PolItIcal upheavals are causing widespread anxiety about many issues, including health care, all over the world. Where do we go from here and what can we do on an individual basis to improve our own situation?
First let me say, as a doctor, I see health care as a vital human right. I regard universal access to healthcare as a hallmark of a genuinely humane society which values “love of one’s neighbor”, whereas the absence of such a system may well be a sign of the opposite.
Many health problems arise from causes that we cannot control directly as individuals. among these are accidents, natural disasters, wars, genetic conditions, illnesses caused by pollution of the environment, illnesses whose causes remain unknown, etc. Continue reading
To make the hypnotic artworks, Krakow-based duo Przemek Podolski and Marta Basandowskaby start by arranging the complex designs as a 3D computer model.
The structures range from simple cubes to impressively complex geometric designs which they use to represent outer space.
Basandowska says that she and Podolski then use a series of different knotting techniques to weave the yarn around various nails and bring the artwork to life.
Once the threads are properly woven around the nails, the couple uses black lights and projection mapping to illuminate the massive installations.
We are making bigger and braver installations every year,” says Basandowska. “It is completely different when you’re making installations with an area of 30 meters supported by steel structures and creating something using several thousand knots.”
The couple’s String Art Installations have been displayed at a variety of arts and music festivals, but if you want to keep up with their future work, you can visit their Instagram page, YouTube channel, or website.
This is a simple, spicy Indian lunch or brunch made with rice and potatoes. Perfect as a side dish with curry, too.
- 4 medium waxy potatoes (such as Charlotte or Jersey Royal)
- 140g/5oz thick poha rice (also called flaked rice or thick flattened rice)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- generous pinch of ground asafoetida
- 1 tsp urid dal
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
- 10-15 fresh curry leaves, lightly crushed
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
- 4 wedges of lime, to serve
Boil the potatoes until cooked. Drain and set aside to cool, then peel and cut into 1cm/½in cubes.
Put the rice in a sieve and wash gently but thoroughly under cold running water. Empty it into a bowl, cover generously with water and leave to soak for two minutes. Drain and leave in the sieve set over a bowl.
Put the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the asafoetida and the urad dal. As soon as the dal starts to pick up a little colour, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chilli (whatever type you are using). As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the curry leaves (take care as they will splutter), then the onion and potatoes. Lower to a medium heat and fry, stirring now and again, for 3-4 minutes or until the onion and potatoes are slightly browned. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top and stir.
Add the poha rice, gently breaking up any lumps, and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and the sugar over the top. Cook on a low heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing frequently by lifting all the ingredients from the bottom of the pan with a flat spatula and folding them over, until the poha is heated through. Cover and set aside until you are ready to eat.
To serve, garnish the poha potatoes with fresh coriander and serve with lime or lemon wedges.
Can we love our families fully while upholding the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment?
Sometimes people ask me if there isn’t a conflict between the Mahayana instruction to see all beings as close relatives, worthy of our affection and compassion, and Buddhist teachings on non attachment. Perhaps they are thinking of Jetsun Milarepa’s words:
When you look at your child
Firstly he is a soft-spoken young god.
Then he is a distant-hearted neighbour.
Finally he is an enemy and creditor.
So I let go of children.
We cannot separate Buddhist doctrine and practice from how Buddhists actually live in the world. How do they square non attachment with love and compassion, and what does this say about how we should relate to our families? Most Buddhists in Asia, far from exhibiting some chilly spiritual disdain for such matters, usually demonstrate great affection for their families. I can testify that my own teachers are no exception. Indeed, my master, Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, is a wonderful example of a father and now grandfather who is, at the same time, an unflagging source of kindness and loving guidance to his students. It’s striking how often my other principal teacher, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, though an ordained abbot, emphasizes the value of family life as an environment for training in the key Mahayana virtues.
It is, however, undeniable that we must let go of some level of attachment in our personal relationships. Continue reading
Because of the complexity of various forms of meditation, the text is broken up into two main areas, although it could be broken down much further.
This seems to take the form of prayer in order to appreciate the revelations of god. This can be done by concentrating on a passage in the bible and considering its meaning in the context of a love of god. It is also a tool used to increase knowledge and cognisance of Christ.
If you are reading these words, it means that you either realize you’re not at peace and want to be, or the sound of the word drew you … it’s something you haven’t really thought about, but it resonates and you want it in your life.
