expecting a country, a king, a military leader, a town, and even our family to be able to protect or save us; our wisdom as well as our confusion - our karma, on other words - are our own responsibility. By joining the sangha, we commit to being alone.

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Renunciation here does not mean that we leave the world or pretend that we are above it all, that we renounce enjoying a good meal, good companions, a good job, a good life. However, it does mean that we don't go along with the mutual deception that everything is OK, or rather that ego-based ignorance, aggression, passion which harm self and others is OK. That is what we renounce. Essentially, therefore, taking refuge means that we renounce taking refuge in ego, which is what we have been doing since the beginning of time - literally. Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Define the Three Jewels in your own words without checking back and then review this chapter. Have you ever made up your mind to do something and then encountered obstacles? What helped you see it through, or why did you give up? Who or what is a 'Buddhist'? What do you think about the notion of 'non-theism'? 'We have taken refuge in ego since the beginning of time - literally.' Comment on this statement.

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CHAPTER NINETEEN THE SITTING PRACTICE OF MEDITATION 105 "In meditation we work on THIS thing, rather than trying to sort out the problem from the outside. We work on the projector rather than the projection. We turn inward, instead of trying to sort out external problems of A, B, and C. We work on the creator of duality rather than the creation. That is beginning at the beginning." 106 "I am a credulous and helpless animal who has been fooled by the mirage of duality. I have been fool enough to think that I possess my own projections." 107 "In silence man can most readily preserve his integrity." 108 Now that we have a good idea of the background, we can begin to learn more about what a Buddhist practitioner actually does. In this chapter, we look at meditation. 109 The sitting practice of meditation, with many variations of course, is used by almost every school of Buddhism. Essentially, it is how the Buddha attained enlightenment. Since the term means so many different things nowadays, we need to spend a little time defining it for use in this context. Before describing what it is, let us first consider what it is not. Firstly, in the buddhist tradition, developing blissful trance states - i.e. becoming a 'human god' - is not the purpose of meditation,110 although such states do exist and are attainable and, as recounted earlier, Prince Siddartha mastered many of them. Also meditation here does not mean 'thinking about things' or 'picking an idea to pieces' or 'getting to the root' of an idea. We do not contemplate the nature of 'reality' or 'God' or anything else. Sitting is just sitting. You see, if we want to discover who and what we are, all we need to do is sit still for a while and stop running around with our body and mind, and simply be. In other words, in order to meditate well, the last thing we do is to try 'to meditate'! At this point, to really understand this material it would be very helpful if you were to actually try the following exercises rather than just reading along. First, just sit quietly for
If this book is being used as part of a course, it is recommended that if not the whole chapter, then at least the part in which actual meditation exercises are included be read aloud in class and followed along by the entire group. Estimated time: 45 minutes. 106 Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, remarks on meditation practice, 1973 Vajradhatu Seminary. 107 Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Sadhana of Mahamudra, 1968. 108 Meister Eckart 1260 - 1327, from Directions for the Contemplative Life. 109 In the Webster's dictionary, the word "meditation" means: "intend, purpose or engage in thought, think over contemplation". First of all, this is not what is meant by meditation as regards the Buddhist practice. There just isn't a better equivalent in English. In fact, many Buddhist practitioners say "sitting practice", or "sitting" as in "I am going to 'sit' now." 110 Indeed, it is said that that rebirth in the god realm is caused by developing such states.
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3 minutes, doing nothing except sitting there. Sit up straight, either in a chair or using a cushion on floor or bed as support and pick a spot to focus your eyes, slightly below horizontal about along the line of your nose, so your gaze doesn't wander around. (There is no need to stare fixedly at the spot as if it were a poisonous snake or a precious diamond!) Have a watch or alarm clock easily in view so you don't have to keep looking at it, or if this is in a classroom situation it can be timed. During the 3 minutes, don't do anything in particular except sit somewhat still and upright; avoid fidgeting and try to remember that you are in the room, try to remain awake and aware of your surroundings. OK, off you go........ [ Two blank pages ]

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There, you just experienced a taste, a little slice of enlightenment! For those who think that they didn't and for those who are interested in more, the Buddhadharma gives us some more precise techniques. First, sitting still and doing nothing is not all that easy, and second, it is not true to say that we are not doing anything. In terms of the technique of sitting practice, we are learning to pay attention to our existence, to be aware. This is not done by thinking about it, but just by being there without distraction; in other words, by actually doing it. Now, let us look at the complete technique. There are three main parts involving body, breathing and the thinking process. They are introduced one at a time but once learned, they are practised all together. This is like riding a bicycle: you must pedal, steer and watch the road all at the same time, even though these can be described as separate actions. Body: sit erect, preferably on a firm cushion, with legs loosely crossed; this provides stability. Your back is straight but not stiff and your hands are placed palms down on your thighs, close to the knees or wherever they rest naturally without pulling on your shoulders. Your torso is open and upright, but not puffed out. Your neck is straight and your chin is tucked in ever-so-slightly to help keep it that way. Your gaze is directed downwards to a point ahead of you and above the line of sight above your nose. Again, don't focus too intensely on any spot, but it is good to have a light focus on something so you don't look around all the time. Your mouth is very slightly open as if whispering 'ah' to yourself. Imagine that a thread from the sky connecting to the top of your head and spine is gently pulling you up. The posture is definite, but is neither too tightly formal nor too loosely casual; it is like being a king or a queen sitting on a throne. Breathing: you have your seat, but of course you are alive and things keep happening. In order to help us pay attention, we pick an object, in this case the outbreath. (It could be an object placed in front of you on the ground or one you imagine, but this technique uses the outbreath.) How does this work? Just like when you throw a ball to someone and 'go with it ' in your mind and spirit as it flies over to them, that's how you 'identify' with the outbreath; and we use the outbreath as opposed to both the in-and-out breath so that there is a sense of letting go as well as a sense of touching something; in this way we avoid becoming too fixated and goal-oriented. So we just identify with the outbreath as it goes out and then dissolves into the space around us. Now try these two together, body and breathing, for 3 minutes....

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The third part of the technique deals with our mind. You may have noticed that after a while - moments or minutes - you forget to identify with the breath and instead become wrapped up in thoughts: thoughts about this and that, feelings, memories, fantasies, moods, sleepiness, excitement, rock tunes, advertising jingles - whatever. At some point though they end and at that point you don't have to say: "Whoops, I forgot about the technique" or "Wow, how horrible or great that was." No, you just label the whole thing "thinking", check your posture and have a sense of sitting there in the space again and then go back to the breathing technique. Labelling means that we just take that whole thing - whatever it was - and give it a label by saying to ourselves mentally: "thinking." Why do we label? The idea is to have a neutral but definite observation about what has just happened rather than trying to determine which set of thoughts was good, which bad, which genius, which dumb - or which were 'meditative' as opposed to 'non-meditative' thoughts. All of it is just regarded as part of a natural process. They are all kosher. Why 'thinking' as the label? Well, in a sense we could just say 'Boo!' but 'thinking' is sane, sober and non-judgmental - as well as being accurate. "Thinking". Not 'good' thinking or 'bad' thinking, and also not 'thinking' vs. 'meditating'. In other words, the fact that we were off thinking is not regarded as bad, per se. We think for a while, and then we identify with our posture and our breathing. We stay with our body and the breathing technique as much as we can and then when we realise that we have been off in our thoughts, we label it "thinking" and go back to the breath. At the same time, because we are being neutral about the whole process, we have a chance to taste its flavour and texture without judgement or analysis. (In this respect, the technique of labelling can be likened to white rice in Asian cuisine, which both acts as a neutral backdrop against which the panoply of spicy dramas can strut their stuff without dominating the other characters in the dish and at the same time allows you to really taste and appreciate each one.) Now try all three, the posture, the breath and the labelling for 5 minutes.....

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That's it. That is simple 'Buddhist' meditation practice. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of thousands of people who do it every day and this has been going on for over 2,500 years. Just sitting. Why? Again, the reason is so that we can experience simply and directly, moment by moment, who - or rather what - we are. In fact, when we fully do this, moment by moment, we are enlightened. So sitting practice is really enlightenment practice, buddhahood practice. There are many other techniques in the Buddhadharma but none is essentially superior to or different from this one. You see, in our lives we are caught up in realms: big ones, little ones, long ones, short ones. When an emotion comes up, we are swept away, we completely identify with it; in other words, we completely identify with our thoughts, what we see and hear, with our lives: we are constantly spinning round and round. However, whilst we spin around this way, it is hard to say whether we are in charge of having our experiences or our experiences are in charge of having us. It is like an addiction: if you ever become or have been hooked on cigarettes (or other drugs) you know that at some point it is hard to say whether you are smoking the cigarette or the cigarette is smoking you. Similarly, even though everything is constantly changing or impermanent, whilst it is going on we completely identify with it, we are caught up in it; it is a realm we are in for a while. This is the illusion of continuity which creates karma. So sitting practice is the most direct way of working with karma as it happens that has ever been developed. It is by no means 'just doing nothing'. Sitting practice helps us to see that karmic process as it happens. We are not going anywhere else. We are not trying to make certain 'good' or 'peaceful' thoughts happen and avoid 'bad' or 'upsetting' thoughts. No, we learn to just simply be there with all of them, to let them come, let them dwell for a while, and let them go. They are like the weather or clouds: they come up for a while, maybe even cover the blue sky completely for a while, maybe produce a little rain - pleasurable rain or painful rain it makes no difference - and then at some point they are gone and we are back with the good old blue sky again, which is always the same and was there all the time anyway. Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Describe the three main parts of the technique without looking back at this chapter, then compare your notes with the instructions. ‘In some sense, sitting practice is the ultimate scientific endeavour because it is a way of objectively observing subjective experience’. Comment on this statement. Write a poem about being still for a while. If lots of people for many centuries have practised assiduously, does that make it effective? How can one tell? If the clouds are ‘our experience’, then what is the blue sky that is 'there all the time'?

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Exercises: • • In general, sit some more! Even if you have no interest whatsoever in becoming 'a Buddhist', please try to sit for at least three minutes before reading each chapter or answering any further questions. Don't worry, there is no dogma involved so nothing is trying to control how you think, who you are etc. Live it up: do nothing once in a while!

Some Practical Advice on Meditating: First of all, it is highly recommended to practice meditation on a regular basis and then with regular instruction from a trained instructor. To this end, some contacts are listed in the back of the book. In general, it is best to practice a little every day rather than a lot once in a long while. Even 10 minutes a day is beneficial, though half an hour is much better. Try not to fidget around. After the first ten minutes or so, the body can settle a little bit. If you keep moving around, it won’t. Be very patient. Remember there is no ideal state of mind you are shooting for. The idea is to be present with whatever comes up, even feelings like running away, suffering, impatience, sleepiness etc. etc. Most of us need a mat and a meditation cushion. You can find out how to buy them from the sources at the back of the book, but also you can use pillows and cushions etc. The idea is to sit on the ground using a cushion as a support so that you can sit with a straight back and so that your ankles don’t hurt on the ground. The weight should go mainly into the back, i.e. the ‘sit-bones’ at the base of the spine, not into the ankles. If you cannot sit on the floor, or on cushions on the floor for whatever reason, then sit in a chair. Place your feet firmly, and flat, on the ground, hands on thighs, straight back. Do not lean against the chair-back. Mindfulness and awareness can be experienced and developed whilst working, walking, even picking up the telephone! But the author is not familiar with these techniques and in any case, they tend not to be all that helpful unless one is already well practiced in sitting meditation and experienced in developing mindfulness and awareness. Sitting practice may seem difficult or too boring, but many other techniques are actually much more difficult to get any meaningful results with even if they might seem more entertaining at first. One exception for a Western mindfulness technique: focus your gaze on the tip of a pencil or pen. Keep your mind there too. Practice for one minute, then rest. When you can hold your attention there for a full minute, increase the period. A good exercise for developing mindfulness, but it places too much emphasis on the mind/eye matrix.

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CHAPTER TWENTY MINDFULNESS AND AWARENESS "Acknowledging restlessness, identifying with it, requires mindfulness, whereas providing a luscious meadow, a big space for the restless cow requires awareness. So mindfulness and awareness always complement each other." 111 Sitting practice develops two important skills or faculties. The first is called mindfulness which means paying attention to being here. With the technique, we pay attention to our body on the cushion, we pay attention to our breathing and we pay attention to our thinking process as well as the situation in which we do this, be it a small room or an expansive mountain valley. Bodily sensations come and go. Thoughts come and go. Sounds and smells come and go. Impatience comes and goes. Pleasure comes and goes. Memories come and go. Fantasies come and go. The breath comes and goes. We pay attention to the breath and then let go. We touch and let go. We pay attention to whatever happens as it happens. Whilst the Buddha was alive, he gave many teachings to working people who could not travel around with him on his constant lecture tours as monks and nuns because they had family responsibilities they could not renounce. Not only that, he taught working people who were too busy to sit for hours how to meditate whilst working. For example, he taught washer-women how to pay attention to the movement of their arms as they scrubbed the clothes against the rocks. He taught water-bearers to pay attention to their movements as they drew the water from the well, as they placed the yokes around their shoulders, as they walked, pace by pace, back to the village. He taught all sorts of working people how to practice mindfulness in their everyday activities. We can do the same today whilst we are walking, whilst we are working, even whilst we are driving along the road - although this latter is so tricky as to be almost impossible because we tend to get swept away by the many images we are bombarded with as well as the complexity of steering our way through the traffic. Indeed, it is hard to practice mindfulness without first doing quite a bit of formal sitting practice to get a feel for it so only a few teachers nowadays teach meditation practices other than sitting and walking. 112 This practice needs to be regular and ongoing, it needs to be ordinary in the sense of being 'no big deal'. Once we can practice mindfulness on the cushion, then we can gradually learn to do so in our everyday lives, all the time. For example, try paying attention to how you pick up the phone, how you first say 'hello'.

