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Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana
                 By Aenpo Kyabgon Rinpoche
               Kyegu Buddhist Institute – 7/10/00

No matter how much we interpret it elaborately or in many ways,
the conclusion goes back to the purity of the mind, the purity of the
nature. When it goes back to the purity that also brings a kind of
idea, how can it be two things? It is mind in relative reality but in
ultimate reality it is purity. One thing can be shared into two
different places, but in fact it is same thing. This is the nature of
the inseparability of these two things, in other words we can call it
the non-differentiation between the relative and ultimate reality, or
the co-emergence of samsara and nirvana or the inseparability of
samsara and nirvana.

This inseparability of samsara and nirvana, there are many
Buddhists texts especially in Sutra which explain the inseparability
of samsara and nirvana. Especially in Tibetan Buddhism, the most
extensive teaching we can get on this topic is from the teaching of
Lamdre, one of the main sacred teachings of the Sakya order of
Tibetan Buddhism. It talks elaborately, comprehensively, about the
inseparability.

The inseparability of samsara and nirvana, the explanation from
the text Parting from the Four Attachments, in this text there are
four lines:
If you have attachment to your life you are not a Dharma
practitioner
If you are attached to cyclic existence you do not have
renunciation
If you are attached to your own welfare you do not have the
enlightenment thought
If the grasping arises one does not have the view.
This word “view” actually talks about the inseparability of samsara
and nirvana. Despite having an understanding of conduct, such as
practicing compassion and generosity and morality, if one does not
have the proper view then one will not be able to succeed in the
path. There are different ways of practicing this inseparability of
samsara and nirvana, one thing is to analyze it with our own mind,
all the appearances that we have in our mind, all the appearances
are mind. All the appearances that we have in our mind are
illusory; it’s more like a magical show, illusory. These appearances
did not come from nowhere and it wasn’t created by a creator, then
who created that awareness in the mind? It was created by none
other than our own mind.

Whatever things appear in our mind does not necessarily prove that
it is inherently existent, the appearances that we have in our mind
we call it deceptive appearance, or falsified appearance. But to say
it is not truly existent is contradictory because we see things
correctly; the answer is that whatever things we see doesn’t
necessarily mean that whatever we see is true. That is quite
understandable to start with. We can see the magic show but it is
not necessarily true, but we can still see it. Especially things like
the reflection in the mirror – things that we see but not necessarily
true. The reason it is called deceptive appearance is that after
analyzing the realities properly thus gaining realization, to see it
form the Noble Beings point of view, all these appearances are
called emptiness.

Another way of contemplating upon it or meditating upon it, is that
first one has to pacify one’s own mind by a practice called “calm
abiding,” in Sanskrit it is called shamatha. That is to calm our
mind so that our mind stabilizes. Even though we have a definite
understanding of the view, if we lack calm abiding then we can’t
contemplate for a long time and even though we contemplate for a
long time we cannot remember it easily, we keep forgetting things
easily because our mind had not been pacified well and stabilised
properly. First we have to accomplish the practice of shamatha
which is the basis for all these qualities. If the mind doesn’t stay
for a long time no matter how much we contemplate or meditate
upon this view then there is no benefit. So that it to pacify one’s
own mind.

In order to attain liberation, to eliminate all the sufferings one has
to first focus upon the selflessness of person. There are two types
of selflessness: selflessness of person and selflessness of
phenomena. In order to attain Buddhahood, on top of the practice
of selflessness of person one has to practice the selflessness of
phenomena. That is the ultimate practice of “penetrative insight,”
this is the English translation of the Sanskrit word vipassana.

There is an importance of meditating upon the selflessness of
person. In order to abandon, uproot or eliminate the suffering of
samsara, since the suffering of samsara is already existent there is
no chance for us to eliminate the nature of that samsara, it has
already been produced and it is already existent, so we have to put
effort in uprooting the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is
the action, the things we do, the karma. That karma is produced by
delusion. The delusion was produced by self-clinging. The very
source, the main cause that produces suffering is actually self-
grasping. That very self-grasping has to be abandoned by the
wisdom of realizing the selflessness of person. It is quite important
to think constantly upon the selflessness of person. The root of
samsara is self-clinging, self-grasping. It is quite obvious that self-
clinging produces defilement and then we accumulate karma and
this is how our suffering came about. This is another way of
contemplating upon the main source or main cause that brings
suffering for ourselves and it is quite applicable to other sentient
beings as well.

Rinpoche, what do you mean by selflessness of person?
There are two things we can cling on. You cling on self – I I I. The
second thing we can cling on is things, because of clinging on self
– that is the first thing – the second thing we can cling on is things,
the phenomena. There are only two things on which you can cling,
it’s either the person, the self, or either it’s something, me and my
cup, me and my belongings. Practicing selflessness means not
practicing selfishness. That’s why we call it selflessness.

Rinpoche you said that we should constantly think about
selflessness of ourselves, how do we do that?

By thinking. We should if we can of course, but if we can’t we
can’t really force too much sometimes, then we think of giving it
up because we’re not used to it so as much as you can. Constantly
in terms of doing it as much as you can. Think upon it constantly
doesn’t mean that when we are distracted or when we are sleeping
or when we are watching television, it’s a bit hard to think upon
these things but sometimes these kind of entertainments or
attractions that we have through television is also a very good help
for us to remind us. Sometimes we have a good time and forget
about our concerns – the things that we are concerned about. Then
that reminds you. It’s making use of those entertainments to help
our own way of thinking.

You also said concentration about anything is useless you have a
rested mind, an open mind.

We have to pacify our mind. If our mind is not pacified it means
you are not actually taking it in. You are just going through on a
surface level, bits and bits, it’s more like sight-seeing. Just looking
here and there and that’s it, what do you actually get? It’s different
from discovering it.
Is there a balance between selfishness and getting your needs met?
Can you be overly selfless? A selfless person who is always giving
and doing for others so you don’t actually meet your own needs?

Become less to start with.

We become less?

Hoping so. This is what we hope, that we don’t do too much for
myself.

So it’s lack of attachment to anything?

