Buddha Vajrasattva said that all things are intrinsically pure. If one fully realizes that, how would they decide what activities to do or not do?
The upadesha instructions proclaim that once you fully recognize that truth, then it doesn’t matter what activities you do. Since everything is divinity and holiness regardless of what you do, there is no karma created by activities either. This awakened buddha can do anything they want.
If a person attains understanding of the upadesha instructions, wouldn’t there still be effects of karma if they choose to feed their physical body as opposed to just letting it atrophy, for example?
According to the masters in the Nyingma school, if you attain the full transmission, which includes understanding of the upadesha, then you would be a fully enlightened being. You could manifest the body of light, dissolve your clunky body so you wouldn’t need to have a physical body. You could, however, choose to stay in a dense physical body and keep a karmic body and the karmic tendencies of your parents.
There may be beneficial reasons to keep a dense body. It can help a lot of people. It may not help the body’s owner, but he may do it for love of beings, like a bodhisattva. A master, a buddha, is also a bodhisattva: they have compassion for beings and can see that beings suffer, so they may stay in a body to help.
If a being is in the form of a cloud, clouds can’t really talk and interact, nor can they eat and have lunch with people. In a human body, however, they could have children, develop relationships and learn through those relationships.
You can be beyond karma, yet still go into karma and be involved with karma. You can do both. It means that you don’t become tainted. An example of that is Jesus of Nazareth. He became a physical person with a physical body, a karmic body, but didn’t become evil.
To go further, all of what seems to be karmic and impure doesn’t really exist as how you might think of it. The final meaning of emptiness is really going all the way through to the end of all things. Initially, you might learn from a materialist society that things you don’t like are emptiness. Eventually you can realize the things you like are emptiness, too. Now you are up to 80%, 90%, then you are up to 99%, but there are still many things to which you cling that you don’t really see as a magical display. The Mu koan and the no-blank exercise can be useful here.
You have the potential to create in such a way that you have full-on bliss, glory and wonder, a complete revelation of unbounded joy. The Buddha, when he became enlightened, hid his joy because he knew that people would be too attracted to him if he showed his glory right away. If he showed his magic, he would be spending all of his time trying to get away from dysfunctional people chasing after him, attempting to gain his power and magic. People are generally more interested in gaining power than they are in realizing meaning. Consequently, the Buddha hid his power, until he taught the Amitabha Sutra, at which time he went ahead and revealed that he was a magical being, and there are incredible, magical worlds. The Buddha taught everything else first to teach focus on discipline and clear-mindedness. Later, for example, when he taught about Amitabha and Amitayus, he didn’t teach it as utterly separate, but as still part of the Dharma.
An enlightened being, a buddha, then, seems to be able to go either way. They can stay in a regular karmic body, eat meals like a regular person, be a householder, have friends and even a family. Alternatively, they could ascend into heaven, like Yeshe Tsogyal and Padmasambhava, who dissolved into the sky and flew away. And then they could come back and be dense again should they wish.
How should you relate to magical beings? Don’t be naive about magic. Many people don’t believe in magical power. Some believe in magical power, but only regard materialistic power. They are devoid of the understanding of transcendence, ineffability, emptiness: sunyata. That element is missing, so they only believe in very dense magic, like trying to become a millionaire or a glamorous star through using magic.
If spiritual beings showed their magic to ordinary beings, it would just create all sorts of trouble. If a master such as Kuthumi showed his body to an ordinary person who lacked aspiration and the compassion element, that person would know that magic is definitely possible, and being ignorant, they would assume that the path is materialism. They would probably join psychic schools where they might learn how to develop astral bodies or selfish magical powers, which they might try to use to control people, which ends up causing a lot of problems.
According to the upadesha instructions, if someone attains the Dzogchen view, then whatever they do, they don’t create karma. If they choose to maintain a physical body, wouldn't that still be operating within cause and effect?
Yes, there is some cause and effect if they keep a karmic physical body. They, however, are not creating any new karma. It would be like having an old clock for thirty years which is starting to break and be off time. One day you just throw it out because it’s not keeping time anymore, and it’s not worth fixing. There is no significant karma created by throwing away the clock or by using it—no clinging to the clock, no karma!
You too can use this karma body. Let’s say you attain enlightenment, and you have a family and children. You may want to stay with that family and complete that life or help the many others you meet.
There are different opinions as to what can be done when a person dies: at the highest level a person attains the body of light. At the second highest level one attains the rainbow body. At the third highest, when one dies they are in a state of meditation for days. If their body is cremated quickly, basically they are awake while they are being cremated, but it probably doesn’t bother them, even though they might feel it.
Another opinion that makes sense, too, is that one has more dexterity to do whatever they want. If someone has been a human being for twenty, fifty, seventy years, they might decide to die like an ordinary human being. Shakyamuni Buddha pretended to be an ordinary human being when he didn’t have to. It was a choice. Masters sometimes do both regular body and body of light as great examples for advanced humanity: see Jesus or Padmasambhava.
The scriptures clearly state again and again that, out of compassion, bodhisattvas don’t do things only for themselves. They don’t go into heavenly states but remain in physical bodies so they can communicate with people.
If there is no new karma created, does that mean there is no new negative karma created?
Yes, there is no new negative karma created by keeping a physical body. Maybe your nose runs or you get a disease, but you are not creating negative karma anymore, which has to do with intention. Your intentions are all freed into pure creativity.
If a being has attained the Dzogchen view and would not create any new negative karma, what about new positive karma?
They might create some new positive karma. The Diamond Sutra says the karma of advanced beings is so good that it is beyond description. It is so huge that the whole universe isn’t large enough to contain the goodness that is created by understanding wisdom. In other words, the kind of karma that you are talking about is little karma. The Diamond Sutra is talking about mega-giant karma that is so vast it goes beyond all the mistakes you make. It is like the grace that Jesus talks about. It doesn’t matter if you’re the worst person who ever lived. The grace is much greater than that, so everything bad is corrected. All the negative karma is negated.
That is the true meaning of forgiveness. A person can’t forgive. One is forgiven through awakening to things as they actually are, which is embedded and clearly delineated in the utmost, secret, holy teachings. All you need to do is have faith in that. It doesn’t help to have a superficial faith, where you are trying to convince yourself. You actually have to get it. Even if you get it, there may be aspects of yourself, sub-personalities within your mind, that don’t quite get it, and they can move up through stages like maha, anu, semde and longde until they can receive the upadesha instructions.