Mahamudra Upadesa

June 30, 2012 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

Mahamudra Upadesa

A Commentary By His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche.

“The Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra, the Definitive Meaning”

Composed by The Lord Protector Rangjung Dorje, Third Gyalwa Karmapa.

Nyam is described here by Karmapa in a most positive way, and he is describing the highest aspect of nyam, the continuation of great joy without any kind of clinging to it. Usually what happens, is that when you feel really good, you get attached to it. And then you talk about it. And you might write about it, might even make a movie about it. [laughter] You might do all kinds of things. Then the nyam is gone. The nyam just ends right there. Nyam can never become tokpa if we announce the nyam. So, it is a dangerous threshold for the practitioner who is progressing rapidly.

Another term for that kind of situation is barchay in Tibetan, which means obstacle. And the greater the achievement, the bigger the obstacle, naturally. That doesn’t mean somebody is waiting for you with different kinds of hammers, and if somebody is really progressing well, they use the bigger one. [laughter] It’s not like that. But the bigger the positives in your practice, the bigger the negatives, naturally. Not all the way, but until a certain stage. It doesn’t go on like that all the way to buddhahood. Then a buddha’s negativity and a buddha’s obstacle would be extremely big. Yes? The path to Buddhahood doesn’t go on to the very end that way, but until a certain level there is this kind of obstacle. We have a saying: “The brighter the light, the sharper the shadow”. In the same way, obstacles come along together with the path and its nyam – like a shadow and the form it follows.

Having prayed for perfect nyam, The Gyalwa Karmapa in the sixth shloka prays for tokpa, actual realization:

 Longing for good and clinging to experiences are self-liberated.

Negative thoughts and confusion purify naturally in ultimate space.

In ordinary mind there is no rejecting and accepting, loss and gain.

May simplicity, the truth of the ultimate essence of phenomena, be realized.

From one point of view, clinging to a nyam may be kind of nice, so you hold onto it. It’s so precious, it is so great, you hold onto it. But that is attachment, and Karmapa says may this be spontaneously freed, and he prays that we never get attached to nyam; he prays that good nyam and any kind of attachment will be spontaneously freed. In the second sentence, The Gyalwa Karmapa says that if the nyam is sometimes frightening and fears arise, not attachment, but fear, then may it dissolve into the ultimate space. May fear, the negativity aspect, also be freed.

In the third sentence, Karmapa discusses ordinary mind, the nature of mind, the nature of this ordinary mind, free from accepting and rejecting. That means that even though we are ordinary sentient beings the nature of our mind is buddha. We don’t have to be extraordinary in order for our true nature to be buddha. Even in the ordinary now the essence is buddha. Karmapa prays that we recognize and realize this. In the last sentence, The Gyalwa Karmapa prays that one may realize the ultimate essence of everything beyond any kind of dualistic fabrication.

That is total realization, which is tokpa in Tibetan, the realization that comes after the nyam. He prays for perfect tokpa, right after praying for perfect nyam. With this, the six particular prayers related to the meditation are complete.

The third section concerns the action – the view, the meditation, and now the action. The Third Gyalwa Karmapa writes prayers about mahamudra action, what takes place in the postmeditation experience, in two shlokas. The first shloka concerns compassion; the second concerns the unity of compassion and emptiness:

The true nature of beings is always buddha.

Not realizing that, they wander in endless samsara.

For the boundless suffering of sentient beings,

May unbearable compassion be conceived in our being.

This is regarding compassion. I think I spoke to you yesterday about compassion and devotion. The Third Gyalwa Karmapa writes very clearly about that particular point in these four lines. He says the nature of all sentient beings is always buddha. Every single sentient being is always buddha in their essence, always. Then he says, because of their lack of realization of this, they are wandering in samsara. They are wandering in samsara because they don’t recognize their own true nature. Samsara is nothing more and nothing less than beings – not knowing and not recognizing that they are buddha. Until we fully realize that, we are in samsara; when we fully realize that, we are buddha. That is the definition of samsara here.

In the third line, Karmapa states that sentient beings in samsara are suffering without any end to their suffering. So long as we are in samsara suffering has no end. We will do everything to overcome our suffering, of course. If we don’t have enough money, we might take out a loan and do all sorts of things. Some people even rob banks. People will do anything, but it does not solve their suffering. We want to have good health, of course, so we take good care of ourselves. Some of us have good health, some of us don’t. But then somehow having good health does not solve the problem of suffering. Some people want power. They do this, they do that to obtain it. They stand for election; they stand for all kinds of things. And they may even get everything, but it does not solve their suffering.