Trying to reduce attachment, yes. Attachment is the cause.
Attachment can be used as self-clinging. There are different forms
of attachment. Positive and negative attachment, I would
discriminate.

Acting selfless can sometimes bring self-clinging, like “I’m being a
good person.”

That’s that very individual’s problem. When we do that we should
not think that I’m doing it and I’m proud of it that means you are
going downwards. We should not think that way. This is quite
common, when people give help to others they brag and show off.
In terms of spiritual practice, if we do this we are going totally
against what we are taught to be. We are taught to be good and not
to be wanting. When you give service and help to others, there
shouldn’t be any intention involved in getting something back
from them. That means the help is not genuine. Sometimes we can
do it several times and people might start to praise you, “You are
really doing well,” sometimes the praise that we get from others,
you tend to like it and then you think “Oh I’m really dong good,”
and then you are flattered. This is where our ego arises. The best
thing is not to get carried away by the praise that we get form other
people too. When we are doing things good of course people will
encourage and say, “This is good keep the good work going on”
but then there might be some sort of pride that will come, “I’m
really doing good, those others are worse than me, I’m the best.”
This is sabotaging oneself.

How do you overcome that pride?

By not falling into the extreme of liking that praise. Listen through
one ear and let it go through the other. Don’t think upon it again
and again. Sometimes when we hear nice thing about ourselves
from other people you try to think upon it again and again and
again, that takes a picture in your mind and it stays there, then you
like it. It’s better than a digital picture! We say that the spiritual
practice can be a damage for oneself and the obstacles can be the
greatest chance for us to improve. It is not necessarily that the
obstacles are worse because through the obstacles we get a chance
so we can try to do it. When we try to do something then if you
misuse it, it can lead to a wrong path.

Sometimes when you help people, I feel like my ego is screaming,
like I run around doing all these things for other people and I feel
like my ego is screaming “What about me!” Like you’re pushing
yourself too hard.

You should balance. Do the best you can, up to one’s ability.
Helping others does not mean that one should not be included, then
there is no point. If oneself is totally excluded, you can’t reach to
help them. Oneself has to be included in serving others or helping
others. In this case there are different objects to which you can
help, especially on a human level as we are. There are different
objects to whom we want to help, objects we don’t want to help
and others that are ok. Different extremes we have. Since you can’t
help your enemy, the people you dislike, you can’t just go there
and help, so you can start to practice your help or service to those
who are close to you and then gradually promote your service to
others, developing. We can’t go to anybody and just say “Hey I’m
here to help you,” they may tell you to get out and that might bring
you pain, “Oh I’m here to help and now I’m being chased away.”
Once you have started to help others then gradually it helps one to
be quite good.

Rinpoche, to realize the selflessness of self is nirvana?

No, through these two selflessness we are in the nirvana. First
definitely is the selflessness of person and then secondly is the
selflessness of phenomena. To delineate this: there are five paths.
The path of accumulation, where probably we are in, trying to
accumulate merit, and then the path of preparation which is a bit
higher level, that’s the place where you seriously practice upon the
selflessness of person. Once one succeeds in practicing this, one
attains the wisdom of realizing the selflessness and that wisdom
cuts the root of selfishness. At that moment, after seeing that, you
are on the first bhumi – the first level of the Bodhisattva. In
Bodhisattva there are 10 levels. On the 1st level we call the path of
seeing, the third path. The third path is the 1st level of the
Bodhisattva. At that path of seeing it means you are now seeing
more than what you were first seeing on the first two paths. You
are in the process of seeing the extra nature of reality, not just
being able to be free from suffering and not being able to attain
selflessness. After that – from 2nd level to 10th – we call it path of
contemplating. We contemplate more on the selflessness of
phenomena. When you are the 10th bhumi one is called Buddha –
the path of no more learning. That means you have graduated, you
have done your studies, your PhD!

When we listen to teachings or talks or whatever, just by listening
to those teachings and reading those texts, one will not achieve any
success or fruition just out of reading or listening. The analogy we
can give is that we humans, we sentient beings are like the patient,
the sick people, we need a remedy, a treatment, we need doctors.
Instead of following doctor’s advice and taking the medicine,
instead we read a medical text! Just by reading the medical text
will not help you to cure your disease. Unless you read that
medical text and then follow the doctor’s advice, then you take the
medicine, then one will possibly be able to be cured. The
selflessness sounds very far away in one aspect but at the same
time it is just another term used – it means not to cling toward
oneself too much, this is a simpler approach.

The second question is, how do we eliminate this self-cherishing,
this self-grasping? First we have to find out what that “self” is,
what that “I” is, what that “me” is? We have to analyze in a way
whether that me or self or I really exists or whether it doesn’t exist.
When we say I or me, we generally refer it to one’s body or one’s
mind, this is what we generally refer to. In this case, one’s body or
one’s mind has to be the self, the me, the I, but it is not. If one also
tries to find that self in each and every part of one’s body – outside
and inside as well – one will not be able to take that self out and
show that this is the self. For example, if one says that oneself is
the tooth, if we say the tooth can be referred to as the self, in that
case there are so many teeth you may have about 20 selves. This
means you are more than one person – you are more than 20. The
second argument is because there are many teeth, you have to have
the many teeth together to form oneself, but to refute that it means
that if one tooth falls out then the self falls out, one portion is
excluded then the rest can’t form the complete formation.

We have to analyze whether this self is identical or similar to the
aggregates or if it is not. There are many aggregates so there is an
extreme of having many selves. The subject that perceives that
very thing as a person is actually perceived and believed only by,
what we can say is the human mind, but in philosophical terms we
call it falsified mind. Only the falsified mind sees this person as a
person and clings to it, but in fact when we analyze it there is no
such thing that exists. We are clinging toward something that is
nothing. This is how we try to find out, we are clinging towards
something but what are we clinging towards? This is how we find
out, try to find out, the real object to which we say it’s “me.”
Where does that me come from, that I come from? When we check
and try to find out we will not be successful in finding anything
tangible there. We can just say it’s me it’s mine, it’s more like your
body, but where is that? To say “mine” you have to have “me,” it’s
easy to say mine. When you try to find out that me or I, one will
not be able to find it.

The self-grasping of the phenomena is the second one. When we
say the phenomena, we mean inanimate things. Inanimate is
something that has got no mind, like our body is inanimate, it is
something that has got a mind and something that has got no mind,
when we die our body becomes inanimate. One with the mind and
one without the mind. They are things that we see, the phenomena
that we see, houses and tables etc. The selflessness of person and
phenomena: the selflessness or person and thing. Clinging towards
that is the self-grasping of phenomena. When we analyze it, it is
also the same case as self-grasping of person because that we will
find out that none of these phenomena are truly existent. Nothing is
solidly existing. That very awareness is called selflessness of
phenomena.

In order to realise this there are many reasonings given. One of the
logics is to analyse upon the origination, the arising, the birth, to
discover it. If you believe the arising as truly existing either it has
to arise from itself or either another has arisen from other. Either it
is produced from itself or not from itself. This another has arisen
from other. Shen-le-kyewa in Tibetan. No relation, another arising
from another. The mango came from a mango tree, the apple that is
“other” from Mango, has to arise from other, the other thing. Apple
will not come from a banana tree. Another is arising from other. It
is arising from itself or either it has to be arising from another. Or
otherwise it has to be the combination of oneself and others, or
otherwise to came from no cause. These four are the only
extremes, the only things. If is origination or arising is not there,
then it can’t be produced. If the production is not there then there it
can’t be produced. If the arising itself is there, then there is no need
to arise it again, it is already there.

Another reasoning is this, when cause produces result, if the cause
produces a result that is already existing upon that cause there’s no
need to produce that, but this cause can’t produce something that is
not reliant upon the cause either. Another reasoning is the logic of
one and manifold, singularity and plurality. Chig-dhang - dhu-ma
in Tibetan, chig means one, dhu-ma means manifold. This one,
when we analyse upon this one, this “one” also does not exist, if
something exists it either has to be one or it has to be manifold.
When we analyze it, this one doesn’t exist and this manifold
doesn’t exist because the one is interdependent thing. All
appearances we have in our mind are not created by anyone, it is
the collection of causes and conditions, this is how it is formed, it
is called interdependent. It is inherently non-existent, because of
this we can analyze that none of these phenomena actually exist.
As a conclusion we call this emptiness. In the case of one and
manifold, to have one you have to have many and to have many
you have to have many. To have one you also have to have a
combination of many. One car is not just one, this one is made out
of many, when we take out all the parts, it becomes no car, it is just
merely a formation rather than inherently existing. Like a
mountain, it doesn’t exist by itself, it has to be formed. Since there
is nothingness there we call it emptiness or voidness.

Rinpoche, the one gives rise to may and the many give rise to one?

The one loses when you take everything out. A cup is made and we
break it and make it like a powder and mash that powder until it is
smaller smaller smaller, even those manifold get lost a disappears.
Scientifically it is called microscopic, when they check the atoms
they say things get smaller and smaller and at one stage you can’t
find anything. This is what Buddhists also say. If things are so
changing, then why do we have to get attached to it?

Our minds are made up of many parts or arisings and if we remove
all those arisings then there’s nothing left?

We have to get rid of this many mind. It doesn’t mean that this
mind is helping us to get rid of this mind too, because we need the
mind to think about things, what we are trying to get rid of the
things that we don’t want – what we actually don’t want.

In the end there’s only a mind?

No. In the end, I can’t say even “something.” In the end I can’t
even say “it is.” Inexpressible. Unless we experience ourselves.

Rinpoche, when something arises, for example yoghurt. Yoghurt is
a substance, but it is simply a transformation of milk, milk is
simply a transformation of the blood of the cow, and that is simply
a transformation of grass. So the one argument is that when
something is caused nothing new arises, it is simply a
transformation of something previous. There is another argument
is that every arising is a new arising, something new is created.

Old new. It looks new but it’s old.

There’s not a modification of something previous?

Because of this change, because of this transformation, it depends
whether it’s a good transformation or not, transformation in terms
of production, so it’s the same old new. It’s very old, the things
that we’re doing, sometimes I think we should really get bored of
this but we keep doing it again and again.
It’s all new but it’s always the same old stuff.

Newly old, old new. Sometimes we try to follow the teachings but
are quite new in this lifetime, which might not have been new in
many previous lifetimes as well, but it’s new in this lifetime. We
try to do it and sometimes don’t know how to do it properly. Same
thing with the computer, they are interested in the computer, they
do something and maybe delete many things. They do a lot of
things but you don’t know how to do it but try to do something.
You have had one instruction before but you don’t have the back-
up of contemplating upon it and then you can do so many things,
you think you’re saving it in one folder but in fact you’re putting it
into the recycle bin. The constant back-up of contemplation to get
familiarization is always important.

To think about that would be to think that I can’t locate my
thoughts, if you try to find it you can’t find the essence.

This is what we have to think upon, we can’t really think upon it
all the time, you might end up not eating. Think upon it a little bit
to remind you – why am I so attached to myself? The more we do
then the more successful we are and that will bring us less
suffering. All suffering came form self-clinging, now we should
try to do something totally different.

As a conclusion we say this is emptiness. Nothing exists. The
second excuse comes that if things are not existent, how about non-
existent? Somebody is so desperate to have it here think they can
accept it is not existent, then how about things being non-existent.
But we say it is also not non-existent, because we have to have an
object on which we can interdependently call it non-existent. If we
don’t have existence we can’t have non-existence. If we don’t have
right we can’t have left. Now the third excuse comes that if it is not
existent and if it is not non-existent, then can it be both? The
answer is that it can’t be both because existence and non-existence
are two contradictory factors. These two contradictory factors can’t
exist in one. The last excuse is that does it mean that it’s neither of
these two? You can’t say this because neither has to depend upon
either.

