From 1989 to 2003, Ringu Tulku dedicated 14 years to teaching Jamgön Kongtrül Lodro Thaye’s Treasury of Knowledge at Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland. These final sessions (to date) occurred on May 6th to 8th and May 12th to 14th (around a weekend course given by Rinpoche on “The Four Noble Truths” from May 9th to 11th) in 2003. They marked the end of one of the most remarkable endeavours of Dharma teaching in the West; a priceless resource now digitally preserved to benefit many more beings via this Archive.
These 11 recordings follow directly on from the previous year’s recordings:
Jamgön Kongtrül divides his Chapter 8 on Meditation into 4 sections:
These 11 recordings encompass both The Third Section (“The Elements of Tantric Practice” ) and The Fourth Section (“Esoteric Instructions”).
The 8th Meditation Chapter’s Third Section; was subsequently translated into English as:“The Elements of Tantric Practice” by Ingrid Loken McLeod and Elio Guarisco.
Recording 1 (morning of Tues 6/5/2003)
Rinpoche continues his teachings on the Meditation Chapter by explaining The Completion Stage. He starts with a discussion on precepts and vows in the Three Yanas, and the origins of the original root text of The Treasury of Knowledge; Jamgön Kongtrül’s commentary on View, Meditation, and Action.
The specific Vajrayana meditations entail methods of Creation & Completion. Akin to being: born; living; and dying. If we exercise such practices with understanding, utilising pure perception & visualisation, then such methods can quickly and strongly work on our habitual tendencies. However, we have to connect with these methods.
00:27:45 (P123 in English translation) The Completion Stage is not only a method, but it is the truth. Presented in 4 points:
00:30:07 Ground, Path and Fruition. The way it is. The Completion Stage is the same as Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Buddha Nature, The Nature of Mind, Our True Nature. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with us. But there is a mistake in our perception of ourselves; that becomes entangled with emotions and tendencies, which creates the samsaric state of mind. If we can cut through this web, that we have created around ourselves, we can see what we actually are, and become Enlightened. The Completion Stage is seeing our Buddhanature.
00:41:23 Co-emergent wisdom has always been there. Unfabricated and nonconceptual, without labels. Truth that has to be experienced. All aspects – not from a limited perspective; but the totality.
00:48:00 Thank you for the very inspiring teachings, Rinpoche. I have a question regarding the Bodhisattva Vow. If we see someone doing something negative, should we do something to try and stop them? However this risks irritating people, who may not like to be told what to do. How should be work skilfully with this?
00:53:14 Speaking about “nonconceptual” experiences: is it possible for an experience to be without words, or a habit to judge an experience?
00:57:35 When one thinks of higher practice; self-assessment can be difficult. Our perception might be mistaken. How can we tell?
Recording 2 (afternoon of Tues 6/5/2003)
Rinpoche continues to discuss Completion Stage. Compassion and emptiness in union (p125). Awareness with no need to grasp: total freedom and spaciousness. Free from any entanglement. Compassion without object or limit; where wisdom is inseparable. Great bliss and natural joyful kindness. Nonceptual, unbounded, peaceful and pure. The natural glow of compassion; Ground Bodhicitta.
The Path represents the trainings that bring out this realisation.
The Result of the Completion Stage is the realised Ground; naturally present, but now actually fully exerienced.
The text describes emptiness & compassion as the essesnce of our True Nature. The whole point of Completion practice is to meditate on this, and actualise this. Whatever practice we do, is a step towards bringing us to this Completion Stage.
21:22 P127 gives a description of Evam (the essence of the Kalachakra Tantra). “E” reprents emptiness (wisdom); “Vam” represents compassion; inseparable together.
Wisdom is to be able to experience things as they really are. We only have problems is due to our samsaric state of mind; where we dualistically react with aversion, attachment and ignorance; making us too busy to meditate! 😀 This creates dissatisfaction preventing us from being totally happy. But there is nothing to be dissatisfied about. When we have this understanding; this way of seeing, then whatever arises, it is completely okay. Thoughts, emotions, feelings are simply arisings within me. Actually, “me”. They come and go. Like clouds, bubbles and waves. My mind is like that. Interdependent. A natural continuum. That is emptiness. Not “nothingness”. So what to be so serious about? My mind is unceasing, always manifesting. It cannot be stopped; as manifesting is the mind’s nature. When we accept that this is okay, we don’t react with attachment or aversion. This is Nirmanakaya.