Myth of Freedom by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications, p 49. Other meditation techniques, such as walking meditation, are not covered in this book since without regular experience in sitting practice they are generally ineffective. In the same vein, there are other objects of meditation other than the breath, such as a stick, a stone, a coloured disk etc. but the breath, because it is natural, is the easiest one to use.
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Mindfulness is not fixating on something to the exclusion of everything else, so it is not necessarily the same as concentrating intensely or being a form of self-patrolling 'thought police'. You know, most of the time we see things but we are not aware that we are seeing. Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche once gave a television interview. After many questions about meditation and Buddhism the interviewer asked him if he had anything he would like to say to the viewers. "Yes indeed," he said to the audience, "please be aware of the space between yourself and the TV." That was it. Think about it. You can do the same whilst you are reading this book. Can you do it whilst you are talking to someone else? A stranger? An old friend? Your mother? In fact, we have already come to the second skill which is called awareness. Perhaps it is not accurate to call it a skill, although it too takes practice and hard work to develop. Awareness is not all that different from mindfulness: when you are mindful of what you are doing, without distraction or fixation, then you are automatically aware of the space in which you are doing it. In terms of the technique, this is already going on with the outbreath. You feel it going out and then dissolving into the space. Everything is like this anyway. Everything comes up and displays itself in the space: flowers, feelings, people, places, thoughts. It is said that you cannot really develop awareness but that it comes to you. This is because awareness is simply the absence of dwelling on yourself, your realm. When the Buddha attained enlightenment, nobody was there to witness it, not even Prince Siddartha! There was simply mind, mind and space together, mind completely one with space. That is why when after he had attained enlightenment and one of his old ascetic friends said: "Well, how do we know that you really did it?" the Buddha simply touched his hand to the ground and said: "the earth is my witness." Buddhahood is simply the experience of elemental reality without the filter of self-hood. It is reality being mindful and aware of reality. Mindfulness is having a clear, polished mirror and awareness is being able to see what is reflected therein. Although they are different, practically speaking they are somewhat inseparable. The technical term for mindfulness is shamatha, meaning 'peace' or 'dwelling in tranquillity'; this comes from the absence of struggle, of aggression. When you are paying attention to what is, there is no 'for and against' so there is no struggle. The technical term for awareness is vipashyana which means 'insight' or 'clear seeing'. Awareness is being aware that you are mindful. Shamatha and vipashyana are traditionally described as the two factors necessary for enlightenment. Sitting practice allows us to ventilate and loosen our habitual way of craving and fixating. This should be a natural rather than an artificial process otherwise we could harness all the self-perpetuating fixations of the ego process to achieving the goal of lessening our fixation - which obviously is impossible. That is like trying really hard to relax which doesn't make sense. In other words, the purpose of sitting meditation is not to become a great meditator, because the meditator cannot achieve it by trying to become good at it. On the contrary, the journey is one of gradually lessening our identification with our discursive thinking process and any other mechanisms with which we get caught in the

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realms, including any discursive notions of progress along the path. Once again, the path is the goal. At first, our thoughts and feelings are real and solid like hurricanes, ocean waves or rocks. Then, as we notice the endless procession, the coming and going, they are more like clouds, some heavy, some light passing across the sky. Later on, they might be a soft rain that affects the general atmosphere but that we can easily walk through, easily handle, even enjoy; or they are like mosquitoes biting the cheek of a king; they whine a little, land, chew on his flesh for a while and leave a little itch as a parting gift before they go on their way. They do not engollop the king's whole awareness and he does not jump up and down having a royal conniption fit. He remains on his throne - quite nicely so in fact. A practitioner, just like a king or a queen, learns to maintain his or her composure, not because it is a performance, but because one can include these little things in one's much larger, more 'royal' field of awareness. Rather than changing or controlling the thoughts, the point is just to see them as a natural process, like breathing or sunshine and moreover to not take them so personally. Although we may think of them as 'mine', we don't think of our hands as 'me' or our breath as 'me'. Similarly, we don't have to think that our thoughts about ourselves are 'me' either, that our feelings are me, even that 'me' is me. Me is just someone and that ain't saying much other than - you guessed it: "thinking". At the beginning, we usually experience in a naked way the unedited wildness and craziness of our mind. By giving ourselves an ordinary, uncluttered, un-speedy situation, we see how freaky, cluttered and speedy we are. We might think that 'the meditation' is doing this to us or we are not doing 'the meditation' properly. In fact, the practice is allowing us to see what is already going on more accurately than usual. When we learn to identify or go along with our own speediness then it is as if we learn how to get our mind and body going along the same path at the same speed at the same time. On a highway, all the cars are driving along at different speeds and continually changing positions relative to one another. But if two cars go along at the same speed even if that is 120 mph - then they are unmoving in relation to each other. When we learn the art of 'acknowledging restlessness, identifying with it', that is mindfulness. Our mind is not still, necessarily, but also it is no longer 'moving' either. As has been said in many meditation manuals: 'stillness and occurrence are one'. Of course, there are various degrees of mindfulness and awareness as we get used to letting go of fixating, as we gradually let go of identifying with our thoughts, of thinking that they are 'me'. It takes time to see through these things and some times are easier than others. There is always a journey. Even after enlightenment, there is an endless journey through each day, each moment; there is sunrise, breakfast, lunch, dinner, sunset, night.

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We have now discussed the main technique that the Buddha developed. In the next chapter we will discuss what it means to be a 'Buddhist', to make this endless journey. In some some sense, this is the main teaching that the Buddha gave, namely that, like it or not, life is a constant journey. Enlightenment is not something that we can get and take home, something static or fixed like a book we buy in a shop or a formula that we learn to use and then it always works. The goal of the Buddha's teaching is actually being on the path. Only with mindfulness and awareness can we tread that path so being mindful and aware is in some sense also the goal. Indeed, being fully mindful and aware are what are traditionally called 'the two wings of enlightenment'; in other words, they are all you need to fly in the non-conceptual sky of realisation. Question: 1 If 'enlightenment is only as far away as now' how can there be a journey?

Exercises: • • • • • • • • • • Sit some more! Go to a field, preferably one with a nice view. Sit quietly for a little while and try to remember where you are whilst you do so. As you brush your teeth, pay attention to your movements, your mind. As you eat breakfast, pay attention to how you chew, swallow, sit, stand etc. As you talk, pay attention to how you speak as well as what you say. Walk through a busy street, paying attention to everything you see and at the same time feeling your body as it moves, it paces. Feel the pavement under your shoes. Walk slowly from one end of a room to another. Pay attention to your bodily movements. Sit in front of a tree and just look at it, feel how alive it is. Do the pencil exercise described at the end of the last chapter. Try sitting every day for 10 minutes. After one week, write down what you think about it.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

SHILA, SAMADHI AND PRAJNA

"The mark of learning is gentleness." 113 "By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice they get to be wide apart." 114 There are three main developments which evolve from taking the Refuge Vow and from practice and study. In some sense, they describe how enlightenment unfolds through the beginning, middle and end of the path. In Sanskrit they are called shila, samadhi and prajna. They are usually translated as 'discipline', 'meditation' and 'insight', but since these words do not precisely convey the meaning in terms that a practitioner intends - or discovers - we usually use the Sanskrit. Mainly they go together, but also there is some sense of one leading to another. Shila means discipline, or good conduct. We learn to work with ourselves directly and honestly; we learn to practice regularly both on and off the cushion. We tread the path moment by moment, mindfully and aware. Practising the technique teaches us how to 'unwind' the process by allowing us to nakedly confront and so see through it. In so doing, we naturally begin to refrain from harmful, upsetting actions because they exaggerate and perpetuate fixation, grasping and therefore suffering. That is why shila is often translated as 'morality'. Shila involves learning to accept what helps you on the path of wakefulness and reject what does not. This naturally includes not doing things to other people that harm them on their journey through life, whether or not they agree with you. It is hard to say exactly what these things are, to publish a clear rule-book about it. Every life is unique, every situation and culture is different. However, when we are actually being mindful and aware it so happens that we automatically end up doing the 'right' thing. By sitting regularly we develop discipline. We stick with it through ups and downs, through when we want to do it and when we don't. Furthermore, the practice of mindfulness itself cuts through our need for constant entertainment, for our constant need to feel occupied with something all the time. Of course, it is good to work, to enjoy ourselves, to lead a full and active life; but that does not mean that we have to be possessed or driven by our need for constant entertainment, which is of course just another form of craving. All such things just create constant struggle and suffering. Shila happens because we have learned to let go of this endless struggle and tension. The practice of sitting meditation has also been described as 'cool boredom'. In a way, this is one of the main aspects of experiencing egolessness or enlightenment. In fact, the experience of egolessness is what gives us the strength to be, to be simply, here, now and awake, experiencing things as they are - which is how they are all the time whether we are there to appreciate them or not.
113 114

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, 1976 Hinayana-Mahayana transcripts. Confucius, 551-479 BC, the Confucian Analects.

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In Glimpses of Shunyata, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche says : "There seem to be different levels of discipline: disciplining in order to achieve something and disciplining because of things as they are. The first one... is not really discipline but looking for an alternative situation to occupy your renunciation by accepting something new into it. "Then there is another kind of discipline, which is just reducing unnecessary things. It is not necessarily giving up or renouncing, but simplifying, not producing new stuff or further confusions to occupy yourself…You live a disciplined life by not introducing further chaos. That chaos might be in the form of [pleasurable] seduction or in the form of destroying seduction, whatever it may be. Both seem to be side-tracks. So discipline means being true, to the right point, not introducing further stuff, not giving yourself further toys." 115 The practice brings us down to earth. We are literally sitting down on our bottoms, and the process of simply being there - breathing, feeling our breath, our body - is extremely grounding. When we are in touch with reality, we naturally do the right thing. We have shila. When we learn to do this on the cushion, then we can gradually learn to do this in our daily activities as well. Samadhi means 'to establish or make firm'. In this case, it refers to meditation, not the practice or the technique particularly, but the actual experience of being mindful and aware. Again, this is not a fixed or permanent state of mind but, depending on our discipline, our shila, it can be ongoing from moment to moment. There are countless descriptions of samadhi, or meditative awareness. Although it is best not to read too much about them before having practised, nevertheless it might be helpful to review some basic aspects quite briefly. In this case, I will introduce five typical experiences. 116 They are not to be regarded as accomplishments or experiences to target in your practice so much as things that tend to happen. They mainly use the analogy of different actions of water. First is noticing a sense of speed and movement in your mind, like a stream rushing down the side of a mountain. Second is a sense of perspective, like a turbulent river in a steep gorge. Third is a sense of familiarity; you get used to the rhythms of your mind, the way it tends to move around, like a big river flowing slowly along. Fourth is a sense of stillness, like a vast ocean without any waves. Fifth is a more pointed sense of the fourth, like a burning candle that doesn't move in the wind; so the stillness remains no matter what type of environment or action there is. This relates to discipline, of course. Again as Trungpa, Rinpoche says : "Samadhi... is connected with the idea of overcoming entertainment. By overcoming entertainment of
Glimpses of Shunyata, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche,Shambhala Publications, p 64. Shunyata means emptiness or egoless reality. See Chapter 23. 116 Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, 1973 Hinayana-Mahayana transcripts.
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all kinds, the student begins to cut through subconscious mind, which is what provides the obstacles to the practice of sitting meditation." 117 So samadhi is cessation in action, in a way it is how we feel as we conduct ourselves properly, which is the shila aspect. Prajna is a very important concept in the Buddhadharma. You could say that all the teachings are a manifestation of prajna. A literal translation is 'superior or ultimate insight'. This is more than just conventional intellect or intuition alone. It is the intelligence that operates beyond the shell, the cocoon of ego; it is 'knowingness' before there ever was a 'knower'. Do you remember that at the beginning we described the Buddha's enlightenment in terms of how he discovered that space is sacred, alive, awake? Well, the wakefulness of this so-called 'space' is the egoless intelligence that we tap into as we learn to rest in the samadhi of mindfulness and awareness. Furthermore, this intelligence is cutting because it sees through any games that are played which pretend that ego is a solid, self-existing thing. At this stage, the notion of egolessness is not an argument or something that is proven by logic. It is experienced directly. Prajna is a double-edged sword. Whenever ego pops up, the sword of prajna slices through the façade, exposing both deception and fundamental wakefulness at once. Prajna is like an eye which sees both the game and the absence of game at the same time - that is why it is superior intelligence. Prajna is not superior because it operates in a higher, more powerful realm but because it is actually lower, more ordinary, more realistic. It sees through all our games of deception and the brilliant sun of wakefulness flashes piercingly - and joyfully - along the length of its blade whenever it is wielded. Prajna is the ultimate weapon, because it alone cuts through what is known as spiritual materialism. This is a very important point. When someone begins the path, there is always a certain amount of hypocrisy involved; even though we like to think otherwise, in fact we feel it will be good for us, that if we go on the journey we will get somewhere, achieve something. As long as we cling to any such notions of achievement, we are practising spiritual materialism. Materialism is defined in the dictionary as "egoism; attention to material objects, needs and consideration with a disinterest or rejection of spiritual values." Spiritual means "pertaining to sacred things or matters; religious, devotional, sacred." 118 So spiritual materialism is when we use our interest in the spiritual to create another form of materialism or ego which is in fact anti-spiritual in the first place. From the point of view of the Buddhadharma, the true spiritual path is one of uncovering all of the ego's mechanisms by which the brilliant sun of our inherent sanity is covered up, by which we perpetuate ignorance of things as they are. It is prajna which exposes these manoeuvres in the light of clear seeing. Prajna is the ultimate weapon, or sword, of non-aggression. So by taking refuge in the Three Jewels and treading the path of dharma, a student practitioner can learn how to experience life as an ongoing journey of and to

117 118

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, 1976 Hinayana-Mahayana transcripts. Both of these definitions taken in part from Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.