That means that we can’t point out what the nature of reality is.
There’s nothing solidly existing that you can point out and say,
“This is the nature of reality.” The nature of reality is something
that you can’t describe, that is the real nature of reality. At the
moment that very nature of reality is not the object of our mind,
this is not an object that we can perceive at the moment. The object
that we can perceive at the moment is called relative reality. A
relative mind will only perceive relative reality, we will not be able
to perceive ultimate reality, the ultimate mode of reality, unless we
enthusiastically practice in transforming that mind into wisdom.
This is the main view in Buddhism, especially in Mahayana, that
things don’t exist at all, this is what we call emptiness, devoid of
all extremes, the voidness.

Rinpoche, this is one of the hardest doctrines to actually
understand because while you’re in the world perceiving it, then
it’s real. You cannot see at the same time that in actual fact it is
emptiness, that it’s also an illusion, that it doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t exist solidly. On a relative reality it 100% exists, it
exists. On an ultimate level it doesn’t. Therefore we are saying that
when we do things why don’t we do them properly instead of just
going here and there and liking this and not liking this – that is
giving us the problem. Since there is nothing much to attach to, we
only have about 100 years to live, so why are we so clinging on
this? Relax. If we think really how long we will live, that’s the first
question we can ask. How long? One of the five founding masters
of Sakya said ‘Life decays while we are preparing'. We keep
preparing, we keep doing something for tomorrow, for next year.
We keep preparing but then sooner or later you have to change. So,
why not live it positively? Even if I don’t come back I can leave a
bad imprint for the next generations, this is what the Buddhist texts
also say. If we are concerned about ourselves too much, then you
have to be concerned in a helpful way. We have to be concerned
about next time when we come then we come a bit better. Before
doing most of the practices we say contemplate deeply upon
impermanence first, the impermanence of death especially. Sooner
or later we have to say goodbye. To face death easier, we can see
many people when they die it’s a really big pain, but we can see
many people who have all these practices and when they pass
away they have excitement or enjoyment. This is more or less like
taking off old clothing and putting on new clothing, the theory of
reincarnation is more like that. Don’t think that this is the only
chance, you will have a next chance so make sure that the next
chance is better that this.

Rinpoche psychologists say that our own unconscious self will
attract situations towards us to give us the opportunity to let go of
negative patterns that we are trying to eliminate. For example, if
I’m trying to resolve anger then it seems like life shows up more
and more and more experiences for me to get angry, in that
process of trying to resolve that anger. Is that how it works?

More chance for us to see it and make use of it. If you can then it’s
really good. Sometimes we can’t transform or overcome our anger.
When we are in the process of learning it, if there’s no attacking or
no obstructions then one will not get angry, why would one get
angry? But at the same time we do get angry too, just sometimes
when you are in your own room and you just go to sleep and wake
up and wake up angry. This is the time when we have to, instead of
saying it’s bad, we have to transform this mind and then say this is
the chances that we’re getting and I’ll try to make use of that. Try,
and then if you’re good you can be successful, and if not then not.
Is there a difference between transforming that and denying that?

Even in Buddhism, especially in Mahayana Buddhism, they will
not use the words “transformation.” They would rather use the
word “abandoning.” In the lower vehicle they call it suppression or
denying, or running away from it. In Vajrayana, in Tibetan
Buddhism, we call it transformation because it’s all about dealing
with our own emotions and no matter how much you try to run
away from it it is always there, you can’t really run away from it.
The second things, if you try to suppress, it’s like a gas cylinder, if
you put too much gas in there then sooner or later it will explode
so why not let it come but don’t take it so seriously as a negative
but take it as a chance and transform it.

Rinpoche, what about the mind that perceives the inseparability of
samsara and nirvana – is that just the wisdom that perceives it?
Does it use the relative mind?

In terms of path – the second path it is still mind but we can also
see the inseparability of samsara and nirvana practically a little bit
as well, the mind is somewhere near the process of becoming
wisdom.

A combination of the two?

Mind can see it yes, but when you see it, this is sometimes very
tricky, “see” means you have to see it completely. When you see
little things we don’t count it as seeing because it’s too little and it
is not enough. Seeing means seeing completely. Only the wisdom
sees things completely. But because of this thing that has been seen
by the Noble Beings they have put it into words and passed it over.
Now this is something that they have and this is something which
attracts me and then this is something that I want to do – then we
do it and then while in the process there will be a certain level or
time that you will not even think upon whether this is a mind or
wisdom or whatever, it is just going on and on and on.

To say it simply, it is seen by the wisdom, what mind sees is
mostly intellectually. Wisdom doesn’t even doesn’t even see it as
samsara and nirvana, it is like water and milk, you can’t really
differentiate. The Arhats, who we call foe destroyers, foe refers to
the defilements, the way they can see the things, it’s like a tortoise,
I have seen it personally. If you put milk in the water and then put
a tortoise in it, it will drink the milk and leave the water. That’s
like the meditation session and post-meditative session, the Arhats
differentiate between samsara and nirvana, when they are in
meditation session they only see nirvana. For the Buddha there is
no post-meditation, a Buddha is always in the meditation session, it
sees the combination, the indescribable combination, you don’t
need to have a break. The Arhats need a break.

However first we have to generate compassion and enlightenment
thought. The successful attainment from the practice of
compassion and enlightenment thought is that one will reduce
attachment towards one’s life and the welfare of one’s own being.
Compassion and enlightenment thought is one of the main causes
of Buddhahood. However no matter how much compassion we
have or how wide the enlightenment thought is, if we don’t have
the view, if these conditions are not associated with the view of the
inseparability of samsara and nirvana, the relative and ultimate
reality, one will not be able to attain ultimate enlightenment. Not
just compassion and enlightenment thought, we also need the view
to accompany it as well. This is a good example of
interdependence, not the interdependent origination that we want
to stop – this shows good interdependence. We nee these all
together to work, to be successful. First we have to see what is our
weakness and then we have to work more on that.

So many weaknesses. Sometimes you can get overwhelmed.
Then just choose one.

Rinpoche, when you were talking about changing something, you
can change your mind, how then do you use the emotions that are
attached to that? How do you change your emotions that come as
well? Your mind may see something different but then there are the
emotions that are responses.

