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Shenpen sel

The Clear Light of the Buddhas Teachings Which Benefits All Beings

Volume 5, Number 1 May 2001

T he entire practice, starting from the very beginning of the generation of the
deity and culminating with the dissolution or withdrawal of the deity and
mandala into the clear light, corresponds to all the events of one life. The very
beginning of the generation corresponds to the entrance of the consciousness into
the womb, for example, in the case of a human life. As the practice goes on there are
specific elements that correspond to the birth, to all the experiences of this life, and
finally, in the case of the withdrawal phase, to death.

From the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches


Commentary on Jamgn Kontruls text, Creation and
Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation
Shenpen sel
The Clear Light of the Buddhas Teachings Which Benefits All Beings
Volume 5 Number 1

Content
Contentss
This issue of Shenpen sel is devoted to a commentary on Jamgn Kontruls text, Creation and
Completion, given by the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche at Rigpe Dorje Center in
San Antonio, Texas, between October 31 and November 3, 1997. Copyright 2001 Khenchen
Thrangu Rinpoche.

3 Introduction
4 Creation and Completion By Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche
4 Essential Points for Approaching the Path of Tantric Meditation
13 Essential Points for Traversing the Path
23 Using the Generation Stage to Purify the Habit of Birth
34 The Eight Consciousnesses as the Deluded Aspect of Mind and as Buddha Nature Itself
46 How to Work With the Emergence of Confusion in Practice
52 Cultivating Lucidity: No Meditation and No Distraction
62 T he Cultivation of Bodhicitt
Bodhicittaa and TTaking
aking and Sending By Lama Tashi Namgyal
70 Summary of the Cultivation of Bodhicitt
Bodhicittaa and TTaking
aking and Sending

St aff
Staff Editorial polic
policyy
Editor Shenpen sel is a tri-annual publication of Kagyu
Lama Tashi Namgyal Shenpen sel Chling (KSOC), a center for the
study and practice of Tibetan vajrayana Buddhism
Copy editors, TTranscribers,
ranscribers, located in Seattle, Washington. The magazine
Recorders seeks to present the teachings of recognized and
Glen Avantaggio, Alan Castle, Anita Castle,
fully qualified lamas and teachers, with an
Kenn DeSure, Marcia Glover, Denise Glover,
emphasis on the Karma Kagyu and the Shangpa
Judy Knapp, Donald Lashley, Linda Lewis,
Kagyu lineages. The contents are derived in large
Chris Payne, Rose Peeps, Mark Suver,
part from transcripts of teachings hosted by our
Elisabeth Talsky, Mark Voss
center. Shenpen sel is produced and mailed
Dat abase manager
Database exclusively through volunteer labor and does not
Marcia Glover make a profit. (Your subscriptions and donations
Mailing coordinators are greatly appreciated.) We publish with the
Mark Suver, Daniel Talsky aspiration to present the clear light of the
Buddhas teachings. May it bring benefit and may
Mailing crew all be auspicious. May all beings be inspired and
Members of the Seattle sangha
assisted in uncovering their own true nature.

creditss this issue: Ryszard K. Frackiewicz, pages 4,


Photo credit
13, 23, 34, 46, 52, back cover.

2 SHENPEN SEL
Introduction

A
ll spiritual paths leading to buddhahood include three essential
stages in meditation: the development of the ability of the mind
to abide calmly in a single frame of reference (shamatha); the
generation of limitless impartial affection, compassion, and bodhicitta
through the practice of taking and sending (tong len); and the develop-
ment of the recognition of and the ability to abide uninterruptedly in the
true nature of mind, the clear light nature of intrinsic awareness
(vipashyana, mahamudra, dzogchen). In the beginning these stages are
generally practiced one after the other. In the middle, they tend to be
practiced in a mixed way, sometimes emphasizing one, at other times
another. In the end, there is simply the recognition of the clear light
nature of intrinsic awareness, which, by its very nature, is free of all
faults and embodies all positive qualities.
In order to hasten the development of these stages, the various tradi-
tions of vajrayana Buddhism also emphasize the creation and completion
stages of the many various vehicles of tantra. This issue of Shenpen sel
features a commentary by the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu
Rinpoche on Jamgn Kongtruls text, Creation and Completion, Essential
Points of Tantric Meditation, given at the Rigpe Dorje Center in San
Antonio, Texas, in 1997. Rinpoches teaching was occasioned by Wisdom
Publications publication of Sarah Hardings excellent translation of the
same text under the same title the year before, which is accompanied by
Hardings excellent introduction and notes. Although Thrangu Rinpoches
commentary stands on its own, it will enhance the readers understand-
ing, especially the understanding of budding Tibetan scholars, to obtain
and read this root text, which is published in both Tibetan and English.
We would like to thank Thrangu Rinpoche and the Rigpe Dorje Foun-
dation for permission to reprint Rinpoches commentary here.

A lso included in this issue is a teaching on the generation of affection,


compassion, and bodhicitta, the altruistic intention to attain enlight-
enment, which is based largely on a teaching by His Holiness Tenzin
Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama on The Three Principal Aspects of the
Path to Supreme Enlightenment by Je Tsong Khapa, given in Los Angeles
in 1984.
Lama Tashi Namgyal

SHENPEN SEL 3
Creation and Completion At the Rigpe Dorje Center in San Antonio,
Texas, in 1997, the Very Venerable Khenchen
Essential Points Thrangu Rinpoche gave a commentary on
Jamgn Kongtruls text, Creation and
For Approaching the Path Completion, Essential Points of Tantric
Meditation. Rinpoche gave his commentary
Of Tantric Meditation in Tibetan; it was orally translated by
Lama Yeshe Gyamtso. The following is an
edited transcript.

I
would like to begin by expressing my
delight in being able to present this
teaching and my appreciation for being
given the opportunity to do so. Having said
that, I would like to begin by chanting the
lineage supplication. This particular lin-
eage supplication is the one that is most
commonly used and may, in fact, be the
single piece of liturgy most commonly used
in Kagyu monastic foundations, retreat
centers, dharma centers, as well as for
individual practice. The reason why we
regard this particular supplication as so
important is that it was composed by
Pengar Jampel Zangpo, who was a great
master. It was composed by him after his
completion of eighteen years of solitary
retreat practice meditating on mahamudra
on an island in the middle of a lake known
as Sky Lake in northern Tibet. Because
this lineage supplication is held to contain
the essence of his realization gained
through those eighteen years of practice, it
is considered very great in blessing. There-
fore, we always recite it at the beginning of
practice and instruction sessions.
In addition, one of the significances of
The Very V
Very enerable Khenchen TThrangu
Venerable hrangu R inpoche
Rinpoche
doing so is that when you are practicing
the creation or generation stage and the
completion stage of the vajrayana, one of
the primary conditions for the effective-
ness of the practice is the presence of faith
and devotion within you. If you practice the
generation stage with faith and devotion,

4 SHENPEN SEL
then your practice will be stable and vivid. If you or selfishness. In a sense this is not that big a
practice the completion stage with faith and deal, but at the same time these are impure
devotion, there will be a stable and authentic motivations, and it is necessary to let go of them
recognition of your minds nature. So in that and replace them with a pure motivation. A pure
spirit, please recite the lineage supplication motivation is the wish to study and practice in
with utmost faith and devotion. order to be able to benefit both yourself and
I am going to talk about the generation and others. Especially given that we are normally
completion stages according to the text, The mostly concerned with benefiting only ourselves,
Essence of Creation and Comple- it is important to emphasize the
tion, which was composed by wish to benefit others. Normally,
Jamgn Kongtrul the Great. In It is important even when we wish to benefit
particular, from among the two others, we restrict that wish to a
when dharma is
topics of the creation or genera- few others such as our family and
tion stage and the completion taught to discuss friends and so on. The wish to
stage, we are concerned primarily not only the benefit a few others is not an
with the generation stage. Al- impure motivation; it is a pure
though in a sense our main prac- completion stage motivation, but among pure
tice is the completion stage, the but also the motivations it is a fairly limited
practice of the completion stage one. Here we are trying to de-
depends entirely upon the stabil-
generation stage velop the motivation of practicing
ity and blessing of the generation and studying in order to benefit
stage, just as, for example, the practice of all beings who fill space, since all beings without
vipashyana depends upon the attainment of exception equally wish to be happy and wish to
stable shamatha. be free from suffering and yet lack the knowl-
This is a very appropriate topic to be study- edge necessary to enable them to achieve these
ing. It is very easy to talk about shamatha and goals. So if you have the motivation for both
vipashyana and very easy to listen to explana- study and practice in order to establish all
tions of mahamudra and other explanations that beings without exception in a state of happiness,
are entirely concerned only with the completion this motivation is not only pure but also vast in
stage. Although these things sound very good scope.
and are very easily explained in theory, it is not
important to choose the topic that is the easiest
to listen to, but instead to choose the one that is
going to be of the most practical benefit, that is,
T he first topic addressed in our text is where
beginners need to start. This is explained
quite fully in the text, and covers eight main
the one that will actually enable students to points: gaining certainty in the dharma; renun-
progress in their practice of meditation. There- ciation; understanding what dharma isview,
fore, it is appropriate to address subjects that meditation, conduct, and fruition; definition of
are more difficult to understand, because it is generation and completion; faith and devotion;
these, especially, that definitely need the most sacred outlook; the two truths; and understand-
complete explanation. The function of teaching, ing the qualities of the path.
of course, is to provide what students need for The first point is that in order to practice
their ultimate benefit. Therefore, when dharma dharma you need to have certainty about the
is taught, it is important to discuss not only the validity of dharma. The generation of that cer-
completion stage but also the generation stage. tainty has to be a three-step process, which is
When you examine your mind, the types of the cultivation of the wisdom or knowledge of
impure motivations for study and practice you hearing, the wisdom of thinking of what has been
might discover are competitiveness, arrogance, heard, and then finally the wisdom which comes

SHENPEN SEL 5
from meditation. It is pointed out that those of reason is that the Buddhas original statements
the highest faculties, which means extremely are extremely vast in extent and number. Also
rare and highly gifted individuals, do not neces- they are not necessarily organized for easy study
sarily need to go through the preliminary stages or reference. They are organized on the basis of
of hearing and thinking about the dharma. An the occasions on which these various statements
example of this type of person is King were made. In addition, because these state-
Indrabhuti of Uddiyana, who, upon receiving ments of the Buddha or teachings given by the
instruction from the Buddha, was liberated on Buddha were made on different occasions at the
the spot. Most of us, however, need first to hear request of and for the needs of specific different
instructions, then to think about them very individuals, they represent different styles of
carefully, and, only thereafter, to implement teaching. They are principally classed as belong-
them in meditation practice. ing to either the indicative meaning or the de-
Why do we have to begin by hearing the finitive meaning.* Simply by studying these
dharma? Because dharma practice is something original texts themselves, it is impossible for a
that is not primarily concerned with or limited beginner to determine what is an indicative
to the experiences of this life. Therefore, since it statement and what is a definitive statement. On
is sufficiently different from what the other hand, the function of the
we are used to, before we have shastras or commentaries is to
heard it explained, we really have
It is really distinguish clearly between indica-
no idea what it is, let alone how through the tive and definitive statements of
to go about practicing it. We, the Buddha, to collect similar
therefore, require instruction.
commentaries teachings or those that need to be
What do we take as the sources of that we approach used together in one place for easy
our instruction? What dharma do the Buddhas reference, to explain the hidden
we try to hear? Generally speak- meanings or subtleties of the
ing, there are two classes of teachings Buddhas teachings, and to summa-
scripture or texts used in themselves rize especially long treatments of
buddhadharma. One is what is topics that can be understood with
called the dictates of the Buddha, which means a briefer explanation. In short, it is really
the teachings that the Buddha gave when he through the commentaries that we approach the
taught in India. The other are called the com- Buddhas teachings themselves.
mentaries or shastras, which are commentar- Although we study the commentaries, there
ies on these teachings composed by the great are within the general class of commentaries on
masters of India and other countries. The cus- the Buddhas teachings two types of treatment or
tom in the vajrayana tradition is to emphasize two types of texts. Some commentaries are
the study of the commentaries rather than the elaborate explanations employing a great deal of
study of the Buddhas original teachings. Casu- logical reasoning which are intended to be guides
ally considering this, you would think or expect for the acquisition of tremendous amounts of
that we would emphasize the Buddhas teachings
themselves in our study, because, after all, is not *Editors note: Teachings that embody the definitive meaning
the Buddha the most important teacher in the are those that describe the ultimate and most profound
understanding of the Buddha, and that are not regarded as
Buddhist tradition? Nevertheless, the tradition conditional in any other way than to understand that the
is to emphasize the commentaries upon these ultimate truth can never be expressed in words. The indicative
meaning, sometimes called the provisional meaning, includes
teachings by other great masters. This has been all those teachings which suit various individuals at their
objected to historically by some scholars who various stages of mental development and which will lead
have said, Why study the commentaries rather them by stages in the direction of understanding the ultimate
truth, but are not themselves the expression of this definitive
than the Buddhas original statements? The meaning.

6 SHENPEN SEL
learning about the teachings. Some commentar- of practitioners. One kind of practitioner is
ies, on the other hand, do not have such elabo- called a follower of faith, which means some-
rate presentations of logical reasoning but are one who believes what they are told simply
fairly straightforward guides on how to practice because they have been told it. The other type of
the Buddhas teachings. These tend to include practitioner is a follower of dharma, which is
references to the Buddhas state- someone who does not take
ments and also contain a great anything, no matter who was
deal of reference to the actual Songs of supposed to have said it, on
practical experiences of those authority but tries to figure out
texts that give practical instruc- instruction and why they said it, what it really
tions. It is principally these that realization are means. Taking the second ap-
we emphasize in our study. proach of looking for the real
Within the general class of
easy to meaning of a statement, you go
texts that give practical instruc- understand and, beyond the knowledge of hearing.
tions, again there are two variet- Whether you are studying the
ies. Some of these texts are elabo-
therefore, very Buddhas teachings or the com-
rate explanations of the methods easy to use to mentaries upon them, texts of
of practice and some are very actually benefit instruction, or dohas [the songs
brief, very pithy statements of the of realization], when you study
essence of practice. These latter and affect them you are concerned with the
tend to be in the form of songs and your mind question, What does this really
are referred to in Sanskrit as mean? What is this really trying
doha. These are the most impor- to say to me? Why did the person
tant types of texts to emphasize in your study, who wrote this or sang this, say this in this
because given how they are formed and ex- way? Through that type of thinking or analysis,
pressed, they are easy to remember. Being easy you generate a much greater certainty or under-
to keep in mind, they are easy to make use of in standing than you would by simply taking the
actual practice. They combine the two virtues of statement at its face value. This greater cer-
profundity and brevity. Therefore, we study from tainty is called the prajna or knowledge of
among the Indian dohas those of the Indian thinking. If you meditate after having generated
mahasiddhas such as Tilopa and Naropa. From this knowledge of thinking, then your practice
the country of Tibet we study the songs of all the will go much better because you will actually
masters of the Kagyu lineage and especially know how to meditate. You will also understand
those of Jetsun Milarepa. These types of songs of why you are meditating, why it is beneficial and
instruction and realization are easy to under- why it will work, which will give you much more
stand and, therefore, very easy to use to actually confidence to go on with the practice. It is princi-
benefit and affect your mind. Whether you read pally for this reason that the practice of medita-
them or hear them, they are still used as the tion needs to be preceded by the practice of
most important base or principal base for study. hearing and thinking.
Through hearing the dharma, through either The next topic in our text is again, how to
literally hearing it or through studying it, you begin. It deals with the importance of renuncia-
come to an idea or an understanding of what it tion. There are really two things that you need
means on a very basic level. You come to think, at the very inception of your practice. One of
Things are like this, this is how things are. them is trust in the validity of the dharma. The
That is the first level of prajna or knowledge other is renunciation, revulsion for samsara. In
the knowledge that comes from hearing. But you order to generate these, in order to generate
cannot stop there. In general there are two kinds true certainty about dharma and revulsion for

SHENPEN SEL 7
samsara, it is necessary to begin by contemplat- fruition are all founded upon the mind.
ing the four thoughts that turn the mind: the A casual look at Buddhist teachings will give
difficulty of acquiring the freedom and resources you the idea that according to buddhadharma, a
of a precious human life, death and imperma- person consists of the three faculties of body,
nence, the results of actions, and the defects of speech, and mind. How do we think about these
samsara. The generation of this type of renuncia- three? The body is composed of physical sub-
tion and certainty in the dharma is what is stances such as flesh and blood. What we regard
called your mind going to the as our body, from the top of the
dharma and is the first step in head to the tip of the toes, seems
your practice. very powerful. Speech, which is all
The next step is to come to an
There are really of our talk, seems much less
understanding of what dharma is, two things that substantial. Speech consists of all
an understanding of the view, the you need at the of the positive things and all the
meditation, the conduct, and the negative things that we say. But
fruition, which are the topics that very inception of the root of all of the deeds of body
make up buddhadharma. The root your practice. and speech is our mind. If you are
of all of this is taming the mind. asked to say which of these three,
As we know, the Buddhas 84,000
One of them is body, speech, or mind, is the main
teachings are concerned with the trust in the one, you might say the body be-
taming of the 84,000 types of cause the body seems the stron-
mental afflictions or kleshas
validity of the gest. The body seems the most
which afflict our minds, but the dharma. The active or effective. Then you might
root of all of these teachings is say, well speech is number two
other is
simply taming your mind. As was because speech after all can com-
said by the Buddha, To com- renunciation municate. It is communication, but
pletely tame your mind is the it is not as strong or as stable as
Buddhas teaching. When we say taming the the body. And mind is the weakest because mind
mind, it means taming the kleshas, because does not achieve anything except that it thinks.
your mind is sometimes very rough, very wild, It does not really do anything. However, in fact,
full of kleshas, full of selfishness, afflicted by all mind is in charge of body and speech. Body and
kinds of coarse and negative thoughts and so on. speech do not do anything at all without mind
Whether we succeed in taming this mind of ours, telling them to do it. So mind is the root. It is,
taming the mind is the topic about which all therefore, said by the siddhas of our tradition
dharma is concerned. Everything depends upon that your body and speech are like servants who
your mind. Any qualities that you attain through perform the virtue and wrongdoing that the
the path, you attain through your mind. Any mind, which is like a boss, instigates. So of these
defects that you remove through the path are three, in fact, mind is most important. There-
removed from your mind. Therefore, what is fore, it is of the greatest importance that we
called the recognition or realization of the take hold of our mind, that we fix our mind. All
view is taming your mind. What is called the of the Buddhist practices, including view, medi-
cultivation of meditative absorption or medita- tation, and conduct, are concerned with fixing or
tion is taming your mind. You engage in the taming the mind.
conduct, certain modes of behavior of body and Taming the mind or fixing the mind means
speech, in order to tame your mind. The fruition, abandoning the kleshas, abandoning the mental
the result of all of this, is totally taming your afflictions. Everyones mind has two aspects.
mind. If you understand this, then you under- There is a pure aspect of your mind, and there is
stand that the view, meditation, conduct, and an impure aspect to your mind. The impure

8 SHENPEN SEL
aspect to your mind is called klesha or mental your kleshas will weaken over time.
affliction. If you abandon mental afflictions, then Some people do not have any particularly
all of your actions of body and speech will auto- preponderant klesha and are not particularly
matically become dharmic or pure. As long as involved with anything overtly unvirtuous. They
you have not abandoned mental afflictions, then are more afflicted by the basic fundamental
no matter how good your actions of body and fixation on their own existence. Or, they might
speech may appear, you will still never be happy. be afflicted by doubt and hesitation. They may
Abandoning kleshas is the aim of dharma, but for always wonder whether such and such is like
this to succeed, it is necessary that the remedy, this, or like that. Or you might be afflicted by
the practice, actually meet or encounter the meaningless regret, constantly regretting things,
problem, the kleshas. In order for this to occur, constantly questioning your own actions. Or you
you need to take an honest look at your own might be mostly afflicted by a state of neutral
mind. You need to see which klesha is really your sleepiness, or simply by the presence of a great
biggest problem. For some people anger is the deal of thoughts that are not particularly kleshas
biggest problem, for others jealousy; for some or negative in themselves. If any of these is your
attachment, for others bewilderment; and for principal problem, then in the same way, you aim
some it is pride. It can be any one of the five your practice at that. You dedicate all of your
main kleshas, which are usually called the five practicewhether it is the visualization of
poisons. In fact, it is in order to tame these that deities, the recitation of mantras, the practice of
wisdom deities manifest as the buddhas of the meditationto the eradication of that problem,
five families. In any case, you begin by looking at whatever it is. By directing your practice in that
your mind to determine which klesha is the kind of focused way, it will actually have an
strongest. When you discover what your biggest effect and you will weaken and eventually eradi-
problem is, you dedicate your cate these problems.
practice to the amelioration of The next topic addressed in
that. For example, if you are medi- When you the text is a basic definition of
tating on the four reminders, such the generation stage and comple-
as the difficulty of acquiring a
discover what tion stage, which is by extension,
precious human existence, you your biggest making a distinction between
think, I am doing the mediation in them. The term generation or
order to abandon such and such
problem is, you generation stage refers to the
klesha. Or if you are practicing dedicate your generation of something, the
the uncommon preliminaries such practice to the creation or origination of some-
as the refuge and bodhicitta prac- thing. Completion refers in
tice, the Vajrasattva practice, amelioration general to carrying that which
mandala practice, or guru yoga of that has been generated to its comple-
practice, then you think, I am tion, or to its perfection. In
doing this in order to tame this klesha which practice, generation or generation stage refers to
afflicts my mind. This is especially effective in the visualizations of the deities, including the
the Vajrasattva practice. When you visualize the radiating out and gathering in of rays of light,
ambrosia coming from his heart, entering the top the visualization and recitation of mantras, and
of your head, and purifying you, you can think: so forth. Completion or the completion stage
Especially such and such klesha (whichever one refers to the dissolution of such visualizations
it is) is being purified by this. In that way, by into emptiness. However, in another sense the
specifically directing the intention of your prac- meaning of the term generation and generation
tice to your biggest problem, then dharma does stage is something that is fabricated. In gen-
become an effective remedy for your kleshas, and eration stage practice you are thinking that

SHENPEN SEL 9
things are such and such, you think, Things are deva or devi, we get the idea of some kind of
like this. Completion stage, by contrast refers external protector or higher power, something
to something that is natural or unfabricated, that is superior to us, outside of us, that some-
because in completion stage, rather than think- how can lift us up out of where we are and bring
ing that things are like such and such, you dis- us to where we want to be. Therefore, what goes
cover them as they are. The statement that the along with our conventional idea of deity is the
generation stage is the cultivation of some kind assumption of our own inferiority to deities. In
of fabrication, as true as it is, is really only true comparison to the deity, we consider ourselves
of the beginning of generation stage practice. as some kind of inferior, benighted being that
Nevertheless, as fabricated as generation stage has to be held up by something outside of our-
may appear to be for a beginning practitioner, it selves. But the vajrayana notion of deity is not in
is still necessary. In practicing we are trying to any way like that, because the vajrayana way of
purify the traces of our previous wrongdoing, working with the iconography of deities is that
especially our obscurations, which consist of the the practitioner visualizes himself or herself as
cognitive obscurations and the the deity with which they are
afflictive obscurations. Because of working.
the presence of these What needs to This body that you now con-
obscurations, we experience the sider to be so impure and afflicted
world in an incorrect and deluded be done is to is in its nature an extension of the
way, in that our experience of cast aside our nature of your mind. Therefore, in
what we call samsara consists of practice you consider this appar-
deluded projections. What we are
involvement with ently impure body to be the body
trying to do in our practice is to delusion and of your yidam, the deity upon
transcend these deluded projec- whom you are meditating. Since
tions and experience the pure
to actually buddha nature is the most funda-
reality or pure appearances consciously mental essence or nature of your
which lie behind them. It is not attend to and mind and since your body is the
sufficient, in order to transcend projection of that mind, then your
these deluded projections to cultivate body is pure in nature. You ac-
simply tell yourself, I know that attention to pure knowledge that in practice by
what I am experiencing is adul- imagining it to be or visualizing it
terated by delusion, and then
appearance to be pure, not only in nature, but
simply stay with these deluded in appearance. Through cultivat-
projections. As long as you continue to invest ing this method, then eventually the actual
energy in these deluded projections, they will appearance or experience of your body comes to
continue, even though you recognize them, at arise in purity. It is for this reason, in order to
least theoretically, to be invalid. What needs to work with the deluded projections in this way,
be done is to cast aside our involvement with that the generation stage is necessary.
delusion and to actually consciously attend to In order to practice the generation and
and cultivate attention to pure appearance. By completion stages, it is essential to have devo-
doing so you can gradually transcend and aban- tion, to have faith, and to have pure or sacred
don delusion and deluded projections. It is in outlook. Devotion consists of two things. One is
order to do this that we make use of iconogra- interest or enthusiasm and the other aspect is
phy, in other words, deities. respect. This means being interested in and
In the vajrayana the deity is something very being enthusiastic about the dharma, and having
different from what we normally mean by that the respect that comes from understanding its
term. Normally when we say deity, lha, or validity and its importance. Then by extension,

