A comprehensive commentary on Tilopa’s mahamudra instructions to Naropa.
Verses 22-end; review of last week’s meditation instruction; two qualities of mahamudra: resting and precipitating shift; experience without struggle; pitfalls of emptiness; aspiration vs ambition; cutting the root of mind; mind without beginning; transforming energy into attention; importance of faith.
February 2, 2009. Ganges Mahamudra, Part 5. Our last session here.
Did everybody get the new translation? No? You should’ve received an email with it. You didn’t check your email?
Student: No, I checked it.
You didn’t get it? Well, see Peri, make sure she’s got your email address. I have it on good authority it is much better. [laughter] One of my long term students I sent it to, who had sort of groaned about the second version—said, “This is very pedantic,”—sent me an instant message today saying, “This is fantastic!” So, that was a big change, I like that.
Before we start on that, at our last session I asked you to do two steps in the practice. One was to open your heart to everything you experience. And the other was to ask the question, “What experiences this?” So, what was your experience with those two instructions? Joe?
Joe: [Unclear] ’cause my knees are bent.
Ken: You broke a leg?
Joe: No, but it’s going to hurt so much if I stand up.
Ken: No, but that’s what broke a leg was referring to is bending a knee when you took a bow.
Joe: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Un your suggestions, you just said it, you suggested we open our heart to all experience—
Ken: Everything you experience.
Joe: Everything we experience. Could you say something more about what you mean by opening one’s heart.
Ken: I love it. You don’t know how to open your heart, Joe?
Joe: Oh, I’m not sure, I don’t know what it means. Maybe I do know how.
Ken: Have you ever fallen in love?
Joe: Yes, is that what you mean?
Ken: Well, are you in love with somebody right now?
Ken: Is there anybody you love right now?
Ken: Your children?
Ken: Okay. So, call your children to mind.
Ken: Open your heart.
Joe: That’s what you mean?
Ken: Yes. Now, you know how to do that, don’t you?
Ken: Okay. Nava, could you hand me that meditation cushion there, please? [Pause] And do exactly the same thing with a meditation cushion. [Pause]
Joe: I can’t. [Laughter]
Ken: What stops you?
Joe: I have to create a sort of…I have to project a relationship with that cushion. [Laughter]
Ken: No. I don’t think you do that with your children.
Joe: I don’t…oh, but, I do.
Ken: No, not when you open your heart. There may be some other things you do like that. But you just open your heart to your children, right? It’s like, “Oh,” they’re there.
Ken: So, do it. With a meditation cushion. There it is.
Joe: Yes. [Laughter]
Joe: I can go this far.
Ken: What happens?
Joe: When I do that?
Ken: Yeah, something stops inside? [Pause]
Joe: Something stops inside. I…it…it seems—
Ken: No, no, no, no.
Joe: In apropos—
Ken: No, yeah…yeah, that’s fine, that’s too bad. But this is Tilopa, Naropa. Tilopa made Naropa do lots of things that were terribly in apropos, so, that’s too bad.
Joe: What I can do with the cushion is I can notice…I can be aware of judgements I have about it and release those—
Ken: Yeah, yeah, yeah, just open your heart to it.
Ken: And what happens?
Joe: Nothing. [Laughter]
Ken: I agree, the meditation cushion doesn’t change, but what happens in you when you do that. I know it doesn’t reach out it’s arms and embrace you or anything like that but—
Joe: No, nor would I want it to, actually.
Ken: Yes, I know, but that’s not how things work here.
Joe: What happens to me?
Ken: Yes, this is your life.
Joe: Well, I notice it—
Ken: And you open your heart, what happens?
Joe: I accept it.
Ken: And? What changes in your relationship when you do that?
Joe: To the cushion?
Joe: That’s tough. I didn’t really have a relationship with it before.
Ken: Absolutely you do. You know, there’s the cushion, can you look at the cu—
Joe: Oh, I see…I see what you mean. Yeah, okay, sorry.
Ken: Okay, so there’s the cush—
Joe: I meant when it was over there, I didn’t have a relationship, but now I do.
Ken: Yes. [Laughter]
Joe: And it’s there and I open my heart to it and—
Ken: Something changes in the relationship, doesn’t it?
Joe: Intention changes.
Ken: Talk about that.
Joe: Well, I’m putting something out there. I’m making an effort to…to…to do what you say, to open my heart to this cushion.
Ken: Yes, and?
Joe: And it…you know, it’s tough. [Laughter]
Joe: Maybe I’m expecting too much from the cushion.
Ken: Okay, what stops inside?
Joe: What stops it?
Ken: What stops inside you? [Pause] You say, “It’s tough.” It sounds like you run into something inside.
Joe: Well, my expectation of what’s…something’s supposed to happen here.
Ken: Well, forget about that, just do it. No expectations. Didn’t we have that somewhere in the notes here?
Joe: Yeah. And really nothing. [Laughter]
Ken: Okay, now. Let’s go through this. Look at the cushion and just look at it. It’s a meditation cushion. Okay? Black, circular, sort of lumpy shape, right? Against the brown floor. Okay? Nice texture in the floor. Rather indifferent texture in the cushion. Right?
Joe: Yeah. Says you, but I know what you mean. Yes.
Ken: Okay. Now.
Joe: It’s there, yes.
Ken: But, there’s an experience here, right?
Ken: Okay. Visual experience. Now just open your heart to that experience. [Pause]
Ken: What happens? [Pause]
Joe: I just accept it. I mean—
Ken: Yeah, okay. Say a bit more about “accept.”
Joe: I suppose I’m expecting something to happen here that is really a projection of something that I think. You know, nothing happens, but I don’t expect anything to happen. I mean, it just is as it is. I don’t expect it to be different.
Ken: What happens in you? This [indicating the cushion] doesn’t change.
Ken: No. I know it’s very disappointing, but it doesn’t. [Laughter]
Joe: Well, I don’t even know…it’s not disappointing because I never expected it to…With people, that’s a different matter, they disappoint me, but that cushion really doesn’t.
Ken: Okay, but what happens in you when you move from just looking at the cushion to opening your heart to it?
Joe: Well, that’s where I don’t know. I don’t know that there’s a difference for me.
Ken: Okay, what happens when you think of your children and then you open your heart to your children? What happens there? Everybody’s depending on you, so you’ve got to get the right answer here.
Joe: But, no pressure.
Ken: No pressure.
Joe: Okay, so. [Pause] Well, okay, so there are times when I hate my kids and times when I love my kids, that’s obviously that’s an over-statement, I don’t want them ever to hear that. [Laughter]
Student: So, you’d trade them for a cushion?
