Sat, 15 Jun 2013
I've been reading Brad Warner's new book "There Is No God." Paradoxically he argues that Zen enlightenment is an encounter with God, though not in the traditional sense of the word God. (The clue is in the book's subtitle, "And He Is Always with You.") As often happens, I disagree with Brad on this and it provoked me enough to blog about it. I'm not clear on Brad's argument. It seems to be be based on his experience of enlightenment, as recounted in this book. He had a feeling of being unbounded in space or time. The argument seems to be that since he experienced some of the qualities traditionally attributed to God, he must have experienced God. This is a poor argument, in fact rather silly, so I may have misunderstood him. He makes a number of mistakes in the book. But he writes as a popularizer (he calls himself an entertainer) and not a scholar, a wise choice if he he trying to support himself from his writing. But going through the book and pointing them out would be small minded of me. It's easy to criticize the work of others, hard to do something of value yourself. So rather than complain, I think it would be better to offer my own opinion on God and enlightenment. This is a big topic, will take some time, my resolve is weak, so I am not sure how far I will get.
First, what is enlightenment? The word usually means to come to some understanding of the nature of things based on experience and not argument. There are degrees of understanding, enlightenment is not a once and for all thing. What needs to be said most is that the understanding is negative, one clears away a misunderstanding, and the ensuing clarity is called understanding. Even Brad's experience fits into this pattern. A feeling of boundlessness is recognizing that one formerly took as a boundary (one's own skin,) in fact, is not one. We experience our own bodies with the same senses we use to experience the external world, so the discontinuity we usually place between them is not there and only exists in our thoughts. Actually seeing this rather than just understanding it is the experience of boundlessness. So there is no reason to drag God, or any other positive hypothesis, into Zen or enlightenment.
I may write more about this, not just the first, but also the second, third, and fourth. But I am too tired now to say more.
Sat, 08 Jun 2013
KTD Publications recently published a new bok, Siddhas of Ga. It's a collection of stories about realized practitioners in the region of Ga, where Thrangu Monastery is located. Though Thrangu Monastery is Kagyu, all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism are represented, both monastic and lay. How the book was written takes a little explaining. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche told these stories of great practitioners, based on his experiences and the experiences of those he knew, while teaching the three year retreat. His nephew, Karma Drodhul, who was attending the retreat, wrote them down. Karma Drodhul later asked Khenpo Karthar for further information and wrote the original version of the text. It was translated by Yeshe Gyamtso and then published.
It's a slim book and the back half is the original Tibetan text. There are thirty different stories and about ninety pages of English text. Most of the siddhas described are not well known. The exceptions are a story about Ju Mipham and the previous Thrangu Rinpoche and the biography of Khenpo Gangshar, who is known through Chogyam Trungpa's autobiography. There aren't many books like this, theu aren't really spiritual biographies or namthars, and they aren't simply collections of miracles and wonders. They are stories of remarkable people who realized the remarkable through their practice. I can't say it's bad or good. It is what it is, and if it sounds like something you'd like to read, you will probably enjoy it. And if not, you probably won't.
Thu, 06 Jun 2013
There are more ways to practice the dharma incorrectly than incorrectly. So Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche's commentary continues on the topic of errors and deviations in mahamudra practice. I don't think many of us need to worry about being trapped in the formless absorptions, but I included the discussion because it helps to have an explanation of what these states are. This will be my last excerpt from Khenpo Rinpoche's teaching. I hope you have found them useful.
