A Trackless Path II 12
Through practice you develop the ability to experience whatever arises in your life. When you have difficulty experiencing something it is often due to a problem with willingness, know-how, or capacity. The teachings from this retreat, recorded in Des Moins, NM during 2010, focus on how to increase these capabilities, the importance of intention and related matters.





Commentary on text, practice concerns Download

Commentary on “The Wisdom Experience of Ever-Present Good;” resting deeply; practices such as primary practice and four immeasurables to transform energy and deepen resting; natural awareness taking expression as compassion; working with comparing mind by coming back to body.




Section 1

August 10th, A Trackless Path II, evening session. I got it right didn’t I? Okay.

What was your question Roby? Microphone. [Whispering] He doesn’t know what dangerous waters he’s stepping into, but—

Roby: I have a Tilopa question.

Ken: Okay. Fire away. I don’t guarantee to understand it. There’s a lot of enigmatic stuff about Tilopa but that’s—

Roby: On page 22, verse 26. Pith Instructions of Mahamudra INSERT It seems kind of odd. After 25 verses of Let the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear. Let appearances come and go on their own. And then in 26, he brings up a remedy which just seems kind of out of place, because he’s saying let go and rest.

Ken: Yeah. Okay. Couple of points here. What the Tibetan says here is, those of less ability, the lower class, spiritually speaking. You know, you have those of high ability, those of middle ability, and those of low ability. So this is dbang po dman (pron. wongpo men) in Tibetan. Okay?

Now, one of the things, and we’ll hit this directly in The Wisdom Experience of Ever-present Good, the way things are talked about a lot in Buddhism, is talking about different classes of people, saving all sentient beings. All kinds of things like this. And these, in my opinion, and there are lots of people who will just jump at the chance of to take me to task on this, are all mythic forms of expression. That is, they’re expressing things indirectly, symbolically or poetically, etc.

So—and I have this troublesome, little—not democratic but egalitarian—I’m not quite sure but, I just really don’t like talking about, “Oh you poor people down here, you foolish things,” and so forth. It doesn’t make sense to me given what they’re talking about.

So if you look at one’s own experience. Sometimes your mind is really clear and really workable. And you know, you just sit, and you let go and you can rest in the present and stuff arises. You can actually do all this stuff. And other times you can’t. [Laugher] Right?

And, this to me, is how Tilopa’s describing what do you do when stuff is mucking around in you and you can’t get anything going in your practice. Well, then you do some work. When your mind is less acute and does not truly rest. And this is very important. If there is no resting in mind there is no possibility of doing what he’s talking about. And we have hundreds, thousands of people in the West who have zero ability to rest their mind, thinking they’re doing mahamudra and dzogchen. When all they’re doing is sitting and their thoughts are wondering all over the place.

A very good friend of mine, many, many years ago, he trained very, very deeply in the Theravada tradition. He’s a very, very bright guy. And he started studying dzogchen, and practicing dzogchen. And we were having dinner one night, and he just looked at me and he said, “You know, you really need a lot of stability to do this stuff.” And I said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that.” He understood, because of his Theravada training what it really required. And there are a lot of people who don’t.


Section 2

So, if your mind isn’t clear, and it’s not resting, then you actually do need to do some work. And so work the essentials of energy. These are energy transformation techniques. And there are many, many. Last year we discussed the primary practice, which is a fairly straightforward, relatively safe, energy transformation practice, which builds up a body of energy, which allows you to see through a lot of obscurations and distortions, etc., and bring the mind to some kind of rest. The whole principle of inclusive attention, which I talk about a lot, is also an implicit energy transformation practice.

If you approach the four immeasurables the right way, they are an energy transformation practice. Even taking and sending, in a subtle way, is an energy transformation practice. And necessary in order to raise—and you also have in the Theravadan tradition the jhanas practices, which are very explicitly energy transformation practices. And there are a whole bunch. And then you have the very high level stuff you get from the Tibetan tradition and dzogchen like the Six Yogas of Naropa and anuyoga, etc., in which you are using the symbolic representation of mind as channels and energy and vital essences and so forth to transform basic energies to the body so that they become available for attention. And there’s a wide variety, most of them, especially higher level stuff, are inherently dangerous so they need to be practiced carefully. And you can really, really mess yourself up if you practice incorrectly. And I can tell you all about that.

And so with these different techniques you actually bring out the vitality of awareness and now you’ve got something to work with again in your practice.

So ah—and you know there’s in the dzogchen tradition in the sems ’dzin (pron. sem dzin), there’s The 21 Ways to Take Hold of Mind. It’s relatively easy to get a copy that text. There’s 21 different techniques, all of which are which are various energy transformation techniques and they bring out awareness. And that’s their function.

So there are a lot of different techniques and through the course of history there have been hundreds and hundreds of these and lots and lots of them have been lost.

When I was in the three-year retreat I came across this really strange text from Niguma. And all that remains is this fragment. And it’s a meditation on the four immeasurables using vital essences. It’s impossible to comprehend. Nobody knows what it is, but it’s clear there’s a whole energy transformation technique based on the four immeasurables. It’s lost. You know, I mean heaven knows how much stuff has been lost. So it happens.

But there are all of these techniques and it’s a way of, when everything is all mucked up, it’s a way of working so that you can restore, regenerate energy in the system so you can be clear and sufficiently stable so you can actually do this other stuff.

Now, as one’s practice deepens, then—and that transformation energy becomes part of the way, it becomes deeply assimilated, and this is where you get this 10,000 hours stuff, etc. Then practice has its own momentum. And you need to resort to these techniques less and less, but that comes from consistent practice over a long period of time.

More than you wanted to know?

Roby: No, that’s great. Thank you.

Ken: Okay.


Section 3

Any other questions before we…? Speak now or forever hold your peace. All that stuff. Okay.

Page 26 [The Wisdom Experience of Ever-present Good]. [Pause] The first time I taught this we took, Carolyn, what—three weeks? Ah, not quite three, about two and little bit. I remember.

Carolyn: It was a three-week retreat.

Ken: It was a three-week retreat but we finished it before the end of the three weeks.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Ken: Yeah. So, I’m not going to go through it in quite the detail tonight. Ever-present good in Sanskrit is Samantabhadra; in Tibetan: kun tu bzang po (pron. kuntu zangpo). In Tibetan iconography it’s the Adi-Buddha or Primordial Buddha, particularly in the Nyingma tradition. It’s also the basis of Shambala training. Basic Goodness is basically Samantabhadra.

And, this goodness that is being referred to is not the goodness of goody two-shoes. It’s nothing so naïve as that. Represents a very profound tenet of Buddhist practice, which actually is borne out by experience but in all fairness it’s fair to call it a tenet. And that is the nature of awareness is basically good.

Student: Could you repeat that?