Joe: So, there is that change. Okay. Yeah, I can see a difference with them.
Ken: Okay, now do the same thing with the meditation cushion.
Joe: Well, first thing I have to develop a rejection of a person, then I can see there’s a difference.
Ken: Meditation cushion, are you feeling rejected? “Yes.” Oh, you’re there.
Joe: Well, I’m going to have to work on this obviously.
Ken: Right. Now, anybody else up for this one?
Joe: Please. [Laughter]
Ken: Okay, you can just put it [mic] down there, it’s fine. [Pause] You know, this meditation cushion is never going to be the same.
Okay, anybody else with this experience of letting your heart open to what you experience? Ann, could you pass it back, please?
Ann: I feel a softening.
Ken: Say more, please.
Ann: A physical softening.
Ken: “A physical softening.” Okay. Where?
Ann: In my chest.
Ken: Okay, anything else accompanying that?
Ann: You didn’t ask Joe that. [Laughter]
Ken: Well, you know, that’s the way things go.
Ann: I would agree with him that there’s an acceptance and kind of a gathering, a gathering feeling. A gathering, as in taking it into my experience.
Ken: Yeah. And so you notice a shift in your experience when you do that?
Ann: Yes, definitely.
Ken: Right. Okay. Good. Can anybody else connect with what Ann’s describing here? Okay. Marie?
Marie: My sense fields become involved in the whole experience. Like, my eyes, like, I don’t know how to say it exactly, but it’s very sensual.
Ken: Okay. Everything’s become more vivid?
Marie: Oh, absolutely.
Marie: Sometimes a little too much.
Ken: Okay, all right. Anybody else? Yes, over here.
Student: I have both softening in the body and a sense of warmth in my body. And with the warmth, the word embraces already surfaced, but a sense of embracing my experience. Now, it’s both physical and emotional.
Ken: Joe, can you connect with anything anybody’s saying here? You have great deal of sympathy in the class right now. [laughter]
Joe: I understand it and I’d like to hear from a man in this classroom.
Ken: Okay, I was going to go there, too, but you went there for me, so that’s great. Here we are.
Student: Well, first of all, I’m with you. [Laughter] And I had no idea what you’re talking about. [Laughter]
Student: But, but, but you are hearing what other people said. I do, maybe reflect backwards on my experience and there is a little softening of chest area, I guess. And I’m just not sure what’s the difference between opening my awareness and opening my heart. But I do feel, when I say to myself, “Open your heart now.” I do feel something softening and I’m guessing it’s the heart because it happens after I tell myself to do that. That’s—
Ken: Yeah, okay.
Student: And another thing is…well, no I guess that’s it, for now.
Ken: Okay. Back to you, Joe.
Joe: There is an experience that I have, which I tend to call, vulnerability.
Ken: I know, it’s such a popular word, isn’t it?
Joe: Yeah, but it does describe it…but, again, that is…I’m not sure exactly what we’re talking about to make oneself vulnerable. Or to recognize one’s vulnerability.
Ken: Well, I’ve always taken issue with psychologists, they really love this word, you know, they want you to be vulnerable, etc. But vulnerable means being able to be wounded. That’s what the word means. And one might make an argument that when your heart’s open, you’re able to be wounded, but that’s not the part that I wish to put emphasis on because I don’t think that’s very constructive, frankly. But you’ve heard several people say that there’s a softening. Can you connect with that? Softening in here, in the heart region?
Ken: And a feeling of warmth?
Ken: Yeah, now. This absolutely makes no sense. Here we have a meditation cushion and you open your heart and there’s this softening and this feeling of warmth for this completely inanimate object. Makes no sense. But it’s something we can do with any experience that arises. You follow?
Ken: Okay. Now, what would your life be like if this is how you related to everything you experienced, all the time.
Joe: I don’t know.
Ken: Well, you can speculate for a moment here.
Ken: You can think about the future.
Joe: I can project.
Ken: If you wish, yes. Just imagine that.
Joe: Well, I suppose there would be a lot less struggle in it.
Ken: Ah. And why are you practicing?
Joe: I know the answer to that one.
Ken: Yes, what’s that?
Joe: Well, I know a particular answer that has to do with struggle, yes. To not struggle anymore.
Joe: The mechanics of the act are what interests me.
Ken: Yeah, but it’s something we can all do, because we all know how to do it. But we don’t.
I was doing a quick demonstration at a presentation at a coaching organization a few months ago. And I wanted to demonstrate how quickly attention operates in interaction between two people. So, I asked for a volunteer. I asked for a volunteer to describe a difficult situation that they’ve had in coaching somebody. And somebody said, “Well, I was meeting with this very abrasive CEO.” So, we asked somebody in the audience there to play the role of an abrasive CEO.
And, so had them both up on front of me, and sitted in chairs right opposite each other and started the coaching session. And this person who’s playing the abrasive CEO did a really good job of just being abrasive and abrupt. And the woman who was in the role of the coach just shut down immediately. And she said, “That’s exactly what happens.” I said, “Okay, fine. Now, start again, but this time, open your heart to him.” And so she did. And the guy who was playing in that role couldn’t go there. It just changed the dynamic, just like that.
Now it doesn’t always work that way, particularly in a lot of situations, but it creates the possibilities. Because when we open our hearts this way, we are moving from a sense of being in opposition to what we experience to being completely open to what we experience and that changes everything. Now, is it easy to do this? Absolutely not. We have all kinds of habituated ideas and you demonstrated that wonderfully this evening, so I very much appreciate that, “No, I can’t do this. It doesn’t make any sense.” But, it’s always available to us and it is something that we can practice. Remember I talked about, you know we actually practice this stuff. Doing it in situation after situation after situation whether it makes sense or not.
Now, I talked a little bit about the hardships that Naropa experienced in his tutelage under Tilopa. And he asked him…or told him to do terribly inappropriate things. And I think part of that was so that Naropa could discover possibilities that his social conditioning, his cultural conditioning, his psychological and emotional conditioning, etc. said, “Those possibilities aren’t there.” But, they were and Tilopa’s pointing that out. Okay?
Joe: Yes, thank you.
Now, let’s move on to part two. What experiences this? What happens when you ask that? And we’ll take Joe off the hook this time, so somebody else can respond here. What experiences this? Anybody experience anything different when I pose that question? Chuck.
Chuck: Well, you said, don’t try to answer the question.
Chuck: Because the first thing when you say that, is I go right to my head and say, “Now, what’s happening?” But by trying not to answer the question. I stay in my body.
Ken: Very good.
Chuck: So I can sort of feel the whole situation. And I don’t know whether it’s experience experiencing experience, or how you would explain it, but it’s sort of…I think it’s more of an all inclusive just being there.