10 SHENPEN SEL
it means having the same attitude towards your When we say devotion and faith are neces-
root guru and for the gurus of the lineage, being sary, we are not just saying it because it is a
interested in them, having enthusiasm for them, customary thing to say. The reason why devotion
and also having respect for them. is necessary is that fundamentally what we need
Another thing that is very important is the to do is to practice dharma, and if you have one
attitude of sacred outlook. Sacred outlook is one hundred percent confidence in dharma, then
of two contrasting ways we always have of seeing your practice will be one hundred percent. If you
the world. You can look at anything in a way that have less confidence, then your practice will be
sees what is good about it, that sees the purity of less intense. The less intense your practice, of
it, and you can look at anything in course the less complete the
a way that sees what is wrong result. Therefore, it is essential
with it, in a way that sees it as You are not to have confidence in, and, there-
impure. Any action can be con- fore, devotion for, dharma itself.
ducted with a basic attitude of practicing the For that to occur, there has to be
purity or an attitude of impurity. gurus foibles. trust in the individuals who teach
For example, if you consider the you dharma. There has to be trust
simple act of generositygiving You are in the guru. Because if you trust
something to someoneit could practicing the the guru, then you will trust the
be done mindlessly, simply to get dharma, and if you trust the
rid of something that you do not
gurus teachings, dharma, then you will practice.
need, or it could be given without the dharma However, faith in ones guru is
checking to see whether it actu- not supposed to be blind faith. It
ally is appropriate for that person. That attitude is not the attitude, My guru is perfect, even
is not a state of sacred outlook but a state of though your guru is not perfect. It is not pre-
carelessness, an impure outlook. Or you could tending that your gurus defects are qualities. It
give consciously. You could have carefully evalu- is not rationalizing every foible of the guru into
ated the situation and determined that the thing being some kind of superhuman virtue, because
you are giving is actually what the person to after all most gurus are going to have defects.
whom you are giving needs. The same thing is You do not have to pretend that your gurus
true of any action, or any other situation such as defects are qualities. That is not devotion. The
the practice of patience. You could be very pa- object of your devotion is not the foibles, quirks,
tient with a situation simply by thinking, Well, or defects of your guru, but it is the dharma
this person who is abusing me is pathetic any- which your guru teaches you. As long as the
way, and there is not much I can do about it, so I dharma is authentic and pure, then that guru is
might as well be patient with it, which is not a a fit object for your devotion. You are not practic-
situation of sacred outlook. Or you could have an ing the gurus foibles. You are practicing the
attitude of courage, thinking, Even if there gurus teachings, the dharma. The result which
were some way I could get back at this person, I you will get, you will get from the dharma that
would never do it, which is an attitude of purity. you practice. Therefore, your devotion is princi-
The point of sacred outlook is to emphasize good pally to the dharma, which is the teaching of the
qualities and not defects, and especially to be guru. You need to recognize the defects of your
free from the type of projection that causes you guru as defects. You do not need to pretend that
to see others qualities as defects. If you have they are anything other than that. But you also
this kind of sacred outlook, then devotion will need to recognize that the gurus defects will not
arise through and from this. If you possess hurt you because it is not the gurus defects that
devotion, then devotion itself will bring you to you are creating or cultivating. You are following
the results of practice. the teachings of the guru, and so trust means

SHENPEN SEL 11
trust in the teachings, trust in the validity, the things one needs to know in the beginning in
purity and authenticity of the dharma that you order to approach this path. If you have any
receive from your guru. You do not need to questions, please, go ahead.
pretend that defects are qualities. You just need
to recognize the validity of the teachings them- Question: Regarding this last point, number
selves. So that is the importance of devotion and eight, to assess ones own self in terms of ones
sacred outlook. development, what if you think you have a high
The next thing the text ad- view but you are actually very
dresses is the two truths, the stupid and just arrogant? How
relative truth and the absolute You will know can you determine this?
truth. The basic understanding of how to practice
the two truths is that in their Thrangu Rinpoche: It is pos-
nature all things are empty and
based upon sible that you could deceive
like magical illusions. This should an honest yourself in the way you describe,
not be misunderstood to mean but if you really look at your own
that, therefore, nothing has any
assessment of situation, completely, then you
moral value, that nothing has any your own will be able to detect that self-
meaning. Within the context of spiritual state deception. This situation of
relative appearances themselves, considering yourself to possess
because of their consistencies qualities that you do not have,
within that context, they do have a moral value, from among the types of pride, is what is called
but ultimately their nature is emptiness. full-blown pride. Fully manifest, full-blown
Finally, the last of the eight topics which are pride. Full-blown pride is not that difficult to
presented in this text of the things a beginner detect. If you look to see if in your way of think-
needs to know in order to start the path is the ing and in your motivation this pride is present,
understanding of the gradual qualities of the then you can usually spot it very easily.
path itself and the fact that you will know how
to practice based upon an honest assessment of Question: What are some examples of
your own spiritual state. You might be a begin- beginners practices, middle practices, and
ner or you might be an advanced practitioner, advanced practices?
someone who has grasped the very exalted level
of view. If you look at yourself and you feel like a Thrangu Rinpoche: One begins with shamatha
beginner, then you are a beginner. If you look at practice and meditation on the four reminders
your mind and you discover that you have a very and the cultivation of the preliminary practices
high view, then you have to accept that you in order to accumulate merit. Then one under-
should do those practices which are appropriate takes the meditation of the generation and
for someone with a very high view. To force completion stages. Then finally one engages in
yourself to do the practices appropriate for a the conduct of a siddha in order to attain full
beginner would be inappropriate. awakening.
That completes the eight topics which are

12 SHENPEN SEL
Creation and Completion

Essential Points for Traversing the Path

Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches commentary on


Creation and Completion.

N
ow, following the text, we are going to look at what is necessary when
you actually have entered into the path. First of all, all of the Buddhas
teachings are included within two paths. They are the stable and
gradual path of the sutras and the quick and especially effective path of the
vajrayana, or the tantras. Both of these take as their root the taming of the
mind, which is to say the pacification of all of the agitation of thoughts and

SHENPEN SEL 13
kleshas that afflict our minds. That being their attachment arises, it is based upon some igno-
aim, the paths of sutra and tantra are the same, rance, some fundamental mistake about the
but they differ in the methods by which this characteristics of the object of attachment. When
agitation is pacified. The methods of the pacifi- anger arises, it never arises alone, because anger
cation of thoughts and kleshas can by itself in the absence of igno-
be divided into the techniques of rance would be powerless. The
abandonment, transformation,
The methods of same is true of pride and jealousy.
and taking onto the path. the pacification There is always some fundamen-
The sutras in general teach tal confusion that is the condition
the path of the renunciation or
of thoughts and for the arising of that particular
abandonment of the kleshas, kleshas can be klesha.*
which is based on seeing the Unmixed ignorance is igno-
divided into the
kleshas as a problem and, there- rance in itself, not knowing or not
fore, being motivated to let go of techniques of being aware of the nature of
them. Exactly how you let go of abandonment, things. That unknowing is the
the kleshas is taught in the most fundamental aspect of igno-
sutras. Now there are many transformation, rance. The unknowing becomes a
kleshas, but principal among and taking onto misconception or a mistaken
them, like the roots of all other understanding when on the basis
kleshas, are what are called the
the path of unknowing we cultivate a
three poisons of attachment, mistaken view through incorrect
aversion, and bewilderment. If we use attach- reasoning or prajna. Therefore, while bewilder-
ment or desire as an example, in this path of ment in itself is not as vivid or as immediately
abandoning the kleshas you determine that you unpleasant as the other kleshas, it nevertheless
must abandon or relinquish attachments. The is the root of all kleshas and of all suffering. It is
way you actually go about doing so is by meditat- the root of all depression and all misery.
ing upon impermanence. Our attachments and The reason that bewilderment feeds, nour-
our craving come from a mistaken assumption ishes, and reinforces the kleshas in the way that
that the things to which we become attached will it does is that bewilderment is a situation of
be around for a long time and that they are
*Editors note: For example, When Mr. Right, Mr. Dream
stable in retaining lasting characteristics. In Boat, Mr. Knight in Shining Armor is first standing in front
order to remove this attachment, you meditate of one, he is seen as solid or material in nature, singular, other
than oneself, permanently the way he is (handsome, agreeable,
on the impermanence of things and come to kind, exclusively devoted to oneself, intelligent, etc. etc.) and a
recognize that they are constantly changing and reliable source of pleasure and happiness. Later when he is
that they are ultimately destructible and imper- seen as a canine Lothario and the bane of ones existence, he is
thought to be solid or material in nature, singular, other than
manent. As well, one also performs meditation oneself, permanently the way he is (thoughtless, cruel, unfaith-
on the unpleasant nature of all the things that ful, uncaring, egocentric, stupid, and unreliable), and a source
of pain and unhappiness. At such a point, one usually con-
one assumes are so pleasant. demns oneself for having been so stupid, while congratulating
The third root klesha is bewilderment, which oneself on having finally woken up and seen the light. But in
essentially refers to ignorance itself. Ignorance both cases ones mind is cloaked in ignorance. In both cases,
regarding what you experience as being objectively existent
occurs in two forms, mixed ignorance and rather than as the mere radiance or light of the mind, as being
unmixed ignorance. Mixed ignorance is the of one singular nature with permanent characteristics rather
than an impermanent and ever-changing kaleidoscope of mere
ignorance that always accompanies any klesha; appearances dependently arising based on an ever-changing
it is called mixed ignorance because it is the variety of causes and conditions, and as being the source of
arising of ignorance mixed with the arising of ones happiness or sorrow in life as opposed to being a mere
reflection of the happiness and sorrow arising from causes in
another klesha. No klesha can arise in the ab- ones own mind, are all aspects of ignorance based on which the
sence of ignorance; therefore, for example, when kleshas of attachment and aversion arise.

14 SHENPEN SEL
fixation, whether it is fixation on the perceived visualizing yourself as the deity, the emotional
characteristics of objects as being pleasant or as state is no longer a klesha. It no longer has the
being unpleasant. When you perceive an object characteristics of a klesha because your attitude
upon which you fixate as being pleasant, you has been changed. The emotion itself is trans-
generate attachment. When you perceive an formed into something pure.
object that you fixate upon as being unpleasant, The third approach to the kleshas is the path
you generate aversion. When you experience of recognition, which means the recognition of
something that you fixate upon as the nature of whatever klesha
being extremely unpleasant, you arises. In this approach, when a
generate suffering. In order to Anger in its klesha arises in your mind, it is
abandon this fixation, one medi- recognized to be merely a relative
tates upon interdependence.
nature is empty and dependent thing. Of course,
Through the recognition that all of any kind of we experience the arising of
things lack independent existence kleshas and all kinds of suffering,
and are but interdependent
true existence. sadness, misery, and depression,
arisings, ones fixations on their When you see but if you actually look at the
perceived characteristics dimin- this directly in nature of what is arising, you will
ish. Through the diminishment of see that what actually is occurring
that fixation, ones ignorance experience, then is not what you normally consider
diminishes, and through that the in the midst of to be occurring. For example,
kleshas are pacified. That is the when I become angry, then I
path of abandonment of the the emergence generate a thought of anger that
kleshas. This type of meditation, or arising of has a particular object. I think,
which leads to the abandonment This person is my enemy, and I
of the kleshas, is used whenever
anger, it is am aware of the thought of being
kleshas arise and whenever there naturally pacified angry. When I do not look directly
is a problem of mental misery or at the anger, the intensity of the
physical discomfort or pain. anger and its attendant suffering seem intoler-
The second approach, that of transformation, able. But while this thought of anger is arising
is characteristic of the path of secret mantra or and while it is present, if you look straight at it,
vajrayana. In this approach whenever a klesha look to see how it arises, where it comes from,
arises, or whenever difficulties, pain, or prob- where it is while it is present and exactly what it
lems arise, instead of attempting to abandon is in substance, you find that there is nothing
them you visualize yourself as a deity. The idea you can point to. There is nothing in your mind
here is that you stop conceiving of yourself as anywhere that you can point to and say, This is
yourself, and instead think of yourself as the my anger. Anger in its nature is empty of any
deity. In general it could be any deity, or it could kind of true existence. When you see this di-
be a particular deity that is connected to the rectly in experience, then in the midst of the
particular klesha or problem with which you are emergence or arising of the anger, it is naturally
dealing. For example, it could be one of the five pacified. This also works with any kind of suffer-
male buddhas of the buddha families: ing or with any of the other kleshas. It is simply
Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, the recognition that there is really nothing
Amitabha, or Amogasiddhi. Or, for example, in there. This is the path of the recognition of the
the case of dealing with desire, it could be a nature of kleshas.
deity shown in sexual union. If dealing with According to the teachings given by the
anger, it could be a deity shown in the wrathful Buddha in the sutras, the beginning of the path
form. In any case, by using the basic technique of of abandonment of the kleshas is a process called

SHENPEN SEL 15
distancing, which means to distance yourself cially this klesha, be absent from their minds and
from the kleshas. Normally when all of the be added on to this klesha of mine. May whatever
various thoughts and kleshas that arise in our suffering all beings, especially practitioners of
minds arise, we generate a fur- dharma, have through the afflic-
ther fixation on them. We become tion of this klesha be experienced
attached to them and we become Principally only by me. May this klesha of
addicted to them. The first step important in our mine serve instead of all of their
in letting go of the kleshas is, kleshas. In that way the presence
therefore, letting go of the fixa-
practice is of the klesha itself becomes an
tion upon them. The fixation upon self-generation. occasion for the generation of an
them is based upon thinking of especially good intention. Then,
them as something valuable and
This involves having generated that intention
identifying with them. The first visualizing with the attitude that you are
step is to recognize that kleshas doing so in order to pacify or
yourself as the
are problems, that kleshas are remove this particular klesha, you
useless and harmful. The recogni- deity as vividly as then visualize yourself as a deity.
tion of this is not simply being possible Those two steps of accepting the
aware of this theoretically, but kleshas of others and visualizing
cultivating the habit of thinking yourself as a deity are the second
like this all the time. Thinking like this will not process, the process of transformation.
immediately eradicate the kleshas. You will not Next you practice the recognition of the
immediately be able to let go of them, but kleshas nature. Continuing to visualize yourself
gradually by not identifying with them and not as whichever deity you have been, you then think
valuing them, you will become distant from that in the center of your body, at the level of
them in the sense that you will have less fixa- your heart, is your root guru, who is majestic and
tion on them when they arise, and this will beautiful in appearance. Visualizing the root guru
make them easy to abandon. there as vividly as possible, then you supplicate,
Having cultivated distancing, then you can asking that you be granted the blessing of the
actually go on to employ the various methods of nature of whatever klesha it is to arise as wis-
transcending the kleshas: abandonment, trans- dom, that you may actually see the nature of that
formation, and recognition. According to the klesha, which is wisdom. Then after supplicating
great teacher Gyalwang Yongdrupa, it is best to in that way, you look at the single nature of three
combine these three methods rather than se- aspects of the meditation: the deity which you
lecting one among the three as a method. For are visualizing as yourself, the guru visualized in
example, he taught that when a klesha arises, your heart, the klesha which has arisen and is
first recognize it as a problem, recognize it as the occasion for the meditation or practice.
something you do not wish to cultivate. Then Through looking at the single or unified nature of
generate the aspiration, May I never again these three things, you come to recognize the
generate this klesha from this moment until my nature of the klesha, which causes it to be natu-
attainment of buddhahood. As much as possible rally pacified. That is the third practice; the
generate this commitment. That is the first of approach or path of recognition. In that way the
the three methods, which is abandonment. text presents the combined instructions or prac-
Then you go on to employ transformation. tice of sutra and tantra.
Whatever the klesha may be, you transform it
into altruism by changing your attitude. You
think, May all of the kleshas that are present
in the minds of all sentient beings, and espe-
N ext the text turns to the issues surrounding
vajrayana practice in particular. These are
the practice of the generation and completion

16 SHENPEN SEL
stages in general and especially the practice of mind itself. Therefore, confusion can be gotten
the tradition of uncommon or special instruc- rid of, and the innate wisdom of your mind can
tions. The text first goes through the generation be revealed and expanded in your experience.
stage, then the completion stage, and then the The nature of your mind, what your mind really
tradition of uncommon instruction. is, even the nature of what appear as kleshas, is
Beginning with the generation stage, it is called sugatagarbha or buddha nature, the
important to remember that while we practice seed of all of the qualities of buddhas, the seed of
what is called self-generation (visualization of all wisdom. This is always present but is ob-
oneself as the deity) and front generation (visu- scured by the presence of the kleshas and other
alization of the deity in front of oneself), and so obscurations. The process of the path consists of
on, principally important in our practice is self- revealing just this. It does not need to be created
generation. This involves visualizing yourself as but to be revealed. Therefore, the basis or
the deity as vividly as possible, ground of purification is buddha
including the deitys color, cos- nature, which is the innate pres-
tume, scepters, and so forth. The When you begin ence of the qualities and wisdoms
details of each specific deity the practice of of buddhas and, therefore, of
practice are explained in the yidams. That which is to be puri-
liturgy and commentaries of that the generation fied are the kleshas and the
particular practice, so in this text stage as an cognitive obscurations, which
no specific instruction is given. obscure this ground of purifica-
This text is concerned with the ordinary tion. These can be purified or
background and theory surround- individual, the removed because they are adven-
ing the practice of the generation titious or secondary to the nature
stage in general; therefore, the
approach to of the mind itself.
generation stage is presented in practice is called That which purifies these
four topics: the basis of purifica- obscurations is the generation
tion; that which is to be purified;
taking aspiration stage of the yidam. All of these
that which purifies it, the meth- as the path, confused projections which make
ods of the generation stage; the which means up samsara, including the kleshas,
result of this process of purifica- can be abandoned because they
tion. that rather than are secondary to the fundamental
In order to understand the acually seeing nature itself. But in order to
difference between the ground of abandon them, there has to be a
purification and that which is to
things as pure, shift in your attitude towards
be purified or removed, you need you are aspiring them. As long as you invest energy
to understand that there are in a in the impurity of the projections,
sense two aspects to your mind.
to see them and as long as you view these
There is how your mind is, in its as pure appearances and experiences as
nature, and how it appears or impure, then you maintain them.
manifests in your experience. From the point of If you change your attitude and view them as
view of the appearance of your mind, you could pure, actually meditate upon them as pure, then
say that your mind is full of kleshas, full of you are no longer maintaining them.
suffering, full of all kinds of confused or deluded When you begin the practice of the genera-
projections. But from the point of view of how tion stage as an ordinary individual, the ap-
your mind really is, there is nothing of all of this proach to practice is called taking aspiration as
confusion that cannot be abandoned because all path, which means that rather than actually
of this confusion is secondary to the nature of seeing things as pure, you are aspiring to see

SHENPEN SEL 17
them as pure. Through this process of taking element consists simply of visualizing the deity
aspiration as path then eventually you generate as clearly as you can. How easy this is, is differ-
what is called the clarity of appearance. This ent for everyone. Some people, because of the
means the vivid direct experience of the purity constitution of their channels and so forth, find
of phenomena. When you do this, this will natu- it very easy to generate a very clear image.
rally purify the delusion. The technique consists Other people do not. In any case the technique is
essentially of visualizing yourself as the yidam the same. In a very relaxed way with a mind that
and visualizing the place in which you find is not particularly tense you visualize the form of
yourself as the mandala or abode of that yidam. the deity. In doing so it is natural to develop
When one begins this practice, the thought will hope that it will be intensely vivid. In fact, we
arise, I am pretending to be other than what I would like the image of the deity to be as vivid
am. You may even knowthrough your study of as what we see with our eyes. In practicing
dharma, your understanding of visualization you are not using the
buddha nature, and your confi- eye consciousness, you are using
dence in the theory of the prac-
The practice of the mental consciousness, and the
ticethat this is not really true, the generation mental consciousness is concep-
that in fact, you are not pretend- tual. Unlike the eye consciousness,
ing to be other than you really
stage consists of which experiences the individual
are. However, because we have a the cultivation of characteristics of forms, the men-
strong habit of conceiving of three elements. tal consciousness generates an
ourselves and everything around abstraction or a generalization;
us as impure, these thoughts may These are clarity, therefore, the visualization will
continue to arise. In order to stability, and tend to remain something vague
counteract that thought, there and general. However, if you
are specific techniques built into
purity continue the practice with a re-
the practices that serve as rem- laxed mind, then gradually the
edies. For example, in order to counteract the image will increase in stability and in clarity or
thought, Okay, I am visualizing myself as the vividness. To rest within this continued clear
deity, but I am not really the deity; the deity is visualization of the deitythe deitys form, color,
really something or somewhere else, you invite position, costume, ornaments, scepters, and so
this real deity into yourself.* As well, there are forthis the practice of the first element of the
the techniques of repetition of mantra, the generation stage, the clarity of image or clear
radiation and gathering of light rays, and so on, visualization.
all of which are aspects of the generation stage. When you are cultivating clarity in the visu-
As you practice the generation stage, over time alization, sometimes you will find that the visu-
you approach the result or fruition, which is the alization is less clear, vivid, or stable than usual.
experience of the innate purity of both body and There are things you can do to correct this. For
mind. That is essentially an outline of the prac- example, one thing that is suggested in the text
tice of the generation stage. is to concentrate for awhile in your visualization
The practice of the generation stage consists on one specific detail, such as the vajra held in
of the cultivation of three elements. These are the hand, or a scepter of the deity, or a specific
clarity, stability, and purity. Clarity means the detail such as the jewel on top of the deitys
clarity of the image, the visualized image, which topknot, and so on. Depending upon the nature
is the technique of the generation stage. This of what is preventing clear visualization, there
are some choices to make in what you direct
*Editors note: Here Rinpoche is referring to the invitation your attention to. In general, if you are afflicted
stage in generation practice. by agitation, and there are many thoughts run-

