Quote for the Week: Dharma in Daily Life
We shouldn’t feel that Dharma occurs only when we sit down and meditate. Dharma should be present with us all the time. Dharma should be practiced in everything we do and at all times and used in all our actions. Of course, at the moment we can’t act like Milarepa and the Buddha, but at least we can try to be responsible for our own mind. We must try our best not to let the negative mental states develop. We must try to feel more compassion and to develop more bodhichitta. Although we can’t do this immediately, at least we can do whatever we can by doing it everyday, again and again.
— Thrangu Rinpoche in The Middle-way Meditation
Practice in Daily Life for the Week: At the time of death, we go into a deep unconscious swoon. When we become conscious again we are confused, disoriented, and fearful because we no longer have a body. At that time we need help. This is very similar to when we wake up from a deep sleep. So the practice is that when we wake up from a deep sleep, the first thing we do is place our guru above our head. If we want we can place a deity such as Chenrezig above us and think of them guiding us. If we keep doing this every day, then when we actually pass away, it will be an automatic event and we will have help in the bardo.
Vivid Awareness Blog 2 (8-28-2011)
The Importance of Terma
On page 11 Thrangu Rinpoche begins to describe terma (dharma treasures) and tertons (special persons who find dharma treasures). I would like to elaborate on this topic because it is central to understanding Trungpa Rinpoche and his Shambhala teachings.
The story of Terma begins with great Indian master and magician Padmasambhava (who is called “Guru Rinpoche” in Tibetan) who lived in the 8th century CE. Guru Rinpoche was born in Oddiyanna which western scholars place in the present Swat Valley in Pakistan or Orissa in present India. Guru Rinpoche was born fully born in a lotus in a lake and King Indrabhuti of the area adopted him as a son. When he was in his 20s he got in trouble and was banished to a cemetery ground. There he learned tantric practices and also visited the Kingdom of Sohar. He went to the convent where princess Mandarava was and the king punished him with a sentence of burning him alive. But through is magical powers he turned the fire into a lotus lake and the King gave him Mandarava to be his first wife. He then went to Maratika cave in Nepal and then to Tibet where he stayed for about 50 years taming the wild shamanistic local religion and building an enduring Tibetan culture. Incidentially, Maratika cave is still existent and because Guru Rinpoche achieved long life in this cave it is still used by Tibetan lamas to increase their life span. In 1985, for example, Khenste Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyingma Rinpoche, Choling Rinpoche and Tulku Urgyen when to this cave and did a week drupchen to increase the lifespan of Tulku Urgyen. Afterwards, Tulku Urgyen, reported that he had dream of a dakini coming and giving him 5 pieces of turquoise and this indicated that he would live 5 more years.
At the time of the eighth century Tibet was a non-Buddhist nation until Guru Rinpoche came and converted the pre-Buddhist practitioners from the Bon Religion to Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche brought many Buddhist teachings and texts from India and started the “direct lineage” of Buddhist teachings by taking 100 of the brightest Tibetans and training them as translators of these Buddhist teachings which were in Sanskrit. He also helped establish Tibet’s first monastery, Samye near Lhasa. Also directly under Guru Rinpoche was his Mandarava who he brought from India and his Tibetan wife or consort Yeshe Tshogyel who was to become the first Tibetan to reach enlightenment. Guru Rinpoche also had 25 close disciples to whom he passed certain teachings. Incidentally, Thrangu Rinpoche is said to be a reincarnation of one of these 25 disciples.
Guru Rinpoche also established a completely unique system of Indian termas. He decided that the world was not ready for many advanced teachings so he hid these teachings so that they would be recovered at a later time when the people would understand them. He and his two wives and 25 close disciples hid a large number of teachings.
There are three major types of termas. The first is Earth Terma. For Earth Termas Guru Rinpoche and his followers hid paper scrolls in rocks or lakes or temples and these scrolls which sometimes were in caskets did not actually contain the texts. Instead, the texts were written in a cryptic symbolic language (language of the dakinis) which meant nothing to an ordinary person. However, when discovered by a terton who usually was an incarnation of a close disciple of Guru Rinpoche, the symbolic language would unlock a profound teaching in the terton’s mind and he or she would write it down.
The second kind of terma is Mind Termas in which the symbolic script appearrs in the terton’s mind first and this leads him to the actual teachings which had been hidden. Also the physical teachings were often entrusted to non-humans who lived many lifetimes longer than humans (dakinis and protectors) to make sure that if ordinary persons approached the hidden teaching, they would not see or find these termas.
The third kind of terma is Pure Vision Teachings which are received by great masters (not just Nyingma tertons) as a vision from the deities or great masters. For example, when Marpa was returning to Tibet and was laid up by customs officials, he had a dream in which he actually went and saw Saraha (who had lived about 500 before him) and received and important teaching from him. This is described in the biography of Marpa.
Now, getting back to the topic of Termas and its relation to Trungpa Rinpoche. When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was in India before he came to the West he went to a Guru Rinpoche cave to do a retreat being attended by a Westerner. One night Trungpa Rinpoche became “a wild man” and “completely possessed” and began furiously to write and write. When he was through he told the attendant that he had received a whole new practice directly from Guru Rinpoche. This practice was translated and is practiced in Shambhala centers all over the world. This is an example of a Pure Vision Terma. Trungpa Rinpoche also received visions and messages about the land of Shambhala and these became what is known as Shambhala training.
On page 13, Thrangu Rinpoche talks about what happens to lamas in this life-time ie. they like us forget our mind’s nature which is being perfectly tuned into what is happening in the moment and lose things. He also discusses what happens when a lama is reincarnated.
As I understand it, everyone is reincarnated as a new being after a period of time after they have died. Since particularly evil persons are reincarnated into the hell realm, we cannot say that people are always reincarnated into a human body. When we are reincarnated as a baby, most people forget their previous life, although there is always a small percentage who don’t. People who do not forget their previous life are not particularly highly evolved, but most great practitioners remember their previous lives but not perfectly. I have already discussed the scientific evidence for reincarnation and stories of how it happens so I won’t repeat these. But for Rinpoches to remember the teachings that they had received from a previous lifetime, they have to be removed from daily life and put in a situation in which they have to read through and contemplate they had learned in their previous lifetime. If this isn’t done, the Rinpoche may well end up leading a perfectly normal life with no desire or ability to teach the Dharma.
Finally, Thrangu Rinpoche brings up a whole series of questions in the last pages of this chapter (p. 15-P.16):
- Why is faith and devotion necessary?
- Why is wariness with the world necessary?
- What does it mean “to realize the nature of mind”?
- What do we mean by “selflessness of the individual” in the Foundation Vehicle?
- Why is it important to study the Middle-way philosophy to determine that “all phenomena are empty”?
- Thrangu Rinpoche says that in the Vajrayana, we do not use the study of the “selflessness of the individual” or the “emptiness of phenomena” in our meditation. Why is this not done?
- What is Mahamudra and Dzogchen?
- What does “the method is to look at the nature of our mind and realize it” mean?
- (p. 17) What does “external phenomena is too bright” and “internal mind is not bright enough mean?
Photo of the Day: Picture of the Day
I enclose a pictures of several of the dakini texts that have been found by tertons. The yellow paper indicates that they were most likely written by Yeshe Tsogyal. Each was found by a different terton. Number 12 shows symbolic script. On 13 and 14 the symbolic script is on top line and the terton has written the Tibetan below. Number 16 shows a page of a full text. Taken from Hidden Teachings of Tibet by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche.