Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dharma Without Diplomas

The great Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche introduces us to what he calls "Buddhadharma without Credentials." We can easily find this in his Collected Works---I think in Volume II---where it occupies all of two pages, but a flawless diamond is a flawless diamond, no matter its size or setting.

The thesis is that illusion uses seeming existence as "credentials" in order to maintain or validate itself. The thesis is simple enough, but Trungpa employs it focally to explain common foibles of sangha, and in so doing exposes another layer of usefulness. He explains, "Thus, if a person is self-righteously claiming to practice the buddhadharma, [and] is using his practice as credentials, then he is simply playing ego's game." He goes on to state, "If a group of people do this together, then they reinforce each other in the same game. Inevitably they will pick a leader. Then the leader will have as his credentials the title "head of the flock." The members of the flock will have as their credentials the title 'member of such-and-such organization.' The leader and his flock reinforce each other's identities."

The Vidyadhara explains that this collective ego will be on the constant prowl for new ways of self-confirmation, and-- he says directly--- this may even extend to our perceptions of lineage, and how we emulate the teachings of great masters. "But," warns the Vidyadhara, "it will be a prostitution of those teachings." He describes what he refers to as an "ever-escalating game of one-upsmanship," pointing out that this can involve collecting endorsements, validations, certificates, ambitious projects, and so forth, eventually degenerating into something like a cult.

Thankfully, there eventually comes a point when everything that relies on the existence of credentials becomes wholly irrelevant: things becomes sufficient proof of themselves, of their own accord, with nothing external being required.

The Vidyadhara concludes his comments by saying, "The Dharma does not demand rigidity, [or] adherence to external ideals. If a teacher understands this, he needs no confirmation from his students. The turning of the wheel of dharma will be a mutual creation on the part of student and teacher." [emphasis added]

This is a tremendously liberating concept for both the teacher and the students to contemplate. Fundamentally, this is the utter honesty of self-arising things as they are, freed from neurotic labels, structures, or intellectual dilation. It suddenly becomes perfectly alright to be exactly who you are, to see what you see, and think what you think. You no longer have to limit yourself to an abstract dance of stages and levels, or certificates, or the poison of seeming approval versus disapproval. You no longer have to limit yourself to "belonging" to this or that... friends with the one, enemies with the other... to rivalries, to contests, to the great neurotic dichotomy of samsara versus nirvana.

The Vidyadhara's advice was given in the context of an admonition to Westerners, and may have been something of a reaction to the diplomas one sees on the walls of a law office, for example. He once remarked that these are no guarantee of common sense, and this is something we can all appreciate. However, his words had the greatest impact upon the up and coming generation of Tibetan teachers---the majority of whom regard Trungpa Rinpoche's writings as a "must read" proposition. In the West, we often like to think that the Vidyadhara "belonged" to us, but actually, his most profound influence takes place within his own tradition, among other Tibetan tulkus.

Was Buddha himself a Buddhist? That's an interesting question, which puts one in mind of the often-invoked circumstance wherein the Buddha is allegedly asked whether he is a man or a god, and replies, "I am awake."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lotsawa House Wins the Prize

I simply cannot express the high esteem in which I hold the Lotsawa House effort. Plainly said, they are doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons and they should serve as a model of correct work that everyone might emulate. I would encourage everyone to visit their site and sample the wares, and having done so, send them encouragement in the form of currency or other freely negotiable instruments holding a store of value. Now, if they would only launch a Jigme Lingpa mini-site, I would be ever so happy!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gyalse Tokme

Gyalse Tokme wrote Thirty-Seven Practices of A Bodhisattva in the fourteenth century and, needless to say, it still works. Susanne Fairclough has given us a fine translation, available from Padma Publishing.

Here are three of my favorites:

"Even if someone denigrates you in various ways, spreading slander throughout the three thousand fold universe, to extol her qualities with a loving mind wherever you go is the practice of a bodhisattva."

"Even if, amid a gathering of many people, someone exposes your faults or speaks abusively, to honor him respectfully, considering him a spiritual guide, is the practice of a bodhisattva."

"Even if someone you cherish as dearly as your own child happens to regard you as an enemy, to love her even more, as a mother loves her ailing child, is the practice of a bodhisattva."

Things like this are easy to read but so hard to do for some people.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Many-Faceted Gems of Offering to Others

Dorje Tsig Dun-pa

Ur-gyan yul gyi nub chang tsam
Pe-ma ge-sar dong-po la
Ya-tsan chog gi ngo-drub nyay
Pe-ma jung-nay zhay su drag
Kor du kan-dro mang-po kor
Kyed kyi jes-su dag drub kyi
Chin gyi lob chir sheg su sol


I take refuge in primordially perfected basic space.

Since sentient beings of the six realms are actually Buddhas, I must awaken this true nature through the union of compassion and emptiness.

