The Yogis of Tibet (2002)

For the first time, the reclusive and secretive Tibetan monks agree to discuss aspects of their philosophy and allow themselves to be filmed while performing their ancient practices.

Directed by
Jeffrey M. Pill

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On Generosity: talk by the Dalai Lama.

from: http://www.bamboointhewind.org/

Dharma Talk, March 2001

Dedication:

In honor of my mother who lived a life of generosity.

Personal Experience

We have probably all heard the saying, “Give until it hurts.” I can’t agree with this statement at all.

I believe my mother’s saying is more aligned with the truth of giving. She would say matter of factually, “giving always comes back multiplied”. My own experience has found that to be true and also that the source of the return was “Absolute Reality”, the big “Self” the “Unknown”, “God”. I also found that in fact, I am just a vehicle to facilitate the pass through, that fundamentally, whatever I have, is really not mine at all. I think of it as “gifts of the universe”. Maybe Anne Morrow Lindberg would say “gifts from the sea”.

What is Generosity?

Most of us know what generosity is, that is, the quality of being generous (magnanimous); liberal in giving. In my investigation of generosity I have identified several aspects of generosity that appear to fall into two distinct categories, conventional understanding and Buddhist teaching.

Aspects of Generosity

In terms of conventional understanding “form” is the most familiar aspect. When we think of form, we think of material objects, money or other types of personal resources. There also “intangible forms”, such as, time, love, personal attention, advice, a smile, prayers, offerings (moonlight, blooming flowers, light of the universe). I’m sure you can help me build this list.

A second aspect of generosity is “intention”. What is the motive of the giver? Dogen states “giving” needs to be “genuine”. Then there is the aspect of “expectation of a return”. Is it present or not? In giving there’s the element of timing that necessitates an alertness to the moment. The realm of no hesitation. Like saying an immediate “yes” when asked to do something by another.

One aspect that I see in both categories is the “causal relationship of generosity”, cause and effect, the interconnectedness of all life. By this I mean, how generosity extends beyond the giver, the receiver and the gift into the seen and unseen world.

Three aspects from a Buddhist perspective are, “emptiness”, “non-attachment” and “compassion”.

Emptiness

In the Buddhist teaching of “emptiness”, I am referring to “no-Self”. In the context of giver, receiver and gift, all are interdependent and each lacks inherent self existence. An example is the dedication of merit chanted as part of our service. Here the idea is that when chanting the dedication, one is aware of the emptiness of oneself, those whom we dedicate the merit to, and the merit itself.

Zen Master’ Perspective :

Recently, I have been reading Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind. One of the talks by Suzuki-Roshi is entitled, “God Giving ” ‘To give is non-attachment,’ that is, just not to attach to anything is to give.”

His view of giving is magnanimous; all encompassing. He goes on to say that “every existence in nature, every existence in the human world, every cultural work that we create, is something which was given, or is being given to us, relatively speaking. But as everything is originally one, we are, in actuality, giving out of everything. Moment after moment we are creating something, and this is the joy of our life.” He calls the source, the “big I”.

One could say when we manifest our true nature, just being ourselves, we are giving. A dharma friend shared with me a teaching from a Zen priest who said, “Giving is giving back to ourselves”. Herein lies “compassion”.

Later in the same text Suzuki Roshi says, “It does not matter what is given. To give a penny…or a piece of leaf.. a one line teaching. If given in the spirit of non-attachment, the material offering and the teaching offering have the same value.

Not to be attached to something is to be aware of its absolute value.

In “The Four Integrative Methods of Bodhisattvas”, from Shobogenzo which I believe to be the source document for Suzuki-Roshi’s talk mentioned previously, Dogen says that “when one learns giving well, being born and dying are both giving. All productive labor is fundamentally giving. Entrusting flowers to the wind, birds to the season, also must be meritorious acts of giving.” …He further states, “…great giving… is not only a matter of exerting physical effort; one should not miss the right opportunity.”

