‘Without a single thought, decisively look at your ultimate nature.’ —Tilopa
“Even if one has experience, and has many different practices, bringing all that into one single essence is important.” 8th Garchen Rinpoche
For today, Dakini Day, am happy to offer PART 1 of a transcript of a recent teaching on June 26 2021, by one of my favourite, and most precious living teachers, HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche (1936-) (based on the English oral translation by Ina Bieler). It is a profound teaching on the necessity of one-pointedness (abiding in a state of non-conceptuality) in union with deity visualization. As Garchen Rinpoche says, if one only has the former, then when one returns to daily life and activities, one will still have the karmic imprints that see and grasp everything as real and inherently existing. Rinpoche explains the state of one-pointedness, a state of non-conceptuality and the purpose of deity visualization, to cut through our normal dualistic clinging to our selves and being separate from others. In addition, he explained the three aspects of the generation stage: 1) clarity, 2) purity and 3) stability. Ending on the importance of experience not just from knowledge but from studies.
The video of the teaching is here:
Part 2 will be published soon. May it be of benefit in helping us all realise the unwavering state of the ultimate nature and the form of the Deity!
Written and transcribed (very quickly) by Adele Tomlin, 4th July 2021.
UNIFYING KARMIC IMPRINTS OF DUALITY INTO THE ESSENCE GROUND:
by 8th Garchen Rinpoche
Based on the English oral translation of Ina Bieler
This teaching is related to what I taught recently on the Songs by Milarepa and the Four Empowerments, and the connection between the four empowerments and the four joys, the four stages of bliss and four yogas of mahamudra and the four appearances of Dzogchen, in the Kagyu tradition, it is the four yogas of Mahamudra, and these are all connected. There are the four joys, the four immeasurables, the four yogas and so on. There was something I saw that really benefited me by Jigme Lingpa, which is hard to encounter it but not secret, so I thought it is good for people to understand it benefited me a lot.
The Four Yogas of Mahamudra and One-Pointedness
Generally speaking, even though there are many different Dharma teachings, the ultimate result is one and the same. You have to bring it all to one essence. So, in the new tantric system there are many different classes of tantra and practices. The ultimate practice is that of the channels, winds and drops, which is related to the four joys, or four levels of bliss.
There is a quote from Milarepa who says the experience of bliss and emptiness has to arise from the direct oral transmission or instructions and these are ornamented by the four empowerments. So in the instruction of the close lineage, or oral transmission, we are talking about the six yogas of Naropa. These six yogas are the ultimate, the essence of the secret classes of tantra belonging to the new tantric system and they are the six yogas of Naropa related to the four levels of joy or bliss. The ultimate result of such practice is the four yogas of mahamudra, the ultimate level of which is the stage of non-meditation. The four yogas are:
- Freedom from elaboration
- One taste, and
These four levels are related to the four levels of empowerment. The first one, one-pointedness is related to the vase empowerment. That might be a little difficult to understand, so I thought it would be good for followers to understand that well. Learning about it has helped me a lot. To start with, what is meant by one-pointedness?
A Drugpa master, Lodro Dangpa, said to realize the nature of mind, it is in a relaxed state, like an even ocean undisturbed by the waves of mental sinking or lack of clarity and agitation. These are the qualities of one-pointedness (Ina translated here as ‘one taste’). That is related to the vase empowerment.
The connection between one-pointedness and the generation stage
The vase empowerment is related to the generation stage. So how are one-pointedness and the generation stage connected? I will explain that to you as well as I can, you can also ask the Khenpos too about that and in the Dharma programmes there are teachings that I did on it.
People often say that in the generation stage, the visualization is elaborated and conceptual. Some people say that in the generation stage we can get caught up in conceptuality and lose track. This is not really the case. We need to see and know the difference between what is conceptual elaboration and what is not. When we abide in a state of one-pointedness, it is a state that is free from conceptual elaboration. When we abide in that state, the inner grasping mind and the outer appearing objects do not mingle and so the mind abides without grasping at any external objects. Various sense perceptions may appear, such as sound, taste, touch and so on.
When there is one-pointedness one rests within the three vajras, which are 1) empty nature of appearances, 2) empty nature of sounds and 3) empty awareness. Those are the three vajras. Vajra here means when one abides within that empty nature. Normally, when we meditate we cannot abide within that empty nature one-pointedly. We can abide in that restful state for a while, but then again something happens and thoughts arise. For example, a person arrives and immediately and naturally, we hold whatever arises to be true. We think that is really happening, whatever we see.