Ken: What happens with your mind when you do this?
Chuck: It sort of stops the thinking process.
Ken: Yeah, okay.
Chuck: It just sort of is there.
Ken; And can you rest there?
Ken: Good, very good. Anybody else? Everybody’s scared now, that’s too bad. I’ll just sit here until somebody else volunteers. It’s easy. Okay, yes, Chris.
Chris: I think with both of these exercises, [clears throat] excuse me, it gets harder to describe it because it’s more in the body than it is in my thinking mind. And I think one of the things that seems to happen, or did happen this week is that both the heart opening and the asking what experiences it…how should I say it? My conceptual mind talks, my thoughts come in words. And what I noticed was that the words sort of stopped in a way, not entirely, but they became less hard-edged. And so the experience was more about, I don’t know if it was in the body or just that it just simply was.
Ken: Okay, thank you. So, there’s a shift?
Chris: There was, yes.
Now, mahamudra practice and there are two aspects which are important. One is to be able to rest and particularly in the beginning stages of mahamudra is to be able to precipitate that shift. The resting quality is known technically as shamatha[sp], that’s a Sanskrit word, literally resting in peace, or resting peacefully. It’s the stability aspect of attention.
And the shift quality…what happens is when we ask that question, “What experiences this?” As soon as we ask that question, we look and we see nothing. Right? Yeah. That seeing nothing, not the looking, but the seeing nothing, that’s vipashyana or insight. What we now cultivate is the ability to rest in the looking and to look in the resting. So, they come together. This comes from another book which I think was on the reading list, Clarifying the Natural State. It’s a very nice book on mahamudra. Rest in the looking and look in the resting.
And this way, one is developing the stability of attention and that awake quality simultaneously, the two together. You push either one by itself, it creates an imbalance. If you push the resting quality too much you end up going dull. If you push the seeing quality too much then your mind gets very active, lots of thoughts and stuff. But you work these two, like riding a bicycle, say. And when you’re doing that, then the way one experiences things changes in that there isn’t the same sense of I/other. Because when there’s that seeing quality, the sense of eyes, not nearly as strong and is also it’s also experienced as just as an experience, not as a fact. You see what I mean?
Now, this is what one is actually cultivating in mahamudra. And once you have the idea of that, you have not the idea of it, the taste of it, the taste which usually comes about, not always, usually comes about through interaction with a teacher ’cause they do the kind of pushing that I’ve been doing with people this evening, So like, “Oh.” Then you just keep coming back to it, keep coming back to it, keep coming back to it.
And in formal meditation you keep coming back to it. It’s why I’ve often given the instruction, return and rest. Return and rest. And because of the way that we live our lives, we also need to do this in our actual lives as well. Because, just as Joe is experiencing, we can actually do it with anything we experience. And that’s how we make this, and you may think this is complete nuts, but, it’s not—you know—you’re having a conversation with someone and you open and rest. And you find you hear differently.
It may not engage…what happened? You got some feedback there.
Yeah, maybe somebody doesn’t have their mic. Make sure they have their hands free button unchecked ’cause otherwise it’ll set up feedback. Okay
And it’s very important that you practice this in actual life situations. ’Cause that’s how it becomes the way you experience things. And you don’t have to do it for hours at a time, in fact it’s very difficult to do it for hours at a time, but you can keep dropping into it. If you follow? Okay? All right.
Let us continue.
We’re on verse twenty, in the new translation it’s verse 22, in the old one it’s verse 21. Which is going to get people hopelessly confused when they…Steve, do you need a copy of this? Do you have an extra one, Peri? No? Oh, okay.
Peri: We’ve had an old one.
Ken: Yeah, that’ll be good enough. So this verse, verse 22. You could see the old translation and now you see the new translation. Just to let you know, this took me three and a half hours. This one verse, this is what I spent all Sunday morning on, but I was very good, I didn’t break anything.
Dave: Did you open your heart to it? [Laughter]
Ken: It was the only way, and Dave said, “Did I open my heart to it?” Yeah, actually it was the only way.
I’ve talked a little bit about the word dharma, in Tibetan, chö. And it’s used here. There are ten different meanings for the word in Tibetan. I think there are twelve in Sanskrit. They can be actually, roughly, grouped into three. The one meaning is: what you experience. One meaning is: religion and religious practice. And the third group covers things like, how things are done and the way things are done and so forth, the instructions you get for, you know, how to cook food in your microwave. That’s the dharma of microwaving.
And so, that was one of the challenges and the second challenge was to find words in English which allowed the negative. For instance, in the second line, I really wanted to say, you know, “methodical practice” but there wasn’t a nice negative, because English is such a strange language. You have “methodical practice,” but then when you say, “It’s unmethodical,” it isn’t just a straight negative, it has another whole different meaning.
But the point here is that mahamudra practice is about experiencing our lives in a way which is different, and qualitatively different, from the way that we ordinarily experience things. And as in our discussion of these opening the heart and the shift in awareness, you know, what experiences this? People talked about softening, accepting, stopping of the usual thinking process and so forth. Now, ordinarily, we relate to things through our concepts. We relate to our experience through a whole conceptual framework. And so, a very important piece of this is learning to experience things without that conceptual framework.
There’s also a whole organizational framework and that’s what I’m going to refer to as subject/object. I’m here, it’s there. But that’s actually a completely inaccurate description. Iis simply an experience. So, here is an experience, there is an experience. So those are more deep-seated frameworks. Well, you could let those go and then there’s just experience.
And the importance of this experience, of why it is sought, why I think everyone here is seeking it, is that when you experience life this way, there’s no sense of struggle. You know, that’s the end of suffering. Now, is this easy? No. It’s not easy at all because of the depth of conditioning in us. And developing the ability to experience absolutely everything this way, that’s completely non-trivial matter.
However, there are certain things which are very helpful and that is: whenever you find yourself thinking about something you know right away you’re not experiencing things this way. And you can never get at this way of experiencing by trying to understand it. Because it isn’t an intellectual or conceptual way of experience. That’s why it says, You won’t see beyond intellect with the ways of the intellect. You won’t know non-action with the ways of action
Now, this line refers to, I think it’s…I have it here. Ah, yeah, good. Oh dear. I brought the wrong one. Okay, I’ll have to use my memory. Does anybody have a copy of Wake Up To Your Life here?
Student: There’s on on the shelf.
Student: There’s probably one on the shelf.
Ken: Yeah, that would be fine. There’s a section in chapter ten and I’ll get you the page reference in just a moment, I had it written in my notes, but [pause] no, it’s not here. Thank you. Which describes what people are always doing in their meditation. And in their practice. And it just doesn’t work. [Pause, paper leafing] Oh dear, it’s disappeared from the book.
