torstai 22. kesäkuuta 2017

My Life with The Masters

My Life with The Masters

When I was a small boy, living in an environment of great unease, I would go sit on my bed to pray for the happiness of all beings and do certain breathing practices. When I prayed the room would light up as if someone switched on the lights. It was as if I would enter a different realm, that of peace and subtle happiness. I would sit there for some time not thinking or doing anything being swept by the power of mere presence. Nobody had taught me this. Ever since I can remember I would do this about few times a week. This kept continuing for many years. At some point when I became a teenager I stopped doing these spontaneous sessions but nevertheless I would often be swept by the same feeling that made my mind utterly brilliant and peaceful. I would also often think of honesty and death. Also from my early teens I started to experience certain kind of blackouts* among ordinary actitivities, a few times a week. For many years I didn't know what they were.

*after several years of meditation I realised these blackouts were brief cessations (skt. nirodha).

At 28, after having started tantric guru yoga, I realised that those moments in childhood and youth were largely caused by visitations of mahasiddhas (masters) in their nonphysical form. This understanding struck me one day like a lightning bolt from a clear sky when I was repeating a mantra of a certain mahasiddha. Today I understand that all this happened because of my connection with the masters. They helped and guided me throughout those years of great distress.

I know some people who have experienced similar things in their lives. I also know people who have never experienced anything like that who for that reason have hard time understanding what all this means and whether it is even real. Personally to me such things are part of my everyday life. To me it is as common as having a breakfast every morning. Even though the apparent barrier of the physical world and non-physical world is transcended in this event, to me there is nothing strange, unusual or extra-ordinary in that. I have experienced it thousands of times in my life so to me it's normal.

In 2007, very soon after I realised the cause behind those events I started to receive yogic teachings and instructions from nonphysical mahasiddhas. Since then I have had a line open to them. The reason for this is in shared past lives with them. Sivakami, my teacher, also had such connections.

The Gift of Tantric Guru Yoga

By Great Transference we mean that the material body is integrated with the substance of the elements and disappears into the light. Those who have the capacity can continue to see it, but for those who are limited to a common vision it is as if it disappears. In short, those who manifest the Great Transference continue to live in light, give teachings and work for the benefit of all beings who have the capacity to get in contact with them”

- Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

”Guru Rinpoche is a field of awakened energy 
that took form in Tibet in the 8th century but 
continues to be active in the universe”. 

- Lama Tsultrim Allione

In Pemako buddhism the foundation of our practice is tantric guru yoga, being present with the gurus our hearts and minds open. This is just what the above quote speaks about. During the last decade when I have been teaching, I have seen hundreds of people who've had momentary (because of practice session) or life-changing (repeated practice) experiences because of the way guru yoga is taught in Open Heart. Our way is very simple and straightforward.

I have actually met people who before the session have told me that they don't believe anything important could happen through chanting the names of the masters, who an hour later have come to me in utter amazement telling me that they have never experienced anything like that, even during many years of meditation. I've seen masters do their thing on people numerous times.

I do not think one can become a living buddha without a tantric guru who is a mahasiddha him- or herself. One of the problems of the buddhist tradition is that it has mostly been passed down by teachers who are more or less samsaric beings. The Open Heart Bhumi Model is a way to find out whether some teacher is a living buddha or not. Many teachers have shifts and glimpses of their buddha nature but are not fully enlightened. Buddhas in the physical body are extremely rare even though they do exist. If one hasn't found such a master, in my opinion it is certain that one cannot attain buddhahood in this life. It is extremely rare that a piece of wood starts to burn alone by itself. It is much easier to get it burning by sticking a burning match to it. It is exactly like that with tantric guru yoga. That's the gift any of the mahasiddhas are willing to give to us, you included, at any time or place. You don't need initiations for that, only the name and/or picture of the master, and off you go.

The main benefit of tantric guru yoga, is that once you tune into his presence, your bodymind comes into contact with his. This means that the attainment of the guru meets with your present samsaric condition with the outcome that 1. your own buddhamind becomes evident while 2. your karmic body becomes flushed with his purifying blessings. No matter where you are you can be in living connection with Guru Rinpoche or any of the masters. Essentially there is no difference in meeting a master with a body or without a body because it is not the physical body that makes the master a living buddha.
Ahead I implied that in Open Heart we have a certain way of practicing guru yoga that is different from other ways of practicing it. The main differences to other forms of guru yoga are that

  1. there is no need for an empowerment,
  2. our techniques are short, simple and direct, and
  3. after the technique has been applied there is a thorough recognition of the experience in one's own bodymind, that is, a period of meditation.