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wakefulness, a constant unfolding, an exploration - a challenge. It is humbling to take refuge and to become a refugee. It is also noble and worthy. The fruition of the Hinayana teachings is some sense of real peace and humility. The practice of meditation involves dropping ego’s control of everything and learning to let things be whilst at the same time remaining awake. The Tibetan word for sitting meditation is shiné, meaning peace. When we let go of maintaining and defending our territory all the time, which in essence is what is going on in meditation practice, a real sense of relief develops. We can shed our hostile, paranoid skin, we can relax a little, we can afford to simply be. We drop our arrogant attempt to maintain ourselves as the ruler at the centre of the universe and dive into the ocean of ordinary being. We can be alone. We can be just another leaf on the tree of life. We can be human beings, simple, direct, honest, decent and straightforward. Truly, to realise the fruition of the Hinayana, the ‘little’ vehicle, is no small affair. Questions: 1 2 3 4 Describe Shila, Samadhi and Prajna in your own words. From the point of view of a refugee, what is morality, or good conduct? What do you think about the notion of a sword that cuts both ways? Describe any experiences of Prajna you may have had.

Exercise: • Sit some more!

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INTERLUDE: THE PASSING OF THE CROWN

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After thousands and thousands of births in countless worlds and realms in each continuously practicing the many virtues of his race, 120 the Great Bodhisattva took birth as the Supreme King of Tusita, known as 'the Heaven of The Contented'. There he was known as 'Shvetaketu' or The Bearer of the White Banner' and shone as the teacher and king of a hundred thousand long-lived gods. Before the birth of the Buddha, a certain group of these gods took birth as Brahmans 121 on earth in Northern India, which was a thriving spiritual and economic area in the world at that time, and prophesied to various holy men and seers that in twelve years a man endowed with the Thirty Two Marks of a Great Being would be born. His merit and wisdom were such that he would either become a Chakravartin 122 ruling the kings of the world, or a Buddha, an Awakened One, capable of teaching the way that liberates beings from the bondage of self-perpetuating confusion. They further prophesied that he would be known as Shakyamuni, the Sage of the Shakya Clan. The Bodhisattva, who had ruled in Tusita for many thousands and thousands of years 123 with the supernormal powers of a god, heard the Brahmans on earth below. He entered a most profound samadhi 124 and made the following four determinations: First: His future life would last less than one hundred years; Second: He would be born on the planet of Jampudvipa, or Earth; Third: India would be the country he would be born in, in the land of the Shakyas, a prosperous kingdom with just laws; Fourth: He would be born in the Ksatriya, or warrior caste, as the heir of a respected leader and king. As the samadhi ended and he gazed with his eyes around him, The Bodhisattva saw that his final throne had appeared, more splendid than any previously witnessed in this Heaven, and that all the radiant and sublime inhabitants of Tusita, without exception, and chief among them Maitreya, 125 were gathered respectfully in front, awaiting his inauguration and blessing of this most auspicious Assembly at the end of his reign.
Fictionalised account based on traditional stories. Race here refers to his status as a bodhisattva on the path of the transcendant virtues, the paramitas. 121 Brahmans: the class of people in India born into the priesthood, often referred-to as 'twice born', since according to Indian beliefs, in order to merit such a superior birth, one must have previously been born many times. 122 Chakra means Wheel and Vartin means ruler, A Universal Monarch, or 'One who holds the Wheel'. 123 One day in this god realm is the equivalent of 10,000 years in current human time. 124 Samadhi means state of mind experienced in advanced meditation. 125 Maitreya, the future Buddha. Shakyamuni, is the fourth of seven Buddhas in this particular minikalpa, so Maitreya will be the Fifth in this cycle. It is said that he will take birth about 6,000 years after Shakyamuni, or about 3,500 years from now.
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In the God Realm, beings tend to communicate by sharing certain 'notes', if you will, of multi-coloured light and sound, or tones of radiance which can be experienced by all at the same time, so no words as usual, were necessary. But in this Assembly Hall of Heaven, larger than any night sky with its myriad stars, brighter than any sun, softer and more luminous than any moon, sparkling more than any diamond, refreshing more than any lake or inland sea, in this Divine Assembly, the notes of perfect peace and silence reigned in accord with the profound samadhi of their King and the Buddha-to-be. Silence as pure and sweet as fresh snow falling on an early winter's morn, deep in the heart of the country, where there are no winds, no people. Although their realm was renowned for its endless manifestations of all sorts of sublime bliss, in Tusita Heaven this day, no joy more profound than this had been experienced in countless kalpas. At that moment, the minds of the assembled gods were so enraptured that the pure energy of their arousal caused heavenly thunder to resound throughout the entire three thousandfold world, this tumult being caused by all the gods, who possess supernatural perception, telling each other that once again, for the benefit of all beings, the time had come for a bodhisattva to attain buddhahood. Only on three kinds of occasions is such an uproar heard: at the destruction of a world age, when a Chakravartin is to be born or when a Buddha is to be born. This resounding thunder, which was a signal to all that the time for his new birth had come, seemed to stop the passage of time completely. Then, slowly and with infinite grace, with the perfect harmony that comes only when joy and sadness are sublimely balanced and overflowing at the same time, he inclined his head slightly and placed his crown of precious celestial jewels on the head of Maitreya, his Heir, the one who would next be Buddha, many years later as earthlings count them, but only a short time in Tusita Heaven. The Bodhisattva Maitreya would now be the Teacher and King to the bodhisattvas and gods dwelling in the Tusita Heaven of the Contented. 126 At that point, the gods dwelling in the earth element 127 in the land of Jampudvipa 128 gave such a great shout of joy that so portentous a decision had been made, that the Bodhisattva had not let this precious opportunity pass, that they caused a giant quake which was felt far and wide across this vast earth. At that moment, mindful and aware, in a state of deep calm and joyfulness, the Bodhisattva entered the womb of his earthly mother.

Where he dwells today. One day in Tusita Heaven is 400 years in our time, so it has been less than a week there since Maitreya's enthronement. 127 Element: there are five main elements in buddhist cosmology: earth, water, fire, air and space. Beings dwell in each of these elements and in many combinations thereof, as with our particular planet and bodies today. 128 Planet Earth.

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At that same moment on earth, in the city of Kapilavastu, in the Kingdom of the Sakyas, a young and beautiful Queen by the name of Mahamaya, Royal Wife to King Suddhodhana, King of the Sakyas of Royal and Ancient line and true, dreamt that she ascended into a heaven where a white elephant with 6 tusks 129 entered her side. Then a great multitude bowed down to her. The next day she summoned the Royal Seer, Asita, who informed her that her dream was most auspicious. "Your Majesty," he said. "without doubt, according to previous signs we have witnessed in the kingdom and in the heavens, previous holy prophesies and revelations, and the most recent quaking of the earth last night, this might roar heard by all your subjects although no movement was observed, no harm befell even the smallest and most tender of beings, no baby cried, no bird afrighted, this great joy today that is felt in the hearts of all your subjects for we know not what reason, without doubt an event of great and profound importance is unfolding. However, this your auspicious dream in which, white as snow or silver, surpassing the son and the moon, the greatest of elephants, with beautiful, shapely feet and six great tusks, unsurpassably beautiful in proportion and appearance, that you dreamed has entered your side, is, coming at this time, a sure sign that you are with child and that this child will be either a Chakravartin of Unsurpassed influence and power in our world or will become a Buddha, an Enlightened One, he who will show the way for all Beings so that they no longer need confusedly stumble on the path from life to life, from moment to moment, from ignorance to suffering, from hope unto fear, from birth unto death. Your Majesty, rejoice that you are the bearer of such great news for your Lord and King, His Majestic and Illustrious Suddhodhana, to whom a son and lineage holder is born of unparalleled magnificence in this world or any world, for us, your loyal and devoted subjects, and for all men who for countless years thereafter will find their lives conducts uplifted because of this noble birth which we all await with great joy, love and yearning. Thank you, Your Majesty, for this your kind service to us all". The Royal Seer to the Court of the Kingdom of the Shakyas was an old and wise man who knew that his time on earth was almost over. That day, he retired from office to a mountain hermitage, his work done, overjoyed that a being so splendid would soon be taking birth in the kingdom, heartbroken that he would not be able to witness and enjoy the fruits of such blessings. Where he was reborn, this story does not tell. Shortly thereafter, the Shakya kingdom enjoyed the best harvest in living memory, and the fruits and vegetables were larger, more succulent, more tasty than they had been in many an age. During the fall, there were so many elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries et alia, that the children in the kingdom played and laughed with smiles framed by permanently stained lips. Winter was calm and clear, with periods of bright clear sun alternated by soft snowfalls.
6 tusks symbolise the six paramitas. In some accounts there are 10 paramitas, in some 6. The first 6 are the most well known namely: Generosity, Discipline, Patience, Exertion, Meditation and Prajna. See Chapter 25.
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As the time for giving birth approached, Her Majesty Queen Maya yearning deeply in her heart for the quiet and solitude of the forest, retired to the pleasant grove called Lumbini where she used to practice meditation before her marriage and there prepared for the birthing.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO INTRODUCTION TO MAHAYANA "It would be absurd to say of a liberated practitioner that he believes that a bodhisattva survives after death - or indeed that he does not survive, or that he does and yet does not, or that he neither does nor does not. Because the practitioner is liberated, he transcends all definition, predication, communication and knowledge." 130 "Egolessness doesn't mean that you are going to be completely dissolved into nothingness. Egolessness means less "maniac-ness", in some sense - free from being an egomaniac." 131 "Just as the name 'chariot' [ car] is given to the gathering of all the parts, similarly the name 'sentient beings' is superficially used for the aggregates." 132 "Nothing happens." 133 After introducing the nature of enlightenment, we examined the existence of ego and egospawned realms of seemingly solid projections as well as some basic teachings designed to help us see through that and go further. We have seen how the seemingly solid world is more like a patchwork of frames running quickly past a projector. The seeming continuity of 'me' is just like the frames in a film. As long as we keep running the frames by one after the other, we seem to have a clear picture, a solid world with tangible, dependable experiences. Whenever a gap comes up or something goes wrong we regard it as a temporary mistake, an anomaly; we ignore or fix it and then continue on as if nothing happened because everything is 'back to normal' again. But if ego is made up of separate frames moving by quickly so as to give the illusion of continuity, what is the light of the projector that is constant, steady, bright and allows us to see the projections, to enjoy the illusion of continuity. "What about that light" you might ask "or is Buddhism all about picking little frames, analysing everything into its bits and pieces to show that nothing is really there?" Indeed, you might well argue: "look, all this suffering, impermanence and egoless stuff is perhaps logically OK, but there is more to life than that. That is like saying there is no such thing as a car, there are just lots of parts and together they make a car, but the car is just an idea. In other words, it is not really a car, it is just bits and pieces of plastic, metal,

Lord Buddha Digha Nikaya 2:65 (Wisdom Publications). Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Heart of the Buddha, Shambhala Publications, p 4. 132 From the Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications. In reference to a traditional sutra. The 'aggregates', or 'skandhas' are the five constituents of ego, namely: form, feeling, perception, concept and consciousness. 133 His Holiness the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, shortly before his death in Chicago, USA. See Chapter 27.
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glass, computer chips, rubber and hopefully some good music coming out of the speakers! "It is true that maybe 'car' is just a concept, but enough of all this intellectualising: when I drive it, it goes! When I press the accelerator it speeds up and when I push the brake it slows down and when I take the road into Poughkeepsie, that's where I end up as long as the sign was pointed in the right direction! So what! Whether there is such a thing as a car or not, I can drive one anyway. Whether there is such a thing as an ego or not, I can still enjoy my lunch, can't I?" This brings us to a flip side of the Buddha's teachings. The first part we have described is often referred to as the Hard Way, the Narrow Way, or in Sanskrit: the Hinayana. The next part is known as the Mahayana, the Great Way, the Open Way. Yana means vehicle or journey. Hin means lesser, direct, detailed - or we can say 'no-nonsense'. Maha means great, expansive, beyond any limitations or petty-mindedness. Hinayana is like taking the journey on foot. It is very real and literal. Mahayana is like driving in a Mercedes. You see, whether ego exists or not, it is true at least in terms of our experience that there is a whole big world out here and we are alive in it. There are sun, moon, stars, planets, red, green, blue, gold, silver, wind, ocean, earth, trees, people, thoughts, feelings, loves, hates - in short, 'the whole enchilada'. I read somewhere long ago that ants comprise 10% of the weight of all animals on this planet. If this is true – and even if it isn’t - just think about how many ants there are right now, moving, bustling, communicating with their little antennas - and we think the internet is something special! Truly the world is splendid and extraordinary. For the practitioner too, and continuing from the last point about prajna, there is life beyond ego. From the Hinayana point of view, we first have to take a long, hard look at ego and deal with the truth. Hopefully, through careful analysis and diligent practice we learn that neither our self nor the world outside is solid or real in the way that we have believed and felt. This is the first stage, which involves experiencing the egolessness of self. But what then? One of the most famous dharmas associated with the Mahayana is known in Sanskrit as shunyata. In English, it is usually blandly translated it as 'emptiness' or 'void' or even 'the Great Void'. But basically it involves what we have just discussed, namely that a brilliant and powerful world exists all the time right under the nose of ego which is a lessening, internalising dynamic rather than an opening, expansive one. From ego's point of view this world is empty because ego, in order to maintain its ignorant duality, cannot see it. However, in reality it is ego that is empty and life beyond it that is full. We should repeat that again: it is empty because ego cannot experience it in any way. None whatsoever. This is the experience of the egolessness of other.

