Void dakini instructions; the usefulness of “zero”: void makes everything possible; terror; destructive aspect of spiritual practice, constant letting go; Tilopa’s instructions
Today we look at void dakini. The element void.
Void, may seem strange to regard it as an element. Rumor has it there is nothing to it whatsoever. In Western thought, the value of zero was not appreciated. It took the wonderfully analytic mind the people in India to understand the value of zero.
You may recall that the number system in Grecian times consisted of the letters of the alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma, delta and so forth. So alpha plus alpha equals beta; beta plus beta equals delta. If you ever try to do arithmetic with this system, it’s kind of a mess.
The Romans improved upon this a little bit, they still took letters of the alphabet, but they had the stroke of genius of repeating them sometimes. So you had I for one, and II, for two, and then III for three. But after that they had difficulty counting. So they thought well let’s just take five and we’ll take one off that, and so we get IV to equal four. And so forth. And L for fifty and C for a hundred. If you want an amusing afternoon try multiplying two large numbers in the Roman numeral system. It’s a really really interesting exercise. These were the number systems of the Western world.
Meanwhile, a few thousand miles further east. Somebody had the idea of we’ll put one, and since we have ten fingers we run out of hands at that point, so why don’t we just put a zero behind that, and that will symbolize the fact that we just ran out of fingers: ten. And then they realized, “Gee, you know, I could have ten tens. So I just put another zero, and I get one hundred.” This is the value of zero. Now as we all know, this made arithmetic much easier. And the genius of this is that you could write down arbitrarily large numbers. And in the Tibetan-English Dictionary you find that every number, you kow, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, million, ten million, hundred million, billion in the American system, ten billion, so forth. Each of these has a separate name. And you can tell they just got totally jazzed about this because they could write down these arbitrarily large numbers and give them a new name.
Does anybody know what a googol is? Googol was the invention of a Russian physicist named George Gamow. He wrote a book called 1,2,3, Infinity back in the 50’s. And a google is a one followed by a hundred zeros. A googleplex is ten to raised to the power of one google. Huge numbers. This is not just the value of zero. This is the value of emptiness. It makes anything possible. That’s why I’m giving you this little lecture in mathematics.
So we’re talking about void dakini. And the void element. Without emptiness, without void, absolutely nothing would be possible. Have you ever tried to pour coffee into a cup that’s already full of something else. You don’t get much coffee in your cup.
So we ordinarily think of emptiness as a negative. But you can also think of it as a potential. You know, have you ever tried to walk into a room which is full of people. Or want to move to Japan, get on the subway system at rush hour. Just very, very difficult. They have professional jammers, you know, people who push people in. There’s not enough space.
So void element, in terms of physical things, is about space. In terms of emotional things, it’s emotional space. Space to feel. In terms of sound, void element is silence. In terms of mind, void element is emptiness, the no-thing there quality.
Now, we also generally think of form and emptiness as opposites. In Buddhism we can’t go too far down that road because we’re stuck with the Heart Sutra:
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, which gets everybody totally confused. And even if they get those two lines straightened out then they have
Emptiness is not other than form and form is not other than emptiness.
But I want to raise another possibility here. It’s probably easiest to think about this in terms of sound. We think of sound and silence as opposites. Where does the silence go when there’s some noise? Anybody?
Student: It’s right there. It stays there.
Ken: Yeah. All that happens is that we’ve just stopped listening to it. Or we stop being able to hear it. It doesn’t go anywhere. What happens to the space in the room when you fill it full of furniture?
Student: It’s still there.
Ken: It’s still there. What happens to the emptiness of your mind when it’s full of thoughts?
Student: Still there.
Ken: Yeah and how many of you relate to it that way? So the void element is a little different in a certain sense from the other elements in that it never goes anywhere. It’s always there.
Now at some level, or in some way, we find space, openness, terrifying. In the case of the earth element, we have the rigid and stiff. Underneath that there is a feeling of hollowness and uncertainty which arises from not being sure about the structure or order. That loss of structure or order opens to space, but that feels like an earthquake. Everything is nicely ordered and suddenly it’s gone. And we don’t know where our reference is. We don’t know what we can hold on to. It feels very unsteady, And we react to that with panic, grasping at something.
