Features

Chilli Haw Ketchup

This is one helluva ketchup meets brown sauce baby. There is nothing like Chilli Haw Ketchup to put some fire in the belly this winter. It’s got an amazing taste, sweet and sour, peppery, tangy, umami. I remember Chinese haw flakes from when I was a child. This is that taste but with a grown up kick. Use as a condiment, marinade or just with cheese.

Ingredients
750 grams haws (no stalks)
500 ml vinegar (homemade or apple cider)
500ml water
250 grams dark brown sugar
2 red chilli peppers
Black pepper to taste

Directions
Simmer the haws and the chilli peppers in the water and vinegar until the flesh is really soft. Strain the mixture through a wire sieve. Push the berries around the sieve with the back of a spoon, trying to get as much of the pulp as possible through the sieve. (An ideal job to delegate!)

Return to the pan and add the sugar and black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce is thick. Pour into sterilised glass jars or bottles with a reasonably wide neck. Keep in a dark cupboard – the flavour just keeps on improving with age.

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The Benefits of Saving Lives by Chatral Rinpoche

 

I bow down before the Lama, Buddha Amitāyus,
And the bodhisattvas in training.
I shall now in brief describe the benefits
Of freeing animals and ransoming their lives.

To save animals from slaughter or any mortal danger,
With entirely pure motivation and conduct,
Is without doubt a practice to be taken up
By all followers of the Buddha Śākyamuni.
Many are the sūtras, tantras and commentaries
Which describe in detail the advantages it brings,
And countless learned and accomplished masters of India and Tibet
Have stressed the value and importance of benefitting beings.
Even in the basic vehicle one avoids inflicting harm on others.
In the mahāyāna this is the very training of a bodhisattva,
And in the secret mantra, a principal samaya of the ratna family.

The reasoning behind this is as follows: in this world,
Nothing is as dear to someone as his or her own life,
So there is no greater crime than taking life away,
And no conditioned virtue brings greater merit
Than the act of saving beings and ransoming their lives.
Therefore, should you wish for happiness and good,
Exert yourself in this, the most supreme of paths,
Which is proven through scriptures and through reasoning,
And is free of obstacles and potential dangers.

Consider your own body, and, with this as an example,
Avoid doing anything that might bring harm to others.
Make every effort not to kill any living creature—
Birds, fish, deer, cattle and even tiny insects—
And strive instead to save their lives,
Offering them protection from every fear.
The benefit of doing so is beyond imagining.
This is the best practice for your own longevity,
And the greatest ritual for the living or deceased.
It is my main practice of benefitting others.
It dispels all external and internal adversity and obstacles;
Effortlessly and spontaneously, it brings favourable conditions;
And, when inspired by the noble mind of bodhicitta and
Completed with dedication and pure aspiration prayers,
It will lead one to complete enlightenment,
And the accomplishment of one’s own and others’ welfare—
Of this you need have no doubts at all!

Those whose minds incline to virtue and acts of merit
Should prohibit hunting and fishing on their land.
Some birds, in particular, such as geese and cranes,
Are impelled by their karma to migrate
And fly south in autumn, north in spring.
At times, weary from the efforts of their flight,
Or having lost their way, some are forced to land,
Distressed, afraid and anxious; when this happens,
You should not throw stones or shoot at them,
Nor try to kill them or do them any harm.
Protect them so they may easily fly once more.
To offer care and affection to sentient beings
In desperate situations who lack protection
Brings just as much merit as the meditation
On emptiness with compassion as its core—
So it has been said by glorious Lord Atiśa.

Lamas, officials, monks, nuns, men and women,
In all the places over which you have control,
Exert every influence and do all within your power
To release animals and ransom their lives,
While encouraging others to do the same.

In all those places where this is done,
Sickness among people and livestock will cease,
Harvests will be plentiful and life will be long.
All will enjoy happiness and wellbeing in abundance,
And at death let go of deluded experience,
Before finding an excellent rebirth within the higher realms.
Ultimately, there is no doubt that this will lead one easily
To find the supreme and perfect state of awakening.

In response to the request of Doctor Dordrak,
Who offered a pure silk scarf and a hundred Nepali rupees,
The one called Chatral Sangye Dorje,
Who strives continuously to ransom lives,
Wrote down spontaneously whatever came to mind.
By the merit of this may all sentient beings
Come to practise enlightened actions!

Mamakoling samanta!

Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2005.

Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Vin Harris talks about the life of a remarkable man

 

 

Samye Ling Tibetan Centre,                         Eskdalemuir, Scotland

I knew Akong Rinpoche as a friend and teacher for about forty years. Between 1978 and 1988, the Samye Ling community under his leadership built the first authentic Tibetan Buddhist temple in the West; it is named after Samye where Buddhism was first established in Tibet. Before his tragic death in 2013, work had started on a documentary film to tell the story of his life. After the shock of losing Rinpoche, it felt more difficult to continue with making the film, and at the same time it felt even more important to share his message of ‘compassion in action’ with as many people as possible.

 

So in late 2013, I joined the film team as Executive Producer to help bring the project to completion. The film, directed by Chico Dall’Inha, is called ‘Akong – a Remarkable Life’. It has already won several awards at international film festivals, and in March 2017 we had the official world première at Samye Ling.

 

Reincarnation and the Tulkus of Tibetan Buddhism

 

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, at his           inauguration. Photograph by Lea Wyler.

When he arrived in the UK in 1963, Akong Rinpoche’s passport showed his occupation as being “reincarnate Lama”. Within the Tibetan tradition, there is the possibility of lamas who have been of great service to their disciples and to their monastery consciously taking a new rebirth in order to continue their aspiration to help others; when that new reincarnation is found, it is recognised as a ‘Tulku’. One of the purposes of the film is to help us to understand the historical context in which Akong Rinpoche’s life was played out, and this requires some understanding of the notion of Tulkus.

The tradition of intentional incarnation began with the first Karmapa in the twelfth century. The film tells of many instances where Akong Rinpoche’s life was connected with both the 16th Karmapa who was his main guru, and the current 17th Karmapa who will be responsible for finding the next Akong Tulku. Two well-known lamas within Tibet leave predictions regarding the details of their own rebirth; one is the Dalai Lama, and the other is the Karmapa, who is the head of the Kagyu lineage to which Akong Rinpoche belongs. With most Kagyu lamas, the matter of finding their rebirth is normally put into the hands of the Karmapa or sometimes other lamas who are able to find these Tulkus; they will have a vision or a feeling of connection, and are able to describe the place of birth, the names of the parents and sometimes details like the colour of the door of the house. Then, when the time is right, they send out a search party to locate the young Tulku.

This all might seem to be quite a leap of faith for many people in the West; but it may not be so strange if we think of mind as never ceasing and of life as being endless. Perhaps if we see how we can become a product of our limiting habits, then we could envisage the possibility of being a manifestation of our positive intentions. The Tulkus’ intentions continue powerfully from life to life as the fruition of a commitment to help others. The Akong Rinpoche that we knew as a spiritual friend with great compassion and wisdom was considered to be the second incarnation of a line which has a particular connection with medicine, and he continued the association with healing as well as spiritual practice.

The second Akong Rinpoche was born in Dharak, in Kham in Eastern Tibet in 1939, and at the age of two, he was discovered by a party of people looking for the reincarnation of the first Akong, who had been Abbot of Drolma Lhakhang Monastery in Eastern Tibet. Quite often Tulkus are born to fairly poor people living in remote villages, and they regard it as a great honour to have a Tulku born in their family. However, they are taken off to the monastery at a very early age to be brought up by the monks, and the family is prepared to make this sacrifice for the greater good. Although Tulkus may have a very strong compassionate intention to be of use to humanity, they still need education and rigorous training so that they have the means to be able to truly benefit others.

Drolma Lhakhan Monastery during a visit by Akong Rinpoche. Photograph by Lea Wyler.

In the case of Akong Rinpoche, his extensive training as a Tulku included religion and traditional Tibetan medicine, for which he and his predecessor were renowned. It also included experience of profound spiritual practice in isolated retreat. It is becoming apparent that one of the big challenges, as Tibetan Buddhism takes root in the West, is to establish the resources so that young Tulkus can receive this kind of traditional education, and so rekindle their abilities and fulfil their potential.

Escape from Tibet and arrival in the UK

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s entourage and caravan during his escape to Dromo in 1959. Copyright 2014 Tibet Museum.

In 1951 the Chinese invaded Tibet, and after the failed uprising in 1959, when Akong was just 20 years old, many of the monks felt that they had to flee the country to preserve the culture and lineages of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. So Akong took the decision to leave, and set out with quite a large group of 300 people, led by himself and Trungpa Rinpoche, his childhood companion. They started with mules and horses and various possessions, but gradually all this dwindled until it was really just a matter of trying to survive. The Chinese army closed off all the usual routes, so they ended up walking through some of the most hazardous terrains, over mountains where there were not any tracks at all. They came very close to death, partly through encountering soldiers but also through lack of food. Akong Rinpoche used to talk of boiling up leather in water to just get some nourishment from it, and of living on water for weeks. In theend, only 13 of the group made it to India.

It is significant that even in these extreme conditions they refused to kill anything, because it is a Buddhist principle that all life has the same value. This great compassion was evident in Rinpoche even in these difficult circumstances, and it is something that I witnessed many times later in his life; he made no compromises to his core values. He told the story of when he was in a cave one night, at a time when they really thought they might die of starvation. In a moment of deep reflection he resolved that were he to survive, he wanted be able to help people: in particular, having experienced real hunger, he wanted to be able to feed people. This humanitarian aid was to become a major part of his work in later life. It was not initially in the foreground, but one day while we were building the temple at Samye Ling in the 1980s someone said to Akong Rinpoche: “What is it with you Tibetans? You spend all this money on gold, red paint, beautiful statues and this great big crystal chandelier, but what about helping people?” It is typical of Rinpoche that he thought about this, but rather than feeling that he had to make a choice, he said: “Well, why can’t I do both?” It was always like that; if you ever asked him: “Shall I do this or that?” he would reply: “Well, why can’t you do both?” This incident under the crystal chandelier in the temple was to be the birth of the Rokpa charity, which now works all over the world, feeding people and providing them with health care and education.