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So although at first glimpse the notion of emptiness might seem negative or nihilistic,134 in fact it is not. As is said in the Prajnaparamita Sutra, a famous Mahayana text: "Form is emptiness, emptiness also is form." What does this mean? It means that whatever arises ourselves, thoughts, perceptions, planets etc. - is essentially empty. Empty of what? Empty of any ultimate solidity, ultimate self-hood. But it does arise, which is why emptiness is also form. In fact, if it were not for the essentially transparent, temporary and dreamlike nature of everything it would not be able to arise, to change, to come, to go, to breathe, to dance, to flower, to blossom, to live, to die. Indeed, there would be no path, no point to the path, no book and no reader of this book! As we have seen, the truth of impermanence leads us to understand both the fundamental egolessness underlying our existence and the suffering involved in maintaining an existence that lives in denial of those truths. These same truths, even as they demonstrate the underlying insubstantiality of our lives and phenomena, also show us that in fact nothing is fixed, everything is open. In other words, there is space. This is another tricky notion with many different usages and meanings. Space is not a thing, substance or quality. It is not even the background. At the same time, it is the essence of everything that occurs. Everything happens in a space that allows it to come and go, that gives it room to be whether in terms of time or 'space'. From this point of view, life is as much like a dream as anything else, and just as in a dream, our experience is no more than a projection which arises on the screen of what we call our lives, displays itself vividly in terms of touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smelling and then disappears again. And this is not a flat screen, it is the screen of mind, of space, of our hearts and actual lives. It might be like a dream, but it is extraordinarily vivid and precise. Every sound is the echo of silence; silence is the background or source and every sound comes out of that. Similarly, every form that you see arises out of nothingness - for example, you need a blank canvas on which to place your paint. There has to be fundamental accommodation somewhere in which things have room to come up. The challenge with the teachings of shunyata is threefold. First, we might fall into the trap of thinking that if everything is empty then it does not matter what we do. Perhaps this is true, but only if you think it is OK to dwell in hell, in intense pain since space can accommodate that too! Second, we might treat the whole thing as a concept, a thought. Shunyata is an experience, albeit not one that ego can have! Third, we might once again feel that this is some sort of state of mind that we can try to attain in our practice and everyday life so
Nihilism (from Latin nihil, meaning nothing) and eternalism are examples of philosophical extremes that the Middle Way avoids, or transcends. Many people on hearing the notion of shunyata incorrectly believe that the Buddhadharma says simply that 'life is an illusion, that all is empty'. This is as false as maintaining that ego, or reality, is a real, permanent thing. In fact, of course, as we now all know and understand, each is both true and not true and both and neither!
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that we are free of suffering, something which we can struggle to attain, to capture, to bring back home. No, that is why the climactic dharani, or sacred mantra, of the Prajnaparamita Sutra is: " OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA " which simply means "Om, Gone, Gone, gone beyond (the self), gone completely beyond, awake! so it is!" Trungpa, Rinpoche says in "Glimpses of Shunyata": "The last part of shunyata's achievement is the experience of ultimate nonego. You could have the experience of ego to begin with as a hang-up, problematic, irritating. Then you have the transcending of that ego, the nondualistic qualities of ego, you feel a sense of emptiness, a sense of absence. In the end... even the absence of ego is not felt, because the whole thing is not seen as an attainment in any way at all. It is not regarded as attainment or non-attainment. ... It is the complete destruction of ego, completely dissolving the state of ego. So we cannot celebrate that we have attained enlightenment because there is no one to take part in the celebration." Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Who or what is you? Do you really exist? Try to prove that a table exists. If you say something like: ' because I can bang it ', then prove that experience is valid. Keep going. What is the sound of one hand clapping? (This is a famous Zen koan) Write out how you might explain shunyata to your grandmother. "So we cannot celebrate that we have attained enlightenment because there is no one to take part in the celebration." If this is true, than why did the Buddha, to demonstrate his enlightenment, touch the earth and say "This earth is my witness?"

Exercise: • Sit some more!

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CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE AWAKENING HEART 135 "That which is the nature of the tathagatas Is the nature of sentient beings." 136 "Inspired by means of shila, samadhi and prajna... we have freedom from egomaniacness, freedom from egohood. Beyond that, seeing through our own egomaniac-ness, we give birth to, or awaken, our innate greater existence, which is known as bodhichitta." 137 We have introduced shunyata as the experience of non-ego. So now we must discuss things further in terms of our experience. Obviously, if there is not really an ego but we are alive anyway, there is life beyond ego; but what is that like? On the one hand, the Buddha might have said, 'Well, I leave it up to you to discover. I have taught you how to sit, and if you work with the Three Jewel principle you will find out everything yourself in due course. You do not need more teachings, teachers or books. Experience itself is all the guide you need.' Indeed, on many occasions he did say just that. However, something further does happen and he gave further teachings to help us on the journey as it develops. One of them involves experiencing what is known as bodhichitta. Bodhi means 'awake' as you know. Chitta means 'heart' or 'mind'. In terms of experience, it is clarity, wakefulness and insight (mind) together with warmth, softness and kindness (heart). As we develop mindfulness and awareness, we naturally become more and more aware of ourselves, what arises in ourselves as well with what we experience around us, our world. Remember that shamatha means peace which comes from the absence of struggle or aggression. You see, so many of our thoughts, feelings, emotions etc. are in fact part of ego's glorious, terrible and constant struggle to keep churning up the projected experiences of the samsaric realms. By practising mindfulness and awareness, by allowing them to come up and die down without getting so caught up, we begin to experience their transparency; as this prajna develops we cut through the deception, the heaviness, the desperate quality of these constantly flickering film frames, or projections. When we let go of identifying with them, then a lot of the heat and panic - the craving automatically relaxes. This relaxation naturally has elements of warmth to it. In fact, by allowing everything to come up in this open and accommodating space of awareness, we are becoming friends with ourselves. So the neutral practice of labelling has most beneficial results.

Usually translated as 'Awakened Heart' or ‘Heart of Enlightenment’. Awakening here is used because it both suggests a journey - the ‘ing’ part - as well as that one's awakened heart serves to awaken the heart of others. 136 Prajnamula Sutra. From The Light of Wisdom by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p. 72. 137 Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Heart of the Buddha, Shambhala Publications, p.4.

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This friendship is known as maitri, meaning 'loving kindness'. We are becoming our own best friend - or best host even. No matter who we are, no matter which visitors come along into the practice, we just let them be, we let them come and let them go. Let them dance. Let them sing. Let them make a big stink! Let them imagine the best delights, the biggest bank accounts, the worst failures, the most gorgeous lovers, the deepest hells, the most excruciating embarrassments. Let them. Let them come, and let them go. Meanwhile, we just sit, just be, we feel the space in which they arise, dwell and cease. We appreciate them. They can do what they want. We are not for them or against them, which is the best sort of kindness if you think about it. In short, there is no problem. There are many teachings and techniques that help us to recognise and develop maitri because once we can make friends with ourselves, once we can stop rejecting who and what we are, everything becomes so much more workable. This sense of 'no problem' or workability is experienced along with warmth, of gentleness, of kindness. We don't have to analyse why particularly: it is simply the nature of the human heart. And of course, there is nothing necessarily spiritual about this - in the sense of being other-wordly or a higher state. Indeed, throughout our lives we are stumbling in and out of maitri and most of the people we look up to in our families and countries are those who manage to experience this themselves and thereby set an inspiring example. This is so because this warmth, this friendliness automatically radiates out; in fact, it is radiating out as soon as we begin to experience our own transparency in sitting practice, for example. As soon as we stop aggressively spinning around and around on ourselves and focusing inward, as soon as we relax that process, we automatically and immediately become aware of the space 'outside'. Instead of tightening our muscles we loosen them. So instead of all the energy being directed inward, it is immediately and automatically expanding outward. We are either doing one or the other: there is no still, safe middle ground where we can hibernate indefinitely. This is a very important point. Our heart's capacity to radiate out is like a spring in a watch: either it is coiling or it is expanding; if it were doing neither, it would no longer be a spring, just a dead lump of metal. Think about it. This is why the Buddha gave us these teachings of the Mahayana, the Open Way. You see it is possible that even with great accomplishment in mindfulness and awareness, as things start to open and loosen up we might feel that we have to put our shoulder back to the grindstone, to tighten up, to close things down again. In fact, the opposite is true: we don't have to keep being the projector all the time. We can drop the project. We can let go of the whole thing. We can smell the roses. As we let go a whole new world, a world beyond ego, blossoms quite splendidly. We find ourselves naturally generous, expansive and cheerful. Our sitting practice has given us a sense of clarity, precision and more panoramic awareness which we spontaneously begin to radiate. This radiation is known in the teachings as karuna, or compassion. Compassion in this sense is not feeling sorry for others. It is allowing this sense of warmth and friendliness out. It is uncontainable. You are breaking free of the container of ego and the result is a powerful release of open heart. This is why the Buddha felt so

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good after he attained enlightenment. Again, you can see that emptiness of ego does not mean that everything is a dead, cold-hearted blank, a void. Indeed, the opposite is the case. Bodhichitta has its roots in kindness and simplicity but it soon blossoms into a fully grown flower, a sun, a star. We all have limitless reservoirs of energy and compassion. You see, as much as we would love to think it so, in fact bodhichitta is not a product that is manufactured by the practitioner. Bodhichitta is energy released from the cage which the self-centred inward-spiralling cocoon of ego has been 'chunnelling' in the wrong way; it is there all along, and to experience it all we have to do is to stop re-creating our dungeon. This is the same logic of the Four Noble Truths again, but now it applies to the manifestation of open heart rather than just to an examination of the cessation of suffering. This is still the same thing - nothing new is being said - but now we are talking from a more 'heart level' of experience. We are not examining the nature of the journey, we are in it. Bodhichitta has three main aspects: The first is complete clarity, or wakefulness. In the egoless space of awareness, everything is crystal clear. It is as if our egos were a messy, dirty, apartment, with smelly laundry lying around, unwashed dishes, streaky windows, peeling paint, stale air, curtains blocking out the sun, TV set blaring etc.; a sullen, dark, black hole of a cocoon of an apartment - in short, a typical residence of self-centredness. However, the enlightened housewife of bodhichitta turns off the TV, draws open the curtains, throws open the windows and lets in the sunlight. Then she cleans everything spick and span until it sparkles. She goes through all the unorganised cupboards of subconscious hopes and fears stacked higgledy-piggeldy, she dusts off all the cobwebs of lifetimes of bad habits, resentments and false dreams and instead, through her care, hard work and attention reveals a bright, new palace of bodhichitta where every thing is in its place, just so, where everything radiates with its own suchness. This is how it is in our practice, both on and off the cushion. Things become clear, sharp, bright, intelligent. This is really what is meant by 'awake'. It is liking waking up after a bad dream and opening the windows and letting in fresh air and sunlight and the sounds of birdsong. This is not just like waking up after sleep though, it is waking up to how alive you are, how alive your heart is, how much intelligence and appreciation is there is. Your heart is as open as your eyes and you can see sunlight and heartfelt kindness as if for the first time. It is clear. It is awake. CLEAR! ALIVE! AWAKE! The second aspect is compassion. The world is not just awake but also it radiates this wakefulness and along with this radiation is a tender, expansive and joyful sense of true heart. It is as if our heart has always been covered in dust but suddenly it is exposed and washed in sweet-smelling waters and oils, exposed to gentleness, to warmth. We can laugh, we can dance, we can sing. We can cry too, and shed real tears, tears of tenderness, of humour, of sadness, of joy. Compassion, like the sun, knows no bounds. It is radiation without a radiator. It is heart without a centre or 'hearter'. It is joy without anyone there to experience it, to feed it. It is Maha-warmth, Maha-heart, Maha-joy. At

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the same time, because it is not self-centred, we really do feel extraordinary kindness and sensitivity to others. With the dharma eye of prajna we feel their pain even as we see how unnecessary and self-inflicted it is. Not only do we feel their pain, but of course we also directly connect with their bodhichitta. There is no boundary between self and other in the egoless karuna realm of bodhichitta. The third aspect is fearlessness, is boundless energy. The sun is all-powerful. It is the source of light, of life, of warmth. At midday on a cloudless day, the sun blazes in every direction. It has boundless resources and is not restricted and never gives up. Bodhichitta is a sun that never rises or sets, a battery which never runs down. So too, its energy is always available, always there as soon as we release ourselves from the constraints of our ego territory which is always concerned with its little boundaries, its limitations, which puts most of its energy into keeping people out of its little life or 'off the grass'. Instead of a tired, tense little bundle of defensive muscle, there are endless resources and energy with which to express wakefulness and open heart, with which to communicate true warmth and joy. Fearlessness comes from tasting our own heart along with realising and remaining true to that. After years of teaching the Hinayana, the Buddha introduced these Mahayana teachings. It is recounted that the first time he did so, many thousands of his students, dedicated and advanced meditators who had been practising mindfulness and awareness for many years, were stunned by the sudden power and force of this new manifestation: he was the same Buddha but he was not; they were the same students but they were not. In fact, in many Mahayana texts it is told that 500 of these arhats 138 had heart attacks and died on the spot! Of course, this is probably just an insider joke meaning that their egos, under the onslaught of the Buddha's radiance, his warmth, his compassion, his unbounded good humour, just gave up haunting those 500 arhats and fled away never to be seen again. This would mean that the arhats 'died' that day and were instantly 'reborn' as bodhisattvas. To find out about what that means, turn the page! Questions: 1 2 3 4 5 Write a poem about how much you love your mother, father, friend, or pet. (Try to tune into a sense of kindness vs. just enthusiasm.) Imagine being a student at the time and describe what the Buddha was like when he gave these teachings and how you felt. Review your day or your life and see where the sun of bodhichitta is shining. Imagine a country where everyone is in touch with their buddha nature, their bodhichitta. Describe what life there would be like. If you had to give a speech to the United Nations about bodhichitta, what would you say?

