SAT CHIT ANAND
- MARCH 2008 NEWSLETTER -
HERE IN BODHGAYA THIS HOLY PLACE
Pilgrimage to India continued … A few days after the Monlams ended, I moved to TERGAR MONASTERY, a magnificent new Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, which was inaugurated by HH the Karmapa last year, and where the Karmapa stays during the Monlams. Tergar Institute, founded by YONGEY MINGYUR RINPOCHE, offers courses in Buddhist philosophy and meditation. This was the first year that teachings were given there, and due to my good karma, I was fortunate enough to be there for the start of a 3-year MAHAMUDRA MEDITATION COURSE, followed by a 10-day teaching on the 3rd Karmapa’s “Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer”, as well as teachings on Insight (Vipassana) Meditation and the Three Yanas.
For those of you who are interested in the technical stuff, the MAHAMUDRA LEVEL 1 COURSE consisted of meditation teachings (shamatha and vipassana), teachings on the common preliminary practices, and the uncommon preliminary practices (refuge and bodhichitta, and Vajrasattva empowerment). This course will be repeated next year for those wishing to start MINGYUR RINPOCHE’s 3-year MAHAMUDRA COURSE. The commitments which qualify you to proceed to the next level, are 10 000 prostrations and 10 000 Vajrasattva mantra.
The MAHAMUDRA LEVEL 2 COURSE will consist of more profound meditation teachings (including “pointing out” instructions), and further uncommon preliminary practices (mandala offerings and guru devotion). These courses will be followed by a 10-day teaching on the 9th Karmapa’s text “Pointing out the Dharmakaya”. NB dates: MONLAMS from 03 – 14 January 2009, followed by TERGAR INSTITUTE programme from 16 January – 16 March 2009.
MINGYUR RINPOCHE is the most cool, marvelous, awesome teacher. He is young, modern, fluent in English, light-hearted and funny. You learn and you laugh. He illustrates the most profound teachings with such funny stories, like he is teaching us not to be deceived by appearances, as they are illusory and not real. He tells the story when he was visiting a wax museum in Europe. The wax figures look very real. There was even a statue of HH the Dalai Lama. Mingyur Rinpoche was sitting there looking at it, and meditation masters can sit very still! A couple came into the room and saw him sitting quietly there, and thought he was also made of wax. The girl sat next to him, posing for a photograph. Mingyur Rinpoche started laughing. The girl screamed, jumped up and ran away! She didn’t know he was a real person!
But the most empowering aspect of listening to MINGYUR RINPOCHE’s teachings, is that he really makes you believe you have Buddha nature. It doesn’t seem like some remote far away thing, some impossibly high and transcendental goal that we might attain in the far distant future. Most people suffer from low self-esteem. Tell them you have Buddha nature and it is hard to believe. MINGYUR RINPOCHE makes you feel like you are a Buddha. He gives you confidence in your true nature and this is very empowering. In the presence of highly-realized beings, and through their grace and your openness, it is much easier to connect with the power of truth and the power of who you really are, and this is empowerment in the highest sense. Then it is up to us to practice the teachings, so that we can manifest our cool, marvelous, awesome qualities.
YOU ARE GOOD, COOL, MARVELOUS, AWESOME
If you understand that your true nature is Buddha nature, you won’t identify with your negative qualities. You will know that you are really good - you possess good qualities. You will know that you are good, cool, marvelous, awesome! You already have “cool” nature! Within your mind is Buddha nature. You have wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion. You have knowledge and capabilities. Everybody has this, no matter who you are. You must recognize your wisdom, your knowledge, your loving-kindness and compassion, then you can use them.
You don’t have to make your true nature better. You are already good, but you don’t recognize your goodness and that is why you suffer in samsara. You don’t recognize Buddha nature and that is why you are still in samsara. Buddha nature has no suffering. The feeling of suffering is an illusion. You feel suffering because of delusion.
Buddha nature is already in you. It is your inherent goodness, your innate purity. If you were inherently “bad” then this would be a problem. For example, charcoal is black. No matter how much you wash it, charcoal will never become white. But a diamond is a diamond whether it is covered in mud or whether it adorns the crown jewels. The mud is not part of the diamond. That is why you can remove it.
We all have diamond inside. But this diamond is covered with mud. Your Buddha nature is naturally pure, naturally positive. But these natural qualities are obscured by ignorance, disturbing thoughts and negative emotions. Your Buddha nature is obscured, like a diamond covered in mud. You can’t recognize it because the mud of your obscurations obscures your true nature.
