Friday, April 12, 2019

In pursuit of happiness.

Happiness is elusive in our world, and yet it is happiness we seek. We all want to be happy, and yet the happiness itself is ephemeral.

When reciting the four immeasurables, we come across this first verse:

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. 

This intention is vast and all-inclusive. The reality of that intention seems to be unrealistic and idealistic. It is not possible for all beings to be happy. Isn't the very nature of reality one of suffering and discontentment?

It is useful to think of happiness as a body of effort and work. Happiness is a fleeting emotion, and yet the body of causes and actions that contribute to that happiness can have lasting strength and durability. In this sense, our character, which is the result of values and principles acted upon over time, predisposes us to the enjoyment of happiness.

What we do today, what we act on and value, determines and becomes the cause of our future happiness. Choose wisely and act with intention.

Turns out happiness is a choice. 

*See you on the cushion this Sunday!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What does resting not look like?

What does resting not look like?

Fighting yourself.
Vegging out.
Zoned out.
Tuned out.

None of those are how to rest in the natural state.

There is still time to register for the upcoming meditation workshop this Sunday. Register now!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Mirror of the mind.

When a dharma practitioner studies the dharma, they are looking through a lens by which they examine their own life.

Studying the dharma, we encounter a cosmic mirror that reflects back who we are in a heightened and revealing way. The dharma allows us to fully understand who we are, the nature of the human condition, and the ways in which we tie ourselves in knots. Seeing our predicament clearly, we can set out to untie ourselves.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Where does it hurt?

Contemplating the body, observing the body, it can be useful to ask yourself, where does it hurt? Where is there tightness or discomfort?

Observe that pain. Witness the tension.

Don't turn away from the experience. Open up to it. Breath into it.

Looking deeply into our experience free from reactivity, we engender presence and openness. This presence and openness is vulnerable, but it also carries authority. There is something true about our experience, a knowledge of our own condition and predicament.

The practice of looking deeply into our own human condition cultivates a rich inner life. It gives rise to an inner wealth and understanding that we can share with the world, carry out into the world. The practice opens us up to what it means to be human, and an appreciation for the very fact of being at all. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Unborn and unceasing.

Inconceivable, inexpressible perfection of wisdom, 
Unborn and unceasing, with a real nature like the sky,
Experienced as the wisdom of our own awareness,
I pay homage to the mother of the Buddhas of the three times. 
Prajnaparamita Prayer

As a Dzogchen practitioner, it is important to understand the meaning and significance of this verse. As indicated in this verse of praise to Prajnaparamita, or the perfection of wisdom, when we understand the real nature of our own awareness, we come to realize the very womb that gives birth to awakening. The Tibetan for unborn is ma-skye, which means not-born, not-produced, unborn. The Tibetan for unceasing is ma-'gags, which means not-stopped, not-interrupted, not-blocked, unceasing. 

The Buddha first introduced the concept of anatta, not-self or selflessness, in the common Hinayana tradition of the first turning of the wheel of dharma. Here the self or phenomena were shown to be selfless because they were compounded or composite. Just as a wagon depends on many parts and pieces for its being, so too we are compounded individuals with no true identity or personhood separate from our aggregates. The ego or self as we know it is a fabrication of past experiences, self-narratives, and projections about who we think we are or who we would like to be. Egotism keeps us trapped in a repetitive loop, operating under a cycle of ingrained habits and beliefs about who we are and the world around us. 

We already know this self or ego is subject to change and impermanent, but we are so conditioned that often times we simply do not see opportunity available to us or our underlying potential. The Buddha saw how much this cycle makes us suffer and sought to teach a method to break out of that cycle of confusion by teaching dependent origination and no-self, or empty of self. 

The teachings of self being a compounded entity were further refined in the second turning of the wheel of dharma, where dependent origination and the two truths give rise to a more profound understanding of emptiness. This understanding takes the form of a simply logical analysis:

If things arise dependently, then they lack an independent existence. 

Conditioning, cause and effect, dependent origination all point to the true reality that nothing in this world inherently exists of its own accord. Everything is interconnected, dependent on other phenomena as support for its being. We can say that relatively, phenomena do arise and exist conventionally based on cause and effect, but ultimately phenomena do not inherently exist. The relative truth of their appearing does not mean that they truly exist in their own right.  

This may seem like semantics, but the implications of this understanding are dramatic and profound. 

When we feel stuck or trapped in a situation, we don't see the power of our own thoughts and actions. We hand over power to our negative thoughts and perceptions, and to the actions of others or the world around us. Our perception at that time is that things aren't going to change, things won't get better, and that there is nothing that we can do. This is the trap of confusion, confusion about who we are and the nature of the world around us. Seeing that this current reality is dependently arisen, means also seeing that it is malleable and subject to change. In fact, right now at this very moment it is unfolding and changing. 