Returning to the account of the escape: they did eventually find a road out of Tibet across the Himalayas into a refugee camp in Northern India. What they found there was terrible; all sorts of diseases were rife and people were dying. Then they met an English woman called Freda Bedi, who was originally from Derby. She had an Indian husband, a Sikh called Baba Pyare Lal Bedi. She was living in India, working for the government and ended up being instrumental in helping many young Tibetan lamas, including the Dalai Lama. In later life, she actually became the first English woman to become a Buddhist nun. Her recently published biography entitled The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun is an account of another truly extraordinary life.

Freda Bedi with (on her right) Trungpa Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku and Akong Rinpoche.

Freda Bedi seemed to connect particularly well with Akong Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche. They ended up living in her house along with her own children, one of whom is Kabir Bedi who became a well-known Bollywood actor. She ran schools for the Tibetan refugees, and under the instruction of the 16th Karmapa, she set up the ‘Young Lamas Home School’ to train the monks and prepare them for their new life outside Tibet. The project flourished and she recruited Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche as her assistants.

One of the aims was to find jobs for the refugees, but Akong and Trungpa already had jobs: they were qualified as lamas! So she thought that if they could learn English, they would be able to continue their profession and things would work out well for them. Trungpa Rinpoche was very articulate and well-educated. Akong Rinpoche, although he had of course received a good education, was more inclined towards the way of showing by example and being active. So Freda Bedi obtained a scholarship from the University of Oxford for Trungpa Rinpoche, and the two young lamas were shipped across to England to start the next chapter of their amazing story.

Choje Akong Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche on their maiden voyage on a P&O liner from Bombay, India, via Suez to Great Britain, suggesting this photo was taken off Gibraltar during 1963. Photograph courtesy of Tashi Mannox.

 The founding of Samye Ling

Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, Eskdalemuir,                              Scotland

Once in Oxford, Trungpa studied at St Anthony’s College, and Akong worked as an orderly at the John Radcliffe Hospital to support them both. They were living in a small apartment with some other people. Lama Chime Tulku Rinpoche soon joined them, and slowly they made connections with the Oxford University Buddhist Society. A group of people interested in Buddhism grew up around them, and the idea came up of establishing something a bit more formal. So it was decided that they would start a centre where they could share their knowledge. Having investigated various possibilities, Akong Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche were offered the chance to take over the Buddhist centre at Johnstone House in the Scottish Borders, and Samye Ling was founded in 1967. Lama Chime went on to set up a Buddhist centre at Marpa Housein Essex.

 

Akong and Trungpa Rinpoche had a very deep relationship. They were like brothers – dharma brothers. They were a similar age, had shared the same teachers, the same lineages, the same transmissions, and their monasteries were relatively close to each other. They were not from the same monastery, but they were not far apart and used to meet up to receive teachings from the same teachers. We might say of old friends “we go back a long way” but within the Tibetan tradition the lamas really do; they can go back many lifetimes. Trungpa was the 11th incarnation of his line, whereas Akong Rinpoche was only the second in his, so Akong Rinpoche tended to stay in the background, seeing his role as looking after Trungpa Rinpoche and facilitating his activity. John Maxwell, a retired judge, who is interviewed in the film, describes how he knew Akong Rinpoche for about ten years before he recognised his amazing qualities because he was so self-effacing.

 

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

So, at Samye Ling, initially the arrangement was that Trungpa Rinpoche was the teacher and Akong Rinpoche was the manager who looked after the practical issues. But after some time there was disagreement about how the dharma should be brought to the West. Some students have seen this as a big deal, but Akong Rinpoche never seemed to see it like that; it was nothing personal. His way was to be very cautious. The Tibetans have inherited the lineage of Buddha’s teachings and they know that it works. It is not always obvious why it works, or which bits work, so his view was that it would be wise to be careful to avoid ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’. Akong Rinpoche was always very keen to stick closely to the tradition. Even now in Samye Ling we do not translate the Tibetan texts into English for the practices we do; we chant them in Tibetan because Akong explained that this carries the blessings of all the great lamas. He used to say that when a native English speaker becomes enlightened, then we can translate the texts into English with confidence!

Trungpa Rinpoche, on the other hand, was much more ready to engage freely with the West. He was very charismatic, very learned; he went on to write many wonderful books and they provide great clarity and insight into Buddhist teachings. He wanted to develop the traditional teachings and express them in modern terms. So there was disagreement regarding the approach to bringing Buddhism to the West. In 1970 it culminated in Trungpa leaving to teach the dharma in the USA, in which he was very successful. Even after Trungpa Rinpoche’s departure, Akong Rinpoche remained reluctant to teach and he used to invite other teachers to come to Samye Ling. It was not until the early ’70s that he started to give teachings himself and this was only because people asked His Holiness Karmapa to tell him to do so.

Once Akong Rinpoche had taken over responsibility for Samye Ling, things developed very slowly and gradually; he did not suddenly embark on new projects. Some of his ideas, like Tara Rokpa therapy, took almost 20 years to germinate. His first priority was to teach people the basics of Buddhism: the basic contemplations on the preciousness of human life, impermanence, karma and suffering. He instilled in us a great respect for the lineage, for the Buddha and his teachings. In the West we are so intelligent and well-educated that generally we want to go straight into the highest teachings. But Akong Rinpoche was always clear that we must start with the correct foundations if our practice is to have long-term benefit.

 

The sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe                                Dorje (1924–81)

The students that Akong Rinpoche encountered at Samye Ling were very different from those he would have had in Tibet. The older generation were mostly ex-Gurdjieff people; they were cultured people but somewhat eccentric. The younger generation like myself were mostly hippies; we were quite unruly, although we did have positive aspirations. Akong Rinpoche talked to us and was willing to meet each of us where we were. Some of my friends really embraced the Buddhist path; they did long retreats and became monks and nuns. Others, like myself, became what in Tibet are called ‘householders’ – practitioners who have families and businesses. But Rinpoche was never judgemental; he did not try to make everyone the same, but helped us to develop within our own situation.

 

Akong Rinpoche invited many great teachers to bless Samye Ling, and he said many years later that he felt we had built a holy place because it had been visited by these teachers. Rinpoche always had a very clear sense that the most important thing was that Samye Ling should be a place where the Tibetan Buddhist dharma and Kagyu lineage would be preserved. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the ultimate purpose is not to preserve traditions for their own sake, but because they are of great value to a world which desperately needs to be reminded of the vital importance of kindness and compassion.

The three aspects of generosity

Akong Rinpoche during the building of the temple at Samye Ling. www.nic.fi/~lapin/stupa.html

A big change came about at Samye Ling following a visit from the 16th Karmapa in the mid-1970s, when it was decided to embark upon the Samye Project – the building of a temple, a dining room, offices, college buildings and libraries, and so on. As always, Akong Rinpoche dealt with the most important things first and he decided to start with building the temple; so for a while Samye Ling had a temple which could hold 300 people but no additional bedrooms which could accommodate this number of visitors. The legend was that he had about £50 to his name when he began, but his teacher told him to build a temple, so he did.

This was the time when I became seriously involved. I was studying literature at Warwick University when I heard about Samye Ling. So I thought I would visit it for a couple of weeks and then go travelling. But Akong Rinpoche invited me to stay, as what used to be called ‘a house person’ – someone who looked after the house and the gardens and such like. We had a small herd of dairy cows, and so the first job I had after taking a degree in literature was milking cows, and making cheese and butter. Then I started doing building and maintenance jobs around the place.

When I was told by Akong Rinpoche about his project to build a temple, and that the plan was to build all of it ourselves, I had a kind of ‘road to Damascus’ moment. Ever since I was a child I had wanted to do woodwork, but because I showed academic ability at school I ended up on a conventional path of going to university. The moment I heard about the temple, it immediately seemed that the right thing to do was to offer to go away and learn woodwork in order to help with the project. Other friends went off to learn other skills, such as bricklaying, and after about a year we returned and started work. The first foundations were laid in 1978, and the temple was opened in 1988. Other parts of the complex – some of the café buildings and the retreat centre – were also built during this period, but the main focus was on the temple.

 

The Temple at Samye Ling. Photograph by Rachael Roberts

Accomplishing such a large task gave Rinpoche a degree of credibility. After that, people began to take him and his organisation more seriously. This did not seem to matter to him personally, but it was helpful in that it enabled him to fulfil his aspirations for Samye Ling. He often said that there were basically three main aspects to his work in the last period of his life. The first was the religious activities – the transmission of teachings at Samye Ling which I have already mentioned; the second was his humanitarian work through the Rokpa Foundation; and the third was the Tara Rokpa Therapy, which he developed as a way of helping people bring balance to their personal lives. This aspect of his activity was definitely linked to his role as a doctor and healer.

The charity Rokpa came about because of his association with Lea Wyler, a Swiss woman who is still President of the Board; she and her father initially sponsored projects and then helped Rinpoche to set up the organisation. Rokpa is mainly concerned with humanitarian aid to people in places which are difficult for other aid agencies to reach. Rokpa means ‘help’, and their motto is “helping where help is needed”. One of its main functions is to set up food kitchens, which Akong established in Tibet, Nepal, India and South Africa – as well as in the UK and Europe. One thing that he was very clear about was that he did not want the help to be conditional upon people converting to Buddhism: his concern was to address the common human needs that we all share. Another notable feature of his work was that it was never political: he never tried to fix the bigger problem, but would concentrate on people’s immediate needs, such as satisfying their hunger or providing them with health care and education. He never complained about the political arena in which he was operating, but concentrated on what he could do. This would often be rather puzzling and confusing for people, but the result was that his capacity to achieve what at first seemed impossible would continue to increase.

Tara Rokpa Therapy is a way of bringing the essence of the Buddhist dharma into another form, to the psychological realms – not as an intervention, but very slowly and very gently. One could say that it is perhaps even a way of bringing people to an acceptance of themselves so that they can start to engage with the Buddhist teachings. The attitude is not at all that there is something ‘wrong’ with people, and it is almost unfortunate that it is described as ‘therapy’. Most of us have need of this to some degree: I myself am involved in mindfulness teaching, and this also seems to me to be a way of getting to know ourselves a little better, learning to be compassionate towards ourselves, rather than taking on a spiritual path with the expectation that it will be a kind of magic formula to cure all our problems. As an American psychologist, Jack Engler, says: “You have to become somebody before you can become nobody”, and I think there is some truth in this. It is as if there is a twin track of self-transcendence and self-actualisation which need to work together. Without the process of self-actualisation, there is a tendency to skip round problems to the other side, and it is not enough. As Rinpoche said so many times: “We have to learn to face the situation”.