Exercises:
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Advanced students of the Buddha who had achieved (Hinayana) cessation.

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• •

Go into a supermarket and look at people. See how many of them are manifesting bodhichitta and describe in which ways they are and in which not. Are they aware of it? Sit some more! When your eyes suddenly meet with another's in the street, who do you see? Is it you seeing them and them seeing you, or is it bodhichitta saying hello to itself? Pay attention to what happens with ordinary, chance encounters every day.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR "The bodhisattva is a very humble pilgrim who works in the soil of samsara to dig out the jewel embedded in it." 139 "Be grateful to everyone." 140 Bodhi means 'awake', and sattva means 'fearless state of being' or 'warrior'); so a bodhisattva fearlessly journeys on the Mahayana path, manifesting bodhichitta in action, word and thought. Bodhichitta can be likened to the midday sun without clouds. It illuminates everything. There are no hidden corners for the conspirators of the kingdom of ego to hide in and hatch their little plots. As the boundaries of self and other are exposed and broken down, a splendid new realm is revealed, one that is beyond the six realms of samsaric existence for it is a 'buddha realm', constantly brilliant and awake. It is not a new planet or plane of existence. It is simply the glorious and splendid kingdom which exists in each and every one of our hearts each and every moment. A bodhisattva is one who manifests bodhichitta - one who 'bodhi-chits'. Of course, as with everything on the path, there are ups and downs and ins and outs, otherwise there would be no journey and if that were the case, there would be no need for teachings to help us on our journey. In terms of personal experience, rather than suddenly being born into a new world where we are instant superheroes, we have glimpses of these things both on and off the cushion. Then we get into a fight with our best friend about something and feel terrible afterwards and suddenly the sun is not shining any more at all - in fact it never did, the whole thing was just a cruel trick of our imagination all the time, a fantasy, wishful thinking, the delusions of a madman... There are two main stages of bodhisattva-hood which happen both sequentially and simultaneously in the sense that you can bounce around from one to the other. First, having been inspired either by someone else, for example a teacher or leader, or our own experience, we aspire to become bodhisattvas. Then there is the stage of actually being one. What does being a bodhisattva mean? In most Western cultures, there is the notion of being a gentleman or gentlewoman, or of being noble; also we have notions such as 'brave' or 'warrior' or 'hero' or 'heroine'. Whatever word we use, essentially we are referring to those fearless and gentle ones who reflect the sun of our best aspirations as human beings. They radiate compassion and wisdom, awakened heart. They are not afraid to open completely to that energy and manifest it unashamedly in their lives, in every moment of awake. They inspire us, cheer us, make us feel good, wholesome, decent and sane. Usually we say 'bodhisattva' since most of the Western equivalents are
Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Myth of Freedom, Shambhala Publications, p 104-5. One of the slogans of Atisha, 982 - 1054, a great teacher from India who helped bring the Buddhadharma to Tibet.
140 139

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either incomplete or hobbled with too many other connotations, such as 'nobleman' being associated with tradition-bound and too easily degradable aristocratic traditions based on blood-lines alone. Probably 'a noble', 'gentleman' and 'gentlewoman' had some sense of this originally. Bodhisattvas, however, come in all shapes and sizes and from every time, culture and social class. In fact, in every heart there dwells a bodhisattva because every heart's essence is bodhichitta. The real challenge is being brave and gentle enough to let him or her out. Whoever does this is in some sense a bodhisattva. Another aspect to this is what is often referred to as kindness. Kindness is not necessarily about being nice and helping the poor - at least not when doing good and being kind become projects which we use to conceptually freeze space with again (that is just good old spiritual materialism with yet another project and projection). Kindness is projecting without projector, it is the smile which arises as naturally as the sun. Kindness is feeling delight in the blueness of a sky, the tenderness of a mother, the playfulness of a child, the strength and competence of a good man. Kindness is washing vegetables and allowing cool water to run over them. Kindness is enjoying the tinkle of glasses raised together in a toast of affection, the clear resonance as they meet and sound. Kindness is taking your friend's problems seriously, is paying the bills, is taking out the garbage, is hearing the snow crunch softly under your boots, is being present, is letting go. Kindness is seeing others suffering because your heart is open but not because you want to seduce them into your camp, your point of view, your bed. Kindness is hard work. Kindness is no big deal. No matter what happens in life - good or bad, difficult or easy, painful or pleasurable, rewarding or unfair - nobody can stop your heart from opening and nobody can make you close it. You are responsible for everything in this regard. It is said that the greater the wisdom, the greater the obstacles. So working with kindness involves working with difficulties. Kindness is not just a 'love and light' affair. No matter what happens, we can meet it with an open heart, we can stand in the rain naked without an umbrella, we can be with it, we can be fearless in that way. Nobody can stop our hearts from opening so we go ahead and open them and let the sun shine out gloriously or the rain pour down equally gloriously. In our everyday experience, this often involves being kind enough with ourselves to accept all our weaknesses, faults, depressions and deceptions as part of who we are, being kind enough with ourselves to develop maitri. This is very easy to read about. But it is quite hard to do in practice. How do we learn to manifest in this way, to tread on this path? In the Hinayana, we acknowledge confusion and calm down, we stop causing more panic and harm to ourselves and our environment. We pacify. In the Mahayana, we go further. Rather than simply not cause harm, we become more creative and dynamic and actually go out of our way to promote sanity. We acknowledge that we ourselves are fundamentally sane, are fundamentally awake and brilliant - a Buddha. The discipline is to act as such, even though there are still doubts and problems of all sorts. So the bodhisattva relates both to the naked sun and also the clouds that obscure it. The formal way to enter the Mahayana path is by taking the Bodhisattva Vow.

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Traditionally, this vow is taken in the presence of the spiritual teacher and images of the buddhas and scriptures in order to symbolise the presence of the lineage, the family of Buddha. During the ceremony, one vows that 'from today until the attainment of enlightenment I devote my life to work with sentient beings and renounce my own attainment of enlightenment'. Actually vowing to give up one's own attainment of enlightenment might seem quite extreme. However, according to Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche : "We cannot attain enlightenment until we give up the notion of "me" personally attaining it. As long as the enlightenment drama has a central character, "me", who has certain attributes, there is no hope of attaining enlightenment because it's nobody's project. It is an extraordinarily strenuous project but nobody is pushing it. Nobody is supervising it or appreciating its unfolding. "The bodhisattva vow acknowledges confusion and chaos - aggression, passion, frustration, frivolousness - as part of the path. The path is like a busy, broad highway, complete with roadblocks, accidents, construction work and police. It is quite terrifying. Nevertheless it is majestic, it is the great path. 'From today onward until the attainment of enlightenment I am willing to live with my chaos and confusion as well as that of all other sentient beings. I am willing to share our mutual confusion.' So no one is playing a one-upmanship game. The bodhisattva is a very humble pilgrim who works in the soil of samsara to dig out the jewel embedded in it." 141 On the one hand, this is an extraordinarily ambitious and visionary undertaking. On the other, it is a simple expression of the limitless, but at the same time ordinary, quality of bodhichitta. In essence, we are this sun of bodhichitta and we vow to be that. Nothing more, nothing less. As regards waiting until all other sentient beings have attained enlightenment, there is an interesting twist: as long as we separate the world into I and other, asleep and awake, we are not being enlightened; furthermore we cannot perceive the enlightened qualities of anyone else because we are blinded by the filters of dualistic territoriality through which we look at our world. When we are truly being enlightened, we see that our self and all other selves are essentially enlightened as well, so the only thing to do is keep going on the path, step by step, moment by moment until we experience the world as already completely enlightened - which of course it is. Questions: 1 2 3
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If you were a bodhisattva, how would you be, what would you do? Describe any people either alive or in history that you feel are bodhisattvas. Listen to some Beethoven symphonies. Does he have a sense of bodhichitta do you think?
Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Myth of Freedom, Shambhala Publications, p 104-5.

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Exercise: • S.S.M.!

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EDICT OF WHOLESOME HUMAN CONDUCT BY KING SONGSTEN GAMPO, FIRST DHARMA KING OF TIBET 142
A RESPECT 1 2 3 4 5 B Arouse faith and respect for the Three Jewels. Seek out and practice the divine holy dharma. Respect your parents and repay their kindness. Revere those who have accomplished great learning. Honor and pay heed to noble elders.

LOYALTY 6 7 8 9 Be decent and trustworthy with friends and relatives. Exert yourself in the welfare of neighbours and countrymen. Be law-abiding, humble and act with decorum. Continuously emulate those who are excellent.

C

DISCIPLINE OF BODY, SPEECH AND MIND 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. Possess only as much food and wealth as needed. Never disappoint those who have been kind to you in the past. Do not waver in repaying your debts on time. Be generous to all without bias. Refrain from slander and maintain your dignity. Speak gently and refrain from idle chatter. Expand your mind in the vision of the Mahayana.

( The 16 Edicts of Wholesome Human Conduct by the first Tibetan Dharma King, Songsten Gampo, who lived in Tibet during the 7th century. The three divisions of respect, loyalty and discipline of body, speech and mind were added by Trungpa, Rinpoche. Other than that, it is a direct translation of the original text from 1200 years ago. With permission from the Nalanda Translation Committee )
7th Century AD. Dharma King, or "Chakravartin". This is usually a secular, rather than solely a spiritual, title.
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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE ENLIGHTENING ACTION "When a Bodhisattva possesses one virtue, he has all the most excellent Buddha qualities. Which one? The attitude which does not exclude sentient beings from his thoughts." 143 "The generosity of not having expectation, The discipline of not desiring rebirth, The patience toward everything, The diligence of cultivating all virtues, The dhyana that is not the formless states, And the knowledge endowed with skillful means Thus those who adhere to these paramitas Should practice them perfectly." 144 The actions of the hero-bodhisattva are described in six ways. These are both a gradual path in that one leads to the other and also a simultaneous six-dimensional picture of the various enlightened expressions of bodhichitta manifested by a bodhisattva. At the same time, they provide guidelines for us fledgling bodhisattvas shining from time to time from behind the clouds of our tattering selves. These six actions are called paramitas in Sanskrit (para means other and mita means shore) which means transcendent action, actions beyond self. These actions both take you to the other shore of enlightenment whilst at the same time manifesting The Great Sun of bodhichitta reality, Maha-reality. Generosity: The first paramita of generosity, dana paramita, arises out of the release of selfcentredness. There is terrific room to express wakefulness and warmth. There is no holding back. Whatever arises is cut by the sword of prajna and each slice lets in further sunlight. There is still a journey and a journeyer, but the whole dynamic is transparent. You can see the other shore across the river of samsaric selfhood and you are on the way - so in some sense you are already there. It is like suddenly finding out that you can sing: you never heard music or singing before but suddenly you can do it. This discovery
Gampopa, 1079-1153, chief student of Milarepa. From The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Shambhala Publications. 144 The Ornament of the Sutras, the Sutralamkara, one of the five teachings of Lord Maitreya, extracted from The Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications p. 130. A further explanation of this quotation: "The generosity of not having expectation for a reward in the future; the discipline of not desiring the fruition of a rebirth among gods or human beings; the patience toward everything with or without form, having abandoned aggression toward all beings; the diligence of quickly cultivating all white virtuous qualities, in general, and all the virtues of freedom and maturation, in particular; the concentration that is not a mundane state of dhyana because of transcending the realms of form and the formless states[ jhnanas ]; and the knowledge of emptiness endowed with skillful means of compassion - thus those who adhere to these six paramitas of generosity and so forth should practice them perfectly. (Jokyab Rinpoche, note 261 p. 271)
143

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contains great joy which you cannot help but radiate, which is why there is so much generosity. No limits. Discipline: Shila paramita involves experience as being essentially pure, clear, simple. Shila again means discipline or morality. Pure in this sense does not necessarily mean white as opposed to black, sacred as opposed to profane - at least not in a simplistic way. Rather, it means that our generosity - which has a sense of boundlessness - is never ego-centred or wild; because it always remains on the spot, it is impeccable, disciplined. Though we might be singing with the glory of the universe throbbing, pulsing, radiating in every note, each note is sung with good old mindfulness and awareness: one note, one moment at a time. It is a bit like quality control or the notion of quality in general. For example, you could practice writing ten hours a day for ten years but that would not necessarily make you a good writer. Although shila discipline involves the basic morality and ethics of, for example, saying 'No' to being ego-centred in deed, word and thought, in practice we could also say that it simply involves precision and awareness married to kindness and heart. Maitri, kindness, and non-aggression are the key rather than being rigid, following the rules blindly, or being able to be a perfect little ascetic who never indulges or makes mistakes, who never sins, who always follows the commandments etc. And again, maitri comes from not fighting ourselves, not splitting ourselves in two which, of course, relates back to our mindfulness and awareness practice; this itself is not just a technique, but involves paying close, personal, heartfelt attention to who and what we are, moment by moment. Patience: Kshanti paramita: patience here does not necessarily mean being able to wait a long time or bear enormous hardship - although that could well be the case. Patience means that the bodhisattva, because of his openness and discipline, is always able and willing to work with whatever comes up. Usually when we encounter an obstacle, we see it as something in the way that cuts us off from our destination so we try to side-step or get around it somehow. Fundamentally, this is aggression because it involves rejecting whatever karmic meal has been served up on our plate, including our own feelings of anger, frustration and resentment about what others may be doing to us. Another one of the main problems we might face is a sense of wanting to shake people up. "Look," you might want to say, "just draw open the shades, open the windows, turn off the TV. Look what a wonderful world it is. Why don't you come outside and we can walk together in the sunshine!" Of course this doesn't work. You each end up thinking that the other is 'wacko'. In this case, we have no ambition, resentment or complaint. Working with whatever comes up on the path is itself getting there so we work simply, directly, fully and completely with whatever comes up. Whatever comes up is perfect fuel for the fire of bodhi.

