About Me

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Himalayas
I study, and try to practice, Vajrayana Buddhism. My main areas of interest are Chod, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions as well as Buddhisms interactions with the West, pop-culture and engaged Buddhism.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Karma Coma


There is a plethora of opinion about the current state of Buddhism globally, ranging from wildly optimistic "Buddhism is growing like never before" to less optimistic views of the Dharma having been in sharp decline for a long time and Kali Yuga being imminent.

I don't hold either of those views, although I also don't see them as diametrically opposed either. Yes Buddhism is spreading and Dharma is becoming available to lots of people, but at the same time it has been damaged quite severely by unhealthy political and economic trends. Capitalism and Communism have both damaged Asian Buddhism immensely. In Cambodia nearly all monks and nuns were executed by Pol Pot and the Tibetan situation is ongoing. Capitalism, combined with Western cultural imperialism has also severely damaged Asian Buddhism.

There are lots of theories about why there would be a general decline in the Dharma. I say Dharma as opposed to the instituion(s) of Buddhism as this is something more worrying. As long as there is an ordained Sangha and continuation/transmission of the teachings, the Dharma will remain. However the dillution of it may erode it from within.

The way rituals are performed, the way the ordained Sangha dress and behave, how shrines are set up and all manner of other things will change. Change is a key concept in Buddhist doctrine. However when people start to say they are practicing Dharma with no mention of cause and conditions (Karma), the things are looking bleak.

Karma doesn't stop simply because it's inconvenient. I'm not going to go into a massive rant about how intent is central to Buddhist morality or how the doctrine of karma is extremely complicated, yet is often summarised as "do good and good happens, and vice versa", my point is rather one of karma needing to be a much more central issue than it often seems to be.

The internet and the Western Buddhist world is full of people who seem only interested in practicing the 'highest' teachings. However practicing without a solid understanding, and more importantly mindfulness of ones actions seems insane.

"Although my view is higher than the sky,
My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour." Padmasambhava

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rise of the Idiots revisited



A number of years ago the genius that is Chris Morris spawned a ghastly creation known as Nathan Barley. Nathan was a "self-facilitating media node" or Hoxton twat as they were known at the time. One of the less subtle sequences in the show featured a series of "idiots" like Nathan moving along the street whilst a narrative from a feature about them was lovingly read to us.

Whilst the whole basis of Nathan Barley was to satirise the media, which I was working for at the time, the whole thing could be taken to more frightening depths. The dumbing down and trivialisation of news media into nothing more than PR, and arts of all types similarly becoming nothing more than the modern equivalent of the Roman circus, we have really come as far it is healthy to go.

The current X-factor vs Rage Against the Machine is an interresting case here. Whilst Simon, David Cameron and various others whose moral compasses are non-existant are complaining about 'bullying' by the facebook campaign for RATM, the more cerebral trolls are pointing out the fact that RATM and Joe are both lining the coffers of Sony. But that's not the point. The point is that there is a concerted grass roots movement to have something anti-athoritarian and organic as the xmas number one. RATM like most politically 'radical' musicians are not going to be leading a much overdue charge on the Whitehouse, Whitehall or Copenghagen, however they might spark a few people to think for themselves about how the world is run. And the moment that process starts, then one more person is set on the path to intellectual freedom. And as limited as that might be, it's a start.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I've been asked to share how my retreat went so here goes.

I kept an extremely 'light' schedule vaguely based on doing regulr sessions. I took Sojong vows and kept to one meal per day, effectively following a NyungNay non-fasting approach.

In terms of the actual practice I mostly did Ngondro (Foundation practice) of Refuge and Bodhicitta with prostrations and Dorje Sempa (Vajrasattva) as well as the Guru Rinpoche practice known as "Union of the precious ones".

It was only three days, yet it felt very good all the way through. And as with every retreat, I had the sense that I could quite happily live like this.

I mentioned Bodhicitta above. I should say that Bodhicitta is also as much part of Dorjesempa or any other practice as well. I remember my friend Tulku Jampel Wangpo of Mindroling monastery saying that when you do Dorjesempa, Bodhicitta will naturally come through. This is certainly how I feel.

So basically the micro-retreat went very well and I wish I could share the immense sense off inner peace and happiness I felt, and still feel.

Having generally failed to develop any sort of compassion, let alone Bodhicitta, getting small glimpses like this consolidates my conviction that if you have a solid grounding in Dharma with a good Lama, then you really need nothing else.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I've become complacent

This is never a good thing and as such I will strive to get out of the dangerous comfort zone this week. Protected by questioning hopefully.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Namo Guru,

Precious Root-Guru, embodiment of the Three Jewels and Three Roots.
Bless me that depression and sadness may arise in my mindstream.
Bless me that these may become irreversible renuniciation.
Bless me that renunciation may become impartial love and compassion.
Bless me that compassion may become the peerless Bodhicitta mind.
Bless me that Bodhicitta may be the path that instantly liberates.
Bless me that Bodhicitta may be the view that transcends duality.
Bless me that Bodhicitta may be the recognition of myself.

Sarwa Mangalam!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meat and the normalisation of porn.




On first glances one may be tempted to deny an similarity between the meat and porn industries, other than as an oversimplified and emotive illustration used by angry radical feminists with an anti-porn agenda. It is not, and the similarities go beyond the immediately obvious exploitation inherent in both cases.

Whichever way the meat industry, with it's powerful political lobby, tries to spin things, the average person in an industrialised country eats far more meat than they should purely from a health point of view, never mind taking any wider environmental and ethical issues into account. From a biological point of view our digestive system has not yet evolved to handle the amount of meat eaten. Health problems our hunter gatherer ancestors never had to deal with as well as rising obesity bear witness to this.

As well as having a disproportionate political influence, the meat industry has had one of the most successful marketing campaigns in marketing history. And it's not simply the often publicly funded advertising campaigns, but the fact that eating meat as a positive thing is one of the most established memes in Western culture, predating industrialisation. This is where the real problem lies, the unquestioning belief that it is normal and advisable to eat meat is in some ways almost as disturbing as the cruelty that underpins the industry. From birth we are conditioned to simply accept that this is what one eats. And the addictive nature of meat eating is the often hidden suffering in the meat industry.

Many people who have attempted to give up eating meat have found it difficult, in Western Vajrayana circles a worrying trend is how meat eating is often excused. Meat eating was pretty common in pre-invasion Tibet for practical reasons. Ever the orientalists, many will justify eating meat on the basis that their Lama does so, or in the more deluded cases by claiming that they are creating a karmic link between the Dharma and the dead animals by eating the meat.

There is indeed a belief in Vajrayana, which goes back to Indian times, that eating the meat of a being could indeed benefit it spiritually. Tilopa was eating fish when his future disciple Naropa first met him and the Buddha himself ate meat. However the issue here is that for there to be any benefit to the being that is eaten, the person eating must be pretty advanced in terms of their realisation. When Khyabje Chatral Rinpoche, possibly the most widely respected Dzogchen lineage holder acknowledges that eating meat can benefit the animal being eaten, yet claims he himself is unable to do so, it seems insane to image that some guy who meditates for an hour a day, has not completed any sort of Ngondro and doesn't understand what refuge really means, is then actually doing anyone any good at all by eating meat.

I'm not going to go in depth about the meat vs vegetarianism debate in Buddhism in general or Vajrayana in particular. I simply wanted to illustrate the above point as it used to be the most predictable and commonly used in this debate on various Buddhism discussion forums. If you want to read more on meat in Buddhism, check out the excellent Shabkar, with quotes from contemporary teachers as well as from Sutra and Tantra texts.

My final question to Buddhists who claim to be benefiting beings by eating meat is this. How is it benefiting the butcher, especially those who work in industrial slaughterhouses killing hundreds of animals per day?

In some ways the issues around porn being normalised are similar, along with the excuses people use. For the two of you who are still reading I should probably clarify what I mean by the normalisation of porn.

It doesn't take an exceptional level of socio-cultural awareness to have noticed that sexual imagery, mostly focused around women, is used to sell all manner of crap we don't need more aggressively than ever. However it's the huge rise in what are effectively soft porn images used in products targeted at children which are more worrying. A few months back there was a story floating around the blogosphere and the chans about a pole dancing doll. I don't know whether it was real or part of an elaborate and successful troll. It doesn't really matter, the point is that the idea of being effectively a sex object is now pushed at young women by the fashion and beauty industries backed by porn positive feminists as part of a reclamation of sexuality or empowerment.

I'm not going to counter the porn positive feminists and their ilk at length and am happy to concede that there are many women who will feel that they have control of their lives through their careers in the sex industry. However an observation I've made is that every pro-porn feminist I've met has been from a financially privileged middle class background. The majority of sex workers in the world are not doing it through choice even if nobody is holding a gun to their head.

Again in the Western Buddhist world the levels of self-deceit here are through the roof. Why? Firstly, the normalisation of porn, along with availability has led to an increase in misogynistic attitudes amongst young educated white men, effectively the same demographic as the majority of Western Buddhist, according to Peter Harveys research at least. Here again genuine Vajrayana ideas are applied with tragicomic effect. On the same discussion forums where eating meat was hailed as a Bodhisattva act, the same people would also claim that their sex lives were along similar lines, i.e. they were not simply fucking, they were practicing kamamudra. This practice is traditionally only said to be suitable to people who have a high level of realisation, so if you can fly, walk through walls and and you can eat shit like it was ambrosia, then it might be wise to err on the side of caution. It's possible to have normal human sex, as elaborate as you want without pretending it's something it isn't. For the record there are very easy ways to make your sex life more integrated with your practice without it being 'tantric sex', although it seems simple mindfulness and kindness are not exotic enough.

So what are socially aware Buddhists to do about the above? ALF like direct actions on slaughter houses, supermarkets and porn distribution warehouses? Black Blocs against red light districts and Ddos'ing of porn sites? Maybe.

As such I don't want governments to legislate against the consumtion of meat or porn, however I would love to see more direct actions against the industries themselves. Nor do I think groups of activists with self-appointed leaders, hierarchies of power and the inevitable dogmatic groupthink are the answer.

Both really come down to individual responsibility or as the Dalai Lama says:

“Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually.”

Those who have taken refuge in the Three Jewels are committed to at least try to reduce the ammount of harm they cause others, both directly an indirectly and to try to help where possible.

Anyone claiming to be practicing Vajrayana should also remember that both "abandoning love for sentient beings" and "disparaging women" are amongst the fourteen root downfalls. Thus supporting either the meat or porn industries seems a bad idea.

In terms of engaged Buddhism, something which The Dalai Lama, Gyalwang Karmapa and many others are involved in or at least supportive of, both industries mentioned here seem like good targets, purely on the basis of the sheer variety of tactics that can be used against them.

I know that there is a tendency amongst Western Buddhists to allow inertia by claiming 'not to do politics' or that they are doing so much more by meditating. Fine, it's their choice, but let's not forget that engaged Buddhism is not a new invention and has a long history which has had an affect on the countries where it took place. Hypocritically hiding inertia and fear behind a mask of 'detachment' or worse, 'niceness', as is most often the case, did not stop Chinese monks posing enough of a threat to Imperial power that caps were placed on numbers in monasteries, nor did it stop Milarepa or Drukpa Kunley from speaking out against injustices and hypocrisy around them

From an Anarchist perspective the meat industry needs to be opposed as it is essential to the maintenance of both land control and wage slavery. Obviously Anarcho-primitivists and others might take things further by talking about specieism as part of a hierarchical structure.

The elephant in the room in lots of Anarchist circles is often the subtle misogyny, which are a reflection of the society from which those in these circles come. Whilst it's impossible for men to truly be feminists, something no amount of "This is what a feminist looks like" t-shirts or attendance of awareness classes will change, the recognition that attitudes and structures which support, facilitate and normalise misogyny are the very same as those who do the same for statism more generally and must therefore be destroyed.

Monday, November 9, 2009



Had an awesome weekend in solitary retreat. I feel like I can walk through a mountain.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Last night I dreamt that I was in a temple, which looked familiar. Lama was there as were some other people, we were doing a puja, possibly Cho' or a protector practice. I don't really know, but there was definitely something connecting it all to Machig.

Anyway there was an offering section to the puja where suddenly Lama flew up into a dance whilst holding a bell and vajra, he subdued some sort of entity which had turned up.

I also felt the saviouress Tara being present in her yellow form. This form I think is associated with wealth.

I woke up feeling happy as I felt the entire dream was a favourable omen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

For the Dharma to become really established in the West, it needs 'local talent' as it were. That is, it needs a strong Western ordained Sangha and Western teachers with genuine realisation gained through practice, not simply intellectual speculation.

I'm spending the weekend in retreat, but let's not get our hopes up. :P

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I should have posted this yesterday, but instead posted something by the amazing Jamgon Kongtrul.

But yeah the bank called off the court and we are able to sell the house under conventional conditions for now at least.

On the job front too things are looking up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Intensifying Devotion In One's Heart:
Crying to the Gurus from Afar

NAMO GURAVE

This practice of crying to the gurus from afar is well known to everyone. The key to invoking blessings is devotion, which is aroused by sadness and renunciation. It should not be a mere platitude but be born in the center of one's bones. With decisive conviction that there is no other buddha who is greater than the guru, recite this melodic tune.

Guru, think of me.
Kind root guru, think of me.

Essence of the buddhas of the three times,
Source of the holy dharma of scripture and experience,
Master of the sangha, the noble assembly,
Root guru, think of me.

Great treasure of blessings and compassion,
Source of the two attainments,
Bestower of whatever enlightened activity is desired,
Root guru, think of me.

Guru Amitabha, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of dharmakaya, free of elaborations.
We of evil karma wander in samsara
Lead us to the pure Realm of Great Bliss.

Guru Avalokitesvara, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of sambhogakaya, luminosity.
Pacify completely the suffering of the six realms.
Shake us from the depths of the three realms of samsara.

Guru Padmakara, think of me.
Look upon me from the lotus light of Chamara.
We are wretched people without refuge in this dark age.
Quickly protect us with your compassion.

Guru Yeshe Tsogyal, think of me.
Look upon me from the celestial realm, the city of great bliss.
Take us who commit evil deeds from the ocean of samsara
To the great city of liberation.

Gurus of the kama and terma lineages, think of me.
Look upon me from the wisdom realm of unity.
Break through the dark dungeon of my confused mind.
Make the sun of realization arise.

Omniscient Trime Oser, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of the five natural wisdom lights.
Help me perfect great skill in the originally pure mind
And complete the four stages of ati yoga.

Incomparable Lord Atisha, father and son, think of me.
Look upon me from amidst a hundred devas in Tushita.
Arouse in me bodhicitta,
The essence of emptiness and compassion.

Three supreme siddhas - Marpa, Mila and Gampopa - think of me.
Look upon me from the vajra realm of great bliss.
May I attain the supreme attainment of mahamudra, bliss and emptiness.
And awaken dharmakaya in my heart.

Karmapa, lord of the world, think of me.
Look upon me from the space where all beings everywhere are tamed.
Help me to realize that all dharmas are insubstantial and illusory.
Make appearance and mind dawn as the three kayas.

Kagyus of the four great and eight lesser lineages, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of sacred outlook.
Help me to clear away confusion in the fourth moment
And complete my experience and realization.

Five Sakya forefathers, noble ones, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of inseparable samsara and nirvana.
Help me to connect pure view, meditation, and action.
And tread the supreme secret path.

Incomparable Shangpa Kagyu, think of me.
Look upon me from the completely pure buddha realm.
Help me to master the practices of method and freedom
And attain the paths of non-learning and integration.

Great siddha, Tangtong Gyalpo, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of effortless compassion.
Help me to master the deliberate behavior which realizes insubstantiality.
Help me to gather control in prana and mind.

Only father, Padampa Sangye, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of the realization of the highest activity.
May the blessings of your lineage enter my heart.
And may conditions and coincidences arise in all directions.

Only mother, Machik Lapchi Dronma, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of prajnaparamita.
Help me to uproot ego-fixation and self-importance
And realize the simple truth of egolessness.

Omniscient enlightened one of Tolpo, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm endowed with all supreme aspects.
Help me to still the moving breaths in the central channel
And attain the unmoving vajra body.

Jetsun Taranatha, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of the three mudras.
May I tread the secret vajra path unhindered.
And attain the rainbow body in the celestial realm.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, think of me.
Look upon me from the wisdom realm of the two knowledges.
Help me to remove the darkness of my ignorance.
And expand the brilliance of supreme knowledge.

Osel Trulpe Dorje, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of the five rainbow rays.
Help me to cleanse the impurities of bindu, prana, and mind.
And attain the enlightenment of the youthful kaya in the vase.

Padma Do-Nga Lingpa, think of me.
Look upon me from the unchanging realm of bliss and emptiness.
Enable me to fulfill completely
All the intentions of the victorious ones and their children.

Nga-wang Yonten Gyatso, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of the union of space and wisdom.
May clinging to the reality of appearances be totally destroyed,
And may I bring whatever occurs to the path.