Ken: Is basically good. Now, there’s actually a little bit of experimental evidence for this. A friend of mine who’s a professor and he got his PhD in the study of positive emotions, which is a relatively recent field of psychology. And one of his colleagues, I think, had been exposed to some Nyingma training, and decided to experiment with what was the effect of having people gaze at the clear sky, for 30 minutes a day, over a month’s time, or something like that. Set up a control group, etc. And found, interestingly enough, that the before-and-after altruism scores, the differences were off the

charts. So there’s your experimental evidence. [Laughter]

kun tu bzang po is usually depicted as a completely naked—naked awareness. And naked awareness, natural awareness, however you want to think of it. And so, fundamental to this perspective is that when you let things settle completely, and there’s that natural clarity, and openness are present, it naturally takes expression as compassion.


Section 4

Now, one of the reasons I’ve been referring you more than a few times to emotions and whether devotion or faith or compassion, etc., and actually making those part of your practice. Even the practice of sitting like holding those feelings in one’s heart as one sits is because, in my view, the definitive spiritual quality is compassion. It’s not insight.

And I arrived at this through two or three different routes. But the principle one was the question: What enables you to see beyond your own culture, when you’ve never stepped outside your culture? And it is clear from looking at things historically that it’s not insight. We’ve had people of extraordinary insight who get completely wrapped up in the politics of their days and so forth. The quality that allows you to see beyond your culture is compassion because compassion—because with compassion you see suffering and the destructiveness of suffering wherever it is, even if it is regarded as the natural of order things by your own culture.

In many cultures women have a somewhat secondary place. And that’s seen as the natural order of things. And there’s plenty of literature in our culture going back a couple hundred years for that perspective.

People, who are less fortunate—I mean, well up into the nineteenth century, the notion that the aristocracy were somehow special people, when actually they just had better food. And that’s why they were bigger and smarter than the rest of the population, because the rest of the population had very, very low protein diets. So the suffering of the lower classes was just regarded as just the natural order of things and wasn’t regarded as suffering or as an inequity or imbalance in the society itself.

But compassion prevents and disallows that interpretation of experience. And so you find through the ages, individuals, and sometimes small groups that tended to the sick, the needy, etc., because they saw the suffering and the destructiveness of suffering.

So the purpose of our practice here is, from my perspective, not to get the highest wisdom. The wisdom and understanding come through deep experience enable us to see things more clearly, and in seeing things more clearly, then we start hitting compassion. And from this perspective, emptiness is the means to compassion. Which is a little bit of the reverse of how it is often expressed.


Section 5

And kun tu bzang po or Samantabhadra, this ever-present good is the union of compassion and wisdom. So Jigme Lingpa starts off by paying homage. And he makes it clear that he’s going to talk about mind. And, as we’ve already encountered with Tilopa, there’s the analogy of space. He’s well aware of the limits of metaphors as we discussed this morning or yesterday? Am I wrong?

Student: Yesterday.

Ken: Yesterday. Yeah. I lost track of time, sorry.


Section 6

Now the next nine verses run through, as what is known in the Nyingma tradition as The Nine Yanas. And again, Roby, this is reminiscent of your question a few moments ago about that verse of Tilopa. Interpreted literally these come across as criticisms of the eight yanas in favor of the great one which is dzogchen, or The Great Completion. This, I think, is a naïve reading.

And if you look at this from a mythic point of view, let’s take the first one:

Suppose the house of a poor man contains a wonderful treasure,

And although he has it, he doesn’t know it:

He continues to be a poor man.

In the same way, you are tangled in a net of unaware thinking

And don’t know what you have. How heartbreaking, you beings in samsara!

Now can any of you recognize yourselves here? [Laughter]

No? You know, we can use traditional formulations. We all have buddha nature. Unless, of course you’re Joshu, that’s another matter. But we don’t know it. We don’t even know what it is. There is this possibility of a totally different way of experiencing the world, and our lives, and ourselves. And we don’t know it. So it’s like this treasure in the house of a poor man. It’s there, but he’s still poor. He doesn’t know it.

A different way of reading these next eight verses is that Jigme Lingpa is pointing to ways of approaching spiritual practice that are present in every one of us. This is what we do.


Section 7

Let’s take the next one:

When you turn your back on the path of natural being,

How many of you have done that? Only one or two. [Laughter]

Mistaken notions don’t stop at all.

Right? And how many of you have tried the ascetic path in some way or other, at some point in your life—going to practice very purely. How many of you have taken the idealistic everything-is-mind path, at some point in your life? I’m going to eschew this base materialism. Nobody—oh, come on. You’ve all done this at some point. Or how many of you have gotten totally into materialism? Ah, yeah. Thinking that was the answer to everything. [Laughter] Okay.

So you ascetics latch onto a single principle

From such flawed philosophies as order or chaos.

Now, Charles, long ago, took issue with my translation of order and chaos, and what did we end up with? Mind and matter? Yeah, so you can change that to such flawed philosophies as mind and matter.

In other words all of us, probably some of us still do, tend to try to slot all experience into one category and make that the way we relate to things. It’s all mind. Or mind is an epiphenomenon of the neurochemistry of the brain. So it’s all matter. One or the other. It’s idealism of one sort or another. And such philosophies were rampant in India. That, when we take a one-sided approach, then necessarily things get out of balance. So,

How confused you are by wrong ideas…


Section 8

Let’s take the next one:

Mind itself is originally pure like space.

As long as you use conceptual knowing to look for it,

Hands up how many can relate to this line? Okay. Yeah, we were a little more successful there.

You get stuck, like a bug caught in its own spit.

[Laughter] Okay?

Turning your back on what is, you are still ruled by wanting.

Because you cannot get at the basic emotional drives intellectually, or conceptually. The intellect or that level of functioning simply does not have enough power or energy to meet emotional drives with any effectiveness.

Now, he says, you listeners, but what he’s referring to are these tendencies to take an intellectual approach to things. And the next one.

Jeff: Ken?

Ken: Yeah, microphone’s up here.

Jeff: I didn’t make that leap to basic emotional drives.

Ken: Well—

Jeff: In the preceding—

Ken: That was me filling in blanks. Now,

Mind itself is originally pure, like space.

As long as you use conceptual knowing to look for it,

You get caught, like a bug in its own spit.

Turning your back on what is, you are still ruled by wanting.

There’s your basic emotional drive. You follow?

Jeff: Thank you.


Section 9

Ken: So the next verse, he’s pointing out the problem in relying on the categorizing of experience. Now of the 18 early schools of Buddhism, the only one that really survived with us—Starvastivadin.

Student: You mean the Sarvastivadin.

Ken: Thank you, Sarvastivadin. And—I was thinking of the Sthaviras, which became the Theravadans, you’re right. And you know why they survived? Why they became—all the other ones, we don’t have very much from them? But we do have the Sarvastivadin?