In the case of the water element, we have this nice going back and forth in the relationship. You know flow feeling and connection, back and forth. This person starts pushing on us, and so we start trying to disperse the energy. And then we feel like we’re attacked. And we realize that this is not going the way it’s meant to go. Now it feels like work. Awash, or being swept away by currents we have no control of. And there is an opening there. But again, it’s terrifying. So we try to disperse the energy, get back into control.
It’s the same thing with fire. Fire is about passion. It’s about being right in the feeling.
Student: [Unclear] right in?
Ken: The feeling. In the sensations. Everything is really alive, you know. You know what artists are like. And when we lose that, that reference disappears. Then it’s like a desert. There is nothing. Like the tundra. Or, you know, an ice field.
And with air, it’s about movement, activity, doing things which define who we are and our relationship with everything. And when we lose that then we don’t know who we are it feels like we’re just falling. And so we start doing something.
Void element is absolutely necessary because it makes everything possible. But it raises the most fundamental fear in human experience. Not the fear of dying. But the fear of not existing. And people are much happier dying than being erased from existence. People feel comfortable if they know that they’re leaving a legacy. They aren’t so comfortable with the idea that they’re leaving absolutely nothing behind. It’s very interesting because Taoism and one could say also in Buddhism, it’s actually what one aspires to: to be able to negotiate life, leaving no footprints. Interesting idea. Yes?
Student: I didn’t hear the last word.
Ken: Leaving no footprints. Nothing to track. Nobody knew you were there. You might think about that in connection with your work life. Maybe it’ll make a difference to how you work. I will enjoy that.
You may be surprised. You might get the worst of all possibilities, and that’s a promotion. That’s how Jung regarded it. You know when somebody came in to him for counseling and said, “I just got a promotion at work, he says, ”Oh dear, I’m sorry.“ But if they came into him and said, ”I just got fired,“ he said, ”Excellent. Let’s break out some champagne. Good things are going to happen.“ Okay.
In void element, understand the void reaction, sense of dullness. Heaviness. Sleepiness. Some of you know this from your meditation practice. It’s not that you’re tired, it’s that it’s a way of dulling out so you don’t have to experience the confusion, bewilderment, the mess underneath. I mean, most of us don’t actually enjoy, unless we’ve developed a taste for it, being plunged into depths of not knowing anything, you know.
I’m doing my best to train you for this. You’re very unwilling. And because it’s very disorienting. You don’t know which way is up, which way is down, which way is forward, which way is back.
Nasrudin had to struggle with this too. One time he was over at a friend’s house. They were having this really great conversation. Got so involved in the conversation that neither noticed it was getting dark. And eventually the friend said, ”Nasrudin, it’s dark. Why don’t you pull out some candles, and some matches, and light them. You’ll find them in the drawer by your right hand.“ And Nasrudin said, ”You fool! How am I to tell my left from my right in the dark!“
Yeah okay, there’s depth there, but you don’t believe it.
I usually use that as my first pointing out instruction in mahamudra retreats. You’re warned now. I’m doing mahamudra in Toronto. You’re welcome to come. In September.
Okay. Why do we fear knowing nothing so much? ’Cause it…you know…[unclear] at nothing…we panic. And we panic because when we don’t know anything, we don’t know how to function in the situation. Not only do we not know who we are, we don’t even know what we are. And this raises the possibility of, ”Maybe I don’t exist.“
Brugh Joy tells us a wonderful story about this family that’s having lunch in a restaurant. And the waitress comes up and takes the orders. And the mother and father and sister order something. And to the six-year-old boy, the waitress says, ”What would you like?“ He says, ”I’d like a hot dog, please.“ And the mother immediately says, ”No, no he doesn’t want a hot dog,“ and orders something else for him. So the waitress writes everything down and just before she leaves she turns to the boy and says, ”Do you want that with mustard or relish?“ The little boy looks around and says, ”She thinks I exist.“
So, we have this fear of not existing. And most of the time we react to that by just going blank. So there’s that openness, we go blank. And it’s such a shock that we go to pieces. That is, we start doing any of the other four elements. Usually all of them.