It’s like the rainbow. The blue light is no better or worse than the yellow light! When we understand this, then there is no need to run away or after anything, we have peace; great bliss. There is nothing more for us to obtain. We are totally satisfied, with no need to crave for anything or strive. Purpose accomplished. Everything is there.
Then you can only compassionately think about the sake of others who haven’t realised this. There is nothing more one needs to do for oneself, having accomplished seeing one’s True Nature. So, the stronger wisdom grows; the stronger and more powerful, compassion becomes. Hence, the only way to evaluate one’s wisdom, is to evaluate one’s compassion. They go together like the two sides of one coin.
00:47:52 Rinpoche, you mentioned that when we accept our arisings, it is all “okay”. But does a negative thought still create negative karma?
00:52:55 Rinpoche, I seem to be getting less compassionate as I get older! I think that I had more compassion when I was a child, than I do now?
00:57:10 Rinpoche, it is said that when “enlightenment is there, ‘one’ is not”. How does “one” act in the world, then?
Recording 3 (morning of Wed 7/5/2003)
Compassion & wisdom are then explained, with subtle differences, in the text. The actual Completion stage practices in Buddhist Tantra are then discussed. Rinpoche concentrates on the quintessence of the Completion stage practices.
Anuttarayoga tantras are characterised as Father tantras and Mother tantras.
In the Father tantras (such as Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka Tantras) there are “rim-nya” Five Stage Completion practices, with a high emphasis on illusory body (as seen in the 6 Yogas of Naropa); given as instructions for personal practice. Different tantras have different ways of defining these Five Stages:
The text gives many practices on working on: the breathing; the tummo (the channels)-the essence; and the sexual energy.
In the Mother tantras (Hevajra, Kalachakra, Chakrasamvara, Mahāmāyā, and Tara Tantra are the ones mainly studied) the Completion Stage emphasis is on the channels, breathing exercises and tummo (Skt. chandali) bringing out the great bliss. Working on the body is a very important aspect, as how we experience now, is due to our channels (tsa) and the wind-energy (lung) and essence (tigle) that flow through them. We have experiences accordingly. The way the world appears to us is also based on that. So working on the way our energy flows, directly, can transform our experience completely. To do so requires confidence and devotion, as it is an experiential journey; with many different emotions that can be quite difficult to work through. As such it can be dangerous if not done properly.
At 00:27:36 to 00:33:25 Rinpoche tells the story of 7 brothers and one sister.
Rinpoche does not elaborate in detail on all the aspects of the different Father & Mother Tantras, but instead at 00:34:30 concentrates on the Fourth point – the essential explanation (“The Key Elements” on page 191):
1. (p192) All come to the same, one, conclusion: the wisdom body (“yeshe kur”) requires to be accomplished and realised. One has to experience both: the illusory body (the relative truth) and the clear light/ luminosity (the ultimate truth) coming together as one. The combination of the relative truth and ultimate truth in union. Actually relative truth is not to be transcended, but to be understood.
This leads to two types of Completion Stage practices: a) self-blessing (or “self-consecration”), understanding the nature of relative truth as illusory-like (whether it appears pure or impure doesn’t matter); & b) the ultimate nature or Clear Light (“luminous clarity”). To bring out these two experiences as the form kaya (Rupakaya ie Nirmanakaya+Sambogakaya) and the Dharmakaya; using the important tools of the channels, winds and essence ( nadi, prana and bindu in Sanskrit or tsa, lung and tigle in Tibetan) -consistently the same in the different tantra types.
00:48:58 The differences between the Father and Mother tantra types are: the Father tantras first work on the illusory body, then Clear Light, then the union of them; wheras the Mother tantras start with the channels, breathing (prajna, nadi & bindu) then go to the experience of bliss and emptiness and coemergent wisdom. So the approach is slightly different.
00:51:11 Rinpoche where are the channels? If you dissect the body you don’t see them, so what are they? Are they relative truth or ultimate truth?