A person comes and you automatically assume that it is a real person coming and you think ‘oh no, he is here, he came.’ That happens momentarily. So a person who has really understood the generation stage, how will they understand that? When they see a person coming, they will understand the nature of that ‘person’, in terms of where has the person come from, where are they now and where will the person go. A meditator will understand the person has no inherent nature or coming, abiding and going. We think that we are born, live and die and the same with the planet, that it is created, abides and disintegrates. So when a person who understands how things are, a meditator sees a person, they will know that what they see is a body, which is a compounded phenomenon and whatever is compounded is impermanent by nature and therefore, will become emptiness. A person who understands the generation stage naturally understands that is the nature of all phenomena. This is how all these elaborated conceptual phenomena become unelaborated; or the generation stage which is arising is realized as unborn. They know that when they see a person coming, it is a body, which is a form that will disintegrate. If the form will disintegrate, where is the person? There is a mind, but we cannot see the mind. Even though we cannot see the mind, there are these karmic imprints within the mind/consciousness. The way these karmic imprints manifest within this body in this lifetime is, for example, in our dream state. Then, later when we die, the consciousness goes into the bardo. Then, in the bardo the various manifestations appear, which are the natural projections of one’s karmic imprints. It is just that in the bardo one does not have the aggregate of form any longer.
In the bardo, it is said one possesses the four aggregates and a name. One possesses consciousness, perception, karmic formation and feelings. The way we can understand that now while we are alive, is through our dreams. In our dreams we also have something like an illusory body which is not a physical form. This is something we learn in the six yogas of Naropa, the illusory body and of dreaming. When you are dreaming, your body lies sleeping in your bed, but your mind dreams but due to the karmic imprints present in the mind, as in during waking time, it experiences all sorts of things in the dreams. These dream experiences are the karmic imprints we are discussing. That is how you can see and recognize your karmic imprints. This is how we can recognize and understand it while we are alive, when we observe the difference between our waking and dream state perceptions. Then later, when we die and are in the bardo, we can understand via the dream state how the bardo will be. Basically, whatever appears in the bardo, or the dreams, are not real things. We cannot say they inherently exist. They are only the manifestations of the karmic imprints in our mind.
Generation stage purifies karmic imprints of duality in the mind
The purpose of the generation stage/visualization, is in order to purify the karmic imprints of the body. Normally when we see two people, oneself and someone else, we naturally think there are two people, me and him. You think you exist separately. What we learn in the generation stage is that the body and physical forms we see, consist of the five elements, everything consists of them. Your own body and the other person is nothing but a heap of five elements. The flesh is the earth element, the blood is the water element, the heat is fire element, the breath is wind element and consciousness is the space element. We naturally see the body dualistically between self and other. We then develop thoughts based on this dualistic perception and we perceive through the eight kinds of consciousness. Then through that, we develop the fifty afflicted thoughts that perpetuate samsara and lead to birth in the six realms of samara. From an impure perspective there is a perception of ‘that’s me’ and ‘that’s him’ and you think that’s real. So Jetsun Mila said when one grasps at the root or basis of samara, or characteristics, thinking that it has a root or base when it doesn’t, that is just a proliferation of thoughts. The mind is actually unborn. When we grasp at the mind to possess characteristics, that is a confused perception.
When we look at a person, we say the mind has created the person, so how has the mind done that? It is because we believe in the true concrete existence of things. That is the purpose of the generation stage, which purifies these concepts of a true inherent existence of things. So, for example, we recognize the true nature of things of the eight modes of consciousness and the five afflictive emotions or the eight afflicted thoughts that create samara temporarily. It is all created by the mind. First, when we begin to practice the generation stage, we understand it is all created by the mind. The Buddha also realized that it is only an adventitious or temporary obscuration. When we first go for refuge , we learn through the Buddha that we cultivate the altruistic mind. It is through that we then purify our impure perceptions grasping at a concrete existence.
When you first cultivate an altruistic intention for all beings then your mind becomes vast. Then we do the generation stage practice in which we recognize the true nature of our aggregates, elements and the sense sources. We recognize the aggregates as having the nature of the Dhyani Buddhas and the elements as the female Buddhas, sense sources as male and female bodhisattvas, the joints of bodies as male and female wrathful ones and so on, so we recognize the body incorporates all the wrathful and females deities complete within the body. From an impure perspective, there are hundreds and thousands of different micro organisms or bacteria in our body, from a pure perspective, these are all the deity.