Student: They categorized everything?

Ken: Yeah. They made lists. So the moral of the story is, if you want to be immortal, make a list. [Laugher] And then you will be known through history because it caters to everybody’s conceptual mind. And you will be revered and thought very wise, etc. This is a very good list, etc., etc. And the whole idea of relating to the experience directly will never enter the picture because nobody wants to actually do that. [Laughter].

So, and that’s the cycle of teaching on ignorance, interdependence, and samara; you follow this meticulously and exclusively. You know, the categorization, we have the 75 dharmas of the Sarvastivadin broken up into the dharmas of samsara, and the dharmas of nirvana, and the dharmas of the path, etc. etc. And all, you know—while I was going through old papers, I came across the wonderful diagram that I made of all of this stuff. And I went, “Boy, that’s so good. It just shows you how all of this stuff is linked together.” Bookkeeping.

Ah, what Jigme Lingpa’s saying,

Your mind is the source all experience, patterned or free.

Patterned or free is my translation of samsara or nirvana.

You awaken completely when you rest and do nothing at all.

Ahh. [Ken sighs] So much for the lists. Don’t need them. You just have to rest. And then you experience things differently. The lists don’t actually help you. I’m not a great fan of the abhidharma. The problem is the lists and everything are very seductive. They give you the illusion of understanding something.

How charmed you must be with this artificial awakening.

Because it’s the idea of awakening. The study meticulously, rather than the actual experience.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yeah, somewhere around there.

Larry: But Ken that has served some people.

Ken: Yes. You’re quite right. It has. But that’s not what Jigme Lingpa’s about here. What he’s saying, what he’s doing here is pointing you to your tendency to categorize experience into these lists. And he’s saying, this isn’t going to help you.

Larry: I’m not trying to argue, I guess I agree.

Ken: Yeah.

Larry: I’m just trying to say it has helped someone.

Ken: Yeah, I mean all of these things do. Wait ’til you get to the next one.


Section 10

Caught up in…I’m going to skip to the third line here.

Caught up in logic and analysis, you sophists distort how things are

Because you believe in descriptions of the two truths.

Now how much literature has been developed on the two truths? [Laughter]

Student: What are the two truths?

Ken: Two truths? Oh, what is—my translation of what is relatively—oh no, what is apparently and what is ultimately true. Usually translated as what is relative truth and absolute truth. And we’ve got lots of experts in the room but I’m not going to ask them.

This is the backbone of the Mahayana. This description of experience in terms of the two truths. And the first thing, of course, is everybody holds them to be actual truths. And then there’s the relationship between the two truths, and how do you reconcile them. And it just goes on and on and on. And there are different versions of them, it just goes—huge amounts of literature on it. I mean some of it’s really good philosophy.

But as—and I remember Dezhung Rinpoche, who was the top Sakya scholar of his generation, extraordinary man. When Lobsang was translating Moonbeams of Mahamudra, one of his main resources was Dezhung Rinpoche. Arrangements were made for him to live on Long Island while this work was being done. Why? Because there were all kinds of scriptural references in Moonbeams of Mahamudra. And the person who was sponsoring the translation of this wanted them to be accurately tracked down in the Kangyur.

And Dezhung Rinpoche’s knowledge was so vast and extensive—and the Kangyur is 108 volumes of text, that if he didn’t know the verse exactly where it was, at least he knew where to look for it. And so he was able to track all these references down without too much trouble.

And so—and there’s a long tradition of debate. And I remember Dezhung Rinpoche saying to me one day, “You know, sometimes in these debating contests, you get these people, and they didn’t understand anything about the dharma, but they were really good at debating. And they could be really, really hard to defeat ’cause they were so tricky.” But he was quite clear they didn’t have any understanding of mind or experience, etc. etc. They were completely conceptually rooted. And this is what Jigme Lingpa was talking about here. How many of you have relied and perhaps continue to rely on trying to understand mahamudra? [Laughter]

Yeah, and if you just figure out what it means philosophically—I know you’ve done this because you come in and say, “I’m trying to understand this, Ken,” in the interviews. Of course, you’ve been received appropriately when you do that.


Section 11

It’s a very, very long path. I remember Kalu Rinpoche, who used to be invited by the Dalai Lama to come and talk to the geshes in Dharamsala. And he was very, very appreciated because they would ask him these very abstruse, philosophical questions. And even though Kalu Rinpoche was very learned, by Tibetan standards, he wasn’t a scholar at all. And he would answer these questions right out of his experience ’cause he spent years and years in mountain retreats. And the geshes would just listen to this, and go Wow! And then he’d come back to Darjeeling and say, “Boy that’s a difficult path,”—trying to understand it intellectually.

So we have this tendency, and one of the things that I’ve noticed in people; you’ve heard me talk a bit about willingness, know-how, and capacity. Well, groups, such as this here, there’s a tremendous amount of willingness. You know, you’re working very hard at practice. And that creates the energy that we are able to draw on in this retreat.

The degree of learning here varies widely. Some of you are very, very well trained in various aspects of Buddhism, and others are coming in really out of your love and interest and practice and haven’t done as much reading or study or formal study or anything like that. But you’ve learned how to practice, which is great.

When somebody says something and we’re unable—it doesn’t make sense to us—our first impulse is to try to understand it. And in this arena, most of the time, the reason that something doesn’t make sense to us, or we can’t connect to it, isn’t because of our lack of understanding. It’s because of our lack of capacity. We don’t have the sufficient level of attention or clarity or what have you. And basically, I’m sorry—so we tend not to notice that and think that, “If I could just think this through.” And so we start to analyze it, and think it, intellectualize it, etc. etc. And it just doesn’t work. We…and people really strain themselves. You know, even pop blood vessels doing this. The appropriate thing is to do push-ups. You know, just get out there. [Ken exhales and inhales.] That’s the meditation push-up. [Laughter]

And really work at developing clarity and stability and attention. And this is—you don’t have to understand anything to do this. This is like doing push-ups. It’s not particularly interesting. [Talking to himself.] That’s right, that’s the story. Okay.


Section 12

Larry: Ken, can I ask a question?

Ken; Please.

Larry: Ken, I understand that knowing and conceptual is not the route to this.

Ken: Yes.

Larry: I mean you’ve told me many times. [Laughter] However, earlier in your presentation this evening, you told us that there were thousands of people out there, who were thinking they were doing mahamudra and they were just basically, well, in my words, confused.

Ken: Yes. Okay.

Larry: And so, to me there’s kind of a gap that needs to be filled in here somewhere, between the thousands, of which I’m probably one of them, and—

Ken: But you’re here, so I don’t think you are.

