May 3, 2020

East/West, Heart/Mind, Heart-Essence/Mind-Essence

What is the difference between the heart-essence, as mentioned in some of the tantras, and one’s true nature?

The heart-essence (nyingthig) is the true nature.

There are various ways of discussing something. When looking at a jewel, for example, you could grade the color, reflectiveness, clarity, size or shape of it. There are many ways to examine it, but it’s still one jewel.

Different words can be used to describe the same thing. Although they are synonyms, a given term may imply a particular aspect. Reality can present itself in numerous ways. You can come in from any of those aspects, but it’s the same reality. Whatever aspect catches your attention can hook you into the Great Perfection and trigger your enlightenment.

An imbalanced religionist might say, “There’s God, and then there’s everything else. God is good, and everything else is bad.” This is not the teaching of the All Good One. The All Good One says there is God, and all other things are God, too. Showing how everything is connected is of utmost importance in Dzogchen.

When Westerners hear the word ‘heart,’ they think of qualities such as love and wisdom. Someone without heart is rather cold, like a robot. We should feel that loving, wise connection in the heart.

When Easterners use the word ‘heart,’ they could be talking about the physical heart or the chakra at the center of the chest, but they may be in particular referring to the operation of the mind. They are referring to the place in the body where the mind seems to reside. An esoteric Buddhist scripture will often use the term ‘mind-essence’ rather than ‘heart-essence.’ ‘Heart’ and ‘mind’ are synonyms in Eastern thought.

There are many different terms, and on some level they are all incorrect. According to the masters, words can’t explain. If you are looking for the perfect words, it is a futile endeavor because truth can’t be told. There is no way to say, “This is it!” and make everyone experience their true nature. Why? Because it’s already in everybody. It’s their natural experience. They just need to let go, and then it will happen.

The term ‘heart-essence’ is very beautiful. It alludes to something very deep within us. A Western person says, “deep within their soul,” “something innate,” “not something superficial,” or “from the core of my being.”

We have learned a lot of things in our life. One person might be a plumber, another a doctor. These are temporal occupations—they are not our essence. We might enjoy our job, or we might dislike it. These things come and go.

Our true heart-essence is something that makes us at one with the All Good One. The All-Creating King, Samantabhadra, is our own true heart-essence. There are no two heart-essences.

Someone may object, “When Easterners say ‘heart-essence,’ they only mean the mind.” However, the word ‘mind’ includes wisdom, love and interconnectedness. That interconnectedness is not just a nostalgic interconnectedness. It’s an interconnectedness wherein you feel totally complete.

Here are two opposites: on the one side is nostalgic love where you’re always trying to be connected. It feels very important, yet it is a dysfunctional connection to beings. It’s like a bad marriage, a bad family or a bad relationship. Let’s be realistic: it’s like a typical samsaric family. Then on the other side is the heart-essence where you are connected to and at one with God’s holy presence and all beings. That is an enlightened being’s interconnectedness. A buddha doesn’t cling nostalgically and lament, “Back in the old days it was much better before these newer generations came along!”

Like a magical dream, innumerable births are occurring everywhere: births of humans and animals, births of thoughts and ideas, and births of new universes and new species. In order to understand the world correctly you must understand God. You will never figure out the world. People who are trying to calculate the world won’t ever manage to understand in that way. You can only comprehend the world by knowing your true nature. And what is that true nature? It never was born. You can’t get it because you’ve got it. It was always there. How could that be anything other than God? Only God was always there.

We recognize our own true nature, God, and remaining in that meditative state is true meditation. Realize that your nature is unborn. All the forms of the world are not your true nature. Even space is not your true nature. From that position you can completely understand space and all the forms. If you leave the meditation you won’t be able to understand them anymore.

If enlightened beings merely sat around for a thousand years, that wouldn’t bother them. If they became active, gave teachings and engaged in all sorts of tasks, that would be fine, too. They don’t sweat it either way. They have a different perspective regarding activities than do samsaric beings.

The gods and goddesses, the protectors and angels naturally appear in your own heart-essence. In your heart-essence you have access to the guru and the masters. At that level you don’t need to be told to visualize intentionally a specific buddha.

When you see your unborn nature, your glamour goes away. And then you can see ‘the ten thousand things’ as they are: you no longer remain confused about how to work and act within the endless possibilities of phenomena.

April 5, 2020

Becoming a Baby

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
—Matthew 18:1-4 (KJV)

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
—John 3:3 - 7 (KJV)

Great spiritual teachers often use metaphors. Jesus taught the metaphor of becoming like a small child, a baby. What is this baby metaphor? Babies represent complete, utter openness, magical-ness and nonconceptuality. The baby is a representation of not clinging, a mind that isn’t filled with ideas and preconceptions.

Jesus is cautioning against being arrogant. True humbleness is a clear, nonconceptual mind. It requires an act of humility for an adult to become like a small child and let go of conceptual arrogance and egotism. Think of it scientifically: to have an open mind like a baby, what will you have to do? You will need to humble yourself regarding who you think you are and all of your self-importance because a baby is nonconceptual. The baby’s mind is open and simultaneously aware. That teaching could go on and on.

In Dzogchen the main teaching is about awareness. A baby has pure awareness, but the adult’s awareness is obscured because of clinging to concepts and ideas. It takes humility, courage and wisdom to let go of conceptual mind and become like a small child again.

Nicodemus asks how can one be born again when one is old. Of course no one goes into their mother’s womb again. Nicodemus is right. You don’t do it that way; you do it spiritually. For an adult, like Nicodemus, to become open-minded like a baby, not literally like a baby, but spiritually like a baby, he must let go of all of his self-concepts. Spirituality isn’t a belief: it’s closer to playfulness and naturalness. Jesus said not to hinder the little children. Babies have direct being-ness, a gestalt of experience without being full of preconceived ideas, opinions and egotism.

Don’t think for a minute, however, that being reborn into a body makes you pure. It’s only an analogy: a little baby has no thoughts and concepts about right and wrong, good and evil, I’m cool or I’m not cool, I’m a great person or I’m a bad person. He’s simply open.

A baby is born with karma, and he’s going to grow into his karmic tendencies. He’s too small to hurt anybody now. He might punch someone in the nose if he were large enough. If he were big and strong, what would a little baby do? He might be dangerous, like a baby lion. There are people who believe in a perfection of physical nature, including some witches and ersatz religionists. They think that physical beings are perfect when born, but then they get corrupted. People who hold this type of belief are looking for a conceptual sixth ray perfection. Why? Even in their clumsiness they may be sensing something important—actual perfection—but responding immaturely to their senses with their imagination. There is, in fact, actual All Good Great Perfection (Samantabhadra rDzogs chen)! So what is it that people cling to? They cling to their ideas of what reality is, lacking the direct experience of spiritual penetration. This is ersatz spirituality, or you could say displacement spirituality, to think that babies are born pure and then when they grow up they become bad, or to build hopeful ideas about what perfection is.

Jesus isn’t saying to go back into your mother’s womb or that you’ll be pure again in your next life. Nicodemus’ problem is that he is thinking of the material world as ultimately real. He only believes in the physical world: money, power and control. Jesus is trying to get him to think about the spiritual world. He used an analogy that would blow Nicodemus’ mind. Nicodemus, being a materialist, is wondering how he could go back and start over as a baby—it’s too late. There’s no big argument there. Jesus is advising to become like a baby spiritually. To become spiritual you have to be similar to a baby because your mind is totally open.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, thinks he’s only a physical being. He doesn’t see himself as spiritual, nor does he see a baby as very magical. When Jesus said you have to be reborn, he knew full well Nicodemus would be confused. Is Jesus talking about reincarnating as a baby? No, he is alluding to the mindset of a baby, which is not set at all. The baby’s heart and mind are wide open. Jesus is encouraging Nicodemus to achieve a baby mind.

Jesus isn’t saying to become literally like a small child and crawl around going, “Goo-goo.” Acting like a child to some degree might be good for you, but Jesus is not implying to lose all of your intelligence. There is a level of absolute, natural purity to which Jesus is alluding when he says to become like a child. It’s a critical statement. Unfortunately, the meaning of it is mostly overlooked by the Christian church. It doesn’t mean that you become naively childlike, and then your subconscious mind takes over and makes you do a lot of stupid, childish things. In fact, Paul implied to put away your childish things.

