A Trackless Path 12
Teachings | Training
How do you go deeper into body, beyond words, and rest? Once there, what’s next? Recorded in Des Moines, NM, 2010.





Why Am I Here? Download

The “five whys” of “why am I here?” as a way to explore more deeply, moving from conceptual to emotional level; discussion of Kalu Rinpoche’s “Essence of the Dharma;” refuge as setting a direction; awakening mind; four great vows from the Zen tradition; mantras: “what protects the mind”; preparatory practices (ngondro); finding your own path.




Section 1

Monday, September?

Student: August.

Ken: August thirty-first, morning session, A Trackless Path.


Section 2

Last night I asked you to consider, those of you who’ve come recently, the question, “Why am I here?” And I encouraged you not to answer this intellectually but to listen to all the different forms of knowing in our body, guts, heart, mind, spirit, so forth and so forth. There’s also another way to work with such questions, which some of you may find helpful. And it’s a technique known as the Five Whys.

Student: Five what?

Ken: Whys. W-H-Y. So, “Why I am here?” “Well, I want to get enlightened.” Okay. “Why do I want to get enlightened?” And you just keep asking, “Why?”

Now you’ll find usually that around the third or fourth “Why?” things start to get a little difficult. And often what is happening around that point is that you’re beginning to move from conceptual or intellectual answers into the level of feeling or emotion. And you may very well around the third, fourth or fifth hit a feeling which you can experience but there may not be any words for it. That’s fine. Rest right there. Even though it’s not formulated in words—that’s why you are here.


Section 3

And this goes to a phrase that I’ve used very often borrowing from my friend and colleague Steven Batchelor: “In its institutional forms Buddhism provides very powerful answers to questions of the spirit. But sometimes the power of the answers overwhelms the stammering voice which is asking the questions.”

And we make a huge assumption, and I think a completely unwarranted assumption, when we suppose that spiritual practice is about the same thing for everyone. More and more I see this, and I’ll talk about this more this evening and later on that what we’re doing here is finding a way, each of us individually, for our lives to evolve in a direction which we may be able to feel or sense but we may not yet know. And what that direction is and how that evolution takes place in terms of what practices we do and so forth, increasingly I’ve come to see as a very individual matter. In the Tibetan tradition certainly and in most other Buddhist traditions we have the notion of The Path.

One of the books that I translated in English was titled The Great Path of Awakening, and I’ve increasingly found it interesting to replace the article “The” with the article “A.” So it is A Path, and I wonder what that book would look like if it had been titled A Great Path of Awakening? People would have looked at it, “Oh that’s just A Great Path. I want The Great Path!” [Laughter]

So, and again this is part of the reason for the structure of this retreat which I described last night how that it’s very open. Rather than me being the teacher, what I’m seeking to do here is to create an environment in which you can learn about your path and find ways that that path can evolve in your life or your life can evolve in that path—whichever way you want to put it. And the interviews that we have each day are primarily about helping you get clear about how things are evolving, or opening or moving in you. Not so much about you following a prescribed course of practice, or discipline or something like that.

Now discipline and all of those things are required but they are not prescribed—they come through your commitment to your path—and then you find certain ways of behaving, certain ways of practice helpful in that. And this is what people find. They experiment and say, “Well if I do this maybe this feels good.” And they realize, “Nope that really doesn’t work.” And so of their own volition they let go of that rather than being told, “Nope that’s not a good thing to do.” And it’s a very, very different way. So what I’m hoping is that here you will learn, and in that context my role here is as a resource in your learning.


Section 4

Any questions that any of you’d like to take up? Or comments? Okay. Thanks Leslie.

[End morning session]


Section 5

This evening I’d like to start with any questions any of you have about practice of course. About anything in the support booklet or even more general questions you may have.

Larry. Microphone should be behind you. Microphone.

[Cell phone ringing]

Ah the tinkle of little bells! [Ken laughs]

Larry: I’m looking at page 12 and the last full paragraph. Kalu Rinpoche is talking about a set of practices, and I wonder based upon your experience with him, if you could kind of talk about that set of practices because in a sense, I mean, this is called the Essence of the Dharma. And these practices impressed me for their simplicity.

Ken: So the paragraph that Larry’s referring to, bottom of page 12 in Kalu Rinpoche’s Essence of the Dharma:

First repeat refuge many times. Then generate awakening mind, the intention to work at Dharma to bring all sentient beings to full awakening. Cultivate being Avalokiteshvara, in empty appearance like a rainbow. Recite the six syllables many times. Nothing is more helpful than this. Continuously pray to your guru and dedicate all virtue to the awakening of all beings.


Larry: Right.

Ken: I thought I was just going to get away with answering questions this evening instead of giving a talk. Thanks, Larry. [Ken chuckles]

Okay, I’m going to do this in two parts. In the Tibetan tradition, and I don’t know whether this goes back to the Indian tradition of Buddhism but I suspect it does, there was a general framework for formal practice sessions. By formal practice sessions I mean where you were practicing one or other forms of meditation or you might be doing rituals or ceremonies and things. But they were unmixed with other activities. And the framework is described as the three seals—at least I think I have the correct translation there.

The seal of preparation, which is refuge and awakening mind or bodhicitta. Uh, let’s see, sbyor ba skyab ’gro sems skyes [pron. jorwa chamdro semkyé], a seal of the main practice [dngos gzhi dmigs med, pron. ngö zhi mikmé], which is usually translated as non-conceptualization but could also be translated as no reference.

And then the seal of conclusion which is dedication.


Section 6

Now if we turn to page 4, we’ve been doing this daily, you will see that there are two short prayers that we’ve been doing: the refuge and awakening intention. Now refuge is about setting a direction, and the image is one derived very much from feudal times. Or one of the explanations, one of the metaphors is derived very much from feudal times, in which the peasants would seek refuge in the local warlord with his castle so that when other armies and other problems, famines and things like that came up, they were under his protection. And the idea being that what provides you protection from the vicissitudes of samsara, and the answer is the three jewels in its most common form: buddha, dharma and sangha.

Now the buddha, dharma and sangha, the three jewels, can be interpreted on many, many levels. And Robert can I borrow your copy of Wake Up To Your Life please. I keep telling you everything’s in here. I’ve become more and more convinced that whoever wrote this should be shot. Page 43 in Wake Up To Your Life you’ll find a discussion of the three jewels and refuge.

Top of page 46:

To take refuge in the Buddha is to rest in the emptiness of original mind, free from any reference or defining characteristic. To take refuge in the Dharma is to experience the clarity of original mind, the natural awareness that knows what experience is and how experience arises. To take refuge in the Sangha is to be one with the unrestricted arising and subsiding of experience, free from the three poisons of attraction, aversion, and indifference.