Like I always say, and what Sivakami always emphasized, the main value of guru yoga is not in discussing or receiving instructions from the gurus. For some people who have strong karmic connection with them and there is a specific reason for that, this can happen but the main point is in energetic transmission and revealing of one's own natural state. That's it. This point strikes at the core of buddhism itself. 

About recognition

Even though it took a long time for me to get information of what had been happening to me all my life, I feel I have been lucky to have met several people who have had similar experiences like I have. In that respect Sivakami helped me the most. She had amazing skills in this regard. I have also discussed this in private with tantric teachers, some of who are famous gurus with large followings, from both the hindu and buddhist camps. Several hindu saints and adepts with their own connections to masters beyond the physical have confirmed my connection. I have been called a terton (dharma treasure revealer) and a tulku (reincarnation) by teachers inside the Tibetan buddhist tradition but this has been among casual conversation between friends and nothing authoritative. For years I felt it was a big problem because I had no formal recognition. As a friend of mine who is a Tibetan buddhist lama says, ”Many people are like dogs. The first thing they do is to sniff your ass”.

While it is my responsibility to teach and spread the immensely valuable Pemako buddhist teachings, it hasn't been easy partly because some people are quick to draw their conclucions without any formal proofs. It is true that I don't have the kind of proofs people are used to seeing but if one starts to look into the materials that I have provided, there is plenty of proof.

In the case of those who have already made up their minds about me and my work, the two-way exchange is over. When the barriers go up, people simply don't want to hear anything I say. I have been called by nasty names because I do not fit the norm and didn't graduate through the usual channels. None of the sceptics out there have come to meet me in person, or invited me over. It would have saved a lot of my time and energy, and in some cases the karmic backflow caused by the ill words of others, if I had a formal recognition. A formal recognition as a tulku alone is not a quarantee of anything but it would have helped. But there are more important aspects to this than just assuring sceptics.

Being who I am, doing what I do

Everyone has had past lives. Some remember them, some don't. I clearly remember many of my past lives, though not all of them. I distinctly remember having lived as a yogi in many traditions, both in and out of buddhism. I remember lives when I have done same or similar work that I do now, bringing buddha dharma to new people and new areas of the world, shaping it according to the needs and abilities of the people, often with the help of the masters. I also remember lives with several mahasiddhas, living and studying with them closely. All these things are as common as my own hands to me. Saying this does not feel special in any way. That's just my history and my personal memories.

If I analyse my own life, I can admit that I am not a perfect tulku. Before I took this body in my mother's womb, I agreed to take this job and be born in a country that had no culture of dharma at all. On the other hand Finland is a wealthy and peaceful country which is a good thing. Before I took this body I knew that my memory was going to be cut off and that it was going to get samsaric, proper samsaric, like it did. Looking back to my childhood and youth I am absolutely certain that I couldn't have survived without the active help of my gurus. Because of the difficult conditions I had to learn to use my common sense.

The good side of all that suffering was that it lead me to seek my way back to dharma and motivated me to practice. This burning kept me on the cushion for 8 hours everyday for the first 8½ years of my practice. If I had had an easier life there is no way my motivation would have carried me but because I suffered, I had no other choice than to sit and try to figure out what the hell was wrong with everything.

Padmasambhava's Pure Land Buddhism

Today I have been practicing for about 15 years and teaching full time for almost a decade, with a unique expression of buddha dharma that bears the name of Pemako buddhism. I say it is unique because as far as I know no other system of buddhism has same or similar expression, even though every system is based on the same universal principles. I couldn't have done any of this without my masters, nor would I have wanted to. As a samsaric being I certainly couldn't have created a training method like Open Heart and guided the sangha the way Guru Padmasambhava and others throughout the years have. Words cannot describe my gratitude to them.

Our practitioners know what I am talking about because they have gained experiences. They have read my introductions, tried the practices, experienced the effects and chosen to follow Pemako buddhism as their path. The excellent news is that they didn't start to follow this path because of my title, name or reputation as a famous teacher. Had I been formally recognised as a child by some high lama as a reincarnation of someone I might have ended up like many tulkus, being viewed a someone very special, lecturing from books with no first hand knowledge whatsoever, touring the fancy dharma halls of the world, being completely spoiled. No, thank you.

Like I said in my recent post, Introducing Pemako Buddhism, after a careful consideration I started to use a name and title given to me by my guru, Padmasambhava. I know that my title or Pemako buddhism for that matter, will never be accepted by orthodox buddhists at large. I did express my concern about this to my guru but it didn't change his mind.

I won't try to change the opinions of the orthodox buddhist mass but I would like to ask the sceptics to consider if they themselves would accept a dharma name and an honorary title from their gurus. I am absolutely certain that no one who respects one's guru and upholds his teachings would refuse it.

The main reason that makes me and my work unorthodox is that my guru doesn't have a physical body. For this reason I do not have his written certificate of me being his dharma heir. I do not have a paper which says that,

I, Padmasambhava am the founder of Pemako buddhism and have asked Orgyen Pema Rinpoche to do this work”.

Even though that is the case I don't have a document like that.

Meeting with doubt is not unusual in my position. In history, there has been many founders of new schools of buddhism who were critisized or even abused by the orthodox camp.

Whether a teacher is authentic or not, the only way to understand buddha dharma is through one's own experience. Because I have lived all my life, 38 years to date, with my masters I am confident that what they have taught me and what I pass to others is buddha dharma par excellence.

Thank you for reading.

- Orgyen Pema, 22.6.2017

sunnuntai 18. kesäkuuta 2017

Awakening and Zen by James Ishmael Ford

Awakening and Zen

by James Ishmael Ford

"In the Western Zen scene today words like enlightenment, kensho, and satori have been pushed to the background. Any emphasis on the experience of awakening has been minimized. There are reasons for this. And I think some of them are legitimate.

However, that acknowledged, the great project of Zen is nothing less than awakening. And, sliding over that, shifting the point to something else, is making a terrible mistake...

As it happened this minimizing of kensho was also the general stance within the Soto school. In a delightful illustration of this Huston Smith tells of visiting the “other Suzuki,” the renowned Shunryu Suzuki Roshi:

When, four months before his death, I had the opportunity to ask him why satori didn’t figure in his book, his wife leaned toward me and whispered impishly, “It’s because he hasn’t had it”; whereupon the Roshi batted his fan at her in mock consternation and with finger to his lips hissed, “Shhhh! Don’t tell him!’”When our laughter had subsided, he said simply, “It’s not that satori is unimportant, but it’s not the part of Zen that needs to be stressed.”

In fact others practicing within the Soto school would go much farther, denying the experience itself or denigrating it or its pursuit as nothing but a “gaining thought,” another dualistic trap...

So, in a reaction to D. T. Suzuki’s many writings, and in particular the focus found in that first book on Zen practice the Three Pillars a baby was thrown out with the bath water. Zen without awakening is a hobbled eagle. I suggest if we want Zen to be more than a mindfulness practice that will get us an edge in whatever project we want an edge in, we need to reclaim awakening as the central purpose of the project.

Zen is a spiritual process completely bound up with the actual world; it is not meant to be a philosophy. Nor is it psychology. It is about our awakening. And when awakening is brought together with our practices and the precepts, we begin to see the contours of what Zen actually offers to the world..."

"Kensho means “to see,” and its related term is Satori, which means “to know.” Both point to the great opening of heart and mind. Sometimes, in Zen mostly, they’re synonyms for that big thing. Although I’ve seen kensho to be used for lesser insights and satori for either the big one or sometimes even for the cumulative place that one on a path that attends to these things may at some point find themselves.

The reality is dynamic, even messy. And I like the term to be a bit messy, as well. I suspect it cannot be fully described. But we can take a stab at it. At least I’m going to here.

First, I would like to hold up the big thing that is awakening as I understand it. The deepest thing is a collapsing of one’s sense of self and other and finding a place of radical openness.

The rhetoric attached to this awakening is that it is a once and forever. I have a sense of that. And at the same time I’ve seen in others who have been recognized for their awakening as well as in myself that it isn’t an escape from one’s place in karma. As the famous Fox koan reminds us, awakening does not free us from the consequences of our actions. It doesn’t even free us from taking actions in the future that will have negative consequences. What awakening is, is an existential stance of radical openness. It does not mean there are no blind spots. It does not mean one is free of the play of those endlessly arising constellations of grasping, aversion, and death-grasping certainties. But, it does mean some part of the person who has had this experience sees or knows the freedom as well as being fully in the play of life and death. So, yes, once and forever. And, no, not free from karma or even stupid or possibly evil actions."

- James Ford, Zen-teacher of Soto and Sanbo Kyodan schools

Quotes from:

maanantai 12. kesäkuuta 2017

Introducing Pemako Buddhism

Introducing Pemako Buddhism

Dear Sangha-members and other Dharma Friends.

Open Heart-teachings have been molded into their present form and presentation over the last 9 years. The method has taken shifts and turns as it has been an experiment laboratory in finding out what would benefit the modern people the most. For few years The Two-Part Formula for awakening and Tibetan Heart Yoga (THY) for mind transformation has been our main methods of insight (skt. vipashyana) practice, combined with dzogchen atiyoga-meditation. Throughout the years our sangha has worked and meditated closely with masters who have given these teachings. Tantric Guru Yoga has been the method's backbone for the whole of it's existence. Last year we found our home with Guru Padmasambhava and Lady Yeshe Tsogyal which was a significant occasion. On top of some alterations to THY, Guru Rinpoche has given us wonderful practices such as Dzogchen Metta, 13 Pure Land Jhanas and advanced dzogchen-practices.


It is almost always the case that when some dharma method is established eventually it loses it's essence and becomes a mere lifeless frame of what it used to be. Even the most beautiful lotus loses it's luster and withers. I don't think there are but a few (if even that) lineages that have avoided this. For this reason the basic principles of buddha dharma have been introduced again and again in different ways and places to help us erring samsaric beings remember where the finger should be pointing to, and where not.

For many years, Open Heart has been an attempt to squeeze out the essence of buddha dharma, and share it openly with anyone who might be interested. Like all other similar attempts, it has drawn both educated and uneducated criticism from many directions, while doing an excellent job in terms of recognition of the natural state of our practitioners.


Anyone who has followed my work knows that I have made an effort in making dharma both easily approachable and understandable, with an extra spin of demystification. A problem with the old forms of any religion is that as the dharma eye of realisation closes more and more, they end up with piles of books and complex rituals that are dead inside. I have talked about the consequences of this on many occasion, for example here, in the context of Pedagogy of Dharma. This withering can be seen all over buddhism today, as it's various schools have come from the East to the West over the last several decades after having been in the Orient for many hundreds of years. It is a curious thing that once a dharma culture reaches it's peak on some specific area, it is already going full steam towards it's inevitable decay and demise.

The people of the world need simple, clear and profound instructions that can be understood quickly and applied easily. We who do not have a buddhist culture, cannot use the old ways of training that were developed by and to monastics in a very different culture to ours.

The main purpose of buddhism is to make us realise our buddha nature, in full. Glimpses are good but won't do in the long run. We actually have to get rid of glimpses and shifts. We have to take personal responsibility of becoming buddhas in this very body.

Some time ago I heard a famous Tibetan nun say,

It would be nice if someone would come along and find a method by which people could awaken.”

Whether or not it was her point, to me it meant that during the last 2500 years the many forms of buddhism have failed to awaken the human kind. We don't see a notable number of people becoming living buddhas because something crucial is missing. The success or failure of buddha dharma lies largely on the shoulders of teachers, who are responsible of passing the dharma, the know-how of buddha nature to others. It seems to me that the main problem, despite of the back breaking efforts many millions of people put into buddhist meditation practice everyday is that, they do not recognise their true being. I say it is not that difficult if the know-how is there. I am not saying it is very simple either because that would be idealistic. A special kind of know-how is needed.

Regardless of who we are, in the end we have to take responsibility for ourselves. If we don't know our karmic situation, we cannot rely on getting enlightened in future lives. We have to take the matter of attaining buddhahood in this life very seriously. We have to start making sense of things.

Dharma needs pragmatism, demystification and lucidity of expression. They were always needed but rarely available. We; you, me and everyone with connection to dharma, have to do better.

What makes you a buddhist?

Some time ago I asked the Open Heart Sangha if they felt they were buddhists or not. All who answered said that they didn't think of themselves as buddhists but practitioners of dharma. As we don't have any buddhist vows and ceremonies they don't have those things to identify with. They simply focus on their mind training for the liberation of all beings. I was pleased to hear their answers.

Usually it is the refuge ceremony and taking buddhist vows which is considered to make one a buddhist who has a teacher with a lineage and a set of teachings. But I see this a bit differently.

I think it is the direct recognition of the natural state and the ever expanding insight into the selfless nature of the mind that makes one a follower of the buddhas. Even though practices, recitation, refuge and bodhicitta are all parts of the same package, it all can be condensed to the recognition of awareness. Understanding this principle and how awareness (tib. rigpa) takes dynamic expressions, explains all forms and practices. Understanding this leaves little room for spiritual materialism which spreads like a weed if it is given a change to do so.

If you have awakened, you have glimpsed the enlightened nature and are therefore a follower of the buddhas. Unless one is involved with a lineage, having a glimpse does not make one a follower of any lineage or a make one a ”buddhist” but certainly such person knows more of the essence of buddhism than those who have spent ages reading the doctrine without ever having a glimpse, not to even mention of more. I think it is the simple act of recognising awareness (buddha nature) that is the essence of buddhism which when taken as a path makes us buddhists, that is, those interested in being awake.
Pemako buddhism

Recently I published a text entitled Guru Rinpoche's Pure Land which told about Guru Rinpoche's Pure Land called Zangdok Palri, the Copper-Coloured Mountain. In the context of Open Heart-teachings I introduced a specific name of Pemako (lit. Land of Lotuses) which refers both to Zangdok Palri but also to the pure land of our natural awareness (tib. rigpa) that is hidden because of dualistic delusion.

It is the will of Guru Rinpoche that Open Heart-method is introduced and established as a method and tradition of buddhism, specifically vajrayana buddhism and dzogchen.

Pemako buddhism, also known as Open Heart, is not Tibetan buddhism, even though it has little Tibetan and Asian buddhist influences. Some foreign influences cannot be avoided because those cultures are where buddhism has survived in one way or the other for a long time. I don't consider it harmful or unpleasant that Pemako buddhism has some oriental features as long as the sangha understands the practice and stays true to it. At this cross-cultural age it would be pointless to start a branch of buddhism that was distinctly ”Tibetan”, ”Japanese” or whatever because distinct cultural features are becoming less and less anyway, thanks to pragmatic buddha dharma. But also it would not be smart to entirely disregard what the old buddhist cultures have to give.

If we look at Open Heart-teachings we can see a very unique set of teachings brought together by the grace and support of Guru Padmasambhava and other mahasiddhas. It's a very unique vehicle.

Within few short years we have seen that these teachings bear a lot of fruit. It has been worth all the hard work, experimentation and refining of the method why this has happened. As the study materials indicate, these teachings are filling their purpose very well. This is purely a pragmatical comment based on analytical observation*.

I feel it is a great blessing for us that Guru Rinpoche has started a new and fresh (!) buddhist school and a lineage in Pemako buddhism. I am certainly proud of our teachings and of everything we have accomplished and are yet to accomplish. All this would not be possible without Guru Padmasambhava so my devotion and gratitude goes firstly to him.

The entry of the terms, Pemako buddhism and Pemako buddhist, defines who we already are. We didn't have those terms before but now we do, and it feel just right. It is a fitting name for the work and the sangha. A wonderful blessing!

In case if someone is worried whether this buddhist status will bring in some religious features, no worries. Our practice will remain as before.

Names and titles

As is the common habit in spiritual traditions, we also used to have spiritual names. I have passed names to perhaps 20 students. I used a spiritual name myself until early 2016 when I dropped it because it didn't feel right anymore. At the time I didn't know whether I was going to use a name again but was open to it.

It has not been easy for me to speak of Open Heart as a ”buddhist” method even though it has had the main features of a buddhist teaching for a few years already. Two years ago I received Shakyamuni Buddha's blessing to do this but because both I and the sangha wasn't ready for it, I dropped it. It hasn't been easy because despite of my criticism towards orthodox buddhism, I respect the existing traditions and consider all buddhists one family. I know some people have hard time believing me when I say that I respect them tremendously but I do. So, I didn't want to do hasty and inconsiderate decisions regarding the buddhist status of Open Heart.

I have always underlined that I am not an authorised teacher in any existing buddhist lineage and that Open Heart-teachings come from what I and Pau have received from Guru Rinpoche and others. These teachings are not from any existing buddhist lama. But still, I haven't wanted to say that Open Heart is buddhist, even though it clearly is. It has felt contradictory being a dharma teacher myself yet not having authorisation, other than from my subtle gurus, and not being adressed as one. It has been a weird situation for me where I could feel that the energy wasn't flowing. This might sound self-important but hear me out.

In all professions we have titles, like ”doctor”, ”police officer”, ”cook” and so on. Professionals of different fields also have indicative uniforms. For example, when we go to see a doctor, we meet a medical professional glad in white jacket who we adress as ”doctor”, and not by other titles. We don't meet a guy in dirty t-shirt and broken jeans whom we adress by his nick name Jimmie or Jimbo (unless we know him personally). We receive medical help from the doctor based on his in-depth training in medical science. When we see a real doctor, we don't get quackery from him. We can see the validity of the doctor in the healing of our ailment that we experience ourselves. It is the healing that makes the doctor a doctor. Are you getting my point? We have titles, definitions and external signs for things in this relative world to know what we are dealing with. If we didn't, we couldn't make sense of things.

Not having any of these external signs myself it has been conflicting to me to be a dharma teacher. The conflict has not been great but something that has bothered me, like having sand in one's shoe.

About a month ago Guru Rinpoche conferred me a spiritual name and a title: Orgyen Pema Rinpoche. Orgyen refers to both natural awareness and to the historical land of Oddiyana where vajrayana- and dzogchen-teachings started on Earth. It also refers to Guru Rinpoche. Pema (skt. padma) is lotusflower which symbolises enlightenment that grows from mud and dark waters (samsaric mind). Pema or padma (skt.) which is also in guru's name, implies to my connection with him. Rinpoche is a Tibetan rendition of ratna (skt.) which means a jewel. Rinpoche is a honorary title widely used for respected buddhist teachers (tib. lama) with good reputation.

Because I know who my guru is, it was a great honor and blessing for me to receive this name. To me it shows his approval and encouragement towards the work I have done so I deeply thanked and bowed to him. At the same time, however, I thought I would never use it because using a traditional Tibetan buddhist title (rinpoche) publicly would surely create needless controversy. Keeping it to myself, I told about it only to few people.

However, every time when I meditated or thought of Guru Rinpoche, he pressured me to use it. His persistence was like that of a child who wishes for a certain kind of toy and doesn't yield an inch. I knew from the moment he started pressuing me that I was in trouble. But as I have been in similar situations before, opposing to my guru's instruction, I didn't fight it but simply waited for him to do his thing. After some time it started to make sense to me, along with establishing Open Heart as it's own separate school of buddhism. So I consented. Therefore, from now on I will use this name and title given to me by my guru.

Among our teaching staff we have also discussed of having a teacher-title for Pemako-teachers as well. In time when other teachers become active, they can use the title of ”lama” in front of their names. Lama is Tibetan and is widely used for buddhist teachers.

Regarding the external symbol of teachership, we have thought about it carefully with Karl. We have considered different options and finally ended up with a simple solution which is a variation from East-Asian Buddhism. If our teachers want they can wear a custom made (preferably by themselves) hangesa or rakusu around their neck. My recommendation for teachers is to use both the title and an external symbol for the previously mentioned reasons.


I pray for the liberation of all beings. I pray for peace on Earth. I pray for harmony and understanding between people.

May the grace of Guru Padmasambhava and all the buddhas shower upon samsaric beings like a heavy monsoon rain for us to realise our innate freedom. Let it pour down on us, master! Let it pour down!

May all beings be free!

- Pema Rinpoche, 12.6.2017

torstai 8. kesäkuuta 2017

Redefining Bodhisattvas

Redefining Bodhisattvas

A few years ago I read the following quote from Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, a famous Japanese zen buddhist master of the 20th century:

In the deepest sense, even the Bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteshvara) might be said to be attached to compassion, otherwise he would be a buddha, free of all attachments.*”

*quote from The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau

Wikipedia gives the following definition of bodhisattva plus categorises three kinds of them:

In Buddhism, bodhisattva is the Sanskrit term for anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish and a compassionate mind to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

  1. king-like bodhisattva - one who aspires to become buddha as soon as possible and then help sentient beings in full fledge;
  2. boatman-like bodhisattva - one who aspires to achieve buddhahood along with other sentient beings;
  3. shepherd-like bodhisattva - one who aspires to delay buddhahood until all other sentient beings achieve buddhahood. Bodhisattvas like Avalokiteśvara and Śāntideva are believed to fall in this category.

Bodhisattvas going up the hill

By bodhisattvas who are on their way towards the top of the hill, I mean samsaric beings who are still bound by their dualistic vision but who have the motivation and make efforts to become fully realised buddhas for the benefit of all beings, in this, past or future lives.

Bodhisattvas coming down the hill

As Yasutani Roshi and the third category of mahayana bodhisattvas in the Wikipedia article describe, some bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara are said to not have attained buddhahood but are still making their way up the hill towards it while simultaneously answering to the cries of those who suffer below them. This would mean that bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Mahasthamaprapta, Akasagarbha, Ksitigarbha and so on, are still subtly deluded with an impaired vision,. This would make them samsaric beings.

It has always made sense to me to turn for example towards Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of compassion, to receive his blessings and assiatance but it never made sense to me that he would still be a deluded being, more or less like me. At some point I started feeling that there must be some misunderstandings in this view. I would never take refuge in samsaric beings, regardless how subtle their delusion was. Neither would I recommend it to anyone.

One of my criticisms towards Tibetan buddhism and it's high lamas, who extremely rarely actually are living buddhas, is that their followers should not take refuge to lamas who aren't buddhas for certain. Doing this keeps the wheel of samsara spinning and is an impediment for actualisation of the buddhist teaching. If we don't know whether or not one's guru is a buddha or not, we need to find out to be sure. If we don't have ways of finding out, we have to start from the beginning and start thinking about it constructively. This matter cannot be left on faith. I encourage people to study the dharma and to revere and respect their teachers but not taking refuge in samsaric beings. The Open Heart Bhumi Model and it's analytical application reveals what the actual level of anyone's attainment is.