And we have this expression in English, ”He or she went to pieces.“ And what kind of behavior are we describing? Because one moment they’re raging, one moment they’re crying, one moment they’re trying to find something to do, one moment they’re just sitting there digging in. And they’re just going back and forth among all of these different possibilities. It’s fragmenting. And we end up feeling like we’ve just become dust. As it’s said in the verses, ”scattered throughout space and time.“
Now if any of you have experienced a really profound shock you probably know something about this from your own experience. Very, very disconcerting. And it’s a typical reaction to really profound shocks, profound losses, things that just jar, and cause everything in our life to be called into question. We lose all our orientation, we feel we don’t exist. And we go through this process. And we cycle around that.
Now all of the reaction cycles are like eddies. They’re self-propagating. That is the movement from form to emptiness, which is in this case the void element, the movement from that dullness through the bewilderment and confusion into not knowing, and that blankness.
That sets up the situation for the reforming of that because in that not-knowing and blankness we just start doing something, anything. So we fall to pieces and we fragment. And then when we’re totally in pieces we’re dull and confused and so it sets up the movement back from form back into emptiness and then back to form. All at once. And we just go round and round like that. Usually in increasing intensity until something just breaks it all up.
Now what happens with the transformation here is that as that elixir of light comes into us, it symbolizes the development of a level of attention which ideally stays present in every stage of the reaction. But in particular we are able to stay in the not-knowing. And when we’re able to stay in the not-knowing, without grasping at anything, we come to know how things are. We come to experience directly how things are. This is total, or totality pristine awareness. And there is a sense of presence. We’re just in our experience. Not trying to make anything of it. And that total knowing and presence is symbolized by a circle of light. And the reaction process comes to an end, it’s transformed into presence.
That’s why in Buddhism we so value those experiences which precipitate not knowing. Again, this is another application of the principle, Gain is illusion, loss is enlightenment.
Student: Would you repeat that? I didn’t hear the last part.
Ken: This is another application of the principle Gain is illusion, loss is enlightenment.
Okay. I remember years and years ago a student in Orange County who was a management consultant, specialized in turning companies around when they were in crisis. And he came in once. I’d given him Uchiyama’s book to read, and he just went, ”Gain is illusion, loss is enlightenment. How do you even relate to that? So we had a good talk.
Okay. So I think I’ve hit the main points here. I want to lead you through it but before we do that, any questions? Anything you’d like elaboration on. Randy.
Randy: You told me yesterday that paradox is [unclear]
Ken: I haven’t been talking about any paradoxes. What’s the paradox?
Randy: Imagine the most profound paradox there is.
Ken: What’s the paradox?
Randy: Spiritual life operates by subtraction, you know?
Ken: How is that a paradox? That’s just how it operates. Spiritual practice is destructive. It’s not constructive. That’s very important to understand. How is that a paradox? Maybe you’re using the word paradox differently from the way I understand it.
Randy: Well, linguistically, it’s contradictory. But if you understand it on a different level that’s what a paradox means to me.
Ken: I’m still not understanding what the paradox is for you.
Randy: You must lose your life to find it.
Ken: Well, yes, a lot of paradoxes arise because language is used. That there is a little language game in there. When we say the expression, “You have to lose your life to find it.” From the appearance of the grammar, what “life” refers to and what “it” refers to would be the same thing. But they’re actually not. And so it is the appearance of a paradox. But you have to lose one life to find what’s actually quite a different life. Follow?
Randy: If that’s not a game—
Ken: No, no, no. That isn’t a game. But what I’m pointing out here is that we use certain phrases or ways of expressing things. I mean, one of the very famous ones from Zen, “What is the sound of one hand clapping? Where is your face before you were born?” And one can come up with paradoxes too. But the function of those is to stop the intellect. They are frequently used simply to confound students. That’s why when I regard them as intellectual games. Their proper use is to stop the intellect and thus to create the possibility of another form of knowing. Okay?
Dick, you had a question?
Dick: Yeah, Ken. Are we going to spend any more time on [unclear]. Personally I just stared into the abyss.
Dick: I’ll tell you I am very confused [unclear].