Larry: And the absence of any kind of conceptual understanding being the route to where we’d like to develop. That’s a question. [Laughter]

Ken: Well, it’s not the absence, it’s the reliance. Sazaki Roshi used to say, “Give me a person off the street. Two, three years, I can do something with them. If he’s read one philosophy book, ten, twelve years.” [Laughter] Okay?

Larry: Should I burn my books, or put them away?

Ken: [Pause] Trust your heart.

Larry: You mean about putting my books away?

Ken: That, and a lot of other things, too. [Laughter] [Pause] And, really, one of the aspects of practice we talked a lot about, is just resting. And resting really does require trusting your heart. And that’s what makes it so challenging for many people. So that’s what I say to you: trust your heart.

Larry: Thank you.


Section 13

Ken: Okay. [Excerpt of The Parable of the Greedy Sons fromTales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah]

There was once a hard-working and generous farmer who had several idle and greedy sons. On his deathbed he told them that they would find his treasure if they were to dig in a certain field. As soon as the old man was dead, the sons hurried to the fields, which they dug up from one end to another, and with increasing desperation and concentration when they did not find the gold in the place indicated.

But they found no gold at all. Realizing that in his generosity their father must have given his gold away during his lifetime, they abandoned the search. Finally, it occurred to them that, since the land had been prepared, they might as well now sow a crop. They planted wheat, which produced an abundant yield. They sold this crop and prospered that year.

After the harvest was in, the sons thought again about the bare possibility that they might have missed the buried gold, so they again dug up their fields, with the same result.

After several years they became accustomed to labour, and to the cycle of the seasons, something which they had not understood before. Now they understood the reason for their father’s method of training them, and they became honest and contented farmers. Ultimately they found themselves possessed of sufficient wealth no longer to wonder about the hidden hoard.

Building capacity. It’s very difficult being a teacher. [Laughter]


Section 14

Okay. The next verse is about kriya tantra. Kriya tantra is all about ritual. And how many of you, at some point in your practice, have been obsessed with being absolutely pure? Doing it exactly right? Okay. So pay attention here.

Mind itself doesn’t take up the good or give up the bad.

Okay? We saw that in Tilopa’s verse, talking about spaces beyond color.

A shrewd moral practice, acts as an added pollutant.

’Cause you’re always thinking about, “Is this right? Am I doing it…ah…oh…is this wrong?”

The forms of dualistic fixation distort what is not two.

And so ritual tantra is how I translated kriya tantra ’cause I wanted to put this into English without these strange Sanskrit words as much as possible.

Now all of these practices serve a purpose for certain stages of spiritual development. But what Jigme Lingpa’s pointing out is these tendencies in us. ’Cause, “Okay I’m going to be totally pure in my practice. I’m going to do it just right.” And as I say in my commentary on The Heart Sutra, the desire for purity is an expression of anger and always leads to war. You know, pure morals, pure food, ah…pardon?

Student: Vows.

Ken: Pardon?

Student: Pure vows.

Ken: Pure vows, pure art. The ones who are engaged in pure art are the most aggressive artists. You know, pure ideology. They’re the ones that kill. The pure—the ideologues who are obsessed with purity of ideology—they’re the ones who kill others. So the desire for purity is an expression of anger ’cause you can’t stand dirt.

Student: Can’t stand what?

Ken; Dirt. You don’t want to have anything to do with dirt.


Section 15

Next is behavioral tantra. Yes.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Microphone please.

Student: That’s like rejecting a part of yourself—

Ken: Exactly.

Student: And not accepting your self.

Ken: Or parts of yourself. I mean, and we do this. People don’t want to have anything to do with certain aspects of themselves. I mean, some people take ordination because they absolutely don’t want to have anything to do with their sexuality. And they’re almost always the ones to break their vows first. Because you cannot cut yourself off from this stuff.

Yes. I mean that’s why Jigme Lingpa says, The forms of dualistic fixation distort what is not two.


Section 16

Now behavioral tantra is upaya tantra, and in this form of practice, you make every aspect of how you live part of your spiritual practice. So everything becomes, every action becomes endowed with a symbolic significance. So when you’re sweeping the floor, you’re sweeping away distortions and obscurations, and things like that.

So Jigme Lingpa says,

The natural condition is not good or bad. It doesn’t grow or fade.

Even when you stop ordinary concepts with outlook, practice and behavior,

You still hold as real your activity in means and wisdom.

And the problem here is you really think you’re actually doing this. Now how many of you have done this at some stage in your practice? Yeah. You take it all very literally. We do this. In behavioral tantra, you waste time doing stuff when there is nothing to do.

How tiring your chosen disciplines…

Please note, some of his disciples when they were reading it noted discipline. Behavioral philosophy.

Then we come into union tantra, yoga tantra. This is where you actually begin to identify with the yidam or deity. And you see the deity as a symbol of awakened mind. But you get caught up in the symbology and attached to it as having significance in and of itself. And at this level you get into the outer, inner, secret, all these different intricate levels of interpretation, which Tibetan Buddhism abounds in. I mean it’s really great stuff in one way, but you really get mired in it in another.

The next one—and I’m not too sure why Jigme Lingpa does this—he skips from yoga tantra to anuyoga. The usual order is to go to mahayoga first, but for whatever reason, he skips here.

This is where you’re working with subtle energies of the body and energy transformation practices. So he’s talking about using complex practices to relieve and refresh mind channels in energy.

And what happens here is that you get caught up in this way of working, and you take the channels and the energies to be actual real things. This is just your physiology. And the experiences that are generated are real experiences, when actually they’re similitudes of awakening. They aren’t actual awakening, they’re similitudes. And the idea at this level of practice is you generate these similitudes so that you become very, very deeply familiar with it, and it increases the possibility of the mind just dropping in to awakening. And the contrast is what you find in the first two lines:

By resting in the state that doesn’t rely on effort or process,

You can use the result, pure being, as the path.

Which is a lot of what we’ve talked about, you just rest naturally. But people get fixated on generating states of bliss and states of clarity, states of non-thought, etc. And so what he’s talking about is that tendency to become obsessed with the kinds of experiences that you can generate through energy transformation practices. And we find this. I mean how popular are books on sexual tantra? You know, I mean, what’s the big contribution of Eastern spirituality to the West? Better sex.

Students: [Laughter]


Section 17

Ken: [Laughter] [Sighs] Ahh. Yes.

Student: I was just curious on all these practices. How much of it is like we did the practice the other morning, manipulating your experience? You know when you’re doing these—

Ken: Which practice did we do the other—

Student: One of these, things like tantric practices. Is that considered manipulating your experience to induce a bliss state?

Ken: Yeah, you’re definitely drawing, working with basic energies in the body to produce bliss states. I mean, that’s the heart of the Kagyu tradition is you generate these intense bliss states. And then, you use the intensity of that bliss to power attention, which allows very profound levels of insight to arise. And that’s the purpose of generating those bliss states is to power attention. Okay?