Thanks. And that’s what really what refuge is about, and as I said it’s about setting a direction. And so the way one prepared for a period of formal practice is you set a direction. Or you set this direction.


Section 7

Now you’ll see here that I’ve added a few other lines, and I discussed this about a week ago but it won’t hurt to repeat it now. In the Tibetan tradition and probably in the middle and later Indian traditions, there’s some formulas for refuge which included the teacher, the guru. One has Tilopa’s famous statement to his main student Naropa, “Without a guru the thousand buddhas of the kalpa don’t appear.”

And one can view this in a number of ways. Either as a degeneration or, as I prefer to, as the beginning of a movement into a less mythical approach to practice in that most of us our practice becomes substantial and takes on—well I’ll be a little redundant here—takes on substance only when we find a person who can actually guide us. And not always, but in many cases, one forms a quite intimate emotional connection with that person. They become a very important part of one’s life. And when you have the phrase, “I take refuge in my teacher, treasured buddha,” it’s not because this person is a buddha, it’s because this person holds the possibility of awakening or that door for you.


Section 8

There’s a slight digression here. We’ve lost to a very great extent the ability to express and understand things in poetic and mythic terms. I was having a discussion on this topic with a psychologist, I guess probably seven or eight years ago. And he said, “What are you talking about Ken?” I said, “Well in Tibetan Buddhism you regard your teacher as a buddha.” And he immediately said, “Oh, so he’s infallible?” I said, “Well that’s exactly the point.”

That’s exactly what we do as Westerners. That’s an instance of how we’ve lost the ability to express and understand things in mythic terms.

Student: Understand things what?

Ken: Express and understand things in mythic terms. Because when we say, “My teacher is buddha,” we’re not saying he is an infallible human being, or he’s perfect, or she’s this or whatever. We’re really describing our relationship with that person. And that’s a very different thing. And we use this kind of symbolic language to express that very special quality. Not a friend in the ordinary sense. You know if they’re the opposite sex, it’s not a lover even though the connection can be very close emotionally and of extraordinary intimacy. But it’s where we experience what being awake means.

So that’s a natural way we can help set—or something in our lives that helps set direction. So that’s why “I take refuge in my teacher, treasured buddha.” For some reason this person is able to meet and respond to my deepest spiritual questions. Are you with me Larry?

Larry: Yes I am.

Ken: Okay.


Section 9

Then the third line here, I take refuge in the three sources: guru, deity and protector. This is a reference to Vajrayana practice. And in this context a guru—again it’s highly mythic language—the guru represents energy. The energy of inspiration, the energy of attention. It’s not something that is easily put into words. People consistently take me to task for using the word energy here. They prefer the more classical translation of blessing. I don’t like blessing because the origin of that term is the sprinkling of blood from animal sacrifice. But the idea of making something sacred. There is a kind of connection there, but I prefer to make it to more explicit even if it is a bit less poetic.

Deity refers to yidam and we’ll be saying more about that in a minute. This really represents capacity and ability.

Student: What?

Ken: Capacity and ability.

Student: Deity does?

Ken: Yes. So to take a couple of examples. Avalokiteshvara, which we’ll be discussing more, is awakened compassion. So it’s the capacity and the ability to experience one’s self and potentially one’s world as the expression of awakened compassion. Which leads one to live life somewhat differently.

Protector is a little more difficult. The classical definition of protector is expressions of awakened mind which create conditions conducive to practice and remove conditions which are not conducive to practice. And everybody says, “Oh, that sounds good.” But suppose you’ve been very successful in your career. And you’ve become completely enthralled with the comforts and opportunities that income, and honors and fame provide you. Well if you’re swept away by that completely, this is not exactly conducive to practice. So there is the possibility that the protectors manifest to make life a little more difficult. It’s usually not appreciated. Now—

Larry: Excuse me is that—

Ken: Microphone please.

Larry: Can give you give an example of a protector, I mean, iconographically.

Ken: Oh sure. Mahakala. Shri Devi, Palden Lhamo. Yeah there are several different forms of Mahakala. The Two-armed, Four-armed, Six-armed, White, Red, Blue, Green, Yellow. There are hundreds of them.

Larry: I understand.

Ken: Okay. But really—this is where it gets a little frightening—you come into a situation, you see what needs to be done, and you do it without thinking. That’s how the protector manifests. And it’s non-conceptual expression of presence. And the rational mind is way slower and often has a lot of problems with it.

One of the presentations the other day was pointing to that. If you know which one I’m talking about—Leah being shot. Okay?


Section 10

So these are a much more internal refuge.

And then in the last line, I take refuge in experience itself, empty, clear, and without restriction I make this quite explicit. So all of this is about setting direction. This is the direction I’m going in in my practice. Open to the possibilities that the teacher presents to me. This framework of teacher, instruction and support is embodied in the three jewels more internally. Developing the energy, the capacity and the abilities, and the being prepared to do whatever needs to be done in order to know experience to be empty, clear and without restriction.


Section 11

Then the second part of the preparation is awakening mind. In the Tibetan tradition most of the verses or expressions of awakening mind say something along the lines, In order that I may place all sentient beings in full awakening I’m undertaking this practice. Or it may also be expressed in the form of, Just as awakened ones before me have traveled this path, I now follow in their footsteps and go through the same kind of training.

The first of those is again an example of mythic expression, which has largely been taken literally and with a number of attendant problems. We have this whole myth of the bodhisattva who holds back enlightenment until every last sentient being is taken. Well that’s actually just one of three different kinds of awakening mind. There’s the king-like awakening mind, which you lead everybody to awakening; and then there’s the ferryman awakening mind, which you carry everybody with you across the river; and then there’s the shepherd awakening mind in which you make sure all the sheep are safe before you go to bed at night.

So, but these are all metaphors for a certain attitude that is basically an expression of compassion. But awakening mind isn’t simply about compassion—awakening mind has this awakened quality to it. So in the prayers we’re using here, I stole—if you wish, or borrowed, made use of—a very different formulation of awakening intention. This is from the Zen tradition. I don’t know whether it goes back to the Chinese tradition of Chán, but these are known as the four great vows. But they usually appear in somewhat different translation, and I after studying this quite carefully I decided, “Mmm…” didn’t like those translations so knowing no Japanese I had the temerity to translate it this way. Or render it this way. And if you see, there’s a progression here:

Beings are numberless: may I free them all.