There are two specific lists of problems that are outlined in the mahamudra tradition. These are the three deviations and eight places of loss. This are explained extensively in the writings of our lineage. The author merely lists them. The three deviations are when in the context of tranquility you fixate on the experience. If you fixate on any experience, which need not be the belief it is supreme awakening, you will be turned off the path. If you fixate on bliss you will be reborn as deva of the desire realm, if you fixate on clarity you will be born as a deva in the realm of pure form and if you fixate on nonthought you will be reborn in the formless realms. At some point the merit of this experience will wear off and you will have used up almost all of your good karma and you will be reborn in a lower realm. To say the least, you are not headed for Buddhahood. There are nine types of absorption and from the point of view of mahamudra they are problematic. The first four lead to rebirth in the form realms. In the first state coarse thoughts do not occur, but there is an undercurrent of concepts. This is the first absorption and causes rebirth in the first three heavens. If your meditation is refined so there is no thought, but there is the experience of physical joy, this is the second absorption, and you will be reborn in heavens four to six. If the mind does not move at all, but there is an awareness of the breath, that is the third absorption and reborn in heavens seven to nine. If you remain free of thoughts with a mere cognitive lucidity, this is the fourth absorption and you will be reborn in heavens ten to twelve. These are the best mundane meditative states. However their only value is to serve as a basis of insight. If they are cultivated with attachment, they are a cause of deviation. The next four absorptions correspond to the four formless realms. If you consider things as infinite, like space, you will be reborn in the corresponding realm. Then if you have the subtle belief that this consciousness is boundless you will be reborn in its realm. If you believe the experience is beyond elaboration, you will be reborn in the state of being beyond something or nothing. If you meditate with the feeling that this state is utterly nothing, that is the rebirth into state of nothingness. There is a ninth state where are thoughts are stopped, which is called a shravaka's state of peace. Because it is without insight, it is not the ultimate.
The second set of particular mistakes are called the eight places of loss. The previous deviations are a kind of fixation on meditative tranquility. There are four pairs, the errors with respect to nature, path, remedies, and sealing. There are two types: temporary and fundamental. The first is the fundamental error with respect to the nature. While the mind's nature is emptiness, this in no way precludes causality. If you don't realize this you may adopt emptiness as a concept. Because it is a negation, you will perceive the nature as nothingness. The second one, the temporary error, is when you have begun to practice and understand it, but don't have experience, or have only had sporadic experience. This is called the transitory error. The fundamental error with respect to the path is to see the result as different from the path. The result is simply seeing the ground as it is. The result is not created by the path. The temporary error with respect to the path is to think it's not enough to sustain the ordinary mind and there must be something more to it. The fifth is the fundamental error with respect to remedies. This is not looking directly at the klesha when it arises but applying a technique to remove the klesha. The temporary error is when a thought arises and you don't look at it, but try to eliminate it. Then there are the two errors with respect to sealing. This is trying to patch meditation with a concept. This is forgetting that mind from the beginning has been empty and you feel the need to reinforce the concept of emptiness. You think my mind is empty and replace the direct experience with a conceptual idea. The temporary error is when your meditation becomes too conceptual. You think you are catching mistakes, but you are only thinking abut the mistakes. Any time you are without recognition of your nature and have concepts about it, this is a loss. All of these are different types of trying to create a special state. There are innumerable such types of error. Any time meditation becomes the pursuit of some state, it is a waste of effort.
There are other possible errors. Some people, by clinging to a mental state that is only a kind of stupor, create the cause of rebirth as an animal. Sometimes people mistake a non-conceptual state mixed with torpor as tranquility. Sometimes people mistake reasoning for insight. Sometimes they mistake rigid control of the mind as mindfulness. Some people mistake our usual state of mind as ordinary cognition. Some people mistake ordinary bliss for the supreme bliss of awakening. Some people mistake a vivid awareness of appearances for the natural state. So there is an almost limitless variety of mistakes. So what causes these mistakes? They are all caused by a few problems. The first is when you do not have sufficient accumulation of merit and purification of defilements. Because you still have coarse obscurations, these problems are more likely to arise. Even after the preparation, if you do not moisten your being with the guru's blessings, you are likely to become rigid. So you should cultivate devotion. The third source of errors is failing to resolve doubts through direct experience and resolving them through conceptual thinking instead. The problem is that when you don't resolve doubts directly, all you have left is the dharma of the mouth. As you become more addicted to intellectual understanding, you become more savage and jaded. This is the principal reason people become so disaffected with this path. Because you learn everything, you become more and more opinionated. You end up as a person who is both a worldly and spiritual failure. Such people are very common. They are disgraces to the lineage of accomplishment. If someone adheres to a conceptual view of emptiness and does not believe in karma, they are nihilists. This is a principal cause of rebirth in the lowest hell. They ruin themselves and others. So you should be careful not to become like this.
Wed, 05 Jun 2013
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche explained the mistakes one can fall into during mahamudra meditation. It's worth noting as a way to reinforce his explanation of mahamudra shamatha practice.
