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Thrangu House, Oxford, Summer 1995 Originally Transcribed by Cait Collins, Summer 1997

The Heart Sutra, as you all know, is one of the most important sutras. It describes the central philosophy of Buddhism, which is shunyata or emptiness. From the Mahayana point of view, all the Buddha's teachings are categorised into what are called the Wheels of Dharma and are in three sections, like three sermons you can say. The first Wheel of Dharma includes the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path etc, being the Vinaya teachings which are the most common kind of Buddhist teachings. These are found in Theravada Buddhism; but they are also found in Mahayana Buddhism where they form the basic Buddhist teachings. Then you have what we call the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma, which are the Prajnaparamita teachings. These Prajanaparamita teachings are of many different collections, and the largest collection that we have is what we in Tibetan call the 'bum: The Hundred Thousand Slokas, or Hundred Thousand Stanzas of Prajnaparamita Sutra. They are defined according to length; for example, one hundred thousand slokas where a sloka is a stanza. In Tibetan translation it runs into twelve volumes of about a thousand pages each and is the longest, or expanded version of the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Then there is a

slightly abridged Prajnaparamita Sutra, known as nyis khri or twenty thousand slokas, which is about two or three volumes in length. Then there is the brgyad stong phra which is eight thousand slokas in one big volume. Then you have rdo rje gcod pa or the Diamond Sutra which is around fifty pages. And then you have the Heart Sutra which is just about two pages. So the Heart Sutra is the essence, the quintessence of all these larger sutras put together in very precise words, in a very short form but containing everything. The Heart Sutra is regarded as one of the most important sutras. It is recited in many of the monasteries, and even individuals recite it every day or many times in the day as a daily recitation. So when anything happens to us we recite the Heart Sutra; and at the beginning of every teaching or every kind of activity or practice we start with the Heart Sutra. It's almost the common tradition that to start with this recitation of the Heart Sutra it wards off all obstacles. This is because the Heart Sutra gives the understanding of the complete reality, the truth. What more important method could there be than to be aware of the truth, to ward off all obstacles or problems on whatever path? Therefore the Heart Sutra also came to be used as a kind of a mantra recitation to clear your path, getting out all of the obscurations and things like that.

Now for this Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra has been translated into English, but it was first translated into Tibetan from Sanskrit. It was also translated into many other languages including Chinese, and there are many English translations of The Heart Sutra. There is one by Edward Con-ze. Is it Conze or Con-ze? Some people say Con-ze. Some people say Edward Con-ze and I used to say Edward Conze, but no, that is wrong! You must say Edward Con-ze! But then somebody also told me that the person who translated the bar do tho sgrol was EvansWentz, and I was told that I must understand that EvansWentz was a woman. But just a few days back I saw a photo, and I am confused! Yes, the person who told me was very specific and I asked: 'Are you really sure? We always used to think he was a man.' I was then told: 'No no no no, I am completely sure it is a woman. So many people mixed it up. They think it's a man but actually it is a woman. It was as if the person who told me was there, as if he had met Evans Wentz! So I can't say whether it was Conze or Con-ze or what! I think it was the same person, but maybe not! Anyway, maybe we should go to the text. I have just been reading the translation by Edward Conze and his commentary. It is quite interesting sometimes, but I'm not going to comment on the translation and commentary as sometimes it is not so nice, though only a little bit. In Brussels last year I was teaching the Jewel Ornament of

Liberation. First they asked me to teach the Jewel Ornament and I said: yes, that's very nice, and then I went there and somebody came to me and asked: 'Why have you decided to teach this Jewel Ornament of Liberation?' I replied: 'Why not?' 'Oh, that's the most boring teaching I have ever -.' I said: 'No, but that is the most precise, most inspiring, and the best ever written thing in Tibetan!' 'No no no, it's the worst thing! You should have done something else or nobody will come!' I said: 'I don't know, I think it's very nice.' Then I went down with Guenther's translation, and I started teaching. Then I realised what she meant! And when I started to comment, I said: 'I don't think this is the right way of translation, because this means this, this means this, according to me.' When I finished the teaching and went up to my room, somebody came charging in saying: 'How dare you say such a thing against such a great translator? Who are you to criticise?' And I said: 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to criticise him! I was just trying to explain what I was thinking!' So the next day I went down and said: 'I must apologise, but I was not criticising Guenther, I was just commenting on some of the translations!'

Although that book was published in 1959; at the time, Guenther just translated from Tibetan, but there were not many people outside Tibet who knew much Tibetan, nor Buddhism; so was it not a great thing? Of course Guenther made some mistakes, but it's all right, everybody makes mistakes. Anyway, I am little bit hesitant to go through this! I think Conze has translated from Chinese. The Tibetan version and the Chinese version have some differences, I don't know, but I don't think they are on the text. In the Chinese version you don't have all this prologue, the starting, how it started or how the discussion went or things like that. That is not there; it just starts with Avalokiteshvara saying this-this -this-this, like that; so it's very short, shorter than the Tibetan version. The Tibetan version was translated from Sanskrit, and in the Sanskrit version they have all the things that are found now. Do you have this text or this translation? I am not exactly sure whose translation this is but I found it in the Rigpa books and I then copied it. I think this is more or less Trungpa Rinpoche's translation. In the beginning of this there is a stanza, a kind of homage to the Prajnaparamita. This homage is not part of the Heart Sutra but it's a tradition to say this homage every time before reciting the Heart Sutra. Therefore it is there, and is a very concise description; it's the essence of Heart Sutra put into four lines. So I think it will be a good thing to comment on this a little bit too; it will give you a

broad outline I think. If you don't want it, I can leave it, but it is also from Buddha's teachings. Actually, the Heart Sutra, being the teaching about sunyata or emptiness is very deep, very profound, and cannot be understood by everybody. Buddha even said that unless you have the capacity to take it on, it should not be talked about. There are people who become afraid of the idea of emptiness. If somebody has too much attachment to things or too much of a solid view and great attachment, they get very frightened even when mentioning that things are empty or void. So The Buddha said that emptiness should not be taught to those kind of people and nor should these kind of things be talked about. Actually, from the Buddhist point of view, what we call rigs or buddhanature you can say, is in every being. But some are more arisen, more ripened, while some are less ripened or have not blossomed at all. So those who have a more opened, or blossomed and awakened buddhanature can take on these teachings, and they will have the understanding of these teachings more quickly and very strongly. So according to Buddha, how do we know whether somebody's buddhanature is more ripened or not? He gave two indications or signs of whether somebody is more inclined to have their own buddhanature more open or not. The first sign is compassion: if somebody is








naturally giving concern for others' benefit, as well as being bothered by the suffering of others, then you can say he or she has the great sign of the bodhisattva's potentiality, with their buddhanature being more on the surface, more open. Another sign is whether he or she gets afraid or delighted to hear the teachings: if somebody gets delighted and joyful in hearing the teachings about transcendental wisdom, sunyata and interdependence, then the Buddha also said it must be understood that it's also a great sign and a very significant thing. It means that their bodhi, buddhanature, or buddha essence is more ripened and more open. So for those people who have a natural interest, a natural joy, or get pleased or want to hear about the transcendental wisdom and transcendental knowledge, and if they read about it and do not get afraid but can relate to it a little bit; that means those persons have a very strong and developed state of buddhanature. I am sure all of you are like that, no? So now this first stanza: It is a praise and prostration to the Prajnaparamita. As you all know of the word, from Prajna, jna in Sanskrit means knowledge, the understanding, wisdom you can say, knowing what is right and what is wrong. Pra is the prefix which in Sanskrit means very much the best. So prajna means the best of

the knowledge, or the best understanding. Sometimes it is translated as discriminative wisdom, because it's the wisdom. Usually with this prajna there is shes rab and ye shes, jnana. Shes rab and ye shes are very difficult to translate, but both are found in the main Buddhist teachings, and when you say ye shes it can be translated as wisdom; and when you say shes rab we translate it as wisdom. But actually there's not that much difference but there is some difference. Shes rab is the more discriminating kind of wisdom, seeing things clearly as they are. With ye shes, the ye means there all the time, the primordial wisdom. It's the same in the end, but there are certain differences. When you reach the shes rab, and when your shes rab is completely exposed, you've completely understood and completely realised it, so then you have also realised the ye shes. Ye shes is the completion of the shes rab; shes rab leads to ye shes. Ye shes is the Buddha's or completely enlightened being's consciousness, and primordial wisdom. Shes rab is the way to see it and is the wisdom which sees the ye shes. From Prajnaparamita, Para means the other side, mita is to go; so to go to the other side. It's as if there's a river, to go beyond to the other side. So with Prajnaparamita, paramita is always translated as transcendental. It's going beyond, to go to the other shore. So Prajnaparamita means the prajna, and it's not just the very best kind of knowledge or understanding, it's understanding, the

realisation which has gone beyond the samsaric state of mind. First we have to understand very clearly what the samsaric state of mind is, and what is the non-samsaric state of mind. The samsaric state of mind or nyams 'khor ba and nyams bde is when we have this strong identification of self. It is a strong identification of like when we say: 'I am so-and-so, these are so and so, this is others, this is me, I like this, I don't like this, those I like, I must get, I must run after them, those I don't like, I fear, I must run away from them.' It is the mental state where you are continuously and without stopping always either running after something or running away from something, and being busy in this way all the time. If you are like that then that is being in the samsaric state of mind. So somebody who understands the Prajnaparamita or any other kind of paramita is to go beyond that state of mind where you don't have to run after or away from anything. If that happens, then we call this 'arya'. Below that is what is called so so skye bo. Unless you have reached that, or gone beyond that level then its called the so so skye bo. So so skye bo is very difficult to translate: it's means a samsaric being, and once you have got out of that state of mind then you are called a 'phags pa. 'Phags pa means a kind of leap: 'phags literally means to leap or to jump; 'phags pa means someone who is little bit above that. So

when you become a 'phags pa you are no longer a so so skye bo; you are no longer a samsaric individual or a samsaric being; you have gone beyond samsara. Once you have gone beyond and above samsara, then you have become a 'phags pa, an arya. You will find arya mentioned in many of these kinds of teaching, such as arya Avalokiteshvara, or other beings described as arya. But it does not mean the Aryan arya when describing the Indian race, which is called Aryan. What is meant is another arya which is that which goes against the prthagjana, which is the Sanskrit word for so so skye bo. Prthag means each one, or individual. Jana means a kind of separated individual. So so means one one, each each, kind of separated. Prthag means each. Jana means being. 'Each each being' means you have your identitification of the self, a self entity; so I am just one person and all others are not me. It is that way of thinking, and is called the so so skye bo. Once you are so so skye bo it means you are in the samsaric state of mind, so paramita means to go beyond the samsaric state. The prajnaparamita is the understanding, a state of seeing, a state of wisdom, and a state of mind. This is what gives a description of this state of mind, and this state of mind is the wisdom of the Buddha. What actually gives birth to a buddha, and what actually produces a buddha is the prajnaparamita. So the prajnaparamita is symbolised as a lady, the mother of the buddhas, as the one who gives


birth to the Buddha, the enlightened being. That is why we always call it shes rab pha rol phyin ma , which is the name of this feminine, mother figure. There is also the image of Prajnaparamita which is of a lady with four hands. She is holding a sutra [in her left hand, and a vajra in her right hand]. Anyway what is given here is not about the figure but about the main teaching. Now, that understanding, the state of being, the state of mind, and the state of wisdom of the prajnaparamita is the ma sam. Ma means to say, talk, or to express; sam means wanting to express, like `I want to express. But brjod mi means cannot express, cannot say. The understanding or realisation of the prajnaparamita is of such a nature that even if you have experienced it, like the Buddha did, this is what the Buddha's expression is. This stanza is the expression of the Buddha himself, in that he says: I want to express it, I want to say it, I want to talk about it, but I can't. Brjod mi is beyond expression. Brjod means to talk, say, to express; brjod mi means no. So here it says, inexpressible by speech or thought. It is meaning this exactly or literally, but it means the same thing: it can't be expressed in speech or thought. With ma skye, skye means born, to be born, to grow, and is skye pa. Ma skye means unborn; ma is the negative. Ma 'gags means unceasing, not ceased. Nam mkha' means the sky, is in the nature of space, in the nature of the sky.


Now this says everything; that is, with Ma skye, if you understand the nature of the unborn nature of things, then there is no difficulty in understanding the prajnaparamita. Unborn is a very important word, so what do we mean by 'unborn nature'? We will come to it later, but I think it is good to explain unborn a little bit here. When we think of anything and we try to examine or analyse anything, there is nothing, no entity in the whole of the universe which is completely one or is just one and cannot be divided. So if there is nothing which is just one, then all the time it is compounded of many things coming together. But how do these many things come together to make some kind of thing? It is because they are interdependent; they are not independent. You cannot find anything, any entity, which is completely independent. That is the most important thing, because there is nothing which is one. If something has to be independent then it should be just one, not depending on other things. But because you can't find anything as one thing, one entity which is completely and totally independent without depending on anything, therefore it is interdependent. Everything is interdependent. Now because everything is interdependent, therefore there is nothing which is one, it is all compounded; and because everything is interdependent, it always changes. There is nothing which is completely permanent, because if something is to be permanent it has to be independent and just one, and only then can it remain all the time.


Because there is nothing which is completely one, completely independent, and completely permanent; when you see things, whatever they are, at the moment they seem to be very solid and very vivid. But when you look at things more deeply, they are made of many things, and have many many parts. And even each part, if you take one out, goes into many parts, and they also go to many parts, and they also go to many parts. If you consider a material thing, it goes into atoms, and if you divide the atoms, they can be divided until they almost disappear becoming like a kind of nothing. So what you might mean to say is that it seems as if everything is made of nothing. So even when you see this thing, it's made of nothing. You see it because it is interdependent and is depending on many things; so because it is depending on many things therefore it has no essence [from its own side]. That is the true nature, in that the true nature of things is their unborn nature. When you see things, its the same with anything whether it is material, immaterial, or anything, it has an unborn nature. It [initially] appears very vivid, seeming very much to be there and solid; but at the same time it has no real essence. It is interdependent with many things, and is an interplay like a rainbow.


So therefore when you look at it carefully, that is why from the Buddhist point of view this philosophical question of where does everything come from has been asked since the beginning of human civilisation. How does everything start? Does everything come from something, or does everything come from nothing? That's the most basic philosophical question asked. If everything comes from something, then where does that something come from; and the something before that, and that something, and that something? There is no end. So if everything comes from nothing, then what is that nothing, and how does nothing become something? This has been confusing the philosophers throughout human history, and there has never been a real answer to it. That's why the Buddha said that if you investigate it you can go on and on and on all the time, but you will not find an answer because the question itself is based on an assumption. He said that you cannot find anything by going into it this way, into finding the causes. The only way to find the answer is to ask what these things are, not where do things come from. By asking where something comes from, you have firstly assumed that it is there. But maybe it is not there, so what is the nature of it? That's what the Buddha said, and if you really know the nature of it then the question of where it comes from dissolves on its own.


So when you find the true nature of the thing, the question of where it comes from does not arise, because you will see the emptiness of it. You will see the voidness, you will see the non-essential nature of it, and you will see the transcendental way things are. You will also see the interdependent nature of it, with everything depending on another, another, and another. When something is not there then everything else is not there; so everything is dependent on each other, even though everything seems to be there independently. What the great Tibetan philosopher Tsongkhapa, who founded the Gelugpa school, meant to say was that because there is nothing which is not interdependent, therefore there is nothing which is not empty in its nature. Because there is nothing which is not empty in its nature, therefore there is nothing which is not interdependent in its nature. So interdependence and emptiness are the same thing. From the negative or negation point of view, you can look at it and say: `this is empty in its nature. From the positive or assertion point of view, you say this is interdependent. So with interdependence and emptiness, the understanding of the interdependent nature of things and understanding of sunyata, emptiness, is exactly the same. Therefore if you understand interdependence you understand emptiness. So if you understand this you understand the prajnaparamita. That's why when you say unborn nature, it has an unborn


nature. So when it is unborn it is also unceasing in its real terms and in a real way. Of course it seems to come and it seems to go, but at its ultimate level, in its ultimate truth, in a real sense there is nothing to be born, being it's unborn nature, So therefore when it is unborn it is unceasing, and there is no need to stop. It can stop being only if it has some time coming up for it to stop. So when you understand the unborn nature you will also understand the unceasing nature. Therefore, to see these two, unborn and unceasing, as just one thing, is like the example given of the sky. But what is the sky? We say this is the sky but where is the sky? Here is the sky. But then, where is the sky really? There is nothing, the sky is not there, it has never been born, so when did the sky first start? You cannot say this is an irrelevant question, and you cannot say that the sky came from here, or that from this date the sky will go away. When we say this is the sky, the sky is actually our own invention. We say this is the sky, and then everybody says yes this is the sky. If I ask where is the sky, everybody knows where. Even a four year old child will say this is the sky. But if you really want to know what is the sky, you cannot find it. So this is why it says nam mkha': it is in the nature of the sky. Now this is also very important, the unborn nature, the unceasing nature, which is like the nature of the sky.