Well that’s the conventional way that bodhicitta’s expressed—I’m gonna work for the benefit of infinite sentient beings. But if we take a closer look at how say I experience things, “What is a sentient being to me?” Well it’s a certain experience. “What’s the problem with a sentient being for me?”

Student: We suffer?

Ken: Well not only do they suffer, they stimulate reactive emotions in me. You know, if they didn’t stimulate reactive emotions in me I wouldn’t have any problem right? But they do. They trigger that stuff. So that’s the second line:

Reactions are endless: may I release them all.

Now as pretty well everyone here I think knows when you really experience a reactive emotion you discover it’s a door into a different way of experiencing things. So that’s the third line. And when you go through that door, you usually experience some kind of awakening, it’s like, “Oh,” and that’s the fourth line.

So, Beings are numberless: may I free them all leads to Reactions are endless: may I release them all. Which then becomes Doors to experience are infinite: may I enter them all. And that becomes Ways of awakening are limitless: may I know them all.

Now whereas refuge is setting direction, awakening mind is setting intention. So here it is a question of working with everything life throws at you. I have to underline one word in that: everything.


Section 12

Many years ago back in the early ’90s I found myself in a situation which I wanted to go in a certain direction, but there were some potential ethical problems with it. And I was really torn. And I kept mulling it over. And one morning it just became clear to me that one of the implicit facets of this intention to awaken, it’s not usually voiced explicitly is, You don’t get to indulge your own confusion. Ever.

Student: You don’t get to…?

Ken: You don’t get to indulge your own confusion. Ever. That’s beginning to bite pretty deeply.

Larry: What would that look like?

Ken: Well…Pat you have a…? All too many, right? [Ken chuckles] Hand the microphone over to Pat. You want to give an example of this?

Pat: Not getting to indulge your own confusion. Is that what you’re referring to?

Ken: Can you give an example?

Pat: To me indulging your own confusion is any time you stop and say, “Poor me.”

Ken: Well that’s one aspect of it. Yep.

Pat: Or, “I can’t handle it,” or “This is too much.”

Ken: No I think those are all examples. Thank you. Yes. I’m gonna give maybe a more explicit one for Larry here.

Something comes up in your life and it’s the answer to one of your forgotten dreams. Okay? So it really hits your heart. May be a person. It may be a job opportunity. I mean it could be anything. And you’re drawn to it naturally but there’s…it’s going to involve you abrogating some fairly significant commitments or responsibilities, you know, in your life and in the life of others. What do you do?

And it may be that this, something like this, entices you so much that you can’t really see that it’s your…you’re in your dream rather than the real world.

I had a horrible case of this, “Uhhh,” [students chuckle] with a client many, many years ago. Someone I was encouraging him to take initiative and step out of his box. BAD, BAD advice. So he—he was married—next meeting I had with him he was telling me how he was cashing in his IRA in order to elope with his massage therapist. And so [Ken chuckles], I managed to keep a straight face. And then I asked him about five questions because he really hadn’t thought through the implications. And by the end of those five questions his face was a rather interesting shade of green. So…managed to…fortunately nothing had happened which was irrevocable. So.

There was a person who was stepping right into indulging his own confusion. Okay? That clear enough?

Larry: Oh yeah.

Ken: Oh yeah. [Ken laughs] Okay.


Section 13

So the commitment in the bodhisattva vow, although it is generally expressed in terms of working for the benefit of all sentient beings, it’s really about being completely clear in your experience. And that’s why I like this particular formulation because it points not only to that aspect of the bodhisattva vow, it actually describes how it happens. And one of the reasons we’re here practicing together is developing the skills, and the ability, and the capacity in order to be completely clear in our experience. And so that’s why I say this is very much about intention. Okay?

Student: Mmm-hmm.


Section 14

So now we come to the next part going back to page 12.

Cultivate being Avalokiteshvara in empty appearance, like a rainbow.

Now in classical Tibetan Buddhism this meant that you imagined that you were Avalokiteshvara, and what Rinpoche’s thinking of here is the Four-armed form, which was Rinpoche’s favorite practice and is the favorite practice of many, many other teachers because it’s simple, does all the work, etc.

So you imagine you are this deity in this white form with one face, four arms with all the accoutrements, who is the embodiment of awakened compassion. And this form that you’re imagining isn’t substantial; it’s like light, like a rainbow. And by moving into this again and again you begin to create the possibility of experiencing things another way—as not being a substantial—fluid. And in order to refresh the mind, in order to provide a way of quieting the mind, you recite the six-syllable mantra om mani padme hum.


Section 15

Now let me say a word about mantra practice first. The power of mantra comes from constant repetition, and if you’re practicing mantra you say it all the time. Mantra is sometimes described or it’s explained in terms of a folk etymology that is what protects the mind. The way it protects the mind is that by reciting the mantra all the time it becomes such a habit that it replaces the undercurrent of thinking that’s always going on.

Now many of you know in your meditation you can sit and you sit very quietly but there’s this little [Ken makes sounds of ch-ch-ch-ch-ch], like you know the very old long-distance calls you could hear something in the background maybe you sometimes do on cell calls now. But you can’t quite make it out but there’s this like this conversation just below the surface. Trungpa had a wonderful term for this—subconscious gossip. So you say the mantra so much that the mantra replaces the subconscious gossip. And now you have a quiet mind.

It’s exactly the same in the centering prayer [Jesus Prayer] in the Orthodox tradition: Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, a sinner. You do exactly the same. That’s the first step in using that prayer is that you repeat it over and over again all the time until it has replaced the subconscious gossip. So this is a very, very old use.

Mantra is also used to refresh the mind, so that when you’re doing formal deity practice, you know, you’re doing this visualization and you run out of juice—you just can’t do it anymore. So then you just say the mantra and let the mind rest. Because you’re saying the mantra you’re protecting the mind from distractions and disturbances. So it’s also used to refresh the mind. And there are other uses but those are the two principle ones.

And the six-syllables was highly regarded because it was very easy. It’s short. Easy to remember. And it has been endowed with a huge amount of symbolism. There’s a book called the Mani Kabum which was written in the eighth, ninth century which is––Mani Kabum means the 100,000 instructions in reference to this mantra. It’s this thick, and it just goes through all of the different symbolic…symbolisms that have been associated with this mantra.

Student: When it’s being transmitted as a technique—

Ken: Microphone. Just a second.

Student: When that mantra is being transmitted as a technique from a guru to a student, does the guru choose one of these 108,000 different forms?

Ken: Oh no, no mention is made. Very little. Nope. You just recite the mantra in the presence of the guru. That’s the transmission.