Son of the victorious ones, Lodro Thaye, think of me.
Look upon me from the state of love and compassion.
Enable me to realize that all beings are my kind parents
And to have the ability to work wholeheartedly to help others.

Padma Kargyi Wangchuk, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm of great bliss and luminosity.
Help me to liberate the five poisons as the five wisdoms
And destroy my clinging to loss and gain.

Ten-nyi Yungtrung Lingpa, think of me.
Look upon me from the realm in which samsara and nirvana are equal.
May natural devotion be born in my being.
May realization and liberation come at the same time.

Kind root guru, think of me.
Look upon me from the top of my head, the abode of great bliss.
May I meet my own mind, the face of dharmakaya
And attain buddhahood in a single lifetime.

Alas! Sentient beings like myself, evildoers with bad karma,
Have wandered in samsara from beginningless time.
Even now we experience endless suffering
Yet do not feel any sadness for even an instant.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I give rise to renunciation from my depths.

Although I have obtained a free and well-favored human birth,
I have wasted it in vain.
I am constantly distracted by the activities of this futile life.
At the great objective of liberation I work lazily;
I return empty-handed from a land of jewels.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that my human birth is meaningful.

There is no one on earth who will not die.
Even now, one after another, they pass away.
I also will die very soon
And yet like an idiot, I prepare to live for a long time.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I dispense with leisure and cut short preoccupations.

I will become separated from my lovers and friends.
The wealth and food which I amassed greedily will be enjoyed by others.
Even this body I hold so dear will be left behind.
My consciousness will wander in the unfamiliar bardo and samsara.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I realize that I need nothing at all.

The black darkness of destruction receives me.
The fierce red winds of karma chase after me.
Yama's hideous messengers beat and hack me.
Do I have to experience the unbearable suffering of the lower realms?
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I free myself from the chasms of the lower realms.

My faults are as large as a mountain but I conceal them within me.
Others' faults are as minute as a sesame seed, but I proclaim and condemn them.
Though I haven't the slightest capabilities, I boast about how good I am.
I call myself a dharma person and practice only non-dharma.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I subdue my selfishness and pride.

Within I hide the demon of ego-fixation which will ruin me permanently.
All of my thoughts cause my emotions to increase.
All of my actions have unvirtuous results.
I have not even gone in the direction of the path of freedom.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I destroy this clinging to me and mine.

Just a little praise or blame makes me happy or sad.
A mere harsh word causes me to lose my armor of patience.
Even when I see helpless ones, compassion does not arise.
When needy people come to me, I am tied up by a knot of greed.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that my mind blends with the dharma.

I hold dearly to futile samsara.
For the sake of food and clothing, I completely abandon lasting goals.
Though I have everything I need, I constantly want more and more.
My mind is duped by insubstantial and illusory things.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I dismiss concern for this life.

I cannot endure even the slightest physical or mental pain,
Yet I am so stubborn that I have no fear of falling into the lower realms.
Though I actually see the inevitability of cause and effect,
I still do not act virtuously but increase my wealth of evil.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that conviction in karma arises in me.

I am hateful toward enemies and attached to friends.
I am stupefied in darkness as to what should be accepted and rejected.
When practicing the dharma, I fall under the influence of dullness, torpor and sleep.
When not doing the dharma, I am clever and my senses are alert.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I conquer my enemy, the emotions.

From outside, I look like an authentic dharma practitioner,
But inside, my mind is not mixed with the dharma.
Like a poisonous snake, emotions are concealed within me.
When I encounter difficulties, the signs of a bad practitioner are revealed.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I can tame my own mind.

I don't realize my own bad faults.
I maintain the form of a practitioner while engaging in non-dharmic pursuits.
I am thoroughly habituated to the emotions and non-virtuous activity.
Again and again I give birth to a mind of virtue and again and again it stops.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I see my own faults.

As each day passes, I come nearer and nearer to death.
As each day passes, my personality is more and more rigid.
Though I attend my guru, my devotion is steadily obscured.
Affection for my dharma companions and sacred outlook grow weaker and weaker.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I tame my wild nature.

I've taken refuge, aroused bodhicitta, and made supplications,
But devotion and compassion are not born in the depths of my heart.
Since I give lip service to dharmic action and spiritual practice,
They become routine and don't touch me.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that whatever I do becomes dharma.

All suffering comes from desiring happiness for oneself.
Although it is said that buddhahood is attained by considering the welfare of others,
I arouse supreme bodhicitta while I concentrate on my own desires.
Not only do I not benefit others, I casually cause them harm.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I exchange myself for others.

The guru is buddha in person, but I regard him as an ordinary man.
I forget completely his kindness in giving profound instructions.
When my own desires aren't fulfilled, I ignore him.
Doubts and skepticism about his actions and behavior cover my mind.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that unobscured devotion will increase.

My own mind is the Buddha but I never recognize it.
Discursive thoughts are dharmakaya but I don't realize this.
There is an unfabricated natural state but I cannot keep to it.
Letting be is the way things are but I don't believe it.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that natural awareness will be free in itself.

Death is certain to come but I can't take it to heart.
The holy dharma truly benefits, but I can't practice it properly.
Karma and its results are certainly true, but I do not act on them properly.
Mindfulness and awareness are certainly necessary
But I don't rely on them and am swept away by my distractions.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that so that I maintain undistracted mindfulness.

Because of my former evil actions, I was born at the end of the dark age.
All that I have previously done has caused me suffering.
Because of evil friends, I am covered by the shadows of evil deeds.
My dharma practice has been sidetracked by my meaningless chatter.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I can persevere in the holy dharma.

At first, I thought of nothing but the dharma,
But in the end, the results are evil existences and samsara.
The flower of freedom has been cut down by the frost of non-virtue!
People like me, the dregs of the world, ruin their own ultimate goals.
Guru, think of me; look upon me quickly with compassion.
Grant your blessings so that I will follow the holy dharma to completion.
Grant your blessings so that I will give birth to deep sadness.
Grant your blessings so that I dispense with leisure and cut short preoccupations.
Grant your blessings so that I take to heart the certainty of death.
Grant your blessings so that conviction in karma arises in me.
Grant your blessings so that the path is free from obstacles.
Grant your blessings so that I am able to exert myself in practice.
Grant your blessings so that evil situations are brought to the path.
Grant your blessings so that I continually apply the remedies.
Grant your blessings so that genuine devotion arises in me.
Grant your blessings so that I meet the natural state.
Grant your blessings so that insight is awakened in my heart.
Grant your blessings so that I destroy confusion and projections.
Grant your blessings so that I attain buddhahood in one lifetime.
Precious guru, I pray to you.
Kind lord of the dharma, I cry to you with longing.
I am an unworthy person who has no other hope but you.
Grant your blessings so that my mind mixes inseparably with yours.

Written by the peerless Jamgon Kongtrul

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It was ten year ago today.


In order to liberate each and every sentient being without exception, I take refuge in the Lama, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, until Buddhahood is realised.
Through practicing virtue and Bodhicitta, may I establish each and every being in perfect unsurpassed Buddhahood and eliminate their suffering until such a time.

I'm nowhere near this goal, mostly due to a total lack of renunciation and compassion, but I'm totally convinced of my own inherent Buddha nature.

If I live another ten years I hope to do some actual practice.

Sarwa mangalam!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sectarianism is like a bit like a drowning person complaining that they rope they are thrown is the wrong colour.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fresh morning dew dissolves in the morning sun.
The freshness of mind never dissolves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

One thing that I find really ironic is that I'm quite good at being Buddhist and I have a broad knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, history and theories behind various meditational practices as well as a wealth of empowerments and instructions from my teachers, yet I rarely really practice the Dharma.

So from now on I will stop being Buddhist and instead actually practice.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My mum has been having lots of heart palpitations recently. So far all the tests results have indicated that nothing is wrong. She is worried though and that is what bothers me. My entire life she has always cared for me and sincerely done her best. Even just thinking about how kind she was when I was a child brings tears to my eyes.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I've hit a bit of a low the last few days. All brought about by a combination of wondering what the fuck I'm doing this degree for, frustration of not being able to help a couple of people and huge uncertainties about retreat and future practice in general.

Then there is the longer running issue of having spent a disproportionate amount of time and energy on maintaining relationships with a generally fickle and shallow groups of friends, rather than focusing on the friendships that have some deeper value to them, even if it's just the level of conversation. Unintentional ironic snobbery aside, what's really unhelpful here is the level of emotional attachment I place on arbitrary and constantly changing concepts. Today's friend is tomorrows enemy and vice versa.