With so sor rang rig ye shes: so sor means individually, each one; rang rig means knowing on itself, awareness, wisdom awareness; ye shes means the primordial wisdom. With sho yul ba: sho yul is the object of enjoyment, the object of experience; so this is something which can be understood, which can be realised and which you can become aware, through the wisdom, the ye shes, the primordial wisdom. What it means to say is that the true nature of things, in its real sense, the way it really is, is a kind of gone beyond, the prajnaparamita. It could be experienced as this awareness, a non-dualistic awareness, the awareness of the transcendental wisdom. But as long as you have a dualistic way of thinking, a two-dimensional way of thinking, we cannot grasp it. The way things are, the real way things remain at their ultimate level is very difficult from our samsaric way of seeing and very difficult to define. This is why it cannot be expressed. But from a samsaric point of view we tend to say either this is or it isnt. So although we may be experiencing it all the time, and we may be seeing it all the time, we cannot define it in our minds. The moment we start defining it, it becomes one-sided. There is a very nice cartoon on this. You may have seen this where a Zen - Chinese man in Taiwan has written a book called The Zen Wisdom. Have you seen it? Oh, it's fantastic! The whole thing is a cartoon, but it's all about Zen. It's very nice. In the beginning there is a cartoon of a


big fish and a small fish in the sea, and the small fish asks the big fish: 'Everybody is talking about the ocean, and water. Everybody is talking about the water, but where is the water?' And the old one, the big fish, replies: 'Oh, it's everywhere. It's inside you, it's outside you. Everything that is around us is the water.' But the small fish doesn't understand, so he asks: 'But where is it? There is nothing inside or outside of me.' You know, thats very well put, isn't it? We are immersed in that state, but so much of that we don't see. Maybe when a fish is born in the water and lives in the water, it can't or does not know anything other than the water. So it can't ask what is water. It's like that: that which can only be experienced by discriminating awareness wisdom. So this is the conclusion: 'Mother of the victorious ones of the three times, I praise and prostrate.' From Dus gsum rgyal ba: dus gsum means the three times; rgyal ba means the victorious ones, or the buddhas. Rgyal ba is one of the synonyms of the Buddha. Victorious one means he is able to conquer, able to win from or able to destroy anything that is negative, and all the obstacles and obscurations have been defeated; so therefore he can be called a victorious one. There is the mother of all the buddhas, of the past, of the present, and all the buddhas of the future. Anyone who has to realise the truth, who has to become a buddha, who has to become enlightened,


has to have this [prajnaparamita], has to understand this, has to have this awareness. So therefore someone can never become a buddha without understanding this, so this is the mother of all the buddhas. And to this mother of all the buddhas, I prostrate, I go for refuge, I praise. That is the stanza, and this is very important; it is supposed to be the heart of all the Heart Sutra. So therefore this is done as a prostration or a praise or introduction to the Heart Sutra. Maybe I shouldn't go much further, as it's quite a complicated subject. So if you have any questions to ask, you are most welcome. Q: Rinpoche, could you explain something about when we meditate that we try not to be in the past or future. What is the relevance of the buddhas of the past and the future? R: Buddhas of the past and the future means those who have seen the truth in the past, and those who will be seeing the truth in the future; just that. It's a way of saying all the buddhas. Q: There's nothing to work on there ...? R: No.


Q: Rinpoche, I understand there's a difference between the notion of interdependence and the idea of emptiness, and I wonder if you could explain what the difference is. R: What's the difference? There is no difference. Q: No difference at all? R: No difference at all. That's what I was trying to say. It's completely the same, but it is talking about the same thing in two different ways. When you are saying that everything is empty, the emphasis is given on emptiness because we have such a strong sense of reality or solidity. All of us have a very strong sense of solidity, and of being: that I am there, others are there, my friends are there, my enemies are there, things are there, the things that I fear are there, the things that I like are there. Therefore I go after things that I like, and I run away from things that I don't like. All this samsaric state of mind comes from this misunderstanding of reality, by not seeing how they are, and assuming that they are real and they are there and they are very solid. It is this assumption or conditioning of our mind that everything is really there solidly and strongly. This is the basic ground-cause for all this samsaric state of mind. So to get out of that state of mind you come to realise that everything is not as real as it appears. Everything has a certain amount of non-reality: it's not independent but interdependent, it's not one but


compounded, it's not permanent but impermanent, it has a sense of emptiness, it has no essence at all and is not as solid as we think. Even a little of bit of understanding of this makes us a little bit freer from our clutching. Of course it's not just an intellectual understanding, and intellectual understanding is a concept. We say that everything is empty, but that is a label, and is almost the same as saying that everything is not empty. It's just an intellectual label, a concept. It might not work that much nor affect us that much. But if you understand this more deeply and at a more experiential level, then your attachment to things, your attachment and your fear, which are together, can loosen. The more deeper you understand that, the more your fear and attachment get loosened, and therefore you become freer. That's why it's a very direct teaching to get out of the samsaric state of mind. So when this compulsion to run after things and run away from things stops, then you have got peace, and you have got complete satisfaction. Then you have become peaceful, and you have become free: that's the result. So that's why there is the reason for talking or giving emphasis on emptiness. It is not that when you say empty, everything is empty and it all disappears. It does not disappear; it's the way that these things are empty even though they are there all the time, so they wouldn't disappear. What we are


talking about is the nature of everthing. It's not that when you understand the nature of the emptiness of the altar that the altar will then disappear, and it's not that if you know the nature of the emptiness of the altar, the altar will be still there. But you don't have that much of a strong attachment or aversion to the altar. So in the same way, if you see the emptiness or the interdependent nature of yourself, yourself remains as it is because it is like that all the time. But your way of seeing it will be changed, as well as your attitude towards it and the way that you grasp on it. Q: Isn't it that freedom is the step towards compassion? The freedom of not being in the samsaric state is..........? R: That is not only a step to compassion, it is almost the real compassion. Because as long as you don't have that freedom you still have selfishness. However hard you try, you still have the idea that 'this is me and this is others, and I want to have something a little bit better than the others'. So as long as you have fear and you have expectation then you have not got completely unconditional compassion, and it is always a little bit artificial. But once you are free from there, then you dont have to cultivate compassion. You are completely free and you have nothing to fear, and there is just the compassionate being.


Q: Could you say a little bit more about the concept of emptiness or sunyata? I expect the word bothers me. Intellectually, I think I follow the idea that it's like a seamless web, with no individual thing, not being divisible and so on. But when you get down to the point where you say you'll come to the atoms and then it disappears into nothing, do you mean it would disappear into an energy field? In other words there would still be something there. I think sometimes sunyata is translated as 'nature of mind', isn't it? So is it actually void, nothing , or is there some deeper idea behind it? R: Well, we will come to it, but when we talk about sunyata we are talking about the nature of things, the way that things are. Either it is about the nature of mind or about the nature of the vase or about the nature of the book, all the the same. So when you are saying that we are trying to do this analysis through working on the atoms; that is a way of doing the analysis via an intellectual analytical approach. When we say this book is made of atoms and the book is made of nothing, the book doesn't disappear, the book is very much there. But we just come to know how the book exists. When we say the emptiness of the book, it doesn't mean to say that the book doesn't exist at all, but that we just know the way the book exists. In the same way, when we understand the nature of our mind, then our mind doesn't disappear either; we just see the way our mind exists, whatever we


may call it. So therefore when we talk about emptiness, I don't know whether the word `emptiness is used due to the lack of any other word. But as it is said here, emptiness is something that cannot be expressed, but you have to express something! So therefore they talk about emptiness and they talk about interdependence; and as long as we talk about these two, it is a concept, it's not real, it's just a grasping, a concept through which we may be able to get some way of understanding emptiness. From the Buddhist Madhyamika point of view, the approach is from a negative way, or negation, that: 'this is not, this is not, this is not, this is not.........'. Such an approach via negation uses this because we can't say: 'this is like this'. If you say: 'this is like this' it becomes a solid concept; so the only concept that we use is one that tries to dispel our misunderstandings, our misconceptions. So we use the approach that says: 'this is not like this, this is not like that'. Through our concepts we try to dispel all our misconceptions, and then we can eventually come to some understanding of something which is beyond concepts. This is the Prajnaparamita way of teaching. The Madhyamika philosophy is a very strange philosophy in that it tries to eliminate all concepts through concept, which is why it's so difficult. We are actually trying to eliminate all concepts through using our concept, because there is no other way apart from another way which is meditation, and that is even more difficult!


Q: If something's causing me pain, or if a person's causing pain, could the philosophy of emptiness be used towards helping to deal with the pain, if this pain isn't real? Because for me, I don't think this would help me to deal with any pain. How could this philosophy be used in everyday life? R: Of course this philosophy can be used if you understand it, but the understanding has to be quite deep. The deeper the understanding, the more you understand: 'what is it that gets hurt?' If you look deeply into it and you find that there is really nothing that can be hurt, then you don't feel that much of the hurt. The sense of hurt is from a sense of solid being all the time. When we say I am hurt first you think: `I am very much there, therefore I am hurt. The more you realise that there is its emptiness, the interdependent nature, and nature of the emptiness of the I, then the hurt and the sense of 'I am hurt' is going to diminish. It's actually the deepest level of dealing with pain completely that there is. But it is not easy to understand emptiness and it's not just a concept. You might just say, 'I am empty, I am empty', but that's not actually emptiness. So if you can see more clearly and deeply, it can actually be one of the most effective ways of dealing with the pain.


Q: I know a wall is interdependent, but if I didnt know the wall was interdependent, in both instances it would still cause me pain when I bang my head on it. So the question I'm asking is, it is still real whether I understand it or not. R: Now if you say from a conceptual understanding that this wall is not real, but you then hit your head and say: 'Oh, I'm hurt!', you have not yet seen that the 'I' is not real. You have still got the idea that thinks: 'I am real, because I am hurt.' This is the condition that we are in, and it's not easy to get out of this because we are limited so much by our strong belief and strong conditioning.

I was very much impressed by that film called Ghost. Have you seen it, and how he learns to use his power? He just uses his hand, but he can't do anything. He has a friend who was also a ghost, but not really a friend just somebody who could snatch newspapers. He teaches him how to use the power of the mind, but he doesn't believe that he can use this because his is so conditioned. So in a way we are conditioned in that we are so afraid of the wall. Even if our mind says the wall is not solid, we think it is and we know it is solid, so of course we'll smash our head on it. Recently I have saw this TV programme which featured small children being taught yoga exercises in India. These


exercises included breathing, and there was a girl of about eleven years old sleeping on the road and a car went over her but nothing happened. The yoga teacher said that it's nothing, it's just nothing; if you breathe out all your air then you can't be hurt, just that much. Maybe you won't be able to do it, and will be afraid as we are with most things like that. So maybe if you really knew that the wall was not solid you would go through the wall. There are stories of these people, you know, like Milarepa. Once Milarepa was sitting in his usual dwelling place in the mountains, and thereabouts was a monastery with some very learned geshes. All the people went to Milarepa and gave him all their offerings, but they got very annoyed. The monks said: 'We are so learned and so disciplined and such nice monks. Everybody's going to Milarepa who is a foolish person, who doesn't know anything and has no degrees. So that is not good. Well, we will do one thing and go and debate with him, defeat him and he will run away because he will feel ashamed.' So they went to Milarepa and asked: 'Can we make a debate with you?' Milarepa replied: 'All right, if you want to. Sit down.' Then the monks asked: is this pillar empty of its own-nature?, or something like that. Milarepa replied: I dont know, and I dont know these things, but the pillar is empty just like this, and he put his hand across it! The other people had nothing to say!


There are lots of debates like this which ask if the pillar is empty of its nature, or if the pillar is ultimately empty of its nature. Which is the best one to say? Two whole philosophical schools came out of it! One is the Prasangika Madhyamika philosophy, and the other is the Svatantrika Madhyamika philosophy. With these two Madhyamika philosophies, the basic difference is in whether you use the word 'ultimate' or not. Two great scholars, Chandrakirti and Chandragomin, debated this for twelve years in Nalanda University, and both these scholars are very highly regarded. Nobody has any doubt about the realisation these two people have, and everybody accepts both of them are highly realised and have complete understanding, but the problem is how to express it. One of the philosophies says that if you say everything is empty in its nature, it will be misunderstood. Everything is not empty: you can have this glass, you can see this glass, and the glass is very much there. You can't say the glass is empty of its nature; therefore you must say the glass is ultimately empty [of any intrinsic nature]. Then the other philosophy says no, in that if you say: the glass is empty [of inherent existence] ultimately, what then is meant by this word ultimate, or ultimately? It could be thought that there is something called 'ultimate' behind this glass. If the glass is there then you will be attached to it, and nobody would care about whether it is ultimately there or not! What we try to do is not to get attached or to be afraid of this glass, and that is the main thing. So if you


talk about there being something ultimate beyond this glass, then what does it matter to me or others? So it is like this. Anyway, that's beside the point! I think we can have a break. Yesterday morning we discussed this first stanza of The Heart Sutra, which is not really part of the Heart Sutra, but a kind of resum of it. Now we come to the actual Heart Sutra, and it says here: rgya gar skad du bha ga wa ti pra dza nya pa ra mi ta hri da ya. Now rgya gar skad du means in the language of India. This was the tradition that was adopted by the translators in Tibet, in that the name of the language where the translation is from, and the title of the book, must be clearly mentioned. So here it is: rgya gar skad du. Rgya gar means India; and then in the language of India, which was actually Sanskrit: bha ga wa ti pra dza nya pa ra mi ta hri da ya [Sanskrit: bhagawati prajnaparamita hridaya]. Now, Conze has translated bhagawati as lovely! Do any of you know what bhagawati means? It is very very strange; Conze has translated it as: 'Homage to the perfection of wisdom, the lovely, the holy!' Anyway, bhagawan is the male and bhagawati is the female or the feminine, and according to the Indian tradition bhagawati and bhagawan have six qualities, but I don't remember them! There is a stanza about it but I don't remember it at


all now, so let us leave that. What it means to say is that, bha ga wa ti is bcom ldan 'das in the Tibetan translation and is clearer, very clear. It is not exactly literal but it has been translated in Tibetan as bcom ldan 'das, and is very significant. Bcom means to destroy; and bcom pa is to rob. If I go and take all of somebodys things away by force, that is bcom pa: to get rid of, to destroy; ldan means having, with, possess; 'das means gone beyond, passing beyond. So putting these three things together: bcom means it has destroyed or has got rid of all the wrong views, all the confusions, and all that is negative; ldan means possessing all the positive things, and all the natural qualities when all the negative things are taken away; and ldan pa is having. And 'das means that it is beyond the concept of good and bad, and beyond the concept of all these kinds of samsaric states; it is beyond. So that is bcom ldan 'das. For bhagawati, and bhagawan it is a name usually given in India to someone who is completely enlightened, and has completely bhagawan, attained like the highest; and they call is it Bhagawan Buddha. There also

Bhagawan Krishna, and Bhagawan Rajneesh. So the bhagawan title is: those who have destroyed anything that needs to be destroyed, have attained everything that needs to be attained or possessed, and has gone beyond


all the things that need to be gone beyond. That is bhagawan: everything complete. So, bhagawati prajnaparamita hridaya is the bhagawati prajnaparamita as we discussed in the morning. The prajna is discriminative wisdom, and paramita is transcendendental discriminative wisdom. And Hridaya, or snying po, in Sanskrit means the heart, our literal heart; and hridaya has two meanings: one is the heart, and the other is the essence; but you can call it either way. The hridaya is the essence, the heart of the bhagawati prajnaparamita. In Tibetan we have: bod skad du bcom ldan 'das ma shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa' snying po. Here in the Tibetan it's written snying po, which is not the heart but the essence. Now: bam po gcig go means the first volume, or, bam po according to the Buddhist texts or sutras. They have always been categorised according to bam pos, and it is the measurement of the volumes. We talked about the hundred thousand slokas, twenty thousand sloka Prajnaparamita Sutras and things like that. All the sutras are divided into bam pos, or volumes, and has nothing to do with the meaning. It is strictly only to do with the volumes, the number of letters and how big. Sometimes the division of the bam po can almost be in between a sentence, or in the middle of a sentence; maybe not exactly, but around that. I am not exactly sure, but I think


it's about 500 stanzas, and 500 stanzas is one bam po. So the whole Buddhist canon is divided in this bam po way, and it was one of the usual ways of making the volumes of that time. Now with this bam po gcig go it means just one volume. So there are not many volumes, just a small one. Now: bcom ldan 'das ma shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa la phyag 'tshal lo is what we call as (gyur shak), the translator's homage. This is also the Tibetan tradition, in that the translators paid homage before they did the translation. Earlier they paid homage to whoever they had the most reverence to, the deity or principle, guru or whoever, and that was to whom the homage was made. Afterwards it was categorised, so they made a rule. But when the first translations were made they didn't have a rule, so they just did whatever and [gave homage] to whoever they wanted. Afterwards when they eventually made a rule, the homage was specifically made according to which of the three pitakas the teaching belonged to. For instance, all those teachings belonging to the Vinaya had a rule made that said sangs rgyas la phyag 'tshal lo: 'I pay homage to the Buddha'. If the teaching belonged to the Vinayapitaka, the rule was made that whoever made any translation, the translator must make this homage that: 'I bow down, I prostrate to the Buddha'. For all those teachings which belonged to the Sutrapitaka, the translator should make the homage that: 'I bow down to the buddhas and bodhisattvas'. And for all those teachings


that belonged to the Abhidharma, the translator's homage would be: 'I bow down to Manjushri'. So that was the rule; but here they didn't keep that rule because I think it was translated before then. So [in this particular text] these are the translator's homages: homage to the bhagavati prajnaparamita. Now here it says 'di skad bdag gi thos pa dus gcig na: 'Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagriha at Vulture Peak mountain, together with a great gathering of the sangha of monks and great gathering of the sangha of bodhisattvas.' This is one of the things that you didn't know. If you didn't remember this incident then you must mention any one of the six siddhis by saying: 'Once I have heard that the Buddha gave this teaching in one of these siddhis.' Everywhere you will find this prologue, and some are correct, and some are not necessarily correct, but it is there. At the end of the teaching, he said that every time you finish the teaching you must say: 'Then all the devas, all the gods, demigods, human beings and all the others were happy.' You must say that too, and that was his style of editing! So here he says: 'Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One1 was dwelling in Rajagriha'.