 

Akong Rinpoche with children from the ROKPA Children’s Home in Nepal, taken during a visit to Kagyu Samye Dzong, London. Photograph by Gerry McCulloch, Darshanaphotoart.co.uk

There is a synergy between the three areas of Akong Rinpoche’s religious, humanitarian and therapeutic activity. I regard each of them as acts of generosity. In Buddhism generosity is seen as having three aspects: giving dharma; giving food and shelter and the means of life – which is certainly what the Rokpa Foundation does; and giving freedom from fear. And it seems to me that the Tara Rokpa Therapy helps people to be less afraid in their own lives. In the end, the aim is always to bring people to a state in which they can recognise their own true nature. Rinpoche used to say: “You can’t teach people to meditate if they are hungry”, and perhaps hunger takes many different forms.

One of the sayings of Akong Rinpoche that has become famous is: “Only the impossible is worth doing”. He certainly demonstrated this in what he achieved during his life. Reflecting on the implications of it, I feel it is pointing to the heart of Buddhism – the illusory nature of a separate self. Rinpoche once summed up the matter up like this: “First of all there is me; then there is mine; then there is trouble.” So when he was pushing people – gently, but still asking them to go beyond their limitations – I believe that he was challenging the ‘me’ that says: “I can’t do that”. If you don’t go beyond your comfort zone, you are creating a safe place – a fortress – within which to exist. Another thing that he used to emphasise is that mind is endless – life is endless. You simply cannot think too much about the finishing line when you take on a really big project like the building of a temple. In fact, it is a very important understanding in Buddhism that we all have infinite potential. When taking on a large project you have to work with other people; we need to co-operate and admit that we need help, and we grow when we face difficulties and challenges.

Hope for the future

Akong Rinpoche at the Samye Ling Temple, June 2011. Photograph by Louise Adams.

So, what now lies ahead for Samye Ling and the heritage that Akong left behind? In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the concept of the Tulku is enormously important: it is essentially the reassurance that there is continuity in the care given to people, as the Tibetan masters do not come back to the world for any reason other than to help others; they don’t come back for their personal agenda. For many centuries – millennia even – Tibet was a very stable society, and a young Tulku could be carefully educated there; there was always an older regent who was waiting for him to come of age and carry on the tradition. In the West, we are only just in the first generation of this process happening, and it is quite a challenge. I feel that Rinpoche set it up as well as he could do. His brother, Lama Yeshe, has been the abbot of Samye Ling for some years; so, although it was not easy by any means after Akong Rinpoche’s death, in terms of looking after Samye Ling, there was someone in charge. Lama Yeshe provided remarkable leadership by his example during this difficult period.

Now the 17th Karmapa has been asked to find the Tulku, the next reincarnation of Akong. His advice to us is that we should not worry about this but just carry on with compassionate activity as best we can. So we have tried to continue with the various projects that were already set up – and started some new ones as well.

 

Akong Rinpoche at the Rokpa Soup Kitchen in Kathmandu. Photograph courtesy of Rokpa International.

Akong – a Remarkable Life

Over the last few years, it has been a privilege for me to help make this film about Akong Rinpoche’s life. It came about because my good friend Chico Dall’Inha, a Brazilian film director living in London, had the idea to make a film about Samye Ling. Then his plans evolved into a film about Akong Rinpoche’s life and, after some initial reluctance, Rinpoche gave Chico permission to go ahead. Fortunately filming was already in progress before he died, but in the shocking aftermath, it ground to a halt; apart from anything else, the funding had run out.

Then one morning I woke up just knowing how it could proceed. The vision that came to me was that people should see this film at special events: they should gather together and be inspired to carry on, as Karmapa said, with Rinpoche’s compassionate activity. It seems that when the idea is right, money is never a problem. So the thought came of asking Rinpoche’s many loyal friends to support us, which they did in so many different ways. So now the film is completed and thanks to everyone’s generosity, it has no debt. Any funds that are raised through its screening are donated to support the continuation of Rinpoche’s humanitarian work, and to support the education of the Tulku when he is found.

We specifically decided to organise the distribution of the film ourselves because this also feels consistent with Rinpoche’s direct and creative way of getting things done. Through engaging our network of connections, we already have more than sixty screening opportunities in more than fifteen countries. At every showing of the film, at least one person comes forward with an offer to set up another screening, and so the momentum builds as everyone is able to find inspiration and contribute to Akong Rinpoche’s legacy of compassion in action.

 

Vin Harris

Photograph by Rachael Roberts.

Currently he is a Director of a successful joinery business specialising in traditional sash windows, as well as a founding board member and tutor of the Mindfulness Association, and an honorary teaching fellow on the University of Aberdeen M.Sc. in Mindfulness Studies. Vin takes on a wide range of inspiring projects, including helping to bring the film ‘Akong – a Remarkable Life’ to completion. One of his few regrets regarding this rich and varied life is that he does not get to play as much golf as he would like.

 

Image Sources:

Banner image: Akong Rinpoche at the inauguration of the shrine room at Samye Ling. Photograph by Chico Dall’inha.

Thumbnail image: Akong Rinpoche. Photograph by Gerry McCulloch. Darshanaphotoart.co.uk

Reference Sources:

Rinpoche, Akong Tulku, and Clive Holmes, Taming the Tiger:Tibetan Teachings for Improving Daily Life, (Rider, 1994).

Rinpoche, Akong Tulku, Restoring the Balance; Sharing Tibetan Wisdom, (Dzalendara Publishing, 2005).

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, (Shambhala, revised edition 2010).

Chogyam Trungpa and Francesca Fremantle, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo(Shambhala, new edition, 2000).

Vickie Mackenzie, The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun, by (Shambhala, 2017).

More information about the film Akong– A Remarkable Life can be found at http://www.akong-remarkablelife.com

For details of future screenings see http://www.facebook.com/AKONGaremarkablelife/

To organise a screening event, please email trust@hartknowe.org

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Beshara Trust.

[Special thanks to Vin Harris, Chico Dall’ignha and Jane Clark for their help in publishing this article in Many Roads for Bodhicharya.  Apologies for any unsourced photographs appearing in the article. Albert Harris, Editor]

 

PEAS AND PANIR CURRY केराउको र पनिरको करी

Ingredients

2 cups Panir (tofu) cubes
2 cups peas
4 tomatoes (medium) chopped
2 onions finely chopped
2.5 cm ginger piece
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 cardamoms (black) ailaichi
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons oil/ghui
2 cups of water
Coriander leaves chopped

Process

Fry panir cubes till golden. Remove and drain out. Grind ginger, garlic, turmeric and cumin seeds and make a paste. Heat oil, and add cardamom and bay leaves. Fry onion till golden. Add the paste and salt and again fry. Add peas and tomatoes. Again fry for a few minutes. Add water. Cover and cook till peas become tender. Add fried panir cubes and again cover for 2 minutes. Add mixed spices and garnish with green coriander leaves. Serve hot with bread or rice.

bon appetit

Source:  Joys of Nepalese Cooking , Indra Mahapuria

MINT CHUTNEY – पुदिना को अचार

Mint leaves are not used for making chutney in Kathmandu Valley where they grow wild, but they are generally used in the Terai region of Nepal.

Ingredients
1 cup of green mint leaves
2 small garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoonful of chili powder or 1/2 green chili
1 teaspoonful of salt
2 tablespoons of mustard oil
1/2 teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoonful of turmeric
Juice of one or two lemons

Process
Grind mint leaves and garlic in a mortar.  Add salt and chilis.  Squeeze one or two lemons for juice.   Heat the mustard oil in a small frying pan and fry the fenugreek seed till they become black.  Add the turmeric and turn with a spoon.  Now add the mint and garlic mixture.

Time required 10- 15 minutes

THE RINGU TULKU ARCHIVE

 

Launching The Ringu Tulku Archive

By wangdu on Aug 29, 2017 05:13 pm

Dear Friends,

It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of The Ringu Tulku Archive.

This website will become a repository for all of the teachings given by Venerable Ringu Tulku Rinpoche that have been recorded since January 1990 when, at the invitation of students and friends, he first began to travel in the West. He has given countless teachings during that time, on all levels and on all kinds of topics, according to whatever is requested and whoever is listening. The range of topics is immense and varied, interesting for newcomers to Dharma as well as long term students. Rinpoche’s command of the English language means the teachings are given and received with incredible ease – as if, he often says, “I’m chatting with friends while on my holidays”. Even repeated requests for the same topic are responded to with a wonderful freshness and delivered as if for the first time. He has said that what we are receiving through these Dharma teachings is very, very rare and there are actually very few places in the world, even in Tibet, that this level of instruction is given.

What an extraordinary opportunity.

The majority of those teachings were recorded and we are currently uploading them to the new Archive website. We have uploaded almost all recordings received since 2011, and we are now beginning to work on the previous years’ which will take us to prior 2008. As well as this, the website also includes recordings from Rinpoche’s future teaching tours as they happen, which means that as a member you will be able to listen to those while Rinpoche travels and teaches around the globe.

The next stage will be to make it possible for individual members & Dharma Centres to upload recorded teachings. We hope that this will fill in any missing teachings and also offer opportunities to upgrade any low quality recordings.

Rinpoche doesn’t charge for his teachings and all initial development costs have been generously funded by Bodhicharya Publications. However, storing and making such a body of material available in a secure and professional way requires a paid delivery system. Each time a video or audio file is accessed by you, we pay for that delivery. Therefore a membership charge will be essential to the survival of the website: an annual membership fee will allow you access to the full archive of teachings and courses – with the exception of certain restricted teachings for which you must apply for permissions. Please see more information in the About section.

As a member you can also become involved by giving feedback through listening, informing us of any technical errors, and also providing a synopsis to summarise the content of a teaching.

Given the preciousness of what we are storing and delivering, we think it’s worth it and we hope you do too.

Finally, it is Rinpoche’s wish that as time goes on this website will become a key portal where he will be able to both communicate with his students and also deliver and curate longer courses for different levels of study and stages along the path. We hope that in the near future our Courses section will come alive with an array of rich and diverse teachings for student members of any level and experience to follow.