If I approach the world in a less attached and more open way, with the attitude of friendliness towards everyone, instead of one of evaluation and judgment, then genuine experience becomes much more likely.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

So it seems I've passed everything, at least provisionally. Scores were a pass in Classical Tibetan, a merit in History and Doctrine of Indian Buddhism and distinctions in Buddhist Ritual and on the Independent Research project. These are all provisional so I could still fail, but am sort of content at the moment. It means I can just concentrate on the dissertation which at the moment is feeling like a bit of a chore.

In other news, I'm starting to think about alternative ways of doing retreat, well not so much ways as places.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If we claim to be compassionate, or in the process of developing compassion or that we aspire to develop compassion, then this is completely useless unless there is some engagement with the world in terms of trying to relieve the suffering that is all pervasive. Whether this engagement is taking direct action to end the global culture of greed and exploitation or spending ones life in retreat isn't really the issue. The issue is actually doing something.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Foundations


I've posted a slightly edited version of my independent research project below. Due to the formatting of this blog I've left out the footnotes. They were pretty boring anyway. Similarly the bibliography, although that was not boring.

The Preliminary Practices of Tibetan Vajrayana.

Introduction.

When beginning any process, whether it is travelling, building a house or making a meal, it is essential that all the necessary factors for successful completion of the process are in place. This is also true in Vajrayana Buddhism. The so called Tantric preliminary practices, or Ngondro (sngon 'gro), are common to all schools of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. The differences in how they are practiced are relatively minor and primarily focus on factors such as which figures are visualised and liturgies chanted, although there can also be some differences in actual practices performed as part of a ‘complete’ Ngondro (Kongtrul, 1977: 11). The main focus of this paper is how preliminaries are practiced in the Karma Kagyu (karma bka' brgyud) and Nyingma (rnying ma), with only occasional reference made to other lineages. In the case of the Nyingma Ngondro, the main information comes from the Longchen Nyingthig (klong chen snying thig) lineage . Availability of material and word limit is the reason for focussing on these two lineages, as well as wanting to explore Ngondro from both new translation (gsar ma) and the old translation or Nyingma schools.

Ngondro overview

The word Ngondro literally means ‘that which goes before’, however it might be better to view the practices of the Ngondro as foundation practices rather than preliminaries in the sense of something which is simply done and then forgotten about. One does not build a house and neglect the foundations whilst maintaining the other parts of the house. As such there are many practitioners who complete Ngondro multiple times (Kongtrul, 1977: 22). A complete Ngondro generally consists of the Four Ordinary Foundations, or thoughts which turn the mind to Dharma (blo do nam shi). These are precious human birth, impermanence, karma and the suffering of conditioned existence or samsara ('khor ba). These contemplations are also common to Hinayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. Following these are the Four Extraordinary Foundations consisting of taking of refuge and engendering Bodhicitta 100,000 times, followed by meditation on Vajrasattva (rdo rje sems pas), Mandala offering and Guru Yoga (bla ma'i rnal 'byor ), which are also done 100.000 times each. With taking refuge 100,000 full prostrations are also performed. The Four Extraordinary Foundations are specific to Vajrayana Buddhism and are seen as the foundations for advanced Tantric practices as well as Mahamudra (phyag rgya chen po) and Dzogchen (rdzogs pa chen po). Generally Mahamudra is seen as a Kagyu practice whilst Dzogchen is associated with the Nyingma.

The Four Ordinary Foundations

"The first meditation topic concerns the precious human life endowed with every freedom and asset. It is difficult to get and can easily be destroyed, so now is the time to make it meaningful." (Wangchuk Dorje, 1984: 3a)

The first of the Four Ordinary Foundations is precious human birth. Whilst there are various definitions as to what makes a human birth precious, it is generally seen as such primarily in terms of it being an opportunity to engage in spiritual practice (Ringu Tulku, 2008: 19). This opportunity presents itself as human birth is generally viewed as having less of the obstacles that other births come with. Gampopa classifies precious human birth into two factors of body and three of mind. The two factors of body are leisure and endowment, whilst the three factors of mind are trust, longing and clarity (Gampopa, 1998: 59).

Leisure and endowment effectively mean having the freedom, time and ability to engage in spiritual practice. Human birth entails suffering; however it is not on the scale of the lower realms or with the distractions of the upper realms. Birth in the non-human realms are seen as lacking the freedom to practice for the following reasons: The hell realms, whether hot, cold or ‘miscellaneous’ involve unrelenting constant pain and misery making anything other than suffering impossible. The pretas (yi dags), or hungry ghosts are similarly in constant pain caused by thirst and hunger as well as exposure to the elements. Animals are constantly busy trying to feed themselves whilst avoiding being eaten or exploited by humans . In brief the lower realms are believed to be too painful as to allow the freedom to anything other than suffer, let alone engage in spiritual practice. Those born in the god realms are too busy indulging in what appears unending pleasure to be interested in spiritual practice whilst the Auras (lha min) or jealous gods are too busy fighting the god and being jealous of their pleasure (Kongtrul, 1977: 43-44).

Gampopa goes on to classify endowment into two groups of five personal qualities and five external qualities of a precious human life. The five personal qualities are being human, being born somewhere with access to Buddhist teachings, having all senses, some sense of morality and some devotion to the Buddhist teachings. The external factors are: the appearance of a Buddha in the world, the Buddha teaching, the teachings continuing, and followers of the teachings being around and there being “love and kind support” from others (Gampopa, 1998; 60-61). Having these qualities and circumstances present is also seen as precious due to the relative rarity of this happening, Gampopa, Patrul Rinpoche, Shantideva and numerous others use the example of the blind turtle to illustrate the statistical chances of precious human birth.

"Suppose this whole earth were an ocean and a person threw in a yoke that only had one hole. The yoke would float back and forth in all the four directions. Underneath that ocean, there is a blind tortoise who lives for many thousands of years but who comes up above the surface once every hundred years. It would be very difficult for the tortoise’s head to meet with the yoke’s hole; still it is possible. To be born in a precious human life is much more difficult." (Gampopa: 1998: 62)

Gampopa the continues to describe the three factors of mind trust, longing and clarity in the following way: Trusting faith is the belief in the law of karma, longing faith is the wish to become Enlightened and clear faith is taking refuge in the Three Jewels .

The practitioner meditates on the precious human life in order to motivate themselves to really use the opportunity to practice whilst they have the chance, before moving on to contemplate impermanence and certain death.

"Secondly, the universe and everything that lives therein is impermanent – particularly the lives of beings which are like water-bubbles. The time of death is uncertain and when you die you will become a corpse. Dharma will help you at that time, therefore practice it diligently now." (Wangchuk Dorje, 1984: 3b)

Impermanence is one of the key doctrines of Buddhism. In the context of the Four Ordinary Foundations it is essential to understand that impermanence here isn’t a doctrine to be understood intellectually as an abstract concept, or something to be believe in as an article of faith, but rather it is to be experienced and internalised as this will then make the practitioner more able to deal with it as it arises in everyday experience and be less affected by it as well as being mindful that the opportunity to engage in spiritual practice is itself not something to be taken for granted and as such must be prioritised. According to the 9th Gyalwa Karmapa who quotes Nagarjuna when explaining how failure to meditate on impermanence will make liberation impossible (Wangchuk Dorje, 1977: 19).

Patrul Rinpoche devotes the second chapter of Words of my Perfect Teacher to explaining how to meditate on impermanence. He suggests progressively contemplating the impermanence of the external universe, sentient beings, holy beings and the impermanence of those in positions of power. He then moves on to miscellaneous examples of impermanence. The function of this is to remind the practitioner of his own mortality and thus spur him on to practice. Linked from this is a reminder that the uncertainty that comes with impermanence also applies to the moment of death as the causes and circumstances of death are varied. He quotes Aryadeva :

"Causes of death are numerous, Causes of life are few, and even they may become causes of death." (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 53)

The remainder of the chapter is devoted to extolling the benefits of meditation on impermanence. He does this by quoting a number of sources including Jetsun Milarepa , Gampopa and Buddha Shakyamuni, whilst illustrating the points using examples and language which is highly accessible and clearly intended as a manual for practitioners rather than simply for intellectual study. Patrul Rinpoche states that meditation on impermanence will engender deep renunciation and as such serves as a gateway for spiritual practice (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 56). Kongtrul concurs on this describing it as the “root of the entire Dharma” (Kongtrul, 1977: 47). Gampopa states that the benefits of mediation on impermanence are renunciation, the development of faith as well as something which leads to less attachment and aversion (Gampopa, 1998: 91).