The Buddha

Now almost all the teachings on the Prajnaparamita were given in Rajagriha. Maybe some of you who have gone to


India will know, but Rajagriha is near Nalanda University. How many of you have been to India? Have you been to Rajagriha? Are you the only one who has been to Rajagriha? It's not very far from Bodh Gaya: it's about four, or maybe three hours by bus. Its very dangerous to go by bus as the road is full of broken glass where people throw it. This used to be the capital of the Magadha kings at that time, and that's why it's called Rajagriha: Rajagriha means the king's palace, the king's home. There is a small hill and on top of that is Vultures' Peak, where the Buddha used to give teachings as well at the foot of this hill where there was a grove. Most of the Prajnaparamita teachings were given there, at Rajagriha and on Vultures' Peak. So here it says: 'Rajagriha at Vulture Peak mountain, together with a great gathering of sangha of monks and a great gathering of sangha of bodhisattvas. Then at that time the Blessed One entered the samadhi that expresses the Dharma called Profound Illumination.' In Tibetan this is: de'i tshe bcom ldan 'das zab mo snang ba zhes bya ba'i chos kyi rnam grangs kyi ting nge 'dzin la snyom par bzhugs so. Now it says that at that time The Buddha went into a meditation or meditative state which is called zab mo snang ba, translated here as Profound Illumination. Zab mo is deep, and I found it in Sanskrit: it was gambhira.


Gambhira is something like serious, but I think profound should be all right. Snang ba means to appear or illuminate or make clear. This means to say that he went into a meditative state . Then it says 'And at that time', and: yang de'i tshe byang chub sems dpa sems dpa chen po 'phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang pyug shes rab kyi pha rol tu pyin pa zab mo'i spyod pa nyid la rnam par blta zhing phung po lnga po de dag la yang rang bzhin gyis stong pa rnam par blta'o. So: 'And at the same time noble Avalokiteshvara', phags pa spyan ras gzigs. I explained a little bit of this, this morning, 'phags pa means noble. You can translate it as noble, but it's not just noble. It's someone who has gone beyond the samsaric level; that kind of 'phags pa. Now, 'phags pa and so so skye bo are two distinct things: 'phags pa means someone above the samsaric state of mind, and so so skye bo is within the samsaric state of mind. So this is described as the 'phags pa, the byang chub sems dpa: 'the bodhisattva, the great bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara. Now, Avalokiteshvara, as you all know, is a great bodhisattva. From his name there is lokite, and svara, and the svara is isvara. Isvara is the lord, the one who is the protector. Avalokite means looking at the loka, where loka means the world, therefore: looking at the world. Avalokiteshvara is [He] who is always looking after


the state of the worldly beings and who is the saviour or the protector of these beings. Now as you all know, Avalokiteshvara was a bodhisattva, a great bodhisattva, because he had what we call shepherd-like aspiration. Do you know what these three different kinds of aspiration are? There is the king-like aspiration, the captain-like aspiration, and the shepherd-like aspiration. King-like aspiration is this: 'I like all the beings not to suffer, but to become enlightened. So first let me become enlightened so I will help all the beings.' It is like the king where he said: 'First let me have all the good things, and then if I have enough I will also help the others.' That is called the king-like aspiration. The captain-like aspiration is this: 'I will go along with all the beings. I wish all the beings to have enlightenment and happiness and everything, so I will go along with them and reach the other shore in the same boat.' Like the captain, he takes all the passengers with him and if he doesn't get to the other shore nobody will get there. But if he gets there, everybody will get there. So that's the captain-like kind of aspiration: we will go along. Then the third one is the shepherd-like aspiration. I don't know, but here it's different nowadays as the dog does everything! In olden days maybe when there was no dog, every day the shepherd used to take the sheep for grazing, and in the evening he used to bring them back. Then he used to put them into the shed and make them secure from wolves, thieves and other things.


Then the shepherd used to go home, have his meal and rest. So Avalokiteshvara is said to have that kind of aspiration, the biggest and highest, the most strongest aspiration, that shepherd-like aspiration, saying: 'I will not become enlightened unless all other beings have become enlightened.' Sometimes there is a misunderstanding, and even in Conze's book there is something. To become enlightened does not mean that you can't help other beings any more; it doesn't mean that at all. Otherwise why become enlightened? Now the thing is, what he is saying is that the aspiration is a strong one. If you have a very very strong aspiration that: 'I would like all other beings to become enlightened, and I don't mind not becoming enlightened,' then that's a stronger aspiration. For those who say: 'I will become enlightened first, then I will.....;' it's not that he would stop helping other beings after he becomes enlightened. When you become enlightened it is not that you stop being; that is the wrong notion of enlightenment. This is because if you become enlightened then stop working for the people, or stop being, there is not much use in becoming enlightened. So therefore it's not true that after you become enlightened you stop helping the beings. But for those people who have a stronger aspiration: 'I want so much for other people to become enlightened that I would not become


enlightened', in a way they almost get enlightened, and there is not much difference actually, but that is what it is. Now it is written here that the bodhisattva,

Avalokiteshvara, was practising, and he was in the meditation of prajnaparamita. And : 'He saw the five skandhas to be empty of [inherent] nature. Now here he says that he saw: phung po lnga po de dag la yang rang bzhin gyis stong pa rnam par blta'o. That 'He saw the five skandhas to be empty of nature.' What are the five skandhas? There are five skandhas, and the first skandha is the form skandha. Skandha actually means the part; something like a branch. Skandha is translated many times as the aggregates, or heaps. So in these five skandhas is the whole thing; everything about a person is included, distributed, or categorised into these five skandhas. The first skandha is form. Form is anything that you can see or touch: the body, matter, anything that has form, whether it is a colour, a shape, or volume. Anything that has colour, shape, or volume, is form. Then you have the reg bya or tshor ba phung po. That is, the skandha of feeling. Feeling is feeling pleasure, pain, or neutral; it is all the different kinds of feelings, and the experiences of feelings. That is what we call as the tshor ba phung po, the feeling skandha.


Then there is 'du shes, which are the perceptions. Now perceptions are the perceptions through the six or the five senses. The perception through seeing is the perception of the eye, hearing is the perception of the ear, tasting is the perception of the tongue, smelling is the perception of the nose, and touching is the perception of touch. When your sense organs contact the objects of the senses, out of that you have the perception. Then there is 'du byed, which is a very difficult thing to translate. Sometimes it is translated as formation, yet here it is translated as 'impulses'. Sometimes they translate it as volitions. That means it is like mental factors, and includes all the emotions, and all mental factors, and even perceptions are included in here. Any kind of mental factor, or mental activity is called 'du byed, but I think it is more like mental activities. And then there is rnam shes, which is the consciousness. It is just the consciousness; just being conscious. The 'du byed is very broad, impulse is very broad, and it covers almost all these: perception and rnam shes; but perception is the first stage. According to Buddist psychology the difference between perception and these mental factors is that perception is direct perception and has no conceptions. It is the time before conception


comes in. For example, when you see a flower, the eye has contact with the flower and the flower is immediately reflected in the eye causing an imprint. Perception is before you say This is a flower. The moment you say 'This is a flower' then it's a concept, becoming the second mental formation, or impulse from whatever is coming in. That is the difference between perception and conception. Then there is consciousness which is also a broad thing. There are six consciousnesses, with a further two making eight consciousnesses. When you talk about the eight consciousnesses, firstly there is the consciousness of the seeing consciousness. This is just the conscious or aware part of seeing, and is the eye consciousness. Then there is the hearing part, and the awareness part of hearing is the hearing consciousness. It is this way with the six consciousnesses. But in the moment just after the eye consciousness, there is a consciousness which is small, very subtle and is called the yid kyi rnam par shes pa . It occurs at the moment of our direct contact of the senses and joins the consciousness just before creating a concept such as 'this is the flower'. I don't think we would be able to understand this anyway. So there are these six consciousnesses, and on top of that there is the kun gzhi rnam par shes pa, or alaya. Have you


heard of the alaya? Alaya is a debated thing: some people such as the Madhyamika do not accept alaya, but many Buddhist philosophies do accept alaya as something. They say it's the like basic the consciousness, subtle negative the ground of consciousness. And the nyon yid are the negative emotions, emotions attachment, aversion, ignorance, which are termed a consciousness, although they are part of other things. So when you take these other two, then there are eight consciousnesses. Sometimes they don't consider the nyon yid, and take just the kun gzhi or the alaya to make seven consciousnesses; but there are many different ways of defining it. Anyway, seven or there are either that the or is six eight the consciousnesses, consciousnesses, consciousness. Of the five aggregates there is nothing in a person, or in anything which is outside of these five aggregates. Therefore these five aggregates mean everything, all phenomena. Now Avalokiteshvara looked at all the five skandhas, and said that each one is 'empty of its nature.' I find it very difficult to explain this 'nature'. I have a feeling, I don't know, maybe I'm completely wrong, that when we talk about the nature, or the true nature of the mind, we don't seem to understand it very well. So what consciousnesses, But



do we mean by nature? If you say 'empty of its nature', what do you take this nature as being? From the audience: 'Characteristic. Normally it just means the way it is; nature.' The way it is, no? The way it really is, that's its nature, that's right. So he saw that the way things really are is that their nature is empty. Now we have to explain empty afterwards, and as empty is a very big word, it has to be understood since it doesn't make any sense from just the word alone. It then says here: Then through the power of the Buddha, Venerable Sariputra said to Noble Avalokiteshvara...... Now here, all the Buddha's teachings are given in three ways. Firstly, there are what are called the zhal nas gsungs pa'i bka', and are the teachings given by Buddha from his own mouth. Then there is rjes su gnang ba'i bka, which is when Buddha kind of approves. This is when a discussion takes place between his students, or something like that; or he asks somebody to give a teaching to someone, and then Buddha says of the teaching: 'That is true.' So that becomes Buddha's teaching afterwards, and is one of the ways of Buddha's teaching. Another is byin gyis brlabs pa'i bka',which is where, due to the blessings the way it is at the moment is its


of the Buddha, somebody just says something and later on that becomes included in the Buddha's teachings. Now here, the Heart Sutra is actually a discussion between Sariputra and Avalokiteshvara. Buddha doesn't say anything throughout this teaching as he is just sitting in a corner silently meditating. But when he comes out of this meditation he says: 'Oh, whatever Avalokiteshvara said is right.' And then he gets the credit for nothing! This is one of the teachings like that. Because of the power of the Buddha's meditation, and because of his blessings which come into Sariputra's mind, Sariputra then asks this question to Avalokiteshvara: Bodhisattva, Mahasattva1, how could a son or daughter of noble family train who wishes to practise the profound Prajnaparamita? Now this son or daughter of a noble family is a form of addressing someone in India.

Mahasattva: Bodhisattva, Great Sattva.

Rigs kyi bu, rigs kyi bu mo is like: 'a gentleman and a lady', or something like that. You say ladies and gentlemen here; but son or daughter is just saying the same thing. Son or daughter of noble family, anyone, a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl; whoever wants to practise the


Prajnaparamita, how do they practise it? That is the question. 'Addressed in this way, noble Avalokiteshvara, the

Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, said to Venerable Sariputra: 'Oh Sariputra, a son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practise the profound Prajnaparamita should see in this way: seeing the five skandhas to be empty of nature. Form is emptiness, emptiness also is form. Emptiness is not other than form, form is not other than emptiness.' So what do we mean by this? Here, we are not saying that form is empty, but when you say form is empty, then you may come to understand that the form here is kind of empty, that it's not there. But that's not the case. Emptiness is form. When we say that form is empty, we get a kind of conceptual and intellectual understanding that anything which is a form has no essence to it, after you kind of see it through. Form is an aggregate thing, a compounded thing, and there is nothing which is one [without parts]. It is an interdependent thing, there is nothing independently there; and it is an impermanent thing, changing all the time, there is nothing permanent there. That is the form, which is empty. But when you say that the emptiness itself is form, we are not talking about the form dissolving because of emptiness. That understanding of emptiness is not


something that we impose on things by saying: 'Oh this form is empty,' or 'that is empty; this is empty.' Otherwise we are imposing a label of emptiness onto others, onto something by saying: 'Oh that is empty, that is this thing, that is that thing.' Because if you do, you don't understand emptiness and it's very difficult to visualise. Now I think I will talk about the other one first. Many people say this: every appearance, everything, is your projection. Dont you have a saying like that? What do you mean by that? Do you mean to say that all of you is my projection, that you are not there and I am talking alone? Or is it that one of you is there, I am not there, and you are just listening to yourself? When we say this, there should be this understanding of snang ba and snang yul; and this is very very important. What we're talking about is this: I think of London now, and while I think of London can you see London, or cant you think of London? Think of London. So you are thinking of London, that that is London, or that is not London? All right. Now look at Oxford. Can you see Oxford? Can you actually see Oxford? From the audience: 'Part of part of it!' Can you see actually that part of Oxford? From the audience: 'I'm not sure, because surely whether you see it from here, or if you're in Oxford, is


still so clouded by your own conceptions the same way as London.

that to think

of Oxford is the same as being in Oxford and seeing it, in So you're seeing me, but can you see me? Are you sure? I am seen a little bit differently by all of you. And Im sure at least I'm heard differently by all of you! So which one is correct? What we're talking about here is that if all of us look at the same thing, such as this flower, we each are conscious of this flower that we get in our mind. So when I see this flower I see this flower in my mind. Then I say, 'I have seen this flower.' So now the flower that I have seen in my mind, and which I am now thinking of, is my projection. I might say this was a very nice flower and it's really wonderful, it's a black flower. I can think: 'Oh this is a nice black flower.' But somebody else might say: 'Oh theres a white flower; I have seen a very nice white flower.' And somebody else might say: 'Oh I have seen a very nice red flower.' I know a person who can see only green flowers and he can't see red, and red and green are the same to him, so he sees a green flower, and what appears to him is a green flower. We see these white, pink and red flowers; but maybe somebody who has a slightly different way of seeing things with their vision might even see different colours. So what we are seeing, and what we actually


experience of the flower in our mind is our own version. When I look at the flower and I think of the flower, as soon as it enters into my mind, then its by my vision, my own way of seeing things. But he sees it in a slightly different way, he sees it differently. All our seeing of things is our own projection because that is what appears in our mind. What appears as the flower in our mind is the appearance, so therefore this appearance is my own appearance of the flower because it appears in my mind. From the audience: 'Does everybody have their own unique appearance [of the flower in their mind] or do Or is each we have our own unique impression? appearance the same?' Even if they are similar, they are not the same. In our minds, when I see and experience the flower, and when he sees and experiences the flower, our experiences may be very similar, even identical, but his experience is his experience while my experience is my experience and neither are the same. Is this, or is it not? My experience cannot be experienced by him, and his experience cannot be experienced by me as these experiences are different. I have this experience of my flower; he has the experience of his flower. Although we have differences in our experience, maybe he will see the white flower, and I will see the red flower.


Suppose you put lots of things on a table, and two, three, four or five people come in and ask: 'What is on the table?' Nobody would remember everything that was on the table. Someone will say there was a flower pot, someone will say maybe there was a glass of champagne. Somebody else might say there was a watch, and somebody might say there was a book. So when you look at something, the eye is almost like a camera and sees everything, but your mind cannot see everything. Maybe the eye even sees the atoms of flowers, the way they change and things like that. But in your mind you can't see the atoms of the flower, you just see the colours; so therefore you may say this is the flower I have seen, while he says something else. So the appearance that comes to my mind is just my own. But it doesn't mean that this appearance is either real or unreal; it is another thing and is interdependent. The appearance may not have any essence of its own, but it is the yul, the object of an appearance. This object of an appearance is not real, but is also an interdependent thing. When I said that everything that appears to me is my own projection, I did not mean that this flower vase is not there, nor that its just my projection and theres nothing there. When I say that everything that appears to me is my projection it doesn't mean that none of you are there


at all. What it means to say is that the way I see all of you is my way of seeing, it's completely my way of seeing. If I am in a good mood, then I may see all of you as very nice, very good, very beautiful; but if I am not in a good mood then I may see all of you rather badly! That is an important thing. Now when we talk about form, and when we say form is empty, this is empty, or this is not empty, that is our projection. We are putting a label and a concept on this by saying this is empty, or this is not empty. But that is not right, it is not the truth. If you just do that, it doesn't have with it the actual understanding, by simply putting a label on it such as 'this is empty'. It needs to be based on what we understand, and what we need to understand, and that is the way the thing is: empty. So empty here is that the emptiness itself is form, and means the form that we see is the way things are. 'Emptiness' is not a label that we put on it. Does it make any sense? When you say form is empty, it becomes 'this form is empty', and thus we are making a kind of label on the form by saying: 'Form is empty'. It's like saying: 'This is made in India'! But when you say that emptiness itself is form, then of course you are saying the same thing. But you get the idea it's not just that you're conceptually making an understanding. It is the way a thing is, the real nature of this form, and the


way the form is which is what we can call emptiness. We can call it by any other name; but emptiness is the way the thing is because it is not a concept. If you make it a concept then it doesn't make any difference. The thing is that we need to go beyond concept. As we will see afterwards, if you make any concepts by saying This is empty, this is not empty, this is neither empty nor non-empty, this is both empty and non-empty, or any other kind of assertion you make; then whatever statements you make become an extreme. This is because it is not completely right and you are saying it a little bit one-sidedly. So when you say 'This is empty', if you just say that, it is an extreme, and is just a statement. So therefore the understanding has to be beyond this conceptual thought of emptiness. When emptiness is just a concept in our mind, then it is not empty enough! It's just a thought! So therefore, as it said earlier: so so rang rig ye shes is what can be experienced, and which can only be experienced by discriminating awareness wisdom. That's what it means to say. The true nature of things is something that can be experienced by discriminating wisdom, the wisdom, the primordial wisdom. It is not something that can be described, nor can it be conceptualised, because any kind of concept you make is in a way wrong. All concepts are


not real, not on the point, and are not right. Therefore when you make this Prajnaparamita kind of understanding you come to a conclusion that any concepts you make, or any kind of intellectual labels you make are not completely right. So you have to turn back then remain, and go into this meditative state where there is no concept. Because whatever way you say such as: 'This is like this', is going to become wrong; because even if it is the right thing, and what you say is completely right, it is completely wrong because it is a concept! So the understanding of the emptiness needs to go beyond conceptual ideas and labelling. Therefore it is said from four ways: 'Form is emptiness, emptiness also is form; emptiness is not other than form, form is not other than emptiness. In this way feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are empty.' So this goes for all other things: as you go to the form, as with the other things, they are empty but the emptiness is not other than that. The whole understanding, and the whole realisation is that if it goes beyond our labelling concepts then it is right, otherwise it is not right. So that is what it is saying. Anyway, I think we should stop here, I have bored you enough! You can ask questions if you like.