It is our wish that this website becomes an invaluable resource for many people and that the benefits for all beings will be vast and far reaching.

You can visit The Ringu Tulku Archive here: https://bodhicharya.org/teachings

Paul O’Connor
Webmaster & Project Coordinator

Copyright © 2017 Bodhicharya

 

LIVING AND DYING IN PEACE

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REACHING OUT TO ANIMALS AND ALL CONSCIOUS LIFE

 In ANIMALS by Lyse Lauren08/07/20170 Comments

Reaching out to animals and all sentient, how would this change our world? If everyone understood that all beings, whether animal, insect, bird, plant or even mineral, are sentient and therefore conscious, how would this change the way we interact with them? If we understood and began to appreciate all living beings as sacred and intelligent, what impact would this have on us, and all the other living forms with whom we co-exist on this planet? The mind boggles…


I remember as a child that one day my mother asked me to go over to the neighbours house to find out if they were at home. At that time we were living in Nelson, a small town in the north of the South Island of New Zealand. Our neighbours were a husband and wife and their two children with whom we young ones often played of an evening. They had not long moved to Nelson and being so near by, our family had instantly warmed to these new arrivals.

I ventured over the side fence and made my way up the staircase to the front door. Their tabby cat was sitting on the doorstep imbibing the warm noon sunshine. I was already acquainted with her and so gave her a nod as i climbed past to ring the doorbell. I pushed the button a few times but there was no response from within and so, without thinking, I sat down next to the venerable puss and asked her where the family had gone. She looked up at me, made a little feline squeak and we amicably bumped heads and then sat a while in companionable silence.

After some time I slowly got up and made my way back over the fence to tell my mother that the family were, at that minute, away somewhere. When I entered the house a chorus of giggling and squeals of laughter greeted me. Evidently, my mum and sisters had been watching my encounter with the neighbours cat through the back bedroom window which directly overlooked the neighbours staircase. They had overheard our conversation.

For some reason they found it inexpressibly silly and funny that I should have been sitting there verbally interacting with a cat! I found it equally silly and funny that they did not understand that one could. I was sometimes reminded of that incident whenever family members would begin to recount stories and memories of our childhood days, yet, from then until now, I still do not see what they could possibly have found so strange or amusing.

All life that is sentient, is therefore conscious! 

It is incredibly important for us to take this statement seriously and give it the consideration that it deserves. Day after day we can witness around us acts of callousness and cruelty of which most people are not even aware. They are not aware because they simply do not acknowledge that other life forms are sentient and therefore feel and respond to energy, moods and pain, just as we do. This is an extremely crucial point to understand if we are ever to come into greater harmony with all other life forms with whom we share this world. The various forms of sentient life may not speak our language but there is a place where understanding can occur naturally no matter what the outer form may be.

Many who own so called pets become conscious of this truth by necessity of close association and yet somehow they often continue to exclude other forms of life. If we can ever begin to question our assumptions and reactions towards all living beings we would quickly be forced to change many long held beliefs. If we want to allow the extra ordinary bio diversity of life on our planet to continue to, not only exist but thrive, then a shift must take place in our perception.

At the moment human beings predominantly have the supremely arrogant view that everything in nature, be it animal, plant or mineral, exists for their use and convenience alone. How primitive and barbaric is this view?Thankfully this is beginning to change, there is something of an awakening in the consciousness of a growing number of people. It is not yet widespread, but it is a beginning. Many of the so-called primitive societies understood and lived by the natural laws of respectful and sustainable co-existence. But in recent human history most of these intuitive qualities have been lost and forgotten.

Awareness does not discriminate between forms. It is the inherent nature of all sentient life, how ever and where ever it may appear…

What we begin to see now, even though it is in a very nascent stage, is something of a quiet opening and awakening. At this time it is just a few people who are paving the way in inter species communication, but their work is sending out ripples, which in time will have a profound impact on the way we view the living world around us. However, each and every one of us can help to accelerate this process through our every day small deeds and by changing the way we think. Then like a shift in the tide, almost imperceptibly but slowly with a gathering momentum it can begin to catch on and start challenging old and previously unquestioned beliefs.

There will come a time when we will look back on current accepted norms and behaviours and be amazed that we could live in such a barbaric and unaware world such as we have been living in for so long. It would seem that the more, so-called advanced today’s societies think themselves to be, the more unaware and brutal they actually are.

When ingrained beliefs begin to under-go a shift, when we begin to become aware of who and what we really are, we can not help but start to notice that this same beingness which is in us, also pervades everything else. Everything includes everything, animals, plants, insects, and the planet on which we live, move and have our being. Interconnectedness is vaster and more thoroughly integrating than our mind can ever really comprehend or grasp, therefore we need to move beyond mind in order to begin to really get a sense of the underlying reality out of which all of life arises. The implications of such a shift in awareness are truly immense.

An appreciation of the unity and sacredness of all life is integral to awakening to our own awareness.

Awakened beings have long understood the interconnectedness and inherent divinity in all sentient life forms. From the Buddha, to Ramana Maharshi, and countless others besides, great sages have communicated with animals in such a natural way which is completely respectful of who and what really exists. For them this truth is a living reality, not something to be questioned or doubted, their experience which moves from the heart in an ever fresh exuberance of being, is a timeless and constant affirmation of unity in diversity.

We are all sacred drops
from the same sacred ocean of life.

Those who stayed near Ramana Maharshi and who were honoured to witness his many exchanges and relationships with animals, birds, and at times also the plant life, took it all quite for granted. The animals simply became a part of the life of the ashram. The Maharshi treated them all as his own children, showing them the same care and respect that he bestowed upon all the people who were drawn to be near him.

A Jnani can differentiate between the different forms of life, but to him all are inherently divine.

The changes which can be initiated by humans in their interaction and effect upon the different kingdoms of life, begin in our mind and thinking. When the energy of the heart is enabled to speak through the mind anything becomes possible. This is not mushy, sentimental talk, but truth based on a profound and inherent law in nature that always moves towards harmony and balance. As in all things, we are inevitably drawn back to the one and central tenet, the inherent divinity within all sentient lifeTo find out who and what we really are is so vital in reclaiming our true inheritance and in recognising that all living beings have an equal claim in this same inexhaustible spring of life. However we, as human beings, hold a unique position and responsibility within the kingdoms of nature. We have the capacity to know who and what we really are to live  and let live by this truth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lyse Lauren

LYSE LAUREN

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Having attended Australian International Conservatorium of Music, Lyse is a student of three outstanding masters of recent times: Dilgo Khyentse, Tulku Urgyen and Chatral Rinpoches. She facilitates groups and individuals in meditation retreats, while writing books as well as articles for Ever Here Now website. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author.

Photos provided by the author.

[This article was sourced in LEVEKUNST art of life]

Thanks to the author for permission to publish.

SUMMER CAMP PORTUGAL 2017

Casa da Torre near Vila Verde

Using the deity as meditation practice, in particular White Tara, was the topic for this years summer camp held for the 6th time in northern Portugal. The venue was once again Casa da Torre near Vila Verde, and the delightful Portuguese sangha were as welcoming as ever. It is always lovely to meet so many now familiar faces after twelve years of Bodhicharya Summer camp retreats here and in France since 2006. The warm weather and fresh vegetarian food laid the ground for a spiritually nourishing week with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche.

Rinpoche told us that White Tara was the first sadhana taught by the Buddha: in India, where White Tara was already a common practice, she was known as Saraswati and associated with healing and long life. The great yogi-saint, Atisha Dipankara, felt he was guided by White Tara and believed himself to have been saved by her, and when he was invited to re-introduce Buddhism to Tibet from India, he brought this practice with him. Gampopa later inherited the practice and passed on the sadhana to the first Karmapa, Dusom Khyenpa. Since then White Tara has been regarded as an important bodhisattva in the Tibetan school of Vajrayana Buddhism and this particular sadhana has been recited throughout the entire Karmapa lineage until today.

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SWEET CORN PUDDING मकैको खीर

In Nepal, several types of pudding are prepared.  One popular kind of pudding is that made from fresh corn.

Ingredients
1 cup of fresh corn

4 cups of milk
1 cup of sugar (honey can be used as a substitute)
1/2 cup of dried fruit
1/2 teaspoon of cardamon
2 tablespoons of grated coconut

Process
Boil the milk on a low heat.  stir frequently till it boils down to only 3 cups.  Add the corn and continue heating till it thickens and the corn is tender.  More milk can be added if required.  Add the sugar or honey and the fruit.  Heat for a few minutes more.  When cook, serve in small bowls.  Top the with cardamon and coconut.

Serves 6 persons

bon appetit

Source:  Joys of Nepalese Cooking (S. Devi, Lashkar (Gwalior), India)

HARRIET TUBMAN

 A story of overcoming fear in your workplace, and in your heart. Excerpted from Jaiya John’s new book of healing, Your Caring Heart: Renewal for Helping Professionals and Systems. Online where books are sold.

Harriet Tubman was a baaad woman. She didn’t play. One story I appreciate telling about her (creatively adapted, of course) is a story of leadership. So, the story goes that Harriet and her people had been discussing for some time the idea of breaking away from their plantation and finding freedom. Now, freedom can be a very frightening idea to a slave. Sure enough, as the designated night approached in which the group would escape the plantation, the people began to voice their concerns. Their fears.

Many of these people were menfolk, and Harriet being a woman, was used to the challenges of being a female leader. Folks started in with fear talk: “Now, Harriet, this freedom thing of yours sounds great in theory, but I don’t know if it is realistic. Look at our life. We have so much to deal with. So many bad things could go wrong. I don’t know if we have time for this freedom thing. I need to get back to my work or Massa gon’ whup me good. I can’t afford to lose my job. How much work is this freedom thing going to require?”

Does this litany of fear talk sound familiar to you? If so, it is because, bless us all, the slave is alive and well in our society and work. It is a spirit of self-oppression that burrows deep into people and groups, rendering their idea of reality as one of impending doom.