Summarising the meditation on impermanence we can say that it is practiced to develop renunciation and to serve as an antidote to procrastination encouraging the practitioner to make use of their precious human birth. It logically follows the meditation on precious human birth and precedes the meditation on karma.

"Thirdly, after your death you will have to experience your own karma, having no degree of control over what happens. So give up harmful actions – all your time should be spent in the practice of virtue. Thinking this was, evaluate your life daily." (Wangchuk Dorje, 1984: 4a)

The third of the Four Ordinary foundations is the meditation on karma (las). Karma is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism and one that is very often misunderstood. Whilst acknowledging its centrality and complexity, Kongtrul sums it up by stating that a negative cause will generate a negative result, whilst a positive cause will generate a positive result (Kongtrul, 1977: 38). After this he lists actions which lead to Samsaric birth and those which lead to liberation. At the end of his chapter on karma he talks about the primacy of motivation in the formation of karmic results, citing examples of seemingly positive acts which will yield negative results due to their motivation, whilst at the same time warning against committing negative actions even if they are positively motivated, urging the practitioner to avoid judgement of others actions (Kongtrul, 1977: 42).

In The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Gampopa deals with karma in a similar way to Kongtrul, but goes into greater detail generally, including when talking about the actions which lead to birth in formless realms (Gampopa, 1998: 118). The reasons for the greater details are probably due to the Jewel Ornament of Liberation being a somewhat scholarly text dealing which covers topics such as the six Bodhisattva perfections, Buddha nature and the ten Bodhisattva Bhumis or levels (lam lnga), whereas Kongtrul’s The Torch of Certainty is purely a practice guide. It is also worth pointing out that karma is acknowledged to be so profound that only a Buddha fully understands its working as it is said to be “unthinkable” (Harvey, 1990: 41).

The meditation on karma as part of the Four Ordinary foundations is to make the practitioner mindful of his actions in general, but more specifically to think how karma will affect him even after inevitable death. This is why it comes after the meditation on impermanence and before the meditation on the suffering of samsara.

"One is constantly tormented by the three kinds of suffering. Therefore samsaric places, friends, pleasures and possessions are like a party given by an executioner who will then lead on to the place of execution. Cutting through the snares of attachment, strive for enlightenment with diligence." (Wangchuk Dorje, 1984: 4b)

The suffering of samsara is the final of the Four Ordinary Foundations. Gampopa, Kongtrul and Patrul Rinpoche all list the specific forms of suffering associated with each realm as described previously when discussing the precious human birth. The “three sufferings” mentioned in the above quote are: suffering itself, the suffering of change and what is generally referred to as all pervasive (Kongtrul, 1977: 46). Suffering itself includes the physical pain involved in birth, sickness, ageing and death as well as the emotional pain that can go with these. Gampopa and Patrul Rinpoche elaborate on these in great detail, whilst Kongtrul is much more concise. The suffering of change is losing that and those one is attached to as well as being faced with that and those whom one finds unpleasant, such as meeting a carjacker and consequently losing one’s car. All pervasive suffering is the sense of not having what we want or being attached to conceptual ideals and then suffering when experienced reality fails to live up to them. Jamgon Kongtrul states that the first two sufferings are rooted in the coming together of the five aggregates and that it is latent in all samsaric existence (Kongtrul, 1977: 46). Samsara is also described as a state of mind where there is continuous fear and attachment (Ringu Tulku, 2008: 38). As with the preceding meditations, the practice of meditating on the suffering of samsara is seen has having multiple benefits.

"The meditation on the sufferings of samsara is the basis and support for all the good qualities of the path. It turns your mind towards the Dharma. It gives you confidence in the principle of cause and effect in all your actions. And it makes you feel love and compassion for all beings." (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 99)

The Four Extraordinary Foundations

According to the Ngondro text The Chariot for Travelling the Path to Freedom, after completing the Four Ordinary Foundations one should be a “fit vessel” for taking refuge. Refuge and Bodhicitta, performed with prostrations, make up the first of the Four Extraordinary Foundations. In this practice the yogi recites a refuge prayer whilst performing full prostrations in front of a visualised assembly of the sources of refuge. Vajrayana refuge includes the teacher (bla ma), meditational deities (yi dam) and Dakinis (mkha' 'gro ma) as well as the Three Jewels or Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, which are common to all Buddhist schools. The Lama is seen as corresponding to the Buddha in terms of giving the teachings, the Yidam corresponding to the Dharma path one is practicing, and the Dakinis to the Sangha as the spiritual community (Ringu Tulku, 2008: 48). Kongtrul refers to these six sources of refuge as the Three Jewels and Three Roots, whilst stating that they are all embodied in the Lama (Kongtrul, 1977: 56). The purpose of this practice is to prepare the mind for advanced practices as well as to purify negative karma.

The visualisation varies depending on the lineage, although there are several similarities. Both the Karma Kagyu and Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro describe the refuge visualisation as a three on an island in a lake with the various lineage gurus seated on the branches and various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on other branches. Protector deities (chos skyong) are lined at the front branch. In the centre of the tree is the practitioners own root teacher, visualised in the form of Vajradhara (rdo rje ‘chang) for Kagyupa practitioners and Padmasambhava (gu ru rin po che) for Nyingma practitioners. The yogi prostrates to the visualised refuge tree, whilst imagining his parents, and all sentient beings surrounding him. At the same time he chants a refuge prayer with each prostration. Jamgon Kongtrul and Patrul Rinpoche both describe their respective refuge trees in great detail and describe the benefits of refuge. Kongtrul states:

"If you practice Taking Refuge continuously and it never leaves your thoughts, you become a Buddhist. Your minor wrong-doings are purified; your major ones decrease. Human and non-human obstacles cannot affect you. Your vows, studies and other wholesome activities become more and more fruitful. If you truly rely on the Precious Ones, you will not be born in the lower realms even if you feel yourself being pushed in that direction." (Kongtrul, 1977: 60)

And Patrul Rinpoche concurs by saying taking refuge is the source of all goodness in samsara and ultimately will lead to Buddhahood (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 187). Once the main visualisation and prostrations are done, the practitioner visualises the refuge tree melting into themselves and then rest in the natural state (Kongtrul, 1977: 56).

After taking refuge comes the engendering of Bodhicitta (byang chub kyi sems), or the Enlightened attitude. Bodhicitta is an integral part of Mahayana, and consequently Vajrayana, practice and philosophy. Liturgically this is done in theThe Chariot for Travelling the Path to Freedom , by chanting the four immeasurable contemplations ; that all beings have happiness and its causes, are separated from suffering and its causes, have happiness untainted by suffering and that they may have unbiased impartiality free from attachment and aversion. In addition to the four immeasurable contemplations, Jamgon Kongtrul also recommends generating Bodhicitta by, practicing the six perfections and reflecting that all being have at some point been ones kind parents, and as such one would not wish to see them suffer, but rather to help them have the freedom of Enlightenment. He also recommends practicing “sending and receiving”:

"When you are beset by illness or demons, tormented by gossip or by an upsurge of conflicting emotions, take on the misfortunes of all other sentient beings. Knowing that your former deeds are the cause (of present sorrow), do not be depressed when sorrow strikes, but take up the sorrows of others. When you are happy, use your wealth, influence and merit to perform wholesome acts. Do not sit idly by, but engage your body and speech in wholesome acts such as praying for the happiness of all sentient beings." (Kongtrul, 1977: 66)

Patrul Rinpoche approaches generating Bodhicitta by starting with the four immeasurable contemplations, followed by a classification of the types of Bodhicitta, before moving on to the Bodhisattva perfections (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 195-261). He classifies Bodhicitta by degrees of courage as well as distinguishing between relative and ultimate Bodhicitta. The degrees of courage are that of a king, a boatman and a shepherd. The king rules over his subjects, so this type of courage is described as being that which aspires to attain Buddhahood in order to bring others to the same state. The boatman like courage is taking others along on the path to Buddhahood. The shepherd puts the safety of his sheep first and as such this form of arousing Bodhicitta is when one wishes for others to have Buddhahood first.

"The king’s way, called “arousing Bodhicitta with the great wish,” is the least courageous of the three. The boatman’s way, called arousing Bodhicitta with sacred wisdom,” is more courageous. It is said that Lord Maitreya aroused Bodhicitta in this way. The shepherd’s way, called “the arousing of Bodhicitta beyond compare,” is the most courageous of all. It is said to be the way Lord Manjushri aroused Bodhicitta." (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 218)

The benefits of Bodhicitta are universally lauded in the Vajrayana tradition, according to Patrul Rinpoche it represents the “quintessence” of the Buddha’s teaching (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 221), Jamgon Kongtrul calls it the “Heart of the entire Dharma” (Kongtrul, 1977: 68) and Kalu Rinpoche states that a single instant of it purifies aeons worth of negative karma (Kalu Rinpoche, 1995: 69).

