Seeing the truth is so important in the Buddhist path. Seeing the fake as fake is very important. That is the quintessential. And this is what is meant by vipassana. Seeing, the insight. Or in the Tibetan we call it lhatong, meaning seeing something extra. Right now what we see, we see the one that’s, you know, all the painted version, the camouflage. The window dressing. One that is sooner or later going to disappoint you. So what we need to do is to see the truth. Seeing the truth is what we call wisdom. And that is the most important blessing of the Buddha. Seeing the truth is also none other than so called mahakaruna, compassion, sort of loosely. Seeing the truth is also itself the power. Flying, all these kind of things, clairvoyance, all those are not real power. The real power is seeing the truth. And that, seeing the truth, is what eighty four thousand Buddha’s teaching are trying to achieve. And that is what did Buddha try to lure people, eighty four thousand and more ways. For some he leads, he points to the truth nakedly. For others, he brings them close to the truth, points to another direction and makes sure that he ends up seeing the truth. Now you know that seeing the truth is crucial, to get rid of the fundamental root of suffering.
Root of the suffering in our life is – to put it very simply – the root of the cause of the problem and the suffering that we have is looking at something completely not true and mistaking it as true and thinking it is true and clinging to that. Because even in our common sense you can tell when you begin to think something not true as true you have already asked for trouble. Sooner or later you are going to get disappointed. But this is easier said than done. And the reason is we have build strong habit to think something fake as truth.
The bodhisattva who wishes to follow this path must invest time and energy to understand law and rule of, or the truth of depending arising. The dependent. Nothing is independent. That everything is dependently arising. A bodhisattva must pay attention, invest time and energy to understand that. And by the way this is the quintessential Mahayana path, aim of the Mahayana path, to understand the dependent arising. Wishing, longing, aspiring, working hard to understand the dependent arising is offering to the Buddha, it is the meditation, it is the generosity, it is the discipline, it is so called meditation, it is basically Mahayana path. Trying to understand dependent arising.
How do you define what is virtuous and what is not? If an act brings you closer to the truth, it is a virtuous action in buddhism. Okay. If an act – okay, so if an act of whatever, for instance, if, let’s say in order to save like these two, let’s say this two are being chased by a murderer. In order to save these two, the murderer asks me: “Have you seen these two?” I say: “No.” That is a blatant lie. That is an act of lying. But I am saving them. Such kind of act, outwardly it is an non-virtuous , but actually it is bring you closer to the truth. To the compassion, love, and all that. So therefore, especially in Mahayana Buddhism, action that brings you closer to the truth is virtuous. Action that does not bring you closer, action that brings you further from the truth, even though it may be seemingly virtuous such as going to Bodhgaya and do hundred thousand prostration and making sure anybody is looking at you so that you become famous, whether anybody is taking photograph of you, you know. To self-cherish and all of that. This is bringing you further from the truth. That is non-virtuous.
Many times, to be straight forward, to be open is cherished and valued. But to be skillful has to be valued, because many times the truth, the honest truth, cannot be easily appreciated by others, cannot be digested. Even the Buddha, if you look at his teachings, the absolute teachings – you know there are many different levels of teachings. Many many many teachings are what we call the expedient teachings, the teachings that require interpretations. The direct naked absolute teachings such as Vajracchedika Sutra are very difficult to digest. Here Buddha says there is no Buddha, there is no form of the Buddha. Buddha never taught. So on and so forth. That is shocking. That is indigestible. So in many other Sutras Buddha talks about his past life, once when he was a rabbit, once when he was a peacock. So on and so forth, Jatakamala Sutra. And then there are other Sutras where he says there is something like Sukhavati, Amithaba realm where there are lotuses, there are swimming pools. Stuff like that. So Shakyamuni Buddha was being very skillful in order to approach.
Buddhism deals with the truth. Truth is something that generally people are not that interested. Buddhism talks about things like impermanence. Illusion. Not many people are interested in those things.