 Harriet listened respectfully to her people. But Harriet knew fear. It was in the nature of being a slave. In fact, her people harvested fear more than they harvested cotton or other crops. It was fear that they brought home to their slave quarters. Fear that they ate together for dinner. Beds of fear that they slept on. Dreams of fear in the night. Fear was their sunrise, their clothing, their daily industry. So, Harriet, she knew fear. And she would not let it get in the way of freedom. On a night absent of moonlight, Harriet gathered her people down by the riverbank. The murmuring water would be their chaplain for this freedom service. The people were now terrified. They risked death, dismemberment, whippings, dogs tearing at their flesh. They risked disappointing their overseers and their masters. They risked losing their precious jobs as house slaves, for few wanted the backbreaking life of a field slave. They risked being sold. This entire river of fears was now pushing up their throats, coming out as angry resistance to freedom.

 Harriet wasn’t sweet. She was fire. A woman, slave, nurse, social worker, leader, healer in those times had to be fire. She used hers. Lifting her sawed-off shotgun, she pointed it directly at the men challenging her leadership. Harriet said these words: “I understand, my people, the ferocity of your fears. But we have been slaves far too long. We have lost the taste for freedom. But here, under cover of this black night, I’m fixin’ to make an executive decision. Those who choose to stay in this life of suffering may do so. Otherwise, whoever wants to have freedom sing in their bones and dreams tonight, follow me. Tonight, my people, we fixin’ to be free.”

 In every group of human beings who care deeply to do this healing work, in the right way and spirit, there must be those, of any title, willing to walk the group through their long night of fear into the astounding daybreak of freedom. There is no other way than directly through our fear. We should do this now, good souls, before we further lose the taste of freedom.

 

INSPIRATION

“But what is self Love?” she asked.

And Love answered:

“When your sacredness becomes your deepest song.”

Dr. Jaiya John has served organizations, agencies, schools, and initiatives globally for many years. He is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer, consultant, book author, poet, spoken word artist, and youth mentor. Jaiya is the founder of Soul Water Rising, a global human mission that has donated thousands of Jaiya’s books in support of social healing, and offers scholarships to displaced and vulnerable youth. He is a former professor of social psychology at Howard University, has authored numerous books, and has addressed over half a million professionals, parents, and youth worldwide. Jaiya is a National Science Foundation fellow, and holds a doctorate degree in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. As an undergraduate, he attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and studied Tibetan Holistic Medicine through independent research with Tibetan doctors in Nepal.

Soul Water Rising  |  jaiya@soulwater.org  |  soulwater.org

Quantum Emptiness -The Quantum Illusion-like Nature of Reality by Graham Smetham


 

In his book the Dalai Lama has sketched the beginnings of an exploration of the interconnections and parallels between modern Western science and Buddhist metaphysical philosophy.  The Dalai Lama, true to his nature, is extremely humble about Buddhism’s achievement in this area:  “Our explanations and theories are rudimentary when compared with those of modern science … and will have to be modified in the light of new scientific insights.”  However, in this brief article, based upon the ten year research project which led to my recent book Quantum Buddhism: Dancing in Emptiness–Reality Revealed at the Interface of Quantum Physics and Buddhist Philosophy, I shall endeavour to show that Buddhist philosophy, based upon direct insight and the rigorous dialectical analysis exemplified by the Madhyamaka (Middle Way conceptual analysis), achieved an extraordinary understanding of the ultimate nature of the phenomenal world, an understanding which only became apparent within the West with the advent of quantum theory at the beginning of the twentieth century.

In his interview Nottale focuses primarily upon the central Buddhist notion of ‘emptiness’ (shunyata) as indicating the relativity of all phenomena:

None has its proper existence, but only an existence in relation to another object acting as a reference point.  They are couple properties which cannot be attributed to either of the members of the couple taken separately.

In other words the actual ‘physical’ properties of any apparently independent ‘material’ object are not purely determined by the nature of the object itself but also depend upon its relationship and interconnection with other objects.  However, there is another, perhaps more fundamental, aspect to the Buddhist insight into the emptiness of phenomena which is that all phenomena are inextricably and intimately connected to, and even created by, the minds of observers.

This insight provides the fundamental perspective for the Yogachara-Vijnanavada (Consciousness-Only) and Chittamatra (Mind-Only) Buddhist metaphysical perspectives:

..all these various appearances,

Do not exist as sensory objects which are other than consciousness.

Their arising is like the experience of self knowledge.

All appearances, from indivisible particles to vast forms, are mind.[i]

Common sense, of course, would indicate that such a notion, that what appears to be an independent ‘material’ reality is actually of the nature of mind or consciousness, must be misguided, and in the ‘classical’, or pre-quantum, era of Western science such a notion would have appeared outlandish.  However, with the advent of the quantum revolution the notion that the ultimate nature of the physical world is mind-substance, or Mindnature, has become increasingly inescapable.

This was the conclusion of many of the ‘founding fathers’ of quantum mechanics. Erwin Schrödinger, the discoverer of the fundamental quantum equation, for instance, came to the conclusion that:

Mind has erected the objective outside world … out of its own stuff.[ii]

And Max Planck, the physicist who inadvertently initiated the quantum revolution, came to a similar conclusion:

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.[iii]

More recently, in an article in the New Scientist (23rd June 2007) Michael Brooks, commenting on quantum entanglement experiments carried out by teams led by Markus Aspelmeyer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna, tells us that the conclusion reached by the physicists involved is that:

… we now have to face the possibility that there is nothing inherently real about the properties of an object that we measure. In other words measuring those properties is what brings them into existence. [iv]

This conclusion agrees with the fundamental insight of the Madhyamaka, or the Buddhist Middle Way analysis, that all phenomena lack ‘inherent existence’ or, to use Buddhist technical terminology, all phenomenon lack svabhava (‘own-nature’ or ‘inherent existence’).  Thus Vedral, in his recent book Decoding Reality, has concluded that:

Quantum physics is indeed very much in agreement with Buddhistic emptiness.[v]

Emptiness, or shunyata, is, in one aspect, the Buddhist concept of a fundamental non-substantial ‘empty’ ground of potentiality which gives rise to the multitudinous productions within dualistic experience through the operation of an internal primordial activity of cognition. Within Dzogchen (the ‘Great Completeness’ teachings) for instance the ultimate nature of reality is characterised as being a fundamental ground comprised of ‘emptiness and cognition inseparable’, or ‘empty cognizance’.[vi] And this is the kind of vision of the process of reality which Vedral considers is necessitated by the evidence of quantum theory:

The Universe starts empty but potentially with a huge amount of information. The first key event is the first act of symmetry breaking…[vii]

The results of quantum experiments indicates quite clearly that quantum reality consists of a field of non-substantial (using the term ‘substantial’ here to indicate materiality) potentiality which is triggered into experiential manifestation through the operation of the cognitive activity of consciousness.  This perspective is indicated in the most recent quantum proposal that quantum reality is ‘epiontic’, as quantum physicist Wojciech H. Zurek has indicated:

…quantum states, by their very nature share an epistemological and ontological role – are simultaneously a description of the state, and the ‘dream stuff is made of.’  One might say that they are epiontic.  These two aspects may seem contradictory, but at least in the quantum setting, there is a union of these two functions.[viii]

This cogent insight makes clear that, at the quantum level, being and knowing, perception and reality, epistemology and ontology, are inextricably entangled.  The ‘epiontic’ nature of the fundamental quantum ground, therefore, indicates that in some manner perception creates the ontological fabric of reality. The ‘first act of symmetry breaking’, then, is an act of primordial consciousness. As the physicist Henry Stapp, who has discussed such issues with some of the early quantum physicist, has indicated:

…this evolving quantum state would represent the ‘potentialities’ and ‘probabilities for actual events.  … the ‘primal stuff’ represented by the evolving quantum state would be idealike rather than matterlike, apart from its conformity to mathematical rules.[ix]

The greatly admired physicist John Wheeler wrote that:

The universe does not ‘exist, out there,’ independent of all acts of observation.  Instead, it is in some strange sense a participatory universe.[x]

Wheeler suggests that quantum theory requires a participatory universe, which means that somehow phenomena which appear to be external and independent of the minds of sentient beings cannot be so.  The Astronomer Royal Professor Martin Rees agrees with him:

In the beginning there were only probabilities.  The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it.  … The universe exists because we are aware of it.[xi]

As does cosmologist Professor Andrei Linde:

Thus we see that without introducing an observer, we have a dead universe, which does not evolve in time.  This example demonstrates an unusually important role played by the concept of an observer in quantum cosmology.  John Wheeler underscored the complexity of the situation, replacing the word observer by the word participant, and introducing such terms as a ‘self-observing universe.[xii]

As does Steven Hawking in his most recent book (written together with Leonard Mlodinow) The Grand Design; in fact according to Hawking (following Wheeler) observations have a creative impact even backwards in time:

…the universe doesn’t have just a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability; and our observations of its current state affect its past and determine the different histories of the universe…[xiii]

Quantum theory, then, suggests that the universe might actually be vast cosmic dream created by all of its inhabitants. This might, at first sight, seem far-fetched, but it is not, which is why Zurek refers to quantum ‘stuff’ as ‘the dream stuff is made of.’[xiv]

Quantum physics clearly shows that we are involved, or are participators, in the existence of the universe. Indeed Wheeler also wrote that:

…no phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.[xv]

And he did not mean by this that some already existing entity is not experienced as a phenomenon until observed, he meant that the observation has a creative role in the existence of the apparent entity revealed by the phenomenon.  Speaking in April 2003 to the American Physical Society, he made the following remarkable; perhaps one might say ‘mystical’, sequence of remarks:

The Question is what is the Question?

Is it all a Magic Show?

Is Reality an Illusion?

What is the framework of the Machine?

Darwin’s Puzzle: Natural Selection?

Where does Space-Time come from?

Is there any answer except that it comes from consciousness?

What is Out There?

T’is Ourselves?