When Jesus says to become like a small child, he means to let go of your conceptual idea of reality. He is referring to a little baby, not a troublemaker five-year-old. A baby has no preconceptions about anything. Jesus is talking about becoming that wild baby in your mind.

Jesus is discussing humility, but he’s not referring to the baby. A baby cries unabashedly; that’s not humble. It’s the adult who needs to be humble in order to let go of ideas about the world, conceptions of being loved and not loved, the eight worldly concerns. If you let go of the eight worldly concerns, you become like a small child. In Buddhism there are exercises in which one reflects on various contemplations that turn the mind around. Those make you into a small child.

As he grows up, a wise person engages in activities but doesn’t get caught up in them. He remains simple, like a little baby. As the Tao Te Ching says, “A great tailor cuts little.” Creating an elaborate, overly conceptual mind about everything is unnecessary. It’s better to keep a clear, simple naturalness, without overdoing. The real power would be to integrate that with life itself, with adult responsibility, and go to work, deal with your family, pay the taxes, and so on and so forth. To completely integrate that is tantra. To totally incorporate that understanding in the Christian sense is the kingdom of heaven. In the Taoist sense, it is to be a sage, become an immortal and return to Tao.

July 11, 2019

What Lao Tzu Means by Nonaction (and Dzogchen Trechod Nonthought, While We're at It)

The meta-geniuses of philosophy and religion use special words, and sometimes normal words, in different ways from the usual. If we wish to receive the teachings, we will need a new way of using language.

For example: Lao Tzu’s nonaction.

The nonaction of which Lao Tzu speaks is the humble action that we can perform in order to return to the bliss of God/Tao, the correct way of life.

We need to have dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of experiences of nonaction, finally becoming stabilized in nonaction, in order to make our return.

Since we’re human and in action, it will take an action to accomplish nonaction, esoteric stillness.

If we are walking, we will have to do the act of stopping walking in order to be “not acting,” purely in terms of walking. But stopping of walking is an action, too: Lao Tzu is making us try to understand something very different when he says ‘nonaction.’

In the famous words, “The sage practices nonaction,” the key word often missed by the novice is “practices.” Sounds like an action—such as walking. The doorway to harmony with Tao (God, buddha, dharmakaya) is opened by—hear ye, hear ye—nonaction.

What the sage does is this nonaction. In other words, what he does is not do. It takes an act of will for the sage to let go like that.

The sage is comfortable in transcending activity. The transcendent activity of nonactivity is the sage’s practice. We have our many worldly activities, but the sage is the one who doesn’t cling or become frantic about them.

The sage knows that it is in his not-knowing that he is blessed and made his big comeback to wholeness, which is Tao. ‘Not-knowing’ is the mental aspect of nonaction. When we say the sage doesn’t know, it doesn’t mean the sage doesn’t know anything. It means he doesn’t cling to any concepts or situations as having an ultimate import in themselves. The sage engages fully in life, at ease with its flux and flow, successes and disappointments.

The sage is not upset by all the things that he has to do. A sage might have a family and need to earn a significant living to support them. The sage may have a complicated, challenging job with problematic situations. Whether life is simple or complex, the sage does his best, then proceeds to not worry about it. He simply acts and does what needs be done and not a bit more. He knows when enough is enough. For the sage, neuroses can be said to have been put to rest. Not by avoiding, but by properly engaging life: the practice of nonaction.

When the sage doesn’t have much to do, it doesn’t really bother him: he isn’t compulsive to self-proving. This is the security of his wisdom. Nonetheless, if he does have a lot to do, he just does it; there’s no difference to him either way.

If we want to know Tao, we will need to stop practicing the pseudo-Tao of being against complexity or an active life. To know Tao, we handle matters as best we can without overthinking them.

Overdoing fills our lives with the fuzz of confusion and makes it difficult for inborn harmony to arise.
If we worked all day and didn’t take a break for lunch, that would mean we don’t know Tao very well. Overdoing is damaging, for obvious reasons. Doing too many things or working excessively is hard on the chi. That’s why we take breaks, weekends and vacations. Everybody understands Tao a bit.