The universal truth is that we all suffer. Whether rich or poor, young or old, regardless of gender or any other factor … we all suffer psychically.
Why? Because we are prisoners of our ego-mind. We are controlled by the feelings and perceptions … the emotions, judgments, cravings, and attachments … that are the ego-mind’s reactions to our life experiences. It is these feelings that are actually the cause of our suffering. But we nevertheless identify with them; we’ve lost connection with our true self, our heart. If we were only able to reconnect with our heart, we would be able to free ourselves from the control of our ego-mind and experience the inner peace and happiness that is our birthright.
We cannot change the world around us. It is what it is. But we can change how we relate to ourselves and that world. And by doing so, we can control whether we suffer or experience peace.
This is not some new age theory. These truths have been taught for thousands of years by the mystical traditions of all three Abrahamic faiths … Christian Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and Sufism … as well as Buddhism.
Helping people of all faiths as well as non-believers learn these truths and walk this challenging path is the purpose of How to Find Inner Peace. Why will this book help people when others haven’t? It is reality-based; it grows out of the turmoil of life. And it lays out a practical, step-by-step approach to finding inner peace. If you want inner peace, believe it or not the choice is yours.
The book is available in both softcover – $12.95, and eBook – $9.99 formats.
Ronald Hirsch has had a varied career as a teacher, legal aid lawyer, survey researcher, nonprofit executive, composer, writer, and volunteer. Having found Buddhism at age 49, he has walked the path of Buddhism 25 years now. Along the way, he has had the good fortune to have had some powerful teachers who opened many gates for him. His Zen practice follows no particular lineage but reflects the teachings of his Vietnamese and Korean Zen mentors.
He is the writer of the award-winning blog, www.ThePracticalBuddhist.com, and the author of three books on Buddhist practice and one ecumenically spiritual work, Raising a Happy Child. He is also the author of We Still Hold These Truths, acclaimed by James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, as “a systematic and serious effort to make the [presidential] debate as clear and valuable as it can be. Agree or disagree with his specific conclusions, the questions he is asking are the right ones for the public this year.” He grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and resides in New York.
Dying in a graceful and joyful way – the practice that we need to work on.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Our vision for this evolving website is that there will be ongoing guidance and instruction from Ringu Tulku on living a peaceful, purposeful life and how to face, embrace and engage with the end of life, dying and death. From this, and other sources, suggestions can be gathered and offered for the dying person, the family, the care givers, the medical staff, undertakers and the bereaved.
The intention is also to provide information for those who wish to understand a little more about the Tibetan Buddhist way of life and death, and how we can enhance and extend our positive qualities, our loving kindness, compassion and wisdom for ourselves and for the benefit of all beings.
It is a website for everyone but with some particular Buddhist practices that could be adapted and applied to people of all faiths or of no faith. If you are interested, please visit our website:
We were delighted to have Rinpoche in Ireland again last month. This is his 29th year visiting us and he continues to travel great distances to teach to whomever wishes to hear Dharma. We are very fortunate in Ireland that he spends almost a week here in a very busy schedule.
For the first few days, Kagyu Samye Dzong in Dublin were hosting him and delivered three evenings of teachings.
These teachings were regarding the text ‘Precious Garland of the Supreme Path’ by the great master Gampopa, founder of the Kagyu lineage. The first evening Rinpoche introduced the root text and gave a short Biography of its author followed by an explanation of the first of 27 chapters. He would go on to deliver a teaching on each chapter per night so this work will take several visits to complete. He taught from several translations and cross–referenced the original Tibetan to deliver an accurate as possible explanation always concentrating on the essential aspects, full audio and video recordings were made and are available in the Bodhicharya Teachings Archive. He also gave Lung transmission of ‘Shower of Blessings’ for those wishing to practice this aspect of Guru Yoga and on the last evening a Lung for the ‘Milerapa Sadhana’.
He made himself available throughout his stay in Dublin for many personal interviews and also had a meeting with small group of students from Bodhicharya that took the form of a relaxed conversation: this was regarding the topic of how Buddha Dharma is being delivered and received outside of Tibet in the modern world and personally how he thought the last 30 years of his work is progressing. This rare, unusual and candid conversation is also recorded and available on the same archive under the title ‘Discussing Essential Dharma’.
At the end of the week Rinpoche journeyed to the other end of the Country, down to the tip of South West Cork where Dzogchen Beara were hosting him for a weekend retreat, this beautiful location even more so with sunshine and blue skies that somehow seem to accompany his continued visits.
This weekend was entitled “Meeting Challenges: Unshaken by Life’s Ups and Downs” and co-insides with the release of a new book of the same title in the Heart Wisdom series by Bodhicharya publications. This Lojong (Mind training) teaching is based upon the root text “Bringing Happiness and Unhappiness onto the Path.” Also translated as “Turning Suffering and Happiness into Enlightenment” by the third Dodrupchen -Jigme Tenpe Nyima, A Dzogchen master from the Nyingma Lineage. (The fourth Dodrupchen-Tubten Trinlé Pal Zangpo lives in Gangtok, Sikkim and is a teacher of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche).
The first teaching session was spent addressing questions prepared by Rigpa students that included: Bodhichitta, A healthy sense of self and, Dealing with our personal practice in an unjust world. He also reminded us that skillful, direct and practical actions should never be forsaken. This was an excellent introduction to the weekend of Lojong teaching and provided a summary of the topic Rinpoche would further explore in relation to the text and the questions that arose from the audience, many of whom were new to such teachings and Buddhist Dharma in general.
Over the next three sessions Rinpoche focused on the early part of the text dealing with challenges and suffering and how they can be an opportunity, he occasionally used brutal and horrific examples of the Tibetans’ experiences––including friends and family, but somehow maintained his familiar warmth and humour throughout.
Regardless of examples, metaphors, stories and jokes the teachings always returned to and demonstrated the essence of such teachings, that it is our perception and reaction to external and internal phenomena that creates our world. With compassion and wisdom, Mind’s true nature can be revealed, this requires diligent training and practise and is of benefit to ourselves, those around us and all beings.
Multiply the number of groups of people you hate by the number of individuals in those groups. The sum equals the number of reasons, causes, and triggers for you to experience the feeling of hatred in your heart; not only at those times of direct encounter with those persons, but also in each and every moment of your life. Every one of those moments is a fertile ground for you to think about, imagine, and contend with those persons. Your life is literally a minefield you walk, constantly stumbling over the mines of hatred you have chosen to plant. You even intentionally run to those mines and jump on them, so great is your determination to hate.
You can never escape triggering the sensation of hatred, which is not pleasurable but instead is a sour current of misery and suffering you channel through every particle, cell, vessel, and organ of who you are. You have chosen to inundate yourself with hatred, a monsoon flood of never-ending ailment, all because you have decided that you have good reason to hate this group or that group. Your true joy has become a limp, lifeless carcass, drowned in the flood of your reasons to hate.
Some of us are passionate explorers of that barren terrain yielding reasons to hate. We expunge all awareness and memories of any possible goodness in a people, any hint or potential of worth or value, just so we can hunt freely for hate-reasons. We want the open-season without catch or kill limits. Whenever we come upon a flare-up of humanness, dimension, or texture in our idea of a people, fear and discomfort strike us as though we have encountered the beginnings of a forest fire. In the flush of this unsettling contradiction to what we seek-hatred-worthy characteristics in others-we reach for our water pail of mental erasing and douse the flame. We are here in this land, this place of strategic reasoning, to discover artifacts qualified for hating. We are not here to see beauty or worth. And so we kill with volatility whatever gets in the way of our expedition.
In the end, when you have multiplied the reasons for your hatred by the population size of your hated groups, you have unwittingly painted yourself into a corner in which you cannot step, look, reach, breathe, think, or even feel without stumbling over a self-chosen reason for hatred. You have harvested hatred and because your mind is magnificent in its power, you have accumulated a vast and burdensome harvest.
Now imagine a different harvest. Summon the Love you have for someone you hold dear. Experience that feeling of warmth and bliss cascade through your being. You have now blessed and baptized yourself in the endless reservoir of Love that you have in you, all because you have decided you have good reason to Love this particular person. Now you are drowning in Love, your joy a vibrant light illuminating this flood.
Ask yourself: Which feels better to my heart and soul? To hate or to Love? If Love is your answer, you are fortunate, for you have the means to fill your life and vessel with that which feels good to your heart, mind, and soul. All you have to do now is make another decision: Choose to expand your Love. That which you feel for that special person, people, or group, simply break down your stingy walls of exclusion and extend your Love! By nature, Love will flow anywhere you allow it. Like water, it will fill, soak into, and become the essence of all that you let it touch. It is the Bright Monsoon. All you need do is choose to Love.
Decide you have good reason to Love that group, and that group, and that one. Go crazy admitting more and more groups into your house of Love, regardless of their imperfections or the way they discomfort or challenge you. Become a stubborn Lover even in the face of those who scorn you. Become a seer of your Love’s roots in others. Become a graffiti artist with Love as your paint. Spray it over even the most desolate human souls. Beautify and resurrect them. Bring them to life. Your life of Love.
Eventually you will be able to calculate an incredible mathematics. You will be able to multiply the number of groups you have chose to Love by the number of individuals in those groups. If you decide to decimate all your walls and come up with reasons to let the whole world in, you will have blessed and baptized your entire life and every moment of your life. You will have blessed yourself with causes, reasons, and triggers for your heart, mind, and soul to be flooded with and experience the blissful sensation of Love. Not because the world came begging for your charity, its carts loaded with reasons for your Love, but because you chose to come up with your own reasons. Because you wanted to have endless triggers for your stream of moments in which you could not help but constantly, in your movement, thoughts, and imagination run into human reasons to let loose your Love. Make this choice and you will have solved the greatest calculus of them all.
A Soul Water Rising Publication
Essay Copyright © 2010 by Jaiya John
January 2010 Draft
This essay is part of the Soul Water Rising essay series. All essays in this series are archived and available at jaiyajohn.com. New essays are announced through our journal, Soul Blossom. Dissemination and reposting for educational and inspirational use only is encouraged.
While strolling down the main boulevard in Shigatse, the home of the Panchen Lamas, in 1987, I see only a few people and almost no cars. Tibet has just opened up for foreign travellers and back-packers some months before. Standing on the pavement, perusing the items displayed on makeshift tables in the market stalls, my eyes had suddenly fallen on a tiny text. The print is on handmade-parchment, fashioned in the age-old style of inked woodcarving. It is a revelation from many hundred years back, and its Tibetan title means Refined Essence of Oral Instructions. It contains the parting words of Padmasambhava as he is just about to leave Tibet, the master who is admired and loved throughout the Himalayan countries and now all over the world as being the main teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism. My breath stops and my heart skips a beat. The words are like hearing him speak to you in person. I buy two copies without hesitation.
Homage to the master. Continue reading
I remember, many years ago, visiting the Samye Ling monastery for my annual vacation from Germany to meditate, reflect and to attempt to recover from the existential anxiety of a young, displaced composer. I spent much of the time in silence, hoping to accelerate the process.
I met Jean Paira Pemberton when she joined me on my long walks. I was silent; I listened to her as we walked along farm tracks along streams of water or in the hills, covered in pine forests. I was enjoying listening to a remarkably erudite and intelligent person, flattered by her trust, relaxing in her warmth. She often talked about the recent loss of her only son, and of her poetry.We were both engaged in our processes of healing. Jean and I have been friends ever since, our bond deepened through our relationship with the dharma and Ringu Tulku. It also proves that a difference in age is no barrier to friendship. Jean was born on 20 May 1930, which puts three decades between us, but I have always found her ageless. ‘Between ages’, as she might have put it, because she talked about her being ‘between two cultures, two languages and two disciplines.’
When I met her, Jean was in the process of doing what she was doing all her life: turning experience into word. This is how she herself explains the process.
Some charismatic leaders take advantage of Western misconceptions rather than correct them, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher from the UK argues.
In today’s Western society, where the dominant cultural systems are failing to provide explanations for life’s philosophical questions, a space has opened up that Buddhism is uniquely suited to address. Continue reading
Question: How does one stop making the story real? Sometimes I feel the story, my narrative is so crystalized and I can watch a pattern happen again and again and it’s frustrating to continue repeating the same hurtful patterns. I am interested in learning to keep my heart open, even though it’s scary.