Next comes a presentation of things that can go wrong and what to do about them. This needs to be presented because individuals may not practice the instructions correctly. So there are two categories of how things may go wrong. The first is general mistakes in practice. All great traditions of practice instructions agree that what you are trying to do is to allow you mind to rest freely without alteration, or alternatively expressed, to rest in a state of self-recognition. However, we understand this in different ways. Therefore, some practitioners have problems and these misunderstandings are probably even more prevalent today than when the text was written. The first error is to think meditation is a state of nonconceptuality, where the mind remains without thinking. So they try to shut down the senses and remove thoughts. This is the deviation into sunken tranquility, described earlier. Even more mistaken is the view that meditation is a state where the mind is so absorbed that it is almost in a state of stupor. This is what Shakya Pandita warned about.
Others generate a sense of intense lucidity, or well being, or nonconcept and mistake these states for meditation. These states are valuable as sign posts, but of themselves have no value and should not be fixated on. Another mistake is to take the gap between thoughts as meditation. If you do this, you have carved your mind up and your meditation will be sporadic. Others think meditation is the contemplation of an idea. They attempt to reinforce some idea, such as "my mind is empty." The meditation becomes the attempt to reinforce belief. This is thinking and not meditation. Some misunderstand the instruction not to alter their mind to mean whatever arises is meditation and allow their mind to wander freely. This is called deviation into insanity, because it is not meditation at all. Most other people make the following mistake. They see the occurrence of thought as a problem and are disappointed when one arises. They try to co-opt it or try to turn it into what they think meditation should be. This is being bound by the need to control.
So what is right? Whether the mind is still or moving and whatever thoughts are present in it and whether you experience bliss and non-concept, rest within it without trying to create or reject or transform it. By not doing anything to it you will sustain the natural process of connate wisdom. But it is extremely rare for someone to do this and we need to be reminded that this point is important. The types of error spoken of here sound trivial and one might think they don't matter. But they matter more than any mistakes you could make in your mundane life. Because if you fixate on a mental state and leave the path, this is a tremendous loss. This means your entire opportunity to practice has been wasted and diverted into something that is meaningless. The entire purpose of practicing mahamudra is awakening and you want to avoid any sidetracks.
Mon, 03 Jun 2013
Here is Khenpo Karthar's teaching on the practice of insight meditation in mahamudra. Of course, this sort of practice is beyond most of us, including me, but I certainly find it inspiring.
The actual practice of mahamudra is insight. Just as tranquility was used in a particular way before, it is used in a specific sense in mahamudra. It refers to the direct experience of the mind's qualities and nature. Until there is a decisive resolution of what the mind is, all the meditation that you do has nothing to do the view that was pointed out. So you scrutinize the mind. The mind searches for characteristics within itself to see if it has them. You look to see where the mind came from where it is and where it goes you look for mind's beginning, middle, and end, whether it exists or not, is permanent or not, or whether it is beyond all of this. This must be investigated and seen and not accepted on the basis of authority or intellectual analysis. Understanding is not the same as seeing and until you see it you haven't reached the view. As long as you haven't reached the view, you won't know how to maintain the spontaneous maintenance of meditation. Until then meditation is still just tranquility and is just a kind of stupor. You have not yet gone beyond samsara.
So how do you resolve through scrutinize what the mind is? To move from tranquility to insight you must do two things. You must have dialog with an authentic guru. You must repeatedly report to a teacher and get authentic guidance. And you must pray to the guru and the lineage for their blessings to enter your heart. So what is the authentic insight? You experience for yourself what described as the ground and explained as the view. You experience the mind as self-cognizant and that it has had that ability from the beginning. This quality is known as the dharmakaya. Your mind sees its own wisdom, and because of this it involves no ideas or concepts. Your mind simply sees itself. In this self-recognition the mind's qualities are indivisible.
When this insight is achieved, it is experience and knowledge. But it is not conceptual, so you cannot explain it. This nature is self-arisen and self-illuminating. It is glaringly obvious. This is what is meant by insight. But this does not mean that what is recog- nized is anything new. The recognizing awareness was always there, but was never used. There was never a moment when this self-cognizing awareness was not there. But until blessings entered your heart, it was not recognized. What is resting in even placement and what is still or moving is this same self-cognizing awareness. An ordinary person who has never meditated, their thinking, no matter how deluded, was this self-cognizing awareness. When the mind experiences lucidity and insight, this is the same awareness. Until the self recognition occurs without any division between recognized and recognizer, there will be no awakening. When it occurs, whether your mind is still or moving, everything will arise as mahamudra. Whatever you experience with your senses or mind is not duality or bewilderment. It is only when you mind fixates on it and regards them as other, that it is duality. When the mind is pacified and seen nakedly and no concepts arise, that is insight.