And I was discussing this with Thrangu Rinpoche once, and basically he said, “Well you know, you introduce people to mahamudra and if they get it that’s fine. And if they don’t get it then you give them this practice, you know. And it’s just the ones who really don’t get it that need this really powerful stuff.”

And, but then people get obsessed with these higher level practices. I know many, many people who—and you see this very much in yoga circles. They really attach to the states of bliss that they are able to generate. And it becomes an obsession. And you can see it in people because when people become obsessed with those kinds of things, you’ll see that there’s an imbalance which generates in the body. And there will be lines of strain in their face and in the way their body is because they’re actually sapping energy of the body for this. Okay?


Section 18


Claudia: I find these texts that say No effort. No practice. frustrating. I mean because you just said it, maybe five minutes ago: how much effort, how much practice, how many years of working with attention and stability in developing a clear mind. Yes, once you have all that done, then you do a practice that requires no effort. But I don’t think it’s very clear in these texts, and I think that’s why people get confused.

Ken: You’re absolutely right. [Laughter] We are studying, and working with high level mystical texts. And we put it into Western vocabulary. Very, very high level stuff, in which in most other contexts, or in earlier times, let’s say, you’d only be exposed to these texts after you had gone through a very, very rigorous training. But that’s not the nature of the world that we live in today. And there’s very little we can do about that. And as has already happened in other religious traditions, there are going to be many, many people who take this stuff and think they can do it and not make any effort, etc., and they will be hopelessly misled.

We have a very famous example of this—it’s Milarepa. After Milarepa had murdered most of his relatives through black magic, his sorcery teacher came back from a patron who had died. And his sorcery teacher said, “You know Milarepa,”—he wasn’t called Milarepa at this point. Thöpaga I think is what he was called. “We’ve done a lot of bad stuff. We’ve really done a lot of bad stuff. We’ve got to do something about this. So either you stay here and take care of my family and I’ll go off and practice the dharma, or you go off and practice the dharma and I’ll provide you with the means to do so. And I’ll take care of my family and everything.”

And Milarepa’s quite taken aback by this…’cause I mean this teacher taught him and he finally got revenge of being robbed of his inheritance by his uncle and other relatives. But it struck a chord in him. And so he said, “I’ll go and work at this.”

And he went off and happened to come across a very famous dzogchen teacher, a very highly regarded dzogchen teacher. And the teacher said to him, “Ah yes, I have a teaching. And it’s a very famous teaching in the dzogchen tradition. You meditate in the day and you awaken to buddhahood in the day. And you meditate in the evening, you awaken to buddhahood in the evening.” Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? And he gave this to Milarepa. And Milarepa took it literally. And just sat in his cave and didn’t do anything.

A week or two later, the teacher came up to check on him and saw that nothing had happened. And he went, “Hmm. I may have been a little too lavish in my praise of these teachings. I see that this isn’t going to work between the two of us. I think you better go and see Marpa.” And so off Milarepa goes to Marpa. And Marpa takes one look at Milarepa, hears his story, and says—knows what he has to do and puts him to work.

So, you’re absolutely right.

Student: [Unclear]


Section 19

Student: I would like to piggyback on that question with maybe two practical questions about practice. So should I wait or—

Ken: No, go ahead.

Student: Okay. So I’m reading Clarifying the Natural State. And it’s very one foot in front of the other. First you do this, then you do that.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: First you start with a stick. You start with a stick in the daylight. And you put the stick, you know, in the shadow. All of that. My own experience is that I always end up circling back. For example, with developing stability. You develop to a certain point and then bring in some energy and then you have to go back to stability. And then you do the insight, which gives you a blast of energy. Then you have to go back to stability. So it’s always circling back. Whereas the book seems very linear. And in particular, one of the things that I noticed is…

Student: [Unclear]

Student: Am I saying something—

Ken: She’s on your side.

Student: [Unclear]

Student: Oh. In particular, one of the things that’s been the most fruitful for me has been kind of dropping into some kind of awareness just during the day. And doing it over and over and over again.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: And so that combined with actually just meditating for me seems good. And then I can combine all of the stuff. So it’s very circular to me.

Ken: Mmm-hmm.

Student: Should I just be sitting trying to get really stable?

Ken: No. No. No. You’re doing exactly the right thing. [Pause] These practice manuals say you do this, then you do this, then you do this. They leave out—they don’t make any reference to, how this is actually assimilated. It’s like they are giving you the bullet points. And those who interpret books literally, think—“Oh, bullet point one, bullet point two.” And they say, “Oh, stage one, stage two, stage three,” etc. But that’s the literal interpretation. When you actually do it, it is exactly as you describe. There’s a constant circling back. So you develop a bit of ability, then it needs to be assimilated before one can develop another level of ability. And working at that patiently going around and around, that is the work by which you build capacity. It’s not a smooth, linear, step-by-step thing.

So the way you’re working I think is great and it’s exactly the right way. Many, many people are confused by the linearity of the presentation. But usually, or in other circumstances, one wouldn’t be reading that text by one’s self. In fact, in the way that teaching originally took place, you wouldn’t be reading the text at all. You go to a teacher and they would give you instruction. And then you would work with that. And then you’d go back, one week, two weeks later and talk to him about that. And in that week or two weeks you’re going through exactly the kind of process you’re describing. And then when you had gone through a lot of this stuff, then you might be given the text. And you go, “Oh!” And now you have it for summary in case you—for your own reference and also in case you teach others.

Student: Okay. I’m gonna take my book and give it to Larry.



Section 20

Ken: Okay. Last one here is the mahayoga tantra which is equivalent to anuttara yoga tantra in the new school. This is where you’re identifying with various deities, multi-headed, multi-armed. And here you’re getting stuck on the reality of the experience which you generate being the deity.

Kalu Rinpoche was once asked, “How does Vajrayana work?” [Chuckles] Could be quite terrible sometimes. And so he said, “Well. There was once a man who was very, very wealthy, and he went to his teacher and said, ”How do I give up my attachment to wealth?“ And the teacher said, ”Convert your wealth into white stones.“ ”What?“ ”Yeah, just convert your wealth into white stones.“

Well, he had faith in this teacher so he started to buy up white stones. And since he was a very, very wealthy man it took him quite a few years and quite a lot of work to find sufficient sources of white stone in order to, you know, buy up—use all his wealth to buy white stones. And eventually he ended up with these mountains, and mountains, and mountains of white stones.

And then he went back to his teacher and said, ”Okay, I have all these white stones, now what?“ And his teacher said, ”Who wants white stones?“ [Laughter] So,

Mind, itself, has no heads, hands, or regalia.

When you fall into the mistake of seeing what arises as a deity’s form

And hold mistaken ideas about sound as a mantra,

You won’t see what is true…

Who wants white stones? Okay. So we all have these tendencies in us, and this is what Jigme Lingpa’s pointing to is these tendencies to latch onto one or other aspect of practice and try and make that our reality. And thinking this is what one is meant to do.


Section 21

Now he goes into a description of dzogchen. You can also say mahamudra here.

My nature is great completion.

All experience, patterned and free, is complete.

So let’s go through this carefully. I’m going to put this in slightly different words. All you have is your experience, however it arises for you. So just take that in. Don’t write it down. All you have, all you’ll ever have, is just what you experience, however it arises for you. What happens when you hear that? Anybody?

Larry: It feels freeing.

Ken: Say a bit more, Larry. Feels freeing. Say a bit more.

Larry: Well, it’s that line from Porgy and Bess: I got plenty o’ nuttin’. And nuttin’s plenty for me.

Ken: Yeah. [Laughter]

Ken: A friend and I when to see Porgy and Bess in L.A. last year, and I heard that song and I went, ”Wow.“ Anne, there’s your song.

Anne: I’ll use it.

Ken: Yeah. That’s what I meant. So all we have is our experience, however it arises for us. And something relaxes and lets go there, okay? And then you find the next thing: Nothing to discard or attain. [Ken sighs/exhales loudly] Eric.

Eric: I guess I just wanted to jump in before we moved to the next step to say that I thought it was terrifying.

Ken: Well, yes. There is that, too. [Laughter]

And you’re quite right. It’s like—gasp! Yeah. And it’s awesome, in the right usage of the word awesome. Yeah. It’s all of that. You know, I mean, ”There’s no way out of this?“ Nope. [Laughter] Is that what you’re referring to?

Eric: Yeah. Exactly.

Ken: Yeah. This is it? Aaa! Okay?

So this line involves potentially a radical change in our relationship with our experience. This is it. But Eric, you remember the other night, Joan was saying, ”Well, you know, what if it takes a long time to work through a pattern.“ And you remember I said, ”Well, okay, so nothing is going to change for the next twenty years.“ And Joan replied, ”Well, I’ll still keep practicing. That’s all that makes sense.“

In other words, we have no choice but to relate to our experience. And a lot of suffering arises because we try to avoid relating to what arises in our experience.

Eric: I’ve never heard of that.

Ken: I see. Well. [Laughter] I’m glad to be able to say something new for your ears.

The essential instructions are complete.

What are the essential instructions? You’re going to love this. Claudia is really going to love this.

Claudia: [Unclear]

Ken: Let things take care of themselves. [Laughter] That’s what we’ve been talking about isn’t it? Just let everything take care of itself.

Now there are countless ways that that instruction can be misconstrued. As I said the other night that when you take mythic or mystic ideas and interpret them literally, you get disaster. So the idea that, you know, oh well, we’ll just build the city and let everything take care of itself. It’s disaster.

This is working internally. And the other day I made the suggestion that you replace the word ”I,“ with ”part of me.“ So you end up with all these different parts. And when you sit with all of those different parts, the miracle is, if you just let all of those parts do their thing, they do take care of themselves. It happens and many of you described that, your experience of that to me in our conversations.


Section 22


Student: Question.

Ken: Please. Microphone.

Student: Could that also be viewed as the developing of trust?

Ken: Right. Yeah.

Student: That if you have this point of view, and then you do all the work, that things will take care of themselves after, what was that, 10,000 hours?

Ken: Well. It has a great deal to do with trust. I have a book, which I haven’t drawn on yet but I brought it with me, called The Joy of Full Surrender. And it was written in the eighteenth century, I think, by a Christian monk, and it’s the description of the joy of full surrender to God. It’s exactly about this.

Now, going back to the concerns that Claudia raised earlier. One has to develop a considerable capacity to be able to sit and let things take care of themselves. That’s where the push-ups come in. That’s where all the work of practice and what Charles was referring to earlier about gathering the accumulations and clearing away the distortions and so forth. All of this stuff. It’s building the capacity so we can sit and let things take care of


And one of the big pieces of capacity that we have to build is the ability to experience what’s going to be, what’s going to arise in that process of things taking care of themselves. Because a lot of it’s pretty tough stuff to experience.

And we find this going right in the life of the Buddha. Buddha started off practicing with a couple of people who had very, very profound states of stillness. And Buddha worked with them and came to develop the same level of abilities and decided to move on. And he and a group of five other guys, who all about the same level of ability, they were really very, very good at stuff, sat down on the banks of the river Narajana and said just okay, we’re going to do this work and just eat one sesame seed and one grain of rice and one drop of water per day.

After five or—and think of the capacity that you have to have to be able to live that way. This is how good they were. After five or six years, of course, the bodies started to break down on that kind of diet. You lose a little bit of weight.

And when I did Buddhist pilgrimage back in 1970 or so in India, somewhere around Kushinagara or somewhere, I came across this sculpture. It was obviously with Greek influence of Buddha at this period of his life. And it’s an astonishing sculpture. I think we have a small picture of it up on Unfettered Mind’s website in the Life of Buddha section, or a very similar one. But the sculpture is the skeleton with skin draped over it. And you just look at this, you go, [gasp]. ’Cause you can feel, what it must have been like. And the sheer force of will to live this way and continuing practice when there’s nothing left of you but skin and bones. There’s no flesh on this, a skeleton with skin. And it’s a very, very moving, at least I found it, a very, very moving piece.

And so Buddha, by this point, ’cause the body is totally undernourished, Buddha’s saying, or Gautama as he was called at that point, was saying, ”I can’t think straight.“ [Laughter] Now most of us would not be thinking straight after five days, Buddha’s after five years. A little difference in capacity, but there you have it.

And, so he takes nourishment and recovers his health and then he sits down under the Bodhi tree. Says I’m just going to sit here. And he does exactly the practice that you are doing now. Exactly the practice you are doing now. He does nothing.

And all his sexual desire comes up. Mythically this is represented as the daughters of Mara. And he just experiences it. And then all his anger comes up. And this is represented as the attacks by the armies of Mara, the demon armies of Mara who rain down all these weapons and things like that. This is aggression; this is anger. And he does nothing. And he just experiences that as a rain of flowers. And many of you have described having similar experiences, where you sat with intense feelings, either of desire or of anger or of jealousy or something like that. And you just realize this is an experience. This is exactly what Buddha was doing.

And then the final one is pride, which is symbolized as Mara appearing before him and saying, ”What gives you the right to be here?“ And Buddha just touches the earth and says, ”I’m here.“ No defense, nothing. And he’s free. It’s the capacity to experience whatever arises. And that’s why you do push-ups.


Section 23

The essential views are complete—neither order nor chaos.

Neither mind nor matter. In other words, the essential view is no view. Just take things as they are. That’s a little hard to maintain. But that’s the essential view.