Dick: Will we spend any more time—
Ken: Maybe a little. I was planning on going into a different direction this afternoon. Maybe we may have time. We have Saturday tomorrow, right?
Dick: [Unclear] be the only one be there. [Unclear]
Ken: Yeah. We’ll see. I want to do something different. But basically I’m glad you feel like you’re getting some feel for it. That’s why I was talking today about the eddy, it just goes round and round. And basically the understanding you’re going to develop here is experiential. You know, actually tracking these experiences in oneself and observing how the elements operate. So the more experiential, the more you expose yourself to experience then the more it makes sense. Because simply an intellectual understanding—you sort of get it. But when you feel it operating in you, it’s like, “Woah, yeah.” That’s exactly what happens, isn’t it?
Ken: So, and it’s a good point to raise. The more completely you can put yourself in the experience of each of these stages, the more sense it’s going to make to you. Okay?
And when I say, put yourself in this experience, it’s something I find odd, is that it’s not thinking about the experience. It’s putting yourself in the experience. If you understand what I mean.
Dick: Yeah. It’s hard to break through that. [Unclear]
Ken: Yeah. It’s a bit like going for a swim in cold water. You know, you stick your toe in it, and you think, “oh, that’s good enough. I’ve had my swim today.” But that’s not swimming, You jump you go, “Ooh!” [Ken makes a shuddering noise]. Now you know what the water feels like. Okay.
Other questions. Sue.
Sue: So the shining circle as the symbol…how come it’s white in the song of the dakini’s when the sort of…dakini is blue. And, I think in the book it says blue, doesn’t it?
Ken: Does it say a blue circle?
Sue: In the book?
George: [Unclear] Dakini point circle. It’s like an energy circle.
Sue: But here…I thought it did.
Student: It does.
Ken: It’s a blue circle? Circle of blue light?
Sue: Well, it appears white.
Ken: It says [Ken reads quickly from book],
The circle of light appears. Hmm, no color. Obviously you should take this up with the author. [Laughter]
Student: No the editor!
[Several sudents commenting at once]
Ken: It’s a circle of light. Whether you imagine it blue or white it probably doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t have to be blue to correspond to the blue dakini. It’s just a circle of light symbolizing the union of everything. Okay?
Sue: So when we imagine all the light is coming in from like earth dakini and all those can we or should we not imagine that like yellow light and red light…
Ken: Oh, you mean when they’re radiating light.
Ken: It can go either way, really. Generally just imagine it as light. Because light actually doesn’t have any color. But if you want to imagine it that the light that goes out from earth center as yellow light and the one from the fire center as fire light, that’s probably not going to be problematic. And so that would be blue light. And so when it comes back and does the transformation it’s still just a circle of light—white light. Okay? Yes?
Student: [Unclear] Does the…how does this correspond to the chakras in terms of where the light centers on?
Ken: Well they’re same locations as the chakras. That is the void center is at the level of the forehead or the eyebrow. And the other ones in the usual places. In this approach these are not regarded as the chakras. They aren’t regarded as actual structures in the body the way that many of the chakra systems work. And we aren’t working with the energy in that way at all. When I complete the discussion this morning we’re going to put all of this stuff together for your practice as a way of generating a coherent energy for one’s practice. But I’ll say more about that in a few minutes.
John: Does the circle of light a disk full of light?
Ken: No it’s a circle, it’s like a torus. It’s like a halo. Or at least how halos are, you know…it’s a ring of light.
Student: What? It’s a ring of light like this?
Ken; Well, you can have it flat or you know…
Student: Oh but it’s not a sphere.
Ken: It’s not a sphere.
Ken: No, it’s not a disc of light. It’s a ring.
Student: It’s a ring of light?
Ken: Like a circle of light.
Student: Oh, with nothing inside it.
Ken: Ah, okay, that’s interesting. You have to be so careful with language.
Student: Why does it matter?
Ken: You’re going to have to ask somebody who probably goes back 2 or 3,000 years about that.
Student: He isn’t here right now.
Student: He probably isn’t here.
