Saturday, August 22, 2015

Projections and Essence

How can we understand a verse like this?
From the Lankavatara Sutra XXXII

            Nothing exists at all
            And these are nothing but words

Studying the Lankavara sutra is bringing together a lot of the ideas I have repeated in my teaching over the years.

I have often taught that language is the not the essence, but it may point to the essence.  Yet we still have the importance in our life of language.

The teaching of signlessness means that the sign (the name, the character) is not the thing.  The word is not the essence.  One of the teachings I have taught repeatedly is how we build up our conceptualization and get farther and farther from suchness.  After the solidification of our opinions, we end up defending our beliefs as if they are real.

This teaching on the deception of language goes like this:
1.     Naming – our consciousness gives something a name
2.     Elaboration - then we elaborate into a story with our memory, our futuring, and our projections
3.    Clinging – then we become attached to our story
4.    Opinion or belief  - then we become attached to our stories being “right”
5.    And I add – war – then we fight for our “right” belief

In studying the Lankavatara Sutra, this teaching on naming and projections have been explained with quite a bit of nuance.

Though in Buddhism, we do not destroy the world of our construction, our karmic life, or what we might call our ordinary world, in order to find freedom or happiness.    The Buddhist’s claim to freedom is based on the breaking up of our false identification with these projected stories.  We can have them, but we have to understand them in order to be free of them.

Our words are based on our projections and our projections are based on a false reality.  To know the truth behind words requires seeing through the falsehood of our projections or our constructions of our storied life.

In the Lankavatara sutra, it says that the four kinds of word projections source back to the Eight Consciousness, which I have written about in a recent blog.

The First projection is called Object Projection, which sources from the first five sensory consciousnesses.  This is an attachment to forms and their characteristics, which we perceive through our sense gates – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body.

The second projection is called Dream projections, coming from the 6th consciousness (mind, thought, and mind consciousness).   This is thought or conceptual consciousness.  Dream words arise from recollecting previously experienced realms that upon waking are found to be nonexistent.

The third projection is called Word for attachment to erroneous projection.  This is related to the 7th consciousness, which is called Manas.   I spoke about erroneous projections in the previous blog- a self, a person, a living being, a life span.  Manas is the consciousness that circulates all the other consciousnesses (our senses and our thoughts) around a “self”.  It is our ego consciousness or “I” consciousness.  In the sutra it says, words for attachment to mistaken projections arise from recollecting previous acts of hostility.  Why hostility?  Because whenever the ego is involved, we feel we need to protect the non-existent “I”.  Hostility and not kindness is the operant emotion in defense.  Why is there no “I”?  Because everything is constantly changing and everything is interrelated.  The truth about our “I” is that it is porous and based on interbeing.

The fourth projection is called Words for projection without beginning.  This projection comes from the 8th consciousness – the storehouse consciousness. Words for projections without beginning arise from the habit-energy of the seeds of past attachments to beginning-less projections.  The storehouse consciousness is beginning-less.  You cannot really find a root cause.  The net of causes and conditions for that which arises is beyond our thinking and our conceptualizations.





Monday, August 17, 2015

Milarepa's Song to Lady Paldarboom

Here is a beautiful excerpt from Milarepa's Song that was posted on the Insight Timer app on the Clouds in Water group site. posted by Genjo.

"Then she said, "Dear teacher, I have done nothing at all to prepare for the next life.  Now I'm going to do so.  Please, out of your great compassion, take care of me and give me meditation instructions."

Milarepa was delighted and replied, "If you practice the Dharma sincerely, in my tradition, you don't need to change your name.  One awakens with a full head of hair.  You don't have to cut your hair or make other changes."

He sang this song with four examples and five points about meditation and mind practice:

Ah, Lady Paldarboom
fortunate and devoted student,

Take the sky as an example,
Practice without any sense of limit or position.

Take the sun and moon as examples,
Practice without any sense of clarity or distortion.

Take this mountain as an example,
Practice without any sense of movement or change.


Take the great ocean as an example,
Practice without any sense of depth or surface.

To bring out mind,
Practice without any doubt or hesitation.