Do the things that need to be done. Get them done, and then they are done. Remember, though, that superstitious underdoing is also harmful.

And what does the sage say when his work is done? Great, but it’s not a big deal one way or the other: work to be done or work complete—either way he is in the continual practice of nonaction. Because the sage practices nonaction and its mental aspect, not-knowing, it doesn’t matter whether there’s a lot to do or a little to do. The sage just handles what needs be done, when possible, then stops. The sage could make up something to do in the joy of Tao. Or the sage may be very busy and have a lot to do.

But the sage goes much further. He performs everything he does with firm nonaction.

Life is action. Saying the sage practices nonaction could sound anti-life. However, since the essence of life isn’t merely the function of getting things accomplished, the sage knows the bliss of the big picture that the rest of us may be missing.

Action means movement, so when we take creative action, that’s a movement of some sort. There’s nothing wrong with taking action. Without action a singer couldn’t sing a note, a drummer couldn’t pound a drum. A driver couldn’t drive a car. A factory worker couldn’t build a product. A farmer couldn’t sow a field. People wouldn’t procreate. Nothing would occur. Nothing would come into being from Tao.

Creativity is intrinsically good, which is a way of saying there’s nothing wrong with getting something done. God/Tao is correct in saying He created the world and said it was good. There is nothing essentially bad about creativity in itself.

Dzogchen practitioners should note that Lao Tzu’s ‘nonaction’ is very similar to the Dzogchen trekchö term ‘nonthought.’ For both the practice is perfect peace, and one is complete in God with no need for action/thought. This nonaction/nonthought ‘arises,’ accompanied by bliss and lucidity. The sage reaches the point where he can create thoughts and take actions without any clinging to them. The actions he is taking are the nonactions of Tao, his thinking is the nonthought of Dzogchen.

Nonaction is rarely understood. If there is one useful tip we can take from Tao Te Ching, a beneficial action we might say, it’s that when we overdo, we suffer. Start with that premise. But the test of really understanding Lao Tzu’s “don’t overdo” lies in knowing that nonaction has nothing to do with “doing nothing.” Not comprehending this, Tao remains beyond our understanding.

(Originally published at the Dog Zen Koans on March 25, 2013).

The Secret Book of Awakening 1: Essays on Esoteric Religious Completion, by Sol Ta Triane, Copyright © 2019

December 16, 2018

The Diamond Sutra Chapter 16: They Shall Produce Even Greater Results Than I

“And incidentally, Subhuti, these fine persons of integrity we are discussing were not so fine in times past. In the future, when they appear and reveal this teaching, some people will become upset and turn on them. By the manner in which they handle that situation they will awaken to absolute perfect enlightenment!

“As I said, I practiced for a vast time period under the Buddha named ‘Source of Light.’ But he was merely one of countless buddhas under whom I served! Now, here I am, instructing you how that in the future there are going to be people reciting, learning and propagating this teaching—and causing more goodness than I did in all those lifetimes of practice!

“Furthermore, by me mentioning the unfathomably vast field of goodness that will be generated by men and women of the future (by their reciting, learning, understanding and distributing this teaching)—people are going to go unhinged!

“O Subhuti! The meaning of this teaching is inconceivably profound; similarly profound is the result achieved by those who comprehend it!”

The Diamond Sutra: Transcending Merit, tr. Sol Ta Triane, Copyright © 2018

Commentary on Chapter 16 of The Diamond Sutra, by Sol Ta Triane

When I said what he said
When they spit in my face
Since I’ve now got it down
I don’t mind the disgrace

But our pause to consider
This mystical answer,
Beats the eon of service
To his own holy master?

A million lives lived,
Lived in straight purity . . .
But some, said the Son,
Will do greater than me?

Since believing in thoughts
Can’t be right perception,
Bodhisattvas will serve up
No-concept perfection

December 15, 2018

The Diamond Sutra Chapter 3: What to Do if You Want to Be a Bodhisattva

Then the Buddha spoke, saying, “O Subhuti! Anyone who aspires to bodhisattvahood should use their minds and think:

I shall liberate every single being—whether born of an egg or a womb, whether born in water or in the atmosphere, whether distinct in shape or amorphous, whether the kind that thinks or the kind that doesn’t—taking each and every one to the state of absolute and perfect nirvana! But even though I aspire to bring everyone to absolute perfect nirvana, the beings being brought there aren’t really beings—which means no one is being brought into a state of absolute perfect nirvana!