Student: [Unclear] You need an iBook so you can search for it.
Ken: I know it’s not in that chapter, I know it’s in chapter ten. Sorry about this. [Pause]
Ah, yes, page 420 following. And there are different interpretations of these lines and this particular interpretation is from Trungpa RInpoche. Action is when you do something with your experience. And as long as you’re trying to do something with your experience, you can’t just experience what arises. So, first pitfall is to take emptiness as real and arrive at a nihilistic view of life. That is you think, “Oh, things are empty. And emptiness is something that I can experience.” Isn’t that wonderful, “Emptiness is something I can experience.” Of this Saraha says,
Those who believe that what appears is real,
are stupid like cows.
Those who believe that emptiness is real
are even stupider.
It’s one of my favourite lines.
Emptiness is such a wonderful word, everybody gets so annoyed with it because they can’t understand it. That’s why it works so perfectly. And there was a recent exchange on the Ning site about people saying, “Can’t we change emptiness to openness?” etc., etc.. And it just goes on and on, trying to get away from this word because it is so irritating. You know, and you can’t get a conceptual grasp on it. And people have tried, you know. They came up with the 16 kinds of emptiness and the 18, and the 20, etc. and all these different aspects of emptiness as a way of trying to understand it. But all that happens is that you ask this question, “What experiences this?” things stop and now there’s a different experience. And building the ability to experience the world that way is what is being cultivated here.
And the second thing is, well, okay, we don’t experience our thoughts as empty but I can make them empty. Now, the relevant line here is, “You can’t wake up a person who is pretending to sleep.” It’s impossible. If a person’s pretending to sleep you cannot wake them up.
Thoughts, sensations, feelings, emotions arise like clouds in the sky. They are empty. You can’t makethem empty. What you can do is build your capacity in attention so that you experience them as they actually are. And every one of you knows this.
Sometimes thoughts arise and you go, “Ohh.” Comes and goes and it doesn’t elicit any reaction in you. Anybody have that experience? During the day, during your meditation. And sometimes thoughts arise and they completely take you over. What’s the difference? Is one thought more solid than the other? No. But you experience one thought as more solid than the other, that’s the difference. Do you follow?
And it comes back to your relationship with what’s arising. All of us know this in parts of our lives. What we’re doing here, doing in the practice of buddhism, is developing the ability and the skill to know it in every area of our life. And that’s very non-trivial.
And the third problem is…we can summarize this as the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” So anger arises or desire arises or something arises and you think, “Oh, that’s empty.” And you think it’s enough just to name it. No, you’re still in the conceptual mind, you’re still trying to do something to your experience. Just naming it empty doesn’t do enough and if you actually work that way, you’ll generally end up suppressing experience and that creates all kind of problems in itself.
And then the fourth one is great. It can be summed up as, Meditate now, get enlightened later.You know, it’s the installment plan. It doesn’t work either. You know, because if you think you can do something now which is going to produce result, then, uh-uh, not in terms of mahamudra. It’s dropping in to the wakefulness that is present right now. That’s it. And so the idea that if I do this, then I will experience this later, you’re already out of the practice then because now you’re harbouring an expectation. Instead, you just drop. And this is why we have such instructions as: don’t entertain the past….sorry, Don’t recall the past, don’t entertain the future, don’t dwell in the present, relax right now.
Okay, Marie, there’s a microphone.
Marie: I wondered it you could talk about aspiration because it seems to be something different from ambition, wanting, going after.
Ken: Yeah. Sure. Joe, may I use you as an example?
Joe: You may.
Marie: There’s a line in the prayer here.
Ken: Yeah. In aspirations, I mean, basically it’s forming a wish. And one of the things Rinpoche said…when I first heard him saying this I went [sarcastic], “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And what he said was if you find yourself unable to do something, then pray to be able to do it. And the word that he used, there are two words for prayer in Tibetan, and the word that he was using was to form an aspiration, it was that form of prayer. So, “May I be able to do this.” And, you know, being the very competitive and hard-assed person I was, probably still am, I’d say, “No, No you gotta either do it or you don’t.” But over time I began to appreciate the wisdom of Rinpoche’s words. Because when you’re doing that aspiration, or wishing may I be able to do that, you’re actually opening a possibility in you. Opening a path to a possibility. So it’s really very, very important. And—
Marie: How’s that different from ambition, though? Because ambition, I guess, it has a harder edge or something but…I guess it’s—
Ken: Well, here’s how I would look at it. Ambition is something you want to do to bolster your identity. Aspiration is about opening.
Marie: Thank you.
Ken: Okay, good.
So, the instructions here,
if you want to know what is beyond intellect and action, cut your mind at its root and rest in naked awareness.
Now, I’ve given you some ways to cut the mind open…this practice I’ve given you where you open to sensory experience, open to all the emotional and thinking, cognitive experience. Open your heart and ask this question: What experiences this? This is a way of cutting the root of mind. All of the pointing out instructions, all of the pith instructions that you get in mahamudra are ways of cutting the root of mind. So Gampopa’s instructions: Don’t pursue the past, don’t entertain the future, don’t dwell in the present, rest right now is a way of cutting the root. You go through that and you end up holding nothing. There you are.
Tilopa’s six instructions which are up on the website, they’re somewhere in here, too, are another way, they’re very similar.
Not sure that George put those in the index. Possibly. [Pause]
Let go of what is past, let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out, don’t try to make anything happen. Relax right now and rest.
That’s on page 223. You’ll find another shorter version up on the website under Tilopa’s Six Instructions in the translation section on unfetteredmind.org.
These are the core mahamudra instructions in the Kagyu tradition. No distraction, no control, no working at anything. Or, don’t wander, don’t control, that is, don’t try to control your experience, don’t work at anything. You just say those and you find yourself, like stopping, you don’t know what to do, that’s the point.
There are other instructions. One from a mahamudra text says “Be like a child walking into a cathedral for the first time.”
Now, how many of you have been to Yosemite? Okay, what was your first experience when you first entered the valley?
Yeah, that’s how you practice mahamudra. It’s astonishing. I think everybody should have that experience in their life. You walk into this valley and and everything just stops. It is so stunning and majestic and whatever words you want to put to it. That’s how you practice, just like that. Now, that’s an outdoor cathedral, but you have the same thing when you walk into some of the great gothic cathedrals in England and so forth.
Okay. So any questions on that?
Now, when you do this, and we’re going to verse 23 now and 22 in the old version,
Let the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear.