In the same essay Dogen says that it is difficult to transform the the mind of living beings and giving can be the beginning of transforming the mind. He says that “one should not calculate the greatness or smallness of the mind, nor the greatness or smallness of the thing. Nevertheless, there is a time when the mind transforms things, and there is giving in which things transform the mind.”

Sources:

Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind p. 65-71

Shobogenzo, Zen Essays by Dogen, ‘The Four Integrative Methods of Bodhisattvas”, p117-118

Shobogenzo-zuimonki 5-6 p.176

Instructions to monks:

A monk who has left home should never be overjoyed upon receiving offerings from others. Nor, however, should such offerings be refused.

The late Sojo (Eisai) said, “It goes against the precepts of the Buddha to rejoice upon receiving offerings. It also goes against the good will of the donor to be ungrateful.”

What we should bear in mind on this point is that the offerings are not to ourselves, but to the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). So, in acknowledging thanks, you should say, “The Three Treasures will surely accept your offerings.”

The Four Contemplations that Turn the Mind: Teaching by Mingyur Rinpoche.

Introduction

One of the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha is the Four Noble Truths. In fact the Four Noble Truths constitute the main theme within which all the Buddhist teachings can be understood to fit.
First is the truth of suffering. Second is the origin or source of suffering. The third is the truth of the cessation of suffering. And the fourth is the truth of the spiritual path that leads to the cessation of suffering. We could think of the Four Noble Truths by way of the following analogy. The truth of suffering is like a disease. The truth of the origin or source of suffering is like identifying the causes of a disease. The truth of the cessation of suffering is analogous to the state of health or well-being when the disease has been cured. And the truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering is analogous to the medicine a person takes to become cured. In terms of daily spiritual practice, the truth of suffering concerns what we need to recognize to be the case. The truth of the origin of suffering concerns what we need to eliminate. The truth of the cessation of suffering concerns what we need to attain. And the truth of the path concerns what we need to rely upon in order to bring that about.
Using the analogy of being sick with a disease, you have to recognize that you are sick to begin with and before you can take any steps towards health. This is the stage of recognition or understanding of what has already gone wrong.  If a person lets months go by and doesn’t’t pay attention to the fact that he or she is not feeling very well, it could very well be that a disease is developing which is not being dealt with. That person may not be facing up to the fact of illness. However, if we have first recognized that we are sick and want to become healthy, to cure ourselves, we need to understand what the causes underlying that sickness are, because if we don’t identify them, we won’t get any better. And that’s analogous to the second truth, the truth of the source or origin of suffering, whereby you understand what it is you need to eliminate so that the cause does not give rise to the result, which is suffering.
Now let’s imagine that there is a leak in the roof of this building. It starts raining and here we are watching the rain dripping through the roof onto the floor, drop by drop, so that the lovely floor here is being filled with a bigger and bigger puddle of water. We would probably rush to mop up the water with a towel. But if we just keep mopping up the water as it drips through the roof, we won’t really solve the problem, will we? If we don’t look up at the ceiling and find out where the water is coming from, the rain will continue to drip onto the floor and we will be continuously mopping it up. We have to recognize the source of the leak, don’t we? The point here is that if we want to be free from suffering, we have to accurately identify the source of suffering.
I’ll give you another example.  Suppose I was going to leave the room through that doorway and behind the curtain there was a large mountain lion that looks as if it could potentially attack and kill a human being, but it’s a stuffed animal. I don’t know that it’s stuffed and I don’t know that it’s there, but behind the curtain there’s a stuffed mountain lion and I’m going to go out through our past that curtain to leave the room. And because I don’t know that there’s anything there and quite cheerfully leave the room, humming a little song. And as soon as I get outside and see what’s there, I’m startled, because I see the seemingly ferocious beast about to pounce on me. As long as I don’t know it’s a stuffed mountain lion, I’d have the same kind of fear as if I’d met a live mountain lion. I’d have the same reaction in the immediate moment of seeing that stuffed animal. But if I knew that there was something harmless out there to begin with, I would just laugh – it wouldn’t’t hold the same kind of fear for me, because of my previous knowledge about its nature. And the more stuffed mountain lions that were put there to try and make it even more threatening to me would only increase my certainty and fearlessness about the fact that that there was nothing at all to be afraid of.
Let me tell you another story.  I once went to a wax museum where there are mannequins that look very real, like real people. There was a wax figure of H.H. the Dalai Lama in this particular wax museum. I was very impressed. It looked just like His Holiness. I was standing there marveling at how realistic this wax figure of His Holiness was when a couple came into the room, pointed at the wax figures, chatted away, and took pictures. Suddenly the woman came and stood next to me and said to her companion, “Take a picture of me.”
I thought to myself, What’s this all about? It sort of made me chuckle that she wanted her picture taken in this way. So I turned to her and smiled. She immediately shouted, “Ahhh!” and jumped away from me. Her companion was standing there holding the camera with his mouth wide open. So obviously they mistook me for one of these wax figures.
This story relates to the matter of recognition and identification that is associated with the first two of these four noble truths: the truth of suffering and the truth of the source of suffering. The whole point of identifying the truth of suffering as such is to become free of that suffering – through identifying it and then eliminating its causes. That’s the whole point of that level of practice. And with that kind of recognition and that kind of practice we can save ourselves an enormous amount of trouble. A lot of the problems and complications we face in life are quite meaningless, because they don’t need to happen in the first place. And so we can free ourselves from so much of that just by recognizing the truth of suffering for what it is and practicing in order to eliminate its causes.