18 SHENPEN SEL
ning through your mind which prevent you from elements of generation stage practice. If you
concentrating on the visualization, then it is have any questions, please ask them.
recommended that you direct your attention to
something towards the bottom of the visualiza- Question: I have been working through the
tion, such as the lotus seat on which the deity is meditations in the book Progressive Stages of
seated or standing. If on the other hand it is a Meditation on Emptiness, and in that process you
kind of torpor or depression which is preventing view emotional reactions as evidence of fixation
the emergence of clarity or vividness in the on self. Specifically, I am examining my grief
visualization, then it is generally recommended over the death of a loved one as an emotional
that you direct your attention to something reaction. One can view grief as something like
towards the top of the visualization, such as the physical pain in the form of suffering, or on the
top of the deitys head, the jewel, or the topknot, other hand view it as a klesha such as anger
and so on. based on attachment, duality, and fixation on
The second element of generation stage self. In examining it, Ive come to some level of
practice is purity, which refers to the recollec- understanding the nature of interdependence
tion of purity. This can be and often is explained and impermanence and how they are an antidote
as the enumeration in your mind of the symbolic to the attachment and duality that leads to grief.
significance of each aspect of the deitys appear- But I just find some small level of understand-
ancewhat each aspect of the ing. The pain and the suffering are
appearance represents. But it is very clearly still there. I am
pointed out in our text that if you The practice or wondering if this process is the
do this, it can become too concep- same as that in which one exam-
tual and can actually disturb your cultivation of ines something like anger. The
mind and harm the meditation. stable pride anger dissipates, it goes away. I
What is recommended as the guess my question is, in the con-
implementation of the recollec-
consists of text of something like extreme
tion of purity is to keep in mind abandoning the grief, what does it mean to aban-
that this appearance of the deity don it? Does it mean that it goes
is vivid or clear appearance that
sense of being away or that it is still there as a
is without any existence, that it is different from or matter of relative truth but under-
the unity of clarity and empti- other than the stood to be empty?
ness, like the appearance of a
rainbow in its vividness and deity which you Thrangu Rinpoche: Grief is not
insubstantiality. are meditating a klesha. It is not considered a
The third element in the cause of suffering but rather as
practice of the generation stage is on as yourself suffering. One does not need to
stability, which means the stable abandon it in the way that one
pride of being the deity. This is the practice of abandons kleshas because they will cause future
identification with the deity, actually thinking, I suffering. One abandons grief in the sense of
am this deity. This is very important, as it is allowing it to be pacified, because maintaining it
this aspect of the generation stage that actually can cause suffering upon suffering. But whether
serves as a remedy for our ordinary fixation on a grief can be transcended depends upon the
self. The practice or cultivation of stable pride power of your mediation. When you look directly
consists of abandoning the sense of being differ- at the nature of your grief, it will probably not
ent from or other than the deity which you are disappear. However, through seeing its nature,
meditating on as yourself. while the grief will remain present, it will be
That was a presentation of the outline and less overwhelming. In a sense the heaviness of it

SHENPEN SEL 19
will be somewhat pacified, so that although you are indeed worse sounds that you could be
will still be grieving, your position with respect hearing. By thinking about worse sounds such as
to your grief will be different from that of an screaming and so on, you would then no longer
untrained person. Theoretically, when you see be fixating on the unpleasantness of the motor-
the nature of grief, it can be totally abandoned, cycles. Or, if you were tormented by being at-
but practically speaking this does not happen. tached to the pleasant sound of birds, then you
When we look at the nature of grief, because our could reflect upon the fact that there are far
minds are not habituated enough with seeing the more pleasant sounds you could be hearing, and
nature of whatever arises to abandon it, it will in that way let go of your fixation on hearing the
just be somewhat lessened in its heaviness, but birds.
the grief and the sadness will still be there.
Question: What is meant by the marks and
Question: With regard to abandoning the klesha signs of the body of reality?
of bewilderment, Rinpoche said that the remedy
is meditation on interdependence. I want to see Thrangu Rinpoche: First of all the
how that actually works. Say, for example, I dharmakaya is what is referred to here in the
perceive that I am fixated on the sound of the root text as the body of reality. It does not in
birds and the trees rustling as being pleasant. If itself possess any physical characteristics, but
there were twenty motorcycles running around I the quality of the dharmakaya manifests as the
would perceive that as unpleasant, and yet the rupakaya or form bodies, and they do possess
nature of the sound is just sound, movement and physical characteristics, which are normally
vibration. I understand that, but I still have the enumerated as thirty-two major and eighty
experience of one being pleasant and one being minor marks of physical perfection. The thirty-
unpleasant. How, practically speaking would one two major marks of physical perfection refer to
meditate on interdependence? the fact that the bodies of buddhas are always
beautiful, have certain very specific types of
Thrangu Rinpoche: The perception of things as features, and have certain extraordinary charac-
pleasant and unpleasant itself is not a problem. teristics, such as the fact that the clothing or
The problem only occurs for example, when in robes worn by a buddha will never actually touch
thinking of something as unpleasant, we develop their body but will always be four finger widths
aversion for it, which is the point at which we away from the body. The body of a buddha always
actively wish to get rid of it. Or, thinking of has an extensive halo, and so on. The eighty
something as pleasant, we develop attachment minor marks of physical perfection are less
for it, which means we actively wish to acquire it pronounced wonderful physical characteristics
or prolong it. It is those things that cause us that are similar to the thirty-two major ones.
suffering. Simply the perception of things as
pleasant and unpleasant is not a problem. The Question: I have a friend who gets very angry,
reason why meditation on interdependence is and to him his anger has value. If someone
beneficial in this instance is that interdepen- harms him, he feels he can win or he can get
dence is at the same time relativity. By recogniz- back at them. He seems to feel a kind of satisfac-
ing the relative nature of these perceived or tion in just being angry. I cannot debate him. It is
imputed characteristics, one becomes free from not enough to just say, Youre going to cause
fixation upon them. For example, if you were to yourself more suffering. He thinks he is out for
become actually tormented by the sound of revenge and really angry. How can I talk with
twenty motorcycles, thinking how awful and him?
disturbing that sound is, then you would in that
context reflect upon worse sounds. And there Thrangu Rinpoche: A distinction can be made

20 SHENPEN SEL
between anger itself and holding a grudge. Question: Rinpoche I have a question about two
Holding a grudge comes about from anger having lines from the root text. The first line reads, Do
been invested in and anger having been culti- not meditate on pride; cut through the root of
vated. If you continually invest in anger then ego clinging. The second line, When ego cling-
anger will develop into this tendency to hold ing is destroyed, wherever ones mind focuses,
grudges, which is the next step or the next its essence arises vividly. Could you comment
development of it. It basically consists of never on the phrase wherever ones mind focuses, its
letting go of anger. Whenever you get angry, it essence arises vividly.
becomes somehow deeply entrenched, and you
hold on to it because you are so used to being Thrangu Rinpoche: It means that, when there
angry. The remedy for this is to cultivate the is the eradication of a fixation on a self, wher-
remedies for anger in general. That will prevent ever the mind is directed, that selflessness
this entrenchment of anger from occurring. which is the minds nature, that absence of a self,
One thing you can say to the person is that he arises vividly in your direct experience.
is better off being patient than seeking revenge,
because revenge becomes perpetual. If he suc- Question: In the root text in the section that
ceeds in getting back at someone who has hurt begins, In some of the highest yoga tantras of
him, then chances are that his secret mantra, can you discuss
way of getting back at that person the emanation from the organs in
will probably not only be exacting Whenever you union?
the debt but some interest as get angry, it
well. When that happens, the Thrangu Rinpoche: This is in a
person at whom he has gotten becomes section of the text which is going
back will feel victimized, because somehow deeply through the very technical details
what he did will seem to them to of different types of deity practice.
be more than what they deserve.
entrenched, and Within those different types of
They then will have to get back at you hold on to it deity practice sometimes in order
him and they will also try to do to purify the same things, there
more than what he did to them.
because you are can be more or less elaborate
He will in turn feel victimized so used to being procedures. Here the text is
and will have to get back at them. angry talking about a specific type of
In that way vengeance becomes generation stage, a gradual devel-
perpetual. It is self-maintaining, opment of the visualization of the
simply because the act of vengeance itself usu- deity which occurs in some practices where the
ally involves doing more than what the other deity is actually generated twice. First, through
person did to you. This is an instance of the fact whatever gradual process, you generate yourself
that kleshas such as anger always include igno- as the deity. Then that deity dissolves and melts
rance. In this case, the ignorance is in part that, into a sphere of light, and then from that sphere
when you are seeking revenge, you do not stop to of light you re-emerge as the deity. When that is
think about the fact that the person on whom done, it is called the causal vajra holder and
you are exacting revenge will probably want to the resultant vajra holder. The deity here is
exact revenge upon you for exacting revenge referred to as the vajra holder. Part of the mean-
upon them. If this goes on long enough eventu- ing of that is that it corresponds to the mind of
ally both people will come to regret the whole luminosity or clear light that occurs at the death
thing, because they will have harmed each other of the previous life and the subsequent emer-
without either really ever being satisfied by gence from the bardo into the conception and
what they have done. birth in the next life. In a sadhana or practice in

SHENPEN SEL 21
which the text says that from the secret space . . visualization goes on from there. When he says,
. the deity who is generated in this dual way through the drops, the appearances of white
has a retinue before the causal vajra holder. In and red are purified, he is referring to the
that case there will be a father and mother in visualization of the sphere of light when the
union, and before they melt into causal vajra holder has dissolved
light, from the secret space of the before the resultant vajra holder
mother the other members of the The body that arises. What you are purifying
mandala will have emerged and you have is a there is your attitude about the
taken their places in the palace. white and red constituents, the
Then the father and mother mixture of three sperm and the ovum, which are
causal vajra holder, the central things: the white the substantial or physical basis
figures, will melt into light and for the emergence of your own
then re-arise. The basic idea here
constituent, body.
is that you are purifying the way which is the
you are conceived and come into Question: Are the vital drops the
the world. At the end of the
sperm from the same thing as the white and red
previous life you are alone and father; the red appearances?
then you die. Before you are
constituent,
reborn there are already the Thrangu Rinpoche: It is not so
parents and so on. The body that which is the much that the drops are the same.
you have is a mixture of three ovum from the It is that they correspond. The
things: the white constituent, visualization of this white and red
which is the sperm from the mother; and the sphere intermingled, which then
father; the red constituent, which wind element, becomes the resultant vajra
is the ovum from the mother; and holder, is a way of representing
the wind element, which is the
which is the and, therefore, purifying your
mount for your consciousness as mount for your fixation on the white and red
it actually enters the womb and drops which you received from
combines with those other two.
consciousness as your parents.
The function of all of these visu- it actually enters
alizations is to correspond to and, the womb Question: So the vital drops are
therefore, purify fixation on the the causal vajra holder?
mixing or combination of these
three elements. Thrangu Rinpoche: No, when the causal vajra
holder melts into light, he or they or she, de-
Question: What does it mean that the vital pending upon what the deity is, become a sphere
drops purify the white and red appearances? of mixed white and red light.

Thrangu Rinpoche: In this section he is giving Question: And those are the vital drops?
a list of different things, not all of which are
likely to be present in the same practice. For Thrangu Rinpoche: That is what is referred
example, when he says that through the gradual to here as the drop, and it represents the
disappearance of the three syllables appearance, vital drops, but here the visualization is of a
increase, and attainment are purified, he is sphere or drop. The word tigle, which the
talking about something that occurs in some translator here translated as vital drop, can
practices in which you visualize the three syl- also mean sphere.
lables and then they disappear and then the

22 SHENPEN SEL
Creation and Completion

Using the Generation Stage


To Purify the Habit of Birth
Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen so on. Those two types are fairly coarse in the
Thrangu Rinpoches commentary on Creation manner of birth. Then there is one that is a little
and Completion. more subtle, and although this form is often
presented as a separate type of birth, it can also

B
ecause it seems that you are interested be understood as another aspect of either womb
in knowing about it, I am going to go or egg generation, which is birth from heat and
into more detail about the generation moisture.
stage, specifically from among the four topics of These first three types of birth correspond to
the generation stage, the methods which purify three types of generation stage visualization that
and that which is are principally de-
purified by the gen- signed to purify the
eration stage. habit of these types of
Essentially the birth. Womb birth is
structure and format purified by the style of
of the generation generation called
stage practice is five-fold manifest
connected with, or awakening, egg birth
corresponds to, the by that which is called
way we are born. The the four vajras, birth
idea of being born is from heat and mois-
the acquisition of a ture by that which is
new body. New body called the three
of course does not procedures or three
mean your first body, rituals.
just your latest body, The fourth type of
your most recently birth is that through
acquired body. There which beings appear
are four different in certain realms with
ways that sentient particularly subtle
beings can be born. bodies. It is an instan-
The first is womb taneous birth occur-
birth, through which, ring in the absence of
as in the case of womb, egg, or even
humans and other mammals, you are born from heat and moisture as conditions for birth. This
the womb of your mother. The second, which is type of instantaneous birth is purified by what is
very similar, is egg birth, by which you are called instantaneous generation, which is also
hatched from an egg that has issued forth from known as generation that is complete in an
the womb, as is the case with birds, reptiles, and instant of recollection. In this case the medita-

SHENPEN SEL 23
tion of the deity does not begin with the estab- consciousness into the womb, for example, in the
lishment of the mandala and the seat of the case of a human life. As the practice goes on
deity, and then the placement of the seed syl- there are specific elements that correspond to
lable on the seat, its transformation into a scep- the birth, to all the experiences of this life, and
ter, and then the scepter into the finally, in the case of the with-
deity, as is usual in other visual- The entire drawal phase, to death.
izations. In this case, in an in- There are many variations in
stant of recollection you simply practice, starting the procedure, style, and content
visualize yourself as the deity from the very of these generation stage prac-
without the many preliminary tices. For example, in Tibet there
steps. Although these four types
beginning of the were two periods of the introduc-
of visualizationfive-fold mani- generation of the tion of Buddhism. The initial or
fest awakening, four vajras, three earlier spread of the teachings in
procedures, and complete in an
deity and the eighth and ninth centuries led
instant of recollectiondo corre- culminating with to what is called the old or
spond individually to the four Nyingma tradition. The subse-
the dissolution or
types of birth, it is not the case quent renewal of the doctrine with
that practicing any one of these withdrawal of the the introduction of new transla-
does not purify all four. It does. deity and tions from India in the eleventh
Even though there is a correspon- century by various translators led
dence, any one of these is suffi- mandala into the to what is called the new or Sarma
cient in order to purify the four clear light, tradition* The procedures and
types of birth. style of the practices of the gen-
Once one has generated the
corresponds to eration stage in the Nyingma and
deitys form through one or an- all the events of Sarma traditions vary somewhat,
other of these four procedures, at least in appearance and in
then one visualizes that deity
one life method, but there is no difference
with their particular posture, in their effectiveness in the actual
color, costume, ornamentation, scepters, the purification of the kleshas. If one had an illness
father, the mother, the retinue, the mandala in of the eyes, one might treat it with a surgical
which they abide, and so on. From that point procedure or one might treat it with a medicine
onwards the practices will vary quite a bit. consumed by mouth. In either case, one could
Depending upon what specific practice it is, remove whatever is obstructing or obscuring
there may be many other steps and stages along ones vision. In the same way, although the actual
the way. In any case it will conclude with what is methods vary slightly, the focus of both the
called the withdrawal procedure. Withdrawal Sarma and the Nyingma generation stage prac-
refers to the dissolution or withdrawal of the tices is identical.
mandala into the clear light, or into emptiness. Next the text gives a description of how a
The entire practice can consist of a great deal of generation stage practice would work. The type
elaboration and many steps or can be very of generation stage practice that is used as an
simple and concise. In any case the entire prac- example is basically a Nyingma model, but it will
tice, starting from the very beginning of the give you an idea of how a generation stage proce-
generation of the deity and culminating with the dure works. The characteristic of a Nyingma
dissolution or withdrawal of the deity and approach to generation stage is the cultivation of
mandala into the clear light, corresponds to all
*Editors note: The core practices of the Kagyu, Sakya, and
the events of one life. The very beginning of the Gelug were all introduced into Tibet during this later phase so
generation corresponds to the entrance of the are considered Sarma.

24 SHENPEN SEL
what are called the three samadhis or three which come from the parents and are the physi-
meditative absorptions. These correspond to the cal or substantial basis for your physical body.
dharmakaya, the sambhogakaya, and the Then you visualize on top of this the seed-
nirmanakaya. The first samadhi, connected with syllable of the deity. This corresponds to and
the dharmakaya, is called the samadhi of purifies the entrance of your consciousness
thatness or suchness. It essentially consists of from the bardo into the womb at the time of
meditation on emptiness. With regard to what it conception. Then when you visualize that the
purifies, it corresponds to ones death in the seed-syllable changes into the deitys character-
preceding life up to the point at which the ap- istic scepter, which is marked at its center by
pearances of the preceding life have vanished and the seed-syllable, this corresponds to the period
there is an experience of nothing whatsoever, of gestation in the womb. When the scepter,
which is like emptiness. together with the seed-syllable, is transformed
Following this meditation on emptiness, into the complete body of the deity, this corre-
which is the samadhi of thatness and corresponds sponds to and purifies the moment of birth.
to the dharmakaya, is the meditation on the Having visualized yourself as the deity, you
compassion that has the characteristics of being imagine the three syllables OM, AH, HUNG in
like a magical illusion. This is called the the three places of the deitys body. This purifies
samadhi or meditative absorption which appears the habits from this life of body, speech, and
everywhere. It corresponds to the mind. This procedure is essen-
sambhogakaya and it purifies the tially characteristic of the
subsequent experience of the
When the Nyingma school, beginning with
bardo, ones experience after ones scepter, together the three samadhis and then
previous death and before ones culminating in the gradual gen-
conception in this life. The func-
with the seed eration of the deity from syllable,
tion of this second samadhi, which syllable, is scepter and the entire body.
corresponds to the sambhogakaya, In the tantras of the Sarma or
transformed into
is to form a link between the New Translation school, there is
dharmakaya and the coarse or full the complete often the generation of the causal
manifestation of the nirmanakaya. body of the deity, vajra holder and resultant vajra
Therefore, it forms the basis or holder, which is a different way
prelude to the generation of the this corresponds of generating the deity. In the
mandala. to and purifies more elaborate practices of the
The third samadhi, which is New Translation school, there
connected to the nirmanakaya, is
the moment tend to be two generations of the
called the samadhi of cause and of birth deity. First, there is the genera-
is the initial visualization of the tion through whatever gradual
seed syllable of the deity. This procedure by which the deity is
corresponds to the emergence of your conscious- generated. At that point the deity is called the
ness from the bardo and its actual entrance into causal vajra holder. This first form of the deity
the womb. Therefore, along with visualizing the is generated in order to purify the process of
seed-syllable, one visualizes the seat or pedestal death of ones previous life. The causal vajra
of the deity, which will consist of either a lotus holder form of the deity which has been gener-
with sun and moon discs or a lotus with either ated will then melt into light, becoming a
just a moon or just a sun. Initially, one begins the sphere of light. From that sphere of light the
visualization by imagining this lotus, sun, and deity is generated a second time. This is called
moon pedestal; this corresponds to and purifies the resultant vajra holder. This corresponds to
the white and red elements, the sperm and ovum and purifies the arising of the mental body in

SHENPEN SEL 25
the bardo or interval between lives as well as the as the deity. This is done in order to purify your
entrance of that consciousness, which has arisen family inheritance, everything that you in any
as a mental body, into the womb, the process of sense inherit from your parents. Following that
gestation, and birth. there will be homage to yourself as the deity,
In their details these practices can vary quite offerings, and praises. The function of these
a bit. For example, in some practices with causal stages of the practice is to purify all of your
and resultant vajra holders, at the interactions throughout this life
time of visualization of the causal with the various objects of experi-
vajra holder the other deities of The mantra ence, including your possessions
the mandala will be emanated and so on. In short, every stage of
repetition purifies
from the secret space of the the generation stage practice is
mother, the consort of the princi- all of your talk designed to correspond to and
pal deity. Then the causal vajra and conversation purify something upon which we
holder, father and mother, will project impurity.
melt into light and become a throughout your Following that comes the
sphere of light. At that point, the life, especially repetition of the mantra. The
dakinis and other deities of the mantra repetition purifies all of
retinue who have been emanated,
talk connected to your talk and conversation
will request the central deity, who attachment, throughout your life, especially
is now in the form of a sphere of talk connected to attachment,
light, to arise from emptiness for
aversion, and aversion, and bewilderment.
the benefit of beings, in response bewilderment Following that comes the with-
to which that sphere of light will drawal or dissolution of the visu-
turn into the resultant vajra alization into emptiness and
holder. Also, in some other practices, rather than finally the re-arising of yourself as the deity.
having the causal and resultant vajra holder, the These correspond to your death at the end of
end of ones previous life is purified by visualiz- this life and to your re-arising in a mental body
ing the gradual dissolution of the three syllables in the bardo or interval after death. In that way
OM, AH, HUNG, corresponding to the stages of the procedure of any one generation stage prac-
death called appearance, increase, and attain- tice contains a complete correspondence to all of
ment. So within the general category of the New the events of one life cycle, starting with the
Translation school generation stage practices, bardo and the entrance of the bardo conscious-
there are many variations. ness into the womb, going through your whole
Whether the practice is of the Nyingma style life, ending with your death, and again your
or of the Sarma style, once the deity has been entrance into the bardo.
generated completely, usually you will visualize Invariably such practices are preceded by
that from the heart of yourself as the deity rays going for refuge and generating bodhicitta and
of light shoot out and invite the wisdom beings followed by the dedication of merit and the
or the jnanasattvas, which are the actual deity. making of aspirations. These are essential for
You think that these are invited and dissolve the practice to be a mahayana practice. At the
into you, at which point you rest in the confi- very beginning, therefore, is the going for refuge
dence that the jnanasattvas have actually en- and the generation of bodhicitta as your inten-
tered into your being. This corresponds to and tion for the practice and the making of aspira-
purifies the learning process you go through tions for the benefit of beings, and at the end is
after birth. Following that, again usually you will your dedication of the merit to all beings. These
invite the five male and female buddhas and so are the principal practices of the mahayana and,
forth, who will bestow empowerment upon you therefore, are used to embrace the technique of

26 SHENPEN SEL
the generation stage practice thereby making it thing that is a similitude of your own buddha
a proper mahayana practice. nature, something that has the same characteris-
In many generation stage practices there tics as your own buddha nature. The reason you
will be additional elements, such as the conse- do this is that by so doing you familiarize yourself
cration of the offerings and sometimes a feast with buddha nature and thereby allow buddha
offering. The purpose of the consecration of nature to reveal itself. It is not that through the
offerings and the making of feast offerings is to generation stage you are creating a result. You
gather the two accumulations, which are the are revealing the ground as a result. The result is
accumulation of merit and the accumulation of that through this process of familiarization,
wisdom. Although the text says taking the appearance of the
to gather the two accumula- ground as the path, you come to
tions, principally these lead to
The result or fully reveal that ground. When
the accumulation of merit. In the fruition does not everything that obscures it has
general context of mahayana, been removed, then that ground
merit is accumulated by means of
come from fully revealed is itself the fruition
the first five paramitas: generos- outside; it is or result. In other words, the
ity, morality, patience, diligence, result or fruition does not come
revealed from
and meditation. In the specific from outside; it is revealed from
context of vajrayana, the methods within within.
by which merit is accumulated The generation stage is the
emphasize the practice of medita- practice of a yidam, and you do
tion, by means of which a small thing can be that specific yidam practice exactly as it is pre-
magnified or multiplied in its power so that one scribed in the liturgy for that practice. If the
accumulates vast amounts of merit without liturgy is elaborate and long and prescribes an
much difficulty. For example, in feast practice elaborate series of steps to the visualization, that
you use a very small offering as a basis for is what you visualize. If it is concise and pre-
meditation, and in samadhi you multiply it scribes that the deity is visualized complete in an
extensively. It, therefore, becomes a basis for an instant of recollection, then that is what you
accumulation of merit that is far, far greater visualize. In either case, in the principal or main
than the thing in itself. The idea here is that practice of a yidam, the main thing is to visualize
through perfecting or completing the accumula- yourself as that deity, as that yidam.
tion of merit, you come to accumulate the sec-
ond accumulation, that of wisdom. But in the
direct effect, these feast offerings and offering
consecrations lead principally to the accumula-
W e also do other practices where the empha-
sis is not on visualizing yourself as a deity
but on visualizing deities external to yourself. For
tion of merit. example, when we visualize the sources of refuge
The fourth topic about the generation stage in the refuge and prostration practice, we visual-
is the result of purificationthe result of the ize them in front of ourselves. When we visualize
full removal of obscurations of the basis or Vajrasattva in the preliminary practice of
ground of purification. When that sugatagarbha Vajrasattva, we visualize Vajrasattva seated
or buddha nature, which is itself the ground of above our head. When we do the Chenrezig
purification, is fully revealed, when everything practice, we commence the practice with the
that obscures it is removed, that is the result. visualization of Chenrezig above our head. The
The view of the generation stage is that this reason why in these three types of practices the
buddha nature itself contains all of the qualities visualization is different from a conventional
of the deities. So when you visualize yourself as generation stage practice of self-visualization is
a deity, you are visualizing yourself as some- that these practices are designed for those who