See, you don’t do anything. Now, Ajahn Chah, who’s one of the great Theravadan teachers, his version of this instruction was, to meditate, put a chair in the center of the room, sit in the chair, see who comes to visit. That’s it.
“Let the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear.” You just sit there, you don’t do anything. Now we’ve talked about doing nothing before. How long are you able to do nothing? Thirty seconds, hands up? Oh. Five seconds? One second? Okay. So, what would it be like and I know I’ve asked this before, but I’ll say it again, what would it be like to do nothing for an hour? What would happen? You just let all of this stuff happen. And you don’t do anything about it. Now, obviously this takes practice, but that is the practice. And as you do this, then the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear.
Let appearances come and go on their own
See how similar that is to Ajahn Chah’s instruction?
With nothing to change, the world you experience becomes mahamudra.
Now, I have to confess this is how the line is in one version of the texts I have, but in the other versions that I have, it isn’t. And I have to refine the translation of this one line. Not quite sure how I’m going to do that.
Because the basis of experience has no beginning, patterns and distortions fall away.
Now, the usual translation for no beginning is unborn, but I find that when I use the word unborn, people get all of these ideas about things like, something special. So, I decided to translate it as just beginning. Now, when you look at your mind, just look at it right now. [Pause]
Where does it start? [Pause] You can’t say, can you? That’s what this refers to. Like, “Oh.” It’s just there. Doesn’t come from anywhere, doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not even clear where it is and yet it’s there.
So, this “basis of experience” is not the store consciousness which some of you may be familiar with, it’s not the alive alaya vijñana. This is a different beast. It’s the basis of experience and in Tibetan it’s kun gzhi (pron. kun zhi) and in sanskrit it’s alaya. But, it doesn’t come from anywhere and it doesn’t go anywhere. Has no beginning, unborn, whatever you want to say.
And so, because of that all the patterns and distortions through which we usually relate to experience, they also have no basis. They’re just like, movement in water. You know, if water’s being stirred, it refracts the light differently and you can’t see clearly through it. So all of those patterns and distortions, you might say, to use an old cliche, they are disturbances in the force. And so you just sit and let things come and go. And they subside and then things just become very, very clear. So, all of those patterns and distortions fall away because they aren’t based on anything, they’re simply movement in experience. A particular kind of movement, very deeply habituated, granted, but nothing that has an intrinsic base or an intrinsic existence in it’s own right.
Rest in no beginning, with no self-interest or expectation.
Now, Marie, you asked about aspiration. There’s a time to form these aspirations because they open possibilities within us. They develop a momentum and certain qualities in our hearts and minds. And that’s very good to do. It’s actually a very important part of practice, but when you’re actually practicing mahamudra you let all of that go. Yeah, you just let all of that go and there it is. Of course, we find ourselves hoping for something, a few seconds later, but that’s another matter.
Let what appears appear on its own and let conceptual ways subside.
Now, if you look at verse 24, it’s very similar in structure to the last part of verse 16 and in the old versions these are verse 23 and verse 15. And here things are going a step deeper in verse 16,
Royal outlook is beyond all fixation, royal practice is no distraction.
I translated this differently in the previous versions as majestic.
Royal behavior is no action or effort. Fruition in life is freedom from hope and fear.
Here we go a step further, The most royal of outlooks is free of all reference. Totally open. The most royal of practices is vast and deep without limit. So, you’ve really gone beyond no distraction. And you’re resting in experience as wide or as vast and as deep, you know, no limit in either of those. This is all, you know, magnificently described in the book by Longchenpa. What’s it called? I’m sorry. Oh, chos dyings mdzod (pron. chöying dzö), The Treasury of the Totality of Experience, though its not usually how it’s translated. It’s usually translated as The Treasury of Dharmadhatu, but it describes this vast, practice, that’s based on the sense of no limit this way and no limit this way.
The most royal of behaviors is open-minded and impartial.
Now if you go back to where we started today about opening the heart, can you see the connection here, Joe?
Joe: Yes, it’s much clearer.
Ken: Yeah, it’s much clearer here. Okay, good. And, you know, this is when you’re practicing this the way this practice manifests in your heart, you’re open-minded about everything. It doesn’t mean you don’t make distinctions, but you aren’t coming at it with any kind of prejudice or suppression or shutting down. And most of the time, you know, John Kenneth Galbraith says something like, “When confronted with new possibilities or a new way of thinking, we have two choices,” this isn’t an exact quote, but it’s along these lines, “One is to open to them and the other is to prepare a defence of our old way of thinking.” And most of us, waste no time in preparing our defence. You know, that’s what we do. Somebody comes and says something and we go, “No.” Instead of saying, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And just opening to it.
So, what would it be like? And this is an actual practice in certain circles. And you might try it over the next week. Saying yes to absolutely everything that arises in your experience. Whatever it is, you know? Somebody comes up and insults and you say, “Yes!” And, you know, something terrible happens and you go, “Yes!” Something wonderful happens and you go, “Yes!” How many of you shut down to positive experiences? Yeah. So, what about coming to one and go, “Yes!”
I have this client, he’s wonderful, a business client. You have no idea how much energy he expends in coming up with scenarios which have…the only result is to make him feel miserable. So, he gets an email from a guy two levels above him in the company. And he goes through this contortion—and it’s a positive email, and he goes into this contortion trying to figure out how to extract a negative interpretation for this event. So, I am teaching him to say, just say, “Yes!”
The most royal of fruitions is natural being, free of concern.
See, that’s what we’re really aiming here, a way of living in which we are not gripped by hope and fear, that’s what I translated as concern here. In everything. But, I mean, so wonderful. How many of you have had a positive experience in your meditation in the last week or two weeks, or something like that? Okay. How many of you hope that you can get it back? [Laughter] You see? It’s just like that, isn’t it? How many of you fear that it’s never going to happen again? And that’s how it is. What would it be like to just accept things absolutely as they are. And be able to do that with everything all the time? Okay. Now, you gotta have a use for this kind of thing, as I said earlier, but,
At first, practice is a river rushing through a gorge.
That there’s some continuity but it’s very turbulent. There’s lots of ups and downs in it.
In the middle it’s the river Ganges, smooth and flowing. In the end it’s where all rivers meet.
The ocean, of course.
A child and her mother.
Now, what Tilopa’s describing there, may be a ten-year process. May be a fifteen, twenty-year process. But, being in the west, we think, “This shouldn’t take so long.” One of the very difficult things that many people, I find and I certainly had this problem myself, in relating to meditation texts and instructions in Tibetan tradition is that they never gave any sense of time frame. And these were very, very complete manuals. And that meant, you might be working with this book for most of the rest of your life. So, you know, Wake Up to Your Life, which, you know, it’s not, like five lines or something like that, people get the idea that they could be working with this one for a while and that they find very disconcerting, “This is going to take me years to get through this.” Well, yeah, it’s going to take you even longer, I suppose [unclear]. We think we can accomplish this in a very short period of time, it doesn’t work that way.