These emotions come from mind. If we can stabilise our mind,
rather than thinking upon this emotion we go to the cause of this
emotion. The cause of the emotion is the way of thinking that is
done by our mind, this is why we are talking to our mind not to do
this again. Rather than dealing with the result, we’d rather deal
from the cause. Once it is there it is there, you can’t reverse back.
What’s the cause now, because I want to stop. It is like losing our
temper, the temper is there - what can you do? The best you can do
is think I’m not going to do that again and think upon how it came
and then find out from where it came. Find out what you have to
work on and what you’ve been doing.

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Inseperability of samsara and nirvana

  • 1. Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana By Aenpo Kyabgon Rinpoche Kyegu Buddhist Institute – 7/10/00 No matter how much we interpret it elaborately or in many ways, the conclusion goes back to the purity of the mind, the purity of the nature. When it goes back to the purity that also brings a kind of idea, how can it be two things? It is mind in relative reality but in ultimate reality it is purity. One thing can be shared into two different places, but in fact it is same thing. This is the nature of the inseparability of these two things, in other words we can call it the non-differentiation between the relative and ultimate reality, or the co-emergence of samsara and nirvana or the inseparability of samsara and nirvana. This inseparability of samsara and nirvana, there are many Buddhists texts especially in Sutra which explain the inseparability of samsara and nirvana. Especially in Tibetan Buddhism, the most extensive teaching we can get on this topic is from the teaching of Lamdre, one of the main sacred teachings of the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism. It talks elaborately, comprehensively, about the inseparability. The inseparability of samsara and nirvana, the explanation from the text Parting from the Four Attachments, in this text there are four lines: If you have attachment to your life you are not a Dharma practitioner If you are attached to cyclic existence you do not have renunciation If you are attached to your own welfare you do not have the enlightenment thought If the grasping arises one does not have the view.
  • 2. This word “view” actually talks about the inseparability of samsara and nirvana. Despite having an understanding of conduct, such as practicing compassion and generosity and morality, if one does not have the proper view then one will not be able to succeed in the path. There are different ways of practicing this inseparability of samsara and nirvana, one thing is to analyze it with our own mind, all the appearances that we have in our mind, all the appearances are mind. All the appearances that we have in our mind are illusory; it’s more like a magical show, illusory. These appearances did not come from nowhere and it wasn’t created by a creator, then who created that awareness in the mind? It was created by none other than our own mind. Whatever things appear in our mind does not necessarily prove that it is inherently existent, the appearances that we have in our mind we call it deceptive appearance, or falsified appearance. But to say it is not truly existent is contradictory because we see things correctly; the answer is that whatever things we see doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever we see is true. That is quite understandable to start with. We can see the magic show but it is not necessarily true, but we can still see it. Especially things like the reflection in the mirror – things that we see but not necessarily true. The reason it is called deceptive appearance is that after analyzing the realities properly thus gaining realization, to see it form the Noble Beings point of view, all these appearances are called emptiness. Another way of contemplating upon it or meditating upon it, is that first one has to pacify one’s own mind by a practice called “calm abiding,” in Sanskrit it is called shamatha. That is to calm our mind so that our mind stabilizes. Even though we have a definite understanding of the view, if we lack calm abiding then we can’t contemplate for a long time and even though we contemplate for a long time we cannot remember it easily, we keep forgetting things easily because our mind had not been pacified well and stabilised
  • 3. properly. First we have to accomplish the practice of shamatha which is the basis for all these qualities. If the mind doesn’t stay for a long time no matter how much we contemplate or meditate upon this view then there is no benefit. So that it to pacify one’s own mind. In order to attain liberation, to eliminate all the sufferings one has to first focus upon the selflessness of person. There are two types of selflessness: selflessness of person and selflessness of phenomena. In order to attain Buddhahood, on top of the practice of selflessness of person one has to practice the selflessness of phenomena. That is the ultimate practice of “penetrative insight,” this is the English translation of the Sanskrit word vipassana. There is an importance of meditating upon the selflessness of person. In order to abandon, uproot or eliminate the suffering of samsara, since the suffering of samsara is already existent there is no chance for us to eliminate the nature of that samsara, it has already been produced and it is already existent, so we have to put effort in uprooting the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is the action, the things we do, the karma. That karma is produced by delusion. The delusion was produced by self-clinging. The very source, the main cause that produces suffering is actually self- grasping. That very self-grasping has to be abandoned by the wisdom of realizing the selflessness of person. It is quite important to think constantly upon the selflessness of person. The root of samsara is self-clinging, self-grasping. It is quite obvious that self- clinging produces defilement and then we accumulate karma and this is how our suffering came about. This is another way of contemplating upon the main source or main cause that brings suffering for ourselves and it is quite applicable to other sentient beings as well. Rinpoche, what do you mean by selflessness of person?
  • 4. There are two things we can cling on. You cling on self – I I I. The second thing we can cling on is things, because of clinging on self – that is the first thing – the second thing we can cling on is things, the phenomena. There are only two things on which you can cling, it’s either the person, the self, or either it’s something, me and my cup, me and my belongings. Practicing selflessness means not practicing selfishness. That’s why we call it selflessness. Rinpoche you said that we should constantly think about selflessness of ourselves, how do we do that? By thinking. We should if we can of course, but if we can’t we can’t really force too much sometimes, then we think of giving it up because we’re not used to it so as much as you can. Constantly in terms of doing it as much as you can. Think upon it constantly doesn’t mean that when we are distracted or when we are sleeping or when we are watching television, it’s a bit hard to think upon these things but sometimes these kind of entertainments or attractions that we have through television is also a very good help for us to remind us. Sometimes we have a good time and forget about our concerns – the things that we are concerned about. Then that reminds you. It’s making use of those entertainments to help our own way of thinking. You also said concentration about anything is useless you have a rested mind, an open mind. We have to pacify our mind. If our mind is not pacified it means you are not actually taking it in. You are just going through on a surface level, bits and bits, it’s more like sight-seeing. Just looking here and there and that’s it, what do you actually get? It’s different from discovering it.