SHENPEN SEL 27
are beginning vajrayana practice. In the very your innate wisdom. In the Buddhist tradition
beginning you cannot simply start with revealing attainment is the revelation of that wisdom that
your own inner wisdom. You cannot begin with is innate. Therefore, in the Buddhist tradition
the discovery of wisdom within yourself, which we do not assert that attainment is actually
is the principal reason for self-visualization. given to you by the whim of any external being.
There is something that needs to be made On the other hand, there also exist traditions
clear about the nature of the deities in the that say that there is no help whatsoever from
vajrayana, because it seems in some contexts we outside, that the path consists entirely of ones
almost externalize them as in the preliminary own internal work, and that any supplication of
practices. Primarily we view them any awakened being is meaning-
as something internal, something less. But this is not exactly the
that is within us. First of all, a While it is true Buddhist view either, because,
distinction needs to be made while it is true that no buddha
between the use of a deity in a
that no buddha can hand you or give you the
nontheistic tradition, such as can hand you or result or fruition of this path,
Buddhism, and in a theistic tradi- they can help. For example,
give you the
tion, such as Hinduism. In the consider this life. Up to a certain
Hindu practices which work with result or fruition point in your life you had no
the iconography of deities, the of this path, they knowledge of dharma whatsoever.
deities are considered to be exter- Then, through whatever series of
nal and essentially to have the can help circumstances, you approached a
role of being creators of the uni- guru and received instruction
verse. It is understood that these deities have from the guru, who became your root guru, and
the power to make you happy and to make you something changed, which is called the blessing
suffer. These deities if pleased have the power to of dharma. Before you did not know what
bring you to liberation, have the power to grant dharma was and then you did. Before you did
you all kinds of attainments, supreme and com- not know how to practice and then you did.
mon attainments. Therefore, the practice in such Many things changed as a result. Maybe you had
a tradition consists of praying to deities with the no confidence in dharma and then came to have
greatest faith and devotion, making offerings to confidence. You had no devotion and then you
them with the understanding that if they are came to have devotion. You came to have more
pleased they will grant you attainments, and compassion than you did before. Your meditation
that if they are not pleased and become angry improved and so on. Now none of these things
they can actually cast you into the lower realms. was precisely given to you by your root guru, but
The Buddhist view of deities is entirely nevertheless something happens in the context
different. First of all, it is held by the Buddhist of or because of your relationship with the root
tradition that your happiness and suffering come guru, and this is what we call the blessing of the
about because of your own previous actions, and guru. This is all easy to understand because it is
that no other being can actually cause you to concerned with your relationship or interaction
experience what you have not caused yourself with someone you have met, someone who is
karmically. What you experience comes about another human being. But you also supplicate
because of your own previous actions and be- gurus of the past, gurus you have not met, gurus
cause of your habits of perception. Ultimately who are not visible to you at the present. So
speaking, from a Buddhist point of view, no deity supplicating them, even though, like your root
can grant you siddhi or attainment. You receive guru, they also cannot hand you attainment or
attainment through your removal of the fruition, like your root guru, they can influ-
obscurations of mind which otherwise obscure ence you. They can help you.

28 SHENPEN SEL
It is not particularly that by your supplicat- consists of visualizing yourself as the deity,
ing them, they are pleased and, therefore, decide because the most essential thing in our practice
to share their spiritual wealth with you. It is of the generation stage is to reveal and expand
rather that the devotion you generate in your our own innate wisdom. While that is the princi-
supplication of them causes this blessing simply pal practice, in the special circumstances of feast
to occur. Therefore, the guru can still grant practice, particularly of self-empowerment, in
blessing even when he or she is not physically which you give yourself the empowerment of
present in your perception. That is the first of that specific practice upon its completion, you
the three roots or three sources of vajrayana not only do the visualization of yourself as the
practice, the guru, which is the root of blessing. deity, but you also visualize the deity in front.
The second root is the yidam, the deity, which You do so because making offerings to the deity
is the root of attainment. Essentially, yidams are visualized in front of you, as it is in the context
the forms of the sambhogakaya that buddhas of feast practice, is a great way to accumulate
take in order to communicate merit. By receiving the blessing or
with and train beings. It is not the empowerment from the deity
case that literally speaking your visualized in front of you, you will
yidam can give you or hand you
The function of be especially confident that you
supreme attainment, but like dharmapalas is actually received that blessing or
gurus, yidams can influence you. to help you free received that empowerment.
They grant you their blessing in So this is the generation stage,
the sense that through practicing yourself from which is necessary and very
yidam meditation, a new clarity anything that helpful. If you have any questions
dawns in your meditative absorp- please go ahead.
tion, and you come to gradually impedes your
realize something or attain some- practice and path Question: How important is it to
thing. To be precise, we would say visualize the deity exactly as the
that in saying that yidams are the liturgy says? For example, if some
root of siddhi, we do not mean that they grant it, of the icons of the culture I was raised in come
but that they facilitate it. into the visualization, is that something that I
The third root is the dharmapalas or dharma should make sure to not let happen? Is doing so
protectors, who are the root of activity. Now the causing a problem?
function of dharmapalas is to help you free
yourself from anything that impedes your prac- Translator: Could you give a specific example of
tice and path. They help to encourage your what you mean?
exertion and to encourage your devotion. They
help you find ways to purify your obscurations Question: An example is Saint Francis of Assisi
and your wrongdoing. Dharmapalas are basically as a sort of compassion and so some of the ideas
buddhas who take this type of position or role of him as well as of Avalokiteshvara. If I slip into
for the aid of practitioners. So while it is not the a visualization of Saint Francis of Assisi am I
case that any external being can grant you su- taking away from the power of the visualization
preme siddhi, these three roots, the gurus, of Avalokiteshvara?
yidams, and dharmapalas, if you supplicate
them, can bestow blessing and can help remove Thrangu Rinpoche: It is okay from time to time
obstacles on your path. to remember Saint Francis of Assisi if it gives
For these reasons as you will discover when you more of an idea of compassion, but at the
you do the intensive practice of the generation same time, when you are doing a formal practice
stage in retreat, most generation stage practice of visualization, everything in the visualization

SHENPEN SEL 29
is there for a reason. The details, and there are sperm and ovum have grown to form your whole
so many details in any of these practices, are body. The drops are not so much the original
there because by working with them exactly as sperm and ovum as they are the essence or
they are set out, they will en- kernel of them, or you could say
hance the stability of your mind. the kernel or essence of what has
In other words, the generation There are specific grown out of them. During your
stage will become a practice of life, according to tantric physiol-
shamatha and also of clarity, not deities connected ogy, the kernel of the white as-
only of the visualization but also with the wisdom pect, which you received from
of the revelation of the minds your father, is housed inside your
characteristic of clarity itself.
which lies at the head, close to the top. The kernel
Ultimately there is more benefit root of each or essence of the red aspect,
in working with the practice which you received from your
exactly as it is set out.
klesha. For mother, is seated below your
We find a reference to this example, in the navel, in the abdomen. In between
topic in the autobiography of text you will see these two is the basic prana that
Mipham Rinpoche from the nine- keeps you alive. These two actu-
teenth century. He says in his that it suggests, ally keep the prana from escaping.
autobiography that he had had if afflicted by When you die, this prana col-
some degree of recognition of the lapses in on itself into the heart.
minds nature, which is what is
desire, you While these two keep the prana
called the clear appearance of visualize youself from escaping, the prana itself
the completion stage, since he keeps the one up and the other
was a small child. But he felt that
as Amitabha down. When the prana withdraws
in order to stabilize this and to into the heart they then go in with
expand its clarity he would have to use the it. The white drop comes down from the head
methods of the generation stage. He felt that the and the red drop comes up from the abdomen
technique of the generation stage with all of its and they meet at the heart.
otherwise troublesome details was actually an
ideal method leading to the clarification of Question: So the prana is going between the
whatever recognition you might have of your two?
minds nature. In his autobiography Mipham
Rinpoche said that he was unable to generate Translator: That specific prana. It is called the
enough of a practice of generation stage to life wind.
achieve his wish. But he felt that the most im-
portant method in order to generate stable Question: My question goes back to something
completion stage realization was the intense you were saying earlier about using a particular
practice of the clear visualization of the genera- practice to combat desire. It was, I think, to use
tion stage. Chakrasamvara to combat desire. Are there
particular deities that one uses to combat, for
Question: When it is said that the white and red instance, pride or some of the other kleshas? Or
elements in the form of the vital drops in the is it the case that any one of them will overcome
head and the navel descend and ascend and all of the kleshas?
dissolve together when one dies, are these
something other than egg and sperm. Thrangu Rinpoche: Both are true. There are
specific deities connected with the wisdom
Thrangu Rinpoche: Actually, the original which lies at the root of each of the klesha. For

30 SHENPEN SEL
example, in the text you will see that it suggests, Thrangu Rinpoche: Supplication produces
if afflicted by desire, you visualize yourself as blessing, and although the blessing is under-
Amitabha. By extension we would say, therefore, stood as something that is given to you, some-
if afflicted by bewilderment, Vairochana; by thing that somehow engulfs you from outside, in
anger, Aksobhya; by pride, Ratnasambhava; by fact blessing really is not given to you at all.
jealousy, Amogasiddhi. When it mentions When you supplicate, you generate faith and
Chakrasamvara, that is an example. It does not devotion. That faith and devotion cause the
mean that you specifically need to use the deity appearance of what we call blessing.
Chakrasamvara. Visualizing yourself as
Chakrasamvara with his consort will serve not Question: Rinpoche, in terms of generation
only as a remedy for the afflictions of desire but practice itself, it seems to be dealing with body,
for any other affliction as well. speech and mind. I am curious as to what part of
the generation stage practice
Question: I have a question about actually purifies relationships
the relationship between the
Some people with our world and the inhabit-
different types of purifications naturally find ants in it, family and friends and
and the Chenrezig practice. Since themselves those around us?
the yidam is initially visualized
outside of yourself and only very utterly devoted to Thrangu Rinpoche: Because
late in the practice do you become the practice of your connection to others,
the deity, does that mean that all whether it is a positive or a nega-
the various purifications of womb
one deity. Then tive one, is a part of your interac-
birth and prior bardos and prior it is perfectly tion with the world in general,
death occur at the time of the your interactions are all purified
visualization of the external
possible by the homage, offering, and
Chenrezig? under those praise sections of the sadhana,
circumstances to whatever it is.
Thrangu Rinpoche: Basically, it
is not very specific in that prac- pursue that one Question: Could one person
tice. Through the power of your practice until settle on one deity and try to do
faith directed to the Chenrezig this completely, or do you try to
visualized above you, at a certain through it practice with as many deities as
point in the practice you and all you attain the possible?
beings take the form Chenrezig.
In that case the visualization of
final result Thrangu Rinpoche: It does not
yourself is in the form of the deity matter. It is a question of indi-
complete in an instant of recollection. So there is vidual taste and interest. Some people naturally
no specific correlation here with the point at find themselves utterly devoted to the practice
which the practice is purified, what event or of one deity. Then it is perfectly possible under
moment, and so on. But basically you could say those circumstances to pursue that one practice
that when you become the deity that is purifying until through it you attain the final result. Other
this birth. people find that they are naturally attracted to
combining the practices of different deities.
Question: Rinpoche, at what level does suppli- They might practice two or three or even more
cation work? When we talk about supplicating than that. There is nothing wrong with that
gurus, teachers of the lineage that have died, either. By combining the practice of these differ-
and dharmapalas, how is that working? ent deities, they will achieve the same result as

SHENPEN SEL 31
the other person does with one. stration of their wisdom or manifestation in
external form of their wisdom, they are in a
Question: Could I ask a follow up question, position to actively assist us. So if you ask for
Rinpoche? It occurred to me in what you said their assistance, for their help in the removal of
about purifying relationships with others by impediments to your practice and in similar
paying homage and making offerings that that areas, then they can actually provide some help
has to do with sacred outlook, the way one looks or assistance. However, for this process to occur
at other beings. It is something I find personally there has to be some kind of a connection made
difficult to do when seeing the between you and the
suffering that we inflict upon each dharmapalas. Principally this
other sometimes in this life. It is Other people find connection is made by your in-
hard to maintain a sacred outlook volvement with dharma itself.
towards others in that way. Is
that they are Through practicing dharma you
there a key to that in some sense? naturally become in some sense their re-
sponsibility and then they will be
Thrangu Rinpoche: Sacred
attracted to responsive to your requests for
outlook is something you cultivate combining the assistance.
in order to remove your own practices of
confusion. It is not really a Question: Are they what we call
method for helping others di- different devas?
rectly. In any case, whatever dieties. . . . They
arises in your ordinary deluded Thrangu Rinpoche: The terms
perception is equally deluded will achieve the deva and devi are just the San-
perception. Negative situations same result as skrit for male deity and female
are not more difficult to purify deity, or god and goddess. They
than others are. Normally, what-
the other person are used to refer to two types of
ever you experience is a deluded does with one things. The one type of thing is a
projection, and has to be acknowl- being, a mundane being called a
edged as such and transcended or deva or devi. They can be gods of
transformed with the application of sacred the desire realm, gods of the form realm, or gods
outlook. This is no more or less true of any one of the formless realm. They are mundane,
type of deluded perception than any other. samsaric beings. The other type of being that is
referred to as lha or deva or devi or deity is
Question: I havent had much exposure to supermundane, beyond the world. These are
dharmapalas, and I would like to understand beings who have such wisdom and especially
more. You said that basically they help us with such stable bodhicittacommitment to the
our activities and that is very intriguing, but it welfare of others and to the benefiting of the
wasnt enough to really give me a clear sense. teachingsthat they are entirely unlike a mun-
Could you say more or refer me to another text dane being. Dharmapalas can be thought of as
in which I could find out more about this? beings who are completely and utterly commit-
ted to the welfare of others and, therefore, are
Thrangu Rinpoche: Dharmapalas are what we very active in accomplishing their welfare.
would call great beings who sometimes manifest You could say that dharmapalas are included
as humans and sometimes, especially when we within the class of phenomena that we could call
refer to them as dharmapalas or dharma protec- devas or devis, just as some awakened people
tors, manifest as nonhuman. In their manifesta- are included within the class of what we could
tion as nonhuman, which is a kind of a demon- call humans. But not all humans are awakened

32 SHENPEN SEL
and not all devas or devis are dharmapalas. what is considered to be the emergence of in-
There are all different sorts of people. Some sects from trees, in which an insect, before it is
people are wonderful, some people are horrific, an insect, starts out as part of a tree and actually
and there is everything in between. It is the becomes an insect. I am not sure what he is
same way with devas and devis. There are won- referring to. It is like a branch of the tree that
derful devas and devis, horrific devas and devis, breaks off, gets up, and walks away.
and everything in between. Dharmapalas are a
kind of wonderful deva or devi. Question: When the buddha is visualized and
reappears from the drop, is the
Question: I keep thinking buddha an adult or a child or an
about science and DNA and
There are all differ- infant?
how we are working with and ent sorts of people.
altering things, such as clon- Thrangu Rinpoche: In the
Some people are
ing. In a clone, would the generation stage, even though it
clone be the same being since wonderful, some corresponds to the different
the clone has the same DNA? people are horrific, stages of life, you do not visualize
the deity first as a little baby
Thrangu Rinpoche: In the and there is every- deity and then as a child deity, an
case of cloning, the clone thing in between. It adolescent deity, and finally a
would be a different being. mature deity. You only take it so
The clone would not be the
is the same way far. You do not take it that far.
same sentient being. You do with devas and Youre trying to purify all of those
not have to go as far as clon- appearances. In order to do that,
ing. It is really the same
devis there has to be some degree of
process of what happens correspondence, but not to that
when someone is conceived as a human being. degree.
The substances come from their parents but the
child is a different being from the parents. In the Question: Now they are capable of fertilizing
same way, if you clone somebody, then the sub- eggs and keeping them in frozen state for a long
stance would come from one body but that does time. I was wondering what becomes of the
not mean that the person that develops as the mental consciousness in that state?
clone is the same person. It is a different person.
Thrangu Rinpoche: I do not know. Youd have
Translator: Rinpoche also gave the example of to ask the scientists who are doing that.

SHENPEN SEL 33
Creation and Completion

The Eight Consciousnesses as Deluded Aspects


Of Mind and as Buddha Nature Itself

Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches commentary on


Creation and Completion.

O
ur most common practice is tranquillity meditation or shamatha. As is
well known, the need for shamatha practice is based on the fact that our
minds are normally quite agitated by thoughts. We practice shamatha in
order to generate a state of mental stability. While the technique of shamatha and
the technique of the generation stage are distinctin that in the one your mind is
resting on something very simple and neutral as an object, and in the other your
mind is immersed in the elaborate visualization of the form of the deitythe
function of these two techniques is the same. In the practice of shamatha, you
cultivate a state of attention which transcends the two defects of excessive ten-
sion and excessive relaxation, and you do the same thing in the practice of the
generation stage. In the visualization of the form of the deity, or the visualization
of the syllables of the mantra, and so forth, you cultivate the same type of atten-
tion as is cultivated in shamatha practice. In the generation stage, if your mind is
too tight, too tense, then the natural clarity of the visualization will be dimin-

34 SHENPEN SEL
ished; and if your mind is too relaxed, you will identical to the vipashyana that is taught in the
then become distracted from the visualization. sutrayana. In some respect means that the
So while the techniques are distinct, the function techniques can be quite different. The techniques
of shamatha and the function of the generation of the completion stage are not necessarily
stage are fundamentally the same. identical with the techniques of vipashyana, but
However, the generation stage does have a the function of the completion stage and the
characteristic or feature which is not overtly function of vipashyana are the same. Therefore,
present in shamatha practice. we can consider the completion
Through the practice of the gen- stage to be a variety of
eration stage, you not only gener- The relationship vipashyana or insight meditation.
ate the ability to rest the mind at between the In that context what we mean by
will, but, because of the technique vipashyana and what we mean by
of the generation stage, you also
generation and the completion stage is medita-
bring out the minds innate clarity completion tion on the nature of ones mind.
or capacity for lucidity. This is When we use this term to refer to
especially brought out in the
stages in the the completion stage we are
generation stage, not only by the vajrayana is very talking about that style of medita-
technique or visualization itself, similar to the tion that is characteristic of the
which obviously uses and aug- tradition of uncommon instruc-
ments the minds clarity, but also relationship tion.
by the constant variation in the between To make this clear, there are
visualization. In generation-stage two types of vipashyana practice.
practice you move from one thing
shamatha and One takes inferential valid cogni-
to another. For example, at one vipashyana in the tion as the path and the other
point you visualize the invitation takes direct valid cognition as the
of the jnanasattvas, and at an-
sutrayana path. Generally speaking, charac-
other point you visualize the teristic of the sutras is the prac-
radiating out and gathering in of light rays, and tice of taking inferential valid cognition as ones
so on. This change of focus or object in the visual- technique. This consists of thinking about empti-
ization actually produces new samadhis or new ness and using logical reasoning to determine
meditative absorptions at each step. These the emptiness of all things. Starting with the fact
enhance the development of mental clarity and that all relative truths are interdependent, one
the stability of samadhi in general. So the gen- reasons the validity of emptiness. In that type of
eration stage not only is a technique which can practice, emptiness is not an object of direct
generate a state of shamatha, but it also assists experience. One examines things, and gradually
in the development of mental clarity. For that through ones examination one comes to a convic-
and other reasons it is absolutely necessary to tion that everything is empty. One then culti-
practice the generation stage. vates and stabilizes that conviction until gradu-
However, the generation stage is never allyalthough after a very long timeit be-
practiced by itself or in isolation. It always has comes a clear and definite recognition of empti-
to be combined with and succeeded by the prac- ness. Sometimes this practice of taking inferen-
tice of the completion stage. The relationship tial valid cognition as the path is also called
between the generation and completion stages in analytic meditation. Analytic mediation is very
the vajrayana is very similar to the relationship stable and helpful and very good, but it is not
between shamatha and vipashyana in the very quick. It takes a very long time. Therefore,
sutrayana. In fact, we would have to say that the in vajrayana practice one does not do analytic
completion stage in vajrayana is in some respect meditation. One emphasizes the practice of

SHENPEN SEL 35
direct valid cognition. In this context and up to this point, the text
If one takes direct valid cognition as the makes no distinction between what we could call
path, one does not emphasize thinking about the pure mind or the pure aspect of mind and the
nature of external things. From impure aspect of mind. It is
the point of view of vajrayana pointed out at this point that
meditation, it is okay if external If you know the there are some individuals who,
things are empty and it is okay if nature of your because of their great or intense
they are not. We do not particu- devotion, have a recognition or
larly worry about it because the
mind, this alone realization of the minds nature
source of all of our experience will accomplish that occurs spontaneously, that
all of our happiness and suffer- arises from within. Such a person,
ingthat which we use in prac-
your aim and once they have attained that
tice and that which experiences practice. As long recognition, has no need to worry
all pleasant and unpleasant about learning the difference
as you do not,
things, is our mind. Therefore, in between the pure aspect of mind
vajrayana practice we are con- no other practice and the impure aspect of mind,
cerned principally with the mind and no other how they work, how they manifest,
itself. In fact, not only is it more and so on. Since they have already
important to ascertain the nature knowledge will realized the point which under-
of the mind, but it is also easier, be of any standing those things is supposed
because, while external things to lead to, they have no need to go
are not that easy to realize as
significant help back and learn those things.
empty, the mind, just as it is, is an However, for most people it is
obvious embodiment or demonstration of difficult to generate a realization spontaneously
dharmata, an obvious embodiment of emptiness. through devotion alone. Most practitioners have
What this means is that, while you cannot in the the need to learn at least a little bit about how
beginning directly see the emptiness of external mind works. If you do not, then there is a danger
things, you can from the beginning directly see that your meditation will not be a recognition of
the emptiness of your own mind. When you take the nature of mind, but will consist simply of
the path of direct valid cognition as a practice, immersing yourself in some kind of blank neu-
the view, the emptiness of mind, is not deter- trality or mental abstraction. While that is not
mined through some kind of analysis or logical particularly harmful, it is also not particularly
reasoning but by looking directly at your own helpful and is somewhat of a shame, a waste of
mind. This is the characteristic approach of all time. Therefore, the text next explains a little
vajrayana meditation. Therefore, it is said that if bit about how mind works.
you know the nature of your mind, this alone
will accomplish your aim and practice. As long as
you do not, no other practice and no other
knowledge will be of any significant help. The
W hat we could call the impure or deluded
aspect of mind is referred to as con-
sciousness. Generally speaking, consciousness
many renowned traditions of this type of medita- is enumerated as being of eight classes or
tion, such as mahamudra, the great perfection, groups. Before going into the details of the
and the great middle way, and other terms consciousness, it is necessary to understand the
pertinent to these traditions, such as simplicity, basic view of cognition that is characteristic of
freedom from elaboration, and so on, all refer to buddhadharma. The term cognition in Sanskrit
the practice or cultivation of meditation on this is jnana. Jnana just means cognition, the capac-
nature. The meditation on the nature of mind is ity to cognize, an awareness. Literally speaking,
essential. in Tibetan one would translate jnana as