Somebody sent me a paper by some educators describing the relationship between learning and development. And I think it’s highly relevant. They were talking about things in the educational system, and the example they were using is Archimedes’ principle. And describing how you learn what it means and then something…there’s a whole process of assimilation, which they’re referring to as development and then it is possible to learn another piece. And then there’s another whole process of assimilation. And then it’s learn another piece. And so, little by little this whole way of being able to understand Archimedes’ principle develops. And then you’ve really learned it, but it’s not a linear process. It’s actually a circular process.
It’s the same in our practice. I don’t know whether any of you recall this explicitly but you work with these instructions and you think you understand them. And so, that’s nice, and so you practice with them. And then two or three years later you come back, you look at the instructions again, you go, “Oh, I didn’t understand them at all.” Then you come back five years later and you go, “Oh, that’s what they mean! Hunh!” And five years later you go, “Oh, that was kind of stupid of me, five years ago, now I got a much better sense of this.” And what’s happening is, there’s a whole different way of experiencing things gradually developing within us, evolving, if you wish.
And so, we come back to the same instructions and they seem to be different or have a different meaning. Now, what’s very important to understand here is that the earlier understandings weren’t incorrect, possibly they were incomplete. But that’s how you understood them before and that’s initiated a process. But now you come back to them and now they have a very, very different meaning. Because you’re now capable of experiencing things in a different way. And the same words, have a different significance. And this is a process I find that with some of these instructions goes on, I don’t know how often, possibly indefinitely. But, a very good example of this, is how many of you know Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind? Okay, so it’s a book you probably should every five years. And there are many, many other books like that written by some of these great teachers. And like, “Oh.”
I mean, one of the themes that Suzuki Roshi comes back to again and again in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mindis: “No gaining ideas.” You know, ambition, if you were. And as our practice deepens we get a more and more subtle understanding of how deeply ambition operates in us. Secret hopes, so forth. Identities, you know, that we’re holding onto and, “Oh, didn’t realize I was doing that.” And a lot of this stuff we couldn’t see before because our level of attention, level of awareness wasn’t sufficient. And that’s why there’s this cyclical process and people say, “Oh, I just keep going around and around.” It’s actually more of a spiral, you come back to the same issues, but you’re now working with them at a different level.
When your mind is less acute and does not truly rest, now, what it actually says here is, but I just can’t in good consciousness translate this way, “Those with the less ability.” But I’ve chosen to translate it as, “Applying to any of us” because sometimes things are just very clear, and we can practice this way. And other times we don’t have the same capacity, the same ability.
So, when that’s the case,
When your mind is less acute and does not truly rest, work the essentials of energy and bring out the vitality of awareness
Now these refer to energy transformation practices. And the practice that I’ve given you of progressively opening to experience is a very simple energy transformation practice. By opening to all sensory experience, and you just practice it, just at the level of opening to all sensory experience, your relationship with sensory experience changes and you will find that there’s more energy or your attention operates at a higher level. You’re transforming the energy of sensory experience into attention.
And then you can do the same thing with emotional and conceptual experience. And it doesn’t matter how much you practice, this is always a way of raising your level of energy. And this has practical applications. You come into a difficult situation and you’re disturbed. One of the more effective ways to become present when you’re disturbed and agitated in a difficult situation is not to focus, not to try to concentrate, but just to open to everything you’re experiencing.
Now, when we’re disturbed and agitated that’s usually the last thing we want to do but it’s probably the most effective. You just open to everything. And by opening to everything, all of that experience, what you’re experiencing in your body, what your experiencing through all of the different senses, what your experiencing emotionally, what you’re experiencing all the stories flying through your head, you just open to it all. And now there’s a higher level of attention and you’re no longer disturbed. And you train yourself this way. And you can make that shift actually quite quickly without suppressing anything.
So, there are more elaborate energy transformation exercises, some of the yidam practices have a little bit. There are various practices in the mahamudra and dzochen traditions. There are breathing practices in the yoga traditions and so forth which you can use to develop higher states of energy, pranayana, there are a lot of different things, a bunch of qi gong stuff which does the same thing. A lot of people enjoy the buzz and like to ride on the buzz. But from the perspective of direct awareness, mahamudra and dzochen, these kinds of things that we’re talking about, the purpose of these energy practices isn’t to generate the buzz or the bliss and ride on it, it’s to develop a higher state of attention which brings out this awareness quality of experience very, very vividly. And you rest right there.
So, there are very subtle practice in dzochen were you’re staring into space in certain ways and they raise the level of attention. And a lot of people attach to the energy of the experience rather than looking at the way their mind is, right at that moment. And because of the level of attention and because of the way those practices work the mind is very, very empty. And that’s where you rest.
And another one that is very straightforward, is just to look at the sky. Clear blue sky. Don’t look in the direction of the sun ’cause that’ll be bad for your eyes. But you just look straight into the sky and you’ll find that level of attention rises considerably and you can’t hold thought. It’s very, very effective practice. Very simple. So,
Work the essentials of energy and bring out the vitality of awareness. Using gazes and techniques to take hold of mind.
And I’ve been discussing some of those. There are all kinds of methods which bring out this quality of experience in a way that you can identify it and experience it. And when your mind is dull or less acute, or you’re having difficulty actually doing mahamudra practice then you use these methods to bring out the quality in a way and actually to establish those possibilities within your experience. And then you can move into the practice of just resting.
And this is exactly what Tilopa was doing to Naropa through all of his hardships. He was pushing him really, really deeply in these really difficult situations. So that he could see that quality of awareness. And that’s saying, train awareness until it does truly rest, okay? Marie?
Marie: Just a question about the different classes of energy transformation. I’m more familiar with the dzogchen sems ’dzin (pron. sem dzin).
Ken: Yeah, that’s right.
Marie: But I’ve heard about the anuyoga style where there’s breath and visualizations of the channels and the seed syllables. Is it the same function?
Ken: Well, sems ’dzin, the word you used—that’s exactly what’s used—I translated here as “take hold of the mind” techniques, techniques to take hold of mind. They’re old. As you say they’re the 21 sems ’dzin, the sems sde (pron. sem dé). And dzogchen, the anuyoga are more energy transformation techniques.
Marie: And gtu mo (pron. tumo) would be anuyoga?