  • 5. Is there a balance between selfishness and getting your needs met? Can you be overly selfless? A selfless person who is always giving and doing for others so you don’t actually meet your own needs? Become less to start with. We become less? Hoping so. This is what we hope, that we don’t do too much for myself. So it’s lack of attachment to anything? Trying to reduce attachment, yes. Attachment is the cause. Attachment can be used as self-clinging. There are different forms of attachment. Positive and negative attachment, I would discriminate. Acting selfless can sometimes bring self-clinging, like “I’m being a good person.” That’s that very individual’s problem. When we do that we should not think that I’m doing it and I’m proud of it that means you are going downwards. We should not think that way. This is quite common, when people give help to others they brag and show off. In terms of spiritual practice, if we do this we are going totally against what we are taught to be. We are taught to be good and not to be wanting. When you give service and help to others, there shouldn’t be any intention involved in getting something back from them. That means the help is not genuine. Sometimes we can do it several times and people might start to praise you, “You are really doing well,” sometimes the praise that we get from others, you tend to like it and then you think “Oh I’m really dong good,” and then you are flattered. This is where our ego arises. The best thing is not to get carried away by the praise that we get form other
  • 6. people too. When we are doing things good of course people will encourage and say, “This is good keep the good work going on” but then there might be some sort of pride that will come, “I’m really doing good, those others are worse than me, I’m the best.” This is sabotaging oneself. How do you overcome that pride? By not falling into the extreme of liking that praise. Listen through one ear and let it go through the other. Don’t think upon it again and again. Sometimes when we hear nice thing about ourselves from other people you try to think upon it again and again and again, that takes a picture in your mind and it stays there, then you like it. It’s better than a digital picture! We say that the spiritual practice can be a damage for oneself and the obstacles can be the greatest chance for us to improve. It is not necessarily that the obstacles are worse because through the obstacles we get a chance so we can try to do it. When we try to do something then if you misuse it, it can lead to a wrong path. Sometimes when you help people, I feel like my ego is screaming, like I run around doing all these things for other people and I feel like my ego is screaming “What about me!” Like you’re pushing yourself too hard. You should balance. Do the best you can, up to one’s ability. Helping others does not mean that one should not be included, then there is no point. If oneself is totally excluded, you can’t reach to help them. Oneself has to be included in serving others or helping others. In this case there are different objects to which you can help, especially on a human level as we are. There are different objects to whom we want to help, objects we don’t want to help and others that are ok. Different extremes we have. Since you can’t help your enemy, the people you dislike, you can’t just go there and help, so you can start to practice your help or service to those
  • 7. who are close to you and then gradually promote your service to others, developing. We can’t go to anybody and just say “Hey I’m here to help you,” they may tell you to get out and that might bring you pain, “Oh I’m here to help and now I’m being chased away.” Once you have started to help others then gradually it helps one to be quite good. Rinpoche, to realize the selflessness of self is nirvana? No, through these two selflessness we are in the nirvana. First definitely is the selflessness of person and then secondly is the selflessness of phenomena. To delineate this: there are five paths. The path of accumulation, where probably we are in, trying to accumulate merit, and then the path of preparation which is a bit higher level, that’s the place where you seriously practice upon the selflessness of person. Once one succeeds in practicing this, one attains the wisdom of realizing the selflessness and that wisdom cuts the root of selfishness. At that moment, after seeing that, you are on the first bhumi – the first level of the Bodhisattva. In Bodhisattva there are 10 levels. On the 1st level we call the path of seeing, the third path. The third path is the 1st level of the Bodhisattva. At that path of seeing it means you are now seeing more than what you were first seeing on the first two paths. You are in the process of seeing the extra nature of reality, not just being able to be free from suffering and not being able to attain selflessness. After that – from 2nd level to 10th – we call it path of contemplating. We contemplate more on the selflessness of phenomena. When you are the 10th bhumi one is called Buddha – the path of no more learning. That means you have graduated, you have done your studies, your PhD! When we listen to teachings or talks or whatever, just by listening to those teachings and reading those texts, one will not achieve any success or fruition just out of reading or listening. The analogy we can give is that we humans, we sentient beings are like the patient,
  • 8. the sick people, we need a remedy, a treatment, we need doctors. Instead of following doctor’s advice and taking the medicine, instead we read a medical text! Just by reading the medical text will not help you to cure your disease. Unless you read that medical text and then follow the doctor’s advice, then you take the medicine, then one will possibly be able to be cured. The selflessness sounds very far away in one aspect but at the same time it is just another term used – it means not to cling toward oneself too much, this is a simpler approach. The second question is, how do we eliminate this self-cherishing, this self-grasping? First we have to find out what that “self” is, what that “I” is, what that “me” is? We have to analyze in a way whether that me or self or I really exists or whether it doesn’t exist. When we say I or me, we generally refer it to one’s body or one’s mind, this is what we generally refer to. In this case, one’s body or one’s mind has to be the self, the me, the I, but it is not. If one also tries to find that self in each and every part of one’s body – outside and inside as well – one will not be able to take that self out and show that this is the self. For example, if one says that oneself is the tooth, if we say the tooth can be referred to as the self, in that case there are so many teeth you may have about 20 selves. This means you are more than one person – you are more than 20. The second argument is because there are many teeth, you have to have the many teeth together to form oneself, but to refute that it means that if one tooth falls out then the self falls out, one portion is excluded then the rest can’t form the complete formation. We have to analyze whether this self is identical or similar to the aggregates or if it is not. There are many aggregates so there is an extreme of having many selves. The subject that perceives that very thing as a person is actually perceived and believed only by, what we can say is the human mind, but in philosophical terms we call it falsified mind. Only the falsified mind sees this person as a person and clings to it, but in fact when we analyze it there is no
