Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What is the Ultimate? by Shang Rinpoche


Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog ImageA few days ago, a practitioner friend came for a visit bringing along a Jain master and we exchanged some insights into spiritual practice. We each shared our experience and some insights from our traditions. The visiting Jain practitioner brought up five principal guidelines of his tradition, which are non-violence, truthfulness, honest means of acquiring things, abstaining from carnal desires, and non-attachment to the worldly affairs of people, things, places, and objects. These are at the core of the Jain life philosophy. Their founder’s name means “great hero” in translation and he advocated correct thinking, correct views, and correct action, which serve as the compass by which Jain practitioners gain achievement. In fact, Jainism also includes ideas from the original Buddhism of India. While the ideologies of Buddhism and Jainism have both similarities and differences, it’s unclear as to whether ultimate liberation is possible through Jainism. India’s great saint Gandhi also highly revered and followed Jainism.

Because of his own deep-seated ideology in which he had been steeped from a young age, when I asked my guest a succession of questions about thoughts, the mind, original nature, and such, he was unable to answer me. I brought up a foundational Buddhist view for his consideration, saying, “The Buddha said that every sentient being is a Buddha, but just like emptiness, this truth has temporarily been covered by a black cloud, which is delaying our opportunity for realization.” It seemed like this practitioner didn’t have this concept. Jains do believe in karma and the founder also asserted that all life is birthed by karma. Yet they do not believe in a soul, nor do they believe in a pantheon of gods, so the idea of a soul, of protecting it, or of damaging it: all of these concepts do not exist for them. In a word, I very much respect ancient religious sects, as they have points that are worthy both of faith and reverence, so I likewise gladly showed respect and praise for the theories and concepts he put forth.

In connection with the questions I asked this practitioner, towards the end of our discussion, I introduced a few fundamentals of Mahamudra. I relayed that at a specific stage we observe our mind through our own self-nature, and this is what’s called “making good use of the mind,” which leads to attaining Buddhahood. Whether people attain enlightenment or fall into the three lower realms entirely depends on their diligence. All Buddhas of the three times and ten directions without exception attained liberation by following these principles, all used this kind of mind, this method, this meaning, and there is no higher or better way. Therefore, if you do nothing more than abide in this original, unchanged, unpolluted, unmoved place of your mind at all times, neither changing nor adding, neither coming nor going, and remaining in this state until your karma comes to fruition, this is the ultimate practice. The great master Milarepa specifically instructed that whilst undertaking the practice of observing the ground of mind, when any delusive thoughts or afflictions arise, don’t pay attention to them or become attached to them. If you have faith, then all those delusive thoughts and afflictions are just like makeup or clothes which we wear as ornaments in our daily lives. Thoughts become like cosmetics for our completely unadorned face or clothing for our naked body. Once you can understand that a face without the addition of any makeup is its true appearance and understand the nature of our naked body without the addition of any clothing, then you’ll see the true appearance of the mind. What of the dark clouds, the afflictions and delusions that sometimes cast a shadow on us as they pass above? How to approach them? The method is quite simple and doesn’t require much. You just need to take no notice of all the opinions, thoughts, afflictions, and emotions that endlessly come and go, and much less go in pursuit of them. As for all the ideas and thoughts incited by external circumstances, you don't need to put another head on top of your existing head, or like a headless fly searching for a loftier, more expedient, more amazing practice in order to handle whatever situation has been thrown at you. The only thing you need to do is "let it go in a flash!" This is the highest pith instruction.

This is what I, Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche, explained to a friend who was visiting from afar in praise of the Good Knowledge Holders of different sects, spoken from my own superficial notions, and which I now wish to share with everyone.

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