Q: Rinpoche, if someone gets to the state of just seeing things as they are, then there must remain a state of being in the experience. Therefore finally losing the ego or watcher and being in the state of just the experience is like a hair's breadth R: Why hair's breadth? Q: OK. The difference must be very small. R: Which difference? Difference between what? Q: Remaining as a watcher and just the experience itself. R: The difference is like sky and earth! Q: But there's always a kind of a fear, of leaving the ego? R: With the watcher, or the kind of ego, if you are making a label on it then you are grasping on it. If you say: 'Everything is empty', then you can really strongly say: 'Everything is empty, and if you don't believe me I will hit you!' It's just as strong a grasping if you also say: 'Everything is not empty, everything is real.' But it's the same thing, although the understanding of emptiness is not that. It is not by simply saying everything is empty and making that concept on it. That is not the understanding of Prajnaparamita.


To have understanding of Prajnaparamita is to get out of those concepts, such as saying: 'This is empty, this is not empty, this is beyond empty, this is -.' Even if you say: 'It is beyond emptiness and non-emptiness, and I am going to fight with whoever says it's not!', is also grasping. So as long as you have the need to grasp at a thing and say: 'This is the thing', then you are grasping. So the understanding comes more from the experience of the being, not from making a conceptual label. That's why meditation becomes so important, because through philosophy and intellectual understanding alone, we can only make a grasping on it. You can say: `It is not right,' but you can't say: 'This is right.' It's like that with meditation in that if some people who have not eaten chocolate ask you to describe it you might say: 'It's sweet', or: 'oh it's very sweet'. But that's not really a complete answer. Chocolate sweet is different from sugar sweet, so what can you say? You could say: It's a slightly different way of sweet. So therefore Prajnaparamita is an experience, and once the understanding of this has been gained then you will be able to see through these concepts and let them loose, and you can have the understanding or experience. Q: Rinpoche, it's very hard to discuss with concepts but does this come down in the end to just being, like


meditation but not: 'I am being'. Or is it just something beyond that? R: Yes, it is just being, without I. It's seeing without the seer, hearing without the hearer. The reference point is the I. Usually what we do is we always make out: I am the main thing, the focal point; the universe starts from me. This is my world, this is my universe, these are my enemies, this is my ignorance; everything, whatever you like, whatever you don't like, everything is me. So the seeing itself is no problem at all, the hearing itself has no problem at all, the sensing and everything has no problem. But if you make it: 'This is what I see and I am there, this is what I see and this is what I want, and this is what I don't want', then all the problems come about. Therefore when you talk about the five skandhas we are trying to say: that is what I am. When we say 'I am', it is that 'I am' which you can't find, it's just the five skandhas. If I say that 'I am, therefore I am', then in this way you try to say: 'What do you say I am, how do you know I am?' If you say: 'I am because I feel ' then the feeling is. But feeling comes from contact and from a few different things, it's not one. It is the feeling of this time, feeling of that time, feeling of pleasure, all these. Seeing comes from different things. The consciousness is not just one, the consciousness is many. If I see something, that's eyeconsciousness, and if I hear something, that's ear-


consciousness; so there are all these different kinds of consciousnesses. Consciousness is not just one thing, it's many things. So if you understand it more deeply, then the feeling of I is made of all these things, like a forest. You call many trees a forest. When there are many trees then you say 'this is a forest'. But where is the forest? In the forest? If you take all the trees one by one, there is no forest. Forest is a label that we make on these trees, that all these trees are a forest. As long as we call it that, then we call it a forest; but actually there is no forest, there are only trees. So in the same way we say: 'This is me', and as long as we have this labelling, then I am there; and as long as I am there, my karma is there. And as long as my karma is there I am taken by my karma and I have one limited force or stream. But the moment I break the concept of this I, then I have no base for my karma, so I am completely free, and I have nothing to fear about anything. The karmic consequences don't bother me. Now because something happened a long time ago, such as in my childhood or in my last life, it affects me now because I have this identification. I think that what happened when I was a child to me has happened to me in a very strong way. What happened to me when I was a young man, happened to me. Although if I really look at it maybe I can't find anything in my body or mind that is then, as I


have already changed. The scientists nowadays say that all the cells of your body change completely in seven years, so between seven years ago and now I am a different person altogether, even my body! And of course the mind changes more often than that! But because I think that was me, whatever happened then affects me now, and that's the karma. But if I do not have this strong feeling that whatever happened to me had really happened to me, then whatever happened to me that time does not affect me now. Q: Rinpoche, in Western psychoanalysis we have a concept of the internal world, and that the internal world is influenced by historic happenings. Therefore the life can be determined unconsciously unless the internal world is worked with, so that the internal world and internal objects resolve their own conflicts. In a way if the internal world was taken as being determined by experience, unless the internal world is worked with, then life is predetermined. Taking that idea, and also taking a meditative approach to life, there appears to me to be two levels: one of conscious, and one of unconscious which needs to be worked with through dreams and through meditation and through painting. Do you understand what I mean? R: Yes.


Q: So what I'm interested in is that on one level I can be open to emptiness and relate from that point of view, but on the other hand there is still the whole reality of the internal world because it's unconscious and determining where the life is going. R: Yes. Now when you talk about emptiness and the identity of self, we are talking at a very very deep level. It doesn't mean that as soon as you have an intellectual understanding or little bit of meditation that we then get rid of what you call internal life. Our internal life, or whatever you call it and the conditions that we are in are very strong. I can't just think that what happened in my childhood is not just me, and then to finish with it; that wouldn't happen, it's too strong. So to go that deep and to solve that problem, we need to go to the deepest level. Then if you can see, via meditation, for the sake of having no other word, we mean an experiential way, not just a conceptual way but in an experiential way. If you can really truly see at that level that this is just a label which I call 'I', and that there is no one thing called 'I', then you can get completely free at this very very deep level. So therefore with all the other levels of consciousness you have no problem: all the inter-related problems of dealing with life, the stress or the conflict are completely solved. Because there is no I you become very free. There is no fear, and the fear or need to hold on to something no


longer exists. You become fully aware without having to have any kind of conflict. So when we talk about this level of meditation we are talking about a very very deep level. When you talk mostly from the psychological point of view and things like that, we are talking more at the surface level, which is when we are at the relative level. This is what we usually call from the Buddhist point view the relative level, and it is what we feel now and how we react now. But when we usually talk about this we are talking about the ultimate level, and is at a very very deep level. Q: You seem to be saying that we should become 'phags pas! R: 'phags pa. That is exactly what the Buddhist practice is for, to become 'phags pas, if you can! Q: Would it be correct to say that nobody could really purify all their karma in an instant? R: Why not? Q: I'm wondering if that's the implication....... R: The implication is that if you can see the truth, and if you can experience what we call the Prajnaparamita, the real truth; then in that very moment you purify all karma. That's what it means. But when you purify all karma it


means that you don't make any more karma. What remains is the result of the karma of the past, which is you, and that result is still there, as well as the habitual tendencies which are said to remain even for some time. Q: I'm just thinking of an experience that I had which was only very short, then afterwards it was back to normal confusion! So the problem is just not to hold on to the experience. R: Well, this kind of experience is a temporary experience. In meditation you may have experiences of this kind many times but that just comes and goes, so that is nothing really; it's what we call an experience or nyams. But when that experience becomes a stable thing then you have what we call tsog pa: the actual direct experience, direct seeing. Then, from the Buddhist point of view, you have broken the karma. But even then, the very subtle conditioning that you have still persists and you have to work at it. To work at it means you have to slowly get out of the conditioning, like the habits. Q: Like in one of these stories when the Buddha had the headache? R: Yes, that's true.


Q: Could I just check those two terms, snang ba and snang yul? Snang ba is the appearance, and you gave the example of some flowers, and the snang yul was..... R: The object of the appearance. Q: This question from the audience was semi-audible, about the three differing aspirations of a bodhisattva: like the king, the captain, and the shepherd. R: Like the captain. I don't know who said Sakyamuni was like a king, and I haven't seen this anywhere or anything saying that. I don't know which one is the bodhisattva like the captain. I haven't seen anything mentioned. Q: It seems to imply that bodhisattvas can only be shepherds. R: Why? Q: Because is that not the nature of the bodhisattva vow that you vow, like a shepherd? R: No, not necessarily. Q: I don't understand the three different categories, why they differentiate so strongly ...


R: They are not differentiated so strongly. They are just given as the way that things are. Maybe they are given this way to emphasise more the greatness of Avalokiteshvara! Q; A lay-person like myself hasn't the opportunity to study something like this, nor the Madhyamaka view point or Prajnaparamita, like someone in a monastic tradition in Tibet or India who was able to do so for many years before they actually started practising. This seems to be almost like a foundation stone for the whole of the Mahayana and Vajrayana, and that you must understand these before you can really practise. But I don't necessarily have all the opportunity to be able to study it in a very deep way. R: Why not? What is obstructing you? Q: Because there's not necessarily someone here at Thrangu House who can teach all the time. R: What about Thrangu Rinpoche? Q: He's only here for a week every two years. R: Maybe he's giving more teaching here than he gives in India. Maybe the monks in his own Shedra receive less teaching from him than here.


Q: Maybe... R: It's not maybe; it's true. Q: But to a certain extent it's a question of materials. If I start studying using Edward Conze's book then I may get a completely wrong view. R: You don't need to do that! You have Trungpa Rinpoche's translation here. I don't know whether it's Trungpa Rinpoche's translation or if it's a Rigpa translation. So maybe its Sogyal Rinpoche's translation. I don't know whose it is; maybe Patrick Gaffney's translation, but it's a good translation. I dont think that is the point here. I don't see much difference between lay-people and the monks, but I don't mean to say there is no difference otherwise the monks would beat me up, and the nuns! What I mean to say is, in real practise and studies it doesn't really matter that much. Of course if you are a householder maybe you have more responsibilities for the family and all these other things, and you have less time. But time is not the only factor. Time is a factor of course, but it is not that important. It doesn't matter whether you have studied for twenty years, or you have studied for ten days to have the understanding of Prajnaparamita. Some


people get a genuine kind of understanding in a finger snap, just because they are more open. It's not just how many years you study or how many books you read, and as I said already, it's not an intellectual concept that you need to memorise. Prajnaparamita is going behind it, beyond that. So it's not how much you study or how much information you get, but how strongly you get into it. Strongly means how you would be able to remain in that state. It's a matter of having a very subtle way of being or attitude. Maybe it's like learning how to swim. The first thing is, you shouldn't have a strong fear of the water otherwise you can't get taught very much. Usually you just do it and can then pick it up. It is not like somebody who has spent many years or has done it many times over a long time; it is more like riding a bicycle or something. In a way it cannot actually be taught as it's a kind of a way you have to pick up on your own. What can be taught is to just say: 'This is not right, this is not right, this is not right', and only that. So therefore I think it is a matter of having a very strong kind of karmic connection as well as your state of being and your openness. I think openness is the main thing since if you are really open then I think you can get at it straighter. Some people who have not done any studies or very big retreats or things like that, nor done any kind of formal practices too much can still get very good experiences and results. And some people who


have seemingly been doing practice and studying all their life can have nothing. So it's not really totally dependent on that. Don't you think so? You think so? Q: Well, I wasn't really trying to make a difference between a householder and a monk or ordained people, other than the fact that traditionally they may have more opportunity. It seems to have been the way in which it was done, in that people studied for a long time. Certainly the teachers that come over and teach us appear to have studied for a long time and also practised for a long time. So it would seem that if you want to emulate the teachers who are good examples, it's necessary to study for a long time, practise for a long time or do both. R: Yes. Maybe it is good if you can study for a long time, but I think it is not just study and a long time. I don't mean to say that you should not; of course you should try to study as much as possible and practise as much as possible, but it's not compulsory. What I mean to say is it also depends on whether you have the realisation or not, not just how much you study. For instance, Milarepa didn't study at all but he did do lots of practice. And then some people did more study, some people less study, but those who have done more study do not necessarily have a better understanding. It's a matter of transmission, a matter of how open they are. As I said earlier, it is whether they are ready to come out, as you can say in a


way! But this is something quite difficult to study because it is a way to use our intellectual mind in order to go beyond our intellectual mind. So therefore it is not simple, it's quite complicated because we are trying to go beyond our intellectual concepts and through the intellectual concepts, and that's the problem. Through that we need to come to an understanding of our own where we find the way to be without concepts and intellectual labelling. Anyway, I think that's the whole point. Q: The Tibetan tradition talks about Buddhist saints who came from India and went to Tibet. Do non-Tibetan traditions know about these people, like Padmasambhava and the Indian saints? Are they acknowledged? R: Some are, some are not. I dont think Padmasambhava is very well known. The saints like Kamalasila and Santaraksita and are very well known, and are very much in the Chinese and Indian traditions, and Nagarjuna was very popular. Q: What about Marpa or Milarepa? R: Marpa? Milarepa? Q: Milarepa's guru's guru. R: Oh, that is Naropa?


Q: Do other traditions recognise him? R: Naropa? I don't know, I don't think so. Naropa had certain teachings which were common but maybe not in his name as Naropa. Naropa was the name after he became a crazy one.

Yesterday we talked about the philosophy of sunyata, or emptiness. Philosophy is all right, as in when we talk about form being empty and things like that. Even nowadays it seems not that difficult to understand, because you can almost see how things are in laboratories, from physics and from a scientific point of view. But what does not help very much is having just an intellectual understanding of emptiness in that everything is atoms and atoms become a kind of energy, and things like that. This is because of our conditioning and the way we see and conceptualise things. That is where the most important part is, in the concepts. I was trying to make it very clear yesterday, but I am sure I didn't succeed! The concept is something very important to think about, because Sunyata or emptiness can become just a concept, and if that is done then it is of no use at all, and that is very important to understand. To see emptiness as


a concept and to see materialism as a concept is actually the same. There is a quotation from Nagarjuna: (yod pa tra wa den drul dro, me pa tra wa ngen drul dro). He says: those who have only a concept of reality will go to den drul which is like the upper realms, and those who have only a concept of emptiness will go down to the lower realms! So just to have a concept of emptiness is not that good. Maybe you can say it's nihilistic. Although you might say that everything is empty, you are imposing a concept on things. The first thing we need to try and do here is to see form as empty and emptiness as form, where form and emptiness are not something different. You may have a very strong concept of the solidity of form, and of course form is very much there, and is very strong. Because it is there I can see it, and I can feel it. If I bang my head on the wall I have pain, therefore it is very much there. But in order to shake up this concept a little bit I can ask if the wall is really there and if it is really as solid as that. Maybe it's just like a dream, and that there is no wall and no head either! In the dream what will happen? In the dream if you smash your head on the wall you think you have a pain, don't you? Suppose in your dream you smash your head on the wall, would you have pain or not and how would you


know? In the dream you think you would have pain, but if you didn't know it was a dream, you can still have pain and you can have pains in the dream. Why do you have nightmares if you didn't have pain or undergo lots of problems? In the dream for instance, if you dreamt that a dearest friend of yours died, how would you feel? You would feel very painful. But immediately after if you realised that it was just a dream, how would you then feel? You wouldn't feel any pain. Now here the thing to understand is that when we have this kind of conditioning, of course you have the wall, the head, you have the banging, and you have pain. All these things are there, but the important thing is that you might still recall the pain of the banging of your head after your bump is gone; and although we no longer have pain we still take the pain at our heart, even though it should not be there. If you have the slightest understanding of this then the pain would not be there. If you have a deeper understanding, then even when you bang your head you can break this concept. Now, I am talking too much about concepts, and firstly I think we must understand what concept means. Maybe you could challenge me on this, and I would like you to challenge me. I will say: All concepts are wrong!


From the audience: That's a concept, that's a concept too! That's a good better than others.' No! When I said all concepts are wrong, what I meant to say was that as soon as you make a concept you are bringing many things together and making up something that is not necessarily there. Even if something is there, such as a flower, you say: this is a flower. Is it a concept or not? It is a concept, but is this a flower? From the audience: Yes. This is a flower, yes? So why I am wrong when I say this is a flower? From the audience: Is it a case of personal absolute truth and personal relative truth? What is the absolute truth? From the audience: The concept is a relative truth and the absolute truth is beyond concept. concept, some concepts are

Now, that may be true, but when I say that this is a flower, and that is a concept, so is this really a flower; you say it is really a flower. So how can this concept be wrong? From the audience: Where's the flower?