We speak about the aggregate of the body/form and also aggregate of perceptions, feelings and so on. Aggregate means not just one solid thing, but a collection of many things coming together. Whatever is a collection is a compounded phenomenon, and whatever is compounded is impermanent by nature. That is what we need to realize through the generation stage. Then we realize that our existence too is one of disintegration. We are born, we age, we get sick ,we die. That is our nature. We are here now and we perish but even though bodies perish, the mind never ceases to be. The mind can mature into the nature of the five wisdoms. That is what we are introduced to via the generation stage. Through the visualization we are purifying the ordinary, karmic imprints of holding things to truly exist, of grasping at a concrete existence of appearances. We can still see things but we understand their essence is empty. That is the empty essence and the natural clarity. Things appear, while they are empty of self-nature. So, during the generation stage, this is where things appear and we visualize, but we recognize this appearance is empty of self-nature. Just as when you see a person, you recognize the person’s appearance is empty of self-nature and you recognize that all beings in the whole universe have that nature. You can see them but they are not actually real. They appear but they are compounded phenomena, therefore, their appearance is illusory and knowing that, you will not develop any thoughts about them and you will be able to abide single-pointedly within the view.
Even if a thought arises, the thought will naturally subside like a wave on water. You don’t think of its existence or non-existence. You don’t think that whatever arises is real but you also don’t think that it is not real. You just continue to abide without distraction without getting caught up in the extreme views of existence/eternalism or nihilism/non existence. When you rest within that state, anything at all may arise or can arise. Whatever arises you do not grasp on it, you do not pay much attention to what arises.
The importance of practicing deity visualisation
Within the three kāyas of the Buddha we spoke about the sambhogakāya. The sambhogakāya recognizes that all appearances are their own self-projection. So things appear but you don’t cling to them, because you know they are your own projection. So during the generation stage, you stay in a single pointed state, a relaxed, space-like state and then you just abide within that. This is how the union of one-pointedness and generation stage happens. You are able at any time to abide single-pointedly in the space-like state of the generation stage. Even if thoughts arise, you recognize they are illusory and that appearances are empty of self nature. Recognizing these appearances may arise, you are not bothered by them. However, even if they do not arise and nothing is there, it is fine, the mind just abides unwaveringly. This is a state of calm-abiding of single-pointedness.
The connection between that and the generation stage is that it is necessary for those two to be practiced in union. Only then will you gain actual freedom. If you do not practice the generation stage and only practice single-pointed meditation, you might achieve a state of calm-abiding. However, later on, when you go about your daily business and activities again, you will again see things as really existing and you will grasp at a concrete existence of things. When you are practicing in that state you are relaxed but when you go out again and see a person, you instantly think this person is real and you believe in the true existence of that person. That is because we have not been able to destroy the ordinary karmic imprints of grasping at the body. These are purified through the generation stage.
When you visualize, you hold it without the thought it exists, or does not exist. In that way, the fixation with appearances things as existing or not will disintegrate. If you always abide in that state, later on in normal activities, everything will appear that way. If bodhicitta is present, an actual reflection of bodhicitta without grasping at things, everything will appear as a pure land of a deity. Naturally, everything will appear as pleasant and joyful.
On the other hand, if the mind continues to grasp at appearances and is afflicted, and there are negative thoughts within the mind, then naturally the six realms of samara are always ready to appear, whenever the negative thoughts are present. Whatever appears is illusory by nature. This is what one realizes when one gains stability in the generation stage. If you do not gain stability in the generation stage and only practice one-pointed meditation, and do not practice the deity, in your daily activities again these ordinary concepts of things possessing a true, concrete existence will arise. If you have stability in the visualization of the deity these fixations will not appear and that whatever appears is empty and illusory. This is a very important point. That the one-pointedness is practiced in union with the generation stage. Through that you will come to an understanding of the empty nature of appearances.
The generation stage is related to the vase empowerment. If you think about the arising and destruction of things. This planet is suspended in empty space and consists of the four elements. That is what the generation stage is, you are building up the universe, the palace and so on. One day this planet will disintegrate. Each and every day, limitless planets and stars disintegrate and collapse. They are all compounded phenomena and impermanent, and so are all subject to disintegration. Just like all the planets and stars collapse, also this one will collapse one day. Within this world, I have this life here, so when my life comes to an end, then this world will come to an end in my perception. In any case, as it is said in the Samantabhadra prayer:
“Even if three worlds were destroyed there is no fear, there is no attachment to the five desirables of the senses.”