00:52:18 In Vajrayana they talk about pure appearances. Does it refer to the fact that things are illusory and not real?
00:59:15 Are the nadis part of the illusory body, as they don’t follow the same anatomical routes as the blood vessels and nerves? How do you see them? Why do you see them?
01:00:40 Tibetan doctors see things differently from Western doctors, with different fields of awareness. (comment from Marianne Dreyfus).
01:02:42 You talked about the pride of the deity, can you talk about this?
01:03:00 Rinpoche, can you please say something about the benefits of sacred objects (such as stupas and Buddha statues)?
Recording 4 (afternoon of Wed 7/5/2003)
(p193) Completion Stage systems can be encapsulated in three ways:
These three together are the Anuttarayoga Path. However historically, practice with a consort, created difficulties in Tibet. There was misuse of Vajrayana concepts and distorted representations that practitioners “had to have sex”. So when Atiśa Dīpankara revived Buddhist Vajrayana practice in Tibet; he emphasized work with the sexual energy, but not necessarily with a consort; due to the potential for misuse and desire-motivated, deluded justifications of lust as “Vajrayana”. So, such practices are now less encouraged within Tibet.
00:10:45 Even if one does not use a consort, a practitioner can use bliss or joy within, to bring experience; as experience of natural peace is related with the great bliss. This is similar to sexual joy, but not that. It is unfalling bliss.
Mindful of the public nature of these teachings, Rinpoche then discusses (p194 to 200):
Whatever happens to the mind and affects the body; and vice-versa. Working on the mind is one way of bringing harmony to the body; so working on the body has the potential to influence the mind. In this context, to aid the practitioner to experience non-conceptual awareness. It should be noted that an individual should only undertake such practices under the strong guidance and instruction of a qualified retreat master within the practice lineage, in an appropriate context and setting. As such, the Six Yogas of Naropa are usually only practically taught within the traditional 3 Year Long Retreat.
00:52:47 I tend to mostly practice Green Tara. I was wondering if it is possible to practice tummo outside the Six Yogas of Naropa?
00:55:48 Is it possible to naturally have the sensation of inner heat manifest “without trying”, when not formally practicing tummo?
00:58:29 Rinpoche you mentioned that the mind affects the body, and the body affects the mind. When people become mentally ill or insane, is that to do with the channels and energies in the body or something else?
01:01:20 Can you practice tummo to stay warm? Say, for example, if you’re out in the countryside, and it’s really cold?
01:02:34 Rinpoche, if someone as a child has a bad shock, can that cause the channels, or chakras, to close?
01:04:25 Could you say something about the relation of Ngundro to tummo practices? Are prostrations a preparation for it?
01:05:29 I would like to know about the Guhyasamaja Tantra. Is it more of a Kagyu, Gelug or Nyingma tantra?
01:08:50 Are there preliminaries one needs to complete, before one can study a tantra, such as the Hevajra Tantra?
01:12:43 I want to ask a question about the channels and the bindu. Do our anxieties and fears (aversion and attachment) correspond to energies, and the strength of our lung, or on the state of our channels? I’m trying to see things in a rather mechanistic way! What is really happening?
01:16:53 Did you know that Peter Roberts (an accomplished translator who used to be based at Samye Ling) was working on a tummo project in France? Where they used thermal heat cameras? Is there then a fallacy then that tummo creates physical heat or just a subjective pleasant sensation? How does it then help to melt snow or dry wet robes?
Recording 5: morning of Thurs 8/5/2003
Rinpoche summarises having discussed tummo (inner fire practice; with the potential to heal oneself and others; and the incentive to de-age! 😀 ) & gyulu (illusory body; from p 198 to 206; reminding oneself that phenomena is illusory); with the possibility to purify a negative experience of phenomena, to allow us to see purely. The body we have now is the karmic body, which arises and dies (the basis of Nirmanakaya); whereas there is also a mind body or subtle body which is naturally always there, not dying but continuing (the basis of Sambogakaya) the basis of gyulu/the illusory body. How we see ourselves within a dream; we can purify this. When we die, the mind body or illusory body can be liberated. This is why the Creation Stage is so important, it can help transform the mind body and our whole way of seeing and experiencing.
