The View, Meditation and Action by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Part 2
Question: To have the right view, from what I understand, is a natural way of being. In order to maintain our wrong view we seem to do it on a moment to moment basis. What are the qualities that cause us to move from moment to moment to maintain our capacity to generate a wrong view again and again, to be able to generate those mistakes again and again? How come we have got such a good capacity to do this?
Rinpoche: Well, that's a very big question. Let me try to answer this. There are several reasons, first, maybe the Buddhists will say it's because there's a certain comfort zone, and we are so attached to this comfort zone. In fact, this comfort zone is not necessarily comfortable, but just because this is the only zone that we know, other than that, beyond this zone, we don't know. This is the only zone that we know. We don't trust the experience beyond this zone, and that is why we keep on wanting to remain in this zone.
In other words—the classic Buddhist term is renunciation—you first have to learn to realise that this zone is not necessarily comfortable. Lack of information on that makes us have more and more attachment to this zone. But having said that I need to tell you something, Buddhist renunciation must be again understood based on wisdom, because the Buddhist concept of renunciation without wisdom would become like self-flagellation, it becomes torture. Then that's not good. To demonstrate that, Siddhartha Guatama himself did something, six years penance. Lastly, what did he do? He said this is useless, this is not the middle-way. Then when Sujata offered him milk he took it, which angered the five monks who were his followers.
This story says something about renunciation. Let’s say we both are traveling in the desert, we are thirsty and then we see water. Actually we are looking at a mirage but we think it is water—because we are so thirsty that's what we want. It's such a long way away, but then, initially, both of us really want to go there. Then maybe one of us thinks, "No, this is not water this is just a mirage." That knowledge needs to be increased, or transmitted in our head. Once you have that, then you are renouncing the concept ‘water’, but you are only renouncing the concept, you are not renouncing the water because there was never any water there anyway. So Buddhist renunciation should be understood this way—that you are renouncing something that does not even exist. It's not like the world is full of pleasure and great things and then you reluctantly have to give them up.
So when you understand renunciation, this comfort zone that I was talking about, if you understand that, then I guess there'll be no moment after moment of dwelling in this ignorance. But we don't have enough knowledge, so we have to increase this knowledge by looking at things, by doing Shamatha/Vipashyana meditation, by calming our mind, by all kinds of methods.
I will tell you something, renunciation is in fact something that everybody does. It is not like something that only Buddha imposes on you. It's something that everybody does but everybody does it very slowly, in slow motion. For example, when you are a child you build sandcastles, you are in love with sandcastles and you put so much emphasis o this. Then when you become a teenager or an adult, what do you do? You are not in love with sandcastles anymore; you see the uselessness of them and don't understand why children like sandcastles. So you may have renounced sandcastles but now you have adopted a new comfort zone, BMWs, Ferraris, heartshaped beds, in certain cases chains and whips, we don't know. Anything that will excite you, that is what you will adopt. Then you go beyond mid-age crisis and those things don't excite you anymore. Then you automatically renounce those things. Then you begin to have another comfort zone, which is like tableclothes, afternoon tea and scones. It's still slow, you know these are all useless later, but we do it so slowly. Atisha Dimpakara wanted to crush it all in a few months, hopefully, that's what we need.
Question: So we still do all the things like cups of tea and scones but we do it with a sense of humour like you tie your tie with, is that a type of renunciation; that you're still doing it but you're doing it with a sense of humour and awareness?
Rinpoche: Yes, I think that's a very classy renunciation. I would say it is Mahayana renunciation. It is very effective, like a fire and wood—more wood means more fire; so more ties, more cups of tea, more scones, but with a little bit of wisdom, you know these things are useless, then, really so much wisdom. I guess that's actually the tantric kind of renunciation also—using emotions as a path and so on.
Question: You talked about meditation and all kind of transformation. Can you actually meditate in your car or when you watch television and you see something outside of you, or do you just have to sit cross legged in front of a shrine, or in solitude?
Rinpoche: The Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which is something to do with getting accustomed to. Someone who practices meditation we sometimes call a ‘naljorpa’. Naljor is actually a kind of strict translation of yoga. It is a very interesting term—nal actually means normality and jor means wealth. A meditator is usually referred to as someone who gathers the wealth of normality. So what I am saying here is that you could very well be sitting on a meditation cushion looking at a sunset with essential oil burning somewhere and you could be making all kinds of plans. But that's not really normality. Basically, any state that really helps you take off the veil of inhibitions, hang-ups, obsessions and all kinds of expectations and hopes and fears is meditation. So in that regard yes, why not? You can meditate in your car, in a discothèque, wherever.
But when we teach meditation, generally we assume that a certain discipline is necessary, such as sitting straight. What it does is that it straightens your nadi system, the channels and chakras and so on, which then makes your air very calm and clear. The nadis and channels are a bit like a maze. Usually with all kinds of foods, a lack of exercise and a lack of sleep or whatever, they have become very knotted, like a maze. The air that flows through these channels is like a blind horse, sort of lost. But when you sit straight then at least there is some part of the maze that is straightened so that the blind horse has a slightly better direction. The mind is like a handicapped rider. So if the blind horse is in control then the handicapped rider has a much better chance I guess. Therefore sitting meditation is encouraged.