When you understand the meaning of these words and gained stability in the generation stage, you see there is no need for fear and know that mind will never disintegrate and that the world is illusory. You have to realize that through generation stage. You cannot realize that with calm abiding and shamatha. That alone cannot free you from such fears, because even though you may have gained some stability, again when you see things manifest around and you will fixatedly see them as truly existing and this can only be overcome by the generation stage and that is why we practice it in union with one-pointedness.
Collective karma and individual karma
The outer universe is subject to disintegration. We have this natural perception of the outer universe possessing some stability to it, something that is always there. We perceive things this way due to a collective imprint and collective way of perceiving things. For example, there are many different countries in the world and the citizens of each country have a collective perception of that country. For example, people say ‘I am an American citizen’ because they live in America because each country gives a name to each country, and then they say we are citizens of that country. We collectively perceive this as America and the Americans collectively sees that in the same way. Like we perceive this planet earth and see it in the same way. That collective karmic imprint creates this world even though there are many different, other worlds like that. The collective imprint makes us feel sure that is the way it is. The entire outer universe however does not possess the way it appears. It appears as real, stable and it exists as a solid thing. There are imprints that are individual imprints on an individual basis which are created from afflictive emotions and accumulate different karma and have different experiences in the six realms of samara. Jigten Sumgon said that cause and effect are the natural manifestation of one’s moment to moment thoughts.
For example, when we compare humans and animals, even though we have different bodies, we have the same mind. We have the same feelings, we have the same wish to survive, the same wish to be happy and not to suffer. So they are really the same and when we think about carefully why do animals seem to suffer so much more than humans, who experience much more comfort and well being? The difference is karma. We really need to open our eyes to the reality of karma. When thinking about karma carefully, what karmic manifestations really come down to is the dualistic perception of a self and other duality. It is because we perceive things in this dualistic way that we develop and create thoughts of attachment and aversion. Those solidify our perception and we see things in this concrete and real way and have our real ideas about things. That is what causes us to accumulate karma. Karma really is the same as the karmic imprints, the imprints in the mind. That is how we should recognize karma.
The difference between purity and impurity
Regarding the karmic imprints, which are really a reflection of our karma, we can understand them by looking at our dreams. Their nature is realized by practicing the generation stage, because through the generation stage we recognize the lack of inherent existence of appearances and in this way, we are purifying the ordinary karmic imprints within the mind. When the mind becomes pure of grasping, of karmic imprints, the entire universe and all sentient beings may appear and may not appear, it all is seen in the same way as one’s own mind has become pure. No matter appears or does not appear everything becomes pure. Everything is seen completely purely. If one’s mind is not pure then one will see everything as impure. Even those things that are pure, one will see them as impure. It all depends on how you see things and whether there is grasping in the mind.
Shakyapa said, ‘when there is grasping in the mind, you do not have the ultimate view.’ It all comes down to dualistic grasping. Someone who has the view of non-duality and realized the nature of mind, will see everything, the universe and all sentient beings as the divine form of the deity. That is the perfection of the generation stage of secret mantra. Everything that appears and exists is seen as the deity because you have realized that anything appears and exists lacks any inherent existence and are temporary illusory appearances and no duality. So you will not cling to them in any way and all becomes pure . They are understood to be the deity; ‘understood’ here means ‘experienced’. Ordinary beings may ‘understand’ this but what we mean here is a real knowledge and experience that all that exists and appears is one’s own mind and nothing else. For that reason, there is nothing that possesses any pure or impure characteristics, When the mind abides in an unwavering state of one-pointedness, all the impure karmic imprints in the mind will naturally subside and become purified.
So even if your mind is born in a body in the three lower realms, your mind still does not waver and remains the same. When you find that mind or the ground that never wavers, which abides in the ground that never wavers, then all karmic imprints become purified. Just like washing some old clothes.
Clarity, purity and stability in the generation stage
When practicing deity generation stage yoga visualization there are three points, clarity, purity and stability. Clarity means you see the form of the deity clearly, there is a clear appearance. Through clear appearance of the deity form, the ordinary appearance of your body will transform and you will enter into the form of the deity.