Or, is IT all just a Magic Show?[xvi]

To Wheeler’s question as to the possibility that reality might be an illusory ‘Magic Show’ Buddhist philosophy answers in the affirmative:

Phenomena as they appear and resound

Are neither established or real in these ways,

Since they keep changing in all possible and various manners

Just like appearances in magical illusions.[xvii]

In fact Buddhist philosophers have known about the dream-like nature of the universe for at least two thousand years:

…when we see houses and fields in dreams, we think of them as being external objects that are not created by the mind, even though they are nothing other than projections of our mind. All that we see when we are awake is also nothing other than a creation of the mind.[xviii]

And the Buddhist metaphysical perspective of the Chittamatra, or Mind-Only, philosophy actually gives an indication of the kind of quantum-perceptual mechanism that might be operating at the quantum level in order to create the extraordinary universal dream of the material world and its inhabitants:

The entire world was created through latent karmic imprints.  When these imprints developed and increased, they formed the earth, the stones, and the seas.  Everything was created through the development or propagation of these latent karmic potentials.[xix]

According to the Buddhist worldview all actions performed by all unenlightened beings, including seemingly neutral perceptions, cause repercussions. Karma-vipaka, action and resultant effect, action and feedback, is the universal process of cause and effect which operates on all levels of reality, including the appearance of a material world. This means that there is a dimension of the operation of karma which is involved in the manifestation of what we perceive as an external ‘material’ reality:

…since beginningless time we have been perceiving sights, sounds, smells, tastes and bodily sensations and these perceptions have been creating imprints or latencies in the ground consciousness. Habituation of having experienced a certain visual form will create a latency for that very form.  Eventually, that latency will manifest from the ground consciousness as a visual form again, but it will be perceived as external to ourselves.[xx]

A view which corresponds remarkably well with Wheeler’s assertion that:

Directly opposite to the concept of universe as machine built on law is the vision of a world self-synthesized. On this view, the notes struck out on a piano by the observer participants of all times and all places, bits though they are in and by themselves, constitute the great wide  world of space and time and things.

In other words all the phenomena of the apparently ‘material’ world are produced by the perceptual activities of the sentient beings inhabiting the universe.  And this, furthermore, means that none of the phenomena of the seemingly ‘external’ world are actually independent of mind.

The physicist and philosopher Bernard d’Espagnat uses the example of a rainbow to describe the way that the ‘classical’ world of apparent materiality emerges out of the quantum realm:

…a rainbow, obviously, may not be considered an object-per-se.  For, indeed, if we move it moves.  Two differently located persons do not see it having its bases at the same places.  It is therefore manifest that it depends, in part, on us.  … But still, even though the rainbow depends on us, it does not depend exclusively on us.  For it to appear it is necessary that the sun should shine and that raindrops should be there. Now similar features also characterize quantum mechanically described objects, that is, after all … any object whatsoever.  For they also are not ‘objects-per-se.’ The attributes, or ‘dynamical properties,’ we see them to possess depend in fact on our ‘look’ at them…[xxi]

In other words all the entities and objects of the ‘classical’ world emerge from the potentiality of the quantum realm in a similar fashion to the way that rainbow appear.  They are brought into experienced reality through an interaction of a deep level of consciousness and a quantum realm of potentiality.

The rainbow analogy is also employed within Buddhist exegesis:

By virtue of its all-penetrating freedom this Awareness that has no centre or circumference, no inside or outside, is innocent of all partiality and knows no blocks or barriers. This all-penetrating intrinsic Awareness is a vast expanse of space. All experience of samsara and nirvana arises in it like rainbows in the sky. In all its diverse manifestation it is but a play of mind.[xxii]

In particular the rainbow analogy corresponds with the Mind-Only metaphysical analysis and can be used to illustrate the ‘three natures’ presentation of the way in which the ‘classical’ ‘conventional’ realm emerges from the ground of ‘emptiness’ through conceptual ‘imputation. The Mind-Only viewpoint explains the process of reality in terms of three ‘natures’:

  • imputational nature – an imaginary, and therefore mistaken, perception which imputes an independent existence to an ’object’ which is in fact illusory.  The imputational nature imputes an object as existing independently by its own force or character.
  • other-powered-nature, or dependent nature – what appears as independent  entities are actually devoid of self character, they seem to arise as self contained entities because of the intersection of other causes and conditions.  The other-powered, or dependent, nature resides in the complex field of interweaving causes and conditions which supply the potentialities for possible imputational experience.
  • thoroughly established, or perfect nature – the fact that the other-powered-nature is ‘empty’ of the imputational-nature is called the ‘thoroughly established nature’ or ‘perfect nature’.  This is quite a subtle definition to grasp – it is the relationship of the absence of the imputational nature from the other powered nature which is the ‘thoroughly established nature.

The imputational nature, or imaginary nature, consists of the imputed appearances of definite, inherent and independent entities that are conceived of as existing in an external realm separate from the perceiving consciousness. According to the Mind-Only perspective, the way that the entities of everyday life are imputed as existing independently and substantially from the mind is, from an ultimate point of view, mistaken.  The dependent nature is closer to the way reality actually is, it is a ground of potentiality which arises from the multitudinous perceptions and activities carried out by all sentient beings.  It is a vast karmic echo of potentiality for dualistic experience. The final nature, the thoroughly-established-nature highlights the fact that the imputational-nature is an ultimately illusory imputation, or superimposition, by imagination into the potentialities of the other-powered-nature, or dependent nature:

The non-existence of such an imaginary nature in a dependent nature is a thoroughly established nature.  … An object which is a different entity from a subject does not exist; a subject which is a different object from an object does not exist…[xxiii]

An example which is often used to illustrate the three natures is that of a mirage. The three natures may be likened respectively to (a) the mistaken belief that water exists in a mirage; (b) the appearance itself of the mirage, dependent on atmospheric causes and conditions and the presence of the observer, and (c) the empty nature of the mirage, inasmuch as it is completely dependent on causes and conditions, including the observer. The belief that water exists in the mirage is completely false and is similar to the imaginary, or illusory, nature.  The causes and conditions which give rise to the appearance of the mirage are similar to the dependent nature. The empty character of the mirage, inasmuch as it is dependent and conditioned and exists nowhere except in the mistaken mind of the observer, is similar to the thoroughly-established-nature. The belief in the mind of the observer that there is water in the distance corresponds to the imputational nature.

This analysis can be likened to the quantum situation. The realm of quantum potentiality which includes the observing consciousness or consciousnesses, provides the interdependent ground of potentiality which constitutes the other-powered nature and, because there is a tendency within the process of reality for the inner nature of this ground to misperceive itself, a realm of seemingly independent and inherently existent phenomenon manifests within an illusory field of duality.

It is important to comprehend the fact that the ‘three natures’ analysis describes a deep process of reality functioning at a level of mind corresponding to the quantum level. The Mind-Only analysis asserts that the play of the dualistic world of appearance emerges from a deep nondual realm because of an internal function of cognition which misperceives itself as being divided. The dualistic world is the illusory domain of the ultimately non-existent imputational or imaginary nature, which is the domain of experienced duality of apprehender-apprehended, subject-object. The relationship between the conventional arena of the experienced ‘material’ world, which seems to emerge through the apparent transition from the quantum state to the ‘classical’ state, which is called the ‘collapse of the quantum wavefunction’, can be likened to the ‘superimposition’ of the imputational nature onto the field of other-powered potentiality.

This ‘Quantum Mind-Only’ model of the functioning of reality can be compared with the ‘rainbow’ illustration of the quantum situation (fig 1) offered by d’Espagnat.  In this analogy the sun, raindrops and observer correspond to the other-powered realm of interdependent phenomena and the appearance of a seemingly external rainbow corresponds to the imputational nature.  The Mind-Only perspective uses the term ‘imputational’ to indicate not just a surface conceptual imputation but a directly experienced sensory imputation such as the rainbow example.  The rainbow does not exist at all as an independent phenomenon, it is therefore ‘imaginary,’  This corresponds exactly to the quantum situation because, although all the phenomena of the everyday world clearly are overwhelmingly convincing as being independent of mind and self-existent phenomena, quantum theory tells us this is not so at all. Furthermore quantum theory tells us that all phenomena are like this; they are ‘illusions’ generated out of the quantum realm of potentiality by the operation of mind.  As physicist Lee Smolin has pointed out:

How something is, or what its state is, is an illusion.  It may be a useful illusion for some purposes, but if we want to think fundamentally we must not lose sight of the essential fact that ‘is’ is an illusion.[xxiv]

At the end of the last programme in the television series ‘Atom’ the physicist-presenter Jim Al-Khalili says, looking very serious: ‘if you ever want to see fear on the face of a physicist ask him about the measurement problem.’  The quantum measurement problem is precisely the quantum rainbow problem, the fact that all the ‘seeming’ phenomenon of the ‘classical’ dualistic world are etched out of the deeper quantum level of potentiality by the continuous ‘measuring’ activity of consciousness.  And, indeed, this quantum discovery, the fact that the material world is not really there in the way that it seems to be, did cause, if not ‘fear,’ then absolute astonishment and bewilderment.  As physicists Bryce DeWitt and Neill Graham say:

No development of modern science has had more profound impact on human thinking than the advent of quantum theory.  Wrenched out of centuries-old thought patterns, physicists of a century ago found themselves compelled to embrace a new metaphysics. The distress which this reorientation caused continues to the present day.  Basically physicists have suffered a severe loss: their hold on reality.[xxv]

If one reads accounts of the reactions of physicists as the solid independent reality that we still all think exists ‘out there’ actually disappeared from their grasp one is reminded of the reaction of some of the Buddha’s disciples when he (supposedly) expounded the Prajna-paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) view that:

all phenomena are empty. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. … 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 phenomena … 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.

It is remarkable to find this central Mahayana Buddhist teaching echoed by respected quantum physicist Henry Stapp:

…no such brain exists; no brain, body, or anything else in the real world is composed of those tiny bits of matter that Newton imagined the universe to be made of.[xxvi]

In the Vajjracchedikasutra we are told that there is a danger of becoming fearful upon hearing such an emptiness teaching. As Buddhist scholar G. Schopen points out:

The repeated emphasis on fear, terror and dread in connection with hearing the Perfection of Wisdom being taught or explained would seem to indicate that the authors of our texts were clearly aware of the fact that what they were presenting was above all potentially terrifying and awful, and that a predictable reaction to it was fear.[xxvii]

As physicist Brian Greene has pointed out:

…because experiments confirm that quantum mechanics does describe fundamental physics, it presents a frontal assault on our basic beliefs as to what constitutes reality.[xxviii]


[i] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001)

[ii] Schrödinger, E. (1944) p121.