36 SHENPEN SEL
shepa, or knowing. However it is interesting when you wish to make a distinction between
to observe that when the teachings were trans- the mind in its impure manifestations and the
lated into Tibetan, jnana was usually trans- nature of the mind, mind itself, then mind [im-
lated not as shepa, but as yeshe. Ye means pure] will be called sem, and the mind itself,
primordial. The prefix ye was added by the that mere cognition itself, will be called sem
Tibetan translators to point out that cognition, nyi, mind in itself.
that mere clarity, cognitive clarity itself, in and With regard to the eight consciousnesses, the
of itself, has been there from the very beginning. first five are called the consciousnesses of the
Therefore they translated cognition as pri- five gates. The gates are the five senses. They
mordial cognition. But the term jnana in itself are called gates because they seem to be the
does not have this word primor- gates through which your mind
dial, so it refers simply to cogni- encounters that which is outside
tion. All of these eight your body. So they are like gates
The term for consciousness, through which your mind can
which is a specific type of cogni- types of project itself or expand itself
tion, is vijnana. It is the term for consciousness beyond the body. The first of the
cognition, jnana, with the five gates is the eyes. The eyes
prefix vi, which means complete are considered are the organic basis for the eye
or fully developed. This is a more manifestations of consciousness. The eyes encoun-
specific term than cognition, and ter as their object visible form,
although it may sound like a
the minds color, and shape. When the eyes
positive thing to say fully devel- impurity encounter such an object, what is
oped cognition, in this context it generated is called the eye or
is actually somewhat pejorative, visual consciousness. That is the
because it refers to cognition that has become first of the eight consciousnesses. The other four
developed in the sense of becoming coarsened. are similar to that. The second consciousness is
This type of cognition, full cognition, or con- connected with the ears. When the ears encoun-
sciousness is what is divided into eight groups or ter their object, which are sounds of all types,
eight classes. All of these eight classes, groups, what is generated is called the ear conscious-
or types of consciousnesses are considered ness or auditory consciousness. The third is
manifestations of the minds impurity. They are connected with the nose. When the nose encoun-
eight types of consciousnesses that arise when a ters its object, which are smells of all types,
mind does not recognize its own nature. The what is generated is called the nose or olfactory
basic idea of the development of consciousness is consciousness. The fourth is the tongue. When
that, when a mind does not recognize its own the tongue encounters its object, tastes of all
nature, its inherent lucidity, which is just a mere types, such as sweet and sour, bitter and so on,
cognition, it runs wild. And running wild, it what is generated is called the tongue or taste
becomes coarse or develops into deluded cogni- consciousness. The fifth one is the whole body
tion or consciousness, which is characteristic of as an organ of tactile sensation. When the whole
samsara. Nevertheless, in the midst of all of this body encounters its object, tactile sensation,
confusion, the nature of these consciousnesses, what is generated is called the body or tactile
the nature of this deluded mind, is unchanged. consciousness. These five consciousnesses
This unchanging nature of the mind is called operating through the five senses or five gates
the pure all-basis, as opposed to the all-basis experience their objects directly. The eye con-
consciousness, which is one of the eight sciousness actually sees shapes and colors, the
consciousnesses. That pure all-basis is mere ear consciousness actually detects or experi-
cognition, fundamental jnana itself. Therefore, ences sounds, the olfactory consciousness actu-

SHENPEN SEL 37
ally smells, and so on. It is direct experience. The sixth consciousness on the other hand
Therefore, these consciousnesses are can and does think about things. The sixth
nonconceptual. These consciousnesses them- consciousness thinks of the past, both the dis-
selves do not generate any thought about the tant and recent past. It thinks about the present,
characteristics of what they experience. The five and it thinks about the future, both the proxi-
sense consciousnesses experience external mate and distant future. But while it is capable
objects directly and do so in a way that is of thinking, it is not capable of directly experi-
nonconceptual. Nonconceptual means that they encing things the way that the sense
do not have any thought about the characteris- consciousnesses do. The sixth consciousness
tics of what they experience. They do not con- does not directly experience things. It generates
ceptually recognize the things that they perceive a generality or abstraction on the basis of the
or experience. things that are experienced by the five sense
That which thinks about what is experienced consciousnesses. This means that when the five
by the five senses, that which conceptually sense consciousnesses experience something, it
recognizes them as such and such, becomes an object of thought for
that which conceives of them as the sixth consciousness, not in
The sixth
good and bad, in short, that which the form of what is actually
thinks in any way whatsoever, is consciousness experienced but in the form of a
the sixth consciousness, the men- does not directly conceptual generality or gener-
tal consciousness. The mental alization or abstraction that is
consciousness does not work with experience created by the sixth conscious-
or appear on the basis of a specific things. It ness as a duplicate or replica of
sense organ like the other five. It what was experienced by that
inhabits the body in a general way
generates a particular sense consciousness.
and it is that which thinks. Its generality or For example, when I look at the
function is thinking. It is normally glass that is on the table in front
enumerated as the sixth con-
abstraction of me, my eyes directly see that
sciousness when you go through on the basis of glass, but my sixth consciousness,
them one by one. In general, you the things that my mental consciousness does
start with the eye consciousness, not directly see it. It generates a
you go through the five senses, are experienced generality or abstraction based
and the mental consciousness is by the five sense upon what my eyes have seen,
called the sixth. The fundamental that it recognizes, that it thinks
distinction between it and the consciousnesses about, thinks of as good or bad, or
others is that the five sense having such and such shape and
consciousnesses, since they engage only in the so on.
direct experience of their objects, can only Those six consciousnesses are relatively easy
experience the present. For example, the eye to detect or observe because they are vivid in
consciousness only sees what is there now. It their manifestation or function. The other two
does not see what was there in the past. It does consciousnesses are less easy to observe. For one
not see what will be there in the future. This is thing the six consciousnesses start and stop in
also true of the ear consciousness, and so on. The their operation. They are generated by certain
five sense consciousnesses are not capable of conditions and when those conditions are no
thinking about their objects. Not only can they longer present they temporarily stop function-
not think about the past or the future, they do ing. Therefore the six consciousnesses are called
not even conceptualize or think about the inconstant consciousnesses. They are not
present. constantly there. They are generated as they

38 SHENPEN SEL
arise. The other two consciousnesses are called called the immediate mind. The immediate
constant consciousnesses. Not only are they mind is not a separate consciousness. It is the
constant, which means that they are always function of the impure mind that links the opera-
operating, but they are also much less observ- tions of one consciousness to another. It is that
able. impulse or force of habit that causes the six
The seventh consciousness is called the consciousnesses to arise from the ground of the
afflicted consciousness. This refers to the all basis and the afflicted consciousness. It is
subtle or most basic level of mental affliction or that which causes the mental consciousness to
klesha. This does not refer to arise on the basis of a sense per-
coarse kleshas. This refers to the ception, and so on. It is an identi-
root of kleshas. Specifically, the The seventh fiable function of the impure
afflicted consciousness is the mind, but is not in itself a sepa-
most subtle level of fixation on a consciousness is rate consciousness. Therefore,
self. Again this is not coarse called the there are only eight types of
fixation on a self. This is the impure consciousness. It is not
subtle level of fixation on a self
afflicted considered to be a ninth.
that is unfluctuatingly present consciousness. In regard to the immediate
even when one is asleep. When mind, many texts present it as
sometimes you have a sense of
This refers to the that which is generated by the
self and you think I, that is not subtle or most cessation of a previous instant of
an operation of the seventh con- basic level of consciousness and which links one
sciousness. That is the sixth type of consciousness to another.
consciousness thinking. The mental affliction In the particular presentation
seventh consciousness is present or klesha. . . . found in the Profound Inner
until you attain the levels of an Meaning by the Third Gyalwa
arya, or superior, such as the first
This is the subtle Karmapa, Ranjung Dorje, the
bodhisattva level and so on. level of fixation immediate mind is presented as
Although it is not directly observ- that which causes the lack of
able itself, it is the basis for all
on a self that is recognition of dharmata or lack of
coarse fixation on a self and, unfluctuatingly recognition of the nature of
therefore, for all coarse kleshas. things, in which case it would be
present even
The eighth consciousness is considered an aspect of the sev-
called the alaya vijnana or all- when one is enth consciousness. The seventh
basis consciousness. It is called asleep consciousness in that way of
the all-basis because it is the understanding has an inward-
basis or ground for the arising of directed aspect to it, which is the
all other types of consciousness. It is that funda- aspect of the seventh consciousness that causes
mental clarity of consciousness or cognitive the other consciousnesses to arise and function.
lucidity of consciousness which has been there That is the immediate mind.
from the beginning. Being the capacity for con- In certain sutras you will see the use of the
scious experience, it is the ground for the arising term receptive consciousness. Receptive con-
of eye consciousness, ear consciousness, etc. It is, sciousness refers to the capacity of the all-basis
like the seventh, constantly present, constantly consciousness to receive and store impressions.
operating, and it persists until the attainment of Therefore, it is synonymous with the all-basis
final awakening or buddhahood. consciousness. In short, all of the functions or
Along with the eight consciousnesses there is manifestations of the impure or deluded mind
something else that is often mentioned. This is are included in the eight consciousnesses.

SHENPEN SEL 39
There are different ways that these eight the recognition of the nature of mind or the
consciousnesses can be explained. In this text nature of things. Therefore, the object of medita-
the style of explanation follows that of the Third tion in vipashyana is the nature of those
Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, especially consciousnesses.
that of his book, The Profound Inner Meaning, The eight consciousnesses are impure in how
which was written as an explanation of the they appear or manifest, since they manifest as
theoretical underpinning of the Six Dharmas of delusion based upon the minds projection of
Naropa and as clarification of certain points in objects. But in how they are, in their nature,
that, called Distinguishing they are unchanging. The basic
Between Consciousness and nature of the mind, of which they
Wisdom. In the case of are the permutations or manifes-
What is it that performs shamatha tations, is pure in and of itself.
meditation? Well, the first five Therefore, we find the often re-
sense consciousnesses are
practice, that peated phrase, the all-basis is
nonconceptual, so they neither which meditates virtuous or good in its nature.
require nor are capable of medi- This idea of the fundamental
tation. From among the two types
is the sixth goodness of the all-basis refers not
of meditation in general, in the consciousness. to the deluded all-basis conscious-
case of shamatha practice, that ness but to the all-basis wisdom,
. . . In the case of
which mediates is the sixth which is the pure aspect of what in
consciousness. Shamatha practice vipashyana, the context of delusion, is the all-
is concerned with the pacification however, basis consciousness. This pure
of thoughts and that which thinks aspect has never been lost in
is the sixth consciousness. The meditation is delusion, which simply means that
process of shamatha consists of a performed by the nature of the mind has been
mindful relaxation of the think- mistaken, but that that nature
ing process of the six conscious-
and involves the itself has never been changed or
ness. In the case of vipashyana sixth, seventh, corrupted by the mistake. While
however, meditation is performed the manifestation of your mind as
by and involves the sixth, sev-
and eighth a variety within cognitive clarity
enth, and eighth consciousnesses. consciousnesses seems to be deluded, if you look
From the point of view of for this delusion you will not find
meditation, one would have to say that although it anywhere. If you look for some
one can distinguish the sixth, seventh, and actual substantial presence of this deluded
eighth as distinct in their degrees of manifesta- clarity, there is nothing there. Yet you cannot say
tion or obvious cognitive clarity, from their own that your mind is a dead or static nothingness,
point of view they are internally basically the because there is the experience and presence of
same. The practice of vipashyana consists of cognitive clarity. This basic way the mind really
keeping or protecting the sixth, seventh and isthe fact that it is a cognitive lucidity that is
eighth consciousnesses from delusion and rather free of any kind of substantial existenceis
than running wild in delusion allowing them to what is called buddha nature, and that, of
rest in their natural or basic state. Through course, is pure. That is what we attempt to
doing this you come to experience or know the realize or fully experience through the practice
nature of all three, i.e., the mental conscious- of meditation.
ness, the afflicted consciousness, and the all- The eight consciousnesses are the deluded
basis consciousness. For that reason, in aspect of mind, yet their nature is buddha na-
vipashyana practice the most important thing is ture itself. This is the reason why in practice it

40 SHENPEN SEL
is important not to follow confused or deluded into a snake by your delusion about it. It is
projections but to look at the nature of the mind unchanging. Whether or not you recognize it as a
instead. If you attend to the delusion of mind, rope, whether or not you mistake it to be a
then that delusion will be reinforced; but if you snake, that rope has always been a rope. It has
look at the nature of that delusion, the nature of never become and never will become a snake.
that deluded mind, then you see through it. By In this image, one would say that the rope
means of this, you gradually become free from was never a snake at all. In what this image
this delusion, leading both to extraordinary represents, then one would say that although we
attainment of samadhi and eventually to mistake mind to be the eight consciousnesses
buddhahood. In the case of either extraordinary and in that way generate the appearance or
samadhi or buddhahood, because of the recogni- experience of these eight consciousnesses and
tion of the minds nature, the their delusion, the mind has al-
thoughts and kleshas and so on ways been empty. Therefore, the
that arise have no effect; they do
Not experiencing nature of the mind, that emptiness,
not in any way obscure or pre- the mind as it is, is what we call buddha nature.
vent the recognition of that Even though we do not experience
nature.
we look out or that and instead experience the
This does not mean that the away from it. mind as the eight consciousnesses,
lucidity that is manifested as in fact the mind has always been
Looking away
delusion is going to cease, be- that emptiness or buddha nature.
cause it is not the case that by from mind, we Not experiencing the mind as it is,
seeing the emptiness of mind, generate we look out or away from it. Look-
the manifestation of mind disap- ing away from mind, we generate
pears or stops. It has always delusions delusion.
been empty; it is not by seeing it As for when this began, it is
that it becomes more empty. What is recognized beginningless. The delusion has always been
is that while mind is empty of any substantial there along with the fundamental nature of the
existence, it is a cognitive lucidity. While being mind. To use another image as an example: The
lucid, it is empty, and while being empty, it is mind in itself, the mind as not inherently de-
lucid. That is how it remains. luded cognition, is like a mirror. The nature of
You might ask, Since the minds nature is that mirror is to reflect. It is not the nature of
always pure and since it does not change, why that mirror to be obscured. Nevertheless, this
then does the confusion of the eight mirror, from the very beginning has been cov-
consciousnesses arise in the first place? The ered by some kind of rust or grime, which is
confusion or delusion of the mind is like mistak- there along with it even though it is not in itself
ing a mottled rope to be a snake. From the point the mirrors fundamental nature or characteris-
of view of confusion, we would say that at the tic. The grime is like the all-basis consciousness.
moment at which you first mistake that rope to Because there is a little bit of tarnish, then over
be a snake, confusion starts, and at the moment time the tarnish increases or grows and that
at which you come to recognize that the mottled becomes the placement of further habits in the
rope is merely a mottled rope and not a snake, all-basis and the generation of the obscurations
you are liberated from confusion. From the point that are the mental afflictions, which is like the
of view of your delusion or your confusion, there afflictive obscurations developing out of the
is a period of delusion and there is the possibil- cognitive obscuration. Nevertheless, the nature,
ity of liberation. Nevertheless, as strongly as you not only of the ground itself but of the all-basis
might believe that that mottled rope is a snake, consciousness is always emptiness. What occurs
the mottled rope itself has never been turned in the absence of recognition, in the absence of

SHENPEN SEL 41
awareness of the true nature of ones mind, is ness of that object. According to how things
that the emptiness of mind, not being recognized really are, in fact what we perceive as external
as what it is, is mistaken to be a self. So the objects and what we perceive as the internal
emptiness aspect, or the empty essence of mind, faculties are really aspects of the
is the basis for designation of the imputed self. consciousnesses themselves. For example, when
But mind is not just empty. It is cognitive lucid- your eyes see form, then what we would nor-
ity that is empty. The cognitive lucidity, in its mally say is occurring is that there is an external
intensity, is mistaken to be an object, is mistaken object which your eyes are capable of encounter-
to be external to this imputed self. On the basis ing. Through the encounter between the eye and
of the two main characteristics of mind, empti- the object, there is generated a visual conscious-
ness and lucidity, there is the ness. From the point of view of the
designation of self and other, or way things are, what you perceive
subject and object. as external form is the objective or
The way in which we generate
On the basis of lucidity aspect of the visual con-
the presence or assume the the two main sciousness itself; i.e., the eye
existence of objects on the basis of characteristics of consciousness itself appears as
the lucidity of mind is like what form. The emptiness aspect of the
happens to us when we go to mind, emptiness eye consciousness is what you
sleep. When you go to sleep there and lucidity, experience as, or presume to be
is a state which in English I think the subject experiencing that
is called hypnogogic. Before you
there is the imputed object. The way a con-
start to dream, the images that designation of sciousness actually manifests as
will eventually arise as dream its apparent object, is like, for
images are still thoughts. During
self and other, example, when you dream of
the period when they are or subject and mountains and beings and react to
thoughts, they are simply things them with fear and happiness and
object
that are arising in your mind. But joy and boredom and everything
as you become more and more else. In our normal daytime expe-
asleep, you mistake these thoughts that are rience these things do seem external to us. We
arising for actually occurring events. In other really think and really believe that this lucidity
words, the thoughts themselves become images aspect of the mind really is out there, really is
that are experienced as objects; this is how external form and so on. We really believe and
thoughts become dreams. This is very similar to really experience it in this waythat the empti-
the way in which, under the sway of ignorance, ness aspect of mind really is in here and really is
we mistake the lucidity or clarity of mind to be the experiencer, that which experiences the
an object external to ourselves. On the basis of object.
the presence of that dualism, that imputation of The interaction of all of this, the emergence
self and other, the six consciousnesses are of the six consciousnesses and, therefore, the
brought up or caused to become active through appearance of the subjects and objects in those
the function of the immediate mind. six consciousnesses, is all arranged or brought
When in that way the six consciousnesses about by the immediate mind. Nevertheless, the
arise, then there occurs the appearance of the experience of the five sense consciousnesses is
sense organs encountering their objects. As far direct and nonconceptual. As I explained earlier,
as the way things appear to function, there is it has no connection with past or future. On the
definitely the appearance in our experience of basis of the experience, some sensation is gener-
external objects which are encountered by the ated. The sensation causes the emergence of the
sense organs, producing consciousness or aware- sixth consciousness, which then generates

42 SHENPEN SEL
conceptuality about the experience. The sensa- but the reason there appears to be a tree is that
tion is labeled as pleasant, unpleasant, good, we have a strong habit of the appearance of
bad, and so on, and then there is a recognition of trees. Therefore we experience the appearance
the characteristics of the object. That is how of trees. For example, in a dream there also
confusion happens. appears to be a tree. The tree in a dream might
be just as vivid as a tree we experience during a
Question: In the root text, it states that the waking state, but we know that there is no tree
instantaneous mind moves the six consciousness in the dream. It is possible that the tree we
groups and causes the meeting of object and experience in the waking state might be a projec-
organ, and then further down it talks about tion also, because we experience what it is our
mistaking the luminous aspect for form and the habit to experience.
empty aspect for the organ. What is the meaning
of organ? Question: Is it true that the person who knows
dream yoga can approach the real world in the
Thrangu Rinpoche: It means the sense organs same way as one would in a dream? For instance,
themselves. The projection of the existence of could one make the tree disappear?
sense organs is based upon the mistaken appre-
hension of the emptiness aspect of consciousness Thrangu Rinpoche: I have no experience of
as a subject and, therefore, as a sense organ. As this, but they say so. [laughter]
far as how things appear, we do
have sense organs. For example, Question: How is it that we all
the eye is said to be like a flax see the tree in the same place?
flower in the structure of the eye,
There appears to
the optic nerve, I think it is be a tree, but the Thrangu Rinpoche: Common
called. Then the ears are like a experience is the experience by
reason there
pattern in birch bark, and so on. different individuals of a similar
There is an image for each one of appears to be a thing which they can agree upon
the sense organs. This is how they tree is that we as a shared experience. It is like
appear. We have functioning having a vase in the middle of a
senses. So the organs in that case have a strong table surrounded by one hundred
are the organic basis for sense habit of the mirrors. Each of those mirrors is
perception. But as far as how reflecting the same vase but the
things are, the development and
appearance image contained in each mirror is
experience of sense organs, like of trees particular or individual to that
the development and experience mirror. In the same way, even
of sense objects, is a projection though different people may see
based upon the mistaken apprehension of the the same thing, what I experience in my mind is
emptiness of consciousness as a self. particular to my mind, as it is my experience,
and what you experience in your mind is particu-
Question: I was wondering if you could go over lar to your mind, as it is your experience.
the point about mistaking luminosity for an
external object. That is thinking that phenomena Question: Rinpoche, what is the relationship of
are real? That is not denying, for example, that compassion to the eight consciousnesses? Can
there is a tree outside, if there is really a tree the function of immediate mind be used to liber-
outside? ate oneself?

Thrangu Rinpoche: There appears to be a tree, Thrangu Rinpoche: With regard to compassion,

SHENPEN SEL 43
manifest compassion arises in the sixth con- by the sixth consciousness, which tends to appre-
sciousness. The habit of compassion resides in hend them only one at a time.
the eighth consciousness. In a sense, one could
say that even the seventh consciousness has Question: I have a question about the instanta-
some kind of compassion present within it. The neous mind or the immediate mind. Is its pres-
five sense consciousnesses are nonconceptual ence the cause for the experiences of the five
and have no connection to com- sense consciousnesses? Is the
passion particularly. With regard instantaneous mind always
to the role of the immediate mind
Accumulation of present?
in the path, it cannot be used for wisdom is done
the accumulation of wisdom through the Thrangu Rinpoche: Yes, because
because the accumulation of in the case of sensory experience,
wisdom is done through the meditative state, what the immediate mind does is
meditative state, in which all of in which all of produce the experiences, bringing
the processes of delusion are, at them out of the all-basis like a
least temporarily, shut down, the processes of messenger and then also return-
revealing ones innate wisdom. So delusion are, at ing the further habit produced by
the manner of the accumulation of that reoccurrence of experience
wisdom, the manner of liberation
least temporarily, back into the all-basis. It is like
itself, is the antithesis of the shut down, when you go to the bank. The
linking process that is the imme- person who brings out or puts in
diate mind.
revealing ones your money for you is like the
On the other hand, the other innate wisdom immediate mind.
aspect of the path, the accumula-
tion of merit, does make use of the immediate Question: Also, in the root text the statement,
mind. The immediate mind is used in the accu- When the afflictive mind functions with the
mulation of positive karma, as in the accumula- instantaneous mind, directed inwards, it leaves
tion of merit, where one makes offerings to habitual patterns in the foundation, seems to
buddhas and bodhisattvas, just as it is used in refute the earlier statement when it was said
the accumulation of negative karma. The reason that just the arising of anger does not create an
why the immediate mind has its place in the imprint.
merit aspect of the path but not in the wisdom
aspect is that the merit aspect is concerned with Thrangu Rinpoche: When you simply have a
the appearances of relative truth, not with the thought of a klesha, then it does not place a habit
realities of absolute truth. Since the immediate in the all-basis. The immediate mind does kind
mind is part of the workings of relative truth, it of grab it and stick it into the all-basis, but it is
can still be used in that context. not a karmic habit. There are several types of
habit. One type, karmic habit, is the imprint of
Question: Is it possible to have direct experi- an action; this will manifest as external experi-
ence through all five of the senses in the same ence. From among the various results of an
instant? action, this is a result of complete maturation.
Klesha habit itself becomes kind of an obscura-
Thrangu Rinpoche: The five sense tion, but it does not manifest as karma.
consciousnesses, when they are functioning, are
all functioning simultaneously. What is not Question: Does that just make it easier for
functioning simultaneously is the apprehension anger to arise again?
of the experience of the sense consciousnesses

44 SHENPEN SEL
Thrangu Rinpoche: When the thought of anger the eighth are those which move on into the
arises and is recognized, then the type of habit bardo?
that it places is very subtle and does not even
particularly promote further arising of thoughts Thrangu Rinpoche: No, all of them do. In the
of anger and certainly does not promote the bardo you have a mental body, and that mental
arising of spite, which normally, unrecognized, body has its own mental forms of the five sense
anger would produce. When the term the consciousnesses and the sixth mental conscious-
thought is liberated is used, it basically means ness as well. In the bardo you still sometimes see
that that particular thought is not leading to the things from your previous life, the places and
further thoughts, not that it does people and so on, all kinds of
not place any habit whatsoever. different stuff.
In the bardo you To be more precise, there are
Question: Going back to the several stages to the interval or
discussion about the tree.
have a mental the bardo. First, what happens as
Rinpoche, if we leave aside lan- body, and that you die is that there is a dissolu-
guage and habit and look at things tion process where the appear-
without our known concepts or
mental body has ances of this life dissolve and
our known way of looking at its own mental then temporarily cease. Really
things, just seeing it for what it is, forms of the there are two dissolutions: There
it does not have to be a tree. Is is the physical dissolution, and
that what happens? Or are you five sense there is a mental dissolution. At
saying that all things are imag- consciousnesses the end of these, at the end of the
ined? coarse and subtle dissolutions,
and the sixth immediately after death, there is
Thrangu Rinpoche: There are mental the appearance of dharmata, the
two ways to understand this. It direct experience of the nature of
depends on whether you are
consciousness things. However, if the person has
emphasizing the way things are or as well not cultivated a recognition of
the way things appear. According dharmata in the preceding life,
to the way things appear, we then they will not recognize it.
would say that the imputation of the tree is a The mere appearance of it will not produce
projection of your mind and that the basis for the liberation. Nevertheless, in that phase of the
imputation is not your mind, it is out there. bardo at which the dissolution process is com-
According to how things appear that distinction plete and the appearance of the dharmata oc-
would be made. But viewing it from the point of curs, the six consciousnesses temporarily cease,
how things really are, we would say they are and only the seventh and the eighth are still
both your mind. functioning. However, after that when they re-
arise from that bardo of dharmata into a mental
Question: Of the eight different kinds of con- body, then all eight are back again.
sciousness, I am wondering if the seventh and

SHENPEN SEL 45
Creation and Completion

How to Work With the Emergence


Of Confusion in Practice
Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches commentary on
Creation and Completion.