If bodhisattvas were buddhas in the making, they would also have to take refuge in buddhas and mahasiddha gurus, just like us ordinary samsaric beings. This doesn't make much sense.

My understanding is that sambhogakaya bodhisattvas, bodhisattvas of the energetic realms (deities), are fully enlightened buddhas who have gone up the hill to the top and then returned back down to reside on certain areas of the mind (ref. to Bodhisattva Bhumis) to help those who are trapped in the wheel of confusion and ignorance. For this reason bodhisattva deities are actually buddhas who have chosen to do their work from the bodhisattva bhumis (1-10), relating to the vast range of energy centers, that is, the mind of man (sem) and the various realms that can be accessed from each of these centers.

Thank you for reading.

Bows to the Five Jewels.

- Kim, 8.6.2017

torstai 1. kesäkuuta 2017

Pedagogy of Dharma

Pedagogy of Dharma

In many of my posts I have discussed of problems related to the teaching methods of dharma. In constructive spirit, I am here continuing on dharma pedagogy in a casual manner.

Room for a lot of improvement

I often wonder how it is possible that there seems to be very little pedagogical standards in transmitting of dharma. When seeing how badly teachings and practice instructions are delivered, anyone with history in pedagogical studies probably wonders the same. If we think of any field of study dharma, there are explicit requirements what the students are excepted to learn but unfortunately this doesn't seem to be the case in buddhism at large. Fortunately there are some exceptions to this rule but in general it can be said that dharma teachers would have a lot in honing their skills. And yes, I think that it is the teaching individuals who are responsible for making it better, as it is individuals who create a cultures and procedures.

Practical example of poor pedagogy are extensive yet vague theoretical expositions with little or no relation at all with actual practice. Students listen to their teachers talk hour after hour, year after year and yet their understanding keeps stalling. I have joined many dharma events where teachers speak extensively yet never explain in lucid language how the theory relates to the practice and to the minds of the students. I have seen people with over 20 years of diligent study inquire their lama about the meaning of emptiness to which they are answered the usual jargon that is too symbolic to understand, just like it was 20 years earlier, and every year since... When students aren't learning even after so many years of study and practice, that would make the bells go off in the heads of teachers of other fields but this doesn't seem to happen in buddhism. Orthodox teachers rarely change the methods and views they have adopted. But like I often ask if the old ways are not making people buddhas, then there surely is a need for re-evaluation. If the old ways worked and the view of mahayana buddhism would be realised by people, we would surely see a very different culture of dharma than what we are seeing now. Like all religions, buddhism too has the same problem of having imbibed too much cultural influences which always changes a pragmatical dharma method into a religion.

While vagueness of instructions of buddhist meditation is common, at the same time teachers often emphasize that the training deals with the mind. That is of course a valid point but at the same time it doesn't help that the instructions really are vague. Observing these two factors have lead me to think whether the proponents of buddhism can actually realise the profound points of the past masters in their own case. Bhumi-analyses based on the Open Heart Bhumi Model clearly indicate that this largely is not the case. Vagueness of instructions indicates lack of practical experience. If one knows things first hand, then one is able to describe it in lucind common language, without useless theoretical details. It is not a coincidence that the greatest buddhist masters of all times, often talk in simple yet direct parables full of meaning, instead of scholarly jargon.

Another example of bad teaching habits is talking voluminously yet not addressing the actual topic. It is actually amazing how some teachers deliver long talks or even series's of talks lasting days or even weeks and not talk about anything useful. It only wastes time of the listeners. Some years ago I bought a DVD-set of vipashyana meditation by a famous Tibetan buddhist lama. The recordings contained about 7 hours of talks. However, the whole package addressed the actual topic for only 15 minutes. He talked of the topic for one minute about every half and hour... Imagine sitting there hoping to learn something useful. The material was off-topic hype, stories of past masters and jokes, and couldn't be directly applied to anyone's practice. Such a school teacher would get kicked out of the education system in 6 months tops!