The Four Contemplations

Now, the ordinary preliminary practices, the four contemplations that turn the mind, are to a great degree concerned with recognizing and identifying the truth of suffering and the truth of the source of suffering. These contemplations help us direct our mind away from activities that lead to suffering and toward activities that help us become free from suffering.

1) This Precious Human Birth

The first contemplation which turns the mind away from concerns and activities that lead to suffering is reflection on this precious human birth that is endowed with every freedom and asset. It is difficult to get and can be easily destroyed, so now is the time to make it meaningful. The main point here is that this human birth provides us with the best opportunity to become free from suffering. But we have to recognize this and understand what we need to do to achieve that freedom.
The cause for obtaining a precious human birth is abandoning negative activity and accumulating positive activity. Having achieved this precious human birth, what then are we free from?
We are free from eight types of negative rebirths or negative states: being born as a hell being, as a hungry ghost, as an animal, as a barbarian, as a long living god, as a person with wrong views or ignorance, or being born at a time when Buddha’s teachings are not present. If the Buddha’s teachings are not present or obtainable, then one is unable to learn the practices that lead to liberation. And also, being born deaf or mute, one can’t understand the teachings. To be free means freedom from these eight states which entail extreme suffering, either in this life or future lives.
The Buddha also said that the human being has power. In the Indian language the name for Buddha is Purusha. In English that means “powerful one, strong one, young one.” So we are all like precious jewels. We need to engender a joy of recognition that we have a precious body or opportunity which is like a wish-fulfilling jewel that is very difficult to obtain.
In our minds we experience many kinds of suffering, not only from this life but from previous lives, with the likelihood of considerable future suffering. And the main cause of suffering, the second Noble Truth, is grasping. So if we have a method to overcome or change grasping, we are able to turn the mind away from grasping which causes the suffering.
So how does grasping manifest in one’s mind?  When we grasp to external objects, we have an idea or misconception that the happiness or the suffering that results from them are within the external objects. We hold the external objects to be the source of happiness. But this is not really the case. The object is not the source of happiness or suffering. Objects themselves are impermanent, a result of causes and conditions. The reality perceived by the grasping mind does not correspond to the reality of the objects as such.