Shravakayana or what we, which the Theravada tradition is categorized by the Mahayana chauvinist like myself. Each different tradition of Buddhism basically has a different approach to refuge. They do not contradict, they are a little bit like a paradox. In the Shravakayana the truth, the absolute truth, is what is absolutely non-deceiving object of refuge. So Shakyamuni Buddha who was bound by elements like history, time, citizenship and all that, is not really, his body basically, his body is not the object, his body is not the ultimate object of refuge. His mind or his dharmakaya, in a more appropriate way of putting it, is definitely object of refuge but his body, the Buddha’s body, Shakyamuni Buddha, historical Buddha, his body was not ultimately non-deceiving. His body decayed and got old and died. Very crudely speaking, right. So that’s not, you know – Theravada tradition or the Shravakayana tradition is very strict, no compromise, which is so good. Really no compromise. So the things like Four Noble Truths is the truth that, if you accept that, if you follow that, if you take refuge to that, is undeceiving. Whether it is not deceiving or not you have to find out through hearing, contemplation, meditation and all kinds of other disciplines.
In the Tantrayana, guru, the teacher, is taken as the ultimate, the embodiment of the all the object of refuge. Now that is saying a lot. That is really like. The reason why I was telling you earlier, those who have gone through the Theravada and the Mahayana teachings, then taking the Tantrayana, I was just saying that they are really good. The reason why I said this is because in all this Sutrayana which is the like Theravada tradition, they really encourage analysis, critical thinking. They always quote this quotations like come and see, not come and join, see for yourself. Buddha himself said, my teachings you have to analyze. You cannot take it for face value. And these are very important. And in the Vajrayana, we are assuming that you have done that. But you see the guy who came from California, recently, they are not doing this, they have not done that. And this is why there is a big misunderstanding about this guru business. In Tantrayana, guru is not a – actually even so we usually for a conventional reason we say, guru is, you know, guru, master, you know the word master. Actually in the Vajrayana, Tantrayana, guru is the path. And the reason is by now we are assuming you have done all the analysis such as, is all compounded things impermanent or not. For years you studied this, for years you studied is everything truly existent or not. All of that. If not years, at least a few month. You have been doing that. And then really coming to a conclusion that the most guilty, culprit, most – yes the real culprit is the ego. Clinging to oneself, cherishing oneself. After all the analysis we realize that cherishing oneself is the, it all boils down to this. This is the mother of all the emotion. Cherishing oneself. Not only cherishing oneself, actually even something more subtle then that, thinking that there is actually a truly existing self. Having that kind of delusion, that is the real culprit. Okay? After analysis if you come to that conclusion then next what. Next you have to open your diary book. Diary book. How much time you have. It is a matter of scheduling. Do you have lot of time or do you have a short time. Okay you want to get rid of this cherishing self, you want to get rid of the clinging to the self? Now, how much time do you have. Do you have three countless eons? Or you want to do it fast and get done with it. So that is the question now, the scheduling question. So generally we are assuming that everybody wants to get done with it quite as soon as possible. You know, right. We want the liberation fast. So now what do we have. What can we do. The fastest method is to hire someone. Fastest method is to really poke on you to really stir you, poke you, to really upset you. Also give you of course the path, the truth, of course. Just poking and, what you call it, upsetting is not enough. That you can just go to any place. But someone who can also give you – but those are equally important though. Someone who knows how to give you the right path, you know all the path, okay this what to do in order to fight aggression, this is what you do to fight the desire, anger. But he is not good at poking you or upsetting you. Not qualified, not good. You know many people these days worry there is a talk about all you know abusive gurus and stuff like that. Actually, from the Dharma point of view, we actually have the shortage of someone who actually poke you. We have fairly good enough gurus who can give you information. There are many many scholastic, well trained. Okay I have this and that problem. Guru will say oh yes page number twenty six. You need to do shamata, vipassana, this this this. There is many gurus who can do that. But a guru who has the courage, guru who has the courage to tell you, okay every morning you have to smell my armpit. That’s difficult. Because this guru has an agenda you see. This guru doesn’t want to lose students. This guru wants to have many many students. Become very popular. And then telling people smell armpit is not the right way to become popular. Have you ever seen a pamphlet, leaflet that says His Holiness this and that, expert in smelling your armpits or something. We always say His Holiness this, Manjushri himself, compassionate, he is the manifestation of this and that. We actually have the shortage of guru who actually knows how to poke people. Really, believe me, this is the truth. People actually are worried about, there is too much abusive people. Yes this is true, this is true. But if you are spiritually thinking, if you are serious, we don’t have enough. Yes we have to hire people who can do this job. And the thing is this, the challenge is this, this is your question I am answering. Challenge is this guru who you are supposed to think he is the embodiment of all the Buddha if he looks like the golden statue that you have just recently bought from India, you know this beautiful, serene, it won’t work. Then the whole, the guru effect won’t work. That is the challenge. This guru must like, has to have some kind of a disliking and liking. This guru needs to, this guru has to yawn sometimes. He has to fall asleep. He has to sort of do strange things. That is the tricky part. That is the tricky part. We don’t want to, actually you know, we should not talk about it too much, it is very, from the conventional point of view it is criminal to talk these things. It is almost like a crime. It is actually. It is.