This is the flower! From the audience: It's not a flower. Then what is it? From the audience: It's a grouping of things that you're terming a flower, but for a start it's not one, it's many. Where's the flower in the flower if you just take the orange one? That's the thing. That is what we are trying to say. When we say: this is a flower, of course this is a flower, but the flower and the word flower is something that we have invented. From the audience: It's a useful label for a collection of things. Yes, so we have labelled it. We have created the word 'flower' and put it on them. There is nothing called 'flower', but there is this particular flower, which is a poppy, a Sweet William. These are the leaves. This is a poppy and a Sweet William, but where is the flower? First we agreed that there was a flower there!


So therefore the flower is our mix up of our own terms and our own concepts, and the reality or the thing. If I said this is not a flower, you would think I had gone mad. But actually this is not a flower, it is a poppy! Also, it's not a poppy, so poppy is another label. We are constantly doing this, by making labels and putting them onto something, and then we are completely thinking that the label is this. So, we join the label and the things in our mind and we think that it's there. But we don't know that it is something we give to them. Therefore, when we take something or when we talk about something, or when we think something, we assume it to be the thing outside there. But we forget that, and we are not aware that those concepts are just imputed as something onto things. Whenever we make a concept it is like that all the time, as something imputed onto things, and all concepts are like that. The only way to see these flowers without making any contributions from ourselves.... - how would you do that? From the audience: 'You can't describe it.' You can't describe it. That's when we are talking about the truth.


From the audience: 'You can't even see it, because the human eye only by looking at it.' Yes, that may be true. But even with those parts you can see, you are not completely seeing them or hearing them. Whatever way you direct without making any comments, without making any dialogue, or without making any concept; then when that happens, it's direct, it's in the very moment, with direct perception, direct interaction, with no conceptual thoughts. But because concepts come, you then put in lots of other things from your past into it. At the first moment you see the flower, it's just direct perception or contact. It doesn't affect you, it doesn't make you attached to it, nor make you averse to it, and it doesn't give you any problem; you just have complete direct contact. But the moment you apply the concept that 'this is a flower', you have brought all your vocabulary and your concept dictionary in, and now you say: 'this looks like a flower, this must be a flower, so this is a flower'. The moment you say: 'This is a flower,' then you say: 'this is a nice flower' or 'not a nice flower'. Then you might say: 'this is my thought that I am seeing a flower', then 'this is a nice flower, I must have it', or 'this is not a nice flower, I shouldn't have it.' And then you go on: 'Oh this is a very nice flower, which they might sees certain frequencies of even light and so on, so you're imputing something


take away, so I must be careful'. And then I can be very nasty to all of you, saying: 'Oh, maybe she is little bit suspicious, the way she looks, maybe she's aiming at my flower! Or something like that! So you create the whole thing upon it, which is the samsaric state. That is how you create the samsaric state of mind. So when we talk about the real, that which is without concept, the non-dualistic; it's just seeing directly without any concept. This non-dualistic seeing is not really nondualistic in a way that there is nothing. That's why in all the meditations we talk about the nowness, the now. Even with the mahamudra and all these kinds of meditation techniques they say not to follow the thoughts of the past, not to go into the future, but just be in the moment, in the now. That's actually talking about the Prajnaparamita, the way. It's just seeing things as they really are, without diluting them with any kind of concept. We are also saying this when we talk about going beyond the four extremes, the twelve extremes or the sixteen extremes. The 'extremes' is a term used which may be quite confusing or which doesn't make much sense. But all the terms are like that in that they dont make any more sense in Tibetan than they do in English! Some people have the idea that Tibetans reading Tibetan understand terms better and more easily; whereas Westerners with no background dont. But with these


terms it's the same in that the Tibetan terms are not much better than the English terms! It's almost the same problem. They call it spros pa, prapancha, and is translated by Jeffrey Hopkins as 'elaboration' and Alex Berzin as 'mental fabrication'. It doesn't actually mean anything like that, but seems to mean 'ornament' or something similar to that. So for an ordinary person it's just the same; the terms are like that. The meaning is created on the term, so a concept is put on the term; and that's how we do it. Therefore it's difficult to get an understanding, because we can't understand anything without a concept, but the purpose of having understanding is to get out of having concepts, and that is so confusing! That's why I thought it was important to go into these concepts; and all these different philosophical debates are on that. So it's not in the meaning nor the actual understanding or actual realisation. In many different Buddhist philosophies they don't have any difference between the real understanding and the realisation. When you're talking about gzhan stong and rang stong, the difference is not between the understanding of it, and the eliminating of concepts or the extremes. There is no difference in having the realisation of the state in which your mind can be. But all the time the difference has been how to present it. I think you are going to have a very extensive teaching on


the rang stong and gzhan stong by Thrangu Rinpoche shortly. I think I told this last time I came, of the debate between the Prasangika and Svatantrika philosophy. Chandragomin and Chandrakirti debated for about twelve years, and there are nice stories about their debate. Chandragomin was a very great scholar and a great practitioner, but he was not a monk. A princess fell in love with him, so he married this princess after the king ordered him to. But he then ran away, and it is a long story. Anyway it doesn't matter! When he first came to Nalanda University he was like a beggar. But while he was there the university found that he was Chandragomin and he had written lots of books and so he was very well-known. When Chandrakirti came to know about this he said to Chandragomin: 'Now you must go back so that we can give you a proper welcome.' Chandrakirti was at that time a kind of ViceChancellor. Chandragomin said: 'No need, you shouldn't do that', but Chandrakirti replied: 'No, no, we can't let you come without giving you a proper welcome.' So they sent him back! Then they took a chariot and let Chandragomin sit on the chariot and give the rituals, with all the monks and nuns walking in front using music and whatever. But he didn't want that. He said: 'I don't want to receive all those things, because I'm just an ordinary lay person, and while the monks and nuns and all the sangha are doing this walking I'm sitting on the chariot and that is


impossible; I wouldn't do that.' And so they found a way round this by putting an image of Manjusri on the chariot while Chandragomin sat behind it! Then they took the chariot with lots of pomp and show, and that was the welcome! Chandragomin and Chandrakirti debated on how to present the Madhyamika philosophy. There were lots of differences, because Chandragomin said you must always insist on using the word 'ultimately', otherwise if you mix up the ultimate and relative levels they can be very gravely misunderstood. But Chandrakirti was of the opinion that when you are talking about the relative and the ultimate truth you are actually talking about the same thing. What is relative truth? Relative truth in its actual sense, in its actual way, is what ultimate truth is. So if you make too much a distinction between them, people will think that relative truth is something here and ultimate is somewhere else, so this was the debate. Chandrakirti was much more experienced in logic and was much more learned. Every day when they stopped the debate, Chandrakirti would almost be at the edge of defeating Chandragomin, but the next day Chandragomin would have some very strong new ideas. Chandrakirti got very curious about this, and asked: 'Who is the person who is teaching him, because he is not that bright, and every


time I am about to catch him out he gets something else!' So Chandrakirti started spying on Chandragomin, and followed him to his small room, where Chandrakirti looked at Chandragomin from behind the rooms doors. In the middle of the night he saw Chandragomin praying to a small image of Avalokiteshvara which started talking to him. On seeing this, Chandrakirti got very angry and burst into Chandragomins room and asked Avalokiteshvara: 'How can you be so biased?' Avalokiteshvara's image was talking to Chandragomin using this gesture, which remained like this with one hand raised. So it is said that the image became like that. It's still in Tibet actually, although I don't really know, so maybe it's a just a story. Chandrakirti then made lots of prayers, and later in a dream heard Avalokiteshvara say: 'You dont have that much karmic connection with me; you have more karmic connection with Manjusri. You are so learned already, there is no need for me to help you.' And things like that! One day a beggar lady came to Chandrakirti. Because he was the university Vice-Chancellor and very famous, she came to him and asked for his help. The beggar said: 'My daughter has got to be married, but the husband's family is asking for lots of dowry, lots of ornaments and things like that which I don't have. Please help me.' So Chandrakirti replied: 'Well I don't have anything, I am a monk you know. But there is Chandragomin; he's a householder, and a great professor. Maybe you can go


and ask for help from him.' So she went to Chandragomin and said: 'Please help me. You must help me, otherwise I'm going to die, because my daughter is going to be married and I have nothing to give as a dowry.' But Chandragomin didn't have anything at all, so he was in a fix and didn't know what to do. Then he looked at a picture of Tara and said: 'Maybe I can take this out.' So he took all the ornaments from the Tara image and gave them to the beggar lady. Afterwards it was said that there was a Tara image in Nalanda without any ornaments, which were taken off by Chandragomin! There are many stories about that, but anyway, what was I talking about before I went off the tracks? So here, in The Heart Sutra, what it says is that: 'Form is emptiness, emptiness also is form; emptiness is not other than form, form is not other than emptiness; so in the same way feeling, perception, formation and consciousness are emptiness.' If you can go beyond concepts, it's not then the idea of emptiness which is the important thing. When you talk about 'form is emptiness', it's also talking about when you see the form and you give it a name, that the form itself is a kind of concept. So we say 'this is a form', which is our concept of form. But when you don't have this concept then it's just like any other, and it will be a direct perception of what is conceived to be form. There is no


conflict of any kind, so you see the truth as it is and you don't need to change anything, nor do you need to impose anything on it. You just see it directly, and there is no finding of emptiness on the form or wanting to get emptiness out of the form or anything like that. It is the way things are: just seeing it, or understanding it, or realising it, without making any concepts of: 'emptiness, no emptiness, nothing, nothingness.' All these are the main and important things; but when you talk about emptiness that is the first step. It is because we have so much conditioning and so much sense of reality in it, that to shake that reality and create a little bit of understanding, we say that [form is empty, and emptiness is form] to raise a doubt. It is also because sometimes we become like that: what we think, we are. There is a very nice story about this actually. Do you know this story? I don't know who told it, but it is said that an eagle once left its egg in a chicken's roost. Then the egg hatched and the eaglet came out, and it was treated like a chicken. So he went with all the other chickens, pecking the grain and doing everything the other chickens did. Then slowly, slowly, the eaglet began to think it was a chicken. So it went around, didn't fly, and didn't do anything, but just pecked the grains. And when he grew old he looked at the sky and he saw the other eagles flying and always wished that he was an eagle flying so freely in the sky, but he could never fly because he


thought he was a chicken. As he was born like a chicken and died as a chicken he never knew he was actually an eagle. So this is the thing. All the time we have this problem of identifying too much with what we think we are, what we are told we are, or what we condition ourselves to think we are. There is too much concept and too much sensing of the solid: we can never think of putting our hand through metal or leaving our handprints on solid rock. We never can do it because we have too much of a feeling of solid things which we can't pass through, but it is not completely impossible, and people did it. You may have seen that there are many handprints, rockprints and footprints on rocks and things like that. The miracle is actually nothing else but to see the reality of things, and to have your understanding of this very strongly. Our concept of things is like this, and as long as we have that then we can't go beyond: we are in a trap and we are limited. We think that this is the room and we can't go out of the room, and we think this is me and I can't go out of me. So your power, your energy, in every way your sense, your mind, is completely limited. That is why I found the story of the film Ghost really good because of this: how you can discover that you are not limited that much, and that it can be a revelation. In the West they talk a lot about telepathy and all these kind of


things. You must have read the Third Eye? You haven't even read Third Eye? to read it!' What is wrong? It's a nice book! From the audience: 'I have read the Lobsang Rampa one.' Yes, it's such a nice one, and I was really impressed by that book. I read it when I was about twelve or thirteen, but of course I didn't understand everything and I just read with dictionaries. I was studying English, and I was studying on my own on a two year English course which was given in real English without any accents! One of my teachers is still there, and one of them is in London actually. She was really strict! She never let us go out for lunch unless we finished our homework well. Sometimes when we had a problem the teachers would come, and when we were right they used to come and hug us and give a kiss! We were afraid of that, and even if we knew it we couldn't make it right. So after that I was doing my own study, but that's besides the point! That's why I could only see things, see the words and not hear them, because whatever word I didn't understand I used to look up in the English-Tibetan dictionary by Kazi Dawa Samdrup. If I didn't find the word there, or if I didn't From the audience: 'We try not


understand from it, then I used a Chambers Dictionary 20th Century Dictionary. And if I didn't understand from that then I had an English-Hindi dictionary even though I had the least hope from there, but still! But if I didn't understand from any of them then I read the story again. Then I would write the word a few times on a black slate so that I could see it in my memory, and I never make any mistake in my spelling. Now I am starting to make more mistakes, but earlier I never made any spelling mistakes because of how I saw all the words. Some people have more of a way of seeing things, and some people more a way of hearing things. Some people have difficulties with visualisation and can't see things that way, but they can sometimes hear more. So maybe they do more mantra than visualisation, but anyway that's beside the point! So what was I talking about? Lobsang Rampa! No problem! Lobsang Rampas description of places and the way the Tibetan people think and act is completely accurate! Even now I never thought it could be for somebody who has never visited Tibet; it can't be. Some of Lobsang Rampas descriptions are so accurate. Some think that maybe Shen-tsel Kun-phel wrote the book, but anyway, it doesn't matter.


So what I was trying to say is that it's not impossible to have miracles and mental powers, because it is a matter of freeing ourselves from the constrictions and limitations that we put on ourselves. So the more solid a view we have of things, then the more solid the limitation becomes. Therefore the first step is to see if you can break or shake a little bit out of this complete solid and nothing-can-be-changed view. Then we can become a little bit more open and freer, and that's why the philosophy of sunyata becomes so important. So here it says: 'Thus, Sariputra, all dharmas are emptiness, there are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity.' When the text says 'all dharmas are emptiness, there are no characteristics'; what it means by 'characteristics' are the characteristics that we put on everything. That is, our concepts like 'this is good, this is bad, this is nice, this is not nice, this is like that, this is like this.' All these kinds of characteristics are not on the thing, but it's more of a concept that we put on things. And when we talk about 'no birth and no cessation,' which I think we talked about quite a lot the other day, it is the very basic understanding: no birth, or unborn nature. From unborn nature and unceasing nature, unborn nature means even when something is there, it is seen almost as if made of nothing. So it has an unborn quality, and because it has an unborn quality, therefore it has an unceasing nature.


Now it doesn't just apply to objects. Think back to our mind, that is more important. As I said earlier, when we talk about how many things are put onto things, it is the concept. But the concept is made in our mind; therefore, basically speaking and from a Buddhist point of view, to know the nature of our mind is the final thing and it really determines everything. Usually we look out and we say: 'This is like this or like that', but we don't look at the mind or whatever it is that is deciding or saying: 'This is empty, this is not empty, this is this, this is that.' So the mind is the thing, and when you talk about the mind, it is the nature of the mind itself that we have to find out, its unborn quality and its unceasing quality. Now all these things which we have been talking about are things which can be told. It is not as if the Buddha just said: 'Well, this is like this, oh yes, it is like that,' and then you just understand it like information. You can't take it like that, as it has to be understood. That's why in the beginning it says so so rang rig: it has to be understood from within yourself, and that's very important. There is a very wonderful anecdote from the Buddha's life. Maybe I have told it before;, or maybe I didn't. Once Buddha was teaching in a place called Sarvati. In Sanskrit they call it Sravasti, and in Pali it is Sarvati, and he taught a lot there. There were many people coming to his teachings and one person came to his teachings every


day for many many months and years. One day he arrived much earlier than everybody else and asked a question. The man asked: 'Well you know, you have given us lots of teaching, and I very strongly believe that you are a really enlightened person, and all your teachings are wonderful, very illuminating and very good. And I also see that some people get much benefit out of it then change themselves and really become, I must say, liberated; and others also change a little bit and become better. But for the majority of us, we don't change at all, we are the same as before, and some of us even seem to get worse. So why is this? If you are a buddha and you are such a great enlightened person, why don't you make us all change?' The Buddha replied: 'All right, where do you come from?' And the man said: 'Well, I am here; I am staying in Sarvati.' The Buddha then said: 'But you don't look as if you are from this locality.' 'Oh,' the man said, 'I was born in Magadha, and I actually come from Magadha.' The Buddha said: 'Then you must have connections with Magadha?' To this the man replied: 'Of course, I have connections with Magadha, and my family is there and I have business there. Every year I go there two, three or many times, and I do business.'


And The Buddha said: 'In that case, you must know the way to Magadha very well.' The man said: 'Of course. I know it so well that I could be blind-folded and I could go and come back.' Then The Buddha said: 'Well, in that case, your many friends might know that you are from Magadha, and they might ask you for the way to go to Magadha.' The man said: 'Of course. Everybody knows I am from Magadha and everybody who I know also knows that I know the way. So many people ask me the way to Magadha. And why not? I tell them everything.' So then The Buddha asked: 'In that case, does everybody who asks you the way reach there?' The man said: 'Of course not. Only those who go there reach there.' To which The Buddha replied: 'That's the point. Now, I have gone to this place called enlightenment. I know the way, and people know that I know the way, who know me, so they ask me the way. And why not? I tell them everything, there's nothing secret about it. But only those who really go there will reach there.' Is it not a nice story? The understanding of the unborn nature and unceasing nature of things, and of the mind is the most important thing. But it is not something that you understand by thinking a little about it in an intellectual way. When you


look at your own mind in a more meditative way then it's not just a matter of conceptualising and intellectualising it. When we talk about analysing the nature of our mind and analysing the nature of things, sometimes in the beginning we have to do some thinking, because we have certain ideas and make certain assumptions. If we build on a wrong assumption there is no way to get to the truth, because we have based it on a wrong assumption. So to get rid of these wrong assumptions, we need to think and we need to understand. I have a very nice joke about assumptions. Would you like to listen to it? I told this to the small children in Edinburgh and they didn't understand it! I was taken to a primary school, and they wanted to know a Tibetan joke. I didn't remember a Tibetan joke but I remembered this Sikkimese joke which I told them, but nobody laughed! I think maybe you will understand it, or maybe not! It doesn't matter so we can try but it depends on how I tell it. This is a very famous joke but I dont think I should tell this joke actually, as there was this man who once sponsored me, and my teacher used to live in his house. I also lived in his house for some time. I think I did three readings of bka 'gyur for him for his welfare, not for my education! He was very rich. He was also the Prime Minister of Sikkim at that time although he was not called the Prime Minister but something else. He was illiterate but he could read a little bit of Hindi. Then he was invited to Delhi with all his


council of ministers. India was going to give him a very long and extensive tour, then give many things, because at the time India was thinking of absorbing Sikkim. So the Prime Minister went down in a jeep. In front of him was a truck. The road system there is not like here. There we can sound the horn as much as we want to, and sounding the horn is not bad. At the back of every truck you would find written 'Horn please' so that they know you are coming and they can give you a pass. On one side of this truck was written 'Horn please', and on other side it was written in Hindi, the word filmilega. In Hindi, filmilega means 'see you again'. So the Prime Minister looked at this Hindi sign and asked the driver: 'Can you read English?' The driver said, 'A little bit.' 'What is written there?' 'It's written "Horn please".' 'All right. Not bad.' They went to Delhi and did all the travelling, discussion and everything. And when it was finished it was time to take leave. So they gave a big party, and at the end of it the delegation of Sikkim said goodbye to the Prime Minister of India who at that time was Indira Gandhi, you know, a lady. So they came in a queue to say goodbye to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of Sikkim came along first, shook her hand and said: 'Horn please'! But he wanted to say 'See you again', in English! English is very important in India and if you are somebody then you have to speak in English, and then 'Oh, sahib, Memsahib!'