Rinpoche mentions that the other parts of the Six Yogas, such as Dream Yoga and the Luminosity/ Clear Light are related to this illusory body and tummo. More elaborate Completion Stage practices are included in these two practices.
00:18:52 Then Rinpoche begins a discussion (covering p207 to 219) on the third: Mahamudra or Clear Light, Luminosity Practice which covers the remainder of this session and the afternoon session. In the English Translation, the final chapter of the volume, termed as “Luminous Clarity and the Completion Phase of Union”. It is presented in two sections:
It starts with a quote from Maitreya’s Changeless Nature:
“The Nature of Mind is luminous clarity. It is changeless, just as space is.”
The Nature of the Mind is luminosity. Like space, it never changes. Primoridially pure, naturally clear luminous, it is Mahamudra; the nature of our most subtle deep consciousness and the basis of all arisings. If we can totally experience this luminosity, we can experience the nature of our mind.
Methods such as tummo and gyulu directly help to provide conditions to experience this. However Mahamudra is emphasized, because we are not “meddling” with the channels or our systems too much; so it is smoother, with less risk of a rough ride! It is gentler, coming through an understanding, being able to relax; naturally happening. It is not necessarily slower; depending on our understanding.
Clear light luminosity is always present within us. Whether we recognize it or not. We experience clear light in deep sleep, in blissful states of mind, and when we die. Our problem is we can experience it, but not recognise it, as we are not used to that experience. In sleep we may only feel unconsciousness. If we can be aware of it, that is the Dharmata experience. The difference between nirvana and samsara, is our conscious awareness. The calmer, the more stable our mind becomes -the more we can experience clear light luminosity. That’s the Buddha Nature; the enlightened experience; Dharmakaya. We can use deep sleep practice. Relax, without doing anything. But we are only used to doing! That naturalness can only be seen when we stop being busy.
At 00:32:27 Rinpoche talks about experiencing awareness during deep sleep.
Initially we should deepen our understanding through analysis and understanding. Then we do the practice -meditation, repeatedly. A way of being; aided by devotion (a suitable medium for this). If we have very intense emotional states, if we look, without being caught up in the emotion, we can liberate the emotions much more easily.
00:39:55 Based on what you’ve been saying, Rinpoche, could the practice of Tong-Len also have these benefits? Where the pure feeling is also one of joy?
00:42:12 In meditation what do you do about “the watcher”?
00:45:33 If we dream about our root guru doing bizarre things in our dreams, how should we understand this?
00:50:50 Rinpoche, please can you talk about the concept of the illusory body and Buddhanature, that differs from the Hindu concept of the self or soul? Particularly when you say that the former doesn’t change?
00:58:00 Most of the sadhanas that we practice have formal Completion stages. Should our experience be similar to what is described at the end of sadhanas?
01:01:47 So, should we really have special instructions for this Completion?
Recording 6 afternoon of Thurs 8/5/2003
Having essentialised the Creation Stage as: Tummo; Gyulu; and Clear Light; the final point is how to practice this in union: of emptiness (ie wisdom) & compassion (ie genuine uncontrived compassion, great bliss, or skilful means/method) together. Practices that develop direct experience of emptiness, bring great bliss; totally free from grasping. (p213-214)
In Mother Tantras: the inseparable union of unchanging great bliss (skilful means/method/compassion) & emptiness (prajna/wisdom).
In the Father Tantras: the inseparable union of Relative (the pure form of the illusory body/self-blessing arising as the deity) & Ultimate Truth (the mind entering essential reality through luminous clarity -clear light).
00:11:20 The actual meditation. Often the Completion Stage is often misthought to only be at the end, at the dissolution stage. But, it is not like that! It is at the beginning, the middle and the end! How good your Creation Stage is, depends on how good your Completion practice is. When you generate the deity and visualise; it comes from your understanding of Clear Light/Mahamudra. Rest, remain and relax in Mahamudra or Clear Light. If we understand this then we appreciate the illusory nature of all phenomena. Within that, the deity arises. This enables us to experience ourselves in a genuine, natural way without stain, unable to be tainted. So nothing to be purified. Whatever arises is all perceived as a mandala. Pure vision is “pure in equality”; because there is nothing impure. Not dependent on a contrasting “impurity”; one cannot find anything impure!