This is an outer level of understanding dependent origination and emptiness. We should examine the world and our experience in this way. This is what the Buddha means when he encourages us to understand the human condition and the predicament that we find ourselves in. We should don the hat of a scientist and really examine who we are and the nature of the world around us. From a Buddhist perspective we should study the prajnaparamita sutras and Madhyamaka philosophy, particularly as set forth by Nagarjuna. We can also use modern scientific principles  to augment this understanding, using the theory of relativity and quantum physics to understand the physical world, as well as the science of the mind to understand our conception of the self. 

The inner level of understanding dependent origination and emptiness becomes more subtle and profound. Here we understand the union of the relative and ultimate truth, or the union of dependent origination and emptiness. Experiencing this union of dependent origination and emptiness we can start to understand what is meant by unborn and unceasing. 

Whereas before we separated the relative and ultimate into two buckets and used logical reasoning to establish emptiness, here we see that the relative and ultimate are indivisible. It is useful here to think of dependent origination as an infinite play of phenomena or appearances. 

Look at the world around you. Right now. Don't look at it as a static world, the world you are used to. See it as the infinite play of dependent origination. Because it is dependently arisen, it is empty. We've already established that dependent origination means that phenomena are empty of inherent existence. You know that what is dependently arisen is empty, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. So when you look out and see the infinite play of dependent origination, you are witnessing the illusory play of emptiness in which no thing ever comes into true existence. Phenomena, appearances, are never truly born, never truly exist, but they are also unceasing, uninterrupted. Reifying a subjective consciousness or objective phenomena is to establish a self where there is no-self. Unborn and unceasing does not mean that nothing exists, rather that the entire world of appearances and possibilities exists as the play of dependent origination. The great Dzogchen master Longchenpa says, "Not existing as anything at all, they can appear as anything whatsoever." We can learn to recognize this state and rest in it, which leads us to the secret level of understanding. 

The innermost or secret understanding is secret because it is right in front of us and yet we do not see it. The secret understanding of unborn and unceasing is that it is the nature of our own mind. This is our primordial state. This is what we mean when we say the natural great perfection, Dzogchen. This is the very ground of enlightenment, our primordial buddhahood, in which there is no enlightenment because we have never wavered from this authentic state of being. All thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and appearances are but the illusory play of emptiness in which nothing has ever come into being, and yet appears as the diverse world. 

When we recognize and learn to rest in this unborn and unceasing pure presence (Tib. rigpa), then we actualize our true nature which is like the sky. Without center or limit, completely open and unobstructed, inconceivable and beyond expression, it is the wisdom that gives "birth" to all Buddhas. Whatever appears to that awareness is like the clouds in the sky, unborn and unceasing, coming and going without a trace, ornamenting the sky but never separate or distinct. Such is our primordial state, ultimate bodhicitta, awakened mind.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Conception of identity.

When my nature is not understood and the phenomena
that manifest from me become the object of judgement, 
desire and attachment give rise to the creation of concrete vision
that is impermanent and destined to vanish like a magical apparition.
Then one becomes like a blind man who does not know what is happening.

The primordial state, our own pure awareness, has three characteristics. Being unborn, it is originally pure emptiness. Being unceasing, it is clearly apparent as the variety of phenomena. Being responsive, it is great compassion beyond effort or action. 

Not understanding the true nature of the mind and all phenomena as being empty of inherent existence we conceive of the differences between mind and what is appearing to mind. The unceasing clarity of the mind not being recognized as our own display, we give birth to identity. Reifying subjective awareness gives birth to dualistic consciousness and forms the very basis for ego and self-grasping. Reifying appearances gives birth to a concrete reality that continually evolves as the play of dependent origination. 

Stuck in dualistic perception, we have no choice but to cycle through repetitive loop of conditioned existence. The only way to break the cycle is to fully understand the very nature of our own mind, which is inseparable from the nature of reality itself. 

Fully understand dukkha, the human predicament by contemplating the nature of the five skandhas and the three marks of existence. Let go of whatever is arising and learn to rest in the natural state. Resting in the authentic condition of the nature of mind, actualize pure awareness, the primordial state of being free from birth and death.

Monday, March 25, 2019

April Meditation Workshop

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location: 

Sunday, April 14, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PDT) 

Wise Orchid Taijiquan & Qigong
2002 East Union Street
Seattle, WA 98122

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Join us for a weekend workshop on the foundations of the Dzogchen view and meditation. Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection, is the heart essence of all of the Buddha's teachings. These teachings reveal how we can live more deeply in the world in a simple but direct way.
  • Be introduced to the unique Dzogchen view
  • Learn how to recognize and rest in the nature of mind
  • Learn how the practice of resting unfolds to reveal pure presence
  • Understand how we stray in the practice and how to eliminate errors in our meditation
No prior meditation experience necessary, advanced students welcome.

See you on the cushion!