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Talk Given in Conjunction with Chö Practice

I am afraid my English is not that good. It would have been much better if Lama Changchub was here to translate. Many years before, in Karma Tashi Ling, we also did Chö practice, and also gave some initiations. I remember Aksel and Jørgen being there. In Tibetan Buddhism, lineage is significant. I have a good lineage of Chö practice from my master.

If we experience a problem with our body or mind, we should know what to do to get a happy life, as well as enlightenment. For Chö practice, bodhicitta is very important, and also the view of emptiness. We should also go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, as well as practicing offerings because merit is significant. We also need to practice forgiveness and the six paramitas.

We do all experience unpleasant emotions and bad karma. These things are caused by the ego-clinging that arises in our mind. If we change our mind, we will improve our lives. For we are talking about how to face our life. If experience problems in relationships, such as family, friends, and spouses, or problems with housing, job or money, we will experience a lot of suffering. If we have these things, we may feel afraid that we will lose them. Usually, people believe that money and power, as well as friendships and romantic relationships, are significant. If we are having problems in these areas, we often get angry or worried.

When we do practice, we must actively change for the better. Tibetans very often talk about the mind, but I think that action is also significant. We have aspirational and application bodhicitta. To generate aspirational bodhicitta, we can think about all sentient beings, all our important relationships, our father and mother and so on, but we must also remember application bodhicitta, to do some actual action.

Generally, if somebody gives us trouble, we get angry, but we should instead improve our compassion and wisdom. When we become more compassionate, we reduce our selfishness. When we learn the Buddhist view of emptiness, we will experience less bad emotions and karma, like jealousy, because ignorance subsides and weakens the attachment to the self.

Vows are very important. If we have Samaya, I think we are cleaner in body, speech, and mind. If we do not have Samaya, there will be a little dirt in our body, speech, and mind. For example, I do not want to drink alcohol. Some monks think that they have a very high view and practice and that it is okay for them to drink ambrosia with alcohol. They also end up doing things with women and other bad things. Unfortunately, in Buddhism, there are a lot of masters like this. This is no good. Therefore, a pure Samaya is a necessary ground.

In Buddhism, we say that the four elements, wind, water, earth, and fire, are allowed by space. So, we can say that all phenomena come from space. If we practice without Samaya, there will not be a proper practice. When the Buddha reached enlightenment, he said ‘If there is Samaya in this world, there will be Buddhism, if there is no Samaya, there will be no Buddhism.’

Westerners always talk about being free, holding freedom very important. But can we be free if there are ignorance and attachment? If there is anger or other bad energies, will there be freedom? I do not think so. We should control our bad emotions, and this is Samaya.

In a way, there is good freedom and bad freedom. The freedom that stems from compassion, wisdom and good intentions is a good freedom. In Taiwan, people sometimes experience the effect of too much bad freedom. The news is free, but often they just talk about bad things. This leaves people without hope. Also, in our practice, we should not act completely free, we should check what we say, think or do. We need to improve ourselves. This is very important.

Chö practice is about cutting the ego, the evil Mara. There is no evil on the outside, I think. There is no big demon out there. The problem is selfishness. In Chö, we say that there are four demons [1]. The first is the tangible mara, the demon of form. We generate attachment towards the forms we like and aversion and hatred towards the forms we dislike. This happens inside our minds, like water becoming dirty.

When we rely on emptiness, there is no subject or object. But when we do not, there is ignorance, and when we open our eyes, we see forms and thus generate attachment or aversion. Ignorance, attachment, and aversion are called the three poisons.

We have sensory experiences, we see, hear and taste. For example, chocolate is not a demon, but too much of it will cause attachment. Some men stay with a woman. One woman is good - husband and wife living happily together, but if you want two or three, then you can be demon yourself, causing a lot of problems. Problems can also arise with power and money. To counteract this, eliminating the demon of selfishness as a cause, we cut through the three poisons and cut through the bad karma.

Sometimes people are afraid of the demon outside, thinking there are ghosts, places with no good energy, haunted places. For people who are fearful of the dark, it is okay to go to such places to do Chö practice. But if there is a tiger, then you should not go. If you go to do Chö practice with the tiger, it might kill you. Padmasambhava would be okay with a tiger, but we will not. So, we stay away from doing crazy things.

Chö practice is fascinating. The melodies are very beautiful, with drums, bell, and vajra. You should practice getting the hang of it. Then it will sound very nice. We are now going to do a Longchen Nyingthig Chö practice. It is a nice one, not so big. We just did a Chö practice in Karma Tashi Ling. It is a little bit different. In Tibet, we also use another big text, which is also from the Kagyu lineage. The Kagyu and Nyingma texts are sometimes interchanged. In the Kagyu lineage, many lamas practice Dzogchen, and in the Nyingma lineage, many lamas practice Mahamudra.

The Longchen Nyingthig text lists up the necessary articles in the following way: to overpower the haughty demons, the skin of a fierce animal with all the claws on its pawns, a small tent put down, like the view (it is thrown down, just as the view comes from shunyata). The Khatvanga trident for right conduct, which ascends through the Yanas, the human thigh bone for gathering the local gods and demons under one’s power, the Damaru, hand drum, which overawes ideas and appearances, the handbell and small bell, which overpower the Dakinis, the face veil of strips of tiger and leopard skin and hair cuttings. In brief, one should prepare all articles necessary for the way of determined practice.

Questions and Answers

Q: My wife and I have been discussing where the Buddha-nature is located. Is it found in the skandhas?

A: You should first understand what the Buddha-nature is. Then you can talk about where it is. It is more important to understand what it actually is. It is like saying, ‘There is a house over there, and there are some people inside.' It is more important to know who the people are.

The Buddha-nature has three qualities. The first is emptiness. Talking about emptiness is difficult. Where is it? Where does it come from? Where is it going? We say it has no birth or death and is not coming or going. We cannot tell that the Buddha-nature is located in the five aggregates. When we analyze the five aggregates, we find that they are empty. The second quality is luminous clarity, like wisdom. The third is compassion. Compassion is like the sun, shining on the sky, equally everywhere. So, the question of whether the Buddha-nature resides in the five skandhas is a difficult question to answer. Sometimes we say that the Buddha is our own mind. But what is mind? This just generates more questions. Sometimes, we can, when we open our eyes, see a form, and this can be like liberation. The Buddha said that everything is possible in this world. We can think about colors, and we can see a lot of colors.

We say that form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. Sometimes, I think that everything is impermanent. Where is the form of yesterday gone? Where is the eye faculty, eye consciousness, of yesterday, today and tomorrow? Are they the same, or are they different?

Q: According to the Sugatagarbha, they co-exist at the same time, yet appears separate. Right? They seem to be different, past, present and future, but ultimately they are not separate. How do you explain the quality of Guru Rinpoche’s mind, being beyond, past, present, and future?

A: If we think regarding the ultimate truth, as one of the two truths, the relative and ultimate truth, I do not believe that we can explain the quality of Guru Rinpoche’s mind. If we talk regarding the relative truth, past, present and future will be different. If we talk about the ultimate truth, there is no difference.

Let us say we are looking at the color white. I might like the white color, but you might not like it, say. There are different types of thinking about form. It is a relative truth whether we like it or not. The ultimate truth is without like and dislike.

My students in Asia suffer a lot from problems related to work, family, education, and love. These things bring them suffering because they believe that if they get those things, they will be happy. They pray to the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas that these things should last forever, but forever is challenging to achieve. When we talk about love, everybody gets very excited, saying things like ‘I love you forever,' or, ‘Ahh.. this is so sweet’. But sometimes, you know, emotions change, their thinking change, and then there is no forever.

Sometimes we talk about advanced teachings on emptiness, like the Dzogchen view, but problems are experienced in the relative. It is therefore important how we use our body, speech, and mind. If our thinking is right, then with wisdom, right speech and compassion, we will be happy. Sometimes we can look in the mirror, practice talking to the mirror, looking at our own face. If we are looking good when speaking, it creates a lot of good energy. Sometimes, I tell Aksel, when he is hungry, he is not looking good, looking angry. It is like something terrible happened. But he does not know. He should change, you know.

My practice is patience. I experience many obstacles, but mostly, my mind is very peaceful. This time we went on a trip around Europe, but in Germany, there was some problem with the train. We did not understand and asked many people what had happened. Some people said there had been a crash, and some said that there had been a terrorist, dressed up as a woman, but nobody could give us an exact answer. There was no proper information given. So, we had to take another route; eight hours became twelve hours, and changing twice became five. Once, the train suddenly halted with shrieking brakes, but again no information. We spent the whole day on trains. Despite this, we talked about being very lucky, seeing a lot of different cities in Germany without having to pay, having a good time sightseeing. Not thinking like that, we could have been outraged.

Once, two Tibetan guys were going to an important party. They were wearing their best clothes, wanting to impress the girls with singing and dancing, looking all nice, as well as wanting to have a good time drinking alcohol and have fun. But on the way, birds managed to shit on their stylish clothes. They considered going back to change clothes, but this was too far. Going to the party did not seem so tempting because the girls might show dislike for their dirty clothes. One of the guys said, ‘I am not going to the party. Today is my unlucky day. This has never happened to me before. There is a lot of shit on my clothes, I feel angry, so I am going back’, talking negatively like that. The other guy, being more open-minded and happy, said, ‘ Thank God, cows were not given wings; otherwise I would have had a big problem.' So, he went to the party alone and enjoyed himself, nobody giving him any negative comments. Sometimes, things happen, so we need to change our mind. This is just a story. In Tibet, there are many stories like this. In the book a wrote in Mandarin, I told a lot of stories, but I have already forgotten some of them.

Q: I think the idea of training in offering and cutting through is not so developed in many of the European religions and cultures. Maybe we could utilize these things more?

A: In Asia, they enjoy very much doing offerings, thinking that merit is significant. In the West, they are more interested in meditation. If I ask Europeans to make some offering or give away something, it seems like this can be a little bit difficult compared to Asian people. Sometimes, when earthquakes are causing big problems, the Taiwanese and Japanese are there, ready to give a lot of money to help. In Tibet, many masters are building houses for old people. When you are old, you can go there. The monasteries have created a lot of such homes now. Before, in Tibet, many young children went to the city to child work and did not receive any education. Today, many organizations set up schools, making free education available for children.

Transcribed by Aksel Sogstad in November 2018

End note

  1. The tangible mara, the intangible mara, the mara of exultation, and the mara of conceit