The paths of practice are complete—no effort to make.

The teachings on behavior are complete—no do’s or don’t’s.

What one does, is a response to what arises. And the response is appropriate because there’s no investment. So there are no do’s nor don’t’s. This is radical, situational ethics. Situational because it depends on the situation. Radical because it’s not based on a sense of self.

The essence of fruition is complete—no expectation.

That’s a little hard one, that one. Unless you get caught up in this concept of complete—just a subtle reminder here, complete is just a word. Forget about it. Because you have this idea of, oh, complete, complete, complete. And people attach to that. People will attach to anything.

My favorite one is from Nyishül Khenpo. He says, ”Some people say when you meditate you should just let your thumbs touch. And other people say, “You should hold your thumbs just far enough apart so a piece of paper can slip through them.” Then he says, “People will argue over anything.” [Laughter]


Section 24

So, now we talked a little bit about awakening mind and the next verse is about that. It’s all there in that one teaching.

Awakening mind is the essence of all teaching.

Awakening mind is the heart of all awakened ones.

Awakening mind is the life of all beings.

Awakening mind is neither apparently nor ultimately true.

This is reference to the two truths. And he’s just saying, it’s neither of those, so don’t argue about it.

Now we get into something that comes up in different guises again and again. It comes up in Longchenpa, comes up in Rangjung Dorje in the Mahamudra PrayerINSERT. To say anything—Eric. There’s the mic please.

Eric: On the verse on awakening mind, if he’s not referring to the way it’s traditionally taught, what is he referring to then…about when he describes awakening mind?

Ken: [Exhales] Do you remember what I did with Janet the other day? You don’t?

Eric: Probably need to jog my memory.

Ken: Okay. You’re the target.

Eric: [In unison with Ken.] I’m the target. [Laughter]

Ken: Do you recall it clearly enough? On the one hand, there is this intention to free all beings from the vicissitudes of samsara. On the other hand, there’s this knowing that there isn’t a single sentient being. What happens when you hold those two together?

Eric: [Pause] Everything drops away.

Ken: That’s awakening mind.

Eric: I guess I should say, got it.

Ken: [Laughter] So now when you read this verse, does it make more sense?

Eric: [Pause] Sense might be stretching it.

Ken: Does it speak to you a little bit more?

Eric: Yes.

Ken: Okay. That, dropping away, just there, which is right now. Okay? That’s the essence of all teaching. It’s the heart of all the awakened ones. It’s the life of all beings. It’s present in all of us, even if we don’t know it. And it’s neither apparently nor ultimately true. [Laughter]

Eric: Thank you.

Ken: You know, I mean, Jigme Lingpa’s making…preventing the philosophers from trying to make something out of it.


Section 25

Okay. Now and it’s good that you remind us of that experience, Eric. Because, just that experience, to say—“Ehhh.” It doesn’t change it. It doesn’t make it empty. This goes back to what we were discussing this morning, you know. You can’t make things empty. You can’t make experience empty. Experience is empty. And To say “it is” doesn’t make it solid. There’s nothing there to grasp. It’s just there in the way it arises. And what we say about it doesn’t change that.

It is a realm beyond mind where experience is just there—no taking hold, no letting go.

It is space free from all complications of thought and object.

Because I am free from the thinking that distorts experience,

The evolution of good and evil actions comes to a complete stop.

What are deities, mantras, and absorptions meant to do?

I’m not a wakefulness that comes from practice.

Now this is very much a dzogchen form of expression in which it’s emphasized again and again. This doesn’t come into being. It doesn’t come out of being. It is not something you make happen. And in the way that I’ve been talking about in this retreat, it’s a way of experiencing things. It’s a way of experiencing things.

And it can be precipitated in various ways, just as I did right now. And when it’s precipitated that way, it creates the possibility that you can see ordinary experience, the ordinary way of experiencing things in a different light. And it’s very analogous to what I was talking about, I can’t remember when, silence and sound. That we ordinarily think of sound as the opposite of silence. And the point I was trying to make is that sound isn’t the opposite of silence. Silence is what makes sound possible. And when sound arises, the silence doesn’t go away. It isn’t negated. It’s still there.

And in the same way, when this way of experiencing is opened up for us, it’s not the opposite of ordinary experience, it’s the way, it’s the space in which ordinary experience arises. But what happens when ordinary experience arises, we forget about this way of experiencing. Do you follow?

And first we seek to become familiar with this way of experiencing and then seek to be aware of that way of experiencing all the time in everything we experience. So the two aren’t opposed to each other. Do you follow? It’s getting a little esoteric but… [Pause]


Section 26

Student: I have a question about the portion that says, evolution of good and evil actions comes to a complete stop. It’s because, what I’m wondering about is, you know, the understanding that there are consequences to every action. And so, does this imply that by seeing things as they are fully, that stops the consequences from unfolding? I mean how would that work?

Ken: No. This is a very deep question, and you should study the fox-abbot koan INSERT

Student: Okay. No, I know it.

Ken: Yeah. ’Cause it’s all about this. [Pause]

Have you had the experience of maybe you yourself or seeing someone do exactly what was appropriate in a situation?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: Okay. What happens when somebody does exactly what’s needed in a situation?

Student: It almost feels like time stops.

Ken: Right. How much residue is there?

Student: It’s amazing how clean it feels.

Ken: Yeah. That’s what I think he’s referring to here.

Student: But he’s not talking about the residue from old things.

Ken: No.

Student: Okay. Okay. This helps. Thank you. Okay.

Ken: And do those actions have effect? Yes, very definitely, but as you say, they’re clean. Yeah.

Student: Got it.

Ken: Okay.


Section 27

I like this next verse:

Therefore, let go of the tangles of hope and fear.

Okay. We’re all cool about that one. We all know about letting go of hope and fear. [Laughter]

I like the next one. Charles, you’ll really like the next one:

Let the knife-edge of outlook drop away.

[Laughter] What, but they’re my favorite tool.

There are a few people here I know, who’ll like the next one:

Come out of deep meditation’s cocoon.

Get rid of stiff or pretentious behavior.

Forget about expectations for big results.

Yeah, you do all of that, what have you got?

Student: It’s pretty simple.

Ken: Yeah.

Now here we—next line, we’re a little bit betrayed by language. There’s this phrase in Tibetan las ’das (pron. lä dä), which literally means to go beyond. And the term for nirvana, for instance, is to go beyond suffering. And in English, probably in Tibetan, too, but I know English better, it has this idea of transcendence, and I’m getting way out there. And that’s unfortunate, to my mind, because it leads people to try to reach for something out there.

One could reverse it and talk about dropping. But then people want to get to, on something really deep. So it still has that problem of transcending in some way, whether going out or going in. I mean, one could experiment with translating, and I’ll just try this out on you right now.

