Monday, December 17, 2012

The Practice of Dzogchen (Great Perfection)

There are too many Buddhists who claim to be a Buddhist merely in name, who took refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and their Vajra Masters, and who did their daily prayers. Hwoever, do they do their inner reflection daily? And how many actually apply the teachings in their daily activities? Very few do, including the ordained ones. It is difficult for the ordained ones to be a true practitioner, let alone the layman Buddhists; it is even more difficult for the latter. When you live in a community, you will need to deal with your fellow colleagues in your work and others outside of your work. At home, you will need to deal with your family members including your parents, spouse and children. Are you able to apply your “compassion” in all situations when your self interest takes the priority? 

Let’s not talk about something too far-fetched. Just read the many books written by Grand Master – they are simply awesome! You would say, “Wow! That’s just super natural power out of this world!” In actual fact, only Grand Master has such extraordinary power in this world today, doing what others can’t. Grand Master gave the key teachings on the attainment of Buddhahood at an assembly in Indonesia on “The Kalachakra Vajra Chain Empowerment”. The teachings reveal the extreme difficulty of the path to enlightenment. 

How does one realize his true nature and attain the state of Buddhahood? Even when one cognizes his true nature, how should he continue to practice until he reaches the state of full enlightenment – Buddhahood? First, in order to realize your true nature, you will need to accomplish your Second Stage of Empowerment. When you manage to clear your inner channels including the Three Channels, Five Chakras and Seven Chakras, your vital energy will enter your inner central channel naturally. Next, the vital fluid from your crown level will descend downward and your inner heat will rise upward –converging at your heart centre, at the point of which, the Eight Petalled Lotus in your heart chakra will automatically “blossom”. Next, you will see the appearance of a luminous drop within your heart chakra. The luminous drop will illuminate within your central channel, and you have accomplished the Luminous Drop Attainment. The luminous drop is just your Buddha Nature. At this stage, you have truly attained the State of Realization. However, this is just the first step in the State of Realization. There is hardly anyone who could reach this state of attainment.

Indeed, very few can achieve this state of attainment. This is what Grand Master is trying to tell us – one needs to train vigorously in order to accomplish the Second Stage of Empowerment and the State of Realization. This kind of training is not a mere intellectual understanding of the teachings. It may sound easier but in reality, it is very tough! If one is unable to attain the State of Realization, how will he be able to attain the State of Buddhahood? It is simply impossible!

In the past, the 16th Karmapa said, “In my several decades of practice, I have not come across anyone who has accomplished the Second Stage of Empowerment!” You see - it is so difficult for one to even accomplish the Second Stage of Empowerment. It is very difficult for one to accomplish the practice of Inner Channels and Drop. So, the attainment of the Second Stage of Empowerment and the State of Realization are actually very difficult tasks. We can understand them intellectually but to truly attain the practice is almost an impossible task!

Besides, the attainment of the State of Realization takes time - ten months, three years… A layman Buddhist cannot afford the luxury of time, only the ordained ones can. It requires you to put aside your works, family and everything else in life in order to enter a long retreat deep in the mountain. If you still need a job and need to take care of your family, you will continue to face the challenges created by your work and your family. How can you ever attain the state of Buddhahood? Impossible! Unless you become an ordained practitioner, you can’t afford the time. Grand Master is telling the layman practitioners - “It is difficult!” 

Grand Master said when he found the reincarnations of the Big Lotus Bodhisattva, he would want them to be ordained immediately. Only the ordained ones can afford to enter a retreat that will last ten months, three years etc. Three months, 100 days, plus the three years are equivalent to the Three Years -Three Month - Three Days Retreat in Vajrayana Buddhism. They are the same. It is also telling you that, in order to accomplish your practice, you will need to enter a retreat for a vigorous training. 

Of course, ordination is good. However, if you do not wish to be ordained, you must at least let go of your family and all things in life, and enter a retreat deep in the mountain. You have only one job to do then – practice. If you cannot do so and choose to remain a layman Buddhist who has a spouse and children, you will continue to work hard for money and your house, and be bogged down by all sorts of anxieties in life. It is already a big challenge for you to maintain your daily practice, let alone the attainment of Buddhahood.