Ken: No he probably isn’t here right now. These symbols come down to us in different ways and they speak to different things. I can’t claim to be an expert in these. But I can feel a difference between a disc, which is like the mirror here, which is—you know in ancient times almost all mirrors were round pieces of metal—and a ring. Because with the sense of a circle, and the sense of a ring, it encloses. There’s a sense of completion of the circle. I mean it speaks to me very differently. But maybe it does not speak to you that way.
Student: I don’t know, it’s just that anyone would say a circle of light that would be a solid circle with very fuzzy edges, obviously.
Ken: Well, that’s good to know.
Student: A ring of light is what you’re describing to me anyway.
Ken: Yes, exactly. Well, I think I should…that’s very interesting because I used circle, right, because I think of a circle—not a solid circle. So anyway, that’s good to know. Thank you. I wonder how many people have been totally screwed up by this one.
Student: Pardon me but is this circle this way?
Ken: Doesn’t matter.
Student: Doesn’t matter. And the mirror doesn’t matter.
Ken: Doesn’t matter. Except for the Scott—the sword points at him. Yes
Student: [Unclear] Is there a color for the sword [unclear]?
Ken: No. Doesn’t matter. Okay.
Student: The color just relates to the dakini.
Ken: Yes. That’s right.
Student: Oh. [Unclear] the flowers. I mean, the flowers [unclear].
Ken: [Unclear] flowers, jewels, yes deep yellow. Like topaz or something. And yellow topaz, not green topaz. Okay. Yeah all right.
Any other questions? All right. You have a question?
Martha: My sense of all of these, it’s just my sense, is that eventually they kind of go to this void anyway. Am I mistaken about that? It just feels like when ground comes out underneath you or you’re consumed with whatever, you know, that all of these things underneath them, feels like…feels like emptiness and sort of destruction of self.
Ken: Yes. That is when you’re moving from form to emptiness, you’re moving to emptiness, which is what the void dakini symbolizes and it’s like that open space. But each…each one…in each element that space has a different flavor. And you react to it differently because of the flavor. In the earth element, it’s the loss of structure. In the water element, it’s the loss of emotional interaction. In the fire element it’s the loss of sensation. In the air element it’s the loss of activity, or the activities which define you. So yes you end up with emptiness in each one but it comes by it through a different route. It has a different flavor so you react in a different way. Okay?
Any other questions?
Student: There’s not an implicit hierarchy in the elements?
Ken: This was asked yesterday.
Student: What was the question?
Ken: Is there an implicit hierarchy in the elements. This was asked yesterday. We’re working with the elements right now in terms of a horizontal. So void has a little special there because everything as Martha just pointed out reduces to void in one sense. But they all have their place.
There is a vertical dimension to the elements in terms of the degree to which energy is crystallized. It’s most crystallized in form because it’s solid. And it’s least crystallized in void because nothing has taken form, any kind of form there. And so then you have air—there’s a bit more. Fire—there’s a bit more. Water—there’s more. And earth—there’s more. And that’s why they become progressively denser.
And this manifests in our lives in terms of thought, which is….well, there’s emptiness and then thought which is air and then…thoughts and ideals is air, and then sensations and passion and energy which is fire. And tacit understandings and emotional connection which is water. And then explicit understandings and codes and defined ways of interaction which is earth.
And that has a very significant applications in terms of interactions with people particularly in things like negotiations and so forth. You can actually use that vertical schema very very effectively, but I didn’t want to complicate matters by going into that in this retreat. Okay? So this is not everything you always wanted to know about the elements, but almost everything.
Student: But wouldn’t it help us, Ken, in this chart that earth is on the bottom and void is on the top? I mean, no seriously because I mean we are stacking them in our bodies in a vertical…what you call—
Ken: Yeah. A vertical dimension.
Student: Yeah. Why wouldn’t we include that in our discussion?
Ken: Because I’ve found in the past when I’ve talked about both the vertical and the horizontal then everybody walks out going, “I don’t know what…” I think it’s probably better to get clear about the horizontal, and then introduce the vertical. And then if you work with them you can move back and forth between the two very fluidly. But I’ve found pedagogically speaking it’s better to introduce one dimension at a time.