That is a question I bet everyone can relate to! But first, let’s take a moment to rejoice in your ability to recognize a pattern that does not serve you, because that marks the beginning of the possibility for change. Furthermore, it is remarkable that you have an aspiration to open your heart and face it even though it is scary. That’s brave.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how crucial it is to identify where we have “agency” in our lives, and why we sometimes forfeit our agency either knowingly or unknowingly to make choices that don’t support our own or other’s wellbeing. By “agency” I am referring to our ability to make sane and conscious choices that allow us to bring our actions together with our intention to lead a sane and healthy life. I thought I would take your question as an opportunity to see if I could identify some choices in the context of a stuck and painful narrative—kind of like a helpful game.
Yes, it can be painfully hard to change our narrative—the way we see the world and who we are in it. I think it is important to begin by recognizing that there are many things we cannot control: old age, sickness, death, loss, a traumatic event, the pervasiveness of suffering in the world. We live downstream from infinite causes and conditions, and inherit both helpful and unhelpful narratives from our parents and culture. And so we will never know why we see the world as we do in any given moment. There is no singular cause for it, although I’m sure we can connect some of the dots and identify patterns and situations that have influenced the way we experience things. And it seems important to recognize that there is something quite innocent in our noble search for happiness. Being human is all very humbling, isn’t it?
In our pursuit of genuine wellbeing, if we are lucky, we will run into a quiet but potent irony: genuine happiness demands that we allow ourselves to feel “profound disappointment” in life. What I mean is that life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to our preferences. We are not in total command. Of course, the Buddha pointed this out from the very beginning…but it just seems very hard for most people to accept, doesn’t it? However, to accept how things as they are is a powerful and freeing CHOICE. We might consider this choice seriously. In the buddhadharma, we call this choice “taking refuge”.
Given the state of the human condition, let’s now look at some choices we can make:
Choice #1: Accepting
I will define choice #1 as our choice to place our unhelpful narratives into a bigger context. What is this context? Seeing that everything that comes to be does so due to limitless causes and conditions. For instance, the way we see ourselves and the world is not due to a singular linear cause. Two children growing up in the same household who go to the same school will see the world in completely different ways. One child might be introspective, while the other one might be gregarious. They will have different relationships with their parents, and from a young age they will begin to develop their own narratives and strategies for dealing with life: one might take on the responsibility for keeping everyone else’s emotional life together, the other may push people away, or find unhealthy ways to distract herself. Of course we have healthy narratives as well. But the point is, there is no singular truth about how things are, and that the way individuals view the world is based on limitless contingencies, most of which we can’t even identify.
So when we place our story into the bigger context of infinite contingencies, its truth is challenged, and it begins to fall apart a bit. To look at the nature of causes and conditions allows just a little bit of air into our hermetically sealed narrative. We begin to see that, yes, we can read patterns, but in a bigger way, we only ever see a piece of things. We might begin to doubt our story a little: “Maybe it is not so seamless after all.” To recognize that our story finds its place in the natural play of contingent relationships, is a very kind thing to do for ourselves because it protects us from being a “knower” who tries to justify her story by simply laying blame on another person or situation. How can we free ourselves from our narrative when we are always looking for a logic to reinforce it? What is it they say?: “While holding a hammer everything looks like a nail.” When we disrupt the logic of our story through placing it in a bigger context, all of a sudden the mind becomes humble, curious, and poised for seeing things in a fresh way.
Choice #2: Owning It
4 tbs vegetable oil
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced in fine half rings (including green)
6 medium-sized mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth and sliced
1 teaspoon of salt
Medium or coarse-grained bulgar wheat, measured to the 15fl oz level in a glass, measuring jug, or weighed.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame. Put in the spring onions and saute them for 30 seconds. Now add the mushrooms and saute for another minute. Add the bulgar wheat and the salt. Stir and saute for another minute or until the grains of wheat are coated with the oil. Now add 1 pt of water and bring to the boil. Cover, turn the heat to very low and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat. Put a tea towel between the lid and the pot, covering quickly so as not to dissipate the heat. Leave in a warm place for another 20 minutes. The wheat will puff up and not turn soggy.
Extracted from Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
I live a short drive away from what was, until recently, known as the sex-change capital of the world: Trinidad, Colorado. As more people explore the option to alter their biology, gender issues have surfaced in so many ways it’s hard to recognize certain facets of culture we used to take for granted. There is no longer a ladies room or a men’s room for that matter in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. My Indian friend was aghast to learn recently that her 18 year old daughter’s dorm at Princeton has co-ed shower rooms, with flimsy shower curtain separating her from the male students in the adjacent stall. At a program I recently taught at a university, I was instructed to refer to one particular student as they, despite appearing as a young woman, they did not identify as either male or female. So they was not a she, as I had assumed.