After Refuge and Bodhicitta follows the purifying practice of Vajrasattva (rdo rje sems pa). The purpose of this practice is to purify the “four veils” which obscure our own true nature of mind, which, according to Vajrayana theory, is Enlightenment. Ignorance of one’s own Buddha nature, the dualistic belief in inherently existing self and other, negative emotions and karma.

"The fundamental purity of our mind is hindered by veils and faults. Veils refer here to what prevents us from recognising the real nature of our mind. Faults designate negative karma we experience with painful consequences, as if we were beating ourselves." (Kalu Rinpoche, 1995: 126)

At this point it is worth commenting on this “fundamental purity of mind” or Buddha nature. An understanding of Buddha nature and faith in it is essential in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. The practice of Vajrasattva highlights the importance of this belief and understanding as the whole practice would be futile without this as a basis. To this end Gampopa devotes the first chapter of The Jewel Ornament of Liberation to it. Similarly the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje , in his Aspiration of Mahamudra, goes to great lengths throughout this text to point out Buddha nature and Enlightenment as never being separate from ones experience, even in the depths of samsara (Rangjung Dorje, 1979).

The importance of confidence in one’s own Buddha nature, and the acknowledgement of possible lack of this confidence, is played out in the visualisation of Vajrasattva. The initial visualisation (dam tshig pa) after being built up is then effectively empowered by invoking the wisdom deity (ye she pa) who consecrates the initial visualisation giving it power and vitality (Kalu Rinpoche, 1995: 128-129). The wisdom deity could be seen as the ‘real’ Vajrasattva, although this is a less than ideal explanation and could easily be misinterpreted as theistic. To counter this, the yogi should remember to keep the visualisation as transparent rather than solid. Vajrasattva is also seen as being a manifestation of the yogi’s root teacher. In the Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro, Vajrasattva is visualised with a consort, whilst in the Karma Kagyu this is not always the case. Kongtrul acknowledges that both are done in the Karma Kagyu (Kongtrul, 1977: 80).

Once the visualisation is in place the yogi then chants a liturgy of confession and imagines white elixir pouring from Vajrasattva. If the visualisation is of Vajrasattva without a consort it is seen as flowing into the yogi via his right foot (Kongtrul, 1977: 81), whereas if it is from Vajrasattva with consort it drips from where they are joined in sexual union (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 269). This forms the main part of the practice and is done whilst simultaneous reciting the one hundred syllable mantra of Vajrasattva. Whilst this is taking place the yogi imagines all their negative karma, illness, broken vows and so on are washed out of their lower body by the elixir coming from above. This process of taking on what is positive and eliminating what is negative is done whilst imagining one’s own body to be hollow and light. Once this is done, the six syllable mantra of Vajrasattva is also recited, after which a prayer of confession is recited before the visualisation is dissolved into light which then dissolves into the yogi (Kongtrul, 1977: 81).

It is emphasised by Jamgon Kongtrul, Patrul Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche that Vajrasattva practice, or any other purification practice, must be done in conjunction with the Four Powers. These are the power of regretting past negativity, the power of making the resolve not to commit it again, the power of support, which means taking Refuge and Bodhicitta, and the power of positive action as antidote (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 265-267). Another point of agreement is that the practice of Vajrasattva is beneficial in accordance with the effort put into it by the yogi.

"It is said that if you strenuously (practice this meditation and recite this mantra) your minor and moderate misdeeds will be completely purified. Your major misdeeds will not increase but be suppressed and gradually purified. Generally speaking, if you truly believe in (the doctrine of) action and result you will inevitably regret your harmful deeds. Then your confession will be genuine. All this seem to imply that realisation will inevitably follow purification. But those of us who merely mouth the prayers and affect the practices of the monastic life, without true faith or regret, will achieve no more realisation than a tortoise has hair." (Kongtrul, 1977: 87-88)

Having completed the purifying practice of Vajrasattva, the yogi then moves on to the third of the Four Extraordinary Foundations, the Mandala (dkyil khor) offering. The Mandala is an imagined universe containing anything of value one could offer; the purpose is the accumulation of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom.

"In this practice, the aspirant perfects his accumulation of merit by the supremely meritorious act of repeatedly offering the entire universe to the sources of refuge. He perfects his accumulation of transcending awareness (wisdom) by maintaining the understanding that this offering, its recipients and the giver himself are not things in themselves but empty." (Kongtrul, 1977: 93)

The accumulation of merit also functions as part of the Bodhisattva training in the six perfections and on a psychological level deals with attachment (Ringu Tulku, 2008: 70).

In the visualisation the object of offering is the refuge tree is as in the first of the Four Ordinary Foundations, although here the tree is inside a palace rather than in a lake. Again the central figure is seen as inseparable from the yogi’s root teacher. The Mandala which is offered takes a physical and visualised form, the physical acting as a support for the visualised. In some cases two physical Mandalas are offered, one which is more elaborate and is placed on the shrine (sgrub pa’i), representing the sources of refuge, and a second more simple version (mchod pa’i) which is the one which is offered 100,000 times. The physical and visualised Mandalas represent the traditional universe of Buddhist cosmology, along with the symbols of the seven possessions of a Chakravartin , the eight auspicious symbols and the eight auspicious objects (Kongtrul, 1977: 96-105). The visualisation can be even more elaborate, but what is most important is that the yogi really generates a sense of giving everything he can imagine as generosity and non-attachment are the goals of this practice. The practice session finishes with the visualisation of light from the sources of refuge granting the completion of the two accumulations and then dissolving into light which dissolves into the yogi, as with all Vajrayana practice the session is ‘sealed’ with the dedication of merit.

The Mandala offering is obviously a key component to Ngondro practice, but like the other practices it is also something that has a place central place in Vajrayana outside Ngondro, as it is always part on any big ritual (Beyer, 1978: 168).

"In order to practice true Dharma, it is of great importance first to seek an authentic spiritual friend, a teacher who has all the necessary qualifications. Then you should obey his every instruction, praying to him from the very depths of your heart and considering him to be a real Buddha." (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 309)

The Final of the Four Extraordinary Foundations is Guru Yoga (bla ma'i rnal 'byor). The purpose of this practice is for the yogi to receive the blessing of his Guru in order to realise Mahamudra or Dzogchen. The visualisation and ritual here is almost identical in Karma Kagyu and Longchen Nyingthig. First the yogi visualises his root teacher, in the form of Vajradhara or Padmasambhava, surrounded by the various masters of the lineage in front of him in space. Then the seven branch prayer is offered as a succinct method of gathering the two accumulations (Dilgo Khyentse, 1999: 41). The seven branches are prostration, offering, confession, rejoicing in the virtues of others, requesting the teachings, requesting the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to remain and dedication of merit. After this there are more prayers, mantra recitation , after which come the Four Empowerments, which could be described as the primary section of the Guru Yoga. Here the yogi visualises a white syllable OM radiating light from the forehead of the visualised deity, this is absorbed into the forehead of the yogi, purifying obscurations of the body and empowers him to meditate on the development stage (bskyed rim) and to realise Nirmanakaya (sprul ku). The process is then repeated with a red AH at the throat which removes obscurations of speech and enables the yogi to meditate on the subtle channels (rtsa rlung) as well as to realise the Sambhogakaya (longs spyod rdzogs pa'i sku). The third empowerment takes the form of a blue syllable HUM, radiating from the heart of the deity to the yogi as before which this time purifies the obscurations of mind enabling the yogi to practice “absorptions” (Tib. snyom 'jug) and to realise the Dharmakaya (Tib. chos sku). Finally the all three lights simultaneously radiate into the same parts of the yogi as before, enabling him to practice Mahamudra, the fourth empowerment also makes the yogi a Svabhavikakaya (ngo bo nyid sku). After receiving the four empowerments the visualisation is dissolved into light which is then absorbed through the top of the yogi’s head (Kongtrul, 1977: 120-122). The yogi then rests in this state, before dedicating merit. Kongtrul describes the signs of successful practice as lessening mental attachment to the concerns of this life and glimpses of realisation (Kongtrul, 1977: 133). It is crucial that the yogi tries to keep a sense of unity with the Guru at all times, in between sessions. This is done by doing things like visualising the Guru in the throat when eating and similar activities (Dilgo Khyentse, 1999: 71-74).

Conclusion

The preliminary practices as we have seen are very much interconnected and not something to be completed by the yogi in a linear process, simply to move on to something else. For the yogi these practices become something do be done now and not something to be aspired to at some future point in time.

"This very moment is the watershed between the right and wrong direction of your entire existence. This opportunity is like finding something to eat when you have only had one meal in a hundred throughout your whole life. So make use of the Dharma to free yourself while you still can, taking death as your spur at all times. Cut short your plans for this life, and diligently try to practice good and give up evil – even at the risk of your life. Follow an authentic teacher and accept whatever he tells you without hesitation. Give yourself, in body and mind, to the Three Jewels. When happiness comes recognise it as their compassion. When suffering comes, recognise it as the result of your own past actions. Apply yourself to the practices of accumulation and purification with the perfectly pure motivation of Bodhicitta. Ultimately, through immaculate devotion and samaya, unite you mind indissolubly with that of a sublime teacher in an authentic lineage. Capture the stronghold of the absolute in this very life, courageously taking on the responsibility of freeing all beings, our old mothers, from samsara’s dungeon. This includes all the most crucial instructions." (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994: 370)

The Four Ordinary Foundations set the worldview and motivation for the yogi who, once convinced on more than an intellectual level of the futility of samsaric existence, is the spurred into the practice of the Four Extraordinary Foundations which all to some extent contain each other and which also further detach the yogi from attachment to samsaric illusory existence and thoroughly preparing him for the higher Tantric practices and possibly Enlightenment itself.

The way the preliminaries are presented above is somewhat misleading. Whilst this is the way they are most commonly done, it is really something that one should discuss with ones teacher.

Similarly the idea of accumulating numbers is also misleading. People often talk about how they have "completed" Ngondro or how many mantras/prostrations they have done, when really this is completely irrelevant. What matters is how the practice is affecting us and in turn how this is making us more compassionate, content and so on. It really isn't a numbers game or something to be done as a warm-up to more exotic and excting practices.

This was originally written, quite badly, as an academic piece and is in no way a Dharma teaching.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

So it looks like I've survived swine flu for the time being at least. There are plenty of blogs which talk about the way the media play things up and how something like swine flu can be used by the govt. as an excuse for removing the remaining civil rights we have so I won't bore you, or me, with that here.

One thing that was really cool about being ill was the minor reminder of impermanence and suffering. When you are acutely aware of your own inevitable death as something other than an abstract reality, there is a possibility of real focus and genuine renunciation.

I've noticed I don't get really angry much these days. Various things, mostly relating to activism, have happened this week which would normally make me rage a bit. But instead they have given insights into the complex phenomena which came together to make them happen. And then watching other people rage over them and get upset gives way to empathy and compassion.

At some point I will write a vaguely readable blog again. The fact nobody reads any of this does not make me less self-conscious about putting this stuff here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This morning I was awoken by a less than pleasant combination of a dream about dead soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and the sound of a cat killing a bird. It's amazing to be reminded of samsara first thing.

On the retreat front, a friend of mine said she would sponsor me for a total of four months. This really blew me away as it's a lot of money to support some guy to sit in the same room for four years, but it made me really happy that people here are in some cases taking a similar approach to the Dharma as in Asia.

I'm currently reading this. It is pretty intense, but as with all of Ranjung Dorje's writing I find it easier to engage with than most other texts on the same topics.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This weekend has been a bit emotionally strange, mostly a combination of seeing people I've not seen for a long time as well as coming to the end of a project that started as a joke and ended up taking up a lot of time and energy. I'm glad it's over.

On the school front I'm close to starting to actually write my dissertation now. In some ways I prefer to just get on with it with minimal preparation, but it's not going to work that way this time it would appear. The kicker with this is that once more I'll be only partially reading books rather than getting the full experience. This is also a silver lining when it comes to certain authors.

Practice is steady and stable, although I still feel it would be awesome to be doing it all the time rather than having to juggle it with 'mundane' life and so on. But then integrating it into everyday experience is part of it I guess.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The weather has been awesome recently so my spare time has been taken up with being outdoors cycling.

Monday, June 15, 2009


It's been over two years since the last time I did Nyung Nay practice, but it felt as familiar as the last time, if not even more so. Somehow it also served as a fitting way to celebrate the completion of the long retreat which many of my Vajra siblings had been in.

Seeing them was both humbling and inspirational. Humbling in the sense that being around or meeting 'serious' practitioners always is and inspirational as I'm now even more keen to do the same myself.

The last e-mail I got before the Nyung Nay started was from a friend of mine at Mindroling monastery. He is a tulku studying in the shedra there who I met whilst in Dharamsala. He was my Tibetan language teacher for the last part of my stay there and we became very good friends. Getting this e-mail seemed very auspicious as he once said that after I have completed one long retreat I can come to his monastery and do as much retreat there as I like. His monastery is in a very remote part of Nepal. This would be in a few years once he has graduated from shedra and assumed day to day responsibility for his monastery.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


For no particular reason I've not slept. When it got to 4am I decided to do some extra Dorje Sempa practice. It's been a while since I meditated at that time of the morning and it felt amazing, so fresh and energising.

Lots of nothing happening recently, almost feel like I'm 'warming up' for Samye Ling next week. I'm so stoked to be going, it's been too long since the last time.

This is really one of those pointless blogs where I'm just writing to get back into the swing of blog writing. I'm very happy though. Very. And I hope you are too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Whichever way you look at it, Buddhism really comes down to looking at and dealing with your own mind. Years ago when I was depressed, I managed to use it as fuel for my practice and in some ways this was a very simple practice, whilst also being very powerful in terms of renunciation and compassion.

I haven't been depressed for years so now I it's more subtle. I guess the closest I get is a combination of tiredness with a sense of frustration. This totally lacks the suffocating and crippling power of depression though, so it's less effective for feeding the dual fires of renunciation and compassion.

One thing that does really sting though is seeing other people experiencing totally avoidable suffering. Whilst it is often tempting to try to help or intervene, experience tells me I'm not skilled enough yet.

I've noticed a large percentage of high achievers I know, or have known, who really throw themselves into emotional turmoil on an ongoing basis. Obviously high achievement is a somewhat subjective subject, but my observation was from the conventional use of the term. an that's all it is, an observation.

This time next week I will be heading North for a micro retreat. I am really looking forward to it, although I wish it was for longer, a lot longer.

Of all the blogs I've kept over the years, this is by far the most random one. It's also far more secret than "Thousandarmedprocrastinator" ever was. I'm undecided on whether this is a good or bad thing, although it's probably a combination of the two. And just because two things seem to be in opposition it does not automatically follow that they are.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Various thoughts on sectarianism and conformity.

A potential PHD topic is sectarianism in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a pretty sensitive subject in some ways, but also one that can't really go untouched. A few times in D'sala I felt it was the elephant in the room.

My own exeriences of it really come from a position on vulnerable insecurity. When one lacks certainity based on experience rather than internalising, it is easier to externalise and project this onto the world. By talking down others views and convincing others of the 'rightness' of ones own view there is a fake sense of confidence built up. Like anything that is false and built up, it is bound to end in tears.

Add groupthink to the situation and the disaster multiplies. As Shantideva says "nothing good will come from the meeting of two fools". If sectarianist views are taking root in one group, it can affect the whole group like a cancer. This is where conformity comes in.

Conformity is generally the seemingly easy option. No only in "spiritual" circles, but political ones too. And it is never a good thing. Buddha taught to examine his teachings and not simply accept them.

On the more worldy side I found some interresting blogs this week where various self-indetified Anarchists where trying to convince others that their Anarchism was the true path as it were, and sadly lots of commenters were agreeing as part of the community rather than challenging the basis of the initial argument which was simply dogma, with no real authority backing it.

Back on the religious front there is an awesome quote in the Hagakure. It sort of sums up some of my limited understanding of sectarianism.

"The Way

It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Another chapter finished

All my exams are now over and I'm faced with a summer of dissertation writing, which I'm relishing. I have a load of Padmasambhava related books I've only been able to dip into for essays which I will be engrossing myself in as of tomorrow morning.

I'm also doing a couple of days retreat in the near future, as well as loads of picnics, walks and gardening.

I went to see The Cup today at the Barbican. It was really good, although all the scenes filmed on the road from Bir made me want to be back there pretty badly. They also screened a short documentary about the making of the film which was awesome.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

NOW!!