[iii] Das Wesen der Materie” (The Nature of Matter), speech at Florence, Italy, 1944 (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)

[iv] Michael Brooks: ‘The Second Quantum Revolution,’ New Scientist 23rd June 2007

[v] Vedral, Vlatko (2010) p200

[vi] Schmidt, Marcia Binder (Editor) (2002) p29

[vii] Vedral, Vlatko (2010) p211

[viii] Barrow, John D., Davies, Paul C. W., Harper, Charles L. (eds) (2004) p136 – Wojciech H. Zurek: ‘Quantum Darwinism and envariance.’

[ix] Stapp, Henry (2004) p223

[x] Dolling, L.M.; Gianelli, A. F. & Statile, G. N. (eds) (2003) p491 – John A. Wheeler (1978): ‘The ‘Past’ and the ‘Delayed Choice’ Double-Slit Experiment.’

[xi] Rosenblum, Bruce and Kuttner, Fred (2006) p

[xii] Barrow, John D., Davies, Paul C. W., Harper, Charles L. (eds) (2004) p450 – Andrei Linde: ‘Inflation, quantum cosmology and the anthropic principle.’

[xiii] The Grand Design p83

[xiv] Kaufman, Marc: ‘Shining a Light on a Dream’ – FQ(x) (The Foundational Questions Institute) February 8th2008.

[xv] Dolling, L.M.; Gianelli, A. F. & Statile, G. N. (eds) (2003) p492 – John A. Wheeler (1978): ‘The ‘Past’ and the ‘Delayed Choice’ Double-Slit Experiment.’

[xvi] Sarfatti , Jack ‘Wheeler’s World: It From Bit?’ – Internet Science Education Project, San Francisco, CA.

[xvii] Brunnhölzl, Karl (2007) Straight from the Heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions p25

[xviii] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001) p16

[xix] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001) p28

[xx] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001) p34-35

[xxi] d’ Espagnat, B (2006) p348

[xxii] Dowman, Keith – Flight of the Garuda

[xxiii] MOE p389

[xxiv] Smolin, Lee (2002) p53

[xxv] Herbert, Nick (1985) p15

[xxvi] Stapp, Henry (2007) p139

[xxvii] Schopen. G. (1989) The manuscript of the Vajjracchedikasutra found at Gilgit. In Studies in the literature of the great vehicle: Three Mahayana Buddhist texts )pp 89-140). L. Gomez & J. Silk (Eds.), Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

[xxviii] Penrose, Roger (1995) p237


Author’s BiographyGraham Smetham, B.A., studied Mathematics at Essex University, England and Philosophy of Religion at Sussex University. During his time at Sussex he taught a subsidiary course for scientists on the interconnections between Western science and Eastern philosophical perspectives and it was through the investigations undertaken during the preparations for this course that he began to have the insights which later developed into wide ranging and detailed explorations contained in his book Quantum Buddhism: Dancing in Emptiness. At Sussex he was also part of the Religious Studies society and at one of its meetings he met the inspirational Western Theravadin monk Ajahn Sumedho, then the abbot of Chithurst monastry, Sussex, who electrified the audience with his joyful effervescent presence. At the time Graham was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Western academic practice of endless conceptual juggling with no transformational practice and the contact with the community of Chithurst monks and nuns convinced him of the need for both intellectual understanding and transformative meditation practice.

Although at that time Graham had a publisher eager to publish his work, personal misfortune, illness and increasing disillusionment with Western-style academic life forced him to abandon an academic career and he subsequently began to lose contact with his intellectual and spiritual roots as he pursued other aspects, ultimately less fulfilling, of life’s pathways. During this time, however, Buddhism and the philosophy of science always played a part in the background as he was always drawn to these subjects and somehow ‘knew’ that they were significant for him. It is very difficult to explain this strange feeling that somehow something which had been left behind was still lingering in the wings, so to speak. An example would be the fact that he would be drawn to various books on the philosophy of science and when he read them instantly and intuitively saw mistakes and ‘knew’ at an intuitive level that Buddhist philosophy had something to offer but did not at that time have any idea of the full scenario.

At a later point, some twenty years after leaving Sussex University, at a time of extreme personal crisis, Graham returned to a serious meditation practice, something that had fallen by the wayside. During one meditation session he was astonished to have a profound meditation vision, like having a cinema screen inside his head, during which he was surrounded by an assembly of Manjushris whilst a bowl of orange nectar at his heart radiated channels of orange nectar to the hearts of the surrounding Manjushris. At the time Graham was not aware of the spiritual identity of the buddhas with yellow hats, previously he had only studied Theravada philosophy. Graham was even more astonished to come across a book in which the vision was described as being one of a set used by Buddhist philosophers prior to writing dharma texts. Graham subsequently joined a Buddhist community and resumed the researches that he had abandoned twenty years earlier. The result is Quantum Buddhism: Dancing in Emptiness–Reality Revealed at the Interface of Quantum Physics and Buddhist Philosophy.

Graham’s website is at http://www.quantumbuddhism.com./ where you can find details of where you can buy his book.

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Happy New Year – 2017 from Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

Circumambulating the freshly renovated Boudhanath stupa I observed thousands of people from all over the world walking around it peacefully with their prayers in heart. This world heritage pilgrimage place was not built by a powerful king, a wealthy sponsor or a teacher with many followers. It was built by a poor and ordinary village woman who worked at the kings chicken farm solely with her resolution, resourcefulness and resilience.

I would like to share with you the peace and tranquility of this stupa and wish that you will face 2017 with resolution, resourcefulness and resilience.

Wish you a Very Happy New Year.

RINGU TULKU
30.12.2016
Kathmandu

གསར་དུ་ཉམས་གསོ་བྱས་པའི་མཆོད་རྟེན་ཆེན་པོ་བྱ་རུང་ཁ་ཤོར་ལ་དལ་གྱིས་སྐོར་བ་བྱེད་སྐབས་འཛམ་གླིང་གི་ཕྱོགས་ཡོངས་ནས་ཡོང་བའི་སྐྱེ་བོ་སྟོང་ཕྲག་མང་པོ་ཞི་འཇམ་གྱིས་སྐོར་བཞིན་སྨོན་ལམ་བཟང་པོ་རྒྱབ་བཞིན་པ་མཐོང་། འཛམ་གླིང་གི་ཕ་ནོར་བྱིན་རླབས་ཅན་གྱི་གནས་ཆེན་འདི་ཉིད་ཐོག་མར་དབང་ཆེན་གྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ། རྒྱུ་ཆེན་གྱི་ཡོན་བདག འཁོར་མང་གི་བླ་མ་སོགས་ཀྱིས་བཞེངས་པ་མ་ཡིན་པར། བུད་མེད་དཀྱུས་མ་དབུལ་པོ་བྱ་རྫི་མ་ཞིག་གིས་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྙིང་སྟོབས་དང་ཐབས་ཤེས་བརྩོན་འགྲུས་ཁོ་ནས་བཞེངས་གྲུབ་པ་ཞིག་རེད།
2017 ལོ་སར་གྱི་ཉིན་མོ་འདིར་ཁྱེད་རྣམས་ལ་རང་བྱུང་མཆོད་རྟེན་ཆེན་པོ་འདིའི་བྱིན་རླབས་ཀྱི་གཟི་འོད་འཕྲོ་བས་ལུས་ལ་བདེ་ཐང་དང་སེམས་ལ་ཞི་བདེ་འབད་མེད་དུ་འབྱུང་བ་མ་ཟད། མ་བྱ་རྫི་མའི་སྙིང་སྟོབས་དང་བརྩོན་འགྲུས་ཐབས་ཤེས་ཀྱིས་ལོ་འདི་ལེགས་ཕྱོགས་སུ་བསྒྱུར་ཐུབ་པའི་སྨོན་འདུན་དྲག་པོ་དང་བཅས། 2017 གནམ་ལོ་གསར་དུ་བཞད་པ་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ་བཞིན། རི་མགུལ་སྤྲུལ་མིང་ཀརྨ་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་འགྱུར་མེད་ཕྲིན་ལས་ནས་གུས་ཕུལ། །

Source bodhicharya.org

NEPALESE CULTURAL BELIEFS

MAINLY ABOUT FLORA

Image result for image for flora

 

  • The first harvest of paddy is received into the house with due ceremony, with rice, curd and a lighted wick.

  • Fruits and flowers may be stolen but whoever steals a pumpkin will grow a goiter.

  • Don’t point at the fruit in a tree with your finger; the fruit will go bad.

  • The bachelor’s button is essential for ceremonies during the Tihar festival.  Because the flower keeps fresh for a long time, it is a symbol of longevity.

Image result for bachelor's button in nepal

Bachelor’s button

  • The red rhododendron is Nepal’s national flower.  It is found in the hills at an altitude of about 6,000 feet from the sea level.  The colour of the flower changes to a light pink in higher altitudes.

  • The peepul tree is sacred as it is believed to be the god Narayana; only a Brahman may pull it out.  On all the main trails in many parts of the hills, platforms known as chautara are built and peepul and banyan trees provide shelter and shade for travellers. The construction of the platform is more than a public service.  It is the joining of the two trees in sacred wedlock.  The peepul is also the haunt of the goddess Kumari.

  • Image result for banyan tree photos

    Children playing on a banyan tree

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Leaves of the peepul tree

  • Neither the banana nor the bamboo should be grown near a house.  The man who plants these must not let his shadow fall on the plant;  for if he does, the plant will not grow.  On the other hand, if the man steps into the shadow cast by the plant, he will die.  If a bamboo bears flowers, the man who owns it will die.  The bamboo must not be cut down on Sunday.

  • The tamarind tree must not be grown near a house either.

    Image result for photo of tamarind treeTamarind fruit

  • The palm tree is sacred in Patan.  It was brought to the town centuries back along with Machhendranath, the patron saint of the town.  The tree must not be cut down but it may be killed by driving a nail into it.  It must be allowed to grow wherever it takes root.  If it grows inside a house, a hole is made through the roof so that it can grow unchecked.

  • When a tree has to be cut down in a forest, it is customary to worship Ban Devi, the goddess of the forest.

  • The tulsi (balsam) plant is sacred and is grown in a pot or in a specially raised platform in the courtyard in many homes.

  • The kush is a sacred grass needed for certain religious ceremonies.  The dubo used as an offering to the gods is evergreen because the crow is said to have wiped its beak upon the grass after taking amrit, the elixir of life.