But finally tranquility and insight are inseparable and aspects of the same thing. When everything that appears to you is experienced without fixation, both tranquility and insight are present. It doesn't matter if thinking is present. It is equally natural for you mind to be thinking or not. In either case, if the mind recognizes itself, that is insight. If you don't fixate on the objective reality of what you experience, that is tranquility. So ultimately tranquility is not the absence of thought, but of fixation. When your mind is aware of its nature, that is insight. When it does not add to that awareness, that is tranquility. When thoughts arise and are seen as no different than the mind that is tranquility. When the mind liberates itself by seeing itself, that is insight. So tranquility and insight are a unity. Even when a strong klesha arises, if you do not follow it, that is tranquility. When you see the klesha and the mind as a unity, that is insight. So even within kleshas you can experience the unity of tranquility and insight. Whether your mind is still nor active, in a good or bad state, the mind itself is neither of these. These are merely activities of mind, which is capable of an endless display of activity. Though tranquility and insight are indivisible, they must be taught separately for beginners to understand them.
But you might ask, you said tranquility does not qualify as authentic mahamudra. Why did you say this? If the mind is not recognized, that is not mahamudra. Even if the mind is undistracted, this is only a state of stillness. This is what most regard as meditation. That state is nothing special and is not the fourth empowerment of abhisheka. If you crave this state and fixate on it, that is definitely not mahamudra. Mahamudra is the ground of everything and regards everything without preference. There can be no preference for stillness over movement in mahamudra. Until there is not, there is no freedom from alteration and you do not see all experience as the display of dharmakaya.
Sun, 02 Jun 2013
Tonight's post is another extract from Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche's teaching on mahamudra. This time it's his explanation of shamatha (calm abiding) meditation. As he, says, you should have stability in ordinary shamatha practice (shamatha with characteristics) before trying mahamudra style shamatha (shamatha without characteristics). There are different ways to decide this. If in doubt, you should ask your teacher. If you don't have a teacher, my test is that if there are significant gaps between your thoughts in shamatha meditation, you are ready. If your thoughts still come one on top of another, with no gaps between them, you should continue with ordinary shamatha. If you try to do mahmudra style shamatha too soon, not only will there be no benefit from it, but you will lose the benefit you previously had from your shamatha practice.
There are two types of tranquility: with and without characteristics. Meditation with characteristics is having something to which you anchor your attention. In meditation without characteristics there is no such object. There are many different types of meditation with characteristics. Some are subtler than others, but there is no need to practice them all. Some types of meditation direct attention to a coarse visual object, others to a image of a deity, or a seed syllable, or other symbol of the deity. Another type is paying attention to the breath. All such techniques are tranquility with characteristics. When you have stability in one of these, you can practice tranquility without characteristics. You rest your mind naturally without any gimmick.
There are three parameters or characteristics of resting the mind properly. The first is absence of distraction. You do not allow your mind to wander to outer or inner objects. You keep your mind in freshness, the direct experience of the present. While undistracted you must not tie the mind up or bind it. You do this by not exerting too much tension in body, speech, or mind. So the second point is effortlessness. You let your mind come to rest freely. The third point is that while engaging the faculty of mindfulness, one does not treat the practice as a remedy to distraction. You simply remain aware of your thoughts. The recollection does not oppose the thoughts. So the third point is that you rest the mind in a state that is aware of itself. There is no duality of thoughts and mindfulness.
These points are summarized as resting undistractedly, resting freely, and resting in self aware mindfulness. Another description of the practice is no distraction, no meditation, and no alteration. These correspond to the three gates of liberation. The first gate is not to prolong the past. One of the things we tend to do is prolong the past by thinking about it. When you do not, the mind enters the gate of absence of characteristics. The second gate of liberation is not thinking about the present, which is attempting to alter or control it. When you abstain from this and don't try to limit it or change it, you enter the gate of emptiness. The third thing we do is beckoning the future. This includes speculation about progress in the practice. This is the hope or fear that the practice is or is not working. The freedom from these is the gate of absence of aspiration (wishlessness.)