When one attains the State of Realization and cognizes his own Buddha Nature, how will he be able to attain the true state of Buddhahood? According to Grand master, one needs to practice for another ten months and expand the size of the luminous drop until it transforms into a Vajra Chain. After accomplishing the Vajra Chain Practice, he needs to practice for another three years and transform the Vajra Chain into a Vajra Screen. After the accomplishment of the Vajra Screen Practice, he will become one with the Buddha and accomplish the state of full enlightenment, thus attaining Buddhahood in a single lifetime.

One may be able to understand this explanation at an intellectual level. Taoism has a similar explanation where it borrows an analogy of a pregnancy that has reached the 10th month when a fetus is born and has grow in size. So, the attainment of Buddhahood takes a long time, through vigorous training. 

Let’s not think too far-fetched. Let’s not think about the highest level of attainment. Instead, we should be pragmatic and revisit the fundamentals– how should we break free from our daily anxieties? This is actually a more important point to consider. In fact, when our Six Aggregates (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) come into contact with the external world (form, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought), it will generate only three types of responses. First, the likes - you like what you see, like what you hear, like what you smell, like what you think etc. Second, the dislikes - you dislike what you see, dislike what you hear, dislike what you smell, dislike what you think etc. Third, the indifference - you feel neutral and indifferent about what you see, hear, smell etc. In summary, there are only three types of responses generated from our Six Aggregates when they come into contact with the external world.

Likes – why do you like something? Ask ourselves this question, “What makes you like something?” Look deep into your sense of liking for a certain object. You will realize that your liking is actually based on your “lust”. Lust engenders a sense of liking. No lust - no liking, right? Your lust for a beautify form will create a sense of liking in you when you see a beautify person. Your lust for good food will create a sense of liking in you when you see an inviting dish. Your lust for a pleasant sound will create a sense of liking in you when you hear a pleasant piece of music. Your lust for fame will make you feel happy when you receive a complement from others. 

Now, why do you dislike something? You dislike what you see, hear, smell etc. Why? It is caused by the sense of “hatred” in you. The sense of hatred in you will create a sense of dislike in you. So, when someone criticizes you, you will feel unhappy. 

The third type of response is a neutral one where you neither like nor dislike something. Why? It is caused by the sense of “ignorance” in you. When you understand nothing, know nothing and care about nothing – this is ignorance. 

All our mental activities, be it likes, dislikes or indifference, are engendered by our Three Poisons of lust, hatred and ignorance. We got mired in the mud of the Three Poison day-in, day-out. If we want to break free from this mire, we must make an effort to constantly observe and be aware of the mental activities within us and the three types of responses generated when our Six Aggregates come into contact with the external world. A practitioner not only needs to practice the Bodhicitta (an aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the benefits of self and others), he must also practice a free mind (无念). When we accomplish the state of a free mind, we will break free of the three types of response. 

A “free mind”, asmentioned by Grand Master, is just “Emptiness” in Vajrayana Buddhism. In another word, regardless of what happens in this world, you will not feel attached and will not create a sense of liking, disliking, no-liking or no-disliking.  Whatever happens around you, your mind will remain completely calm and unperturbed. It does not mean that you become a dumb fool not knowing anything. On the contrary, you are fully aware of the situation but your mind remains calm, lucid and clear; you are free of the thoughts of likes or dislikes.

You need to attain this state of practice – no matter what happens around you in your life, you should not feel a sense of like or dislike in any situation; just let them dissolve and vanished into emptiness. If you continue to practice this way, you will improve in your mental strengths and stability; you will then be able to enter a state of mental calmness more easily because you already break free of the three types of responses. Gradually, you will improve in your spiritual cultivation. 

This is how we should do our practice. Do it in our daily activities including walking, resting, sitting and lying down. Constantly do our self reflection, observe and be aware of our inner state of being – our mental activities. This is a more effective method to treat our anxieties. This is just the practice of Dzogchen! When we do our practice this way, we do not need to do the practice of Inner Channels And Luminous Drop, the Second Stage of Empowerment, ten months, three years etc. Such practices are based on “form”, which require a long retreat and the training of our inner channels, vital energy and luminous drop under close a supervision of a qualified master in order to avoid damaging mistakes and for a successful outcome. 

The practice of Dzogchen does not require the training of the inner channels, vital energy and luminous drop. Neither does it have a time constraint. We only need to apply the practice in our daily activities and transcend our ordinary state of mind - let them appear in our life but vanished into the state of emptiness. I personally find this method more effective and direct.

A teaching given by Acho Rinpoche on 6 Apr 2012