Section 16

The way that—so I’m now going back to cultivate being Avalokiteshvara in empty appearance. This is traditional yidam practice in which you imagine yourself in this form and the form is highly symbolic. So by acquainting yourself and just spending all of this time with the symbolic representation of awakened compassion, it soaks into you. So there you are and you have four arms, and at some point they become alive ’cause you realize that four arms of compassion are the four immeasurables: equanimity, loving-kindness, joy and compassion. And so it becomes a very alive, vivid experience for you, and you’re experiencing yourself as a symbol of awakened compassion. Not substantial in the ordinary sense and it just awakens all of these possibilities for you.


Section 17

The way that I now approach that is actually very, very different. And it’s part of the reason why I translated this as cultivate being Avalokiteshvara rather than meditating on Avalokiteshvara. What I prefer to do because I think it’s more in keeping with our culture is rather than giving people the form, I will simply ask them, “Imagine you are the embodiment of awakened compassion. That’s who and what you are. How is that for you?” And well there are parts of us of course that say, “Oh, this is nice.” And there are other parts that say, “I don’t think so. This isn’t going to work for me.”

So by sitting with that very deeply you get a sense of what goes on in you that prevents you from being the embodiment of awakened compassion. And now you start working out a whole relationship with that.

And just to help things along I encourage people to take concrete scenarios. So one of my favorites is you have a very nice apartment or home, and there’s a very good Persian rug in it. You’ve hired a contractor to come and repaint that room. And he spills paint on the Persian rug. You’re the embodiment of awakened compassion. What do you do? You know, so okay what does it actually look like in real life, you know?

You’re a teacher. You have a background in education right? So, you’re the embodiment of awakened compassion. You have an at-risk kid who’s very bright, has a lot of potential you’ve been cultivating. And you discover that he’s cheated in a minor way on a test. What do you do? Or maybe cheated in a major way on a test. What do you do? So you can make up all of these things, but it’s real-life situations, you know.

You’re least favorite in-laws are coming to stay with you for a week. [Ken chuckles] Or phone you up and tell you that they’re coming to stay with you for a week. What do you do? So forth. And in this way you begin to develop, okay what does this actually mean? And I will usually have people do that for anywhere from two to six months. Just living this: this is what they do in their practice is really feel what this is like. And when they get a real sense of what it is, then I may start feeding them the symbolism, and the form, and so forth. So we get those other aspects. But very often the way they’re beginning to relate to their lives is changing substantially, which is really what this is about.


Section 18


Cultivate being Avalokiteshvara in empty appearance, like a rainbow. Recite the six syllables [many times]. Nothing is more helpful than this.

Because when you do it this way you’re cultivating compassion, and in the process of cultivating compassion you have to become open to how the world is. Everything is fluid, nothing is actually substantial, etc. So this is the emptiness component. And everything that is really essential in Mahayana Buddhist practice is right there.

So this is the main practice, no reference, just letting go. And you do this—letting go of your conceptual mind, letting go of the usual references and just immersing yourself in relating to experience this way. Of course if you’re Avalokiteshvara and if you’re embodiment of awakened compassion you have these little parts that’s having a little rebellion what do you do then? If you’re the embodiment of awakened compassion. How do you relate to those parts of you? You get the picture? Okay.


Section 19

And then move into…

Continuously pray to your guru…

This is to generate energy. You’re transforming the emotional energy of devotion into the energy of attention. You generate sufficient emotional energy through devotion—you won’t be able to think. And you can do the same with compassion. You can do the same with loving-kindness. In the Tibetan tradition the emphasis is on devotion. And you develop…you pour your heart into that, and you find that you just can’t think. Well, that’s helpful.

Student: That’s the product?

Ken: That’s the result.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yep.

Student: [Unclear] that’s the result.

Ken: Yep. And you won’t be able to think, and your mind is completely clear because of the emotional energy you’re developing. And so the path of devotion opens directly into insight.


Section 20

And then the last part of this—

Dedicate all virtue to the awakening of all beings.

This is the dedication. This is how you conclude practice so that the end of a practice session instead of I think, “Oh what a good boy am I,” and “Aren’t I going to get a lot of good stuff out of this?” and “This is really good for me,” and “I’m not gonna let anybody else in on this good stuff,” which is all about identity and feeding oneself, you say, “Well I’ve done this. May it work for the good of all.”

So you immediately dedicate it. It’s another renewal of that intention. Okay?

The metaphor that or the simile that’s used here is that when you have a teaspoon of water just by itself it quickly dries up in the sun, but if you tip it into the ocean it’s there for all time.


Section 21

Okay, so…

Larry: Can I have a follow-up?

Ken: A follow-up question. Boy you’re selfish tonight Larry. Go ahead.

Student: Here.

Larry: These are just two things.

Ken: [Laughs] We’ll see; it depends on my answer.

Larry: Why did Kalu Rinpoche choose a Four-armed rather than a Thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara? That’s number one. And number two, is in terms of doing this visualization practice with a deity, it was my understanding that to embody the deity there’s required some kind of formal empowerments.

Ken: Oh boy. Two quick questions. Right. [Laughter] Well you’ll have to ask Kalu Rinpoche. [Laughter] There are many forms of Avalokiteshvara, I don’t know, lot of different ones. The Four-armed form for reasons I have—I just don’t have enough history to comment on this—became basically the patron saint of Tibet. Both the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa are—both those incarnation lineages are regarded as expressions of Avalokiteshvara. And so the Four-armed form is a lot easier to work with than the Thousand, Thirteen-headed Thousand-armed form. But I don’t know exactly why it became so powerful.

The particular line of practice which Rinpoche taught came through visionary experience of a teacher called Tongtong Gyalpo [thang stong rgyal po], sixteenth, seventeenth century I think. I got his biography in my room I just never learned his dates. Maybe George put it in the footnotes—he’s so good at that kind of stuff. No I don’t see it here. But it was a very simple form of practice and it’s the one in here called Filling Space to Benefit Beings on page 24 and 25. And Rinpoche taught this very, very widely as a way of providing a very simple practice which covered all the essential points. So that’s the best I can offer on that one.


Section 22

Uh, empowerments. Well there are five forms of transmission if I can remember them all. There’s a direction––I’m not sure what a good translation for the next one is—you can just say a textual transmission, a permission, oh yeah, energy transmission and empowerment.

Most of what people receive from a teacher are permissions. They’re relatively short ceremonies which plant seeds of experience in the student. Or to a certain extant they plant seeds of experience, but they formally introduce a student to the practice. And literally you’re introduced to each aspect of the practice. The energy transmission and full empowerments are for the higher tantras. And those are much more elaborate ceremonies.