These cultural changes provide the backdrop for a larger issue coming to light: gender equality and specifically, women’s rights. Is it a coincidence that the gender issue is arising at same time as #metoo? It seems there are two issues: gender fluidity and gender equality. We seem to be asking collectively, what is gender? And how do we implement basic human rights, and authentic gender equality, in the face of its evolving nature?
Gender is a mental construct: From an ultimate perspective, it’s fantastic we are disposing with entrenched labels. From another, I wonder: are we simply creating new trenches? Labels are still mental constructs, even if they do replace worn-out ideas. HH 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje notes:
“The social meaning of our biological differences is created by our ideas about gender that is, what gender means socially is determined by the mind, and not by the body. Masculine and feminine are fabricated identities that societies create, not nature.”
“Although gender constructs are mere concepts, we can see that they can be terribly powerful forces that shape our experiences and affect how we treat others.”
“When a problem is rooted in society’s habitual outlook and habitual thinking, then legislating change will have limited effect. After all, you cannot legislate a change in thinking.”
What does equality look like? It is long overdue for women’s rights, and safety, to be given the respect it deserves. But equal does not mean identical. Equality denotes balance, fairness, a portioning out of things so that everyone ends up with an advantage, no one with an advantage over another. But how can we assure fairness when each has our own karma?
“Women’s rights have to do with respecting the value of human life and freedom. It has to do with acknowledging our shared humanity and the basic human bonds that link us.”
Obviously the biological roles of men and women differ, so it’s never quite made sense to me how we can be equal. What would make more sense is to aspire to treat each and every human being with an equal amount of kindness and respect.
Equality Or Ahimsa? As we evolve into more acceptance of gender fluidity, and more awareness of gender equality, it seems to me that what we need more than a tired concept of equality. The real issue at stake here is ahimsa. Kindness and acceptance, or at least a commitment not to cause harm. Equality has to do with ahimsa.
Gender Fluidity: It’s interesting that the vast majority of sex reassignments are male to female. From a darker perspective, you might take the gender fluidity we now insist upon as another attempt to appropriate the feminine. This darker view might see the patriarchy plotting against women as we stand up and demand justice from oppressors. As if saying: society accepts this shift in consciousness, then let’s attack the very foundation. Let’s deny the paradigm of femininity itself. We’ll kill mother nature at its root – denying the importance of our physiological roles, and so anyone who wants to can simply change their minds and decide to call themselves something different.
So when I hear about gender fluidity, and the pronoun they I have a hard time understanding. It seems pretty clear to me that if you have monthly periods and the ability to bear children, you are a woman. If you don’t have this possibility, then you are a man. Forgive me if this seems to black and white, but manand woman are different than masculine and feminine.
From a Meditation Viewpoint: Mind is neither male and female. All of my teachers have taught that both men and women have an equal opportunity to attain enlightenment. But Padmasambhava is recorded as saying that all other factors being equal, a woman is more likely to achieve enlightenment:
“The basis for realizing enlightenment is a human body. Male or female, there is no great difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment the woman’s body is better.”
This then begs the question: where are all the women teachers in Tibetan Buddhism? And how do we contextualize – and accept – the sexual escapades of male teachers? Tenzin Palmo asked her teacher Khamtrul Rinpoche why he thought there were not more female incarnations. He replied:
”My sister had more signs at the time of her birth than I did, and when she was arriving everybody said, ‘wow, this must be some really special being coming.’ but as soon as she was born, they said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake!’ You see, if she had been male, they immediately would have tried to find out who this child was, and he would have been given a very special kind of upbringing. Because she was only female, she was not given a chance. She had to marry and so on. This was the problem,that even if you came back as a female it would be very difficult to receive the kind of training and opportunities you could get as a male.”
Karmapa writes in his book, The Heart Is Noble:
“ I think a note of caution is in order here. Although there may be aspects of Buddhist teachings that can help us in thinking more wisely about gender issues, I want to warn you against looking to Buddhist societies to provide ideal examples of healthy gender constructs and practices. You should expect to come across things you do not want to adopt for yourself. Not everything in Buddhist institutions is perfect, and this is certainly the case when it comes to gender discrimination.”
