Around 50 people gathered to Palpung Wales to hear teachings about “Cultivating Stability, Perseverance and Inspiration in Practice” on Saturday 6th and on Sunday 7th of May “Stabilising the Recognition of the Nature of Mind”. After the weekend we truly felt inspired!
The visiting teacher, delightful Ringu Tulku Rinpoche arrived at Palpung Wales 10 minutes before the teachings started on Saturday morning. He had taught in Totnes the night before and they finished very late. The early morning start didn’t seem to show from Rinpoche’s face or being – he arrived looking as joyful, relaxed and steady as always, asking what was the topic of the day. Rinpoche had a cup of tea and started teaching. He said that over the years he has stopped preparing his teachings but rather speaks from his heart – this is due to having seen how the talks he had prepared won’t have quite the same effect than when he speaks from his heart and in the moment. The audience is always different, the day and the situations are different, the atmosphere changes, and he teaches accordingly. This in itself was already a teaching from him. How much we all plan our lives and prepare for the future situations, trying to push through what we have planned instead of letting the moment reveal its nature and then acting accordingly. We expressed our gratitude for Rinpoche for his kindness and bodhicitta motivation for again generously accepting our invitation and squeezing us in to his very busy schedule. His reply in all its casuality actually felt very profound. He said how his teaching tours definitely are not due to his great compassion – he just meets with friends and has some nice discussions with different people.
A light bulb moment: “But maybe that’s it!” We might think that bodhisattvas are on this massive work mission of saving all the poor beings drowning in the ocean of samsara…In one way, yes they are. However, if one thinks about this task as work and the endlessness of it, being on a mission through limitless ages might become quite tiring and disheartening. But to be in the moment, manifest spontaneously according to what is needed, deriving wisdom from the heart – maybe some of the secret of being able to carry on bodhisattva activities through lifetimes lies there; in this gentle, casual yet profound, spacious attitude in relating to events and beings rather than a rigid, serious mission? Rinpoche manifested teachings already before he started teaching.
CULTIVATING STABILITY, PERSEVERANCE AND INSPIRATION IN PRACTICE
How to get inspiration?
Rinpoche started the talk saying that all the above are connected. He first explored inspiration. If you have inspiration, you most likely have perseverance. He said how he thinks it is good to be inspired, but not so easy to keep on being inspired. How to get inspiration then? We need to have some kind of a sense that what we hear rings the truth in us, something that feels genuine. The teachings are said to be one of the main sources of inspiration. Also gurus act as a source of inspiration. It needs to be something that touches the heart. The stronger understanding we develop, the stronger the inspiration will be. We need to study and practice, not only develop intellectual understanding. When we get a small experience – we don’t even need a big experience – of the benefit of the practice, that inspires us to actualise more of the teachings. Until we have real certainty (of the Dharma), our inspiration can waver, because we are more easily influenced by negative than positive way. Our habitual tendency to distraction, lazyness and negativity is strong. Whatever small inspiration we might have, it is like a lightning in the dark, brief yet revealing, showing us the way, and we need to appreciate that. It is easy to be inspired, but to keep the inspiration going we have to remind ourselves many times; we need to listen to the teachings over and over again even though we might feel that we know it all already. When we listen openly, we actually might be surprised that we hear things differently, we hear something we didn’t hear before and we understand more deeply.
“Anything that comes from the university, I throw away. Lots of words, but no meaning” said Rinpoche apologising anyone with academic approach in the audience. He said that whether a text is inspirational, depends very much on the translation. It is possible to have all the correct words but still lack inspirational effect. “If something only comes from the head, it is not inspiring, but what comes from the heart, is inspiring”, Rinpoche explained his statement.
Rinpoche mentioned prayers as a source of inspiration. Many prayers are inspiring teachings, like “Calling Lama from Afar” or “Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer”. When saying those prayers, we are reflecting on the teachings. We are not praying to someone.
Another thing that inspires, is meeting great practitioners. Unless we are enlightened, we don’t know who is enlightened or not, but we can feel some people can influence us strongly. We feel like we want to become like someone whose qualities we see good, something to aspire to.
Understanding (Dharma) brings certainty and that then brings inspiration. We should thus read, study, listen, contemplate and practice. We can receive teachings from many sources and that can actually help us understand something better and more clearly. If we feel something is complicated, then we don’t really understand Dharma. The more we understand, the simpler it becomes. We should always remember to go back to basics. If we don’t understand the simpler things first, it is difficult to be inspired. The best thing for us to do, is the one we understand most. Then it is easy to do that and we will get the result.