N
ext the text deals with how to work with the emergence of confu
sion in practice. Practitionerspeople practicing shamatha,
vipashyana, the generation stage, and the completion stagewhen
the immediate mind first arises from the all-basis consciousness, attempt to
rest in the practice, to rest in the samadhi that they have cultivated in
practice. If they do so, then the progressive development or emergence of

46 SHENPEN SEL
confusion or delusion which begins with the alertness, although thoughts come into the mind,
arising of the immediate mind will not go any they go right back out of it. If you can practice in
further than the immediate minds arising itself. this way, then gradually experience and realiza-
Essentially what you attempt to do here is rest tion will occur. The text goes into some detail
in an awareness of buddha nature, which means about all of this but the essential point is what I
to rest in the recognition of the empty nature have explained.
and manifest lucidity of your mind. In the begin- Next the text talks about how actually to
ning, this has to be done mostly as an aspiration. practice. First of all, the essence of the comple-
Then as one gains experience, what are called tion stage practice is to rest in that natural
the example wisdom and the actual wisdom lucidity or awareness which is the minds charac-
will arise. The wisdom of example is not a full or teristic. If you rest in that without fabrication,
direct recognition of buddha nature; it is a even though external appearances will still
recognition of something that is similar to or is appear to you, they will appear as appearances
like buddha nature. When you are resting in a that are without any substantiality, as appear-
basic recognition of the emptiness-lucidity of ance that is empty. This is really the fundamen-
your mind, that is the example wisdom. Through tal or essential practice of the completion stage
cultivating that, eventually you come to a deci- according to the vajrayana.
sive, direct insight into buddha nature; this is Within vajrayana there are many levels.
the actual wisdom. In any case, through resting There are, broadly speaking, four classes or
in the meditative state when the immediate levels of tantra in the Sarma tradition. Within
mind arises from the all-basis consciousness, it is the highest level there are three subdivisions,
possible for there to be some liberation from the which are sometimes called the father tantra of
process of delusion, simply because it will not go method, the mother tantra of knowledge, and the
on and will not degenerate into coarse or fully nondual tantra of the essential meaning. It says
manifest delusion. in this text that from the father tantra on up-
For this to occur there has to be the mainte- wards and from the mahayoga on upwardsi.e.,
nance of mindfulness and alertness. But at the including the three higher tantras among the six
same time, thoughts are the natural display of levels or divisions in the Nyingma tradition
the mind, so this does not mean that thoughts there is a recognition characterizing the view of
will cease, that thoughts of attachment, aversion those vehicles that everything that appears,
and bewilderment will not continue to arise. even samsaric appearances, is the natural dis-
They will continue to arise, but if there is suffi- play of the mind and, therefore, partakes of its
cient mindfulness and alertness, then upon their essential purity. It is fundamentally this view
arising, their nature will be recognized, and so that distinguishes what are called the higher
they will not be a cause for the accumulation of tantras from the lower.*
karma. The initial thought, being liberated How do you actually meditate in this way? I
through recognition, will not produce a second
thought and a third thought and so on. In other *Editors note: The lineages of the New Translation school
words, thoughts continue to arise as the display, (Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug) enumerate four divisions of tantra
but they do not become the cause of the accumu- or four tantric yanas: kriya yoga tantra, upa yoga tantra, yoga
tantra, and anutarayoga tantra, the latter of which in turn is
lation of further habits. The image given for this divided into father tantra, mother tantra, and nondual tantra.
state of mind is that of a vase that has a hole in The Old Translation school (the Nyingma) enumerates six
tantric yanas, which in turn are divided into three lower or
the bottom. Although you can still pour water outer tantraskriya, upa, and yoga tantrasand three higher
into the vase you will never be able to fill it. or inner tantrasmaha yoga tantra, anu yoga tantra, and ati
Everything that is poured in just flows right yoga tantra. Here, though the practices and the styles of
practice are different, Rinpoche is indicating the equation of
back out again. In the same way, when there is father tantra with maha yoga, the mother tantra with anu
the maintenance of this kind of mindfulness and yoga, and the nondual tantra with ati yoga.

SHENPEN SEL 47
have explained how the eight consciousnesses are not trying hard enough. The solution is to try
function. The arising of thoughts within the a little bit harder, to put more effort into it.* At
mind is continuous and inexhaustible because of other times youll find that it is fine throughout
this functioning. Thoughts of past, present, and the session. It is pretty even. In this case no
future continually arise in your mind like waves adjustments should be made. The key to being
on the surface of a body of water. While mind in able to do this properly is the application of
itself has no substance or substantiality whatso- mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially the
ever, it manifests as inexhaustible faculty of mind which we all
appearances, especially as the possess that keeps us from forget-
inexhaustible appearance or
The undercurrent ting what we are doing. When you
emergence of thoughts. The prac- is in fact a lack mindfulness, you become
tice consists simply of not follow- distracted and you forget the
ing thoughts but of resting your
greater problem object of meditation. When you
mind in whatever the technique is, for meditation apply mindfulness, this forgetful-
whether it is shamatha or than either ness does not occur. Mindfulness
vipashyana, the generation stage in general is simply the faculty of
visualization, or the completion torpor or memory, which is a normal men-
stage itself. As for how you rest excitement and tal arising. However, in this case
your mind, it needs to be in a way it is applied in a very specific and
that is appropriate to your specific cannot be conscious way. By applying the
situation at that time, and this allowed to just faculty of memory as mindfulness,
concerns the issue of efforthow ones meditation remains free
much effort, how much relaxation.
continue on from error or deviation. The
Sometimes you will find that its own manner of application is to estab-
you have a problem with fatigue in lish a gentle watchful mindful-
meditation. Typically, if fatigue is a problem, you ness. A mindfulness that is gentle and watchful
will find that at the beginning of a meditation means an alert mindfulness that is just enough.
session the practice will go well and by the end In other words, there is just enough intentional
it will be difficult. That indicates that your mind effort of mindfulness so that you do not become
is too tight and you are becoming exhausted by distracted. If you are able to maintain that level
it. The solution in that case is to relax. At other of mindfulness, then over time experience will
times you will find that the meditation session occur.
will begin badly but will go well towards the However, a subtle problem can arise called
end. In that case it indicates lack of effort. You the dregs of mind or the dregs of awareness.
This is the presence of subtle thoughts running
*Editors note: Ones meditation goes badly at first
because ones mindfulness is lazy, so that rather than being through your mind even though your mind is
on the spot with whatever technique one is employing as the basically at rest and there are no fully conscious
immediate mind produces or is about to produce the ever-
thoughts present. These subtle thoughts are also
changing display of confusion that arises in the mind, one
allows oneself to become distracted, to drift off and get lost in called the undercurrent, because they are an
thought. With slightly tighter mindfulness, one can inter- almost undetected current of thought that runs
cept that tendency to distraction, thereby producing good
meditation evenly throughout the session. This is not to imply barely conscious. The undercurrent is in fact a
that, if ones mind at the beginning of the session is terribly greater problem for meditation than either
conflicted and turbulent and that by the end of the session the torpor or excitement and cannot be allowed to
turbulence and conflict have subsided and/or their true nature
has been seen, that this is erroneous meditation. It is merely just continue on its own. The solution to the
to suggest that with tighter mindfulness the turbulence and problem of the undercurrent is to tighten up
conflict would subside or be seen through much earlier in the
meditation session, and in the best case, from the very onset
your mind a little bit, to bring out or enhance the
of the session. lucidity of your mind, to strengthen or toughen

48 SHENPEN SEL
the edge of your awareness. are in company, when you are around others,
As important as being undistracted is, it is which is a time at which you would tend more to
very difficult to develop a state of meditation in become distracted, you should put more effort
which for long periods of time you are never into it and strengthen the lucidity and alertness
distracted. The reason why this is difficult is of your mindfulness. It is not really the case that
that we are untrained. We are unpracticed in mindfulness and alertness are actual things that
meditation. It is not particularly that we are are present within the mind; they are more
doing it wrong, it is that we need to practice a faculties or processes of mind. Nevertheless,
great deal in order to develop this level of free- although they are faculties or processes of the
dom from distraction. So if you mind, they do affect very much
find that you still become dis- the state of the mind in medita-
tracted, do not be discouraged,
Essentially the tion.
you need to continue. tough edge or
Typically your practice of Question: Rinpoche, you men-
meditation begins with shamatha;
sharp edge of tioned tightening up our minds
this is true particularly in the awareness is the and toughening the edge of our
Kagyu tradition of mahamudra. same thing as awareness. Could you please say
We find in all texts of mahamudra more to us about how we can do
instruction that one is to begin what is meant by that?
with establishing a stability or effort in
tranquillity of mind as a basis for Thrangu Rinpoche: Essentially
the emergence of the recognition
meditation the tough edge or sharp edge of
of the minds nature. However, in awareness is the same thing as
the uncommon tradition of the great perfec- what is meant by effort in meditation. Some-
tionwhich means not all of the great perfection times when we meditate, we practice it and
but within it, the uncommon aspect or tradition experience it as conscious relaxation of the mind
of itthere is a slightly different approach, into the meditative state. At other times medita-
wherein, instead of taking mind as the path, one tion involves a conscious and hard-headed re-
takes awareness as the path. If one takes aware- fusal not to become distracted, as in the attitude,
ness as path, if at the beginning one succeeds in I must not become distracted. At different
correctly identifying or recognizing rigpa or times one should emphasize one or the other of
awareness, then it is not, strictly speaking, these. In the situation where one needs to em-
necessary to begin with the practice of phasize more effort, then one emphasizes a kind
shamatha, because the recognition itself has of a sharpness of ones awareness, which is
already been gained. One can simply rest in that produced by this hard-headed intention, which is
and cultivate that. However, if there is no deci- the refusal to space out.
sive and correct recognition of awareness, there
is no way to go on with a path that takes aware- Question: Is there any reason why one gate
ness as a path. So, for most practitioners it is would provide the undercurrent, the dregs of
essential to begin with shamatha as is done in mind? My undercurrent is music. There is al-
the mahamudra tradition so that there is a basis ways music going on in my mind, and I do not
of tranquillity in the mind facilitating the emer- even know it. It is very strange to be meditating
gence of that recognition. for several minutes and then discover you are
The text advises at this point that when you listening to ninety-nine bottles of beer on the
are alone, when you are practicing in solitude, wall.
you should relax the mind and allow it to natu-
rally come to rest in its own nature. When you Thrangu Rinpoche: It is probably happening

SHENPEN SEL 49
either because of a strong, deeply placed habit or In that way the karmic chain of thoughts is
because you like music a lot. The solution in broken. That thought does not accumulate
either case is to generate the strong resolution, karma because its nature is recognized. The
I am meditating now, not listening to music. I phrase, although it is impossible for thoughts of
refuse to listen to this. In that way you resolve attachment and aversion not to arise, refers to
to cut your attachment to it. If you actually do that time in ones training, the point at which
not want it to be there, then you can stop it. one has some recognition of the minds nature
but has not yet reached the ultimate state of
Question: It goes on before I am aware of its liberation. When one reaches the ultimate state
going on. The only thing I have found is to main- of liberation, then the kleshas are exhausted and
tain a kind of steady sound in my head as I am will not arise at all. For a beginnersomeone
meditating, to tie up that faculty so it does not who has some recognition of the minds nature
produce music. but is not yet fully liberated
these thoughts will still arise, but
Thrangu Rinpoche: In that case You do not they need not be allowed to accu-
it is because you are very at- accumulate mulate karma.
tached to the experience of
sound. Your mind is habituated to
karma just Question: If the thought is an
producing a replica of sound so through one angry thought, what happens?
that you can remember sound, so
that you can think about it.
thought of anger. Thrangu Rinpoche: You do not
Therefore, it does it even when You accumulate accumulate karma just through
you have not particularly told it karma when one thought of anger. You accumu-
to. late karma when anger ripens and
anger ripens and festers into spitefulness. For
Question: In the root text it says, festers into example, when you just see some-
It is impossible for thoughts of one that bothers you and you
attachment and aversion not to
spitefulness experience a thought of aversion,
arise. However, if you rely on if you do not carry it any further,
mindful awareness, discursive thoughts cannot you do not accumulate karma. You accumulate
accumulate karma. Could you explain that? karma when that thought of aversion leads to
the actual thought, Boy, I would really like to
Thrangu Rinpoche: The idea is that even as beat that person up. I would like to kill them. I
you maintain mindfulness and alertness, would like to abuse them. I would like to harm
thoughts of attachment, aversion, and bewilder- them in all kinds of ways. Then you really
ment will still continue to arise because the accumulate karma! [laughter]
habits that produce their arising have not been
completely eradicated yet. Nevertheless, if you Question: The normal or the conventional
have some recognition of your minds nature, method of distinguishing sentient beings is by
then when any one of those thoughts arises, you their physical basis, the bodies of sentient be-
will experience the minds nature in that ings. If what we take as a physical object is
thought, because the minds nature is also the merely lucidity and emptiness, what is it that
nature of that thought. The thought is the dis- distinguishes different sentient beings?
play of that mind. Therefore, when you experi-
ence that, whatever the initial content of that Thrangu Rinpoche: What distinguishes sen-
thought may be, it is liberated. It will not pro- tient beings are their individual minds, which
duce a second thought that is connected with it. are not objects of your experience and, therefore,

50 SHENPEN SEL
are not projections of your mind. The bodies of Question: If I do not have time during the day to
sentient beings are things you can see and are, meditate, and during the evening after I help my
therefore, projections of your mind. wife put the children to bed, although I am
feeling a little tired, is it better to go ahead and
Question: Is there a space that minds exist in? rest or to try to work through that feeling of
tiredness and try to practice at
Thrangu Rinpoche: Basically least for fifteen or twenty min-
what happens is that beings who It is not so utes?
have performed enough similar important to
actions or actions performed in Thrangu Rinpoche: It depends
common with other beings will make a heroic on exactly how tired you are. If
come to experience the world in a effort on a given you are just slightly exhausted
way that is similar enough that it then try to meditate. But if you
can be an agreed upon reality.
day when you are utterly exhausted then go to
For example, you and I basically are exhausted, to sleep. [laughter]
are likely to agree upon what we
see in this room because we have
force yourself to Question: That was my main
gathered the types of karma practice, as it is question, where is the . . . ?
which cause us to have similar to practice
types of physical perceptions. Translator: Wheres the dividing
steadily over a line? [laughter]
Question: Sometimes when I am long time
meditating, how I perceive it is Thrangu Rinpoche: When you
as a major denseness. It does not try and it is hopeless, it is time to
necessarily feel like fatigue, and I even feel it on go to sleep. [laughter]
the top of my head. It is just a denseness. Ill
conk out and then Ill come back. Eventually, by Question: I had read that one should not ex-
just persisting, it leaves. Right now there is a haust oneself with things that are not going to be
residue of denseness, and I call it a fog, and I of benefit, but to me practice is of great benefit,
want to know what is that? so that was the point of my question.

Thrangu Rinpoche: This is really not uncom- Rinpoche: The most important thing to under-
mon, which is why it was so easy for me [the stand about exertion in practice is that the long
translator] to ask the question, because it is a term is more important than the short term. It is
one-word explanation. That kind of a feeling of not so important to make a heroic effort on a
denseness is one of a class of meditation experi- given day when you are exhausted, to force
ences that is under the general category of yourself to practice, as it is to practice steadily
torpor. over a long time.

SHENPEN SEL 51
Creation and Completion

Cultivating Lucidity: No Meditation


And No Distraction
Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen that approach one takes awareness rather than
Thrangu Rinpoches commentary on Creation mind as the path, there is the notion that it is
and Completion. not, strictly speaking, necessary to precede the
practice of dzogchen with the practice of

S
o far, in discussing the completion stage, I shamatha. However, in that case the practice
have talked principally about one aspect depends entirely upon an authentic recognition
of it. We could say that there are two of the minds nature. Although the instructions
aspects to the completion stage, two things we for generating that recognition in the dzogchen
are trying to accomplish tradition are especially
in it. One is to discover or profound, they will not
generate some tranquil- necessarily work for
lity or stability in the someone who has not yet
mind. The other is to produced a stable state of
generate clarity or lucid- shamatha. Therefore,
ity in the mind. The while it is theoretically
practice of generating not necessary to precede
stability in the mind is the practice of dzogchen
shamatha or tranquillity with the practice of
meditation and the prac- shamatha, practically
tice of generating clarity speaking, for most people
or lucidity in the mind is it is helpful to begin with
vipashyana or insight shamatha practice, which
meditation. The signifi- will enable one to gener-
cance of shamatha is that ate a clear recognition.
for as long as your mind is Now I am going to talk
not at rest there will be about the other aspect of
no clarity. There will be the completion stage,
no lucidity. Therefore, it which is the vipashyana
seems necessary to prac- aspect, the cultivation of
tice shamatha before one lucidity. In this text, the
engages in the practice of practice of cultivating
vipashyana. As I have lucidity is said to have
explained however, in two main points: no
certain traditions, espe- meditation and no dis-
cially in certain aspects of traction. By no medita-
dzogchen or great perfec- tion, we mean that there
tion practice, because in is no fabrication in the

52 SHENPEN SEL
practice. One is not thinking, I am meditating nition was experienced under the dramatic
on this. One is not attempting to determine circumstances of receiving the pointing out from
what one discovers in meditation. One does not their guru. Therefore, we take a slightly differ-
tell oneself that the mind is empty and that, ent approach in the Kagyu tradition. We use two
therefore, one will discover emptiness. One does situations of mindstillness (the mind at rest)
not tell oneself that the mind is lucid and that, and occurrence (the presence of thought within
therefore, one will discover lucidity. In this the mind)to enable students through their own
practice you simply see your mind as it is, and in exploration to come to a decisive recognition of
that way you come to know it as it the minds nature. In this way,
is. This lack of fabrication in the students are taught first to look
practice is what is meant by no
This lack of at the mind when it is still, and to
meditation. On the other hand, it fabrication in see how it is, then to look at the
is possible that this might be mind when there is the occur-
misunderstood. When we say no
practice is what rence of thought, and to see how
meditation, you might understand is meant by no it is then. In that way the stu-
this to mean allowing the state of dents through their own explora-
meditation
ordinary distraction to continue. tion come to really know what the
Therefore, along with no medita- mind is like when it is at rest and
tion one has to say no distraction. No distrac- what the mind is like when it is moving, when
tion means that, although there is no fabrication there is the occurrence of thought. This leads to
of some kind of meditative state or realization, a more stable recognition of the minds nature. It
there is a maintenance of mindfulness and is one which will not disappear, or even if it
alertness. The function of mindfulness and does, one which can be easily brought back by
alertness in this context is to protect one from the student because they gained it through their
being distracted from the recognition of the own exploration. In the Kagyu tradition, the
minds nature. In that state one simply stays basic format of presentation of the minds nature
with the direct experience of whatever arises in is called stillness, occurrence, and awareness.
the mind. Given this approach or method, some students
There are two ways that this meditation can will recognize the minds nature and some will
be presented. One way is through a sudden not, but it is still the most stable and best way to
pointing-out of the nature of the mind to the proceed. The basic idea of this approach is
students. In this, one attempts to directly point expressed in this text when it says, To stay with
out to students the nature of their minds. This whatever arises is the path of all siddhas, which
could be in the context of, for example, pointing means that resting in an unfabricated way, an
out the nature of thought. When this is done, awareness of what arises in your mind is the key
then some students have a recognition of the point. That is the path by means of which all
minds nature and some do not. Those who have have attained siddhi.
a recognition are recognizing the minds nature There is one root or one point behind all of
as it is, to some extent. But the recognition, as these different approaches to meditation. His-
authentic as it is, is in some ways adulterated by torically, in Tibet the vajrayana spread at differ-
conceptualization and, therefore, remains an ent times. Therefore there arose different lin-
experience rather than a realization. The prob- eages, each having their own specific emphasis
lem with this is that, because the recognition is and instruction. For example, there is the
incomplete and imperfect, while, as far as it Middle Way school, which also teaches this
goes, it is authentic, it will at some point vanish. approach to meditation that arose both during
Vanishing like that, the student does not know the earlier and subsequent propagations of the
how to bring it back, because their initial recog- dharma. Then there is the school called pacifi-

SHENPEN SEL 53
cation, which is the school of Padampa Sangye, tion, as I have explained, when a thought arises,
who came to Tibet from India three times and you look directly at that thought and in that way
each time taught something slightly different you directly experience the emptiness which is
from the last time. So even within the school of the nature of that thought. However, in the
pacification, there are three different ap- nying thig tradition, when a thought arises,
proaches taught. Then, connected with that rather than looking directly at the nature of the
there is the approach called severance, which thought, you look directly at the nature of that
was taught by the great female disciple of which recognizes the thought arising. This is
Padampa Sangye, Machig Labdron, who was obviously a very subtle distinction, but the idea
Tibetan. Based on the instructions she had is that by looking directly at the nature of that
received from him, and even more so by her own which recognizes the thoughts arising, you
spontaneous correct understanding of the directly encounter dharmata, the nature of all
prajnaparamita sutras, she started her own things. The slight difference between these two
school, which has its distinct approaches is that in the former
approach to meditation. Then instance there is a slight sense of
there is the mahamudra tradition, By looking your awareness being directed
which was taught most typically directly at the outward at thought, and in the
by the Lords Marpa, Milarepa, second there is a slight sense of it
and Gampopa. Then there is the
nature of that being directed inward back at
dzogchen tradition, which was which recognizes itself. At this point the way you
taught principally by Guru are relating to this distinction is
Rinpoche and by Vimalamitra.
the thoughts theoretical understanding. It is
Within dzogchen there are two arising, you not difficult to understand intel-
basic approaches, one of which directly lectually the difference between
would be called the common or these two ways of looking, but the
ordinary dzogchen, which is encounter main thing, since this is medita-
very similar to mahamudra, and dharmata, the tion instruction, is to actually
the uncommon or extraordi- practice this. By doing so, you will
nary dzogchen, which is slightly nature of all gain experience of it. So whether
different. things you are looking at what arises or
The major distinction being looking at that which recognizes
drawn here is between all of what arises, in order to under-
these traditions, including common dzogchen, stand what these two things mean, you need to
and what is called uncommon dzogchen. actually have attempted them. Not just once but,
Dzogchen has three classes within it or three because of the profundity of this distinction, you
types of instruction. These are called the mind, need to do this again and again and again until
space, and instruction class. What is called you actually have a practical experience of it.
uncommon dzogchen refers to the instruction The meaning of all of this will become much
class, which is considered by that tradition to be more evident and seem much more relevant to
the highest level of instruction. Within that, you when you have actually experienced the
there is the essence of the instruction class, distinction between these two in your own
which is called the heart drop or nying thig practice, much more relevant and evident than
teachings. The distinction made in this text when it is simply stated as a remark about the
between the nying thig approach and the ap- difference in techniques of different traditions.
proach of these other meditative traditions is a The way to work with the kinds of instruc-
very subtle one, and refers to what you do when tions found in this text is to actually practice
a thought arises. In most traditions of medita- them; by practicing them you gain some experi-