Luckily these obscurations are temporary and can be removed. A diamond is clear and clean even if buried in the ground and covered with mud. You can wash away the dirt and thereby allow your good, cool, awesome, marvelous nature to manifest.
“As long as we don’t recognize our real nature, we suffer. When we recognize our nature, we become free from suffering. Whether you recognize it or not, though, its qualities remain unchanged. But when you begin to recognize it in yourself, you change, and the quality of your life changes as well. Things you never dreamed possible begin to happen.” [The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche]
HOW CAN WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE BUDDHA NATURE?
One sign is that everyone wants to have happiness. Everybody is looking for happiness (even though the object of happiness differs). This is a sign of Buddha nature because your true nature has unchangeable happiness and no suffering. So we are all looking for our true nature. Some have the right path and some have the wrong path – but we are all looking for our real home. We are all homesick. Buddha nature is our home. Here in Bodhgaya, many are homesick – don’t like the dirt and pollution etc but it is also holy, you get the teachings etc. Anyway, you want to go home. It is like that – we all want to go home.
“The true nature of all living beings is already completely free from suffering and endowed with perfect happiness. In seeking happiness and avoiding unhappiness, regardless of how we go about it, we’re all just expressing the essence of who we are. The yearning most of us feel for a lasting happiness is the ‘small still voice’ of the natural mind, reminding us of what we’re really capable of experiencing. The Buddha illustrated this longing through the example of a mother bird that has left her nest. No matter how beautiful the place she has flown to, no matter how many new and interesting things she sees there, something keeps pulling her to return to her nest. In the same way, no matter how absorbing daily life might be, no matter how great it may temporarily feel to fall in love, receive praise, or get the perfect job – the yearning for a state of complete uninterrupted happiness pulls at us. In a sense, we’re homesick for our true nature.” [The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche]
HOW CAN WE RECOGNIZE OUR BUDDHA NATURE?
Through practicing meditation: seeing past the screen of thoughts and emotions to the pure awareness that lies beyond, and recognizing this as your true nature. Recognition is important. Without recognition, there is no realization.
We have to recognize: Who am I? We all have pure inner nature. The problem is we don’t recognize this = ignorance. This ignorance causes lots of suffering. This is why it is so important to recognize your true nature. Recognition has power = the power of recognition.
First there must be UNDERSTANDING of what your true nature is. The nature of mind is beyond concepts. There is no subject and object, no inside and outside. It is totally free from negativity, thought and emotion. It is vivid, pristine, naked awareness. It is right here, right now, very simple, close and easy. That is why it is so hard to recognize.
Through practicing meditation, you will have EXPERIENCES of bliss, clarity and non-conceptuality, which are experiences of your true nature. Enjoy them but don’t get attached!
Eventually REALIZATION will happen. If you have not stabilized your mind through shamatha or calm abiding meditation, the realization will be unstable, and will come and go. If your mind is stable and you then practice vipassana or insight meditation, any realizations you have will be stronger and more stable, and will eventually become genuine realization.
So there are 3 steps: Understanding > becomes experiential > becomes realization. Your first understanding of emptiness or nature of mind is connected to concepts. Slowly this is transformed into non-conceptual experience. There is a feeling, an intuitive sense of emptiness. Slowly this is transformed into realization.
Don’t worry - meditation is easy! There is nothing special to do. Just rest your mind as it is and maintain mindfulness awareness. Doing nothing, you accomplish everything. Naturally thoughts and emotions will subside and the natural positive qualities of your mind will manifest, such as peace, calm, loving-kindness. The real Buddha is within you. You don’t have to look elsewhere. We all have Buddha nature.
“If you truly want to discover a lasting sense of peace and contentment, you need to learn to rest your mind. Only by resting the mind can its innate qualities be revealed. This simplest way to clear water obscured by mud and other sediments is to allow the water to grow still. In the same way, if you allow the mind to come to rest, ignorance, attachment, aversion, and all other mental afflictions will gradually settle, and the compassion, clarity, and infinite expanse of your mind’s real nature will be revealed.” [The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche]
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU REALIZE BUDDHA NATURE?
The essence of Buddha nature is emptiness, clarity, and union of emptiness and clarity. Emptiness is unlimited possibility, unlimited potential. Emptiness is equal with fullness. Because of emptiness, all becomes possible. Anything becomes possible. Emptiness + possibility are union. They go together like fire and heat, water and liquid. Form = emptiness and emptiness = form. Because of emptiness, karma can operate. If there was no emptiness, then things would be permanent, unchanging, stuck. Because of emptiness, there is possibility, there is change.