When I went to the United States for the first time, I was in 
New York and over that period Dudjom Rinpoche was also there giving a teaching. In the newspaper, there was an announcement saying, 
”Dudjom Rinpoche is giving the supreme teaching of Dzogchen”. 
Then some of my students went to receive the teaching and we 
discovered that Dudjom Rinpoche was actually giving a teaching 
about Refuge, Bodhicitta and other such things. He was teaching on 
the Four Teachings of Gampopa.
He taught (the first) three, but he didn't give the fourth one. 
The fourth one shows how illusion is tranformed into wisdom. 
This kind of teaching is more commonly applied in Tantra 
but it is not necessary in Dzogchen.
Many teachers give this teaching, and it is an example of how something 
can misleadingly be given the title of Dzogchen. It is not so difficult to understand. When you give the title of Dzogchen to something and then teach some technique of practice, how to do Puja, or how to do different kinds of visualisation and transformation, then it is not Dzogchen.”

- Namkhai Norbu

Giving hasty, vague or poorly defined practice instructions is another common problem. Especially in Tibetan buddhism it is common for teachers to deliver long talks about the theoretical view. These talks can last hours but when they get to practice instructions, they are too short and hastily given. By short I don't mean pithy or concise. After hours or even days of explaining the teaching and the purpose of the practice, a lama can explain the technique in few short sentences and never repeat what he said. I've seen geshes (doctors) and high lamas do this. This puts the students in a problematic situation where they don't know exactly what they are supposed to do and how. In ”guided sessions” teacher's verbal instructions can be of no use whatsoever again due to vagueness and carelessness. The teacher should always think of the event from the perspective of the listeners despite if he has given the same teachings many times before. The teacher should never assume that everyone knows what he is talking about, the terms and descriptions, unless he knows everyone present.

Another common problem is to use too little (or too much) time for the actual practice during dharma events. I've seen both examples. I recently joined a weekend dzogchen seminar of a famous lama where literally 1 minute of a 90 minute session was used for practice (that was hastily described the previous evening). After I had survived my dumbfoundedness it was hard for me to comprehend what and why had just happened. What could possibly be the reason why a lama with decades of history would use his time and energy to travel to another country and then perform so poorly as a teacher whose very purpose is to motivate people practicing? I wonder how anyone could get properly motivated by such sillyness. It should be the carefully delivered direct transmission from the lama and experience gained from that which should be the main motivator for the practitioners but if this is not the case, it becomes a farce, a dzogchen pancake.

Starting to do other things immediately after prayer recitation or mantras, without even a small moment of conscious recognition, is another common mistake. I have seen how lamas and students recite long prayers, from 10-60 minutes, and the moment they are done reading they stand up and start doing other things. This is an indicator of very poor understanding of how tantric/energetic practices function. If the blessings of the Guru, The Three Jewels, the deities (yidam, ishtadevata) or the energies of prayers are not well recognised by experiencing them in one's own bodymind, then one is not really receiving the blessing and therefore cannot get the proper benefit of the practice. It's like wanting to listen to a special radio show and carefully tuning to the right channel but then after tuning in, instead of listening to the broadcast, beginning to read the newspaper instead. I have seen (Western) dorje lopons (skt. vajracharya, high position in Tibetan buddhism) with over 40 years of history do this. I think it is both extremely unfortunate and miserable because very few people have karmic connections with the diamond vehicle (vajrayana buddhism) which is the fastest of all buddhist methods but then there are such stoopid rookie mistakes in the teachings. This is a mistake of the teachers.

Keeping it real

Even though dharma is about the mind which is an abstract thing, it is possible to transmit it in common terms but not everyone seems to be ready to accept this simple truth. However, if proper communication is achieved there opens up an opportunity for the dharma to be realised and embodied which is of course why it exists in the first place.

Years ago when I had recently arrived at a Japanese zen-temple, I witnessed something that was strange to me. I saw local laypeople came to the temple on Sundays to hear a dharma talk given by the abbott. It was strange to me because the vibe was ”churchlike” in the same way I had seen in Christian churches in my home country. I hadn't seen in the West that rinzai zen buddhism could be viewed religiously. It had never crossed my mind. Since then I have witnessed how buddhism is largely viewed as a belief based faith in all old buddhist cultures.

It is somewhat common that buddhist teachings are viewed as religious in the West as well. People become ”buddhists”, adopt a faith and it's doctrines. But this is hardly any better or any more useful than what we have in faith-based Christianity already. In case you found it useful, you wouldn't be here reading this, wouldn't you? The real refuge in the Three Jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha essentially is in the direct recognition of the natural state, and not in anything else like reading books or reciting vows.

If I look at tantric buddhism and dzogchen in the world today, there are many obvious issues there which would be easy to fix, simply if teachers have some cojones (regardless of gender) to look in the mirror and do some honest introspection. After all the present and the future of humanity largely lies on the shoulders of dharma teachers. If we don't help and assist the people of the world properly, who does?

- Kim Katami, 1.6.2017

Open Heart,