It is very funny actually. We all want to be happy but we are not so good at training to make ourselves happy, this is always an intriguing part of the human – well intriguing for us but for the sublime being it is not intriguing because we are looking at a wrong direction, we are not seeing the truth. You know as we were speaking earlier, you are looking at completely, something completely futile, completely – like a, we are, our life, this body that we have, you and I have, it is really barely hanging together. Barely, even more fragile than the dew drop on the grass. Just barely hanging there, any moment it is going to drop. Any moment. And looking at that, thinking that it is going to go on for some time. That’s, you are asking for a trouble. Something is going to go wrong with this kind of attitude, with this kind of mind. Looking at this – this is truth by the way, this is not whining of a middle age crisis, a person who is going through a middle age crisis. This is the truth. You young people, don’t think that you are young and you will not die. You will. Most probably you will die first. From the way you behave these days, most probably.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
You know, I really have to stress this refuge. Because many times we forget this refuge. I was so touched when I went to Sri Lanka. First of all for the first time I thought I was in a Buddhist country. You know many people think Tibet is a very Buddhist, of course. You can sort of say, ninety nine percent of Tibetans are Buddhist. Very very kind of hardline Buddhist, you can say. But whether the teaching has really gone inside the mind and the heart of the grass root level of Tibetans I don’t know. And one big part of this is the fundamental basic teachings of the refuge, many times the Tibetans forget. They are all excited with all kinds of things like smoke offering, I don’t know, but all the high stuff, Dzogchen, Mahamudra. Of course one could always argue that they are the ultimate refuge and all of that. But many times the ultimate refuge is so difficult if you don’t have a relative refuge. Sri Lanka when I went there, it is just so beautiful. For instance as a tourist when I went there. You go to this small village monastery and then this temple managers they come to you and they lead you. And the first place, the first spot they lead us is to a Bodhi tree, a tree. That is the most important because it reminds us the enlightenment. Symbolically and all of that. Historically. That is the most important place. Then they say, well have you had enough now? Then we say can we see more. Then only then they bring you to a Stupa. That is fantastic. Stupa. Now if you still want more only then they take you to a temple with a roof and inside where you can sit and do prostrations. It is the opposite in Tibet. First of all I don’t think there is a Bodhi tree in Tibet but – very important I think because temple is so materialistic and worldly, you know, it has a roof. You can change clothes inside there. You understand what I mean, you can change, you can actually be naked if really necessary. So it is a dwelling place. Whereas the Stupa there is no door to go in. There is no toilet. It is just a mount. That is much more, you know, that is much more useless. And then they take you to the tree, that is the absolute useless. Actually, from the temple’s point, from the materialistic point of view, even to this level of mundane even to this kind of mundane level Sri Lanka reflected me this amazing, it is in there sort of. And this I think is very important because it really makes – this is one country that has been really ravaged you know like. This went through so much of problems insides, you know all kinds of war. But I can almost say I never been to a more peaceful, loving, friendly and so gentle people, ever. This I could see it is because of the acceptance of some of these truth I was talking earlier. This small village temple when I went there was two college girls, Sri Lankan, they were there deeply doing some kind of prayers and meditation. So I waited for some time and when they finished I approached one of them and asked. I was incognito so I acted as a non Buddhist. Anyway I prefer that way because I would look really like a Buddhist gangster there because – they are so good. So I asked, what do you pray for. And this village, small college student, girl. I am a Buddhist, we don’t pray for anything. We just pray so that we can follow the Buddha’s truth. The way of the Buddha. Wow. Lots of mixture of feelings in my mind, kind of got a little bit depressed for a day too. Because I was reflecting myself. Refuge, specially in the Theravada tradition, they really have a very good strong tradition of taking practicing the refuge.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Accepting the truth such as the impermanence is not a deceiving path, it is not a delusion. It is true to the truth. Even though it is a relative truth, still it is true to the truth.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
I’ll see you tomorrow for instance. Even that. See you later. We don’t know. Maybe there is no later. But constant forgetfulness of this impermanence indicates that you have not really taking refuge to this truth, this truth of impermanence. And this has caused, it is not like it hasn’t caused any problems, it has caused so much problems. People talk about ecology and what, global warming and all of that. Who do you think is the culprit, it’s the forgetfulness of impermanence. Insatiably thinking that we are going to be here for ever. Forgetfulness of that.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
