On May 11 and 12, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche gave three talks at Tibet House in New York City.
During the morning session on Saturday, DPR pointed out that the main message of the Buddha is to work with our mind in order to gain a deeper realization:
“Our minds are like wild horses, running this way and that. They’re very beautiful, but untamed. We must first tame them with the lasso of mindfulness, or recollection. Remembering to be calm, remembering to be a little bit compassionate. Everything is experienced through our mind. So, it is important to be able to transform our minds in order to mediate happiness and suffering.
Happiness and suffering are the creations of our mind, of our projections. Therefore, happiness and suffering are dependent upon whether the mind is tamed or not. It is necessary to know our own minds in order to have any possibility of transforming our suffering or overcoming our fear, or to know what to do with our emotions.
First, we tame the mind by becoming familiar with it. Then we can explore its reality more deeply. The Buddha said, “Mind is devoid or empty of mind.” When we examine our thoughts we see that one thought is dependent on another, like a house of cards. When you pull one card out, the whole house collapses. There’s nothing real there, nothing true. Subject, object, our projections are all dependent on each other. This is interdependence.
Your thoughts won’t disappear, but they become less solid. Our suffering and pain become dream like, less real. At the end, everything boils down to thoughts. We are all fragments of thoughts. A moment of thought thinking about me, a moment of thought thinking about you, or the world. Just as thoughts are arising, they are dissolving. There is no solid center of thoughts. So, at a deeper level, our mind is completely awakened and free. It’s full of genuine wisdom and full of love and compassion. It is empty of mind, but awakened. Luminous and clear.
During the Saturday afternoon session, Rinpoche spoke about the causes and conditions for all of our experiences:
This is the law of our relative world, relative truth. But. we remain ignorant of many of the causes for our experience, and their interdependent nature. Therefore, we experience samsara over and over again. The word for ‘ignorance’ in Tibetan means ‘unawareness’. Unless we can gain any sense of control or influence over our minds, there is no way to transform our negative habits of mind.
We need to work with our minds in every opportunity that presents itself. We all want happiness, but we don’t know what happiness is. Happiness is different for each one of us because our projections are different.
Camping is an example. Some people spend good money to go to a place where there are no beds, no running water, no television, and predators. For some, this is a pleasurable experience. For others, it is irritating and unpleasant.
Happiness, as Buddha taught, is anything you don’t have right now. We’re not happy with who we are, or where we are or what we have. If you’re looking for happiness from the outside, you will never find it. It comes from within. The real joy comes from our heart of loving kindness and compassion. We can transform our suffering in small steps, little by little.
If we are aware in the moment of our negative emotions and our ego, we can transform our karma in the moment. However, we often choose to be angry or jealous or proud, or sad. We must see that we have a choice in every moment to transform and transcend.
Working with dharma is not about a religion, or pleasing anyone. The Buddhist teachings are all about how we can help each other to be better human beings. You don’t have to wait to go to the shrine room. The transformation takes place incrementally in little steps — at your home, at the store, with friends and co-workers. We know our own minds the best. If we can work with our own minds genuinely and honestly, we can transform our negative emotions or ordinary habits, attachments, and clinging.
On Sunday, Rinpoche reminded us of how our mental experiences of suffering, happiness and physical well being are interdependent:
“Our experiences depend on so many factors, including the happiness of other people. For example, when we are in some peaceful retreat where everyone is working on their mind, we all experience some degree of kindness and love. Therefore, our awakening from samsaric confusion depends on others.
As much as we want to run away from samsara, it plays an important part in our awakening. Samsara and nirvana are interdependent. Ignorance and awareness are co-emergent. There’s a deep connection between ourselves and the world which is what we call interdependence.
For example, in order for eye consciousness to arise, there need to be many causes and conditions. First there has to be the object, and a functioning faculty of sight. There must be light, and there must be the mental consciousness which labels the object. Then, we can see the color red — which we may like, or dislike.
It’s the same with smell. You may like the smell or be allergic to it. There are many causes and conditions which go into anything we experience, but we don’t see this. We just jump to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’.
When we are able to work on our causes and conditions, we are able to transform. No one else can save you from yourself. Buddha said, “You are your own protector and you are your own savior.” We are encouraged to be independent, but the reality is interdependence. You have everything you need, all the tools you need to do this. You have prajna (wisdom) and upaya (skillful means). The dharma’s teachings are on how to use these tools. The sangha are friends that help you on the path. But, we must find our own awakening by ourselves.We each have our own characteristics, tendencies and individuality. Individuality is not a problem. Buddha even encouraged us to be individuals.
Then, with the help of your spiritual friend and the dharma, you can seek enlightenment. Whatever is interdependent is empty. If you look at all these appearances that arise, they don’t really exist. They lack true existence in their essence. This is the idea of emptiness in the Buddha’s Mahayana teachings. Emptiness is very important on the path, but it’s hard to connect with a direct experience of it. If you really look at the momentary arising and ceasing, however, it’s very difficult to find anything solid, anything real.
The moment your thoughts are arising, they’re already ceasing. Thoughts are self-liberating, but we’re collecting and hoarding them, holding onto them when we could be letting them go. The key point of meditation practice is relaxing the three gates — body, speech and mind. Dharma practice is letting go of projections, of clinging, of attachments.
The main practice for letting go is relaxing and not taking it too seriously. Life is a dream, an illusion. We must be vigilant and diligent, but at the same time, relaxed. And, do it in the world, not just in the shrine room. This is where we have to practice. The real practice happens on the street, or in your family. Your family gives you the opportunity to practice unconditional love. Our love is very much interdependent, dependent on the outside world.”
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche will be going to Connecticut from May 17-19th and will be teaching on . . .
The Altruistic Heart: Training in the Four Immeasurables
By beginning with cultivating gentleness and trust toward ourselves, we can actually train our hearts and minds to become more and more naturally concerned with the welfare of others. However, this process is gradual and needs the support of constant cultivation. The “four immeasurables” or “four limitless ones”-loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and impartiality-form a series of meditative trainings designed to allow our inherent qualities of altruism to be transformed from dormant seeds to a loving presence that can be enjoyed by ourselves and everyone we are connected to. In this program, Rinpoche will introduce the view and meditation practices of these four trainings.