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Energy: Virya paramita (virya means energy or strength). Not only are we willing to work with whatever comes up but also we are tireless in doing so. Because everything is fuel, we can burn anything all the time! So we have terrific energy and resources in terms of dealing with people on their own terms and in their own language and culture. In fact, we find this constant battle between awake and asleep actually enjoyable. Like a seasoned veteran, we no longer resent the sound of the bugle early in the morning but are actually invigorated by it. We are not in the slightest tired or discouraged by this endless campaign, this timeless 'war' we are waging. We put on our uniform, perfectly polished, perfectly emblazoned, and march with good head and shoulders into whatever fray the day presents us. Our sword of prajna is always sharp. We are always ready, always on guard, always awake. With patience, we accept whatever comes up and work with it rather than trying to change its shape or reject it; with energy we actually go out to meet things - indeed we may even create situations in which our generosity and discipline and all the rest of it can be of service. We provoke sunshine. We lead the charge of sanity no matter on which crazy battleground we find ourselves. The last song is as good as the first and we are never out of breath. Meditation: Dhyana paramita (dhyana means meditative awareness): this is the paramita of panoramic awareness. Dhyana is the word from which comes the term 'Zen' in the Japanese tradition. This is the state of total awareness beyond ego, without centre or fringe. We could also say 'awareness without a watcher'. At this point, the notions of this and that, of practitioner and practice, of trying to be a generous, disciplined, patient, energetic bodhisattva are dissolved into the simple, one-pointedness of complete panoramic awareness. It is panoramic because there is no sense of territory at all so the view is limitless. Because there is no sense of territory, the journey and the journeyer are dissolved. The bodhisattva just rests in open awareness. Time and the journey come to a stop. There may be no movement between this and that, here and there, but dhyana is an action. We are not just talking about formal meditation practice but also about the actual experience of being fully mindful and aware in the midst of any and all action. Life is not a rehearsal and neither is our 'practice'. Prajna: Prajna paramita. Prajna, as discussed before, means transcendent or superior intelligence that is not ego-centred. Here, we see that the samsaric illusion of the universe of self and other, matter and space, is the biggest and most glorious con game in the history of the universe, a mutual conspiracy. We learn how to deal the cards, shuffle the deck and play the game, but we never mistake the bright lights of the casino realm for the sun of bodhichitta, or the sweet clink of the chips as they are racked up after a big win as being

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anywhere near as precious as the natural world of rocks and trees and air and sunshine and genuine people. Prajna is the gateway to and perceiver of complete wisdom, wherein things are seen clearly as they are in the open space of dhyana. As Trungpa, Rinpoche says145: "The bodhisattva doesn't identify with the path any longer because he has become the path. He is the path. He has worked on himself, trod on himself, until he has become the path and the chariot as well as the occupant of the chariot all at the same time... It is unspeakably powerful, and yet at the same time the bodhisattva is powerless ... because he is completely programmed by the Buddha's way. This might sound paradoxical, but it is so." Again, the path is the goal. The paramitas transcend ego. This means they also transcend any form of comfort mentality which is another form of spiritual materialism. Spiritual materialism is like a tape loop that plays itself again and again in its little self-contained universe. Obviously, that is not the same as paramita activity which involves opening up and going out. Questions and Exercises: 1 2 3 4 Imagine that you are the bodhisattva Mayor of your town. What would you do? If a bodhisattva were to come into your house right now, what would he be able to tell about you just by looking at the furniture. What does being generous mean? Why would a bodhisattva be feeling joy?

Exercise: • Sit some more!

145

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Myth of Freedom, Shambhala Publications, p. 123.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

TONGLEN: THE PRACTICE OF KINDNESS AND COMPASSION

"There is a story of a king in India whose court soothsayers told him that within seven days there would be a rain whose water would produce madness. The king collected and stored enormous amounts of fresh water, so that when the rain of madness fell, all of his subjects went mad except himself. But after a while he realised that he himself could not communicate with his subjects because they took the mad world to be real and could smoothly function in the world created by their mutual madness. So finally the king decided to abandon his supply of fresh water and drink the water of madness. It is a rather disappointing way of expressing the realisation of enlightenment, but it is a very powerful statement. When we decide to drink the water of madness, then we have no reference point. So from that point of view, total enlightenment is total madness. But there is still a king and his subjects and they must run the world together. Running the world becomes an expression of sanity because there is no reference point against which to fight. There is something logical about the whole bodhisattva process but something extraordinarily illogical about it as well." 146 "Whatever happiness exists in the world All results from wishing others happy. Whatever suffering exists in the world All results from desiring happiness for oneself." 147 "We receive but what we give." 148 Every aspect of ourselves, including the heart, can benefit from proper training. One of the principle techniques in the Mahayana is tonglen, which means 'sending out and taking in'. It is a more dynamic extension of sitting practice. The following description is not the full technique but an outline. To really learn this practice it is necessary first to have solid grounding in shamatha-vipashyana practice and then to work with a living instructor on an ongoing basis, otherwise one might just be indulging in 'spiritual' fantasies - however well-intentioned. That being said, it is still worth a look. Tonglen practice involves developing kindness and compassion and from there generosity and all the other paramitas. Ideally, you should be doing sitting practice regularly. If not, and for the purposes of this introduction and if you wish to actually try the practice rather than just read, then please try to sit for at least ten minutes before going ahead with the following technique. (If you wish to just read about it, of course that is fine too!) This technique also works with the breathing and mental processes, but in a different and more imaginative way and with a separate instruction for the inbreath and outbreath. The inbreath and outbreath are basically done together even though they are
146 147 148

Ibid. Shantideva. Padmasambhava, The Light of Wisdom, Shambhala Publications, p 133. S.T. Coleridge [ reference work and dates ]

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here described separately; with both, one starts small and gradually builds in intensity and depth as described below. THE TECHNIQUE: Once you are ready, pick up on a sense of suffering, either your own or others. For example, a sense of constant failure and depression, that you are not up to things, that you cannot cope; or a sense of great hunger, or great fear; or imagine what it is like to be really sick with a terminal disease; or simply a sense of anger, lust or greed; or the sense that you just don't know, you have no feelings, you are just a stupid lump that doesn't know what to do and can't find any feelings, can't relate to this technique and couldn't care less! Use your own or others' suffering, whichever works best. The important point is that there is some sense of feeling, of softness, tenderness, vulnerability. Indeed, you don't have to start with suffering. If that doesn't work, then begin with a sense of kindness. Traditionally, one is recommended to think of one's mother, but you could also think of a brother or sister, a friend, a lover, your child. Then you take this heartfelt feeling and, just like when starting a fire you blow on it to build it up, in this case you 'blow on it' as you breath. As you breathe in you gradually take in more and more of this suffering and negativity, first your own then others, and you imagine that you can actually absorb this suffering on the part of others, you can take it on, take it in, not just your own, but everyone's, first in your neighbourhood, then in your country, then in the whole world. It takes a few minutes to connect and then expand it. This is 'taking in'. Briefly put, you breath in a sense of 'hot, black and heavy'. At the same time, as you breath out you 'send out' a sense of positivity, kindness and compassion, whatever is the more expansive and relaxed opposite of the feeling you are breathing in. Here, the snapshot description is 'cool, white and light'. The more intense and claustrophobic the inbreath, that much more expansive and generous is the outbreath. At first, you just pick up on a sense of softness and kindness. You might think of your parents, or a friend, or a pet, or a little baby, whatever puts you in touch with a sense of gentleness and affection - maybe it is even your favourite place, or the house where you spent your childhood. After building on this for a while in conjunction with the inbreath, at some point you are radiating compassion and fearlessness to the whole world. You take in all the suffering and small-mindedness and you send out compassion, wisdom and fearless dignity. There is a sense of accomplishment, of royalty even. I have described here the suffering first and the sense of generosity second. At the beginning, though, it doesn't matter what you start with: either a sense of positive kindness or negative suffering. The point is to connect with a soft spot and then expand on that, both positively and negatively. This practice results in what is often referred to as 'gathering merit' or 'virtue'. In the Hinayana, we act virtuously mainly by practising mindfulness and awareness which inherently involve being precise and gentle. In so doing we automatically refrain from causing further harm to ourselves and to others. In the Mahayana this expands: we don't just refrain from harm, we actually relate to others with kindness, so this is more out-

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going and brave. Furthermore, because of shunyata and compassion, there is greater freedom and fearlessness. Compassion is not just feeling pity for the underdogs of our world; it is seeing the fundamental freedom and wakefulness, the limitless opportunities we all have to wake up and taste our hearts. At the same time, we do feel things, we feel the realms that people are inhabiting, we feel their pain. As is said: " A single strand of hair lying in the palm of the hand Will create discomfort and pain If it enters your eye. Immature beings, like the palm of the hand, Do not realise the hair of the suffering of formations. Noble beings, like an eye, Perceive these formations as painful." 149 Tonglen practice is a very direct and straightforward way of manifesting the bodhisattva vow. Usually when we have strong, conflicting emotions, we treat them like an unwanted flame: finding it too intense or dangerous, we quickly smother it. The result is that the flame is frustrated and our fingers are burnt! But when we include whatever arises in the heart space of bodhichitta, this same flame can be like a candle or an Olympic torch or a sun or a blazing star. In an atmosphere of respect and gentleness, it becomes something beautiful, useful, worthy. So virtue here is that even negativity, even so-called non-virtue, is included in this gentle, kind, compassionate world - this sacred world. In this way, we perceive others as essentially enlightened - which they are. We see and develop their virtue at the same time that we see and develop our own. By giving out heart to others, we develop our own. Tonglen is the training, or practice, that helps us develop this heart, this kindness, so that whatever arises in life, whatever we meet on the journey, we treat with respect, kindness and awareness. The great teacher Padmasambhava explained that if you don't train in exchanging self for others, in developing bodhichitta, then you tend to strengthen selfishness. 150 " The defect of not training, is that you will stray from the nature of selflessness. For ordinary people whose minds have not been changed by the [Mahayana] school… they regard this self as being permanent and concrete, they fixate on it as being friend and enemy, self and other. The danger of conceptualising such an individual self is that by apprehending an ego and a self-entity, objects will appear as 'something other'. By apprehending this duality, you will regard that which benefits the "self" as friend and that which harms the "self" as enemy. Thus the experiences of attachment and aversion will cause you to

149 150

The Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications. Dakini Teachings, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p 52.

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commit various kinds of unvirtuous actions. Through these actions, you will wander in the lower realms and the whole of samsara." The spiritual leader of the Kagyü lineage of Tibetan buddhism is the Karmapa. The XVIth Karmapa, who visited North America several times in the 1970's, was a true chakravartin 151 or 'Dharma King', a great bodhisattva. He travelled all over the world teaching. Most often this was done by simply by sitting upright on his dharma throne, open, fearless and awake whilst practising tonglen in the presence of thousands of people at a time, including many in the West. His royalty came not so much from his exalted position as the head of a one thousand-year-old school of Buddhism but mainly from his complete accomplishment as a Mahayana practitioner, as a fully realised and manifest bodhisattva. He did not just study these things: his entire life was dedicated to embodying these teachings, actually being compassionate and generous, genuinely being completely open, fearless, brilliant. He was an extraordinary and powerful teacher who manifested the dharma in everything he did and said. Having trained numerous students in order to preserve his lineage after having escaped from Tibet, he travelled all around the world until his death in 1981. During one of these visits he was in Colorado giving teachings to the students of Trungpa, Rinpoche. He was exceptionally fond of animal-type sentient beings and visited the zoos wherever he went. One day, it is told that he went to a pet shop in Boulder where he noticed a bin filled with grasshoppers. He asked what they were doing there, and the pet-shop owner said that they were food for some of the other inmates of his establishment. His Holiness asked if he could buy them. After figuring out a price, the store keeper agreed to this unusual request. His Holiness then went away with his thousands of grasshoppers to a nearby field in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where, to everyone's surprise and delight, he simply released them so that they could be free to enjoy their lives. [ check this story] Although this might seem a very simple thing, if you think about it, most of us - even many animals' rights activists - would be too afraid even to do this. So fearlessness and gentleness can take many forms; being a true hero does not necessarily mean slaying enormous dragons and becoming world famous: it can also mean helping little grasshoppers to enjoy themselves. So often we think about helping others, but usually in practice we don't, we just take care of ‘No.1’. By practising tonglen - this simple, unassuming no-fuss method - we reverse our habitual mechanisms of selfishness and instead learn to truly open our hearts to others, which is the essence of the Mahayana Way. Questions: 1
151

Describe your description of the tonglen technique and then check back to see how you did.

Chakravartin: '" wheel ruler", of whom it is said: ' the wheels of his chariot roll unobstructedly everywhere', a world ruler.' As defined by the Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Bodhisattvahood is fully manifested in the world and occupies a leadership position.

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2 3

Describe what it is like to breath in the suffering of others Describe what it is like to radiate out a sense of great gentleness, kindness and fearlessness

Exercises: • • • • • Sit some more! After at least 10 minutes of sitting, practice tonglen for 10-20 minutes every day for one week and then describe your experiences. Sit in a public place; don't do actual tonglen practice of course, but see how you can feel how others feel quite naturally. (Interesting to do on the subway.) The next time you talk with a friend or relative, take the time to feel how they are really feeling. Before you go to sleep, review the day: notice in which ways you did manifest genuine kindness and which ways you didn't. Think about this carefully.

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INTERLUDE: A LIVING CHAKRAVARTIN
We began with the story of a prince who left his palace and developed a path that brings true royalty to everyone. Now we end with a story of a living teacher who is dynamically participating in the lineage of awakening began by the Buddha so many years ago.

In 1962, about 2,500 years after the Parinirvana 152 of Lord Buddha, Kunchok Palden, a young penniless Tibetan refugee, was travelling on her own around India visiting all the sacred places at which the Buddha had taught so long ago. Although she was tired from having climbed to the top of a hill above the town of Bodhgaya, all of a sudden she found herself going into labour, about to give birth to the son whom she had carried in her womb throughout her long, lonely pilgrimage. As she began the painful and indeed dangerous process of giving birth, all alone and out of doors, without friends or family, several Indian village women heard her cries and came to her help. In this way Ösel Mukpo was born on a hill above Bodhgaya, where the Buddha sat until attaining enlightenment. Ösel means light, or luminosity. Mukpo was his father's family name; his father’s formal buddhist name was Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. After being raised until seven years old by his mother in Bir, a small, Tibetan refugee settlement within sight of the Himalayas, Ösel Mukpo moved to live with his father in the West. Whilst still a young boy in India, one of his favorite games was to tell his mother that it was time to go to Jusun Lingpa. Lingpa means place. Jusung means something like special, or precious, but it is not a word that is used, really. All of a sudden, and with frighteningly authoritative insistence, he would command his mother to pack up all their belongings and leave for this magical kingdom. Sometimes, when she didn’t want to join in, he would even march off on his own. Another favorite game was to take a seat and proclaim himself king. Many, of course, thought these were just meaningless, childish fancies. However, in May 1995, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a wonderful thing happened: in a public, formal ceremony presided over by the supreme head of the Nyingma Lineage, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, Ösel Mukpo was formally enthroned as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. During the ceremony he was proclaimed as both the Sakyong of Shambhala and also the incarnation of Ju Mipham Rinpoche. Sakyong is a Tibetan title meaning ‘Earth Protector’ or ‘king’. Ju Mipham Rinpoche was a highly influential teacher who lived from 1856 - 1912 and whose emanation had never been recognised since he had said before dying that he would go to Shambhala and not take human birth again until the time was right. When the Buddha was born, the court seer prophesied that Prince Siddartha would either be a great Chakravartin or a Buddha, a great teacher. Born a prince destined to rule as king, he would die a monk. In 1980, in a private ceremony, H.H. Dingo Khyentse, Rinpoche, the then Supreme Head of the Nyingma School, had enthroned the Vidyadhara
152

Honorific term for ‘death’.

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Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche as the first Sakyong of Shambhala. When the Vidyadhara died, in his will he left a poem to be read to all his students after his death. "Born a monk, died a king; Such thunderstorm shall never stop. I shall be haunting you Along with the dralas.153" So now his son, born alone on an unpeopled hilltop, has been similarly enthroned, but this time a public ceremony attended by many local dignitaries from the government, the professions and arts. For the first time in many, many centuries, a Shambhala Sakyong has been enthroned and proclaimed to the world, and this Sakyong lives and teaches in the West. We do not know, of course, what the future holds. But an ancient prophesy states that after the Buddha’s parinirvana, the strength and influence of the teachings will at first flourish and then gradually wane. Indeed, when it is no longer a dominant influence in most cultures, a new secular power will form in order to keep the sacred wisdom-lineages intact. Furthermore, the prophesy states that long before the next Buddha will manifest, society in general will deteriorate, becoming more materialistic and selfish in bent. There might even be a great war again, or a period where the forces of kindness and gentleness are almost extinguished in the world, so cruel and heartless will be our culture. At that time, a small bastion of light will shine forth in the darkness. That beacon, that fortress of dharma, of true warriorship, of goodness and courage, will be the Kingdom of Shambhala. The main purpose of that kingdom will be to protect and nourish the traditions of perceiving, developing and transmitting sacred awareness. The road may be long and dark until then, but it is highly auspicious that at last the long-secret kingdom of Shambhala has been proclaimed again. Let all rejoice!

153

Drala means ‘god of sacredness’ or ‘power beyond aggression’, part of the esoteric Shambhala teachings introduced by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, to the West.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN INTRODUCTION TO VAJRAYANA SACRED NOWNESS "Tantra introduces us to the actuality of the phenomenal world. It is one of the most advanced, sharp and extraordinary perceptions that has ever developed. It is unusual and eccentric; it is powerful, magical, and outrageous; it is also extremely simple." 154 "As water within the earth remains free from defilement, The wisdom within emotions likewise dwells undefiled." 155 "Perfumes, colours and sounds echo one another." 156 "Tyger, tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" 157 "For everything that lives is Holy." 158 Before going further, once again let us review. Mindfulness is like paying attention to the still flame of a candle: it burns and is alive but also it is still and quiet; mindfulness is like listening to snow falling on a winter morning before any cars or people are up and about; it is peaceful. This is mindfulness, or shamatha. Awareness is the light which the flame shines around in all directions. It is still too, but also illuminating. Awareness is being aware that one is mindful and awake. Bodhichitta is awareness married to and expressed by heart; compassion is kindness without territory, it is awareness let loose. When we are truly mindful and aware so that our heart is fully open, then something simple and magical happens: a sense of sacredness dawns. If you like, take the time to look at an actual candle flame for a minute or so in a place where there is no breeze. Take a look at the candle again: there is the flame, still, burning, quiet, its light shining out in all directions. Along with this light, there is a glow at the centre of which is a golden halo around the middle of the flame. One cannot really tell whether this is an optical illusion or not but we always see this along with the flame. (This is just a physical example and the glow has no particular 'spiritual' significance such as being an 'aura' or suchlike.) When we are truly mindful and aware this third thing always happens, this 'glow' of sacredness.
154 155 156 157 158

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Journey without Goal, Shambhala Publications. Nagarjuna [ 2nd Century C.E. ]. Charles Baudelaire 1821 - 1867, from a letter. William Blake, 1757-1818, The Tyger. William Blake, Proverbs of Hell, A Song of Liberty.

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Sacredness is the heartfelt perceptual ocean into which we dive wherein no situation is essentially deeper or shallower than any other. Each moment, each person, each emotion is equally deep, equally vivid, equally worthy. Awakened heart is not just an inner experience: it is the blazing sun of reality shining out universally providing light, life and warmth for all. The third and last yana is called the Vajrayana (vajra means indestructible). According to Himalayan myth, there is a meteoric metal (i.e. from the heavens) that is harder than diamond - in other words more real than any substance from the earth, hence its indestructibility. When fashioned into a point [ see picture ] and thrown as a weapon it always subjugates the enemy and then returns to the hand of its owner. Since it can only be wielded by those who are completely awake, it is traditionally depicted as being held by enlightened bodhisattvas or chakravartins. The vajrayana is also known as the tantrayana (tantra means continuity). 159 There is complete continuity between the beginning of the path and the end, between confusion and buddhahood; indeed basically there is no difference between the two. Tantra is similar to the word yoga, which means union. Tantric awareness is the union or joining of confusion and wisdom in sacred wakefulness. In other words, in an awake, sacred space so-called confusion is equally awake because it exists in the same awake, sacred space as so-called wisdom; although it pretends otherwise to itself, confusion is just a façade, a masquerade, a fancy dress costume. You may pretend to yourself that you are a pompous arrogant lord or a miserable, starving wretch but in fact you are a buddha. The vajrayana is also known as the imperial yana because it speaks from the point of view of enlightenment. This is very helpful. Since we do have project mentality, let the project be the process; since we do need training, let the training involve letting go of concept or any idea of a project or a destination. We do have a project, a goal, but it is being, it is a process, it is the path, it is the way of manifesting as buddha right now on the spot. This is true for all yanas, of course, but it becomes particularly obvious at this stage. Sacredness has three aspects which relate to our three main aspects as sentient beings, namely body, speech and mind. Mind is the ruler. The sacredness expressed in body and speech happens in the context of sacred mind; also, when mind is composed and awake, the perception of sacredness dawns automatically in the other two, just as when you open the curtains sunlight immediately shines into the room within. Just as the physical world is made out of building blocks known as 'elements', so all living experiences include the 'element' of mind. Sacredness per se does not exist (another reason why it is
As is said in the Samaja sutra (from The Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p. 72): "Potential is explained with the word 'continuity' [tantra], And this continuity is taught to be primordial." Potential here means that we all have buddha nature, or the potential to awaken bodhichitta.
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indestructible!); it is simply a term describing the experience of awakened heart reality; so it is a quality rather than a phenomenon. At the same time, one could say that it is the true quality of the phenomenal world and this true, underlying quality is mind, is awakeness. Awareness is being aware of being mindful, and sacredness is awareness being aware of the awakeness of the world. In terms of mind, wakefulness is experienced as being primordial.160 If you take one glass of water from a mountain stream in Canada and one from the Ganges in India, they will be different in terms of the various local trace minerals, impurities and temperature. But the basic water in each glass is essentially the same: water is water. Similarly, although any experience or individual is unique just as the water in each glass is unique, primordially they are the same just as the water in each glass is elementally the same. This primordial, elemental 161 quality is awake mind, or we could just say 'awake'. Life is awake, mind is awake, 'we' are awake, 'the world' is awake. That is why the Buddha is called the Buddha, which simply means 'he who is awake' or 'Mr. Awake'. Wakefulness is the elemental, fundamental, primordial quality that exists within, before and behind everything. Experiencing this is called sacredness. The perception of sacredness reveals a world of extraordinary depth. Primordialness is the experience of how mind already exists before concept or thought - indeed before history or time itself. This experience is deep, fathomless and infinite; it is the timeless 'now' in which everything has, is and always will remain; profound and timelessly ancient, yet always awake, fresh and youthful - always 'now', always 'buddha'.162 Indeed, when we perceive this, we are realising the same mind as the Buddha's, the same 'awake', the exact same elemental buddhamind. Although this is the same mind as always, (i.e. my mind with my thoughts and opinions) also it is much more, for now we can see that the world itself is permeated with this same primordial 'mind'. In fact, we see it as primordial reality; buddhamind is the elemental nature of reality and we are not separate from that reality. If you really think about it: how could we be? Really think about it. As is said in the Samadhiraja Sutra: "Pure, crystal clear, and luminous, Undisturbed and uncompounded; This, the sugata essence,
Primordial: "constituting the first beginning; original; elementary." Element: " a first principle." 162 Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, from Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior Shambhala Publications: "When corruption enters a culture, it is because that culture ceases to be now; it becomes past and future. Periods in history when great art was created, when learning advanced, or peace spread, were all now. Those situations happened at the very moment of their now. But after now happened, then those cultures lost their now." The Shambhala tradition's main emphasis is on how to manifest sacred perception in secular culture. For further teachings about this, read "Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior" by Trungpa,Rinpoche.
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Is the nature that is primordially present."163 This experience is like the Dharma all the way through the path. There is a feeling of "I knew it all the time," or "why didn't I think of that before?" It is something that you have always known and understood, even though it is new and fresh each time. Sometimes it feels like an old memory suddenly revived, or that you are finally seeing your true (faceless) face, your true (selfless) self, the one you have always known. All teachings and insights have a flavour of this. Well, welcome to the chef: le Grand Maitre Sacré P.Ordiale! Whatever is dwelling in the 'buddha realm' of this timelessness, this primordial now, it is continuously busy being, busy radiating. Sacred speech or communication - the second aspect - is a sense of luminosity, of brilliance. Things are not just lumps of lifeless matter: they shine, they radiate, they have presence that is constantly communicating particular qualities. Colour, form, texture, smell, movement, all these communicate precisely and brilliantly. A purple flower is different from a blue, a red, a violet or a yellow one. The point here is not so much that they are different but that out of this primordial depth blossom communications of particular qualities. Take a flower, for example: the outer body of the flower is its petals, its stem, its root. But the speech quality is how the softness of the petals, their particular shape and colour, the firmness, the greenness, the height of the stem, how it sways in the breeze; all these communicate both a flowery energy as well as the way this particular flower goes about being one, the character of this flower and moreover how it is continuously 'flowerynessing'. Each moment is dawning, breathing, radiating, expressing itself perfectly in a sacred song of itself which is its unique way of expressing its particular primordialness moment by moment. 164 [ Picture of one of Trungpa, Rinpoche's flower arrangements ] When I go night-sailing - for example off Nova Scotia's South Shore - I see the channel buoys near the shore. Some of them blink on and off in silence; they are reassuring but also remind you how dark it is, how infinitely deep is the night. Some of them sound a bell as the housing moves in the waves echoing the fathomless strength and depth of the ocean and you sense how alone and small you are. Some of them mournfully sound a plaintive, ghostly whistle as the homeless, refugee wind passes through on its way to distant lands. In this way, the world is alive and constantly talking to us, always communicating, always awake. Although every sense perception, situation and being has their own language, in the sacred world you always understand it effortlessly; the
From The Light of Wisdom, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications, p. 72. Sugata is defined by the statements in the quotation. An additional description: " The space of beginningless time is the basis for all phenomena. Because of possessing it (sugata), all beings can also attain nirvana." 164 William Blake: Songs of Experience, the Introduction " Hear the words of the Bard! Who past, present and future sees, Whose ears have heard The Holy word That walk'd among the ancient trees."
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phenomenal world is the only dictionary you need because it too speaks the language of primordial mind. This is real communication, the communication of reality. In terms of body, the third aspect, the physical world of animate and inanimate is fully present. A rock, a tree, a gesture, a pen on a table or a plate with a few crumbs left on it. All have presence, all have their place. They have what we can call a 'monolithic' quality.165 'Monolithic' implies a sense of vajra wakefulness that even 'inanimate' objects have in the world of sacred perception. A good fictional example is the monolith in the famous "2001" film by Stanley Kubrick. First the apes in prehistoric times then the spacemen in the future could only gaze in open-minded wonder as they beheld this simple monolith which did nothing but radiate a powerful sense of non-conceptual being, of presence. (Interestingly enough, its power was to go beyond time - so it was very 'primordial' in nature.) This quality is true for our bodies - our arms, legs, torsos, eyes, lips and movements etc. - as well as for the rest of the physical world. Another interesting film is "Koyanisquatsi" which shows the sacredness and dignity of the natural, physical world and then later on how it is degraded by speed, ignorance and ego. The degraded part of the film is quite uncomfortable. Akira Kurosawa's "Dreams" is unquestionably one of the best expressions of sacred perception - in terms of body speech and mind - that has ever been made on film.166 With all this, please remember that we are discussing immediate, directly perceived experience rather than anything fantasised or second-hand. 167 The teacher Gurdjieff was driving through France one day when his party stopped for a little break. He was walking along a country path when suddenly he stopped and picked up a pebble, saying: "Ah, so there you are, you little rascal! I wondered where you had got to!" Another important caveat: ‘sacredness nowness’ is not ‘sacred cowness!’ In other words, you can't say that a cow is sacred but a horse is not. Sacredness is not something that we can capture and keep in a shrine protected and divorced from an everyday reality which is not sacred, which is degraded. We are also not talking about a sense of awe and reverence for a higher and more 'holy' power that is purer than we are. Perhaps this is true from the point of view of samsara talking about nirvana, but the perception of sacredness in this context fully joins samsara and nirvana together. This is tantra. Samsara is nirvana. The earth we stand on may seem either sacred or profane depending on our level of mindfulness, awareness and bodhichitta but also it is fundamentally and forever sacred at the same time. In the sacred world we still go to the toilet, we make sacred noises,
Monolith means "single block or piece of stone of considerable size... having a uniform, massive or intractable quality." Intractable means "hard to shape or work with, adamant." Adamant means "an impenetrably hard substance formally sometimes identified with the diamond." This is like the notion of 'vajra'. 166 I have heard that this great Japanese film director said that this was 'the film he had waited all his life to make'. (Again, when you experience primordialness, it feels like you have waited all your life to experience this moment.) 167 For a highly artistic and amusing rendering of the living quality of objects, read Tom Robbin's "Even Cowgirls get the Blues" starring Pointed Stick, Conch Shell, Spoon, Can-of- Beans, and Dirty Sock!
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produce sacred shit, and wipe our sacred bottoms with sacred paper - so also the food at Macdonald's is sacred if you can perceive it as such! Many people nowadays think that one doesn't need real practice and discipline for all this because we could just pop a pill. Although these things may or may not give one a powerful glimpse, the problem is that because they are not based on real practice and discipline, it is almost inevitable that a) the experience will be highly temporary and/or 'climactic' in nature and b) one will bring along all ones tendencies to fixate and conceptualise, all one's habitual passion, aggression and ignorance. The result is a bit like putting super high-octane jet fuel into an old clunker. It might really zoom along for a while but it usually blows up somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Then getting up and going back to school or work the next morning is the real pill! So when we experience this sense of sacredness, everything is primordially awake, communicative and present. This is true all the time whether we are aware of it or not. Although we might think that we are egos or we might think that we are confused, in fact we are not. Our sense of ego is illusory: it is like a wave thinking it is separate from the ocean; or it is like a plastic flower, an imitation of the real and living thing. In fact, the real world is splendid and colourful, brilliant, powerful, kind, expansive, deep, wise, miraculous and alive. Not only that: our universe is awake. We are all basically buddha including those plastic flowers! Think about it. Better yet, open your eyes and heart and enjoy it! At the end of this so-called 'journey', we are confronted with simple, naked reality. In fact, there is no journey and none ever needed to be taken. But as long as we ward off reality by identifying with an ego we miss it all the time, we are doomed to remaining asleep and perpetuating more suffering. Although we do end up playing the chief role in our very own soap, we never get to be in the real and more potently colourful opera of life.168 So once again, the path of wakefulness does not involve mastering trance states in which we happily dwell, shielded from reality, all comfortable and cosy until we die peacefully in our beds at a ripe old age with a smile on our faces. The tantric path involves being in contact with reality or, as Trungpa, Rinpoche liked to say, 'going back to square one', the beginning, the primordial basics. In tantric language this is known as 'things as they are' or suchness. One perceives reality as completely ordinary, clear and sparkling - like fresh water from a highland stream at dawn. Because it is so ordinary, so uncomplicated and so undistorted it is fresh, awake, magical, splendid, eternally young, eternally present and completely awake. As Trungpa, Rinpoche describes: 169