2) Impermanence

A powerful remedy for grasping or fixation on objects as the source of happiness and unhappiness is meditation on impermanence, the second contemplation that turns the mind. There are two types of impermanence, subtle and gross, which can be demonstrated in the following way. Let’s look at this cup I am holding now. Is the cup I’m holding now the same cup as the one I used earlier in the day? We tend to perceive it as the same cup, right? That’s the subtle grasping to permanence, the erroneous perception that the cup has inherent self nature.  But it’s really not the same cup. It has been changing all the time, with the passage of time. That is subtle, moment-to-moment impermanence.
An example of coarse grasping to permanence would be thinking, “This really is a cup. I like it. I want it.”  And because of the typically greater intensity of coarse grasping there is usually greater suffering involved. As beginners, we can’t hope to eliminate all of the grasping to permanence straight away. That’s fine. The most important thing is to recognize the grasping.  Simple recognition is very beneficial. As we continue to practice and also experience some understanding of emptiness, grasping can be pacified and eliminated.

3) Karma

The third contemplation that turns the mind is that of examining the consequences of our actions. The Buddha taught that in general all phenomena are interdependent. Our physical body and the external world all arise in the own mind. One’s body, one’s mind, the external phenomena of the world are all interdependent with each other. Karma, or causes and conditions with the attendant consequences, accumulates because of this interdependence.
For example, when you plant rice or some other crop in a field, there are many conditions and requirements to have a successful yield. First we need earth, then moisture, adequate warmth, air, and a seed.  We also need the absence of creatures who might eat the seed. We need time for the crop to grow, and we need the farmer who plants the seed. If you gather all the causes together, the appropriate combination and context, you will obtain a positive result. Each of these different variables is interdependent with the others. If you don’t have earth, for example, the seed cannot be planted. If you don’t have air, the seed won’t grow. If there is no moisture, it won’t sprout. The fruition of the plant or flower is related to the causes; it is interdependent with the causes. Because of the causes, you get the fruit.
As far as we are concerned, activities that are based on negative mental states or intentions will result in suffering. If one accumulates negative actions, the result will not be happiness – it will be suffering. If you plant corn, you will not get a bean as a result. Likewise, positive intentions and actions yield positive results.

4) Samsara

The fourth thought that turns the mind is samsaric suffering. What is samsara?
Within samsara are the six realms of beings.  The three lower realms include beings in the hell realms, hungry ghosts, and animals. Then we have what is called the three higher realms of humans, demigods, and gods. So when we talk about samsara, we are referring to these six realms of beings.
However, the Buddha taught that all the six realms of beings are actually projections of one’s own mind. In the ultimate sense, the six realms of beings do not really exist. But because of the relative truth based on interdependence, they appear. How do the six realms of beings arise?  They arise from the six poisons that are in our mind.  And the six poisons within our own mind, through interdependence, manifest outwardly as the six realms. Contemplating the suffering in these realms helps turn our minds toward the Dharma that can free us from suffering.
Let’s go back to the mountain lion behind the curtain.  Suppose it weren’t’t a stuffed mountain lion but a live one behind the curtain. How would that change the picture? Imagine this: It’s not a stuffed animal, and there’s no point in pretending there’s no problem. There is!  What do you do now? Run away?
My point is that if there really were a mountain lion behind the curtain, and not a stuffed one, the way we dealt with the situation in the first example with the stuffed lion wouldn’t’t work this time. You would need to apply greater intelligence and a different way of dealing with that other situation. By analogy, further intelligence is what we develop when we understand and experience shunyata, emptiness, and the nature of mind. That level of practice is a step further than what we referred to in the first case. When you have developed the view of emptiness and the experience of the very nature of mind and have brought it to its consummation, then you can deal with the real mountain lion more easily, so to speak. You will be able to deal directly with the causes of suffering. They will hold no fear for you, no threat.  You will be able to fearlessly proceed along the path and utilize the means that lead to cessation of suffering.
Take the example of Milarepa. Fire couldn’t’t burn him, water couldn’t’t drown him. From his own perspective he was beyond birth and death. Why? Because fire, which is emptiness by its very nature. could not harm Milarepa who was emptiness himself.  Emptiness couldn’t’t harm emptiness.
The process of birth and the process of death all take place only within the context of the state of confusion. From the point of view of the ultimate nature of emptiness, birth and death are not inherently existent. So from the perspective of one who has realized emptiness, that individual’s perception is no longer involved in the process of birth and death. Thus we read accounts of Milarepa seeming to die in one area while someone else is receiving a teaching from him in another place. Or of Milarepa having already “died” and his corpse having been placed on the funeral pyre and set alight. When his disciple Rechungpa came late to the funeral, Milarepa was sitting up in the flames and singing a song of instruction to him. How can we account for these kinds of occurrences without understanding them from the point of view of  the  realization of emptiness?
It can bee seen here that the truth of the cessation of suffering ties in very directly with realization of emptiness. In the ultimate sense, the truth of the cessation of suffering concerns the experience of the very nature of mind itself, the ultimate nature of mind. And the means to bring about that realization constitutes the fourth Noble Truth, which is the truth of the path. And so there’s a structure here. The Four Noble Truths are interrelated and tie in with one another. They are not separate from one another, but are intimately connected. This is why the Four Noble Truths are a foundation for Buddhist practice and liberation.
Thank you very much.
New Year’s Eve talk presented in Vancouver, 2003.
Radio broadcast on Aug. 10, 2007 in Hartford, Ct.: http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wnpr/local-wnpr-616210.mp3
May virtue increase!
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(submitted to the website of Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche with explicit permission from Ven. Mingyur Rinpoche by Gaby Hollmann).