Ken: Yeah, gtu mo and illusory body, dream practice, clear light—
Marie: So it’s a different principle of transformation as opposed to?
Ken: Taking hold of mind, yeah.
Ken: They’re two different things.
Ken: Now the next verse describes a particular form of practice where you work with transforming your experience of sexual energy and sexual relationship. And you work with very, very deep patterns of energy in your body. Using the sexual interaction and then being able through your mastery and it requires a fairly high level of ability, being able to stay present in the whole sexual experience and actually transform it into awareness.
Now, this very powerful. There are a few teachers who have taught this to us westerners. And there are other versions of it available, this practice and do the same kind of thing in the taoist traditions and I think also in the Hindu Yoga traditions. Not particularly easy and one of the things that almost always happens here is a little emotional attachment forms. And so Longchempa in his Words of Sincere Advice says, you know, and he’s speaking to monks here, he says, “Don’t mess with these practices they’ve been the downfall of many a person.” Trungpa Rinpoche says most people get this. They don’t need to do these practices because they’re not all that easy and they’re only used when you really don’t get it.
That being said, when I look over the history and this really doesn’t make sense to me. There’s several teachers, great masters in the past who lived lives as celibate yogis or monks and so forth. And for some of them they said their experience wasn’t complete until they had a relationship with a partner. And so I think there’s something, and this is my own interpretation, you won’t find this in any texts that I know of, I think there’s something very human going on here that for some people the fullness of their expression is going to be found in an actual relationship.
When you read some of the texts that are describing these sexual practices, I mean, they are almost cold and clinical, the way that they’re describing how you do these practices and the kind of relationship you have with your partner. And there’s something about it that just doesn’t ring true to me because there is a warmth and an opening that naturally opens up. The key here is to know your experience of love and affection as just experience as well.
And here we go to what I think is very much the heart of the matter. What mahamudra is talking about is [pause] forming a way or developing a way of experiencing everything that arises and not getting stuck on any of it. So, there’s…it’s possible to have very, very deep feelings of love and affection and connection and not get stuck on it. Have very deep feelings of sadness and grief and loss and not get stuck on it.
Two examples of that. Marpa, the translator who was Naropa’s main student. So, you had Tilopa, Naropa, then Marpa. Marpa lived as a householder in Tibet. He was a property owner and a pretty aggressive one at that. He liked appropriating property form his neighbours. And he had great hopes for his son that would carry on his lineage. But his son was killed in a riding accident and Marpa was absolutely devastated. And some of his older students said, “You’ve told us everything is an illusion, why are you so upset?” And Marpa just turned, glared at them, ’cause he had a very bad temper, and said, “Yes, everything’s a illusion, this is a super illusion.” [Laughter]
And then there’s a story of a woman in Japan, who’s a zen teacher whose son also died. And she was just devastated. And at the the funeral ceremony she was crying copiously. And her students said, “You’ve told us everything is illusion, why are you crying?” She just turned on them and said, “If you don’t understand how every tear that I’ve shed saved countless sentient beings, you know nothing about zen.” [Laughter] So, I’ll let you figure those out.
Okay the last verse here—
Student: Can I ask a question?
Student: I do have to ask a question about 27. The fact that it’s in here, would lead us to assume that it’s a practice that Tilopa—
Ken: Yes. Had taught Naropa, yeah.
Student: Taught Naropa, and that they used. So, without going into it here tonight, is it begs the question of what was the situation that they found themselves in where they could use this practice?
Ken: Well, I go back to my analogy of Magic Johnson and Larry Byrd. [Laughter]
Student: I can’t wait.
Ken: Well, no, I mean these are professional basketball players. They can do stuff on the court that you and I can’t even dream about. Magic Johnson used to practice at UCLA and there’s a student of mine who used to play basketball there. He said when Magic Johnson was shooting hoops, he never missed. From wherever he was in the court, just every one went in. Okay. So there’s a capability there and when you’re talking about Naropa and Tilopa, these guys were, this is what they did with their lives, was to develop these kinds of abilities. Now, there’s some people for whom this is very, very natural. And for other people who really, really have to work at it.
Student: I’m not so much interested in the capability as the situation. I mean, did they have girls?
Ken: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure.
Student: Did they find girls? Was it homosexual?
Ken: No, no, it wasn’t homosexual, it was with women, yes. You have to remember, Tilopa was a procurer for prostitutes.
Student: Oh, that’s right, so there was ample opportunity. Now it says, when you practice, one would assume that the other person was practicing as well, is that not so?
Ken: Well, sometimes and sometimes not.
Student: Well, duh…yeah, of course. All right, thank you.
Ken: Yes. I mean, you take Sukhasiddhi who is one of the progenitors of the Shangpa tradition and the story of Sukhasiddhi. And there’a a podcast on this with The Lives of The Teachers and Other Talks section. But she studied with a teacher called Virupa. And Virupa took her as a consort and this is how he initiated her. And she had such a powerful experience that it’s described that her whole physical appearance went from being a 64- year-old woman to a 16-year-old woman. Which we can take as a metaphor of just infused her whole being with vitality. And then she on and became a teacher in her own right, has her own tradition of the six yogas.
And quite an extraordinary figure because, that all occurred in the tenth century, eleventh century. ’Cause that’s when Khyungpo Naljor met her. But, people have had visions of Sukhasiddhi in Tibet all through the centuries up ’til the 19th century. Maybe others have had it in the 20th century, I’ve just never heard about it. But, certainly up ’til the 19th century there were teachers who practiced in that tradition. Who had visions…so it’s something very, very powerful operating there. Okay?
So, the results,
You have a long life, you do not go gray.
You do not go gray, okay. It says in the Tibetan, Your hair doesn’t turn white, but we don’t say that in English, we say, “going gray.”
You shine like the moon, you radiate health and well-being and are strong as a lion.
You quickly attain the ordinary abilities.
Which is, that’s basically what those first two lines refer to. And then the word in Tibetan is very interesting, shoow which I chose to translate, Open to the supreme one.
I mean, in another areas it will say, “you attain the supreme ability”, but it doesn’t really happen that way. It’s something happens. And there it is. It’s not like you can attain it, it’s something happens in you, something opens up. And this raises the whole question, which is, very significant, one in the Chinese and Japanese traditions of self-power vs. other power. Does awakening arise in you through your own efforts or does something happen to you? And that’s a topic we won’t get into this evening, but it’s another, you know, what actually happens here? And people have investigated that and explored it but as it said earlier in this text. [Pause] Let’s see. Oh yes, verse 17.
Beyond any frame of reference mind is naturally clear. Where there is no path is where you begin the path of awakening.