But you have to remember that there are 84,000 teachings, and not all of them require that you sit straight. Actually out of the 84,000 teachings only one or two are about sitting straight. But sitting straight has become a kind of trend. Even when we paint the Buddha we always prefer him to be sitting straight. Sitting straight is I guess, in our human mind, the right thing to be done by a saviour. We don't look at our heroes or saviours as scouting or whatever.
Question: With meditation, are each of us having to do it in our lives by trial and error, or are we in some way remembering what is there in us anyway?
Rinpoche: In meditation:
Same Student: Yes. Are we actually finding through meditation what lies within us anyway, like through a process of remembering?
Rinpoche: I'm not so sure about the question but meditation is not necessarily remembering something. The essential aspect of meditation is having awareness. But awareness doesn't have to be remembering something. In fact, if you become a great meditator then your meditation master might discourage you from remembering the past. Remembering something, remembrance, always leads you to remember the past, but Buddhism always discourages students and practitioners from dwelling on the past and on the future. We should always remain in the present, which actually means having awareness. But having said that, again, mindfulness, which is taught in many of the common meditation instructions, is very much like remembering the Buddha's words, remembering the master's words, and
remembering all kinds of categories of teachings and stuff like that. Is that what you were asking?
Same Student: I think I was thinking of reincarnation, remembering from much earlier.
Rinpoche: Oh, I see. No, because, first of all, I think when you talk about reincarnation you should think about the example of the hand, which is actually quite a good example for reincarnation. Yesterday's hand and today's hand, are they separate? They can't be separate. If they were separate, then what happened to one’s hand yesterday and what happened to one’s hand today, there would be no consequences. Then are they the same? They can't be. If they were the same, then one’s hand would never become old. Yet they are continuous phenomena. Buddhists believe in this continuity. That's actually one of the fundamental aspects of reincarnation.
Are you saying that as we have reincarnation, as a believer in reincarnation, that based on reincarnation we remember what we have done in the past, that's the meditation? Are you asking that? Same Student: Well not at a conscious level. I don't mean that. I just wonder whether there is some deep process of finding what there has been for a very long time.
Rinpoche: Okay. Basically, as Buddhists, why do we meditate? It is to purify defilements and discover what they call Buddha nature? But when I say ‘Buddha nature’ I am not labelling this in terms of something good, something wholesome, something really beautiful, shining and so on and so forth. This I want to emphasis because if you are not careful with that, then the Buddhist concept of Buddha nature can be really misunderstood with concepts such as soul and atman and so on that many other religions talk about. ‘Buddha nature’ is a very beautiful name, ‘Bud-dha na-ture’. But that name is just a title or a name out of a lack of terms and names. We call it this but actually it's nothing to do with shining or divine or whatever. I need to explain this. Let us use the glass windows here as an example. These glass windows are stained with dirt, so in our mind we think we should wash the windows. Now we are being very philosophical and quite intellectual here. In Buddhist philosophy they will disagree with that. They say you cannot wash the windows; you can only wash the dirt. The windows and the dirt that is stained on the glass are two separate entities. The glass, even though it has not been washed for millions of years, is just glass, it has not even heard what dirt is, right? Likewise aggression, passion and ignorance that we have are like dirt that is on the glass. They are not the real you. I'm just using very simple language here. So what we do is we try to wash the dirt. After washing the dirt then we realise that the glass becomes very clean. That is a standard understanding of nirvana, enlightenment. But then again
Buddhists will dispute that because they will say, the glass has never become clean. Why? Because it was never dirty, right from the beginning. Glass is just glass; it has never been dirty therefore it cannot become clean. That quality is what we refer to as Buddha nature. We can even call it ‘Saddam Hussein’ if you want, it doesn't change anything. That quality is what we need to discover. Again the word ‘discover’ is very bad language but we have no choice.
So what we do with meditation is we try to clean this dirt. I guess when we finally reach there we will realise there was never any dirt. This is why I always say, from an emotional point of view, enlightenment is the ultimate boredom. I actually doubt how much we want this. I always discuss this with a lot of people. I mean, if you reach enlightenment and then suddenly you are omniscient right, you know the past, present and the future instantly. Then how are you going to enjoy a detective movie? So you will miss a lot of this.
Question: We live in a very exuberant society in which we are told that having Ferraris and a heart shape bed etc., will be very good and wonderful. Then after 9/11 President Bush told Americans that the first thing they must do is to go out and shop. So it's a shopping world in which we seem to be very obsessed with all of these things.
Same Student: Is there a Buddhist view on whether that's a good thing or a bad thing?
Rinpoche: As I mentioned earlier about outrageousness and elegance, I think having that wisdom in our head we should go shopping.
Question: Letting go of things is a stepping-stone to enlightenment, right?
Same Student: What about letting go of trying to become enlightened? Does that not come before…
Rinpoche: Yes well, letting go is a stepping-stone for enlightenment. Realising that there is nothing to let go of is a very important stepping-stone. Then letting go of enlightenment for oneself in order to give enlightenment for others is a very honourable path. It is the bodhisattva path, but that's very difficult. If you have this proper bodhichitta, as a Buddhist, as a dharma practitioner, when somebody is successful in dharma practice or playing cello or whatever, how can we feel envious or jealous? But we do, that alone tells us that we don't have bodhichitta yet. But that's okay, the great Longchenpa said we must practice aspiration bodhichitta first. I think that's a very good note, so I think we will end here.
This article is an edited version of a teaching by Rinpoche given in Auckland, New Zealand in 2003. It is to be published in the August 2010 issue of Thar Lam.
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