With the respect to Avalokiteshvara there are—this form anyway—it’s permission. And you can even practice it on the basis of a textual transmission, which is just a formal reading so you hear the words of the text from a teacher.

Now Westerners make a big hullabaloo about empowerments—go around collecting them like merit badges. And it’s…but if you ask, you know, what is an empowerment? It’s one way is it’s the planting of seed of experience in the student. And that can happen in a formal ceremony or it can happen in a casual encounter. So it can happen in many different ways.

Larry: You have the Tibetan names of these?

Ken: bka [pron. ka], rlung [pron. loong], rjes gnang [pron. jénang], byin brlabs [pron. jinlap], and dbang [pron. wong]. I can write those out for you if you want.

Larry: And what you were just—

Ken: Microphone please.

Larry: And what you were just talking about, Ken, in terms of visualizing oneself as an embodiment of compassion that really doesn’t fall within any of these areas or does it?

Ken: [Laughs]

Larry: I’m just trying to get oriented to this, you know, world of empowerments ’cause one hears about them all the time like—

Ken: Yeah but I’m the worst person to orient you in that because I’m not really in it.

Larry: Okay.

Ken: [Laughs] I mean I could put it into one of those categories. But for whatever reason, I’ve decided to come at things in a very different direction. And what I’ve tried to do in my teaching is really look at these traditional forms. And rather than just import the traditional forms into our culture, I try to ascertain, you know, “What’s really going on here?” And then find a way to do something comparable in our culture to that.

The reason I don’t like to import the traditional forms without that kind of examination is that whenever you import something like that you bring with it all of the assumptions, the ways of thinking, etc., etc. You bring a lot of stuff with it, which inevitably takes its own shape in your circumstances and that’s not always helpful. Okay?


Section 23

Nick you had a question.

Nick: On The Wisdom Experience of Ever-present Good on page 19.

Ken: Okay.

Nick: It’s the last full stanza. Some use their ability to know movement as mind, to mull over the traces as thoughts and feelings ebb and flow, etc. So, I’ve been looking at this since last year’s retreat. [Laughter] What’s going on? I don’t understand. Like, so…mulling over…I just don’t understand it at all.

Ken: Okay.

Some use their ability to know movement as mind

To mull over the traces as thoughts and feelings ebb and flow.

People who track arising and fading in stable meditation

Just spin in confusion, even if they practice for a hundred years.

Sounds pretty serious doesn’t it?

Nick: What’s the mistake there? I mean I know that—

Ken: Okay. Dzogchen practice, as in mahamudra, mind is awake, or as we could also think, you know, your heart is awake is like—and you’re just there. Very clear, vivid experience, and you don’t hold onto anything. Stuff comes, stuff goes. You may have heard the traditional analogies of Like snowflakes lighting on a hot stone. Or A knotted snake unties itself when you toss it in the air. Okay, so there’s no holding.

So what’s happening here? There you are—you have a pretty good clarity in your meditation—so there you’re sitting and thinking or feeling arises. And you know it is thinking or feeling—you’re not completely absorbed by the content. You with me? Okay? And then you say to yourself, “That was an interesting one. I wonder where that came from?” Okay? So even though you’re not absorbed by the thinking you still wonder about it. That’s mulling over the traces. You follow?

Nick: Yeah.

Ken: And then the next few lines,

People who track arising and fading in stable meditation

Just spin in confusion…

Because now I think, “Oh my mind’s getting brighter. Oh, now it’s getting clearer.” And so there’s this little bit of stepping back and a bit of commentary on what you’re experiencing. In other words you’re not in that brilliantly clear awake mind which is attaching to nothing. You follow?

Nick: Uh-huh.

Ken: That’s what Jigme Lingpa’s talking about here.

Nick: I had a feeling that I was guilty of that [Ken chuckles] so that’s why I asked. Yeah.

Ken: Well what’s the punishment, Nick? [Laughter] If you’re guilty I have to do something. [More chuckles]

Nick: Thanks.

Ken: Okay. Anything else?

Nick: No.

Ken: Okay.


Section 24

All right. Was there a question over here? Yes, JP.

JP: Can I take a step back to the previous question a bit?

Ken: That’s fine. We’re just taking a relaxed evening.

JP: Okay. In relation to empowerments and ceremonies.

Ken: Oh dear! Okay.

JP: Yep that’s where we’re going.

Ken: Pardon?

JP: I said, yes, that’s where I’m going.

Ken: Yeah, I got it.

JP: I have taken a formal refuge ceremony.

Ken: Yes.

JP: And it felt like a commitment.

Ken: Yes.

JP: In public in front of people.

Ken: Yes.

JP: Do you ever do [Ken chuckles] ceremonies such as that? I’m just curious. Like bodhisattva vow, for example?

Ken: Ah dear.

JP: I say…I say it everyday in my prayers.

Ken: Yeah, yeah. No.

JP: Just curious.

Ken: You don’t know what you’re stepping into here. [Ken laughs] Just to clarify—the refuge vow and the bodhisattva vow they’re not empowerments.

JP: Right.

Ken: Yep. You’re aware of that. I just wanted everybody else to be clear of that. Okay.

In the Tibetan tradition there are a variety of ways in which people can express their commitment, take on commitment to their path. One of the big ones, of course, is monastic ordination, and cousin to that is ordination as a layperson where you take on certain moral commitments.

The bodhisattva vow is a formal ceremony where you adopt the intention to work for the welfare of beings through becoming awake yourself. The great empowerments involve commitments of a very different sort. In Vajrayana they’re basically a commitment to experience the world a certain way—so they’re very, very difficult. And then there are additional ones such as the vow of refuge, which in Tibetan Buddhism is actually very comparable to baptism in Christianity. It’s where you enter the Buddhist way, formally. And yes, it’s a commitment.

When Rinpoche asked me or directed me to teach—I wouldn’t say he asked actually—he also gave me authority to do any form of transmission that I felt was necessary. So I’ve given vows of refuge, and bodhisattva vows, and occasionally empowerments and other things to a few students here and there—not very much. I chose a very long time ago not to do things on a public level because Vajrayana was never meant to be practiced on a public level, so I just decided let’s just forget that.

More recently, and this really goes back to about a year ago, I’ve taken a very, very hard look at where I am with all of those things. And while I see them as very, very helpful and important aspects of some peoples’ practice where the act of making a commitment and then adhering to that commitment becomes a tool for their own practice, on a personal level I’ve decided that that isn’t a way that I want to work with students anymore, so I’m not doing that anymore. And I’ve got a few people who are saying, “Well we’re just going to wait and see about that, Ken.” So, but that’s where I’m at right now. Okay. Does that answer your question?