So all these are descriptions of the same thing. It is allowing the mind to rest without the pollution of the past, present, or future. What do you do when a thought arises? Don't follow it. Just look at it directly. That's all you do. Don't try to do anything about it or try to stop it, or convert it to meditation, or conquer it. If you do that, that is not mahamudra and you have strayed from the essential point of not altering the mind. Although such remedies are presented in sutra and tantra, this is not done in mahamudra. This is so significant that Saraha said beings are polluted upon their search for meditative stability, although there is nothing to meditate on and not even a moment of distraction. In mahamudra you simply do not stray and remain undistracted.
When you rest in the mind as it is, without fabrication, the indications of passing through the stages will arise. There are three. The first is tranquility like a waterfall. Your mind seems to run wild and it seems like more thoughts than before are running through your mind. Occasionally there is a small gap in thoughts. So you experience for the first time the texture of thoughts and non-thinking. This is not a problem. For the first time you are paying attention to your mind and noticing for the first time how many thoughts are going through it. So you see for the first time the difference between stillness and movement of mind. Because of its turbulence, it is called the waterfall-like stage.
Over time the turbulence of thoughts will diminish and thoughts will weaken. You will experience more and more the stillness between thoughts. You will feel good, first mentally, and then physically. This is the natural by product of tranquility. This will increase your interest in the practice in meditation. But thoughts will still occur intermittently. When you get to that stage, this is tranquility like a slow moving river.
If you continue to practice with effort and without distraction, the feeling of well being will increase to the point you feel no pain whatever. Your mind is in a state of transparent lucidity. Because of this, you will no longer notice the passing of time during meditation and will be able to rest your mind for as long as you wish. You will not be disturbed by things and the kleshas will be weakened. You won't be interested in comforts and luxuries. The supercognitions will arise and visions of all types will arise. This is called tranquility like an unmoving lake. As long as you wish your mind rests without disturbance.
This is a critical point, because this experience can be mistaken for a state of awakening. Those who lack access to an authentic guru or lack much learning will be in danger of mistaking this for spiritual attainment. Others may mistake you for a siddha, which can lead to complete disaster for everyone. Tranquility meditation can not be considered true mahamudra, but it is a necessary container for it. When you are absorbed within yourself, the mind's lucidity is somewhat diminished, which precludes insight. So to counteract this you should raise your gaze and make sure your awareness is always sharply present. But since it is easier to maintain sunken tranquility for a long time and correct meditation can be tiring, the meditation sessions should be short and you should end them while you are still enthusiastic.
Sat, 01 Jun 2013
Too many years ago, I attended a class that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche on Mahamudra in Crestone. A book was promised based on the class, but has never materialized. There was a recording done by Vajra Echoes and that looks to be the best we'll get. But I took notes furiously and no lnger feel it is wise to hold them back hoping for a better record. Here are his instructions on how to practice mahamudra from my notes.
We have never recognized our own nature, and this will not spontaneously happen. But this does not mean someone else cannot help this happen. So the first thing a person must do is find an authentic guru. One who is even thinking this way is very fortunate. But the first step is to find an authentic guru, who holds the essence of the blessings. This means they have received and practiced the teachings from one who has attained awakening. This makes them a fully authentic teacher, and the lineage holders of the Karma Kamtsang, are exactly this. It is not sufficient that the guru is learned they must also be accomplished. You then have to rely on them in the right way. If you want to know how to do this, we should emulate Sadaprarudita (Ever Weeping), or Naropa, or Milarepa.
Then you must receive the empowerment from the teacher. It doesn't matter how simple or elaborate. What matters is the subsequent ability of the student to engage in the practice. If you can, you are ripened. Then you must receive the instructions for the practice. The most important are the preliminaries, both the common and uncommon (ngondro). These must be practiced, not by rote, but until the signs of them having taken effect have arisen. You need to meditate on precious human birth so that you don't waste your time. You need to meditate on impermanence for the same reason. You need to meditate on karma and its results until you avoid negative actions like poison or fire. You need to cultivate these common preliminaries until your attitude is reversed. You need to practice the uncommon preliminaries in the same way. If these are not done, the ensuing practices will not function.