Showing her how to sit and direct her mind, he set her to practice.
She had good experiences in her meditation and presented this song to clear away doubts and impediments.

Ah, Treasured Lord,
Perfect expression of awakened form,

I was happy practicing with the sky,
But a little uneasy about bringing clouds into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with clouds.

I was happy practicing with the sun and moon,
But a little uneasy about bringing stars and planets into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with stars and planets.

I was happy to practice with the mountain.
But a little uneasy about bringing in grass and trees.
Please give me instruction on practicing with grass and trees.

I was happy practicing with the ocean,
But a little uneasy about bringing waves into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with waves.

I was happy to practice with mind,
But a little uneasy about bringing thoughts into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with thoughts.

Milarepa thought that her practice was productive and was delighted.
In response to her request, he sang this song about removing
impediments and enhancing practice.

Ah, Lady Paldarboom,
Listen, fortunate and devoted student.

If you are happy practicing with the sky
Clouds are the sky's magical creations.
Be the sky itself.

If you are happy practicing with the sun and moon,
Planets and stars are their magical creations.
Be the sun and moon.

If you are happy practicing with the mountain,
Grass and trees are the mountain's magical creations.
Be the mountain itself.

If you are happy practicing with the ocean,
Waves are the ocean's magical creations.
Be the ocean itself.

If you are happy practicing with mind,
Thoughts are the mind's magical creations.
Be the mind itself.

When she practiced with these instructions,
She came to a clear understanding of the nature of pure being.
Later, She went to the dakini realms in her own body
accompanied by the sounds of cymbals.

From the chapter of Milarepa's Hundred Thousand Songs.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Four Erroneous Perceptions

In studying the Diamond Sutra we come across the Four Erroneous Perceptions.
These are:

From Thich Nhat Hanh's translation:
1.     A self
2.     A person
3.     A living being
4.     A life span

From Red Pine's translation:
1.     A self
2.     A being
3.     A view of life
4.     A view of a soul

Why are these erroneous views?  It seems in common parlance, these are accepted as truthful.  Of course there is a person here.  Of course we are born and then die which means we have a life span.  What is Buddhism trying to say if they call these ideas erroneous?

Strickly speaking, these ideas don’t exist coming from the absolute realm.  If we go beyond language and beyond ideas, then these “ideas” don’t correspond to reality.  If we want to understand vastness and emptiness,  we are encouraged to explore how these views are erroneous.  If we want to understand interbeing, we need to open our minds to that which is beyond our language and concepts.

This is so important that the Diamond Sutra says that to understand one verse is to penetrate the whole of it:

The body of merit of the person who grasps, memorizes, recites, and masters such a sutra as the Diamond Sutra or even explains a 4 line verse of it to others will exceed my former body of merit not by a hundredfold or a thousandfold or a hundred thousand fold or a million fold or a hundred million fold or a thousand millionfold or a hundred thousand million fold, but by an amount that cannot be measured, calculated, illustrated, characterized or even imagined.

In order to understand vastness, we use numbers like a millionfold or a hundred thousand million fold.  We use concepts like there is no body, no life span, no centralized being at all.

This is all pointing to a taste of what the Buddhist call Great Space or boundlessness, or emptiness.  The sky that is behind the clouds.  The space that is behind the stories of our life.  If we can touch into this Great Space, we can get a different perspective on our lives and stories.  This different perspective is what, eventually or gradually grows into our freedom and liberation.  It becomes the release from our suffering based on clinging to a self and believing in the solidity of our stories.
This touching into the Great Vastness and the Four Erroneous Perception is elaborative of the Three Doors of Liberation:
1.     Selfless or no Self
2.     Signless or no name
3.     Aimless or no goal

Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

Where there is a sign, there is delusion,
That is, when there is a perception, there is deception
The substance of any perception is its sign.
Our task is to practice until signs no longer deceive us
And our perception becomes insight and understanding.


What is true is the dynamic of this moment without conceptualization.  Before we put a name on it, the process of life is, as Katagiri Roshi would say, just Life-ing.  The formation of the moment itself is the Buddha-nature.  This Buddha nature is so much more vast that the intellectual ideas of a life span, a being or a centralized self.