Verse 3: To rely on solitude, along with class notes for part 1, is here.
Commentary: Dilgo Khyentse advises us: “If you wish to concentrate entirely on the Dharma instead of being constantly tossed hither and thither by waves of attachment and aversion, give them up and go to a solitary place.” As we discussed last week, and as the verse states, if we simply isolate our body and mind from disturbance and distraction—if we just sit down every day in our practice space and apply ourselves to study, contemplation, and meditation for an allotted time—the rest of the path will unfold naturally. We have Togme Zangpo’s word for this, and Dilgo Khyentse’s; in fact, all our teachers tell us the same thing. Waking up is so simple. We just have to roll up our own sleeves.
But wait! Many of us find it challenging to engage in formal practice even when we have time on our hands, and for that reason I suggest we ask ourselves, honestly and without judgment: Do I wish to concentrate entirely on the dharma and disengage from the endlessly fascinating waves of emotional turbulence?
You can see the video of this teaching by clicking here. In fact, if you click you will find a small and growing treasure trove of teachings in the PTC PPV video archive. The cost per video is $20 to help support teacher visits and the cost of livestreaming. The archive includes two wonderful teachings by Khenpo Donyo about the enlightened female teachers who inspired the Shangpa lineage, Niguma and Sukhasiddhi, and their Vajra songs expressing the nature of mind. (The video archives are unavailable at this time.)
In recent years, this heron (or maybe several, but I’ve always seen just one at a time) has regularly hung out by the koi pond in Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Visitors pay their quarter and toss in a handful of pellets, the fish surface for their breakfast, et voila: the heron breakfasts, too. Herons are usually quite shy, but this one is now savvy enough to stay put when a visitor appears with pellets, and today it got quite close and followed me around. I cleverly threw my pellets on the opposite side of the path from where the heron was poised to strike, so it had to go back and forth, which is a slow process for a heron on foot, and the only breakfast served while I was there was to the koi.
As a Buddhist, I feel I can’t prefer fish over herons or vice versa–they all have an equal desire to live and an equal need to sustain themselves. But I always try to err on the side of not contributing to anyone’s immediate peril.
The Buddha taught that disturbing emotions, such as anger, fear, jealousy, and attachment, are not to be denied or suppressed but recognized, felt, owned, and thoroughly processed. That process can take time and needs to be respected, but in the meantime, we can do significant harm to ourselves and others if we let strong emotions, especially anger in all its forms, govern our words and actions. Learning to see beyond a disturbing emotion, even in the midst of feeling it, allows us to act effectively, with clear focus and constructive compassion, and without collateral damage.
Equanimity is a quality of our Buddha nature, along with love, compassion, and joy—something we all possess in our innermost being, though sometimes we have to work hard to locate it underneath the surface turbulence. The word equanimity in English comes from the Latin aequus: equal or even, plus animus: mind, spirit, character. It is defined as calmness of mind; composure, especially under tension or strain; or evenness of temper. Among the dictionary synonyms: composure, calm, peace, poise, serenity, tranquility, coolness, imperturbability. You get the picture.
I’ve discovered this week that an excellent test of equanimity is the sudden appearance of a bat in one’s home.
“Mind is empty. You can change your thoughts.” –Lama Norlha Rinpoche
We are taught in the Seven Points of Mind Training, “Be grateful to everyone,” and “Rely all the time on a joyful mind.” How can we put this into practice when all around us things are constantly going wrong and people continue to behave in ways that disregard or harm us?
A discerning reader inquired as to why there was only one aphorism, since the topic merited a tag. So I looked back through the list I kept in retreat and found a few more that might be of use in the world at large. Today’s featured aphorism, which I have thoroughly tested yet often forget:
~The best way to deal with any issue: write a note and tear it up the next day.~
Our venerable Retreat Master at PTC Monastery, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, completed two three-year retreats before escaping from occupied Tibet at the age of 20 and has subsequently led many such retreats in India, New York, and Tibet over nearly 50 years, most of them begun under the guidance of his own Lama, the late renowned meditation master Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche. From his vast experience, he assures us that the secrets of three-year retreat are to practice diligently without allowing yourself to become distracted, to keep a joyful mind and look upon everyone with love and compassion in all circumstances, and always to remember the impermanence of your situation so you don’t waste any time. There may be more, but I don’t remember them offhand.