    Dubo Grass Garland – (हरियो दुबो घास को माला)

  • The seeds of the rudraksha tree (eleocarpus ganitrus) are used to make rosaries.  A seed without crinkles is very rare.  There is believed to be only one seed in Kathmandu – in the temple of Pashupati.  To test if the seed without crinkles is genuine, pour some water upon it and it should rise up with the steam of water.

    Image result for rudraksha tree imagesRudraksha seed specimens

  • The lotus is the seat of some gods.

    Image result for photo of lotus flower

  • The Kalpabrisksha is a mythical tree that bears anything one can wish for.

    Image result for kalpavriksha

Faith and Doubt: Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

elizabeth 1The path begins with an investigation of the unreliability of things. Sometimes when we contemplate impermanence and the unreliability of things we feel afraid or insecure.

 

Question: In my mind my primary deity, Guru Rinpoche, is the only reliable refuge. Is there any difference between Guru Rinpoche and the outer refuge you describe in your talks? Thank you so much for your talks I found them empowering in many ways.

guru

Response: Thank you for your question Danny. I’m trying to recall how I spoke about outer refuge…and I can’t remember. But maybe I can take this opportunity to talk about refuge and we can look at different ways we do take refuge and how it does or does not support us. I will try to address your question. It seems to me that we all take refuge in our attempt to find a resting place…a place of ease…something we can trust. In an ordinary way we often take refuge in relationships, in our work, in our beliefs about how we think things are, in material wealth and so on. But because the nature of things is that they change, we often experience a lot of heartbreak.

This is why the path begins with an investigation of the unreliability of things. Sometimes when we contemplate impermanence and the unreliability of things we feel afraid or insecure. But there is nothing more scary than relying on something that is not dependable. So to begin understanding refuge we need to look at our ordinary ways of taking refuge and how it doesn’t serve us. When we free ourselves from the fantasy that we can find ease in worldly things, we naturally begin looking deeper. The Buddha suggested we look into the causes and conditions for happiness and suffering. It is noble and reasonable to want happiness…but if we just follow our impulses rather than deeply investigating these causes and conditions, our actions won’t meet our intention for happiness. It is all quite practical…if it were not practical, what would be the purpose of following a path?

So when we start to question cause and effect we ask: what happens when we practice patience vs. aggression, generosity vs. selfishness, compassion vs. fear? When we practice compassion or patience we observe freedom in the mind. Freedom from discord and fear is a sense of wellbeing and clarity…a place of ease. This is what we want. So finding this kind of freedom, wellbeing and refuge is really the purpose of the dharma. So we can use the Buddha (as an example) the dharma (as a path) and the sangha (as our companions on the path) as a support of refuge.

I am in the middle of reading a very touching and profound book by Fleet Maull called “Dharma in Hell.” He talks about practicing the dharma in prison. He says that in prison he decided to take some Buddhist precepts, not because they were morally ‘right’ but because he had to find a way to support his mind not to fall into the darkness and confusion of the prison environment. One of those vows was to engage in what is called, “right livelihood.” In other words, he decided not participate in the smuggling and black marketing that goes on in prison. He got involved in hospice work and was there for the passing of many prisoners…In such a place where the odds are so against anything positive taking place, this man found creative ways to support his wakefulness. These positive supports are refuges.

There are infinite ways to support wakefulness. Extending loving-kindness to others supports our wakefulness. Structuring our lives in a wholesome way, supports wakefulness. Not acting out aggressively or blaming others, supports wakefulness…even recognizing the goodness in others supports wakefulness.

Relying on these kinds of supports is taking ‘outer’ refuge in the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha. This has nothing to do with deification. Deification is looking toward something outward to save you and perpetuate your fantasies. Taking refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha is seeing how there is something we can rely upon to support an inner wellbeing. It is the alternative to relying upon our fantasy that the outer world can save us.

In the 3rd series of teachings the Buddha gave (the third turning) we find an interesting explanation of the outer refuge that begins to move us to an even deeper way of seeing things. In a very famous text called “Uttaratantra Shastra”, rather than speaking about the Buddha as an external being or historical person, it describes the Buddha as: that which is inseparable from our own true nature – the mind that is completely blossomed and clear of defilements.” Then it describes the dharma as the mind of natural intelligence. This is an intelligence we all posses…but it is obscured by ignorance. According to the text, the dharma of realization (not the dharma of letters) is the ultimate refuge. There is no higher refuge than the realization of the nature of things. The sangha refers to the unbroken line of realization.

So we see in the later teachings of the Buddha how the refuge changes. This text is said to bridge the notion of ‘outer’ refuge with the Vajrayana refuge. It is seeing the ‘inner’ aspect of refuge. The objects of refuge are not personified but rather seen as qualities innate in all beings.

Now in the tradition of the Vajrayana we practice deity yoga. So for instance, we take on a support like, Guru Rinpoche, and develop a relationship. When I think of GR, I think of him as completely awake and fearless…just based on the qualities I read about him and what I understand from practicing his sadhana. But this fearlessness and wakefulness is not separate from our own nature. We can recognize it more and more in ourselves as we practice. So the relationship with the teacher or deity is meant to connect us to a way of being that goes far beyond ourselves or the teacher as a person.

It seems like people approach this relationship in different ways. In a place like Tibet it is just natural to love Guru Rinpoche. In modern cultures people often question whether the Guru is real or unreal…or worry about blind faith. But in Tibet to simply say his name or mantra, to simply honor his qualities is the support or skillful means for awakening. I have spent a lot of time in Tibetan culture and I can see elderly people who just recite his name…and they have this incredible sparkle in their eyes…and you see they are not afraid to die. You see they are so open and beautiful…and that everything is simple for them.

I know a lot of modern people have trouble with this approach. To adapt this foreign image and then just chant the mantra can feel quite artificial for them. I really understand this too. I am also a Western practitioner. So, it is important to look deeper into the nature of this relationship. It challenges a lot of our cultural concepts. But if we are willing to try it, it can be really powerful and amazing to open up into such a world.

So in short, I suppose the difference between the outer refuge (which is seeing the Buddha as the historical Buddha), the dharma (which often refers to the dharma of letters\texts) and the sangha (our community) and the practice of guru yoga (for example taking refuge in GR) is that in the Vajrayana there is more emphasis on seeing the qualities of the guru as inseparable from the nature of our own mind. I suppose if we see Guru Rinpoche as a person, that is also an outer refuge. If we see him as the embodiment of our own nature, then he is the ‘inner’ guru. It seems like both can be powerful.

For example, when we are studying a text (the dharma of letters), it can really give us a great deal of confidence and clarity. In this way we can take refuge in\trust the information the text imparts…but ultimately, the greatest dharma (as it says in the Uttaratantra) is the dharma of realization.

This article published with the kind permission of Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel

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Calm Abiding Instructions

monk

A first practice: meditation – training the mind

Introductory notes
Our minds will naturally find peace, compassion and wisdom if we give them the opportunity. Living with these qualities present leads to a very good life – a content, happy – even an enlightened life. However, due to the way we’ve lived our lives and the mental habits we’ve developed we no longer know how to find this good and pleasant state. So ways of training the ‘heart-mind’ have come into being to help with this – meditation practices.

There are many meditation practices, some come within a religious framework and some do not. Basically though they all fall into one of two types – ‘calm abiding’ and ‘insight’.

‘Calm abiding’ meditation helps you become more at peace and helps you stay in that state even after you’ve finished the practice. It can also help you see your life more clearly – and so give the opportunity to make changes and live life in a better way.

‘Insight’ meditation helps you develop the qualities of calm abiding meditation more deeply – you find yourself becoming more compassionate, and insights into the nature of your life arise more frequently. We come to see ourselves, others and the world about us to be inherently perfect, and we find ourselves living in ways that produce good results for all.

You do not have to believe anything in order to do this practice – except that you can change, can live life in a better way. And you have to want to do that.

Calm abiding – practice guidelines for counting the breath
Meditate in a quiet, well ventilated room. The room should be neither too bright nor too dark. Wear clean clothing that does not restrict your waist or legs. Find the most stable position you can – sitting on either a chair or on a meditation bench. If you are very flexible you can use a meditation cushion sitting in a cross legged position. Sit on the front half of the cushion and, with each meditation period, alternate the leg you place on top. Do not persist in using a meditation cushion if you find the position painful.

The most important thing is to be sitting in an upright position, not resting against anything, and at the same time to be completely relaxed. The stomach in particular should not be held in or constrained.

To centre yourself, sway the body gently from left to right and then backwards and forwards. Allow the natural curves of the spine to form at the neck and in the small of the back. The head should be held upright – the chin should be slightly tucked in. The tongue is held lightly against the back of the top teeth with the lips and teeth closed

The hands are arranged into a kind of circle – put your right hand on your lap and then cover the fingers of the right hand with the fingers of the left-hand. Now bring the two thumbs together to touch in such a way as to make a circular shape. The hands should then be placed gently against the stomach with the thumbs roughly at the height of the naval (an alternative to this is to place the hands separately each one on or near its knee). Keep the eyes open and lowered, allowing your gaze to fall on the wall or floor in front of you. Keep the eyes gently focused – do not stare. If you wear glasses it’s generally best to leave them on.

Now check and make sure that there is no tension anywhere in your body or even in your neck, head or face that you are able to let go of (some tension is so habitual we cant completely let go of it).

For this meditation practice there’s no need to try and adjust the depth or speed of your breathing. But, just to start with, take two or three deeper breaths – follow the breath up the back on the inhalation and down the front of the body on the exhalation, thus describing a circle. Then sit steadily with an alert and bright mind.

Now we come to the counting practice: as you exhale the first breath count ‘one’. Then inhale. As you exhale the second breath count ‘two’. The counting should be continued throughout the whole out-breath. Carry on in this way counting up to ‘ten’ and then return to ‘one’ and repeat the sequence. If a thought comes along, finish counting that breath and then return to counting ‘one’ on the next exhalation.

Meditate regularly, every day if possible, if only for a few minutes. Mornings and evenings or a regular quiet time in your day is best. Decide how long your sessions will be and keep to that as much as you can. Meditating with others in a group is helpful, as is keeping in touch with a teacher.

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Best wishes with it all, Rinchen monk.rinchen@gmail.com