54 SHENPEN SEL
ence of what they really refer to, what it is really that the indication of progress is that it takes
like. Then you can go back and study the text less effort not to be distracted. Therefore, what
again and see how your experience matches up is called nonmeditation, or no meditation,
with what you find in the text. In this way, by which is the final stage of meditation, is the
combining practical experience with the learning exhaustion of the need for any effort. So the term
you have gained from studying this and similar no meditation, in that context, means no need
texts, you will find that what you learn from this for intentional meditation. This is true because
text will actually become useful to you as a in the nature of mind or the nature of things
practitioner. It is in this way that the transmis- there is nothing to be meditated upon. However,
sion of instructions has been kept as a lineage of there is something to be gotten used to. When it
practical experience rather than simply being a is said that there is nothing to be meditated
lineage of transmitted informa- upon, it means that meditation
tion. upon the nature is not the fabri-
Next the text gives another
The indication of cation of any kind of specific
subtle distinction between the progress is that it meditation experience. As we saw
three ways in which thoughts before, it is not meditating or
become liberated, but because this
takes less effort pretending that that which exists
is so subtle, at this point there is not to be does not exist, or that that which
not much need to go through it.* It distracted does not exist, exists. It is simply
is better that you actually just seeing things as they are. Medita-
experience it and then you will tion on the nature of things is
know what it is talking about. Whether or not it simply seeing your mind as it is. In a sense you
is explained to you, once you experience this can say that there is no meditation on it; there is
liberation of thought, you will know it, you will no intentional meditation or contemplation.
understand it. However, there is a process of getting used to
Next the text talks about how to determine seeing it as it is and, therefore, there is a process
the degree of progress in meditation. In sum, it of cultivation or of training. In order that this
says that there is an external and an internal process continue, in order that there be progress
aspect to the samadhi that develops as you in meditation, it is of the utmost importance that
progress in practice. The external aspect, or you you not allow yourself to become distracted from
could think of it as the external sign of progress, the recognition of your minds nature, not only
is that you do not become distracted. The inter- during formal meditation sessions, but as much
nal sign is that not being in danger of distrac- as possible in post-meditation as well. So when
tion, you can relax. What this means is simply you are eating, when you are lying down, when
that as a beginner, in order not to become dis- you are walking, when you are sitting around,
tracted, you have to exert a tremendous effort. when you are talking, whatever you do, you
As you go on, it will take less and less effort to should try to maintain mindfulness of the funda-
not be distracted. Basically, what is being said is mental nature.
Next the text gives two sets of parallel in-
*Editors note: Rinpoche is referring here to the following structions. The first comes from the dzogchen
passage from the root text: according to Vimalamitra,
liberation without a sequence of thoughts is like a child
tradition and the second comes from the Kagyu
looking around in wonderment in a temple: There is no mental mahamudra tradition. The instruction from the
construct of good or bad made from the initial perception. dzogchen tradition gives the essential point that
Liberation in its own ground of whatever thought arises is like
the snakes knot disappearing in space: As soon as it appears makes this instruction section of the ati yoga or
it disappears without need of a remedy. Liberation in the dzogchen teachings distinct, which is distin-
realization that thoughts are neither helpful nor harmful is
guishing between mind and awareness. In the
like a burglar raiding an empty house: Whether it occurs or
not, there is neither loss nor gain. context of that tradition, the term mind is used

SHENPEN SEL 55
to refer to what we would normally call thought or being terrified. It is that kind of intense
or deluded mind. Awareness is used to refer to nonconceptual experience. When you have
the innate nonconceptual cognitive lucidity of recognized this, when awareness arises in your
the mind. The point made in this tradition is experience and you recognize awareness as
that it is of great importance in meditation to awareness, then you will have certainty about
properly distinguish between what all of this means. This is very
these two in your meditation different from a theoretical pre-
experience. Since mindfulness, as
When the faculty sentation. As mentioned in the
a mental process, is a function of you are text, what he is explaining is very
mind, therefore, intentional different from a theoretical pre-
mindfulness itself cannot recog-
experiencing in sentation or a scholarly presenta-
nize the nature of mind. Mindful- meditation has tion of the difference between
ness, as useful as it is, has some no object other mind and awareness. This is
dregs or impurities in it because practical advice. It is like the
it has some conceptual content. than itself, hearts blood of the lineage that
The actual recognition of the experiences its makes this distinction. It is the
nature of mind is distinct from single key point of all of thisthis
mindfulness. It is a cognition
own nature as distinction between mind and
without object, a cognition that is luminosity, awarenessand so it is considered
recognizing or experiencing quite precious and rare. Therefore,
itself.
and has the at this point, one is admonished
To be precise about this characteristic of not to talk about this to those who
distinction between mind and have broken samaya or who are
light, brilliant
awareness, mindfulness can be of just big talkers about meditation.
two types. There is a kind of clarity, like a It is fine to talk about this to
conceptual or intentional heavy- lamp flame, like a people who actually practice
handed mindfulness that is a meditation, but a distinction needs
function of mind, and then there bright light, then to be made between those who
is a kind of subtle mindfulness that is awareness practice and those who just want
that is characteristic of aware- to acquire jargon that they can
ness as well. The distinction is then use to impress others. Fi-
that the mindfulness that you are using in your nally, Jamgn Lodro Thaye mentions that
meditation is incapable of recognizing the minds Ekajati* is watching. So that is the instruction
nature and tends to objectify. In other words, the from the tradition of ati yoga or dzogchen.
faculty you are employing in meditation objecti-
fies what it experiences. When it seems to be
experiencing something other than itself and
has, therefore, that sediment of
N ext are presented instructions from the
mahamudra tradition, the Kagyu tradition.
When in your practice you are attempting to
conceptualization, that is mind. When the fac- have a continuous recognition of dharmata, of
ulty you are experiencing in meditation has no the nature of your mind, the key point here is to
object other than itself, experiences its own be unfabricated. But in doing this, do not think
nature as luminosity, and has the characteristic that you need to try to force it. This point from
of light, brilliant clarity, like a lamp flame, like a the mahamudra tradition is, do not try to force
bright light, then that is awareness. The key the recognition of it. What will happen is that
point is that it has no object. Mind always has an you will have a momentary recognition of
object. Awareness does not have an object. The
*Editors note: A female dharmapala, Ekajati is the princi-
experience of awareness is like being frightened pal protector of the dzogchen teachings.

56 SHENPEN SEL
dharmata and then you will try to stick to it with superficially sound or seem very similar. One is
force and vigor. That will not help. It is actually the recognition or experience of emptiness, i.e.,
sufficient according to the teachers of the Kagyu a state of vipashyana. The second is a state of
tradition to have had that momentary glimpse of shamatha, and the third is a state of blank neu-
it. You do not need to try to prolong it because it trality. It seems it is possible to confuse these in
will not work anyway. If you try to prolong it, all practice, and now they are explained. The expe-
you will do is create a fabricated similitude of rience or recognition of emptiness is a direct
that experience. You cannot force it. In any experience of your awareness or by your aware-
instant or actual meditation on the nature of ness that is something that you cannot conceive
mind you are purifying the negative karma you of. You cannot actually say it is one thing or
have accumulated over innumerable eons. An another. You cannot contain it conceptually at
instant of meditation on the nature causes all of all. You cannot describe it to yourself; therefore,
your karmic winds and so on to enter the central it is inexpressible. This direct experience that is
channel. In short, there is no limit to the benefit utterly inexpressible and inconceivable is the
of this kind of recognition. experience of emptiness.
While you cannot force it, nevertheless this The experience of shamatha is an experience
kind of recognition of your own in which all of the agitation of
nature is the one thing that thought is completely pacified,
matters. In the Kagyu terminol- This direct and there is a limitless experience
ogy, it is the one thing which, if of peace and a limitless experience
known, frees all. Another term
experience that of stillness and tranquillity. It is
that goes with that is knowing is utterly like a body of water without
all, but missing out on the one. If waves. That is the experience of
you recognize your minds nature,
inexpressible and shamatha.
then that in itself is the recogni- inconceivable is The experience of neutrality is
tion of the essence of everything the experience of different from those two in that
else that is to be known. But if your faculties of mindfulness,
you do not recognize your minds emptiness alertness, and awareness are
nature, no matter how much else weak. There is a feeling of obscu-
you otherwise know about dharma, you are rity. It lacks recognition or direct experience and
missing the point. so is different from the experience of emptiness.
Next the text gives instructions for a method It is different from shamatha in that there is
of enhancing ones meditation practice that is some undercurrent of thought. In the state of
called mixing of awareness and space. Essen- neutrality, there is an undercurrent of thought
tially this consists of either looking into the that is very subtle, that distracts you, that you
middle of the sky or into the middle of a large recognize only after you have become distracted.
body of water such as an ocean and mixing your So if there is a feeling of basic stillness but you
awareness with where you are looking. By doing are still being distracted by some undercurrent,
this, and doing it mindfully with some vigor in that is neither emptiness nor shamatha, that is
your mindfulness, you will have an experience of neutrality.*
limitless awareness that is without substantial- Of these three states, the realization of
ity, awareness without center or limit.
Following that, the text addresses the ques- *Editors note: The translation of the root text begins, Three
things are said to pose the danger of misunderstanding:
tion of determining what is happening in your emptiness, calm abiding, and neutrality, which seems to
meditation. Specifically there is the possibility imply that all three are conditions of misunderstanding.
of mistaking any of the three meditation states However, if one continues to read the text, it will become clear
that the danger is of confusing neutrality for either emptiness
for one another. There are three things that or shamatha.

SHENPEN SEL 57
emptiness is what we are attempting to achieve, The reason why anger is used as an example is
but shamatha is also acceptable, especially if that, because it is the most vivid, it is the easiest
that is what you are attempting to practice. If klesha to recognize. When a thought of anger
you are trying to practice shamatha, then a state vividly arises in your mind, which means the
of shamatha itself is not regarded thought of anger will have some
as a defect, although a distinction intensity to it and, therefore, be
needs to be made between a state There is a easy to apprehend, look directly at
of shamatha and a state of real- it. Looking at it directly does not
ization. However, the third of
particular variety mean distancing yourself from it
these states, the blank neutrality of neutrality and looking at it theoretically or
in which the undercurrent is where you have conceptually. When you look at
functioning, needs to be rectified. kleshas from a distance, looking at
The way to rectify that is to a feeling of them conceptually, you are consid-
recognize it and to strengthen or dense obscurity ering the characteristics and
tighten up your awareness, to contents of the thought, so in that
put more effort into mindfulness
or thickness to sense there seems to be something
and more effort into alertness your mind, like there. You have an idea of whom
and into awareness. There is a you are angry at, how you feel
particular variety of neutrality
being in some about them, and so on. That is not
where you have a feeling of dense kind of fog. That looking directly at it. If you look at
obscurity or thickness to your it nakedly or directly with nothing
can be dispelled
mind, like being in some kind of in between that which is looking
fog. That can be dispelled by by vigorously and that which is looked at, then
vigorously breathing out all the breathing out all you will see the nature of it rather
stale air in your body and then than there appearing to be some-
breathing in. Other things such the stale air in thing there. When you look at it
as the verbal repetition of man- your body and directly and rest within that
trasnot the mental repetition looking without fabrication, with-
of mantras, but the actual use of
then breathing in out attempting to tell yourself
speech to repeat themand anything about the anger, then the
sometimes physical movement can dispel this heavy-handed quality of the anger dissolves on
feeling of dense obscurity or thickness of mind. the spot and the thought is seen to have no
Having recognized the presence of neutrality benefit or harm. It no longer has any kind of
in your meditation, it is necessary to dispel it, negative energy to it, so it neither helps nor
and there are steps to this. The first is learning harms.
to distinguish between neutrality and the other The text concludes with some instruction for
two states, especially between neutrality and daily practice, different sorts of things one can
shamatha, but also between neutrality and do throughout the day. They are not that difficult
insight. The second step is learning to recognize to understand so I am going to stop here. If you
it when it occurs. The third is learning how to have any questions, please ask.
get rid of it.
Sometimes the state of neutrality afflicts our Question: Two questions. One, you spoke about
meditation but at other times our meditation is a nun in this tradition . . . Machig Labdron?
impeded not by neutrality but by the presence of
actual kleshas. So next the text explains how to Translator: She wasnt a nun.
deal with the kleshas that arise in meditation.
The klesha used as an example here is anger. Question: She was a sky dancer? What was the

58 SHENPEN SEL
distinction there between the teachings and her can call a thought, an experience of anger, a
own direct experience? feeling of anger, when you look right at it, there
is nothing there. Therefore, it is called the unity
Thrangu Rinpoche: The difference between of clarity and emptiness. Clarity is appearance
Machigs teachings and the teachings which came or experience that has [in reality] no substantial
from India that she received, are that the teach- existence. Thoughts are all the same. They are
ings of pacification, which came just like water bubbles. You see
from India, take the approach of them, but then there is nothing
pacifying the thought and delu- The practice of there.
sion and kind of letting it settle
down. Whereas Machigs ap-
severance Question: In the sutra tradition
proach, called severance, is very involves not of the middle way, are there
aggressive. Not aggressive in a analytical meditations which
pacifying
bad way, but aggressive as when specifically reveal the luminous
we say aggressive treatment of thoughts, but nature of mind? And if that is so,
something. It is just slicing actually bringing what are those analytical medita-
through thoughts. Not waiting for tions?
them to settle down but slicing up the most
through them or destroying them. difficult thoughts, Thrangu Rinpoche: Not di-
You can tell by the word sever- rectly, because in analytical
ance. The words pacification
bringing them up meditation you are always con-
and severance describe the and cutting cerned with the maintenance and
difference. The practice of sever- cultivation of some kind of convic-
ance involves not pacifying
through them tion. Therefore it is very indirect.
thoughts, but actually bringing up It takes a very long time. If you
the most difficult thoughts, bringing them up persisted with the maintenance and refinement
and cutting through them. In the practice of of your conviction about the nature of mind long
severance you work especially with fear. The enough, then eventually there could be a discov-
way you do it is that you go to places where you ery of the minds innate lucidity, but it is not
feel unsafe. Typically, one goes to charnel directly pointed out in the sutra system.
grounds to practice. You get really, really scared,
and then you cut through it. Question: Why is it that yidam practices are
done by accomplished realized beings and why
Question: The second question is about when are empowerments given, such as the
you were talking about the arising of thoughts Kalachakra, which are so extensive and detailed
and having the direct experience of them. Per- that it would be very hard for me or other people
sonally, if anger comes up, then the next feeling like me to actually do?
or thought that comes up is guilt. Do you just
keep on looking at them as they keep on arising? Translator: Those are two very different ques-
tions I am asking right? You want to know why
Thrangu Rinpoche: It does not matter. While people who have already attained enlightenment
the thought of anger is present, you can look continue to do yidam practice and you want to
directly at the thought of anger, or if it is suc- know why empowerments for yidam practice are
ceeded by a thought of guilt, you can look at the given to people who are unlikely to ever do that
thought of guilt. In either case, when you look at yidam practice? Okay.
a thought, what you discover is that, although
there is something you can experience that you Thrangu Rinpoche: In answer to your first

SHENPEN SEL 59
question, there are many different types of you can immediately fly in the sky, or that
teachers, and they are all not necessarily at the through receiving an empowerment you become
same level, so it would be difficult to give one intoxicated with some kind of mysterious spiri-
answer for why they would all continue to do tual drunkenness. It is simply that having re-
these practices. In the case of some of them, they ceived the empowerment, something changes.
do them because they still have some distance to There will be at least a little bit of an increase in
go on the path, and so they continue to practice your faith and devotion, a little bit of an increase
for their own benefit, to expand in your diligence. These changes
their experience and realization. in you are the principal blessing
In the case of others who have Normally when or benefit of the empowerment
already attained supreme siddhi, an empowerment process. For example, many
who in fact may be fully awakened people have told me that they
buddhas, then if they continue to
is given, the were previously unable to under-
do formal practice, they do it as function of it is stand or settle on the validity of
an example to others, to show the Buddhism, but then for one rea-
importance of formal practice.
. . . to transmit son or another they received the
In answer to your second the blessing of Kalachakra empowerment from
question, the giving of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
dharma through
empowerments really has two thereafter and ever since have
aspects to it. There is what is the vehicle of been intensely involved in prac-
called actual or ultimate that specific tice. That is an instance of the
empowerment, and then there is blessing of empowerment. It is
what is called the external or ceremony not that they are practicing
symbolic empowerment. In the Kalachakra necessarily, but
case of an actual empowerment, nowadays what because of that blessing they are practicing
we would call an extraordinary empowerment, dharma.
what is happening is that the student actually
recognizes on the spot the wisdom that that Question: In the sudden pointing-out of the
empowerment is designed to communicate. In nature of mind versus the stillness, occurrence,
that case, that is the fullest or most extraordi- and awareness approach, you refer to the second
nary instance of empowerment. It is not particu- as being specifically the Kagyu approach. I was
larly that it is a different type or ceremony of just wondering if there is some flexibility in
empowerment; it is a specific instance of empow- terms of how specific teachers deal with specific
erment. students?
Normally when an empowerment is given,
the function of it is not only to empower people Thrangu Rinpoche: Yes. There are different
to do specific practices but to transmit the texts composed by different teachers, and teach-
blessing of dharma through the vehicle of that ers today follow these different texts and, there-
specific ceremony. In that spirit you might take fore, guide their students slightly differently.
the empowerment of Kalachakra or of
Chakrasamvara or of Hevajra, or of any other Question: In the root text, three things are
major or minor empowerment. The basic process said to pose the danger of misunderstanding.
of what is essentially the same, which is that What does danger refer to here?
some kind of blessing of dharma is actually
entering into you. When it is says that the bless- Translator: Maybe it is a little unclear in the
ing of dharma enters into you, this does not English. What it says in the Tibetan is there is
mean that through receiving an empowerment the possibility of mistaking one of these for

60 SHENPEN SEL
another. The word that is translated as danger before?
here means it is a possible thing that might
happen. Thrangu Rinpoche: The ten winds are the
energies of your physical body that enable your
Question: What are the ten winds? physical body to do all the things it does. The
karmic wind is actually what you breathe in and
Thrangu Rinpoche: There are the five main out. The point of all of this is that the karmic
and five minor energies or winds of the body. The wind, which you breathe in and out, has a little
five major ones are the winds which govern the bit of wisdom wind, a very small amount of
principal physical processes: the digestive wisdom wind mixed with it all the time. There-
wind; the eliminating wind, which is con- fore, especially at certain times, there is a pres-
nected with going to the bathroom; the upward ence of wisdom wind in your breathing. Through
moving wind; the pervasive wind, which the practice of meditation in general and
enables you to move your limbs and so on; and through certain specific processes or techniques
the life wind or prana wind, which is the one you can cause the karmic wind aspect of this to
that keeps you alive, keeps you in your body. be transformed into wisdom wind. That is the
idea.
Question: When the winds enter the central
channel, is it one or all of them which enter? Question: As the breath comes in or . . . ?

Thrangu Rinpoche: There are two mentions of Thrangu Rinpoche: Normally as the breath is
all of this in our text. When it says the ten held, which is why there is the practice of hold-
winds become workable, it means that as a sign ing the breath. Here it talks about this also
of practice they start to function in an ideal way. occurring as a natural result of meditative
Generally speaking, the karmic energy or wind realization. Some people have the experience, if
flows through the two side channels, the ones on they develop an extraordinary state of shamatha,
the right and left of the central channel. The of not having to breathe for a while.
wind or energy that flows in the central channel
are wisdom winds, not karmic winds. Through Question: In the text there is a discussion of
the cessation of the flowing of winds through the breathing OM, AH, HUNG, and I wanted to know
right and left channels, which is the bringing of which is recited on the out, the pause, and the
the winds into the central channel, there is a in-breath.
transformation of karmic wind into wisdom
wind. This is what is referred to when it talks Thrangu Rinpoche: In this text, when you
about the karmic wind being brought into the breathe out it is HUNG. In between breathing
central channel. This occurs as a natural result out and breathing in the next time, it is AH. So it
of meditation, and there are also specific meth- is actually held out rather than held in. Then
ods for doing this. when you breathe in, it is OM. Sometimes it is
different.
Question: I have read some things about the I would like to thank you for your intense
kundalini process, kundalini shakti,* and I do enthusiasm for this text, and for giving me the
not know how to talk about the same things in opportunity to explain it to you as best as I
Buddhist terms. But you mentioned the karmic could. I would like to apologize for the brevity of
winds, the wisdom winds . . . ? How does this my explanation, which was obviously required by
relate to the five major winds that you named the brevity of the time we had available. We will
now dedicate the merit.
*Editors note: The questioner is referring to a form of Hindu
yoga.