"This very moment is the watershed between the right and wrong direction of your entire existence. This opportunity is like finding something to eat when you have only had one meal in a hundred throughout your whole life. So make use of the Dharma to free yourself while you still can, taking death as your spur at all times. Cut short your plans for this life, and diligently try to practice good and give up evil – even at the risk of your life. Follow an authentic teacher and accept whatever he tells you without hesitation. Give yourself, in body and mind, to the Three Jewels. When happiness comes recognise it as their compassion. When suffering comes, recognise it as the result of your own past actions. Apply yourself to the practices of accumulation and purification with the perfectly pure motivation of Bodhicitta. Ultimately, through immaculate devotion and samaya, unite you mind indissolubly with that of a sublime teacher in an authentic lineage. Capture the stronghold of the absolute in this very life, courageously taking on the responsibility of freeing all beings, our old mothers, from samsara’s dungeon. This includes all the most crucial instructions." - From Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Great success


Yesterday I got my independent research project and Buddhist Rituals essays back, along with my oral exam. Did really well, particularly on the irp, which was on Ngondro practice, which had apparently increased my supervisors understanding or knowledge about it.

This is all good stuff right?

Sort of. I take criticism and outright attacks pretty well but not quite so when it comes to praise. Both "praise and blame" are only issues when grasped, solidified and given dualistic power.

On a personal level, I've found studying certain topics very helpful for my own so called practice. Intellectual understanding can iron out doubts arising from lack of understanding of the mechanics of certain aspects of practice and to a lesser extent increasing determination.

Whilst I feel really fortunate to have this opportunity, it really does pale into insignificance compared with meditational practice.

My final exam is on Friday. I've decided to take a week off before starting dissertation work.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Going in the right direction


Recently I've been thinking a lot about taking robes again. It's been really healthy, relaxed and sort of organic. There is no sense of stressed urgency or it being something I 'ought' to do.

I have no obligations holding me back and it's not like I have a burning desire to get married and have a family. I never have wanted that really, and all my long term relationships have happened accidentally when I wasn't looking.

I asked Gyalwa Karmapa about taking robes back in January last year. His response was that I should think about it after retreat. Retreat will entail temporary ordination so this makes a lot of obvious sense.

On the subject of retreat I'm feeling very relaxed about it. I know it is perfectly possible that I won't be able to do it due to not getting the funds together in time or any number of other things that could become an obstacle. But I'm happily aspiring towards it without a huge ammount of attachment.

One of the things that went very wrong the last time was my practice being pretty much non-existent before going in. Now it's the opposite. It's been very consistent for the last few years so that retreat would seem much less of a shock to the system and in some ways simply an extension of what I do daily.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mothers Day

I'm being lazy and simly re-posting an awesome poem by Ranjung Dorje, the Thrid Gyalwa Karmapa. May it be of benefit.

REPAYING THE KINDNESS OF MY MOTHER
by the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje

OM MANI PADME HUM
I prostrate to the Noble Master Chenrezig!

OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

There is nothing to be said more profound than this:

Dear mother, you protected me lovingly when I was small
You taught me with love and told me sweet words
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

You fed me from your mouth and wiped my feces away with your hand
You picked me up on your lap again and again -
My kind mother wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

The end of birth is surely death
Even powerful humans don't have the slightest power to remain [forever]
When departing alone, [only] the sacred dharma will [be of] benefit -
[My kind mothers] wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

The end of collecting is surely loss
Even the greediest person will be unable to take anything along
When departing alone, only the sacred dharma will [be of] benefit -
[My kind mothers] wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

Mother, when you are going to depart alone from here
I pray that you, I, and Chenrezig will meet!
My kind mother wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

I pay homage to lama and protector Manjushri!
Wherever in the three realms the six kinds of beings are born,
their birth is of four kinds:
Except for miraculous birth, a body is formed in dependence on
a father and a mother.
Due to karmic forces, you conceived and carried me for nine months
and ten days -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When the life force impelled my embryo to come out
You suffered the bone-wracking pain of contractions -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When I was born your body became covered with blood, lymph, pus,
and milk -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When my skin and bones were feeble and not fully formed
You picked me up with gentle hands -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When I had pus in my eyes or other organs
You licked it off with your soft tongue -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

Even when my specks of feces came into your mouth
You were not disgusted -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

You always held me tight, like in the gentle warmth of your belly -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When sleep rendered us unconscious at night
I would interrupt your sleep many times -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

You took me on your lap and cuddled me -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

You cheered me up and made me so happy -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

Whenever I was wriggling and crying, you tirelessly gave me your
breast to suck -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When my eyes were tightly closed by sleep
You swiftly protected me from heat and cold -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When I crawled on all fours like an animal
You taught me how to walk on my feet -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When I was three years old
You kept an eye on me wherever I went -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When I was five years old
You showed me how to dress myself properly -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

When I was ten years old
You taught me how to understand and decide things -
My kind mothers wandering in the three samsaric realms, oh no!
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

Your mind was one-pointedly focused [on my welfare] -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

[Throughout,] you were always calm and fair -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

You gave your permission when it was time for me to leave -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

[Because of your love] I became independent after I had left you -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

If sudden disasters were to carry you off -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

And you would end up in some unknown place -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

May our minds become ultimately inseparable -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

Dear mother, do not be angry when I say this:
My thoughts go to you again and again
And your kind acts make me weep -
My kind mothers wandering in the three pitiful samsaric realms
May I guide you on Chenrezig's path. OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH

Mother, when it is time for your mind to leave this body
May you be born in a supremely blissful state and
Having been born there, may you attain the heart of enlightenment
Having attained that, may you act for the benefit of all beings

Words of vast and deep meaning break my heart.
Vajradhara in the pure realm of Akanishta,
And Pema Jungne in Ngayab Ling,
Please let the ability to repay the kindness of my mothers
Awaken in me, Palden Karmapa of the Snowy Regions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Always suffering

Buddhism teaches Dukkha, translated as suffering, pain or unsatisfactoriness as the first of the Four Noble Truths. Buddha is quoted as saying his teaching was 'suffering and it's cessation'.

In the Tibetan tradition the suffering of samsara is generally classified into three categories; the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and the suffering of all conditioned existence. The suffering of suffering includes physical and mental pain in the form of sickness, ageing and death. The intensity of this type of suffering varies according to individual experience, but is said to be greater in the lower samsaric realms. The suffering of change is being separated from what you find pleasant and encountering that which you find unpleasant. This is a form of suffering experienced even by beings in higher realms, and one which human beings experience constantly in various forms. The third form of suffering is very subtle and known as all-pervasive suffering. It can be described as having everything, yet not being content.

According to Gampopa only the spiritually mature with some degree of realisation can really understand this experientially. He likens the difference in how this suffering is experienced by an ordinary person and a spiritually mature person to the difference between feeling a hair in the palm of the hand compared to feeling it in the eye.

Understanding suffering is essential to the development of compassion and Bodhicitta, however simply doing so on an intellectual and abstract level is not sufficient, we have to actually realise it through personal experience. And there were lots of reminders of samsara today, a child dying of cancer, a woman in despair over her boyfriend being depressed, lonely old people in my street afraid to go out and then there are the global crises.

Once we become aware of suffering on a deeper level, we can develop renunciation and compassion.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nothing lasts


Recently I got some almost out of the blue e-mail from various people I've not had contact with for a while. We talked about various things that have happened over the last decade or so. Whilst enjoying the nostalgia, it really made me aware of how

There are things, people and places that once played an important part of my life that are gone forever, never to be seen again.

To some extent this shouldn't come as a shock or anything, change is after all the only constant. But in the modern Westernised world this is somewhat of a taboo subject, especially when it comes to our own inevitable and approaching death. Barely over a hundred years ago people would die at home, now they are hidden away in sanitised death factories.

Sadly it's not just the final reality of death that is hidden from view. Our whole culture now is one of convenience and comfort, which ties us intimately into the cult of youth whilst ironically pushing the planet closer to breaking point both socially and ecologically.

I think our collective discomfort with impermanence is what is making Buddhism in the West relatively weak. Sure there are retreat centres and temples around, but a lot of the time these can simply become playgrounds of spiritual materialism, or even spiritual capitalism. I’m confident spiritual materialism is one of the things which fuels the attractiveness of numerous quick enlightenment packages on offer, particularly the misconception that things like Ngondro are something which is an obstacle to be gotten over and out of the way.

Meditation on impermanence from a personal perspective should probably be performed daily by everyone wishing to engage in any sort of serious practice. By serious I mean something other than simply meditation as a health supplement.

It really is essential to understand that impermanence here isn’t a doctrine to be understood intellectually as an abstract concept, or something to be believe in as an article of faith, but rather it is to be experienced and internalised as this will then make us more able to deal with it as it arises in everyday experience and be less affected by it as well as being mindful that the opportunity to engage in spiritual practice is itself not something to be taken for granted and as such must be prioritised. Can you say you won’t die tonight?

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