The most important practice is the cultivation of devotion to the guru. It must always be the primary emphasis in your practice. It must be practiced to the point that you are absolutely certain that the guru's blessing has fallen on you. Not only this is the most important preliminary it is the most important aspect of practice. The Kagyu masters have achieved their state through their devotion. It says in a tantra "The attempt to realize inexpressible innate wisdom through any means other than purification and receiving the blessings of a guru should be known as stupid." If you think you can receive this blessing in any other way you are bewildered. It cannot be expressed in words or learned. You cannot change your mind to make it. All you can do is expose it by the purification of obscurations and receiving the blessings of a guru who has fully realized this.
I realize many of you are engaged in the ngondro practice and you think of them as something you have to do before you get to the real thing. This is a misunderstanding. They are not preliminary to the practice of mahamudra, they are preliminary to the realization of it. If they are done by rote, there is something lacking. But if they are done whole heartedly, at most you will need a brief pointing out instruction or period of meditation. We do not grow food by sculpting it. It is grown from a seed planted in the earth and watered. In the same way we should feel confident that we will receive the mahamudra though ngondro. Many have received mahamudra while practicing guru yoga.
These days we see very few realized lamas and students. The only reason is that we are lazy and denigrate the accumulation of merit and purification of obscurations. The way the actual practice of mahamudra is presented depends upon the lineage. The first way is the student is introduced to the view and after realizing it, practices it to refine it. The other way is the student practices meditation and realizes the view based on the ripening of practice. Neither is superior. The most important thing is that the blessings of the guru enters your heart. If they do, you will realize it and otherwise you will not.
Wed, 29 May 2013
Lama Phurbu Tashi has been teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara, last night on the chapter on patience. He told us a story hhe heard from Bokar Rinpoche. Here is my version of it.
There was an old monk who was an accomplished meditator and very learned. Despite that, he had the appearance of an ordinary monk with no special titles. The Sixteenth Karmapa visited his monastery and performed the Black Hat Ceremony. Afterwards there was a blessing line where everyone lined up to file past the Karmapa's throne and receive his blessing. Many people had attended the ceremony, the monastery was crowded, and the line long. When the old monk got in front of the Karmapa, the line pushed him from behind and he bumped into the table in front of the Karmapa's throne, knocking several of the implements on it to the floor. The Karmapa's secretary, who was beside the Karmapa, got angry at this breach of etiquette and slapped the old monk across the face. After the ceremony was over, the Karmapa told his secretary that the old monk was a bodhisattva and that he should invite the old monk to visit and apologize to him.
The secretary did that and after apologizing, the old monk said, "Oh, that couldn't be helped. You were only protecting the Karmapa. And what I did couldn't be helped either, I was pushed from behind. And the person who pushed me was not at fault either, he was pushed by the people behind him." So the old monk found no fault with anyone.
Sun, 26 May 2013
AT&T is running a commercial for their cell service where they ask a bunch of kids for the largest number. One little girl says infinity times infinity. Actually infinity times infinity is no bigger than infinity, and here is the explanation why. Since Cantor, we talk about numbers in terms of sets. Two sets have the same cardinality if the members of both sets can be paired with each other with none left over. The number one is the property that all sets with one member have in common, and so on. A set has infinite cardinality if its members can be paired with a subset of itself. For example, "infinity plus one" has the same cardinality as infinity. The set of counting numbers starting with two is infinite and so is the set of counting numbers starting with one, which has "one more" member. But because they can be paired with each other (1, 2), (2, 3) ... they have the same cardinality. The same is true of "infinity plus infinity." The set of even numbers is infinite, so is the set of odd numbers and both have the same cardinality as the set of counting numbers. But their sum is just the set of counting numbers and so their sum obviously has the same cardinality. So infinity plus infinity is just infinity. "Infinity times infinity" is a little harder. The set of prime numbers is infinite. The proof of this was known in ancient Greece and India and goes like this. Suppose the set of primes is not infinite. Take their product and add one to it. That number is not divisible by any of the primes, and therfore must be prime, which is a contradicition. So there is no largest prime and the number of primes is infinite. Arthur Koestler had a mystical experience while thinking about this proof, the only such experience I've ever heard caused by mathematics. But back to the argument. Each prime number has an infinte number of multiples (7, 14, 21 ...) so the multiples of all prime numers is infinity times infinity. But this is just the set of counting numbers minus one, as so has the same cardinality. So "infinity times infinity" is no greater than infinity. AT&T's ad agency should take notice.