Three Short Teachings By Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: Thoughts and the Mind.

Like waves, all the activities of this life have rolled endlessly on, one after the other, yet they have left us feeling empty-handed. Myriads of thoughts have run through our mind, each one giving birth to many more, but what they have done is to increase our confusion and dissatisfaction. When we closely examine the ordinary habits that underlie whatever we do and try to discover where they come from, we find that their very source is our failure to investigate them properly.

We operate under the deluded assumption that everything has some sort of true, substantial reality. But when we look more carefully, we find that the phenomenal world is like a rainbow—vivid and colourful, but without any tangible existence.

When a rainbow appears in the sky we see many beautiful colours—yet a rainbow is not something we can clothe ourselves with, or wear as an ornament. There is nothing we can take hold of; it is simply something that appears to us through the conjunction of various conditions. Thoughts arise in the mind in just the same way. They have no tangible reality or intrinsic existence at all.

There is therefore no logical reason why thoughts should have so much power over us, nor any reason why we should be enslaved by them. Mind is what creates both samsara and nirvana. Yet there is nothing much to it—it is just thoughts. Once we recognize that thoughts are empty, the mind will no longer have the power to deceive us. But as long as we take our deluded thoughts as real, they will continue to torment us mercilessly, as they have been doing throughout countless past lives.

To gain control over the mind, we need to be aware of what to do and what to avoid, and we also need to be alert and vigilant, constantly examining all our thoughts, words and actions. To cut through the mind’s clinging, it is important to understand that all appearances are void, like the appearance of water in a mirage. Beautiful forms are of no benefit to the mind, nor can ugly forms harm it in any way.

Sever the ties of hope and fear, attraction and repulsion, and remain in equanimity in the understanding that all phenomena are nothing more than projections of your own mind. Once you have realized absolute truth, then you will see the whole, infinite display of relative phenomena that appears within it as no more than an illusion or a dream.

To realize that appearance and voidness are one is what is called simplicity, or freedom from conceptual limitations. Self and others As you wish to be happy, so you should wish others to be happy too. As you wish to be free from suffering, so you should wish that all beings may also be free from suffering.

You should think, “May all living creatures find happiness and the cause of happiness. May they be free from suffering and the cause of suffering. May they always have perfect happiness free from suffering. May they live in equanimity, without attachment or hatred but with love towards all without any discrimination.” To feel overflowing love and almost unbearable compassion for all living creatures is the best way to fulfil the wishes of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Even if for the moment you cannot actually help anyone in an external way, meditate on love and compassion constantly over the months and years until compassion is knit inseparably into the very fabric of your mind. As you try to practise and progress on the path, it is essential to remember that your efforts are for the sake of others.