  • 9. such thing that exists. We are clinging toward something that is nothing. This is how we try to find out, we are clinging towards something but what are we clinging towards? This is how we find out, try to find out, the real object to which we say it’s “me.” Where does that me come from, that I come from? When we check and try to find out we will not be successful in finding anything tangible there. We can just say it’s me it’s mine, it’s more like your body, but where is that? To say “mine” you have to have “me,” it’s easy to say mine. When you try to find out that me or I, one will not be able to find it. The self-grasping of the phenomena is the second one. When we say the phenomena, we mean inanimate things. Inanimate is something that has got no mind, like our body is inanimate, it is something that has got a mind and something that has got no mind, when we die our body becomes inanimate. One with the mind and one without the mind. They are things that we see, the phenomena that we see, houses and tables etc. The selflessness of person and phenomena: the selflessness or person and thing. Clinging towards that is the self-grasping of phenomena. When we analyze it, it is also the same case as self-grasping of person because that we will find out that none of these phenomena are truly existent. Nothing is solidly existing. That very awareness is called selflessness of phenomena. In order to realise this there are many reasonings given. One of the logics is to analyse upon the origination, the arising, the birth, to discover it. If you believe the arising as truly existing either it has to arise from itself or either another has arisen from other. Either it is produced from itself or not from itself. This another has arisen from other. Shen-le-kyewa in Tibetan. No relation, another arising from another. The mango came from a mango tree, the apple that is “other” from Mango, has to arise from other, the other thing. Apple will not come from a banana tree. Another is arising from other. It is arising from itself or either it has to be arising from another. Or
  • 10. otherwise it has to be the combination of oneself and others, or otherwise to came from no cause. These four are the only extremes, the only things. If is origination or arising is not there, then it can’t be produced. If the production is not there then there it can’t be produced. If the arising itself is there, then there is no need to arise it again, it is already there. Another reasoning is this, when cause produces result, if the cause produces a result that is already existing upon that cause there’s no need to produce that, but this cause can’t produce something that is not reliant upon the cause either. Another reasoning is the logic of one and manifold, singularity and plurality. Chig-dhang - dhu-ma in Tibetan, chig means one, dhu-ma means manifold. This one, when we analyse upon this one, this “one” also does not exist, if something exists it either has to be one or it has to be manifold. When we analyze it, this one doesn’t exist and this manifold doesn’t exist because the one is interdependent thing. All appearances we have in our mind are not created by anyone, it is the collection of causes and conditions, this is how it is formed, it is called interdependent. It is inherently non-existent, because of this we can analyze that none of these phenomena actually exist. As a conclusion we call this emptiness. In the case of one and manifold, to have one you have to have many and to have many you have to have many. To have one you also have to have a combination of many. One car is not just one, this one is made out of many, when we take out all the parts, it becomes no car, it is just merely a formation rather than inherently existing. Like a mountain, it doesn’t exist by itself, it has to be formed. Since there is nothingness there we call it emptiness or voidness. Rinpoche, the one gives rise to may and the many give rise to one? The one loses when you take everything out. A cup is made and we break it and make it like a powder and mash that powder until it is smaller smaller smaller, even those manifold get lost a disappears.
  • 11. Scientifically it is called microscopic, when they check the atoms they say things get smaller and smaller and at one stage you can’t find anything. This is what Buddhists also say. If things are so changing, then why do we have to get attached to it? Our minds are made up of many parts or arisings and if we remove all those arisings then there’s nothing left? We have to get rid of this many mind. It doesn’t mean that this mind is helping us to get rid of this mind too, because we need the mind to think about things, what we are trying to get rid of the things that we don’t want – what we actually don’t want. In the end there’s only a mind? No. In the end, I can’t say even “something.” In the end I can’t even say “it is.” Inexpressible. Unless we experience ourselves. Rinpoche, when something arises, for example yoghurt. Yoghurt is a substance, but it is simply a transformation of milk, milk is simply a transformation of the blood of the cow, and that is simply a transformation of grass. So the one argument is that when something is caused nothing new arises, it is simply a transformation of something previous. There is another argument is that every arising is a new arising, something new is created. Old new. It looks new but it’s old. There’s not a modification of something previous? Because of this change, because of this transformation, it depends whether it’s a good transformation or not, transformation in terms of production, so it’s the same old new. It’s very old, the things that we’re doing, sometimes I think we should really get bored of this but we keep doing it again and again.
  • 12. It’s all new but it’s always the same old stuff. Newly old, old new. Sometimes we try to follow the teachings but are quite new in this lifetime, which might not have been new in many previous lifetimes as well, but it’s new in this lifetime. We try to do it and sometimes don’t know how to do it properly. Same thing with the computer, they are interested in the computer, they do something and maybe delete many things. They do a lot of things but you don’t know how to do it but try to do something. You have had one instruction before but you don’t have the back- up of contemplating upon it and then you can do so many things, you think you’re saving it in one folder but in fact you’re putting it into the recycle bin. The constant back-up of contemplation to get familiarization is always important. To think about that would be to think that I can’t locate my thoughts, if you try to find it you can’t find the essence. This is what we have to think upon, we can’t really think upon it all the time, you might end up not eating. Think upon it a little bit to remind you – why am I so attached to myself? The more we do then the more successful we are and that will bring us less suffering. All suffering came form self-clinging, now we should try to do something totally different. As a conclusion we say this is emptiness. Nothing exists. The second excuse comes that if things are not existent, how about non- existent? Somebody is so desperate to have it here think they can accept it is not existent, then how about things being non-existent. But we say it is also not non-existent, because we have to have an object on which we can interdependently call it non-existent. If we don’t have existence we can’t have non-existence. If we don’t have right we can’t have left. Now the third excuse comes that if it is not existent and if it is not non-existent, then can it be both? The