Looking at things from this perspective, the real suffering of sentient beings isn’t hunger. Hunger is one kind of suffering, but suffering is not limited to the hungry and sick. Sometimes, when people talk about suffering, they think that suffering means pain, sickness, lack of money, and only these sorts of things.

But, according to the Buddha’s teachings on suffering, suffering is the struggle and the constant dissatisfaction of life. That is the suffering he’s talking about. That will continue as long as we are in samsara.

In the last line, Karmapa prays that unbearable compassion may be born within us. Now, it sounds as though unbearable here means that you’re so compassionate that you can’t stand it, and you scream and yell and jump up and down, something like that. But it doesn’t mean that. Zömay means that we are unable to ignore the suffering. We will not just go about our own business. Because of knowing what the potential of all sentient beings is, because of knowing that every sentient being is, in essence, a buddha, then we put our own effort into realizing Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings. That is the idea of unbearable here. We can’t afford to be lethargic. Compassion is so strong that it will not allow us to be lethargic. It will not allow us to be selfish. That is what unbearable compassion is.

The second particular prayer of this section is about the unity of emptiness and compassion, written in four sentences:

When the energy of unbearable compassion is unceasing,

In expressions of loving kindness, the truth of its essential emptiness is nakedly clear.

This unity is the supreme unerring path.

Inseparable from it, may we meditate day and night.

The first sentence says that the strength and the power of this compassion, which he earlier described as unbearable, is always alive. Compassion never dies. It is always alive. And when this compassion manifests as loving kindness, the essence and the nature of it is the naked and bare manifestation of emptiness. That means that true compassion, which is not dualistic, compassion which is not stubborn, compassion which is not selfish, compassion which is empty and open, and is all-pervading, that is beyond any kind of limitation to compassion. When this compassion manifests as loving kindness, then its ultimate essence, which is emptiness, manifests as it is, without any cover, without any kind of skins on it, bare.

In the third sentence, he says that there is no way that the unity of compassion and emptiness can go wrong. Golsa means that there is a kind of way to go wrong. If you are traveling down a road and come to a junction that has three or four different forks, then you can make a mistake. But there isn’t any way to make a mistake if compassion and emptiness are in unity. Then nothing can go wrong. So, golsa drelway means that there is no way to get it wrong. He says, lam chok, which means the profound, the best, the correct path. the unity of compassion and emptiness. In the last line, he prays, may one practice this day and night, at all times. This completes the second prayer in the section on the action, regarding the unity of emptiness and compassion.

The last and fifth section is praying for the final accomplishment of the fruition, the unmistaken, correct fruition of the path. Actually, Karmapa writes it exactly as the fruition of the completion of the path, in four lines:

By the power of meditation arise the eyes and supernormal perceptions,

Sentient beings are ripened and buddha fields are perfectly purified,

The aspirations that accomplish the qualities of a buddha are fulfilled.

By bringing these three to utmost fruition – fulfilling, ripening, and purifying – may utmost buddhahood be manifest.

In these four sentences, The Third Gyalwa Karmapa describes the Buddha, the final enlightenment of buddhahood, in a simple but comprehensive manner. He says that the result of the strength of meditation, which develops through the practice of mahamudra, through the meditation on the nature of mind, is that one attains the “eyes”. Chen in Tibetan means eyes. In Buddhism in general, and in mahayana and vajrayana Buddhism in particular, a buddha’s qualities are described in this manner: five eyes and five ngönshe, which is hard to translate. Lots of people say something like clairvoyance. But I don’t think it is the same thing. Ngönshe means knowing beyond the limitation of time and distance.

Someone who has ngönshe will know the future, will know everything. That is what we call ngönshe. There are five aspects of ngönshe. Our ordinary eyes see forms and colors of forms. Beyond this, Karmapa is describing how buddhas see everything – and these eyes represent five different aspects of seeing everything – ngönshe. It doesn’t mean buddha has five eyes. But then, the Karmapa did not mention all the details here. So, the simple way to look at this is that the eyes represent the omniscient quality of the buddha, which quality is the result of the power of meditation.