Be humble and remember that all your exertions are child’s play compared to the vast and infinite activity of the Bodhisattvas. Like parents providing for the children they love so much, never think that you have done too much for others—or even enough. Even if you finally manage to establish all living creatures in perfect Buddhahood, simply think that all your wishes have been fulfilled.

There must never be so much as a trace of hope for any benefit for oneself in return. The essence of the Bodhisattva practice is to go beyond self-clinging and dedicate yourself to serving others. The Bodhisattva’s activity hinges on the mind, not on how your actions might appear externally. True generosity is the absence of clinging, ultimate discipline is the absence of desire, and authentic patience is the absence of hatred.

Bodhisattvas are able to give away their kingdom, their body, their dearest possessions, because they have completely overcome any inner impoverishment and are unconditionally ready to fulfil the needs of others. Practice The teachings we need most are those that will actually strengthen and inspire our practice. It is all very well to receive teachings as high as the sky, but the sky is not that easy to grasp.

Start with practices which you can truly assimilate—developing determination to be free of ordinary concerns, nurturing love and compassion—and as you gain stability in your practice you will eventually be able to master all the higher teachings. The only way to achieve liberation from samsara and attain the omniscience of enlightenment is to rely on an authentic spiritual teacher. An authentic spiritual teacher is like the sail that enables a boat to cross the ocean swiftly.

The sun and moon are reflected in clear, still water instantly. Similarly, the blessings of the Three Jewels are always present for those who have complete confidence in them. The sun’s rays fall everywhere uniformly, but only where they are focused through a magnifying glass can they set dry grass on fire. When the all-pervading rays of the Buddhas’ compassion are focused through the magnifying glass of your faith and devotion, the flame of blessings blazes up in your being.

Obstacles can arise from good as well as bad circumstances, but they should never deter or overpower you. Be like the earth, which supports all living creatures indiscriminately, without distinguishing good from bad. The earth is simply there. Your practice should be strengthened by the difficult situations you encounter, just as a bonfire in a strong wind is not blown out, but blazes even brighter.

When someone harms you, see him as a kind teacher who is showing you the path to liberation and merits your respect. Pray that you may be able to help him as much as you can, and whatever happens, never hope for an opportunity for vengeance. It is particularly admirable to bear patiently the harm and scorn of people who have less education, strength or skill than you. Look right into it, and you will see that the person who is harmed, the person who does the harm, and the harm itself are all totally devoid of any inherent reality.

Who, then, is going to get angry at mere delusions? Faced with these empty appearances, is there anything to be lost or gained? Is there anything to be liked or disliked? It is all like an empty sky. Recognize that! Once you control the anger within, you will discover that there is not a single adversary left outside. But as long as you pay heed to your hatred and attempt to overcome your external opponents, even if you succeed, more will inevitably rise up in their place.

Even if you managed to overpower everyone in the whole world, your anger would only grow stronger; to follow it will never make it subside. The only really intolerable enemy is hatred itself. To defeat the enemy of hatred it is necessary to meditate one-pointedly on patience and love until they truly take root in your being. Then there can be no outer adversaries. Ask yourself how many of the billions of inhabitants of this planet have any idea of how rare it is to have been born as a human being.

How many of those who understand the rarity of human birth ever think of using that chance to practise the Dharma? How many of those who think of starting to practise actually do so? How many of those who start continue to practise? How many of those who continue attain ultimate realization? Indeed, those who attain ultimate realization, compared to those who do not, are as few as the stars you can see at daybreak compared to the myriad stars you can see in the clear night sky.

As long as you, like most people, fail to recognize the true value of human existence you will just fritter your life away in futile activity and distraction. When life comes all too soon to its inevitable end, you will not have achieved anything worthwhile at all. But once you really see the unique opportunity that human life can bring, you will definitely direct all your energy into reaping its true worth by putting the Dharma into practice.

If you make use of your human birth in the right way, you can achieve enlightenment in this very lifetime. All the great Siddhas of the past were born as ordinary people. But by entering the Dharma, following a realized teacher and devoting their whole lives to practising the instructions they received, they were able to manifest the enlightened activities of great Bodhisattvas.

Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group From Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche Editions Padmakara