“Now, Subhuti! You may be wondering why potential bodhisattvas would need to think in this way. They’d need to think this way because if they held to an idea that selves exist, or that beings are beings, that lives are lived, or of an existence of ongoing individual personages, then they wouldn’t be able to become bodhisattvas!”


Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

The yuletide parents primp and procure
All to see the magic once lost
Reappearing in the eyes of their little ones

Hey, you there, shy of Kringle's magic bag –
From which you may pull out whatever you need?
This sack brims endless joys and toys
This is where you may make that most feared of choices:
Fulfillment

Endlessly batted like a kitten's plaything
Wanting to step out of the helplessness,
Procure the compass which points to goodness long dismissed,
Grasp something quick from that barn-born kid of yours –
Lose trust in your alliance, let intuition be your science

Be touched today
Trade the stink of doubt
For an unborn and dynamic spontaneousness,
This son is born:
The joy, the very fulfillment of man's desiring

Who knew the lion and the lamb were destined to be buds?
An impossibility for Bill is but certainty for Edith
Each, we go on to choose our fate upon the fat man's lap
Go ask a small child should you want this clear  –
Santa's bag holds endless gifts.

(Originally published at the Dog Zen Koans on Dec. 21, 2007)

December 5, 2016

Song of Hui Neng


(from the Sutra of Hui Neng)

You want to teach these foolish folks?
Proceed to exorcise their doubt
You'll need to be quite skillful blokes
And then their wisdom will come out

The place of waking, it's right here
Yet in a way fools cannot see
So please don't run away in fear
To seek a world that cannot be

The views of men as in our world
Or thoughts of truth from higher mind
To know that these, they both must go
It's then you'll leave distress behind

This is the straight-talk rousing-up
Known as the wondrous Greater Way,
That leaves confusion's endless cup
For a waking that could come today

March 4, 2015

Fifteen Flags Flew

Fifteen flags flew
Up the bodhi ladder
Into the simple true

Fifteen kites blew
To commemorate the matter
Of a new you

It's largely held that
If it's not one thing it's another,
But that only holds until the very last one

With nothing left to grab
You cut off your own blather
And mixed in the cadre of the dharma bums

Problems and love and goals and pride
Throw them in the machine together
Coming clean, pure as death, they'll
Certainly help you up the ladder
Past the things you have known
You can change it all now, 'long with the weather

The No-God claimed cannot be found,
So he dropped the anal anti-mysticism. To
Explain is nonsense—not profound,
Think I'll stop here and end the schism

Again, it's not both, and it sure ain't neither,
For the things you hate, feel neutral or hold dear,
Nor is it some combination of them either,
This time, for good, you can lose that fear.

The silent prayer now sung as a hearld,
Fifty Hail Marys and one-o-eight Om Ah Hungs, ignites
The spark of return to the original Non-Plan,
Abraham, Moses, Melkizedek and Carol, celebrate,
With Pepsi, ambrosia salad, beans, canned ham.

December 11, 2014

Shen-hsiu's and Hui-neng's Poem (From the Platform Sutra)


Shen-hsiu's Poem 

Our bodies function as mind-holding frames,
Securing our mind-mirrors: edificial stands
Keep your mind-mirrors clean, ever wiping them down,
So the muck won’t build as it constantly lands


Hui-neng's Responding Poem

Noting originalness, that's all you'll need,
This mirror of mind has no bodily stand
If our pristine divinity is ineffable, beyond structure,
Then where would it be that this filth would land?


From the Sixth Patriarch Platform Sutra
tr. by Sol Ta Triane

September 9, 2013

Here Mounts the Bliss-King


Awaken in
A sleepwalk magic field

Remember everything goes into
The basket of happy goo

They meant what they said when they said,
"All things"

To include every sliver cures both
Crotch and liver

While the dull may continue that which in effect
Never worked

A certain has-been now has, by inclusion of
Spaz 

In open throat sing, you
A single bell, ring

So fine, without cling, here mounts
The bliss-king