Otherwise you are nobody! So the Indian Prime Minister thought that, well, this must be a Sikkimese way of saying goodbye, so she said, 'Horn please'. Then the person next to him thought that this must be something very important to say because our head of state is saying this and so is the Indian Prime Minister. It must be a really important thing to say, so he went up and said: 'Horn please'! And the Indian Prime Minister again said: 'Horn please! And the whole delegation kept on saying: 'Horn please'! So it can happen like that, and that's what it is: no birth and no cessation! I think maybe I should stop here! You can ask questions if you like, on 'Horn please'! Q: 'Horn please' is still about concepts, isn't it Rinpoche? Concepts are like a system of communication, that you can call something something and if the other party understands the same thing, then you communicate. R: That's good enough! Q: You can say anything as long as both parties have the same understanding. R: Yes. You can say anything! Q: You can call that a flower; you could call it blumen, in German, and as long as both parties agree it doesn't matter what the actual title is. I was also thinking about my concepts when my ex-husband was colour blind. So to make him understand colour I used to say: 'Oh, it's the


green poppy, it's green.' But he saw red, green and brown as the same colour. R: That's it. Q: As long as the understanding is there ... R: In Edinburgh we were thinking about that, and I was saying that here you talk about the weather all the time. But if you talked about it in India, and said: 'Oh it's a nice day' to somebody just going around, they would think: What has happened to him? They may say: 'What do you say there?' But I was thinking, what do we talk about? And then I found out that one thing that we do say is that whenever you meet somebody you ask: 'Where are you going?' And in Sikkim when you you meet you say: 'Where to? Up or down?' That's the meeting formality! First you say: 'Where to?' Then you say: 'Up to or Down to?' So that's the formality. I found out just recently that there is an even more funny way of saying goodbye in the Tibetan system. When somebody is going away, you don't say goodbye; you don't say anything, you just say ga le phebs, which means 'Go slowly.' And more strange is what he says back: ga le bshugs; which means 'Sit slowly'! Go slowly, and sit slowly! That's their goodbye! Q: There's something similar in Osaka in Japan, where everybody does business, and it's commercial. They don't say Hello. They say: 'Are you making any money?' And










convention. R: I think I've heard the first thing that the Chinese say when you meet is: 'Have you eaten?' Q: Rinpoche, for example, aren't concepts necessary to think about qualities? If you have a healing flower, then to know that it's a healing flower is an important thing because then you'd be able to help somebody with it. R: Whether you like it or not, concept is always there and we can't do without it. We can't communicate without concept, and all communications are done with concepts. All thoughts are done with concepts. Although we don't communicate that well, whatever communication we do is done through concepts; and because we have concepts we can't really communicate that exactly. But this is also communication, in that the things which we mean to say exactly are these concepts, and it's a very funny way of doing things. When I say something, I have a thing in my mind and when I say it then you get it as something else, no? When I say something, all of you have got something slightly different. Because you have got your own thing, you can't get it as completely as I think; you have got something slightly different because it's a concept. So when I'm talking, the language is something like a metaphor, and we take the things from there as according to our own.


I always say that everybody has a box in their mind. Some people have a rectangular one, some people have a triangular one, some people have a round one, some people have bigger one, or a small one. So whatever somebody says, you take it in, and if it fits there you say: 'Oh it's very nice, you said it exactly how I thought it was!' Then you are very happy, because it fits in there and you can understand what he or she says and it's very nice, and wonderful. But it's a difficult thing when it doesn't fit in. So you either have to cut it or fold it to make it go in. Then you say: 'Oh, what he meant was this, and what he was saying was this, this, and this'. Or maybe it doesn't go in at all and you say: 'Oh, he's talking rubbish, I don't understand anything as it all went over my head.' Therefore most of the time, because of our concept and because of our conditioning we just don't grow, we don't make any development and we just remain as we are. In that way we make it a point to remain as we are. So that's why the main important thing is to stretch things a little and open up. That's why we talk so much about opening up and becoming more open and limitless, and that's why we do lots of practices in preparation for mahamudra and things like that. We do lots of opening up exercises to crush our own pride, strong restrictions or control. And devotion is a way of opening up and making things which are not completely my own way of seeing them.


Q: Conceptions, preconceptions, prejudices and conscious ideas, as well as deeper ideas are usually categorised as good or bad. Would it be better to say useful and not useful? R: No. The concept wouldn't go that easily! Q: But should the categories go, in terms of being helpful? Or is that just a pre-conceptual mind thinking about them? R: To what benefit? Q: For other people, other beings. R: These are all within the concept maybe, and of course that's desirable and is good. That is also what we said last time, and is what I meant when I used Nagarjuna's quotation this morning,. It is a negative concept to just say everything is not there and is then finished, and that's not good. It's much better to have a positive concept. So the first thing is, at the basic level we try to turn our negative conditioning into positive conditioning. That's the first stage, the discipline, and the practice. This is because of the conditions that are put on us, like negative emotions, negative thoughts and negative conditioning. So we try to develop more compassion, as well as a right way of living; and we try to develop more positive sides of us from the negative sides; that is, less negative and more


positive. So this is done and is a very important part; it is very basic and most important. Although this is at the relative level, it is what we call accumulation of merit, or purification of negative deeds. Somebody said yesterday that this accumulation of merit is sometimes difficult to understand or accept in the West. But accumulation of merit just means nothing else but to develop our good side, our positive side, our helpful side, so that we have less problems, less causes of problems, less causes of suffering, and less causes of pain for ourselves and for others. That's the accumulation of merit and is the purification of negative things. That is the first stage; but however much you do that, you do not completely see the truth, and you do not get out of the samsaric state of mind completely. This is because the samsaric state of mind is based on an identification, a wrong identification, and on a strong assumption. This is the ego, and although you can say ego, ego has many different meanings. Here, ego means assumption that this is me, and this is others, and this is what I like so I must go after it, and this is what I don't like so I must run away from it. This way you go around and around and around: this is positive so I must get this, this is negative so I should not. So there is this fear of negativity that goes on even if you are doing all the positive things and getting out of negative things. You might go very high in the


samsaric circle, but you are still in the samsaric circle and you don't go beyond it. Yesterday we talked about so so skye bo and 'phags pa: samsaric and non-samsaric. But to get out of that circle, and to completely break through, you have to have this understanding of sunyata, the prajnaparamita. Then you break the concepts so that you have no impurity, no purity, no birth, no cessation, and things like that. It's said here: 'no decrease, no increase'; so therefore there is no seeing of all these things as a concept. Good things and bad things are concepts, as are pure and impure, and there's actually no difference in them. When you see these things directly without making concepts then you see the things clearly. You are getting completely free from the assumptions, and from the conditioning that you have made on your own self, which was built on an assumption. So then you are liberated, and that's what we call enlightened: you have made yourself completely free from all limitations. That is very important I think, to understand enlightenment as the freeing from limitations. Because the limitations you put on yourself are really limiting and restricting you, they confine you to a very small area. Separations are made, so you have lots of conflicts because you have made yourself separate from everything else due to you being limited. So that's how it goes, step by step.


Q: Rinpoche, is there a particular practice which is connected to these teachings? R: Well, practice! From the Buddhist point of view all practices can go into three words: wisdom, meditation, discipline. That's the practice. Wisdom is trying to understand more through study, through experience, and through all other means to bring your understanding, and realisation more clearly. And it is breaking your assumptions, seeing things clearly, and trying to remove all the limitations. That's the wisdom. Meditation is very important. It is most important to bring this wisdom to your own actual self, to become what you understand. The starting point with meditation is making yourself calm and clear, but that's not everything its the starting point. The starting point is to make ourself calm and clear; these go together, calm and clear. The more calm and clear we become the more our wisdom will grow. The more clearly we see, the more assumptions we can get through. The more conception goes away, the more we will get rid of limitations, and so the more positive we become. Then there is the discipline: because we are not calm and clear, and because we have not completely developed wisdom, then for the time being we need lots of discipline.


But even if we know this is the right thing we don't do it! We don't do it because we are overtaken and are overpowered by other things, by our negative things, by our conditioning, and by our different things. So we try to impose a little bit on ourselves to direct ourselves, and make a discipline. Do not make it too hard such that we will break it, but apply instead a little bit of light discipline. So the more discipline we have, it'll help us to have more meditation and help us on to wisdom. I think it is very important that these three things: wisdom, meditation, and discipline, go together. If you don't have these three things then I think you miss something in the practice. Some people do lots of meditation but there is not the other two. Some people have lots of discipline but not other two; and some people have lots of wisdom, study and things like that, but not the other two. So it then becomes unbalanced, and your practice doesn't go in a balanced way. So therefore it is important to have all these three things together in a balanced way. So, I think that's all this morning. Thank you very much. We can say the dedication now, in Tibetan. but we will also say it in English. I will say it and you can repeat after me:


'May all beings be happy and create the causes of happiness. May they all be free from suffering and from creating the causes of suffering. May they find that noble happiness which can never be tainted by suffering. May they attain universal impartial compassion beyond worldly bias towards friends and enemies.'

As we are going through the Prajnaparamita Sutra, this morning we have come to: Sha ri'i bu / de lta bas na / stong pa nyid la gzugs med / tshor ba med / 'du shes med / 'du byed med / rnam par shes pa med / mig med / rna ba med / sna med / lce med / lus med / yid med / gzugs med / sgra med / dri med / ro med / reg bya med / chos med do. It says: 'Therefore Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no dharmas; no eye dhatu up to no mind dhatu, no dhatu of dharmas, no mind-consciousness dhatu; no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path; no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment.'


This is what we talked about this morning, when we said 'no'. Here no means all of our concepts and ideas, and the things that we have perceived or made concepts from, and where we have a strong kind of solid formation in our mind. It is those which have no real substance. Where it says 'there is no form', it does not mean form is not there, or that we can't see form, or that we just see nothing. From the relative point of view nobody can deny that form is what we see, that this is the form, or this is what we touch. But what we are talking about here is the way we see things, the way we hear things, the way we think or we perceive or how we take. Those are the main points. So when you talk about these eyes and ears and nose, why do we say eyes and ears and nose only? We are either describing the whole entity or the whole phenomenan through the five aggregates. That is the form, the feeling, the perception, the formation, and the consciousness. Or we are describing it through the twelve or the eighteen dhatus. The twelve dhatus are what you call skye mched bcu gnyis, or the eighteen dhatus you call khams bcu brgyad. You can make them in any way, but we will say eighteen dhatus. Now the eighteen dhatus are the six sense organs; the six senses, like eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind; and six sense objects, like the form, the sound, the taste, the smell, the touch, and the thoughts; and then six sense consciousnesses, such as the


eye, the seeing, the eye consciousness; [ear, the hearing, the ear consciousness etc]. So the eye and the form contact, then comes the eye consciousness. The ear and sound contact, then comes ear consciousness; and so on. So these are the six consciousnesses: eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose or smelling consciousness, the tasting consciousness, the touching consciousness, and then the thinking consciousness. These eighteen - six, six, and six; three of six, so eighteen; are called the khams bcu brgyad, the eighteen dhatus. That covers everything. From the Buddhist point of view, it's a way of saying that everything you talk about is talked about from personal experience. So all these things: what you see, what you hear, and so on are the only way you can currently see things, that you can currently sense. How do you say that there is form? Because I see it. The way the eyes see the forms, and ears hear the sound, and how the sense consciousnesses come, are analysed. Then we try to see the unborn nature in them, the unceasing nature, and how interdependent they are, how impermanent and how compounded they are. To put stress on these kind of ideas and to make things more clear, the sense organs, objects, and consciousnesses have been divided into these different things: the eighteen (or twelve) dhatus or khams bcu brgyad.


And even looking from the twelve dependent originations [the twelve links], its also same: the ignorance, 'no ignorance, no end of ignorance; up to no old age and death', to the 'end of old age and death'. From the relative point of view they all are there as if you have things in a dream, or as if you have things in a mirage, in magic, or like a rainbow. A dream is a very good example for this kind of thing. We don't mean to say that the whole of life is a dream, but instead it is like a dream. That difference is very much appreciated and emphasised: it is like a dream. It is not a dream but like a dream. What we mean by like a dream is like the way you have in a dream. So suppose you are in a dream; when you are dreaming you have the experiences of your dream, and you have the vividness of it, you have the total strong feelings of it, you see things very clearly, and you're reacting in a very strong way as if the dream is completely real. There is not much difference between our ordinary life and the dream, in the way you see things and the clarity and vividness of it, and the solidity of things in the dream. But as soon as the dream has finished, you know that there has never been anything like that and it was just a dream. So even when we were dreaming, even at that moment, although everything was so clear and so distinct and so precise, you can understand and you can know that it was not actually happening.


In the same way, the similarity is that in this life now even when we see things, when we are in this life, everything is so vivid, everything is so solid, and everything is so strong and so real. But as long as you are in this condition, as long as we are in this mind-stream, this karmic interdependent state, then we have the solidity, and we have the effects. The cause of good karma will give a good result, and the cause of bad karma will give a bad result. This is according to how we act, and thus we reap; and with all these things such as the law of cause and effect, then everything goes as if it is very much there, as if it is very solid. So there is no difference in that, but when we see the true nature of it, and when we get the understanding of it more deeply, then we can get out of it. When we see the truth then we can find or have the experience that all these things are not real, like in a dream. So from that point of view and according to this philosophy, the dream and the reality have a great deal of similarity. As we have in the dream, when you are dreaming; when you understand and realise: 'Oh this is a dream, this is not true, this is a dream,' immediately we lose all fear of it and all our problems. Even if it was a very strong nightmare you would immediately lose all fear of it because you have understood that it is not real, it is a dream. In the same way if we can understand the dreamnature or the similarity of the dream and the world now,


we lose all the fear. So therefore our strong attachment, and our strong fear of the world, to ourselves, and to the concepts we make will be lightened, and they will go away. That is why it is so important to understand the nature of it, to understand the emptiness part of it, and to understand the dream-like nature of it. When we analyse all these things and see them the way they really are, this gets us out of the samsaric state of mind, as we said before. So we see that we don't have to completely or continuously run after or run away from things all the time. Then we are liberated. When The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, he taught it in three parts, he stated the Four Noble Truths three times. First he said that 'There is suffering, you have to understand this suffering.' Then he said that 'There is this suffering, there is the cause of suffering, there is the cessation of suffering, there is the path to the cessation of suffering.' Then he said that 'The suffering you have to understand, the cause of suffering you have to extinguish, the cessation of suffering you have to attain, the path you have to tread.' Then he said, another time, the third time: 'There is suffering, the suffering has to be understood, but there is nothing to be understood; there is the cause of suffering, the cause of suffering has to be abandoned, extinguished, but there is nothing to be abandoned; then there is the cessation of suffering, the cessation has to be attained, but there is nothing to attain; there is the path,


and the path has to be trod, but there is nothing to be trod.' So the Buddha put it in these three ways. What we mean to say by this is that first we have to understand things at our own level, on a purely relative level, that there is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, there are all these kind of things. We don't want problems, we want more happiness, a more positive and a better situation. So we have to understand how to gain it, how to get the higher one, the better one. But at the end you have to understand with all these things it is like a play; it's not absolute, it's just a relative thing, and it's an interdependent thing. When you try to look at it deeply, all these things kind of merge into one another, and that good and bad are comparative things, big and small are also comparative, and there is nothing really called good and bad. Beautiful and ugly is also a comparative thing, and there is nothing really called big, or beautiful, or ugly. When we see everything as relative, it is not absolute in nature. Nothing is absolute. It's just something depending on all those things. These things are there because these other things are there, and both of them have no real or actual kind of reality. It's like two sides of the coin: if one side is not there then the other is also not there. Or like the mirror and the face, in that both are dependent on each other, and without one the other is also not there, and that means both are not actually real. So if you


understand in this way then ignorance, and all twelve links of dependent and origination, can be completely if you understood, completely realised only

understand their unreal nature. The unreal nature is not our conception of 'unreal' that is put on it, but in its actual way. Therefore they put it like this: 'there is no ignorance and from there on to no old age and death'; and not only no ignorance and no old age and death, but there is not only no ignorance, but no end of ignorance and there is no end of old age and death. Because ignorance is a concept and an unreal thing, so the end of ignorance is also a concept and a relative thing; it's not absolute. At the moment we think that when we say we attain buddhahood we then say: 'Now we are in samsara, and when we get out of samsara then we are in nirvana or in an enlightened state.' So we have these two things: we are in samsara and then we run to nirvana and then we are there; then it is very good. But speaking about this is just our idea, and what we think is taught by Buddha; but everything taught by Buddha is not absolute. It is to lead people to believe that there is something to strive towards, something to go to, so that they don't get too involved or attached to things now. Otherwise people can remain completely like that for a long long time.


There is an anecdote, from a story given in the sutras, that even Buddha's own teachings are questioned. From the Tibetan, Mahayana Buddhist point of view, Buddha's teachings are very much questioned, they are analysed, and they are categorised, to see whether a certain teaching is drang don or nges don. Drang don is a leading truth and nges don is an absolute truth, a definitive truth. So when Buddha gave a teaching it was not nges don all the time, nor drang don all the time. To define a drang don, or the leading truth, are three things: dgongs gzhi, gyur pa, dngos la nges shes. The dgongs bzhi is the first thing in that if something doesn't happen as it is, it can't be proved. And if it doesn't happen as it is told, dngos la nges shes, it means it's against, it's contradicting to the reality. For instance, suppose the Buddha says that there is a mantra which you can put on top of your door, and if you entered through the door once, all your negative karma will be washed away. There are things like that. Or suppose I say: Actually, you shouldn't have listened to my teachings; you should have gone home as you have already finished, and all your negativity is gone! Now what do we mean when we go through something not only once but many times and nothing happens? This is dngos la nges shes, in that it is not happening as it is told. Then, gyur pa, there must be a reason for it not happening as it is told; there must be a reason for saying it. Maybe it was


taught to somebody for some reason or for some kind of purpose; so the gyur pa is there. And then for dgongs bzhi, the Buddha doesn't tell lies; so there must be another kind of description or some kind of meaning to it, there must be another meaning. For instance, if you have this mantra written and you say it once, and are told that you will see something such as an image of Buddha or Avalokiteshvara, or something like that, then with dgongs gzhi, the point which Buddha was thinking was that when you do it once you then make a karmic connection with it. Once you make a karmic connection with it, it doesn't completely go away. So therefore slowly, maybe after a hundred kalpas, you don't know, this connection will ripen into something and all your negative karma will vanish. Its not completely untrue when Buddha was saying you go through it once and then you wipe away all your negative karma. But it's not as true either; it seems that when we do this, and that happens, it sounds like it's going to happen immediately. But there is the meaning behind it, and a purpose for it. It could have been that when Buddha told this to a certain person it was very important. Although we say things like: 'We are going to get enlightened', it's very important that we say we have to strive for getting enlightenment, because at the moment if you say there's nothing to get, why do anything? Our


mind is conditioned in such a way that at the moment we either lose something or we get something. We do not have the conditioning or the understanding of having nothing to get. At the moment if we say: 'Oh, enlightenment is nothing, there's no enlightenment, it's nothing to get'; then it's a very negative way of saying things. Nobody would do anything, and would say: then why do we do anything? But if we find or if we feel there is something to gain, it's not that there is nothing, but that there is something to gain for our experience. When our negative things are dispelled and our compassion and wisdom grow more and more, or we become completely limitless, then we get the enlightenment: that is the enlightenment. When we actually get the enlightenment it's nothing to get or lose, but is to see things completely without any distortion, obscuration, or anything added: that's the enlightenment. Therefore when you get enlightenment there is nothing to get; and it's a kind of paradox. I thought the Zen way of saying things was very interesting. Have you heard of the gateless gate? They describe it as the gateless gate, and what they mean by it is that if you enter the gateless gate then you realise the truth; then you get enlightened. So what is the gateless gate? They say that if you pass through the gate, you then realise there never has been any gate. That is the gateless gate! But you have to pass through it in order to pass through the gateless gate. And


when you pass through it you then realise there never has been any gate. So it is something like that. We talk from what we call Buddha's groups of teachings, The Three Dharmacakras. We say bsod nams ma yin (trang po duk, Par do don yo duk pa duk). That's the Tibetan. What bsod nams ma yin (trang po duk) means to say is that first you negate or you abandon the nonvirtuous things. The first group of teachings or the first Dharmacakra was mainly directed or emphasised on how to get rid of negative things, and how to accumulate and achieve more positive deeds. That was the main theme of the first group of teachings. Par do don yo duk pa duk is the second Dharmacakra, which means to negate or to get rid of the bdag, or self. What is to be abandoned is seeing the self, and the selfentity, as something real, something solid. Because you have this strong concept of self, and being, then you can't see the truth. You say something like 'this is there', or 'this is not there', using that kind of concept. The main target is the self, especially the gang zag gi bdag and the chos kyi bdag, the self of the entity or the phenomena, and the self of the person, like 'I', and the wrong understanding and strong identification of ego. Then there is the third Dharmacakra which means to get rid of all philosophy, all views. That is, concepts are the


main target in the third group of teachings. So here we are giving lots of emphasis on 'no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue'. It is saying that if you look more deeply into the senses: the eye, ear, tongue, etc then who is it who is sensing things? What is it that you sense? It then just becomes like there is no-one to sense. When you try to find the taste, you have a taste, but when you try to find out who is the one who is tasting it, then there is no-one to find. There is no body, no thing, or one thing which is feeling or sensing the taste. That way you find the nonentity of the personal self. There are two ways in which to go about this in a meditative way. One way is through analytical meditation on the Prajnaparamita. That is, to sit own and analyse one by one either the outside world or inside world. Maybe start from something like form, or a glass or a flower or things like that, and see in your mind how this flower is. Maybe you could take the petals out one by one and see where is the flower now? When you don't see the flower then you can look at the petal and take it apart one part by one part and see where is the petal? Then when you don't see the petal, maybe you could go on to a piece of petal, or tissue of the flower, and go on analysing and seeing where is the tissue? Then when you don't get any tissue, you can go to the atoms of the flower and again analyse where is the atom? So in this way you can have an understanding, an intellectual understanding, and


logical understanding that the flower is not there. Even when it appears there it is not completely real, it's a relative thing, it's like a dream, like an illusion. Now when you look back at yourself, such as the body, you can analyse where am I? What am I? Who am I? So when you look at 'me' then you look at your body: you are made of form, so you say form, this is the body. Then you look at your body and say this is my skin, this is my bones, this is my flesh, this is my nerves; so when you take this all out, then where is the body? And when you take out the body and you don't find anything in the body, there is no one thing as 'my body'. It is many things and goes into four elements, or five elements but nothing you can find; then you can go deeply into it and it becomes atoms and more. Then you can say: 'the body is like that, but there is feeling'. So you can look into feeling. Feeling is either a pleasant feeling, an unpleasant feeling, or a neutral feeling. Now when we look at feeling, is it the feeling of the past, feeling of the future, or feeling of the present? The feeling of the past is gone, it's not there anymore. Feeling of the future is yet to come, and it's not there. With the feeling of the present, which feeling is the feeling of the present now? You can look at the very moment, the now-ness, then you might find that even now it's flitted into the past and the future, so where is the now? When


you analyse the past and the future it's in a very very kind of subtle way, and this point has gone past, this also has gone past, and this has gone past, so where is the present? Actually there is nothing present, and all the time it's happening, it's not happening; it's just gone, it's never. The moment when we say 'I have felt', that's a gone thing; we are just remembering the past, it's a remembrance and nothing more than that. Therefore this feeling is not me, and it's not something there. The feeling is there, but there is nothing there in the feeling, nor who is the one who is feeling or what is the thing being felt. So in the same way we can analyse all the perceptions, formations of the mind, and the consciousness. You may say that the consciousness is very much there, but consciousness is also nothing. It is something that comes out of many things, and it's not something thats really there: it comes up and goes; it's not that there is something called consciousness there all the time. When a sound happens, then there has to be the sound, and there has to be the ear; and when the sound and the ear are there, then there is the sound and consciousness of the sound. Now this sound and the consciousness happen at that moment; it's not that consciousness is there all the time. We usually think or believe that our consciousness is there all the time, like it's a kind of a thing that is there all the time; but we don't look at it in a very correct way because the consciousness is many. This consciousness


[finger snap], and the sound: that's one consciousness. When we see a thing with the eye consciousness, that consciousness is separate. When we think something, that thought comes in, that's another consciousness. When we have a feeling, that is another consciousness. And when all these different kinds of things happen, it is many things, and is consciousnesses coming and going, coming and going. So that's why, when we try to contemplate on it by trying to look at it, then seeing, trying to find out, trying to see what it is, and to find something that we call the consciousness, we don't find it. We try to analyse on each of the moments, but find that consciousness is not something there all the time and that it just goes and there is nothing there. This way if we examine all these kinds of aggregates, or mainly the five aggregates, and investigate in this way, we can't find anything. We can't intellectually find one thing which is really there and is solid, what we can call the thing, or the me, the one who is experiencing the things, that which is being experienced, or that which is solid and there. We can't find that, so when we don't find it then that's the finding. The finding is in not finding. The more strongly we get convinced of not finding, the stronger our finding is. So when we don't find anything, we can relax and then get some kind of confidence in it.












consciousness, not going anywhere. This is the one thing which you must have heard said many many times in all meditations: 'Don't follow the thoughts of the past, don't anticipate the future, be in the present moment.' When you can really be in the present moment, that is actually the experience of the state of the true nature of your ordinary mind. It is just being in the present moment without bringing back the memory of the past, and without forecasting or anticipating the things of the future. It is just being in the present consciousness without any kind of speculation, any reference points, nor any judgements; it is just being in the present moment. It is very hard to do that, because we are not used to it. We are so much conditioned to being in the thoughts, in the past, making and building things up in our mind, joining together too many things and forming something, that we can't really be just in the moment nor just in the present consciousness. We do not dare to, because then we lose all our ground, we lose all our grasping, and we can't completely be in the present moment and grasp at things at the same time. But neither can we have any fear or any expectation if we are just in the present moment; that is impossible. Usually we would like to have something to grasp on to, and we are so used to that, that we think we cannot function without grasping. We usually need somewhere to grasp at, so therefore we just have to hold


on to something even if it gives us lots of suffering and lots of problems. So that is the main meditation, whether you do it in the Prajnaparamita way, the Mahamudra way, or whether you do it the rdzogs pa chen po way, shi ze [zhi byed] way, or (cho yul) [gcod yul] way. But whichever way you do it, it's the same thing: that is, you just let yourself be completely in the present moment, and you do not have to do anything. You are alert and conscious and things like that, but you are not following the thoughts of the past or the future. It can be learned, which means it can be practised, and nothing comes without practice. It's same as zhi gnas meditation. With the zhi gnas meditation, just calming your mind, it is also the same thing in that it comes only from practice, and can't actually be taught. It is how to calm your mind, how to relax. You don't know how to relax unless you practise, and through practice and doing again and again then you learn, like everything else. How do you learn to draw? How do you learn to play music? How do you learn to ride a bicycle? Or how to drive a car, or anything? You may know the theory, and that is easy to learn. I know all the theory about how to cook for instance, and I even know how to cook cheesecake! I also know how to cook apple pie, I know how to cook bananacake. The theory is easy to understand, but maybe the practice is not that easy to understand. What I mean


is it comes out of practice whether it is easy or not, and that is how the things are. That is why it says 'no end of old age and death' because these are also concepts. So when you have this understanding then we can rest in this. This is the way of meditating, and the actual way of practising this is through analysis The and best then way through is said resting to be [in the meditation]. through

alternating between investigation or analysis, and then when you are tired of it to then rest. In the same way we talk about 'no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment; and no no-cessation of suffering, no no-path, no no-wisdom, no no-attainment, no non-attainment' even. That doesn't mean that there is just no attainment, but that there is no non-attainment also, because non-attainment is as much a concept as attainment is. Therefore you gone beyond your concepts, and you go beyond your clinging and grasping and any kind of reference point. In the first day when we talked about what the actual practice is, we said there were three sacred things, or the three noble things, the principles of the practice. The first noble practice is aspiration; the second and main noble practice is no-reference; and the third noble practice is dedication. The second noble practice, no-reference, is not


just the understanding, but is the realisation of the Prajnaparamita. Maybe in the Kagyu tradition, and in Mahamudra terminology you would call it the ordinary mind. Sometimes they say rang byung ye shes, the selfborn wisdom or together-born wisdom; then from the rdzogs chen point of view you call it rig pa. So rig pa is the same thing as this, but through whatever tradition, these different traditions use different terminologies. The Tibetan tradition of teaching is that we never mix up these terminologies, so when a certain thing is being taught, you never mix it up with the other terminologies. Each teaching, each tradition, is meant for a certain type of people, a certain type of understanding, and certain types of things which have to be kept as they are. If you mix them up then they will become diluted and it then becomes confusing. So although we don't mix it up, they are actually the same. Then The Heart Sutra goes on to say: 'Therefore Sariputra, since the bodhisattvas have no attainment, they abide by means of Prajnaparamita' - shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa la brten cing gnas te / sems la sgrib pa med pas skrag pa med do / phyin ci log. Therefore the bodhisattvas have nothing to attain, and they have no attainment and they abide by the means of Prajnaparamita, and they abide in the Prajnaparamita. When they abide in the Prajnaparamita they understand that there's nothing to attain. When you have nothing to attain, by having the


strong understanding of there being nothing more to attain, then you have complete satisfaction. You have complete attainment, because you have no more to strive for, you have no more to hope for, you have nothing to look forward to, so you are completely contained. 'Since there is no obscuration there is no fear': when you understand that, and that there is nothing to attain, then there is no need or requirement, there is nothing there to attain. But it's not that you can't get any attainment, its that there is nothing that is to be attained, you are complete, there is no more you need, it's there. That is the Prajnaparamita: seeing the things as they are. You have no illusion of anything, you have no more expectation to get, nothing is unfulfilled; so when you have that, then there is no obscuration of mind because you have seen it clearly, therefore there is no fear. Fear only comes if you have either attachment or aversion, looking forward to something, expecting something; or when you don't like something which you don't want, and wish to get out of something. That is when you have fear. But here there is no attachment, there is no looking forward to or no fear of anything else. There is no obscuration and nothing that you don't like, nothing that you want to get out of. Everything is there, therefore there is no fear. So when you have no fear there is no obscuration, and there is nothing you need to get out of to purify because there is nothing that you fear, there is nothing that need be done. Therefore: 'they transcend


falsity and attain complete nirvana.' This state is called nirvana, or transcendental wisdom, because there you see the wisdom which is beyond all concepts. It's an experience, a direct experience; but it is not any attainment, or any kind of concept, or any kind of stage. It's not a related thing, it's not a relative thing, it's just a complete clarity, so therefore this is called the complete nirvana. Dus gsum du rnam par bshugs pa'i sangs rgyas thams ced dang shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa la brten nas bla na med pa wang dag par rdzogs pa'i byang chub mngon par rdzogs par sangs rgyas so. It says that, 'All the buddhas of the three times by means of Prajnaparamita fully awaken to unsurpassable true complete enlightenment.' This is just a statement saying that the buddhas of the past, the buddhas of the present, and the buddhas who will become buddhas in the future, cannot become a buddha, and cannot get this complete enlightenment without the Prajnaparamita, nor without realising or understanding or having the complete they view of the Prajnaparamita. this complete Therefore have attained

enlightenment; and this is unsurpassable. Unsurpassable means that there is nothing more than that, because you have nothing more to get. You have understood that you are completely complete, you are nothing uncompleted or nothing more to attain; therefore there is nothing surpassable, there is nothing more to it. And it's fully


awakened because this whole unsurpassable state is a fully awakened one, and that is the main characteristic of enlightenment. Whether you call it enlightenment, or whether you call it complete nirvana, it's the same thing. It is termed or described as full awakening, because it's not a gaining, it's not something getting or not something attained, it's just seeing things completely clearly. And seeing things means not seeing with the eyes or with concepts, but in a very open and complete kind of way, without the need of concepts and formations: you just experience the full awakening. There is no doubt whatsoever; there is no part which is not clear; therefore it's a fully awakened state. That's why Buddha is always referred to as the Omniscient One: Omniscient One means there is no secret, there is no unclarity; so it's fully awakened, therefore it's called also omniscient. 'Therefore the great mantra of Prajnaparamita, the mantra of great insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the unequalled mantra, the mantra that calms all suffering, should be known as truth, since there is no deception. The Prajnaparamita mantra is said in this way.' This is the rig pa chen po'i sngags. de lta bas na shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa'i sngags / rig pa chen po'i sna(t) / bla na med pa'i sngags / mi mnyam pa dang mnyam pa'i sngags / sdug bngal thams cad rab tu zhi bar byed pa'i sngags / mi rdzun pas na bden par shes par bya ste.


'Therefore the great mantra of Prajnaparamita' is the Prajnaparamita mantra. 'The mantra of great insight' is seeing the truth. 'The unsurpassed mantra' means there is nothing you can reach which is more than that. 'The unequalled mantra,' mi mnyam pa dang mnyam pa'i sngags means it's not really unequalled. Mi mnyam pa dang mnyam pa byed pa means to make all the unequalled things equal. Mi mnyam pa means unequal, dang means with, mnyam pa means equal, byed pa means do. The mantra means: to make all the unequal equal. 'The mantra that calms all sufferings' is sdug bngal thams cad rab tu zhi bar byed pa. It calms all the sufferings because when you have this understanding, this realisation, then there can't be any suffering because there is no fear, there is no expectation; it's complete awakening, with no obscuration, therefore there is no suffering. So this is also the truth because there is no deception. It can be called a truth even though there is no truth and untruth. Truth and untruth are also relative things, and are also concepts; but this can be called truth because there is no deception. So this is the Prajnaparamita's way, this is the Prajnaparamita's mantra. The mantra given here is just a kind of gist, a kind of essence of something, not whether it's an idea, concept or not concept, but is the understanding of Prajnaparamita given in a very precise and most short way.


Ta dya tha / om ga te ga te pa ra ga te pa ra sam ga te bo dhi sva ha. Ga te means go, or gone. Ga te ga te means gone, gone. Pa ra ga te means 'gone beyond', as it is translated here. Then, Pa ra sam gate: sam means very much, completely, and pa ra sam ga te means completely exposed, completely. Then, bo dhi is translated here as 'awake', and sva ha is translated as 'so be it'. I think this is the best translation: 'Gone, gone, gone beyond, completely exposed, awake, so be it'. Chogyam Trungpa has translated this nicely, dont you think? I think it is very nicely translated. Anyway, the mantras do not usually have that much meaning on the words, and they can be explained on many different levels. This is actually what we call the short Prajnaparamita. On this mantra you can explain the Prajnaparamita sutras; but maybe I don't remember everything, so we don't need to go into it, and we will just leave it as a mantra. That is a secret! You can slowly explore! Then it goes on to say: sha ri'i bu / byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa chen pos de ltar shes rab kyi pha rol tu phin pa'i zab mo la bslab par bya'o. 'Thus Sariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound Prajnaparamita'. There is nothing in this line to explain.


'Then the Blessed One arose from the samadhi and praised noble Avalokiteshvara'. Now until this time Buddha was just listening; in fact he was not even listening as he was in samadhi and quietly sitting there. He then came out of this meditation, but maybe he was pretending he was listening! Anyway, he came out of this meditation, and said: Ting ne 'dzin de las bzheng te, byang chub sems dpa' sems dpa' chen po 'phags pa sphyen ras gzigs dbang phug la legs so / zhes bya ba byin nas. Although the legs so is not really praise, you can say praise, but it's more like: 'Well done.' The Buddha said: legs so / zhes bya ba byin nas, which means he gave Avalokiteshvara: 'Well done.' But that's not right, as you can't say he gave him 'Well done! Anyway, Buddha praised him! And then he said, 'Good, good.' Also, legs so legs so means sadhu sadhu, but instead of clapping your hands, in Sanskrit you say sadhu sadhu. Even now in Santiniketan they still do this. Santiniketan is a university established by Rabindranath Tagore who was a Nobel Laureate, but afterwards he gave the Nobel Laureate back as a protest. The university was a little bit far from any village and is still following the old traditions. During the Spring season they have cultural programmes every night, with dances, songs, small dramas, one-act plays and things like that. They put out small butter-lamps in earthen pots, on the edge of a big verandah or porch to


illuminate the stage as there's no lighting. So then when the dancing and everything is finished, everybody including the Vice-Chancellor sits on the floor and says: 'Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.' It's a very nice tradition. Anyway, the Buddha said this: 'Good, good, O son of noble family. Thus it is, O son of noble family, thus it is. One should practise the profound Prajnaparamita just as you have taught, and all the tathagatas will rejoice.' The Buddha said this twice: 'Thus it is, thus it is', to emphasise that he really was agreeing with it. Maybe he was even shaking his head like this! So he said that: 'One should practise the profound Prajnaparamita just as you have taught.' All the tathagatas will rejoice; if you do like that, all the tathagatas, all the buddhas will rejoice, and will be happy that anybody practices like that. Bcom lden 'das is here translated as Blessed One, but Conze has translated it as 'lovely'! I gave my own description of it on the first day; so therefore that is the bhagavata. The Blessed One has said this. The text then says that: Venerable Sariputra and Noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, that whole assembly and the world with its gods, humans, asuras and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One. This as I said before, is something that the Buddha wanted to put at the end of all his sutras. You can say that


this was like one of his last commands: that when you make a collection or a compilation of my teachings then you should say this: 'di sked bdag gi tho pa dus gcig na, 'Thus have I heard once', and things like that in the prologue. The Buddha is also saying that at the end you must say this: that all the assembly, including the humans and asuras and gandharvas and gods and everybody praised and rejoiced. So that is to be put, and is according to this tradition. 'Thus concludes the sutra of the Heart of Transcendant Knowledge.' This is also a tradition the Buddha established, in that at the end of every sutra, when it finishes you must say that thus it is ended, or this is the end of the sutra, or something like that. This is so that you can understand that it is the end and there is nothing below that is needed; that's the end of it. Now, there is another practice which we call the ldog pa, meaning the warding off obstacles and obscurations, and is a different thing. But that's all. Maybe we should finish this by making a recitation of the Prajnaparamita Sutra. How many of you have copies?


[Recitation obstacles.]

of the Prajnaparamita




Tibetan, including the part at the end to ward off

That's all. That's the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Q: Rinpoche, may I ask a question? It's related to what you said about Lama Tsongkhapa who said that emptiness and dependent arising are the same. Yet you seem to have been saying that emptiness is completely beyond conceptual understanding. How could it be identical with dependent arising since the conceptual mind imputes the existence of dependent related phenomena? R: We are not talking about dependent origination or interdependence as a concept, but interdependence as it is. When we talk about sunyata, or emptiness, it's not a concept, therefore it is the same as interdependence. What we mean to say is that it's sunyata, therefore it is interdependence; it's interdependence therefore it is sunyata. The concept is whether you talk about sunyata or non-sunyata, interdependence or non-interdependence. But with interdependence as it [actually] is, because it's all interdependence, then that nature is called emptiness. We're not talking from the concept of interdependence, we're talking about the nature of interdependence itself.


Q: Rinpoche, as far as I understand though, some Prasangikas say that because we can't find anything as an initial cause for example, then there's no dependent arising, only conceptual imputation. That's what I understand rang stong pas to be saying when they deconstruct, or dependent arising. R: No. When they say rang stong and what? Dependent arising is not........? Q: It's not tenable, because when they analyse a phenomenon they can't find it. R: That is what we call a dependent arising. You cannot find it through analysis but still it is arising. Although you cannot find it through analysis it is still arising, isn't it? Although you cannot find the flower in your analysis as a flower arising, it's an unborn nature. But still the flower arises, this flower is there. That is a state: we are not talking about mental function, we are talking about relative truth. That is interdependence: the nature of relative truth is interdependence. Interdependence and sunyata are one and same because when we are saying that everything is sunyata, what we are actually saying is everything understand is interdependent. When we say fully that and everything is interdependent, what I mean to say is if you the interdependent nature completely, then you understand the sunyata. And if you


understand the sunyata completely and truly then you understand the interdependence. That's the thing. Both can become just a concept; so just as interdependence can become a concept, sunyata can also become a concept. Q: It makes sense to me insofar that the object of refutation is an inherently existing object, because we can't find any essence. So if we can't find anything I still can't see how anything could be dependently arising, and that's nihilism. That's why Lama Tsongkhapa said that there is a valid conceptual mind with a valid conceptual understanding of emptiness. If you transcend these or try and get rid of them it is nihilism. R: What? Q: As far as I understand it, Lama Tsongkhapa said that if you try and negate conceptuality altogether then that's nihilism. Because dependent arising is considered as only a valid imputation saying one thing exists in relation to another, getting rid of dependent arising doesn't go so far as to say you can't find any object. R: You mean to say that Lama Tsongkhapa said that the concept [of dependent arising] should be there? Q: Excuse me?


R: Do you mean to say that Lama Tsongkhapa said that to understand sunyata the concept should be there? Is that's what you mean? That's wrong. Q: The valid mind......................? R: No, no. What he was trying to say is that there is the tha snyad tshad grub, which is one of the principle, doctrine, or philosophies, which is the relative truth, and it is talking from the relative truth. With relative truth, there is the false relative and the truth relative of relative truth. The truth relative has to be confirmed to understand it. That's what Lama Tsongkhapa wanted to say, in that we are not talking about ultimate truth at all, we are just talking about the relative truth. There is a valid cognitive reason-oriented valid relative truth, and Lama Tsongkhapa believed there was this valid relative truth. Now, Gorampa, and other Prasangika philosphers say that it is not really that important, although the main debate between the Prasangika and the Svatantrika philosophers is actually on that. The Svatantrika philosophers definition of valid relative truth was very important to them. Firstly they defined a valid relative truth and from that they built up to ultimate truth. But according to most Prasangika


philosophers in Tibet, this was rejected. They said that relative truth was accepted by The Buddha according to whatever the common people accepted, and they said The Buddha had said: 'jig rten nga rang .......... The world can debate to me but I have no debate with the world; as far as the relative truth is concerned I accept whatever the world accepts, I have no dispute with them. That's what The Buddha said. So taking this point, they think that as far as the relative truth is concerned there is no need to establish a valid and non-valid relative truth; it just doesn't matter. You accept as a relative truth whatever the people at the moment accept as the truth, and that is the relative truth. You don't have to go into the details of whether this is right and this is wrong, as it's a relative thing. There have been great debates going on for the last thousand years. It was mainly Gorampa who really criticised Tsongkhapa, and it was then Tsongkhapa's students who criticised Gorampa, but I wouldn't say who won the debate but it has been going on! Q: Rinpoche, I have a question on another debate, which I think is much simpler. For many years I have recited the Heart Sutra in the Japanese Zen tradition, and the only identifiable part in it is the mantra; but all the rest is different. Now I don't know whether this is................... R: This is Tibetan.


Q: ..................and not Sanskrit. There was a big rift between a teacher who came to the West, and he began to have his students recite the Heart Sutra in English so that people understood what they were saying. But his teacher was very upset because he said Japanese monks don't understand the Heart Sutra, and it's in very old Chinese. It was actually the sounds that were crucial, not to understand the meaning. Having listened to this [Tibetan version] which is totally different, I'm now wondering if it is appropriate to translate the sutras and recite them in our native language? R: Yes, of course. Q: How do you feel about that? Or is it better to keep the original ancient sounds that have been used for thousands of years? R: I dont personally feel that ancient sounds are indispensible. I think The Heart Sutra should be translated for reciting in different languages. It was done in Chinese, and it was done in Tibetan, but it was not the original words. The Heart Sutra was also recited in Sanskrit, Pali, and many different languages even in India. Therefore it should be done like that, but the translation that you depend on should be correct. If you make a translation and recite it as an accepted version which turns out to be slightly wrong, then that's quite tragic. So what I think is,


if there is not a completely perfect translation that can be trusted, we have to use the original ones where the translation is already good. So if you get a really good translation then I think sutras should be recited in that translation, and why not? Now I find the translation of this verse is really good, and dont think I have any problem with it. I have seen at least ten or twelve translations of: 'May all beings be happy'. According to me, every one of those translations has certain problems, but I could be wrong, and I'm usually wrong! But I find this translation is really good, so I try to recite this one as much as possible because it seems to say exactly what it intends to say. But I don't know whether this particular translation of The Heart Sutra is perfect or not, and so I can't say. Even in Tibetan Buddhism, and in the West so far, Trungpa Rinpoche and his students translate and recite all the pujas and everything in English. For the rest of them, they mostly don't recite in English but still recite in the original Tibetan. They feel that I think the translations are not good enough, but it's not just the literal translation. Just because all the words are there doesn't mean it is a good translation. A really good translation means that if you read it you can get exactly the meaning of the original understanding, and that it really touches you. For instance, although I don't know in Chinese, but when you


read a Tibetan translation it could really touch you, and be very strong and very inspiring. But with some of the translations, especially of the pujas, when you read them, there's nothing. They dont have the inspiration; the words are there but without inspiration, and you can't recite a prayer without inspiration. So for the time being, it is better to recite in Tibetan even if you don't understand it! There could be the expectation that those who recite in Tibetan many times will eventually get fed up with it and will want the translation! Q: When there's an attempt to put the Tibetan script into an English format, the English format is easily abused. R: Which format? The transcription, the sounds, the phonetics? The phonetics is a big problem, and each person does it in a different way. I don't think there is any standard format for them, and if there may be one, nobody follows it, but I don't know. Each one has a different way. Samye Ling has a different way, Rigpa has a different way, and all the different European countries have different ways because of their different ways of pronouncing. The French, German, and Italian all have their way. Q: It's the same in Tibetan though, isn't it? The Khampas and the................


R: No, it's the same thing. Q: It's written the same, but when I hear people from Kham reciting prayers, I can't understand them. R: No, thats true, but its their own pronunciation, although the writing is the same. Q: Rinpoche, whose translations would you recommend? Thinking of the different institutes like the Naropa Institute translations, and Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, whose would you trust? R: I don't know, I can't say. Q: The other thing I think of on this subject is that at the moment it serves the same purpose that Latin used to have in the Christian Church. So wherever you went to you could hear the same even though your private translation was in your own language. In Buddhism, and Tibetan, people from different parts of Europe come to Samye Ling and enjoy that it's in Tibetan and not English, so they have their own versions with them. R: Maybe that's one reason why in Europe recitations remained in Tibetan, and in America they are in English.


Q: On more than one occasion and in my experience, we were told that Tibetan lamas are very cautious about recitations being in English because of the fact they said that the translators had to be realised. That was what we were always told; so for instance, with chanting the Heart Sutra in Tibetan, it was not written by an ordinary person, but via blessing that came from............... R: Yes, you can say that, for an argument! Q: But you don't believe that? R: I didn't say I don't believe it! I can't say; I don't know! Q: Rinpoche, in my experience most people don't seem to play musical instruments, but when you start learning to play a musical instrument, your ear and how you hear changes so rapidly that according to how much you practise you live in a different world. If your ear is trained, then that to me would be exactly the same as listening to Tibetan and then writing it down or trying to phoneticise it in English. To me it's a very impermanent system, in writing down, or reading other people's ways of writing it down, as it can be jiggled around so much. R: Yes.


Q: Watching the children now, and the way they learn on computers and how they learn to solve puzzles, especially as they do a lot of puzzles with words, their minds are terribly quick. Unless someone actually has children, I think about trying to compete with them a bit, and to remember how sharp the children are. R: All right then. Thank you very much. Thank you very much first to Thrangu House for inviting me here, and then for everybody and for all the hospitality and everything, thank you very much. So now, do you say this? The following was recited in Tibetan: May all beings be happy, and create the causes of happiness; May they all be free from suffering, and from creating the causes of suffering; May they find that noble happiness which can never be tainted by suffering; May they attain universal impartial compassion beyond worldly bias towards friends and enemies. Dedication.


The following glossary is in order to assist the reader. As well as where quoted in Rinpoches text, glossaries from the following books have also been used: Liberation In The Palm Of Your Hand, Pabongka Rinpoche, Wisdom, 1991. Meditation On Emptiness, Jeffery Hopkins, Wisdom, 1983, revised edition 1996. A Tibetan English Dictionary, Sarat Chandra Das, Motilal Banarsidass, 1970 (reprint 2000). Tibetan Himalayan Dictionary and Language translation tool on the Internet. And the assistance of Anne Helm.

Each entry in the glossary is hyperlinked. Just place the cursor over the glossary term, then use the CTRL key and mouse click to go to the relevant place in the main text. Each entry also has a bookmark. Use CTRL G, then bookmark, to go to the required bookmark in the main text. alaya bar do tho Basic or ground consciousness (kun gzhi rnam par shes pa) The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

sgrol bcom ldan 'das

bcom pas brgyad stong phra brjod mi bsod nams ma yin dgongs bzhi dhatus dngos la nges shes drang don du byed du shes Filmilega gyur pa khams bcu brgyad kun gzhi kun gzhi rnam par shes pa ldog pa legs so legs so ma gags ma sam ma skye nam mkha nges don nyams bde

To destroy (bcom) wrong views, possess (ldan) positive qualities, and be beyond (das) concepts of good and bad and samsaric states To get rid of or destroy Eight thousand slokas or stanzas, groups of lines of verse Cannot express, cannot say, inexpressible To negate or abandon non-virtuous things If something doesn't happen as it is, it can't be proved. Intention, plan or thought Consciousnesses It is not happening as it is told (but there could be an underlying intention for telling it this way) A leading truth Mental formation or activity; volition Perceptions See you again in Hindi A reason The eighteen dhatus or consciousnesses Alaya, consciousness Alaya

To ward off obstacles Sadhu, sadhu. Good, good Un (ma), ceasing (gags). Unceasing To express Un (ma); born (skye). Unborn The nature of space, the sky An absolute truth, a definitive truth Strong identification of self. I am like this; I must have that, etc........... nyams khor ba The samsaric state of mind. To run after or away from something (attachment and aversion) nyis khri Twenty thousand slokas


nyon yid 'phags pa prajnaparamita prthagjana rang byung ye shes rdo rje gcod pa reg bya rnam shes shedra shes rab shes rab pha rol phyin ma sho yul skye mched bcu gnyis snang ba snang yul snying po so so skye bo so sor rang rig ye shes tha snyad tshad grub The Three Dharmacakras tshor ba phung po ye shes yul zhi gnas

Negative emotions like attachment, aversion Like a leap, above; noble Discriminative (prajna), transcendental (para), to go (mita) Sanskrit word for: Individual. Identification of oneself as an individual. Separate being Self born wisdom The Diamond Sutra Touchable Consciousness A part of a monastery used for scholastic study Discriminating wisdom; seeing things clearly as they are Knowledge, wisdom Object of enjoyment, object of experience The twelve dhatus Appearance Appearing object Heart, essence Samsaric being Individually (so sor), self knower (rang rig), primordial wisdom (ye shes) Conventional designation (tha snyad); valid establishment, authentic (tshad grub) The three turnings of the wheel of the teachings of The Buddha The skandha or aggregate of feeling Primordial wisdom Object. Object of enjoyment, experience, etc Calm Abiding