If you are listening from the classic Buddhist teachings, one truth is that all, everything that is made, everything that is gathered, everything that is put together, everything that is produced which basically is everything that we have, they are all impermanent. Nothing, there is nothing that is permanent. Before the Buddha, it was impermanent, while he was teaching it was impermanent. It is not because Buddha said all compounded things are impermanent somehow everything became impermanent. It is going to be impermanent looks like. Until a scientist or some technician manages to produce one produced good as a permanent thing the Buddhist refuge of I take refuge to the Dharma is not going to change. If one day scientist or engineer manage to produce something that will not fall apart yes then Buddhism is collapsed. Then I take refuge to the Dharma is completely collapsed. Then we should really go and have lot of fun actually. Otherwise, but until then, this is the truth. All compounded things are impermanent. All produced, made, put together, composed, created, fabricated, made are all impermanent. This is one truth that we take refuge. And that’s why we call it, we say I take refuge to the Dharma. When we say I take refuge to the Dharma we are not taking refuge to a book. Book is produced. It is going to fall apart. It is already falling apart. The truth is what we are taking refuge, this impermanence.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
So now, traditionally we talk about refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Out of that most important properly is taking refuge to the Dharma. Taking refuge to the Dharma means among many different meanings taking refuge to the Dharma is taking refuge to the truth. Actually I think the English word refuge maybe not doing the justice to the Tibetan word ??? or the Sanskrit word gacchami. But it still is okay because it has a little bit sort of a touchy feely kind of aspect which is good thing actually, it is necessary. Little bit of violin and all those are necessary, the hymns, the songs, all of those are also necessary. So refuge actually is not the right translation I think. Refuge, gacchami, or specially the Tibetan word, because gacchami has amazing many different meanings, ??? has one connotation of actually accepting the truth. That’s a very important one, accepting the truth.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
I find no conflict, in fact I would say if someone who has a skill can do it, yes any of this film – properly film is already a very old medium. Now there are many other things, like a video games, any of this can be used as a medium to, or tools to bring us closer to the truth, take us away from the delusion. And as long as that job can be done with any kind of tools, I don’t see any reason why this cannot be used as a means to transmit the Buddha Dharma.
Those who are familiar with Buddhism, you know this very well. We have our model people, you know model to whom we can sort of look up to. We have different models. And in Buddhism, if I choose two we will be totally confused. There is someone like Kashyapa or Shariputra who generally we can consider very pure, monks, serene, begging bowl, humble, all of that. Then we have someone like Tilopa on the other side who is eating raw fish, drinking wine, roaming around with the prostitutes. Completely different. So who is the real role model? Both. This crazy Tilopa is not even one, in fact for some people he is even higher than the Shariputra. Like the great Saraha, one of the greatest Buddhist saints. His guru is a prostitute. All these stories, all these accounts should tell us that this is a system that is trying to realize the truth, not the perfection of morality. In fact, some of these people like Naropa for instance, he was an abbot of a great Buddhist monastery, university, Nalanda university. Many years. And suddenly, one day, he disrobed, sort of, he became, you know like, unconventional. And when asked, he said: “Until yesterday I was not a monk. From today onwards I am a monk.” So the truth, quest for the truth is what sort of triggers the path of Buddhism.
Historically speaking Buddhism came from India as we all know. Generally the Indian philosophy and specially Buddhism, the main interest of this system is to find the truth. This is quite an important element of the Indian thinking. Truth is important, truth is so important. I maybe wrong but I am guessing this, like Chinese philosophy, and the Chinese thinking, system, has lot to do with, they prefer morality and ethics and the obedience of the ancestor, the leader. And to the certain extend it is very surprising for me, also in the west I find people, there highest aim is good moral, ethics. Moral perfection, ethical perfection is something they regard as a high value. This is not really the case in Buddhism. If you really think properly, in Buddhism morality and ethics is an utensil. It is like the cup. If you want to drink a tea, you need the cup. As long as it is serving as a cup, doesn’t matter, clay cup, bronze cup, golden cup, it really doesn’t matter. It has to function. So the truth is what is, finding the truth, realization of the truth is regarded as the highest value. And this is what the Buddhist philosophy aims at.