JP: Okay. Thanks.

Ken: Okay.


Section 25

Okay. Bill, then George.

Bill: Two questions. The first is in the Essence of the Dharma, I don’t see ngöndro. [Ken laughs], and it’s not that I miss it, but I’ve been some places…

Ken: You don’t miss it [laughing]!!!

Bill: …where it’s made a very big deal of. And I’m kind of surprising not to see it in Kalu Rinpoche. So I’m wondering if he didn’t think it was [Ken laughs] belonged in the Essence. Well and, but if you want to skip that that’s fine.

Ken: [Amused] No, no it’s just so ironic.

Bill: The other question is you described refuge as direction and the bodhisattva vow as intention—

Ken: Yes.

Bill: And I’m not 100 percent sure what the distinction would be.

Ken: Oh, okay.

Ah let’s take that last one first. And just to continue with the metaphor really. So, say I want to go to Denver and from here. Well and I’m going walk, okay. So it’s a good long way. Well every morning when I wake up I got to make sure I’m facing north—direction. Then I have to start walking: intention. Okay?

You’re allowed to follow up.

Bill: I guess I would put that as a direction is a overall orientation towards a goal that’s sort of epitomized in a way that there are no details. And intention would be––

Ken: I’m going to go there.

Bill: Yeah, and the actual steps that I need to take after I’ve turned in that direction.

Ken: Yep.

Ngöndro. The reason I laughed is that when I first met Rinpoche in 1970, I was completely incapable of meditation. I mean I couldn’t sit for—a minute was pushing it; thirty seconds was impossible. Now one of the ways that Rinpoche worked is that he relied on what we would call portents.

Student: Importance?

Ken: No portents. P-O-R-T-E-N-T-S. Portents. So, when he met somebody or somebody came and said they wanted to help him, he would give them a task. And if they completed the task, then he would trust them. But if circumstances conspired, you know, trains fell off bridges or roads were washed out—you know the kinds of things that happen in India all the time—and so they weren’t able to complete the task for whatever reason, then he wouldn’t. It was a portent.

And so he didn’t care whether they were particularly bright, or capable or whatever. Did the task happen or not? And so as one of my colleagues pointed out to me many years later, I couldn’t meditate at all and I heard about this practice of ngöndro. At this point Rinpoche had given up giving Westerners ngöndro because nobody did them.

And so he gave me and my wife the practice after, hmm, we had to ask several times before he agreed. And then we had to translate it because it was in Tibetan. And there weren’t any translations around in those days. And so we translated it ourselves and then we did it. And ever after Rinpoche told all his students to learn Tibetan and do ngöndro.

So yeah he regarded it as very important. And in classical setting, it’s a very powerful practice because it’s exactly what it says, “It’s a foundation.” And when you do ngöndro you feel like you have set out bricks. And they’re in the ground and now you got something you can stand on. Of course some of us are a little slower than others, so I actually ended up doing it several times because I had a lot of stuff to work through.

But when Rinpoche’s talking about the Essence of the Dharma…well there are many Essences of the Dharma. Dogen, what’s it called? The Shobogenzo or something? It’s a little bit longer than this it’s a page and a half. And it’s Dogen’s summary of what’s essential.

Student: Genjo Koan I think.

Ken: That’s the one. Thank you. The Genjo Koan. And many teachers at one time or another after many years of practice they say, “This is what’s important.” And it’s wonderful because everybody says, “That’s very nice,” and pays no attention to it, because they’ve heard about all this other stuff and think, “Oh, this is really important. That’s really important. This is important.” And so they practice for thirty, forty, fifty years and then they write something and they write exactly the same thing because it is actually what’s important.

So ngöndro or how I like to translate it as groundwork—yeah, very important—establishing motivation, preparing you in a lot of different ways for a different approach to practice or it’s building a lot of capability, which you don’t use at that point but then becomes available to you later on in your practice. But is it essential in the same way that this what Rinpoche is writing here is? No. The essence of practice is very simple. I actually like to reduce it to one line. You know, “How can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?”

Student: That’ll do.

Bill: That’s great! [Laughter]


Section 26

Ken: Okay. George.

George: Niguma’s image graces the cover of The Trackless Path, which is the booklet that we’ve been using on this retreat. And I wonder if you could go through the symbolism of the image. What’s in her hands and not just what the meaning of it is but perhaps what significance it has for this retreat.

Ken: I like the image. [Chuckles]

George: I do, too.

Ken: You know this is painted by a friend of mine Sanje Elliott who’s very skilled artist as you can see. And he gave us permission to use this and couple of other of his illustrations.

Niguma here is shown as slightly wrathful dakini in the form of a female sadhu. You can almost think of her like a Buddhist version of a Shaivite sadhu. I don’t know what the feminine for sadhu is [sadhvi]. The staff that you see there is the Buddhist version of Shiva’s trident and represents her consort—so the union of means and wisdom.

The damaru, that’s the hand drum that she has in her right hand, would symbolize means and any number of different meanings could be attached to this, but one of them would be the sound of emptiness. Another would be the command of that level of energy I was talking about in terms of protector dakini—all of that kind of stuff.

She holds in her left hand a skull cup filled with elixir. So from the emptiness of self she drinks everything…the richness of experience. So she sits on a pelt, which would symbolize, usually it indicates a relationship with compassion, and so forth. So, no particular significance for this retreat. You can associate this whatever you want.

George: Are the three heads on the trident aversion, attraction and dullness?

Ken: Indifference, yep. Yeah that’s right.

George: And it symbolizes a victory or independence from those three directions?

Ken: Yeah they’re done.

George: They’re done. Does the blue mean anything? The color, the choice of blue?

Ken: It could. I mean it would be like sky but that may be reading too much into it.

George: And the color of her body?

Ken: Um, dark brown. Various interpretations could be given of that but I haven’t heard any particular one. Okay.


Section 27

Other questions? Nothing? Oh yes, Robert.

Robert: Going back to the discussion about ngöndro. I went through the whole ngöndro process many years ago as part of my process with my teacher at that time. And I really feel that I barely understood what I was doing. I’ve continued to practice, and I certainly have a…continue to have a tremendous commitment to practice. So I’m curious about your perspective of the role of actually understanding what you’re doing in the ngöndro in terms of laying that foundation that you described?

