Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Experience versus realization.

Experience is temporary, fleeting, easily lost.
Realization is unchanging, seen, known, directly recognized.

Nyam is the Tibetan for experience. We have all kinds of experiences.
Bliss, clarity, non-conceptuality.
Visions, sounds, feelings.
Physical sensations, thoughts, emotions.
Sometimes we feel energetic and focused, sometimes tired and sleepy.
We get confused, then a moment of being awake.

We have all kinds of nyam, the point is to realize that they are illusory and to not become attached to them. We create all kinds of problems for ourselves once we try to recreate nyam, or always try to get back to a particular mental state, a particular feeling tone or perspective.

Tokpa is the Tibetan for realization. It is seeing directly free from concepts. You know and understand without an intermediary.  It is direct recognition.

Tokpa is recognizing your friend in a crowd. There is no question of whether it is, or is not. 
It is knowing fire is hot, water is wet. Realization is embodied and informed by the senses, we see things as they truly are. We see our own face, directly. 

The danger with tokpa is confusing conceptual understanding with actual realization.  Conceptual understanding can seem very certain and logically refined, but it is all thoughts and words.  We need to constantly recreate and reinforce our story to confirm our realization.

If you find yourself scrambling, feeling your realization slipping from you and trying to conceptualize your way back to that state, then you are holding onto a nyam that you are calling tokpa. Be careful, ego and grasping can create a very precipitous path. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lit up.

The living practice tradition of the Buddha's teachings survives to this day because of two types of transmission- transmission of scripture and transmission of realization.

Transmission of scripture is the living transmission of the repository of Dharma from generation to generation. It is teaching, discussing and practicing the root and practice texts. The transmission of scripture should be wide spread and joyfully given to those who seek it out. 

The transmission of realization occurs between teacher and student. It is the lighting of a torch. Once lit, it burns just as bright and luminous as its source. The source doesn't lose anything, and the newly lit torch has nothing further to gain. 

This transmission of realization is the essence of the practice lineage (sgrub rgyud). It is the transmission of the awakened mind, the direct recognition of our innate buddha heart. In Dzogchen it is the direct realization of our own nature, rigpa as the natural great perfection. 

This lighting of the torch is not easy. It takes time, dedication, effort. It depends on a genuine connection, commitment and karma.

The source torch burns bright and without discrimination, but few torches can really be lit because they don't come prepared.  They are too loose, unkept, or waver once they get close.  Some, being lit, lack the merit to sustain the blaze and burnout. 

You should seek out the transmission of scripture widely and with great enthusiasm.  But for the transmission of realization, you need to get to work.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What does a thing weigh?

That thing you're carrying, how much does it weigh?

Does it slow you down? Tire you out?

Does it give you blisters? Have a pointy edge?

Do special tools help you bear its load?

Our situation often seems heavy, but what does it really weigh? Why is it that sometimes trying to prepare Tuesday night dinner can be just enough to put us over the edge? Why is it that one email, one comment, one argument, one more to-do, can be too much to bear? 

We bump into these things all the time. Little things, insignificant ninnyhammers, that put us over the edge. 

Weight is relative. It depends on relations and circumstances, attitude and approach.  Next time you're feeling the grind, take a look at how you are carrying the load.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

An open door.

The greatest gift that we can often give others is to simply be present and to listen.  We don't need to fix, provide solutions, or rush in with all of our own energy. Simply witness, understand, and remain open to whatever is coming up.  

When we can truly listen, without judgement or bias, without shutting down or turning away, then we can truly be of benefit. We can hear what they need, and they might feel comfortable enough tell you.

The door is always open.   

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dancing on the beat.

A playful dance,
meeting and parting,
coming and going.
Intense and fluid,
precision and presence.

Resist and you get pushed around.
Force and your foot will get stepped on.
Shut down for an instant, and you can't catch up.

Relax. Enjoy this opportunity to dance.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Buddha heart.

Noble child, all beings, though they find themselves with all sorts of afflictions,
Have a tathagata-garbha that is eternally unsullied, 
and that is replete with virtues no different from my own.
Tathagatagarbha Sutra

All beings are natural Buddhas, concealed in a shell of afflictions.  When that shell is broken, their buddhahood is revealed. 

What is the shell?  It is our negative emotions, our bias and distorted lens. It is our habitual tendencies and conditioned actions. It is our innate self-grasping and fixation on identity, self and other, better and worse, pure and impure.

It's a thick shell.

The shell is adventitious, without a single iota of permanence. Yet we continuously reinforce it, wrapping ourselves up layer after layer. We don't choose the shell, because the shell is based on confusion. Confusion perpetuates itself in an endless cycle of becoming.

The escape is to recognize the tathagata-garbha directly.  Tathagata means one who has gone to suchness, the direct realization of the nature of the mind.  Garbha means heart, womb, essence or nature.  We often see tathagata-garbha translated as buddhanature or essence of enlightenment, but we could also translate it as buddha heart, or the womb of those thus gone. This buddha heart is the nature of our own mind, eternally unsullied and replete with all the virtues of a Buddha.  

We can recognize our own buddha heart, and when we do the shell loosens and the qualities of buddhahood become naturally present.

Once beings’ minds have thoroughly matured,
However, whenever, and for whomever,
There can be action that ensures benefit,
It manifests at just that time and in just that way.
Ornament of Clear Realization

There are emanations through artistry, through conscious rebirth, 
and as expressions of sublime enlightenment.
The nirmanakaya of buddhahood
is the supreme skillful means of total freedom.  
Ornament of the Sutras

Monday, March 13, 2017


Tibetan: bar-chay
English: obstacle, hindrance, cut-off

The resistance is real.

One of our main challenges on the path is barchay. We are constantly facing obstacles, problems, and resistance. Every time our aspiration seems to be culminating, some unseen force seems to be holding us back. 

We tend to label circumstances as the obstacle.  If we only had a chance to grab a coffee we would have performed better.  If we weren't caught up in these current projects we would have been able to help. There are all kinds of reasons things didn't work out like they should have. All of those reasons are the resistance, winning. 

This is the battle that we face. The fight between our aspirations and our reality. We know what we would like to do, but this is what our life actually looks like.  Between that gap is a lot of pain and suffering. That gap is a minefield for negative emotions, stress, anxiety and pain. 

This is the battle, turning Dharma into the path. We have a chance to glimpse the authentic and true, but we fall so easily to negative emotions and confusion. The resistance loves nothing more than prolonging our journey, convincing us to take a break, do it tomorrow.  The path, prolonged. Delayed.  We can turn Dharma into the path tomorrow. 

This resistance, all these obstacles and hindrances, they do not lie outside of us.  Outer conditions only supply the moisture for which the seeds of our own afflictions can ripen.  It is our own latent negative emotions, our own innate confusion and neurosis. We have become habituated to our afflictions, mindlessly succumbing to them for eons.  Now is our chance to break the cycle, and yet we feel weak and weary. 

And so we battle. We fight. There may not be so noble a battle as this war that we wage within.