Stability stems from understanding
Stability comes from clearly understanding what is the practice. Practice is not just doing something like reading texts, meditating, doing circumambulation. The question is rather what is really happening when we are doing such activities? The practice is to reduce the causes of the suffering: selfishness, negative emotions, negative reactions and habitual tendencies. That is Dharma practice. All our negative emotions are not love and compassion. We are loving when we really wish someone well. When we really understand what Dharma practice means, then we can progress and become more peaceful and happier. The main practice is to do something that is kind, loving, caring and helpful. Sometimes watching a movie or walking in a forest is the best help for the upset for example. When we understand the main practice, we are very clear and we will bring more wellbeing to ourselves and others. To be stable is to clearly see and understand, and not giving up even though we are lazy or not doing enough. Stability comes when we have clarity of what Dharma practice is about. Too much focus on outer form, time or amount is not really understanding what Dharma practice is. We can be doing lots of things but nothing in us really changes. When we understand what is practice, we don’t waver.
Seeing the depth of the problem helps us to persevere
We need to know that negative emotions are like an addiction. We cannot expect that a few moments of meditation will get rid of this lifetimes of addiction. We need to see how deep our problem really is – this is very important. When we see the depth of the problem, it will help us to be more persevering. We see that it is something we need to work on and overcome but since the problem is very deep, it cannot be easily done. Then we will be less frustrated also. We should check that are we after the years of practice even slightly better? We need to see that this is a long process, taking lifetimes! If our perspective is small, we have great expectations and lots of disappointments. It takes time to work on our negative mind and understanding this makes it easier, we will have more stability and perseverance. This is very important. We need to know where we stand. Clearing wrong expectations helps to stabilise and persevere, and it also inspires because we see how valuable it is when this clarity and understanding comes. We start seeing that this is the practice: “There is nothing else other than working on this” (our negative emotions). This way everything becomes practice. Meditation is then not just waiting for some result but really targeting on our negative habits. When we understand that it is possible to develop, then we have perseverance.
The most common sense is sometimes the most profound
Rinpoche spoke a little bit about the three teachings of the Buddha: Don’t do harmful things, Do everything that is virtuous and Completely tame your own mind. We want to do something that is good for us and others, now and in the long run. That is the source of inspiration. What is good – try to do that. Doing good things also makes us also appreciate ourselves more. We need to stop doing harmful things and try to be aware of what we are doing. That’s practice. This is natural in our life, and it is not just Buddhist. Our purpose is not to be a Buddhist, but to do something truly beneficial, good, meaningful, for ourselves and others. Another pearl to keep in mind was Rinpoche’s statement that the most common sense is sometimes the deepest Dharma.
Relax – life is a process of solving problems
There was a question of how to deal with problems in life. Rinpoche replied simply yet with a kind of lightness that knows and acknowledges the fact: “Life is a process of solving problems. There is nobody who doesn’t have problems. This is very important to know. How big the problem is, is about how we face it. Many times we only seem to focus on the problem. It is like we have to solve the problem. Sometimes we can solve the problem, but maybe two more problems arise. We need to understand that this is how life is. Some problems are maybe never solved. Even when we’re having a big problem, we should not forget how many good things we still have in our life. We need to learn to appreciate the good things at the same time while having a problem. See also other things, don’t let the problem blind you”. He concluded the day by pointing out that when we appreciate something, that will become more in our life.
STABILISING THE RECOGNITION OF THE NATURE OF MIND
Rinpoche started the Sunday morning teachings by saying that he had an idea in that same morning: He thought that he would teach us from the short text by Khenpo Gangshar “The Mind Instructions given to monk Wangchuk”. He had recently received instructions on it from Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, even though he had received the reading transmission a long time ago. Since these pith instructions on nature of mind are profound and sacred as well as traditionally kept secret (only given from teacher to student in a direct contact; as well as being a self-secret, meaning that even though one might see the text / hear the teachings, there is no inner understanding of it unless you are ready for it) I won’t write much of the teachings themselves here, but will rather take out points from the teachings that are common and inspiring overall.
Khenpo Gangshar Wangpo (b. 1925) – a renowned master of the ‘crazy wisdom’ approach, who was connected with Shechen Monastery. He was the root teacher of both Chögyam Trungpa and Thrangu Rinpoche, and also one of Dezhung Rinpoche’s teachers. For a while it was thought that he died in prison between 1958 and 1961, but it has also been reported that he in fact survived 22 years of imprisonment, and passed away in 1980/1, before any of his former students could contact him.
What is transmission?