168 169

Opera too is one of the West's great sacred traditions, for example Maria Callas singing Puccini. Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, from Journey without Goal, Shambhala Publications.

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"Fundamentally speaking, indestructibility, or vajra nature, is basic sanity. It is the total experience of tantra, the experience of the enlightened state of being. This sanity is based on the experience of clarity, which comes from the practice of meditation. Through the meditation practice of the three yanas we discover a sense of clarity, of unconditional clarity. Such clarity is ostentatious and has immense brilliance. It is very joyful and it has potentialities of everything. It is a real experience. Once we have experienced this brilliance, this farseeing, ostentatious colourful, opulent quality of clarity, then there is no problem. That is vajra nature. It is indestructible. Because of its opulence and richness, it radiates constantly, and immense, unconditional appreciation takes place. That combination of indestructibility and clarity is the basic premise of the tantric Buddhist teachings." Questions: 1 2 3 4 Explain 'primordial' in the context as described in this chapter. Examine your culture in terms of its body, speech and mind aspects, and then identify, if you can, aspects in which sacred body, speech and mind is expressed. If there is no difference between confusion and wisdom, what's the big deal with all this path business and why shouldn't we just do whatever we feel like? Write a poem that is not about sacred speech, but that is sacred speech.

Exercises: • Clear a space on a table and place some ordinary objects on it, just a few. Tune into their monolithic quality. Imagine that each object is itself an enormous monument of great significance. Go to a public place again and watch the people, ‘primordial buddha people’, go by. Look at a tree for a three minutes. Sit some more - a lot more!

• • •

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DEDICATION OF MERIT
According to the Mahayana tradition, after every practice session or dharma activity one confesses any mistakes and dedicates the merit so that others will benefit from whatever 'good karma' is generated in the process of writing or reading this book. In this spirit: Whatever mistakes or confusions expressed in this book are purely my own fault and not the fault of the teachings. If this work has been of any benefit in helping people in our world to understand some aspects of the teachings and to appreciate the ever-present immediacy of the living lineages of the Awakened Ones, it is purely because of their enlightened compassion and wisdom, their unstinting and unselfish service over the past twenty five centuries and more, and most especially because of the extraordinary kindness, skill and courage of Chögyam Trungpa XI, Rinpoche who was generous enough to work with so many of us, including such crumpled and tattered remnants of British-American civilisation such as myself. As is said in the Bodhisattva Vow ceremony: "Enjoyment of the glory of long life, Insightful mind, discriminating prajna, and so on, Whatever richness there is in samsara and nirvana, May the goodness of all these spontaneously be present. May the teachings, the only source of benefit and happiness, Remain for a long time, And may the victory banner of the life of great beings who hold the teachings Be firmly established. May any sentient being suffering from disease Be quickly liberated from disease. May all the diseases of beings, Without exception, never arise. May the eighty thousand kinds of obstructing spirits be pacified, May there be freedom from harmful defects and discord, And with harmonious and abundant goodness May excellent well-being be present here and now. May the dharma teachings of the Practice Lineage, The blazing glory of auspiciousness, the ornament of the world, Flourish west of the kingdom of Tibet, the Land of Snow. May there by auspicious peace throughout the world. I supplicate you to bring peace to the world."170
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Copyright 1984 by the Nalanda Translation Committee. All rights reserved.

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POETRY BY SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE
“Poetry is such that when it leaves your lips it becomes a foreign language.” 171 His Eminence Sakyong Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, the eldest son of the Vidyadharya, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, is the President of Shambhala International and a lineage holder of the Kagyü and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The following poems are excerpted, with permission, from his book “ Smile of the Tiger.” 172

TIME IS SHORT Let’s talk about directness. Let’s talk about saying what we see. Let’s talk about feeling movement when it happens. Let’s talk about the sudden rise of energy When we know something is right. What is the blueness that holds our heart? What is it to twirl, hold, hug and play In a soft milky cloud that tingles? What is the experience of stripping the very skin off bamboo? What is it to gaze directly, fully, And shall we say spiritually, Into the heavens And hold the moon, mesmerized by its glow? Is this the play of directness? Joy comes when we see a yak Dancing in the highland meadows. Power comes when we see a mountain, Full of its heritage, Displaying all its wonder. In this world, where uncertainty seems to dominate the space, Let us at least say certainly that we don’t know what certainty is. Be heavy and walk light. Smile and have a heavy heart. Be open and always know that time is short. 16 January 1994, Marburg, Germany.
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Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Smile of the Tiger, by Vajradhatu Publications.

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SENSEFUL PRACTICE The profundity of being has many subtleties. When we talk about stillness, we chatter. When we attempt our meditative insights, We have peeled our own skin. Sitting with mindfulness Is a duality we no longer dare. Sitting Being Motionless with movement Speed that makes us still Joy deep enough to envelop our whole being. Mist rises early in the morning. Mist rises on even ground. In this valley of ordinary possibilities. 3 May 1994 St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia.

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CAUGHT IN THE OPEN GROUND Considering that all things come to an end, This transitory life has many subtleties. Pinching oneself or the autumn sky Creates movement and unknown places. What is workable and what is unworkable Culminate in the sweat that runs down my face. The sweat runs into my hair in a horizontal way. Considering that I woke up knowing what I wanted to do, I realize that the asana of sitting meditation Is the profound path. What is the point of telling people Whose memory is burdened by senseless chatter? Come and jump into this river of unparallesed force and power. Let it take your concepts of jumping And jump. Whatever reality has been created now dissolves Into the pure blueness from which it arose. 3 May 1994 St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia.

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POETRY BY A.HOWES: BLESSINGS The hermit crab, scuttling across moistened sand, balancing on each grain with each pointed, crustaceously articulated tentacle of movement; small beady eyes under vast sun and broadswept flat of swathing, sweaty, well-lathered beach shaving each moment down to its infinitesimally finite point and beacon of life. Heaven glistens on your upraised claw-tips; Earth is a nice round shell, so manifoldly perfect; Life is the scuttling, drifting, articulated spice that, like gentle wafting incense, invokes and provokes wonder and blessings. WHISPER Each moment is flowering cluster Each breeze a messenger of delight Each sunrise a blessing. Grappling with thorns and ploughing the mulch under and other mundane mayhems is table setting for the feast. Who are you to deny or affirm? Who are you to praise or blame? In the whispering corn fields the throbbing forests the thundering metropolae I hear the undercurrents of true love. A whisp of fancy is the cocktail and breakfast is a banquet.

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NOVEMBER MORNING Still and quiet; The mountains purple-ish, brooding, naked and powerful in the morning chill. Frost and mist, Crowning them, hovering, Filled with blessings and mystery. And you can glimpse through that and see, beyond all, above all, Bright virgin morning blue, Another layer of freshness, of depth, of delight Of sky. Birdsong, Pulsing wingbeat of spiralling sound. The mist has suddenly disappeared, Clouds gather in presence and softness Now surrounded with more pervasive and resplendent blue Radiating oatmealing colours of Golden butter and motherly creams Warmed by the thickening sun of a fresh, throbbing day. Highland Dawn! Dawn, Kalapa Valley, November 7 1999.

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FURTHER READINGS
By Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications: The Myth of Freedom Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism The Tibetan Book of the Dead Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior Myth of Freedom Glimpses of Shunyata Journey without Goal The Heart of the Buddha The Light of Wisdom by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications Shantarakshita, A survey of Buddhism, Shambhala Publications Tibetan Folk Tales, Shambhala Publications Entering the Stream, Shambhala Publications The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, by Gampopa, Shambhala Publications The Marvellous Companion by Dharma Publishing Old Path White Clouds by Tchich Nhat Hanh, Rider Books The Long Discourses of the Buddha, the Digha Nikaya, Wisdom Publications The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, the Majjhima Nikaya, Wisdom Publications Dakini Teachings, by Padmasambhava, Shambhala Publications The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Shambhala Publications The Practice of Tranquillity and Insight, by Trangu Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications A Book of Heaven and the Earth ( about Confucius ) by Kojin Shimomura, University of Tokyo Press

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WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES FURTHER READINGS, SOURCES

CONTACTS FOR MEDITATION INSTRUCTION There are many different centres offering buddhist meditation instruction. However, the author is only familiar with those which are part of the Shambhala International organisation, whose main addresses are listed below. Meditation instruction is always available free of charge. Shambhala International: Canada and Europe US Web: Email: 1084 Tower Rd., Halifax NS B3H2Y5, Canada Tel: 1 902 425 4275. 1345 Spruce St., Boulder, CO 80302 Tel: 1 303 444 0190
www.shambhala.org

info@shambhala.org

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