SHENPEN SEL 61
The Cultivation of Bodhicitta
And Taking and Sending
The main part of this escapes this constant round
teaching is based on a of terror and that, if what
teaching of His Holiness sages and religious leaders
Tendzin Gyatso, the Four- of all ages have told us is
teenth Dalai Lama, given true, there may even be
at the Masonic Temple on worse to come, worlds in
Wilshire Boulevard in Los which our credit cards hold
Angeles in 1984. no sway, where there is not
a friendly voice to call and

W
hen we look no family to go home to
around us and when we reflect honestly
see the great on all of this and stop
pain and anxiety of life ignoring and suppressing
lived without true under- these thoughts, and when
standing; when we reflect we apply these thoughts to
deeply on the fears that all ourselves and to our own
beings carry hidden in the particular situations, it
deep recesses of their gives rise to great renun-
heartswhich they are ciation of the vanity of
often unwilling to admit confused existence and to
even to themselves for fear the attendant willingness
that doing so would sap to quit chasing exclusively
the confidence or the false after unreliable baubles of
bravado that enables them happiness and enjoyment
to push forward blindly in life in the only way in the external world and to turn ones vision
they know howand especially when we reflect inward in order to find and extirpate the root of
on the dangerous and painful vicissitudes of a misery and suffering and to find the true and
world that in one moment is peaceful, and in the reliable source of peace and happiness.
next full of violence, pain, and grief, full of lives When we think of all of this carefully with
shredded and torn apart by forces beyond ones respect to ourselves, it gives rise to great revul-
control; when we reflect on the blood in the sion and renunciation, but when we reflect on all
streets and the smashed skulls, or when we of this with respect to othersrealizing how
reflect on the ever-changing display of love and blind and helpless sentient beings are in the face
romance as it degenerates slowly into broken of such intolerable sufferingand quit ignoring
dreams, anger, strife, and hatred; when we and suppressing such thoughts, then it leads
reflect on the lonesome, the poor, the aging, cold either to further ignorance and callousness, or it
and devastated, dying mass of sentient exist- leads to great compassion. Further ignorance
ence, and we remember that no ignorant being and callousness lead only to diminished intelli-
62 SHENPEN SEL
gence, clumsy and vicious living, and in the end all the stages of the paths and levels on the way
to great misery. Therefore, there is no advan- to enlightenment and the development of
tage or merit in it for anyone. mahamudra and dzogchen are nothing more than
On the other hand, in great the fruition of this intention and
compassion for suffering sentient training.
beings there is great advantage The generation Sometimes, especially when
and immense merit. Compassion there are rough spots in our path,
of this altruistic
based on affection for sentient we may find that our unspoken
beings and the pain of seeing intention to intention is really simply to es-
them suffer leads one to generate become cape the misery of cyclic exist-
the aspiration to liberate them ence, or in any particular situa-
from suffering, which in turn enlightened and tion, the misery of that situation.
leads to the intention to do what- perseverance in At those times, while continuing
ever is necessary to do that, even to practice the disciplines that
if it means turning the whole
the training that lead to individual liberation, it is
purpose of ones life around to enables one to extremely important to continue
becoming a support to the single to generate this enlightened
project of attaining the wisdom
do so are the intention and not to give up on
and skillful means necessary to entire path of sentient beings, not to give up or
assist sentient beings to their buddhahood abandon the intention to assist all
own liberation. This generation of beings to liberation. For as the
the altruistic intention to attain great Tsong Khapa wrote, If the
enlightenment leads to kind and compassionate thought definitely to leave cyclic existence is not
activity in the service of those who suffer and, conjoined with the generation of a complete
therefore, to the temporary amelioration of aspiration to highest enlightenment, it does not
their condition and ultimately to their libera- become a cause of the marvelous bliss of unsur-
tion. This leads to less ignoring and less turning passed enlightenment. Thus, the intelligent
away and narrowing of the focus of ones mind, should generate the supreme altruistic intention
and in turn to more expansive and less obscured to become enlightened.
awareness and hence to greater sensitivity and
intelligence. Thus the generation of the altruis-
tic intention to attain enlightenment and
buddhahoodthe generation of bodhicittais
W hat is an altruistic mind of enlightenment
or bodhicitta? It actually consists of two
aspects. The aspiration to bring about others
what the Dalai Lama refers to as enlightened welfare is the essential cause of the development
self-interest, in which there is great benefit for of bodhicitta. The recognition that one can only
everyone. bring about others permanent welfare by first
In fact, the generation of this altruistic removing all of ones own ignorance through
intention to become enlightened and persever- obtaining buddhahoodand the aspiration to do
ance in the training that enables one to do so sois the second aspect. Thus, a main mental
are the entire path of buddhahood. The aversion consciousness that has as a cause an aspiration to
that we develop towards cyclic existence, the affect others welfare which is accompanied by a
qualities of revulsion and renunciation that we wish for ones own enlightenment is an altruistic
cultivate, the refuge in the three jewels and the mind of enlightenment.
three roots, and the disciplines of moral con- But can it be established that we can even
duct, meditation, and study that we accept and attain enlightenment? That which prevents the
undertake are the foundation for the generation attainment of enlightenment are the veils, the
of and training in this altruistic intention. And kleshas or afflictive emotions, which are a kind of

SHENPEN SEL 63
outer veil, and the cognitive obscurations of have come to such a state,
mind, sometimes referred to as the obstructions Generate the supreme altruistic intention to
to omniscience, which consist fundamentally of become enlightened.
the ignorance that conceives of inherent exist-
ence and the dualistic clinging that flows from Every sentient beingevery being with
that conception. It is in the na- mindregardless of how small,
ture of things that if you have two including bugs and even micro-
oppositesfor instance, hot and Because this scopic animal life, wants happi-
coldif you increase one the ness and wants to avoid suffering.
other will diminish. The same is wisdom realizing Yet limitless numbers of sentient
true of our minds. Obscured emptiness can beings are bound in the sufferings
ignorant consciousness that of samsara due to actions that are
conceives of inherent existence
be increased motivated by emotional afflictions,
and the wisdom consciousness limitlessly, finally which in turn are based on dualis-
realizing emptiness are opposites. tic perception and dualistic cling-
Because the wisdom conscious-
overcoming ing. Therefore, beings are carried
ness realizing emptiness has a ignorance by the four powerful currents of
valid foundation, as one increases entirely, it is birth, aging, sickness, and death,
ones knowledge of the under- which are brought about by the
standing of the emptiness of established that tight bonds of action (karma).
inherent existence, the obscured enlightenment is Good and bad actions are brought
ignorance factors of ones own about by the conception of oneself
consciousness diminish. Because
achievable as inherently existentthe false
this wisdom realizing emptiness view that takes what is transitory
can be increased limitlessly, finally overcoming as a permanent I. This misconception of the
ignorance entirely, it is established that enlight- nature of oneself comes about through the thick
enment is achievable. Through taking this logic darkness of ignorance which conceives that
to heart and acting upon it, one develops a mind other phenomena, ones physical and mental
aspiring towards the enlightenment of a buddha. aggregates, inherently exist. It is through this
The main aspect of this aspiration is to train process of causation that beings are born in
in developing an attitude of mind that is seeking cyclic existence limitlessly and suffer. Thinking
or aspiring to bring about others welfare. Tsong about this process of causation with respect to
Khapa writes: ourselves, we generate renunciation, the wish to
get out of cyclic existence; thinking about it with
(All ordinary beings) are carried by the regard to others, we generate compassion for
continuum of the four powerful currents, others.
Are tied with the tight bonds of actions difficult When bodhicittathe altruistic intention to
to oppose, become enlightenedis cultivated in medita-
Have entered into the iron cage of apprehending tion, it is usually done so by two streams of
self (inherent existence), teaching: the seven-fold cause and effect quintes-
Are completely beclouded with the thick sential instructions and the instructions on
darkness of ignorance, equalizing and switching of self and other. When
these two streams of instruction are combined,
Are born into cyclic existence limitlessly, and in the meditation is particularly powerful.
their births The first step in this combined practice is to
Are tortured ceaselessly by the three sufferings. develop equanimity. Imagine three different
Thinking thus of the condition of mothers who sentient beings in front of youa friend, an

64 SHENPEN SEL
enemy, and a neutral personand then inten- been extremely close to you. If it is not abso-
tionally generate the usual thoughts of desire, lutely logically certain, it is at least more likely
hatred, and a sense of neglect that you have for that over the course of lifetimes they have been
them. Then think about why you desire the in such close friendly relationships with you.
friend, why you hate the enemy, and why you The third step is to develop mindfulness of
neglect the neutral person. In time it will be- their kindnessthe friends kindness, the
come clear to you that you hold these attitudes enemys kindness, the neutral persons kind-
because the friend helps you and the enemy nesswhen they were your mothers. For this,
harms. But if you think more carefully, you will imagine your mother in this life in front of you
see that a friend in an earlier part of ones life and reflect on how she took care of you with such
can easily become an enemy at a later time, and great care and kindness and sustained you when
vice versa. Moreover, in the course of a you were a little child: how she bore you with
beginningless continuum of lifetimes, there is no discomfort in her body, suffered the pangs of
certainty that particular beings have either been birth, nursed you, cleaned you, dressed you,
just friends or just enemies. Thus you will come taught you to walk and to talk, introduced you to
to see clearly that your friend has been or could the world and educated you, and loved you in so
become your enemy and that your enemy has many unthinkable ways, valuing you as much as
been or could become your friend, or more than she valued her own
and that the neutral person can life, willing even to give her own
also have been or might become Traditionally, it is life for you if necessary. Then
both friend and enemy. Thinking extend the understanding of this
taught that you
in this way, one comes to see that kindness to every other sentient
there is no reason to get too should recognize being.
excited one way or another to- all beings as The fourth step is to develop
wards these beings, and in this special mindfulness of kindness.
way one accomplishes equanimity. having been your This is to reflect that sentient
The next step then is to recog- mother in beings have been kind to us and
nize all beings individually as the are kind to us not only when they
best of friends. Traditionally, it is
previous lifetimes have been our friends, but that,
taught that you should recognize irrespective of being our friends,
all beings as having been your mother in previ- they have been either directly or indirectly
ous lifetimes and as having been extremely extremely kind. For instance, in our ordinary
closely connected to you. lives, no matter what we use to sustain our life
There are said to be four modes of birth: birth food, clothing, shelter, and so forth, medicine,
from a womb, birth from an egg, birth from heat educational opportunities, protection, etc.
and moisture, and instantaneous birth, as when these all come to us by way of the kindness of
one is born in a pure realm. It is necessary to other sentient beings. When one considers the
have a mother to be born from a womb or from an immense amount of intelligence and care that
egg, and since ones birth has been cyclic and has gone into crafting all the things we use and
beginningless, and therefore infinite in number, live amongst, down to the finest detailsthe
it is necessary to have had an infinite number of intelligence that created the washers, the spig-
mothers. Thinking in this way, reflect on the ots, the light bulbs, the garden hoses, the refrig-
three beings that you are visualizing in front of erators, elevators, computers, the air traffic
you, realizing or thinking that both the enemy routes, and so forthwhen we consider all of
and the neutral being have acted, therefore, over this intelligence and care, one sees that limitless
the course of many lifetimes, as ones own numbers of people have been indirectly very
mother and/or best friend, and that they have kind to us.

SHENPEN SEL 65
In order to attain happiness, liberation, and altruism, of one-pointed dedication to the wel-
buddhahood for ourselves and others, it is im- fare of others. Because the motivation of
portant to accumulate merit, which is done in hinayana practitioners is confined to self-libera-
relation to other sentient beings, especially tion, it does not take into account the totality of
when we help other sentient beings. Thus it is in existence, and therefore it is impossible for them
dependence on other sentient beings that we to develop omniscience with respect to all phe-
accumulate great merit, and without other nomena. Thus, other sentient beings are ex-
sentient beings it would be impossible to do so. tremely kind and extremely valuable in develop-
For instance, with regard to generosity, gifts ing samadhi and wisdom.
must be given to someone else. The ethics of Thus, without other sentient beings as ob-
refraining from harming others must be ob- jects of ones observation and activity, it would be
served in relation to other sentient beings. This impossible to engage in these powerful forms of
training that we are now engaged in, one-point- virtue. But then one might object that these
edly generating and strengthening an altruistic other beings do not necessarily have any motiva-
attitude, must be done in relation to and depen- tion to be kind or to help one, and that, there-
dent upon other sentient beings. fore, there is no reason for devel-
And of course, other sentient oping a sense of their kindness.
beings are needed for the practice
It is in However, if that were the case,
of patience. In this regard, of dependence on then, since the dharmathe
course, enemies especially pro- other sentient dharma of realization, which is
vide a great service for us. This is the cessation of suffering, and
explained very beautifully in beings that we scriptural dharma, which outlines
Shantidevas Guide to the accumulate great correct paths to enlightenment
Bodhisattvas Way of Life. has no motivation to help one,
Moreover, the great effort and merit, and then it would be inappropriate to
exertion of bodhisattvas come without other cherish the dharma, to value it,
about as a consequence of their and to make offerings to it. There-
taking cognizance of the limitless
sentient beings it fore, whether the other person or
types of suffering of limitless would be sentient being has a motivation to
sentient beings. Thus it is on the help one does not make any
basis of other sentient beings that
impossible to do difference. If it helps one, then
they develop their great effort. that being or thing is to be valued
Similarly, the concentrated meditation and as being kind, and we should be mindful of that
wisdom of bodhisattvas is dependent upon their kindness.
concern for others. The fact that their medita- Shantideva raises the further objection that,
tive concentration and their wisdom become so though it might be the case that beings or objects
powerful is due to their being conjoined with the with no motivation to help us should still be
force of one-pointed altruism toward other cherished as being very kind to us, an enemy
beings. The great practitioners, the arhats and surely does not have a motivation to help and
arhatis, of the lesser vehiclethe hinayanaare does surely have a motivation to harm. So how
said to develop extraordinary meditative stabili- could one reflect on the kindness of enemies?
zation, which is a union of calm abiding and Shantideva answers that it is because a person
superior insight, of shamatha and vipashyana. has harmful intent toward us that they get the
However, through that union they can achieve name of enemy, but that it is precisely because
liberation from cyclic existence only for them- of that harmful intent and the actions that arise
selves. Why is that? Because their wisdom out of it that we have something with which to
consciousness is not enhanced with the factor of cultivate patience. Thus the enemy is very

66 SHENPEN SEL
helpful to us and provides a great service to us. herself to be important. This is natural in sam-
If we did not have enemies in the natural course sara, but we need to consider and reflect on the
of our lives, in order to learn to practice pa- state that this type of self-cherishing, self-
tience, we would have to go out and hire some centeredness, and self-importance has led us
enemies. Therefore, the enemy should be into. What a mess it has created. If from
thought of as being very kind to us. beginningless cyclic existence until now, we have
That is how we develop special mindfulness engaged in self-cherishing and it has brought us
of kindness. into such a mess, is it not then a terrible mistake
If sentient beings are helpful to us even when to continue this self-cherishing? Would it not be
they are enemies, then what need is there to say better to do something else? Especially when we
that they are helpful when they are kind? If even know that if we cherish others, we will achieve
enemies are kind when they cause harm, what limitless great merit, through the power of
need is there to say that friends are which we can achieve great
kind when they are helping us? exertion for the benefit of oth-
Now, it is always the better If we did not ers, which always redounds to
mode of behavior to repay the have enemies in our own benefit indirectly?
kindness one has received from Shantideva wrote that
othersto return something for the natural Gautama Buddha and we our-
their kindness. Thus the fifth step course of our selves were equal in the past in
is to develop the intention to repay being ordinary sentient beings.
the kindness of all sentient beings.
lives, in order to If we look into the reasons why
Then the next step is to equalize learn to practice we in our present state are
self and other. This equalizing is caught in the mess that we are
the realization that others are
patience, we inmentally, emotionally, politi-
equal to us in wanting happiness would have to go cally, socially, economically,
and in not wanting suffering. out and hire environmentallywhile
Within this context of both self and Gautama Buddha has gotten rid
others wanting happiness and not some of all faults and become a special
wanting suffering, what is the being endowed with all good
difference? We as individuals are only one, qualities, the reason that one finds is that
whereas others are infinite in number. Thus, for Gautama Buddha at a certain point gave up self-
anyone with true intelligence, the greater num- cherishing and began cherishing others and
ber of sentient beings is more important than the thereby proceeded to such a high and evolved
smaller number. Thus, it would be completely state, whereas we continue to do the opposite.
unsuitable for one to use others for ones own We neglect others welfare, while principally
purposes, while it would be completely and seeking only after our own, thereby propelling
entirely suitable and most correct to use oneself ourselves into further cyclic existence. When one
for others welfare. Thinking in this way, we reflects in this way on the disadvantages of self-
begin to cherish others. cherishing and the advantages of cherishing
Then the next step is to reflect on the disad- others, one proceeds to the next step of the
vantages of cherishing oneself. The state of actual thought of switching self and other.
ruination that we are currently in is due to the The name exchanging self and other or
fact that our conception of inherent existence of switching self and other is given to the process
ourselves and self-cherishing work together, the of switching ones own attitude of cherishing
one influencing and strengthening the other. It is oneself into an attitude of cherishing others and
these two that ruin us and spoil our lives. There the attitude of neglecting others into an attitude
is no one who does not consider himself or of neglecting oneself. So we begin to train our-

SHENPEN SEL 67
selves to do that. This is called exchanging self is inhaling others suffering and the causes of
and other. their suffering, and when one exhales, one
The next and tenth step is to take others imagines that one exhales ones own happiness
suffering within oneself, emphasizing compas- and the causes of happiness. In the process of
sion. When we think again and again about the these visualizations, one thinks that the suffer-
sufferings of sentient beings, all of whom we now ings of all sentient beings are in this way re-
consider to be extremely dear to us, we naturally lieved, and that they are thereby enriched and
develop a wish to relieve them of their suffering established in states of happiness and liberation,
and the causes of their suffering. It is helpful at and one does so with great joy.
this point to imagine all of these sufferings and Now at this point, this meditation is just
causes of suffering of other sen- imagination. If one wonders
tient beings and to draw them whether it is actually possible to
The name
into oneself in the form of black bring about others welfare in this
light, poison, weapons, or beings exchanging self way, then one should know that
of whom one is particularly and other . . . is what one is doing now is just
afraid. One draws them into imagination. But according to the
oneself and absorbs them fear- given to the Dalai Lama, at the point of actu-
lessly down into the very basis of process of ally developing bodhicitta it is
ones life. possible to actually bring about
The next step is to reflect on
switching ones the welfare of others.
these sentient beings who want own attitude of At this point one generates a
happiness but are bereft of happi- special resolve to take upon one-
ness, and through being moved by
cherishing self, and oneself alone, the burden
that situation to develop an oneself into an of bringing about others welfare
attitude of giving to other sen- attitude of and of relieving their suffering.
tient beings all of ones own One develops here a fantastic,
happiness and causes of happi- cherishing others strong, and unusual altruistic
ness in the form of physical and the attitude attitude, which is the willingness
happiness, resources, and roots of to take upon oneself the burden of
virtue that will bring happiness. of neglecting freeing all sentient beings from
One imagines that one is giving others into an suffering and of joining all sen-
other sentient beings ones own tient beings with happiness. One
good body, resources, potential
attitude of takes this upon oneself alone, so
for wealth, good health, and long neglecting that if there were not another
life, and all of ones roots of bodhisattva in all the world sys-
virtue. This giving of happiness
oneself tems of existence, one would still
can be done in the form of imagining light going be resolved to bring about the liberation of all
out from oneself, or as Shantideva suggests, in sentient beings single-handedly.
the form of imagining whatever they want going Developing this vast and unusual altruistic
out from oneself to them. If a person wants a attitude with great force induces the intention
lamp, in the form of a lamp; if a person needs to become enlightened for the benefit of all
clothing, in the form of clothing; and so on with others, which is the actual altruistic mind gen-
food, shelter, whatever. eration, the actual generation of bodhicitta. One
When one develops familiarity with this does this because, as the Buddha Shakyamuni
visualization and has practiced it for some time, said, The buddhas do not cleanse the ill deeds
one can coordinate the visualization with the of sentient beings with water nor relieve the
breath. When one inhales, one imagines that one suffering of sentient beings through touching

68 SHENPEN SEL
them with their hands, and the buddhas do not been removed, the next moment, which is a state
transfer their realization to others. Sentient of being devoid of the obstructions to omni-
beings are liberated through being taught. science, is the state of omniscient awareness of a
Sentient beings eventually escape cyclic exist- buddha. Therefore, it is through this type of
ence through their own effort through being thought that one generates an attitude, a deep
taught the truth. Thus one needs to prepare feeling or a deep thinking, that there is no other
oneself to teach others. But if the meaning, the way for oneself but to overcome the obstructions
doctrines, and the skillful means to omniscience and become a
that we need to understand in buddha. This mind, this attitude
order to teach others are obscured Sentient beings is called bodhicitta, the altruistic
to us, we cannot possibly teach mind of enlightenment.
others. Furthermore, what is to be
eventually When one meditates in this
taught to others must be some- escape cyclic way on these two streams of
thing that is going to help them instruction, over and over again,
and be of assistance to them
existence and reflects on their meaning
personally and individually. through their over and over again from the very
Therefore, one needs to know the depths of ones heart, one will
own effort
interests, the dispositions, the naturally generate a mind that
capabilities, and so forth of other through being wishes from the bottom of ones
beings, both in groups and indi- taught the truth. heart, day and night, to liberate
vidually, in fine detail. all beings from suffering and to
That which prevents one from Thus, one needs establish them in the state of
knowing in fine detail what needs to prepare buddhahood, and one will defi-
to be taught to others, and that nitely generate the indomitable
which prevents one from knowing
oneself to teach intention to attain buddhahood in
others interests and dispositions others order to do so.
in subtle detail, are the obstruc- When one cultivates ones
tions to omniscience, the cognitive mind in this way in meditation,
obscurations of mind. Thus bodhisattvas identify one cultivates it over the course of months and
as their real enemy their own obstructions to months, years and years, even over the course of
omniscience. Without overcoming the obstruc- many lifetimes. Though it may seem to take a
tions to omniscience there is no way to bring great deal of time, it is definitely the case that as
about the vast amount of help that is needed by this meditation is gradually cultivated, the mind
the vast ocean of sentient beings afflicted with is gradually transformed. When one generates
suffering. It is not sufficient to overcome the even a slight portion of this altruistic attitude,
kleshas, the afflictive obstructions to liberation one establishes a cause that will bring about
from cyclic existence; but, in order to overcome permanent happiness in the future. Even in this
the subtler predispositions that are established lifetime, ones strength of mind, ones will, and
in the mind by the afflictive obstructions, it is ones peace of mind will increase. Therefore, the
necessary to overcome those afflictive obstruc- cultivation of bodhicitta is something that is
tions themselves first. This establishes the helpful not only in the long run, but also in the
procedure of the path of first overcoming the sort run. So it is really worthwhile to make the
afflictive obstructions and then overcoming the attempt to cultivate bodhicitta, and to bend ones
obstructions to omniscience. efforts to this attempt.
When the obstructions to omniscience have

SHENPEN SEL 69
Cultivation of Bodhicitta and Taking and Sending
A summary of the seven-fold cause and effect quintessential instructions and
the instructions on equalizing and switching of self and other, based on a
teaching of His Holiness Tendzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

[1] Develop equanimity by contemplating the oneself for cherishing others and neglecting
equality of a friend, an enemy, and a neutral others for neglecting oneself.
person.
[9] Taking: Imagine
[2] Recognize all beings taking others suffering
individually as your into yourself in the form
mother in previous of black light, poison,
lifetimes and/or as your weapons, or frightening
best friend. beings, and absorb them
all fearlessly down into
[3] Develop mindfulness the very basis of your
of their kindness when life (on the inbreath).
they were your mother/
best friend. [10] Sending: Imagine
giving others your own
[4] Develop special good body, resources,
mindfulness of kind- potential for wealth,
nessby reflecting upon good health, and long
interdependence and life, and all of your roots
the six paramitas. of virtue in the form of
[5] Develop the inten- light or in the form of
tion to repay the kind- anything else they
ness of all sentient might want going out
beings. from yourself (on the
outbreath). In the
[6] Equalize self and process of these visual-
otherrealize that izations, think that the
others are equal to us in sufferings of all sentient
wanting happiness and in not wanting suffer- beings are in this way relieved.
ing, and that the happiness of all others
together is more important than our own. [11] Generate with great force the resolve to
take upon yourself, and yourself alone, the
[7] Reflect on the disadvantages of cherishing burden of bringing about the welfare and
oneself and the advantages of cherishing relieving the suffering of all other sentient
others. beings.

[8] Engender the actual thought of exchang- [12] Generate the intention to become en-
ing self and other, exchanging cherishing of lightened for the benefit of all others.

70 SHENPEN SEL
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SHENPEN SEL 71
Some people do not have any par ticularly preponderant kle
particularly sha and are not
klesha
ticularly involved with anything over
particularly
par tly unvir
overtly tuous. TThey
unvirtuous. hey are more afflicted
by the basic fundament
fundamentalal fixation on their own existence. Or Or,, they might be
afflicted by doubt and he sit
hesit ation. TThey
sitation. hey may always wonder whether such and
that. Or you might be afflicted by meaningle
such is like this, or like that. meaninglessss regret,
const antly regretting things, const
constantly antly que
constantly stioning your own actions. Or you
questioning
might be mostly afflicted by a st ate of neutral sleepine
state ss, or simply by the
sleepiness,
pre sence of a great deal of thought
presence thoughtss that are not par ticularly kle
particularly shas or nega-
kleshas
tive in themselve
themselves.s. If any of the se is your principal problem, then in the ssame
these ame
way, you aim your practice at that.
from TThrangu
hrangu R inpoches comment
Rinpoches ary
commentary
on Creation and Completion

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72 SHENPEN SEL