Ken: I think it’s quite important. Like you, the first time I did the ngöndro—pretty hazy idea of what it meant. Some of it was clear, some of it was much…not at all clear such as mandala particularly. So, I did it again when I had a better understanding. So that’s always a possibility because understanding’s cheap and doesn’t do much. Right? We’re all intelligent, most of us have college educations, understanding’s a snap for us and it doesn’t change much. So if you really want to—if you want to change then you got to do. Understanding doesn’t…doesn’t serve the purpose.

So, you know, whether you do ngöndro or another form of practice it’s primarily about doing. That’s far more important.

Okay. Anything else? Helen. Robert could you pass the mic back please. One second.

Helen: I just want to clarify what I thought I heard you say that you thought it was not necessarily essential, although it lays the groundwork.

Ken: Yeah, it’s very, very helpful. We’re talking about a certain practice which in Tibetan is called ngöndro.

Helen: Right.

Ken: Which I translate as groundwork, most people translate as preparatory practices. And it’s become very unfortunately this thing that people do so they can get the good stuff.

Helen: Yeah.

Ken: Which is a completely ridiculous way of approaching it. One of my teachers, Dezhung Rinpoche, his teacher ngag dbang legs pa [pron. Ngawong Lekpa], who was a highly regarded scholar and a very important administrator of a bunch of monastic estates, and his first basically twenty years of his monastic life he spent most of the time traveling by yak from one monastery to another taking care of affairs and business. These were big estates and there was a lot of economic, political and practical considerations to be addressed.

Now yak travel isn’t the most comfortable or the fastest form of travel in the world, so while he was traveling he constantly read Milarepa’s biography and The Hundred Thousand Songs. Just read that while he was traveling. And then at the age of 39 he said you know this is just garbage. And he gave up all of his responsibilities and his status in the monastic establishment and went to live in a cave above the monastery—or one of the main monasteries he used to be responsible for.

He then did forty-four hundred thousand prostrations, twenty-one hundred thousand Vajrasattvas, fifty-five hundred thousand mandala offerings and no record of how much guru yoga. In other words he did the practices. He didn’t do them as something that you did to get the good stuff. He just did the practices. And that’s really what it’s about. You know some students have studied with me in ngöndro—I don’t let them count. You know, they just do the practice—that’s it. And I meet with them periodically, see how they’re doing, and see what they’re understanding, or coming to know more than understand, what they’re coming to know through the practice. And at a certain point I say okay go onto the next one, but there’s no counting because I just think it takes people in the wrong direction.

Larry: But this yogi counted.

Ken: That’s what he did. You know, but also he did a few more than most people do.

Larry: But if he didn’t count who would know?

Ken: What’s your point Larry?

Larry: Well—

Ken: Microphone.

Larry: I’m kind of split on it. I mean [Ken chuckles], counting is a way of kind of keeping one focused.

Ken: Okay.

Larry: On the other hand, if you don’t count because there are quite a few preliminary practices to do, you know, and there’s probably nothing wrong with this—one could do Vajrasattva, the hundred-syllable Vajrasattva forever.

Ken: Yep!

Larry: I mean forget everything else. I’m just saying that it’s just kind of a way parceling time and—

Ken: Yes but one needs to focus on why one is practicing. That’s why the first question I asked all of you to consider is “Why are you here?” So that you don’t get caught up with all of this other stuff, which is all just aspects of the institutionalization of these practices, you know. And it’s why I’ve..don’t…in this retreat particularly I’m not presenting a particular practice, I’m not presenting a particular path. I’m encouraging each of you to find your path.

Ngawang Lekpa’s path was to go and practice this way and probably he counted just to keep his mind focused.

But he obviously wasn’t at all concerned with completing a certain number—he was only concerned with doing the practice—and that was his path. And that’s a very powerful way to practice, you know. So that’s why I am in this retreat doing what I can to help you find your path, and then you pour whatever energy you are capable of into it. And I was saying to Robert a few moments ago, understanding’s cheap—it’s not worth much.

What changes things is doing these practices because whether you look at it physiologically, neurologically, emotionally, psychology—things come about when you step out of the conceptual mind and you start working directly with the body and your experience and you do things in a different way. Then something changes—thing[s] like that. But as long as we’re trying to understand practices and things like that nothing changes.


Section 28

Okay. Yep, Helen, Leslie and then Judy. Yes.

Helen: Well I really appreciate what you’re saying here, because I have not done ngöndro but I know that sometimes in our center there’s a lot of emphasis on doing so many and then going onto the next step and so on. And [Ken gives a low chuckle] it’s kind of bothered me, but I also realize that well if there are four different aspects of your body, for example, one’s whole body, one’s mental, one’s voice, speech, and so on—that maybe one of those could particularly help you focus more than say the other practice? And maybe that awareness practice could I mean that attention could help you connect better or something. I don’t know to be more focused or whatever, but––

Ken: Well people work in different ways. Our retreat director: mahamudra was his practice. And—

Helen: Say who?

Ken: Our retreat director when I was in the three-year retreat, Lama Tenpa. Mahamudra was his practice—he didn’t do anything else. And he’d come over to the retreat sometimes, he’d say, “You know I really should offer a few tormas to Mahakala. Oh, I’m too lazy.” And by lazy he meant that he sat, you know, about twenty hours a day and he slept for about four hours sitting up. So very lazy person. And you know, and in the second retreat he didn’t teach the four immeasurables at all. And we worked…I worked with him. When he got to taking and sending he didn’t even teach taking and sending—just a very little bit—he had them doing something else.

I had a really knock down, drag ’em out argument with him about that because it had been a really important part of my training in the first retreat. And finally after listening to me, you know, basically yell at him for half an hour he just looked at me and said, “Ken that worked for you. It doesn’t work for me.” You know, mahamudra really, really worked for him.

And four immeasurables was very important part of my own practice, which is one of the reasons I teach it—because I think it’s very, very important. So other people it’s like Avalokiteshvara. Other people it is resting with the breath. There are many, many practices, and the important thing is to find a way of practice that speaks to you. That’s really what I hope you can move in that direction. And then it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing because you have something which speaks to you and brings about change in you when you do it. And that’s what’s really, really important.


Section 29

Once you get into a center-institutional thing and people are doing this practice, and this practice, you get into this comparison game: who’s getting ahead of whom? etc., etc.

I mean, one of my students at a retreat many years ago, it was an insight retreat I gave them a couple of options. One was to do the traditional insight practices and the other one was to work with Nasrudin stories. So, and she was pretty good practitioner, so she was working on her third Nasrudin story in this particular retreat. At the end of the retreat [Ken laughs] she says, “How many other people got to three?” And I said, “You’re never going to know,” [Ken laughs] because it was the comparison game again.