Secondly, purity means to recollect the pure meaning of the deity’s appearance. For example, if you recollect the meaning of the crown of the five Dhyani Buddhas, that represents the transformation of the five afflictive emotions into the five wisdoms, so when you visualize that, you will instantly know they have transformed into the five wisdoms. If you just understand that point, you will know that they are not separate things, they are one and the same thing, it all depends on seeing it.
In the Samantabhadra Prayer it says: ‘if you see it, you are Buddha, if you do not see it, you are a sentient being wandering in samsara’. That is the only difference between ripe and unripe, seeing it or not seeing it. When you see it, you are a Buddha, what you see is non-duality when you understand that things lack any inherent existence. When this dualistic perception becomes purified there is no more ordinary thought within the mind of grasping, thinking things are real or unreal.
Tilopa said therefore,
‘Without a single thought, decisively look at your ultimate nature.’
When you have gained stability in this, when there is no more grasping in the mind, then all appearances are seen as illusory forms of appearance-emptiness. Anything can appear and all has the same nature and all becomes equal. Whenever you gain stability in the generation stage, the stability in realizing that all appearances are empty, on the basis of that you will achieve true one-pointedness. The understanding that they only appear temporarily and are perceived a certain way temporarily. For example, it is just like a person with jaundice, seeing the white conch as yellow even though the conch is white. It is just how we see things.
When realizing that, there will be no more grasping at good or bad. We like to label things as good and bad, such as this person is good or bad. There will be no more of that. Because of grasping we have all kinds of perceptions of good and bad and pure and impure. So a person who does not grasp at the concrete existence of what appears. Everything that appears is pure, the pure or the impure are all illusory. This is how things begin to appear to someone who has realized the natural state. Through the generation stage we realize the empty nature of appearances. And through the one-pointedness we develop this unwavering state. So the quality of the generation stage is that all appearances begin to manifest like rainbows, they clearly appear but lacking any true existence. This rainbow-like appearance is the clarity aspect of the generation stage. The essence is empty, or the second aspect of the generation stage, the purity. Pure in the sense those things are empty and therefore completely pure and that is the recollection of purity. Through that we purify our dualistic thoughts.
Stabiliity and divine pride
Then the third aspect the stability, or the divine pride. That is all beings possess Buddha Nature, and even though they appear in hundreds of thousands ways and deities, they are all the same nature, they are the radiance of Buddha Nature. Just as you might have millions of types of phones in the world, they are all powered by one and the same electricity. Or in the 37 Practices which says, the way things appear is your own mind. That is what you resolve through the generation stage practice, and this is then how the mind is able to free itself and abide in this free state. That is the generation stage.
Following that is the completion stage. The generation stage purifies the existence of birth and trains the mind in taking birth. Through the completion stage, we purify the existence of death and train the mind in dying. Through that, the mind comes to a state of non-grasping an unwavering state. That is something I encourage you to discuss with each other, how it really is and you have Khenpo to ask questions and so on. That is how I have understood it based on a teaching by Jigme Lingpa.
Another example is if you are sitting inside a building, for someone who has realized the generation stage, when meditating, they understand the building is composed of many parts and not just a singular one building. They don’t believe the building is a stable and solid thing. So when they close their eyes it seems like the building is not even there anymore, and when they open their eyes it appears.
Someone who has no obstructions in the mind like that, can visualize the deity as huge and it is not obstructed by the building at all. Someone who doesn’t understand that who has fixations in their mind, for example, have said that I can’t really meditate or visualize Chenrezig in this building as huge because the building is obstructing him ad confining the form of him from being huge. That is because there is a perception of the building being real and solid.
The importance of experience
Milarepa said meditation has to be imbued with an actual experience. The experience is key. It cannot just be an understanding of something. It is through experience we unify the four yogas and the four empowerments. That we see the connection of those four and the four levels of joy. We have to know this, because if I told you something I didn’t have any experience in it would just be lip-service, just words. It is only through experience that someone can show you something. Some might say ‘oh Buddha said this and that’ but that is not enough, it has to come through experience. Think about that again and again. Think about Milarepa and what he said about the connection to the four joys and four yogas. It’s very important to see that connection. When you see that connection you will see everything is interconnected.
Like the four classes of tantra, for example, the new tantra system and hundreds of thousands of yidams and sadhanas, if you understand the connections all come down to a single point, the four empowerments, joys all come to the same essence. We need to bring them all to the one root. Doing that can only be accomplished with experience. Even if one has experience, and has many different practices, bringing all that into one single essence is important.