Any discussion of mathematics should end with a poem, so here is Yeat's "proof" that love is greater than infinity.
Sang Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her dusky face,
'All day long from mid-day
We have talked in the one place,
All day long from shadowless noon
We have gone round and round
In the narrow theme of love
Like a old horse in a pound.'
To Solomon sang Sheba,
Plated on his knees,
'If you had broached a matter
That might the learned please,
You had before the sun had thrown
Our shadows on the ground
Discovered that my thoughts, not it,
Are but a narrow pound.'
Said Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her Arab eyes,
'There's not a man or woman
Born under the skies
Dare match in learning with us two,
And all day long we have found
There's not a thing but love can make
The world a narrow pound.'
Fri, 24 May 2013
Another obstacle meditators face is boredom. Our confusion is a result of the interaction of our desires and ignorance. That is, we have a hard time giving up egotism, because our desires need an egotistic framework to function in. And we don't want to give up our desires because we seem to get a lot of enjoyment from them. We have to undo this confusion by letting go of the desire and this creates the space where our ignorance can be seen for what it is. This is what the practice of meditation is. But the flip side of desire is boredom. Boredom is the frustration of desire, the inability to do anything with it. And it's necessary to experience it, to experience what desire is. But it's difficult and because of that we fill our practice with daydreaming or cut the practice short. This becomes an obstacle to practice.
Sun, 19 May 2013
Back to my list of problems that can happen to meditators. Once people commit to Buddhism fantacism becomes a problem. They want to attain enlightenment, a noble wish, but somehow all their efforts in meditation seem to have no result and they are as far away as ever. So they turn their energy to other pursuits. They take one or more of the precepts and exagerate it to the point of ridiculousness. They become fervid partisans and attack other Buddhist traditions for past historical slights. They become experts in ritual and correct others who don't do them properly. All of this a great waste of time and misapplied effort. Practice is important, but the purpose of practice is to diminish the ego and not build it up. This sort of fanatical practice is just an ego defense and is one way your practice can go wrong.
Sat, 18 May 2013
Finished up translating another quote by Gampopa. I've been laying off the translations lately, as I've been busy with other stuff. But I don't want to quit entirely. I've published a translation of this quote before, but this version is considerably different, and I hope better.
dwags po rin po che'i zhal nas/
snong sems gcig yin/sems las ma
gtogs pa'i snong ba logs na med/snong ba 'di
sems kyi 'od dam sems kyi chos nyid yin pas
sems rtogs pa'i dus su snong ba sgrog rang brdol du
'gro/sems nyid dang chos nyid gcig yin te/
sems nyid kyi 'od chos nyid yin pas sems nyid
rtogs pas chos nyid sgrog rang brdol du 'gro ste/
dper na/nyi ma song nas 'od phyir chad pa mi srid de nyi
ma'i phyir 'od 'gro ste 'gro ldog nges pa yin/de bzhin
du sems nyid gcig pu rtogs pa chos nyid rang shugs
rtogs nas 'ong/sems dag pas snang ba rang shugs
la dag/de na snang ba dang ses nyid la sogs pa rang
sor bzhin la sems kyi ngo bo ba sgom pas chog/sgom
pa'i dus su chos dang chos nyid blos bzhig nas sems
ngo bo'i thog tu yer gyis rgan mo mdzub tshugs su
bsgom/yang na phyi nang snod bcud thams cad sems
nyid du gtan la wal ba zhig phab nas/de nas ngo bo'i
thog tu bsgom te de gnyas 'dra/chos nyid gzhi'i thog
tu bsgom nas ngo bo ma rnyed par bsgoms kyang 'tshong mi
rgya/rlung sems gnyis gcig yin/rlung gi g.yos
pas sems kyi rnam rtog sna tshogs su 'chor ba yin te/
de nyid de nyid dang gzhan du brjod du med par gnas te
sems rtogs pa'i dus su rang sar dag nas 'gro/
gnyis med rig stong lhan gcig skyes pa yin gsungs/
Dagpo Rinpoche said:
Appearances are only mind. Apart from mind, appearances do not exist on their own. Aren't appearances just the natural radiance of the mind? When the mind is recognized, appearances are its spontaneous activity. The nature of mind is dharmata. Isn't the nature of mind the natural radiance of dharmata? When the nature of mind is realized to be dharmata, appearances are its spontaneous activity. As an analogy, when the sun disappears, so does the light of the sun. It is impossible that this is not so. Similarly, when one realizes the nature of mind is solely the dharmata, one will abide in that realization. And through the force of that, mind and appearances will be purified. After that it is sufficient to meditate on the nature of mind, leaving mind, its nature, and all appearance as they are. During that meditation the knots of the relative and absolute are unfastened and the mind's essence quickly revealed through the meditation which is like an old woman pointing her finger. The world and everything in it are completely overthrown and are vividly seen as the nature of mind. Thus it is essential to meditatate directly on the identity of these two. The nature of the ground consciousness is dharmata, but there is no fault if this is not found in meditation. The winds and mind though two are one and when the winds move the various discursive thoughts arise. Abide in suchness without trying to characterize it and self awareness will purify itself.