Student: For me, this is the first time horizontal entered [unclear] experience. Vertical—
Ken: Okay. Right. And again I want to emphasize this is a spectrum. So that horizontally it looks like a color circle, vertically it looks like a spectrum. And I know you can relate to that.
Ken: Yeah but you know what I mean by a color circle. Right?
Student: But you have to understand we out here, especially me, I’m grasping for anything, any handle I can get on this.
Ken: I understand. Yes?
Student: Maybe…maybe what is [unclear].
Ken: I don’t know what is [unclear].
[Several students talking at once]
Student: I want to piggyback on what Dick said. Maybe it would have been it wouldn’t have been a problem if you had typed them—whoever typed this—in a way that don’t explain it. I mean, I agreenot to get into the secondary. But is there something about the way this was typed that would be better to tell us about earth first? I could see his point. If next year we’re going to do the other thing, then why not try the way [unclear]. Or is there something about this [unclear].
Ken: George, you let me down here.
George: [Unclear] I’ve had comments all along, but I’ve taken a vow of silence. There was a debate about whether the earth should be on the bottom or the top. And we decided what the hell it’s on flat paper anyway. We wanted [unclear] like a pop-up thing. The publisher wasn’t going for it.
Student: I like that.
Ken: I want to lead you through the void. And so settle down just a little bit. Let mind and body settle. [Long pause]
Imagine in front of you the void dakini. She’s clothed in deep blue. The deep blue of the sky at high altitude. There’s a sense of infinite space and infinite knowing about her. You look into her eyes, and to do so is like looking into the sky itself. It just goes forever. And you have the strange sensation that the sky is looking right into you. You make your gesture, indicating your interest and intention to experience the void transformation.
She steps forward, raises her left hand, which holds a flask made of sapphire. In it there is liquid light, the light of awareness. And she pours this into you. And it comes down the center of your head, to the void center which is located right about where the pituitary gland is, level of the forehead of the eyebrows. You can feel and sense the light pooling there. And as it does you become aware of everywhere in your life you are dull or heavy or numb .
And as that light penetrates the numbness, you become aware of a bewilderment, a confusion, a not-understanding, because the dullness closes you off to. But now you are right in that bewilderment. And you don’t understand how things are and you don’t understand how they work and you don’t understand what to do. You don’t know anything here.
Hence this not-knowing is so complete, so bewildering and confusing, you don’t know whether you exist. And that thought, that notion is terrifying. And you just go blank. And that blankness is equally terrifying, and you fall to pieces.
Now grasping at some kind of reference, trying to disperse this un-nameable energy which is flooding you, reaching for anything in a desolate desert. Or grasping at anything to do, so you know who you are. One after another these come and eventually it’s like boulders crashing all around you, and waves sweeping you away. And volcanoes erupting beneath you, and winds sweeping you away. And it’s all happening at the same time. And you feel like you’re being blown to bits. Scattered like dust.
And now you become dull again.
And the cyclic repeats itself because underneath the dullness you can sense the confusion and bewilderment. And in that bewilderment and confusion the fear of not being anything. And then reaching out to find or be or have something to stand on or lean against or sense or know. This is all the void reaction.
Now you imagine light shining from a pool of light at the void center, the center of your head. The light is so brilliant that all of these confusing, terrifying, disturbing reactions are at first illuminated and become even more vivid, then become light themselves. And you find yourself just present in the totality of your experience. Not reaching or grasping or leaning, or trying to find something to do. Just present. No need for anything to stand on or lean against. No need for support. Present in the totality of your experience, in that sense of presence, rises as a symbol, circle of light or ring of light at the void center.
And you find that to rest in that not knowing is to know everything you experience.
That’s totality pristine awareness.
Now light shines form your heart, inviting void dakinis from every quarter of the world, everything that you experience. They could come pouring out of the sky, and pouring out of the ground, pouring out of everything. All holding their crystal or the sapphire flasks and pouring the light of their energy into you. All of them including the one in front dissolve into you. And your body, your whole form is suffused with light. And you yourself become light, and you rest in the light.
Then you form the intention to come here. To be here. When you come into the room the light comes with you.
Okay. Now in your practice what I’d like you to do, after you’ve done void dakini a couple of times and have a sense of that, then I want you to do each of the dakinis in sequence.