In a state of attention that is neither meditating or non-meditating

What does that do for you?

Students: Better.

Ken: Yeah. Okay. No. It’s sort of like—“Where do I go now?”

Student: Yeah.

Ken: But it will lose that, you know, I’m going to take this big jump and go beyond!

In a state of attention that is neither meditating or not meditating

Evaluations of what you are doing or not doing disappear completely.

Now this is a really tough one. It said that the comparing mind doesn’t subside until the fifth level of…is it? No, I think it’s eighth level or ninth level of bodhisattvahood. In the Theravadan…pardon?

Student: I think it’s the eighth.

Ken: Eighth. Yeah, it’s up there. In the arhat system, it’s only the arhat that’s free of the comparing mind. The stream when there are once returner and no returner still suffer from the comparing mind. It’s really so very, very deep in us. So, the only way I know is to come back to the body, because the comparing mind is always conceptual. And as soon as you find yourself evaluating your experience, come back and say, “What am I experiencing in my body?” And it will stop for a while—one, two microseconds.


Section 28

Larry: [Unclear]

Ken: Microphone please.

Larry: And basically, several lines above there just dump that whole notion.

Ken: Yeah. What I’m saying here, Larry, is not so easy.

Larry: It’s not so easy to—

Ken: To just dump. What did you say, maybe I didn’t…

Larry: I’m referring to the line, My nature is universal presence: How can seeing come from

progressing through paths and levels?

Ken: Yes.

Larry: So, I mean that just dismissed. Why even talk about it?

Ken: Because whenever we dismiss it, it comes creeping in the back door. Usually before the front door’s closed. [Laughter]

You know, “Get out of here.” “What are you doing here?” It’s just my experience. Maybe I’m particularly—

Larry: You’re right. But I thought we’d been through this before as far as concepts and models and hierarchies

and…I think you…

Ken: Larry, I mean—

Larry: It’s barely, we’re just going to trash can this because mind-nature is universal presence.

Ken: Yeah, well.

Larry: Period. Let’s just get on with it. [Laughter]

Ken: You just made my job a lot easier. Goodbye. [Laughter] I’m done. Okay? I’m going home now. [Laughter] Is that what you want me to do?

Larry: No. That’s not what I’m talking about. I was just…oh gosh… [Laughter]


Section 29

Ken: Okay. Again we have this,

Awakening mind is beyond empty or not empty.

I have to think retranslating that.

It is the original space where existence and non-existence drop away.

This is all true, but you can see how easy it is to start attaching to concepts here. And, I mean, really read this as a way of experiencing. There’s zero ontology in this. There are no statements about this is how things are. This is all about how experience can arise.

In awareness, indescribable, inconceivable, inexpressible,

And here is very clearly a metaphor.

The center pole is no corrective—nothing that holds a position.

And you know, now we’re right back in the area of groundlessness and everything like that. And it takes getting used to. I can go back to what I read from Four Quartets: Go, go, go, said the bird. Human kind cannot bear too much reality. Implicit in this—you’re not going to like this—implicit in this, is there is no meaning in anything.

Pardon? Yeah. Claudia says, “Yeah, right. I don’t like that.” [Laughter]

And what’s being talked about, is how to be in that.

Now, it’s very, very strange because, when you don’t hold any position, then if we jump traditions, you get into action through no action. Wu Wei Wu [Wei Wu Wei]. Right? Which is one of the very deep principles in Taoism. And this is where Taoism and Buddhism overlap. Taoism talks much more about how this actually manifests in life.

That’s why I make reference to Lao Tzu.

Nature doesn’t make long speeches.

A whirlwind doesn’t last all morning.

A cloudburst doesn’t last all day.

Who makes the wind and rain?

Heaven and earth do.

If heaven and earth don’t go on and on,

Certainly people don’t need to. [Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching, trans. Ursula K. Le Guin]

[Laughter] I mean, it’s wonderfully practical. And it comes right out of holding no position. The vocabulary is different, but the understanding what it’s pointing to is very similar.

With simple, steady, self-releasing freshness,

And a space free from complications or effort,

Rest without ebb or flow in the three times.

So it’s one of the reasons that in China where Buddhism came in and Confucianism and Taoism are already very well established, Buddhism is accepted in and appreciated because it provided a methodology which the other two greatly valued.


Section 30

Okay, we may be able to finish this tomorrow. Its quarter to nine already. Any questions as far as we’ve gone? Yes. Rita.

Rita: Thank you. How could you rest without ebb or flow in the past, present and future? Couldn’t you only do that

in the present? It’s page 28.

Ken: [Pause] Rest without ebb or flow in the three times.

Rita: Oh, so it all fits together…

Ken: Yeah. So you aren’t going into the past,

Rita: And you’re not holding the present.

Ken: You’re not holding the present, yes. If you turn to page 18, and these are two different translations I made of Tilopa’s Six Words. In the first one I wanted to make it very clear what Tilopa was saying because the verbs have those qualities. But if you just translated them literally, it’s like, “Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.” And which doesn’t really have… [Laughter] But—

Rita: But how fun is that!

Ken: Yeah, but if you take the second six, for instance, which I sought to find English words which all involved the thinking, but give the flavor of what Tilopa’s pointing to:

Don’t recall.

Don’t imagine.

Don’t think.

Don’t examine.

Don’t control.


Tilopa only takes six words to which, Jigme Lingpa takes…You know, but they’re both helpful.

Rita: Thanks.


Section 31

Ken: Okay. Other questions? Michael.

Michael: I just noticed that—this is—it shifts in two words in the first person and in the second chapter the whole thing is in the first person. Who is actually saying this? Is it Jigme Lingpa?

Ken: It’s written by Jigme Lingpa. But one of the ways that a number of dzogchen texts are written, and another example is The Eyes of the World, it’s written in the first person. It’s understood this is Samantabhadra speaking. And so, I mean there’s—the tone is very similar to some of the Vedas, which are also written… And, you know I am the Lord. and The Eyes of the World is written in the same way. And there’s a prayer, actually it’s the prayer of Ever Present Good, which I don’t have here but we’ve done in other retreats, which is also written in the first person. When you read it in the first person, then you’re letting yourself be Samantabhadra, and there’s a certain power which comes from that. And you can even feel it. You can feel it a bit here, I mean. Just try this out. I’ll read this out loud but feel that you’re saying this, okay?

Because I am free from thinking that distorts experience,

The evolution of good and evil actions comes to a complete stop….

My nature is universal presence:

How can seeing come from progressing through paths and levels?

What do you feel there? You got the point? Yeah.

So it’s not something we find in any of the other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism that I’ve come across. But there’s very definitely a power that comes from it being written in the first person. Okay.


Section 32

Any other comments? Okay. Let’s take a few moments to stretch and then we’ll meditate.