I vow to eternally shepherd sentient beings to enlightenment through the perfection of spontaneously correct action.

I vow to continually appear where I am of the greatest benefit to all sentient beings, no matter what illusion of difficulty appears to arise.


In the space before us, just slightly above eye-level as we sit, there effortlessly appears an utterly pure and flawless crystal, perfect in every respect. This crystal draws all colours and phenomena into itself from surrounding space, transforming these into a clear and colourless, singular and unified expression of pristine beauty.

As we gaze upon this wondrous sight, we begin to understand that what seems to be a crystal is in reality a wish-granting gem, and that this gem has actually been given directly to us by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three times and ten directions: the most precious gift we have ever received.

What shall we do with this magnificent gift?


These eyes in my head, which seem to apprehend such beauty, do not belong to me, do not define or delimit me, and are of no permanent benefit to me. I therefore offer them to all sentient beings and pray that they may be of some permanent benefit to others.

These thoughts that dream I see through such eyes do not belong to me, do not ultimately define or delimit reality, and have no independent existence. I therefore offer them to the expanse of basic space as gifts to the apparent deities.

This body that I dream is the vehicle of eyes and thoughts, and upon which I lavish such care and attention, does not belong to me. It is not mine, it is not me, and it is of no permanent benefit to me. I therefore offer it to the play of emptiness and pray that it may be of continuous benefit to all sentient beings.

Visualization (continued)

We, ourselves, are suddenly drawn into the pulsating gem and in that instant; the gem begins replicating itself into countless numbers of identical gems, until these clouds of gems fill the entire universe. From one gem, four gems appear. From each of the four gems, four other gems appear, and so forth, until all space is completely filled with their perfection. Multi-colored rays of light sparkle forth from each of the myriad facets of these gems, and the tips of each ray touch the hearts of the countless beings of the six realms of existence, bringing them uniquely suitable joy and satisfaction, according to their individually specific requirements.


I dedicate the exhaustible merit of this action to the inexhaustible basic space in order to awaken sentient beings into the precious essence of exhaustion of phenomena.

On the fifth day of the tenth month in this or that year the thief disguised as Tenpa wrote this at a ranch in Arizona surrounded by jewels that were just out of his reach. These things have a strange way of being auspicious no matter what we do, do not do, or cannot undo. Copyright (c) 2007 by Tulku Urgyan Tenpa Rinpoche. All rights reserved.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lotsawa House Creates New Content

One of my favorite sites on the Internet, run by some of my favorite people, is boasting smart new content. If you haven't visited Lotsawa House, now is the time to do so. They are among the very few people who actually do something, as distinct from sitting around talking about it or thinking about it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Worldwide Search for This Man

There is a worldwide search underway for the Westerner depicted at left in this photo. He is identified only as a German national who speaks Tibetan (Lhasa dialect). Please look at the photograph carefully. If you know this person or have any information about his whereabouts, please contact us immediately. This photograph is approximately five years old.

UPDATED: We've just been informed (6-6-09) that the man in question is deceased; a suicide, according to our source.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dakini Day, November 2007

Riparian greenstone hills
shelter the dry river
that leads to opals
amid the jasper sinews of the earth:
the place where we offer mantras
to the ten directions is colorless,
featureless, and utterly plain,
that we may know its true nature.

Sometimes we go searching for aspiration
when actuality is already waiting for us.
Why do we look elsewhere,
when here is already here?

In the midst of emptiness,
to the refrain of desultory wind;
the ordered mansions of the sky
protect the scattered monuments
while the yogis and their companions
wander in wild places.

The solitary traveler who appears
and reappears with nothing in mind;
heedless of the dangers,
admitting no obstacles,
today helps himself to this mountain,
and tomorrow crosses yet another.

Believing that we speak with others
is a thoroughly useless enterprise.
We had better try to understand
that we speak only to ourselves.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Earth Sky Mandala

I want to so sincerely express my gratitude to my friends and students, who came together in order to offer a most peaceful and enjoyable birthday. Your generosity is a demonstration of your inherent qualities.

In particular, I want to acknowledge the wonderful gifts and messages of loving kindness. Greater than this, however, was what I experienced when you engaged in the practices I wrote for you.

There were two ravens dancing in the wind today: witnesses to the opal hills and the mandala of earth and sky.

ause of you, I was able to see this.

ank you all so very much.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, November 02, 2007

High Desert Dzogchen Lands

Here, in the American Dzogchen lands, the weather is turning brisk. I wrote the book High Desert to acquaint you with this place, and cordially invite you to obtain a copy of the book by clicking here. By doing so, you support the work we are doing in this region: a place on the earth of enormous importance to the future of Vajrayana in the West.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tsering Jong

These photos were taken in July (?) 2007 by a party of Westerners who visited Tsering Jong.

Stumble Upon Toolbar