So, when you find you have no idea where to go and there’s nothing there, that’s when you’re beginning to wake up. And then,
When there’s nothing to work on you come to the deepest awakening.
So, it’s not something you can make happen. This is very important. What we’re doing in practice is creating the conditions. Opening the possibilities. T.S. Eliot refers to this as, “For us there is only the trying, the rest is not our business.” And you can see when we look at it this way, the importance of faith, just opening to whatever’s there. You can’t control it, don’t control it and you just open to it. Again, from Four Quartets, “Wait without hope for hope would be hope for the wrong thing. Wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing. Wait without thought for you are not yet ready for thought. There is yet faith, but the fai…” How’s it go? Something along the lines of, “Faith is found in the waiting.” So, it’s just like, letting yourself be completely open without trying to control anything in your experience. This is very, very deep and very tough. You practice this every day.
And whether you’re doing noting practice as in the vipashyana tradition, or whether you’re doing koan practice in the zen tradition. Or whether you’re doing resting with the breath or whatever, all of these practices you can approach this way of just really opening without any sense of expectation. And this is something that Rinpoche was constantly encouraging us to do, even though we were doing an awful lot of very often quite complex meditation techniques. He would always say, “You do this. Do it without any expectation. Just do the practice, open to what’s there.” And just being in whatever is there.
You know, we were always thinking, “Well, I’ll get this ability and then I’ll get this and build up here. And do this, this and that.” But with that you get all this busyness going on and he was constantly discouraging that. Just saying, “Just be in what you are experiencing.”
Last two lines,
May these pith instructions, that cover the essentials of mahamudra, abide in the hearts of all worthy beings.
Okay. So, there we are. Any questions? Clear as a bell, right? Okay. In closing, what I want to do, I’ve got a couple of announcements, later, but, what I’d like to do right now, and we can start with Nava. Pass the microphone. So, I’d just like to hear from each of you one thing that you’ve got out of this class. Joe, you have the mic, can you pass it over? No, you don’t have to start. We’ll just go around. [Pause]
Nava: Well, it’s a reminder for me to really open up. We talked about the heart, to open up to whatever experience, whatever I experience. And it is very powerful for me. It’s very healing and very powerful.
Ken: Okay. Chuck? Oh, Peter’s fine.
Peter: I like the very first part where we rested in the space. Where we just [unclear], and just sit there and rest.
Student: I’m with Nava, but opening the heart and keep returning to opening the heart to experience is really very powerful.
Student: I have a friend who misread the punctuation on one part of the prayer where it says, “What is profound and totally true may…” What is that line? “And through the force of what is profound and totally true”. Well, she was reading it, “Through the force of what is profound and totally true.” And that’s such a hard…much harder chore to find something that is profound and totally true rather than to find out what is and recognize it as profound and totally true, I think mahamudra speaks to that.
Student: Just that sense of always starting from scratch, like that…just let go of all these assumptions and staying close to your experience.
Student: I learned a new practice, this practice of opening first of all to senses and then feelings and then thoughts and then everything and then this heart thing. [Laughter]
Ken: “This little heart thing,” yeah.
Student: Yeah. So, I learned that, so thanks.
Ken: Yeah, good. Okay.
Student: A deeper awareness of what it means to rest, with no expectation or agenda.
Ken: Okay. Susan?
Susan: That no matter how complex one’s practices can get, that there is an underlying simplicity to remain in touch with.
Student : I only came twice, do you still want to hear from me?
Student: Tonight in particular, I had a couple of “aha” moments, of “Oh, is that what that meant?” As you were describing, this can happen in that spiral practice.
Student: To let go of trying and to show up.
Ken: Okay. Give it to Peri.
Peri: It was a great reminder to open my heart to all experience and I’ve learned a lot about how much it takes to manage one of these things. [Laughter]
Peri: Harder than I thought.
Student: Thanks, Peri.
Ken: She won’t volunteer again. She was saying, “Just tell me, tell me something I can do, Ken.” So, she’s going, “No more, Ken, no more.” Okay, Art?
Art: To open and rest.
Student: I think I’ve gotten incrementally closer to not having to always do something.
Student: I think I’ve made peace or at least I’ve made a truce with my voices.
Student: I think getting away from the idea of expecting certain things to happen in meditation.
Shelley: My “aha” moments relate to your translations in that, through years and years of studying this, sometimes understanding a concept balances on one word. If a teacher can say something in a way that makes me just flip the lens, hah [takes a quick breath], and I get it. So, I’ve appreciated your translation work because taking what has been obviously been written and rewritten through several different languages and now, to get it to us, it’s monumental that sometimes through all these translations, an “aha” can pivot on one word.
Ken: Yup. And then you gotta find that word. [Laughter]
Studen: Fotr me, the class was very helpful, like, meditation instruction.
Student: I think I got, especially tonight, a better sense or experience of really opening my heart and how I could actually use that every day.
Student: I liked the concept that you discussed both tonight and I believe also at the first session, about that we don’t have, necessarily, an incorrect understanding, but an incomplete understanding which deepens and enriches with our own experience in practice.
Ken: Yeah. Helena?
Helena: You all said really good things. I didn’t experience many good things. This whole process of opening up to more sensations, which is something I was already doing a little bit, opened up to a lot of pain and a lot more than what I was already experiencing. So, I don’t know where I’m going to go, for the moment I’m there.
Ken: Okay. Final comments. Thank you all very much.
This isn’t a methodical presentation of mahamudra practice. If you want a methodical presentation, then Clarifying the Natural State, The Lamp of Mahamudra, those are both relatively short texts and they’re both very good. If you want a long, detailed, scholastic text then Moonbeams of Mahamudra. It’s this thick. There are other texts around, those are, first two are, I think, particularly good. ’Cause I like shorter texts myself, than long detailed ones.
This is a song. Sung on a particular occasion. So, it’s not methodical. Tilopa, he’s been teaching Naropa for quite a long time. They’ve gone through a lot together. Tilopa knows how hard he’s pushed Naropa and Naropa experiences this opening and this is an expression of Tilopa’s joy. And saying, “Okay, let me say this now,” and he just lets loose with this probably completely spontaneous description. And that’s why it’s hitting here, hitting here, hitting here, hitting here. Now, some of the Tibetan commentators have tried to make it into a methodical presentation, but it really isn’t. It’s a spontaneous song.
Now, in translating it, I’ve struggled to bring it to life in English and I think this third translation is getting closer. But I was talking with somebody yesterday and they said, “Okay, now you’ve got it this far, Ken, why don’t you put it into real poetry?” So there may be a fourth version coming around sooner or later.
So, anyway, this concludes the class and thank you all very much for being here. And we can close here, actually.