  • 13. answer is that it can’t be both because existence and non-existence are two contradictory factors. These two contradictory factors can’t exist in one. The last excuse is that does it mean that it’s neither of these two? You can’t say this because neither has to depend upon either. That means that we can’t point out what the nature of reality is. There’s nothing solidly existing that you can point out and say, “This is the nature of reality.” The nature of reality is something that you can’t describe, that is the real nature of reality. At the moment that very nature of reality is not the object of our mind, this is not an object that we can perceive at the moment. The object that we can perceive at the moment is called relative reality. A relative mind will only perceive relative reality, we will not be able to perceive ultimate reality, the ultimate mode of reality, unless we enthusiastically practice in transforming that mind into wisdom. This is the main view in Buddhism, especially in Mahayana, that things don’t exist at all, this is what we call emptiness, devoid of all extremes, the voidness. Rinpoche, this is one of the hardest doctrines to actually understand because while you’re in the world perceiving it, then it’s real. You cannot see at the same time that in actual fact it is emptiness, that it’s also an illusion, that it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist solidly. On a relative reality it 100% exists, it exists. On an ultimate level it doesn’t. Therefore we are saying that when we do things why don’t we do them properly instead of just going here and there and liking this and not liking this – that is giving us the problem. Since there is nothing much to attach to, we only have about 100 years to live, so why are we so clinging on this? Relax. If we think really how long we will live, that’s the first question we can ask. How long? One of the five founding masters of Sakya said ‘Life decays while we are preparing'. We keep preparing, we keep doing something for tomorrow, for next year.
  • 14. We keep preparing but then sooner or later you have to change. So, why not live it positively? Even if I don’t come back I can leave a bad imprint for the next generations, this is what the Buddhist texts also say. If we are concerned about ourselves too much, then you have to be concerned in a helpful way. We have to be concerned about next time when we come then we come a bit better. Before doing most of the practices we say contemplate deeply upon impermanence first, the impermanence of death especially. Sooner or later we have to say goodbye. To face death easier, we can see many people when they die it’s a really big pain, but we can see many people who have all these practices and when they pass away they have excitement or enjoyment. This is more or less like taking off old clothing and putting on new clothing, the theory of reincarnation is more like that. Don’t think that this is the only chance, you will have a next chance so make sure that the next chance is better that this. Rinpoche psychologists say that our own unconscious self will attract situations towards us to give us the opportunity to let go of negative patterns that we are trying to eliminate. For example, if I’m trying to resolve anger then it seems like life shows up more and more and more experiences for me to get angry, in that process of trying to resolve that anger. Is that how it works? More chance for us to see it and make use of it. If you can then it’s really good. Sometimes we can’t transform or overcome our anger. When we are in the process of learning it, if there’s no attacking or no obstructions then one will not get angry, why would one get angry? But at the same time we do get angry too, just sometimes when you are in your own room and you just go to sleep and wake up and wake up angry. This is the time when we have to, instead of saying it’s bad, we have to transform this mind and then say this is the chances that we’re getting and I’ll try to make use of that. Try, and then if you’re good you can be successful, and if not then not.
  • 15. Is there a difference between transforming that and denying that? Even in Buddhism, especially in Mahayana Buddhism, they will not use the words “transformation.” They would rather use the word “abandoning.” In the lower vehicle they call it suppression or denying, or running away from it. In Vajrayana, in Tibetan Buddhism, we call it transformation because it’s all about dealing with our own emotions and no matter how much you try to run away from it it is always there, you can’t really run away from it. The second things, if you try to suppress, it’s like a gas cylinder, if you put too much gas in there then sooner or later it will explode so why not let it come but don’t take it so seriously as a negative but take it as a chance and transform it. Rinpoche, what about the mind that perceives the inseparability of samsara and nirvana – is that just the wisdom that perceives it? Does it use the relative mind? In terms of path – the second path it is still mind but we can also see the inseparability of samsara and nirvana practically a little bit as well, the mind is somewhere near the process of becoming wisdom. A combination of the two? Mind can see it yes, but when you see it, this is sometimes very tricky, “see” means you have to see it completely. When you see little things we don’t count it as seeing because it’s too little and it is not enough. Seeing means seeing completely. Only the wisdom sees things completely. But because of this thing that has been seen by the Noble Beings they have put it into words and passed it over. Now this is something that they have and this is something which attracts me and then this is something that I want to do – then we do it and then while in the process there will be a certain level or
  • 16. time that you will not even think upon whether this is a mind or wisdom or whatever, it is just going on and on and on. To say it simply, it is seen by the wisdom, what mind sees is mostly intellectually. Wisdom doesn’t even doesn’t even see it as samsara and nirvana, it is like water and milk, you can’t really differentiate. The Arhats, who we call foe destroyers, foe refers to the defilements, the way they can see the things, it’s like a tortoise, I have seen it personally. If you put milk in the water and then put a tortoise in it, it will drink the milk and leave the water. That’s like the meditation session and post-meditative session, the Arhats differentiate between samsara and nirvana, when they are in meditation session they only see nirvana. For the Buddha there is no post-meditation, a Buddha is always in the meditation session, it sees the combination, the indescribable combination, you don’t need to have a break. The Arhats need a break. However first we have to generate compassion and enlightenment thought. The successful attainment from the practice of compassion and enlightenment thought is that one will reduce attachment towards one’s life and the welfare of one’s own being. Compassion and enlightenment thought is one of the main causes of Buddhahood. However no matter how much compassion we have or how wide the enlightenment thought is, if we don’t have the view, if these conditions are not associated with the view of the inseparability of samsara and nirvana, the relative and ultimate reality, one will not be able to attain ultimate enlightenment. Not just compassion and enlightenment thought, we also need the view to accompany it as well. This is a good example of interdependence, not the interdependent origination that we want to stop – this shows good interdependence. We nee these all together to work, to be successful. First we have to see what is our weakness and then we have to work more on that. So many weaknesses. Sometimes you can get overwhelmed.
  • 17. Then just choose one. Rinpoche, when you were talking about changing something, you can change your mind, how then do you use the emotions that are attached to that? How do you change your emotions that come as well? Your mind may see something different but then there are the emotions that are responses. These emotions come from mind. If we can stabilise our mind, rather than thinking upon this emotion we go to the cause of this emotion. The cause of the emotion is the way of thinking that is done by our mind, this is why we are talking to our mind not to do this again. Rather than dealing with the result, we’d rather deal from the cause. Once it is there it is there, you can’t reverse back. What’s the cause now, because I want to stop. It is like losing our temper, the temper is there - what can you do? The best you can do is think I’m not going to do that again and think upon how it came and then find out from where it came. Find out what you have to work on and what you’ve been doing.