I appreciate the openness and honesty of recent months, but where does this leave us? I have watched over and over the splitting of sanghas due to the misbehaviour of teachers. And yes, #metoo.
#metoo: I was groped by one of my yoga teachers, Pattabhi Jois. I did not speak up. Nor did any of the other many women I knew who he had touched inappropriately. Why did we remain silent? Because our voices had been cut off at an early age: the rule as a young lady is that you don’t cause conflict or confront injustice directly. I hope this movement of sharing can help us show up and educate men and women to be kind and decent human beings, so we can shift the tide to make respecting women and the power of the feminine the norm and not the exception.
“If we continue to devalue what women have to offer, we will continue harming women and continue overlooking and devaluing these virtues that are considered feminine and these are precisely the virtues that the world needs most now.”
Letting go of identity: How do we as practitioners let go of fixation on identities while acknowledging this re-balancing of power. How do we say with a straight face that there is no gender, while supporting a woman’s right for basic human dignity and respect? I understand the value in thinking about ourselves as human, rather than as men or women. But middle path is not neither. Middle path arises when we have 2 distinct polarities that play off of each other. If we lose the polarity, we lose the juice. Karmapa reminds us that gender constructs are nothing more than social fabrications.
Without attention to the details of our worldly experience, the fabric of our society may unravel. As practitioners our greatest contribution is to embody the wisdom of a larger view while embracing compassion as we meet each individual.
That’s the same way, actually. In a way, the way you prepare others for death and the way you prepare yourself for death is more or less similar. You have to see what would work and what would not work for yourself. It’s important that as a practitioner facing death you try to prepare yourself, because when you are prepared then you don’t leave things unfinished. If you have a property, or if you have money you do whatever is necessary, you just give them to whoever you want to give to, make things clear, so that there are no problems afterwards for those left behind, fighting and things like that. Then you can concentrate on your own path and not on other irrelevant things.
Also, I think that it is important that in your life maybe you have done some good things, maybe not so good things but that’s all past so we have to forgive everything, forgive everybody, including yourself and then start a new way of life, from now. The past is past, whatever I have done, something not so good, that’s ok, it’s done, finished; if it’s something good, that’s very good. Now this moment I don’t have to feel guilty, I don’t have to feel bad about things because there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s all done but now I don’t hold onto it, I start fresh in a positive way because if I can do that, that’s the best purification.
So, about yourself, you just do what you want, really preparing yourself to die, be ready to die and then concentrate on your practice, inspire yourself, remind yourself of the teachings, listen to inspiring teachings and as much as possible you can kind of put your mind on something positive. That’s why thinking about the Buddha, thinking about the Buddha realms like the realm of Amitabha, or any other Buddha, whatever is interesting to you and also listen to the teachings of Bardo and things like that is also important. And if you can read yourself, or listen or otherwise if you cannot listen then whatever abilities you have, the main thing is that as everybody has to die, then just get ready for it, just let go, relax and don’t hang onto anything positive or negative of the past, just let go.
Q- Would Rinpoche say that we die as we have lived, that our experience of death reflects the engagement we have had with dharma and life generally?
Of course, we die as we live, it is about a state of mind, it’s not so much what I do but how I experience. So whatever happens, if I have certain emotions, strong emotion like too much attachment, too much ignorance, too much anger, too much fear then that can become stronger so therefore what I experience in my life now creates the circumstances for what I do in the practice; that we try to let go of our fear and our aversion and attachment are the three most important things. And if you can a have a little bit of control or have a little bit less aversion, less attachment, less fear and not too much clinging then I think you can face death with much more clarity, much more confidence.
So, therefore, it’s like that but when we are in a disturbed state of mind at the time of death, death is not easy, death is not always easy, it can be a challenging time. Some people are lucky and they don’t have much pain but, because of different circumstances, different diseases, different situations, some people have more pain, some have less pain. But the most important thing is that the life has to be a preparation for the death, the practice for life is actually the practice for death. If we look into most of the vajrayana practices, the sadhanas, the creation stage and the completion stage practices, all of them are actually a direct preparation for death, this is very important to understand.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Article first appeared in Living and Dying in Peace