This ngönshe is gradually obtained with varying degrees of limitation. Before you attain the enlightenment of buddhahood you will have ngönshe to see the past, present, and future. etc. You will have the quality of these five eyes, but it will be limited. For example, a first-level bodhisattva can manifest in 100 physical forms in 100 physical locations all at the same time. That is one of the miracles of the first-level bodhisattva as far as physical form is concerned.* The second-level bodhisattva has all of these special qualities and insights multiplied by 100. That means that the second-level bodhisattva can manifest 10,000 manifestations at the same time etc. In this way, the five eyes and the five ngönshe get more and more limitless, but at the beginning they are limited. Like people like me. I have a hard time even manifesting in one form correctly most of the time. [laughter] So, this is a way of describing enlightenment by referring to these particular eyes and particular ngönshe. And The Third Gyalwa Karmapa is saying that as one progresses along the path these special qualities gradually develop from being limited to being limitless.

Then he says, may we benefit beings. However, for benefiting sentient beings, here he uses a very particular word, min, which means ripen. A fruit which is not min is a green one. You can’t eat it, it is very sour, it is very hard. It is very hard to digest. Once it becomes min, then it is really good. It tastes good, it’s soft, it’s good for the health. I think a superficial word for that is to ripen. Karmapa says, ripen sentient beings. This means that, although you can’t change sentient beings’ essence, because they are all buddha and, therefore, don’t have to change anything – they are good just as they are – still their essence has to ripen in its manifestation, because right now they don’t talk like a buddha. They don’t think like a buddha, they don’t behave like a buddha. And sometimes they even do totally wrong things.

That means they are not ripe. So, it is the compassionate aspiration and the compassionate activity of the buddha to make beings ripe, so that their inner essence may manifest and become more apparent, so that they may become more kind and more compassionate, and then have the ability to be more compassionate and kind, too.

Many people would like to be kind, but don’t exactly know how to. There is a very common saying, that kind people always suffer. They say things like that, that good people always suffer, which is not true. It doesn’t have to be that way. When a good person suffers, that means the person has good intentions, but somehow things are not right, so that their kindness is not working. It doesn’t mean that all kind people have to suffer, does it? The problem is that there is no power together with their kindness; there is kindness, but their kindness doesn’t have power. So that when you do something, instead of other people really appreciating it and being happy and benefitting from what you do, they somehow resent it, and you get into trouble. Or something similar. So, min means everything, every aspect of the essential qualities of beings has to be ripened.

At the same time, sang gye shing rap jang also has a very particular meaning. A great bodhisattva, after attaining realization, but before attaining buddhahood, receives direct transmission from all the buddhas. That is what we call shing kam, pure land. Superficially speaking, it is like pilgrimaging to all the pure lands. But it is not physical. It is the inspiration and blessing and transmission of all the buddhas to dispense empowerment. That’s what it means. After that, gradually all the qualities of buddha, beyond any limitation, become complete: sang gye chö nam drup pay mönlam dzok. At that stage, the original aspiration such as, I wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, is fulfilled and completely accomplished.

In the mahayana teachings it is very clearly said that enlightenment won’t happen without someone’s first giving rise to enlightenment mind. One has to first have the inspiration to

attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Without this, true enlightenment won’t happen by accident. So, in this way the original inspiration is being fulfilled, beyond any limitation.

Then Karmapa condenses the first three lines into one very short sentence. He says, dzok min jang sum thar jin sang gye shok. Dzok means all the qualities of buddha are complete; min means benefiting sentient beings, and min means benefitting oneself, also, ripening is complete; and jang means that the empowerment by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas is complete. So, The Gyalwa Karmapa prays, may one attain this total enlightenment of Buddhahood – sang gye shok. That concludes the final part of the main body of the prayer.

A Commentary By His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche.

“The Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra, the Definitive Meaning”

Composed by The Lord Protector Rangjung Dorje, Third Gyalwa Karmapa.

Meaning of Unbearable Compassion

In the last line, Karmapa prays that unbearable compassion may be born within us. Now, it sounds as though unbearable here means that you’re so compassionate that you can’t stand it, and you scream and yell and jump up and down, something like that. But it doesn’t mean that. Zömay means that we are unable to ignore the suffering. We will not just go about our own business. Because of knowing what the potential of all sentient beings is, because of knowing that every sentient being is, in essence, a buddha, then we put our own effort into realizing Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings. That is the idea of unbearable here. We can’t afford to be lethargic. Compassion is so strong that it will not allow us to be lethargic. It will not allow us to be selfish. That is what unbearable compassion is.

(A Commentary By His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche on “The Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra, the Definitive Meaning” Composed by The Lord Protector Rangjung Dorje, Third Gyalwa Karmapa …Shenpen Osel, March 1998

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