So you start with the earth dakini and everything at the end of that everything is enlightened. Come back to where you are, then you do the void…the water dakini, and then the fire dakini, air dakini, void dakini. In the process you end up with a jewel, mirror, rose, sword, and a ring of light. And when you’ve completed all of those transformations then you feel the connection between all of the symbols. It sends threads of light connecting. And they all radiate light and fill your form. And let everything dissolve into light and then you just rest. You rest in presence. I know some of you have particular instructions for doing that, that’s fine.
Here are Tilopa’s—
Student: What page, Ken?
Ken: Page 223.
Let go of what is past
Let go of what may come
Let go of what is happening now
Don’t try to figure anything out
Don’t try to make anything happen
Relax, right now, and rest.
And rest like that until you either fall into dullness or fall into distraction or busyness.
When you are resting like that thoughts may arise, but if you can rest there and just let the thoughts come go, that’s fine, there’s no problem. When you find yourself thinking, and you’ve lost any sense of presence, just relax at that point. Rest for a few minutes, and then go through all the 5 dakinis again.
So, this is how you actually practice the dakinis. You transform the totality of your experience each time. So, as I’ve said, work with the void dakini a couple of times so you become familiar with that. And then start working with all five in the way I’ve just described.
Any questions. Dick.
Dick: Is a half hour [unclear]?
Ken: Yeah. You should be able to work through all of them in yeah, in half an hour. You have 5 minutes each. And the bell will ring and then you will ave to move to the next dakini. [Chuckling]
Any other questions before we break?
Student: When you think of the void dakini, do you—or that experience of the voidness—does that kind of come from the outside? Like something happens, something really tragic happens and the rug is pulled out from under you and I’m, oh my god, in the void or is it just always there but you only touch upon it rarely?
Ken: Well, probably for most people, the only time they get that sense of complete emptiness is when something rather devastating happens in their lives. Being the perverse people that we are, in Buddhist practice we’re deliberately creating the conditions so that it happens. And it’s why it’s good to prepare so that one actually has a level of attention so that when things open up like that you can actually stay there.
Last year I gave a workshop on Buddha Nature or Nirvana, Which is Better? I was doing this with a Theravadan colleague and so that’s why we titled it that way. No it was Buddha Nature or Nirvana, Which Would You Choose? So we had a lot of fun.
But somebody had asked a question and so in response to this I suggested to everybody that they get up and balance on one foot. And then I just asked them the innocuous question, “What knows how to balance?” And one woman just looked and she saw, and she went, “That’s pretty scary.” Because she saw there’s no thing there. So I had everybody sit down.
And then talked with her a little bit. Because at first she was completely freaked out. But then she realized oh, this is exactly what she was working in her practice to experience.
So when we hit that complete emptiness, it can be a shock. Which is why a lot of effort in some traditions of practice is put into preparing so that you actually know what you are experiencing and know how to relate to it. It’s still always a bit of a shock. And reactions to it can range from feeling like you’re coming home for the first time, to feeling like you’ve lost absolutely everything, to “That’s it? You know, This is what all the fuss was about? Why didn’t they tell me this before?” So there is a whole range of possibilities.
Emptiness is always there in just the way I was describing, that space is always there. It’s very important to remember that just as space is not a thing, nor is emptiness. Okay.
Michael, did you have a question?
Michael: I had a question about anger.
Michael: I want to make sure I understand. You talked about fire and how it can be a good thing [unclear]. I always have a little fear about having anger. I also know that if I’m stuck in air or water anger can energize me to get me out of it. I guess the question, anger isn’t always about loneliness or isolation. Is that correct.
Ken: Yes, Anger can manifest in any of the elements. Did you ever see somebody doing things angrily? Thromp, thromp, thromp [Ken imitating an angry doer]. And you sort of want to tiptoe through the room and hope they don’t notice you. Anger is the reaction to a threat to a sense of who we are, or what we are. And so we’re pushing that away. And you can use any of the elements to do that. Okay.
Anything else? Everybody clear about your practice? Dick?
Ken: Okay. Let’s take a break here. We’ll meet in 10.