Rinpoche said that these kind of mind instructions are not understood intellectually. It is experiential, it is a transmission. He then explained a bit more about the transmission saying that to get an experience of knowing is the transmission, it is not the words. The teacher might say a lots of words, but how we understand is really up to us. Every person gets different things from the same teaching. Sometimes someone just says a few words and we might get it. When we get the experience deeply, that is the transmission, and to be able to give a transmission, one needs to get a transmission. He also then went on to explain what it means when in Vajrayana we say “to see our Lama / teacher as Buddha”. When someone has given you the experience of your own mind as buddha, you start seeing your Lama as Buddha. Since your Lama’s mind has to be one with the buddha’s mind to be able to give that transmission, you truly start seeing your Lama as Buddha. Even the Buddha himself could not do more than that – to show you your true nature. Rinpoche then took the previous day’s topic and said that this – seeing the nature of your mind – is the most stabilising, inspiring, persevering and the most liberating thing. Once you see it, then there is no going back. Up to that point, until we get the transmission of the nature of mind, we have doubts whether our Lama is Buddha or not. So this “seeing our Lama as Buddha” is not propaganda, it is not show off. “You actually see it.” said Rinpoche.
No such thing as Buddhist opinion
Rinpoche pointed out that we can easily be misguided in life. We should thus always ask is something we are doing, helping ourselves and others, now and in the long run. If we can say “yes”, then it is Dharma. He said that Dharma is not based on what Buddha said, or somebody wrote – it is not a party line. There is not a “Buddhist opinion” about something. If you try to make a “Buddhist way”, you put it in a box. That is not a Buddhist way. We see our own mind as the “judge”, not what is the common opinion. We really have to trust in ourselves. We will make mistakes, but we have made many, many samsaric mistakes throughout the lives. When it comes to Dharma, we should not just follow the form or appearance. Sometimes the appearance can be Dharma, but inside it is not Dharma. The actual Dharma is a question if it is beneficial or not. A true Dharma practitioner is less selfish, more kind and compassionate. Rinpoche said that we need to know ourselves and be honest to ourselves. What others say, we should not listen too much, they say a lot of things. We need to know our own heart. Dharma practice is to look inside and when we see negative emotions, reactions and too much self-centeredness – there is our Dharma practice and all the Dharma practices have to address this. We do our best and if things go well, that’s ok. If things don’t go well, that’s also ok. This way we make our life much simpler and the Dharma practice becomes more real. We need to do what is useful and beneficial, and then what others say, is not too important.
The practice is where there is ego-clinging
When we are less selfish, mind is more peaceful and less disturbed. Then we cannot be easily bound, we are more free. Less selfishness means less defilements, and it makes it easier to attain realisation. Rinpoche spoke about ego-clinging: What is this ego-clinging? When something good happens we become happy, and if something not so good happens to us – it doesn’t even need to be a big thing – it feels painful. This is what we call ego-clinging. Rinpoche emphasized that it is very important to understand this. We must recognise this very clearly. This is what makes us so easily happy or unhappy; this is what makes us so sensitive, easily affected and is changing our mood. If we can work with this ego-clinging, it will change our experience. Then we are really practicing Dharma. Even though you would not be learned and wise, if you can work on this and practice like this, you are learned and wise. When working on it, first we need to recognise this ego-clinging. Rinpoche then went on to explain how to work on it. He mentioned few different ways, eg. using antidotes, but the main focus here was on the Dzogchen view which was explained in the Khenpo Gangshar’s text. Rinpoche spoke about the importance of awareness and non-distraction. The steps in this practice he outlined: 1. Recognise (the nature of mind) 2. Familiarise (recognise repeatedly, over and over again) 3. Integrate (the recognition needs to be brought into our daily life, its situations, our emotions, thoughts etc). Rinpoche said that to recognise the nature of mind is not so difficult, but to practice it, to familiarise and integrate, that is the challenge! That is the practice.
If we are holding onto the things very tightly, that binds us. If we see them passing, dreamlike and changing, it will help us to have less fear and worry in this moment, and we will be happier and more joyful. If we are in the present moment, we hear and see more, and usually the present moment is actually not so bad, it is quite pleasant.
Renunciation is compassion
At the end Rinpoche spoke a little bit about renunciation. He said that when we practice recognising the nature of mind, a strong sense of renunciation will arise, as well as strong compassion. He explained that often renunciation is thought to mean leaving everything and everyone behind, but it’s not like that. That is escapism. He pointed out that renunciation is actually compassion to ourselves: “I need to find a way out of these causes and conditions of samsara.” We start seeing the things that are causing us suffering and we want to let go of them. We want to actualise all the things that cause happiness, and how to do this, is to practice Dharma.
Written from the notes: Pauliina Kossi