And this stuff comes up all the time, and it’s really, it’s worse than useless—it’s counterproductive. It works in the wrong direction. And so to the extent that it’s possible I’m trying to create a way of practice. I mean none of you, at least at this point, I don’t feel any of you are in competition with anybody else.

Student: Right.

Ken: You know, but you know, at a lot of other places that’s the kind of stuff’s going on. And it’s just not helpful.


Section 30

Okay. There are some other questions somewhere. Who was it?

Student: Leslie.

Ken: Leslie and then Judy.

Leslie: Could it possibly be a myth that he did that number?

Ken: I don’t think so. Dezhung Rinpoche wasn’t like that. No I mean, when you think about it it’s just extraordinary. But that’s just what he did. And Dezhung Rinpoche was very, very close to Ngawang Lekpa, and so one time Dezhung Rinpoche was telling us you know Ngawang Lekpa would be sitting in his cave, look down at the lights of the monastery and go, “Oh I really wish I was where it was nice and warm instead of sitting in this cold dark cave.” You know, so I don’t think it was a myth at all.

Leslie: Mmm.

Ken: This it is, you know, that’s what he did and that level of dedication. And not only dedication but that level of longing. You know, I mean there are a number of different topics which come in here which I don’t think we’ll have time to talk about all them but at least just touch on a little bit.

I just said, you know, this comparison game is really unfortunate. In the Theravadan tradition you don’t drop the comparison game until you’re a full-fledged arhat. In the Mahayana tradition you don’t drop the comparison game until it’s like eighth or ninth level bodhisattva. Like it’s really, really deep in us. So we hear stories such as the one I’ve told about Ngawang Lekpa, and immediately we start comparing ourselves. Right?

I think it is the wrong way to relate to the story. I think a better way is what I was saying a few moments ago. When you hear about that you have a visceral feeling for this person’s devotion and commitment. And that moves something in us. And actually I think potentially awakens something in us. One facet of the spiritual path that I think is very, very important is it has to be volitional. Now—

Student: Has to be?

Ken: Volitional. When you get in an institutional setting it becomes…there are many facets which make it subtly or explicitly coercive. One of the reasons I’m emphasizing resting here rather than making an effortYou can’t force anybody to rest. It’s impossible.

You can force people to make an effort but then you do things to the person that are not so good. And there’s a lot of that that goes on. But you cannot force someone to rest. And when someone rests deeply as you’ve, several of you saw in the first night you were here with Pat and Kristen giving their presentations: really powerful things happen. They happen in a different way. You can listen to this story about Ngawang Lekpa as this is how he rested. You know, and this you go, “No he was doing prostrations. He was doing work. All of this stuff.” No, this is how he rested. Outpouring of that kind of energy is what allowed him to rest completely in the practice. And he was, you know, quite a remarkable person.

So I think we need to hear these things and approach them in a good way and not a way which (a) makes us feel bad, (b) arouses our competitive thing because that’s a shortcut to insanity. I mean, and I know that from the fact there were a couple of women who heard that my wife and I had done ngöndro X number of times so they decided they had to do that, too. Well both of them went crazy in the three-year retreat. Wasn’t a good thing. And—

Student: Both of them what?

Ken: Went crazy. It was very sad. Because they were driven by the wrong motivation. And in working with you, and I think most of you know this now, I really have eagle eyes out for counterproductive motivations. Then I jump all over you when that stuff comes up because it can be really, really destructive. And I’ve seen too much of it.

Anything you want to follow up on that Leslie?

Leslie: A different topic I wanted to say that I think the reason that there’s well I feel there’s very little comparison going on is because you treat people very equally so that produces a certain atmosphere.

Ken: Yeah, well thank you.


Section 31

Okay. Judy you had a question.

Judy: Well I’ve been thinking about what you said about the Chenrezi practice and you know interpreting it into like life situations. And I’ve been really just digesting it I guess. I did that practice that you were describing when I was much younger and just remember you know trying to do Tibetan and read the English at the same time, [Ken chuckles] do the visualization, do the mantra, and you know none of that quality—I mean actually it got boring after a while because there wasn’t that sort of essence in the belly to really get motivated by. And so I guess my question is when you were saying, you know, understanding is cheap, it feels like approaching it from that res…that angle does bring in a certain kind of understanding that doesn’t seem cheap but really grabs you to go further.

Ken: Yes, but I’m not calling that understanding, I’m calling that knowing. Just understanding how a practice works, what it does—this is cheap.

Judy: Okay.

Ken: And it doesn’t do anything. But when you, as you said, take okay what does compassion…what does awakened compassion mean in this situation? Now you’ve got to work. You know, because you’ve got stuff pulling you in this way, and stuff pulling you in this way, and stuff pulling in that way all over the place. And so you’ve got to work, and you end up forming different relationships with all of that internal material and then actually translating that into action in the world. That changes things.

Judy: It’s very alive.

Ken: Yeah.

Judy: It’s not a theory of any kind or even, you know, a set of {a,b,c}.

Ken: No. No and there’s no formula because you give two people the same situation, but because they’re two different people, awakened compassion is going to look different in those two situations.

Judy: I’m going to sit on that one longer. I have another question though also. At the end where it says Continually pray to your guru, is that sort of a referring of just getting to a point where you’re just in a sense connecting with the guru all the time or is that referring to something very specific?

Ken: Both. There are different forms of prayer, and one form is as you’ll find a couple of examples on bottom of page 22, top of page 23 are two forms of prayer. The first one’s used in the Shangpa tradition, the second one’s used in the Kagyu tradition. And these are actual prayers. And you can shorten it down to the Tibetan expression lama chenno, which basically means guru think of me. And there are people who just recite that—that’s their prayer—virtually becomes a mantra.

And then there’s another form of prayer, and these aren’t mutually exclusive at all, in which you continually feel the presence of your teacher in your life. That can be cultivated in a number of different ways. One of the traditional ways is to imagine the guru on your head—that goes way back to India. Another is to imagine the guru in your heart. And it’s a practice. And you do this, or you just have that sense of your teacher’s presence in your life, and you’re very deliberately cultivating that. And you can say well this is artificial and contrived, etc., etc. That’s all true, but when you put this kind of energy into it, you’re changing your internal environment.

You’re introducing this element and you’re actually changing what you’re working with…what’s going on in your experience. And when that becomes sufficiently deeply embedded, it starts translating into a different way of experiencing the world. So, and these are methods and they do produce results.

Does that help?

Judy: Thank you.

Ken: Okay.


Section 32

Let’s stop here and we have time for a short meditation and we’ll return to Ever-present Good tomorrow evening but I want to touch base with you periodically on your questions.