We all have the possibility to become a Buddha. A Buddha is someone who recognizes their Buddha nature and totally purifies all obscurations and manifests enlightened qualities such as wisdom, loving-kindness, compassion, skillful means etc. You can become a Buddha. There is no difference between your true essence and Buddha. The only difference is that Buddha is enlightened and we are still in samsara. Buddha is beyond the rivers of suffering – birth, old age, sickness and death. The qualities of a Buddha are wisdom meaning that Buddha knows all phenomena, knows Ultimate reality, has omniscient knowledge etc, unlimited love and compassion, unlimited power and activity.
“Once you commit yourself to developing an awareness of your Buddha nature, you’ll inevitably start to see changes in your day-to-day experience. Things that used to trouble you gradually lose their power to upset you. You’ll become intuitively wiser, more relaxed, and more openhearted. You’ll begin to recognize obstacles as opportunities for further growth. And as your illusory sense of limitation and vulnerability gradually fades away, you’ll discover deep within yourself the true grandeur of who and what you are.
Best of all, as you start to see your own potential, you’ll also begin to recognize it in everyone around you. Buddha nature is not a special quality available to a privileged few. The true mark of recognizing your Buddha nature is to realize how ordinary it really is - the ability to see that every living creature shares it, though not everyone recognizes it in themselves. So instead of closing your heart to people who yell at you or act in some other harmful way, you find yourself becoming more open. You recognize that they aren’t just jerks, but are people who, like you, want to be happy and peaceful; they’re only acting like jerks because they haven’t recognized their true nature and are overwhelmed by sensations of vulnerability and fear.
At any given moment, you can choose to follow the chain of thought, emotions, and sensations that reinforce a perception of yourself as vulnerable and limited, or to remember that your true nature is pure, unconditioned, and incapable of being harmed. Our real nature is infinite in scope. Samsara and nirvana are simply different points of view based on the choices we make in how to examine and understand our experience.” [The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche]
Buddhas have pure perception. This means that they see everything as union of clarity and emptiness. Everything is Absolute reality. There is no samsara. Everything is cool. There is no suffering at all. Everything depends on your perception. Just as a dream is created by your mind, so is reality. The Pure Land is here. Whether you see it or not depends on the purity of your perception. The world is empty. How you see it depends on your perception, and this depends on your karma. I better do some serious purification till I have purity of vision … 10 000 prostrations and 10 000 Vajrasattva mantra and next year I will love Bodhgaya! Because I have accepted MINGYUR RINPOCHE as one of my teachers and will be going back for MAHAMUDRA LEVEL 2 teachings in 2009.
Like the warmth from the sun
Causes vegetation to grow
From your presence and wisdom
Guru devotion does naturally flow.
Here in Bodhgaya this holy place
Amidst the pollution, dirt and dust
Your words fall like summer rain
Bringing relief and quenching our deepest lust.
From the 4 types of that
And the 6 types of this
Endless categories dissolve into emptiness
And our minds abide in bliss.
The Dharma teachings are profound
Presented with laughter they shed light
Our ignorance is illuminated by clarity
And we gain deeper understanding and insight.
We think you are cool, marvelous, awesome
You tell us that beyond name we are same
May we realize our Buddha nature
So we can stop playing this samsaric game.
No coming no going the time comes to go
We will carry you with us as we drive our dream car
May we bring happiness and ease suffering
Aspiring bodhisattvas in places afar.
Poem by LEELA VERITY, written in gratitude for the January 2008 Mahamudra teachings by MINGYUR RINPOCHE at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya, India.
PLEASE NOTE that SAT CHIT ANAND will be closed for the last 3 weeks of March, and will re-open in April. Leela will be conducting a Vipassana Meditation Retreat at PACHA MAMA ecological village in Costa Rica, established by my first spiritual teacher TYOHAR. There will not be any conducted retreats happening at SCA until later in the year.
For those of you wishing to do a retreat, the following are recommended:
MINDFULNESS IN THE ENGAGED MEDITATION TRADITION OF THICH NHAT HANH: Easter retreat with monastic Sisters from Plum Village Monastery in France. Learn the art of mindful and peaceful living in the wonderful tradition of Zen Master THICH NHAT HANH. For more information, contact Robyn (021) 7904065, cell 076 888 6551, email email@example.com
UNCOVERING THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES: With Donal Creedon, a good friend, who has many, many years of meditation experience having done 12 years of formal retreat. Opportunities to do longer retreats are rare in SA: 7th – 27th April. For more information, contact Margie (021) 788 3244, cell 084 285 1552, email firstname.lastname@example.org
SAT CHIT ANAND namaste to you Buddha-to-be!
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