Fri, 17 May 2013
Brad Warner wrote a bit on this topic over on his blog. I thought I'd write a little on the same subject. Brad wrote because of the controversy surrounding some Zen teachers who have slept with, groped, and otherwise molested their female students. Tibetan teachers are not entirely free of these accusations, of course, but the teachers most recently in the news are from the Zen tradition. People quite reasonably aske how can supposedly enlightened teachers do such terrible things, so explaining what enlightenment is and is not seems in order.
I think the modern Western idea of enlightenment is strongly influenced by Japanese Zen, especially Rinzai. In Indian Mahayana Buddhism enlightenment was a complex path, with many levels and degrees. It's not clear to me to what extent the Indian texts are just theory spinning and how much based on experience. The descriptions of kensho or satori in Zen are obviously experiential, even if sometimes described in elusive terms. I'm not a Zen Buddhist, of course, but what gets called kensho in Zen seems more or less the same as what is called rtogs pa in Tibetan Buddhism, so that is what I will talk about. I usually translate rtogs pa as recognition, which means recognition of what mind is.
There are three points to make about recognition. The first is the difference between recognition and experience. All sorts of powerful experiences can come up in meditation. These are powerful emotional states, usually experiences of bliss and peace. These experiences fade after a while, although they can re-occur. Sometimes there is a trigger that sets them off and students become experience junkies. The differince between experience and recognition is that recognition is an understanding that once you have, you don't lose. Actually it might waver for a while, you can lose your understanding, but sooner or later it comes back for good. The second point is that this understanding has a negative character. You understand what mind is by seeing what it is not, that is you are freeing yourself from an illusion. If your understanding is some sort of positive idea, like "I am one with all of creation," that is not what Tibetan Buddhism calls recognition. Third, recognition is not the end of the path, it us one the first step on it. Recognition need to be deepened though continued practice.
So why do some people with recognition behave so badly. Recognition by itself doesn't change your behavior. Behavioral change is hard work and comes in addition to recognition. But as you practice, the friction between what you see and what you do grows. You need to adjust somehow. Unfortunately, one way people can adjust is to rationalize the behavior. Of course, rationalizing bad behavior is common enough in ordinary life. You don't need to be enlightened to do it. As one continues to practice, there is a lot of ego resistance and justification. So practice is not so much different after recognition than before. One needs to realize that a teacher is someone who understands more than you, but not a perfect person. They don't need to be to be effective.
Wed, 15 May 2013
After someone has been meditating for a while, their mind calms down a little. In this open space, thoughts pop up. Sometimes these are creative, affirming thoughts. But sometime they are very dark, negative thoughts. All sorts of negative stuff can come up: crippling fear, strong anger, thoughts to commit horrible crimes. They can very easily knock you off balance. That's why it's best to practice meditation in a group, preferably with some experienced meditators. Talking to people helps you regain a sense of perspective, while trying to deal with these powerful emotions on your own is more difficult. These dark thoughts aren't prroduced by meditation. They were there all along, only supressed. This doesn't happen to everyone who practices meditation, but it happens often enough that it should be mentioned.
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