The more we have Completion Stage experience, the greater our wisdom; Creation Stage practices are the means to bring that experience to all levels. The way we perceive ourselves. 00:20:10 When we practice; we change and transform the way we see ourselves; this also changes the way we see and relate to others. This transforms our whole world. My nature is not one thing. It is all interdependent arising. Nothing concrete; unceasing; manifesting as a non-ceasing continuum. Our nature is like sky and space that cannot be destroyed, as there’s nothing to destroy. So it can never cease to be. So what need to fear or worry?
Within this, awareness continuously manifests (hence Clear Light) with arisings (thoughts). Whatever arises, what actually matters is how we look at it. Are we fighting our own shadow? We needn’t fight, if we know it is our shadow! Hence, this realisation that all these manifestations are okay. On accepting this, we find great bliss and contentment, with no need for dissatisfaction. When this understanding becomes an experience then it is enlightened. Not contrived, but natural. This is the Completion Stage. All these practices are merely trying to actualise this experience; integrate and make this experience natural – our general experience.
00:29:10 Rinpoche then discusses the symbolic skilful means of wisdom bodies (many arms or a particular colour). Because our mind is so creative, it can manifest in so many ways! Nothing is too strange! Practice is to go beyond concepts of right, good, or beautiful. Vajrayana methods are all to suit people’s aptitudes and idiosynchrasies. There is nothing that a Vajrayana master practitioner cannot use as a method. Possibly using methods to bring out attachment, fear, desire or anger; to overcome them. How to properly use the methods is important.
00:37:37 The highest form of inseparable union is that of Clear Light (Mahamudra) with the illusory body: the main Completion Stage. Practitioners should aspire bring natural relaxed awareness of Clear Light/Mahamudra into all activities of our mind. This completes Rinpoche’s commentary on the third section; with his aspiration that others will benefit.
00:46:25 When you say that a Vajrayana method is not restricted, does that we can include things from our Western understanding?
00:52:05 Rinpoche, you said that all the practices, start and end with Completion?
00:52:53 Some sensitive people who pick up on others pain, struggle to cope with that. Is there anything they can do to stop them from being so affected?
Recording 7 morning of Mon 12/5/2003
Rinpoche concludes his years of teaching on The Treasury of Knowledge with three days discussing The 8th Book on Meditation’s Part Four: Pith Instructions (published as “Esoteric Instructions”) of Book 8 “Meditation”: on the Eight Great Practice Lineages.
Rinpoche lists and describes the Eight Living Traditions (p49 to 62).
He then discusses the Nyingma Tradition in detail; including Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga (p63 to 96).
Recordings 8 to 11 (afternoon of Mon 12/5/2003 to morning of 14/5/2003)
Rinpoche continues his discussion of the Nyingma lineage: going into detail to explain Atiyoga or Dzogchen (p86 to 96) including Trekchö (Cutting Through) and Tögal (Crossing Over).
<Please Note that Recording 9 (from the morning of 13/5/20) has now been corrected with a replacement mp3 file thanks to the excellent assistance of Bill Trotter>
The final session (Recording 11 from 00:18:21) is dedicated to The Life and Teachings of Nagarjuna (Kagyu Samye Ling statue with Rinpoche below).
Colophon: Although the final Treasury of Knowledge Chapters 9 & 10 “Journey & Goal” were subsequently published in English, seven years later, in 2011, Ringu Tulku concluded his Treasury of Knowledge Samye Ling Teachings (that had originally commenced in 1994) with these sessions in 2003. In subsequent years he would lead retreats at the Purelands Retreat Centre and give teachings on a wide variety of Dharma topics in the Samye Ling Main Temple (as found elsewhere in this Archive).
However, in answering Choje Akong Rinpoche’s direct request for him to teach from Jamgön Kongtrül Lodro Thaye’s “The Treasury of Knowledge” over so many years, the Archive now has, alongside Ringu Tulku’s extensive teachings on Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, an incredible digital resource to benefit both present and future beings.
Photography and contemporaneous notes by Dr Conrad Harvey.