Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A New Year and A Renewed Hope (Part 2)

oh, in case you are wondering what is The Path of Seeing and what are the "levels" or bumis of Bodhisattva, here it is:-

1. Path of Accumulation : beings starting on the path, accumulating merit and begining to develop relative Bodhicitta
2. Path of Joining : beings a little further along, emphasis on meditating on emptiness and with the increasing of wisdom
3. Path of Seeing : The being becomes an Arya, a Noble One 1st bhumi level. this is because the being has realized emptiness directly and non-conceptually
4. Path of Meditation : 2-10 bhumis
5. Path of No More Learning : Buddhahood
This is a sutric system from Chandrakirti (Madyamikaavatara).

It is said that once you have reched the 1st bumi,achieving higher levels is easier. It is like a bird in the sky, you don't really see them flapping their wings vigorously once they are in the sky. Just a little turn of their wings, they can go higher and higher. Only when the bird is nearer the ground, and upon initial taking off, it needs to flap its wings more vigorously. Spiritual practice is the same. In the beginning it will be difficult. So, the next time any lama or rinpoche plans to visit Penang, you can request him to give a full Action Tantra empowerment. Of course, Highest Yoga Tantra will be even better. But are you ready to do HYT or not?

Last year, afaik, only HH Sakya Trizin gave a full2-day Action Tantra. He was kind to give it as both a blessing as well as practice if you want. The rest were just blessings/jenangs initiation. Was there anyone else who gave the full 2days initiation inPenang? O-yes, HH from Drukpa Kagyu gave a 2days chod transmission and practice. It's not the same kind of initiation I was referring to, but still it's good forPenang Vajrayanists. And of course, Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave oral transmission of Eight Verses of Mind Transformation, and the Wangchuk Rinpoche from Sakya tradition gave transmission of the Bodhisattvacaryavatara. So last year was not bad for Vajrayana. This year we should plan for more practice initiations and tranmsissions.

With that, let's usher in a New Year and a Renewed Hope!

A New Year and A Renewed Hope (Part 1)

As we enter the Year of the Rat, many people hope to usher the New Year with enthusiasm for a more prosperous and healthy year. But the fact is, every year is the same. Whatever little prosperity and health we have are quickly changed to sadness and ill health. Every year, year-in, year-out, all of us have to slog like a bull, work with our sweat and blood to feed our loved ones and ourselves. At the same time, we are aware we are walking to our own death, which may happen at any time. To many people, there is really nothing we can do about it, just surrender to karma or fate or God (according to our own individual believes). If we have a little knowledge of what karma is, we will know we can plant seeds of happiness, which will bring us happiness later.

Someone correctly pointed out that life has happiness too, besides suffering. Yes, that is true but whatever happiness there is in samsara is false happiness. It’s true nature is actually suffering, whereas the nature of true happiness is everlasting, unchanging. And true happiness can only be found by attaining Nibbana (Pali) or Nirvana (Sanskrit). At this point, someone may interject here and say, “oh, samsara and nirvana is actually non-dual… no cessation, no attaining, remember dzogchen or great perfection? etc etc”. Please! We are talking at lower levels here. When we cannot even walk properly, we already want to talk about running?

Most of us want to attain Buddhahood, but the reality is that it remains an illusive dream. There are many people who have not even started doing their ngondros (preliminary accumulation practices).
That is only preparation stage, not yet even the starting practice. There are people who jump straight to high tantric practices, but these are exceptions. Some gurus think we should complete our ngondro first (by “preliminary” I’m referring to accumulation of 100,000 prostrations/ recitations of mantras, whatever; not referring to the preliminary prayers before a sadhana) while others think we can do them concurrently as our other sadhana practices. You should refer to your respective gurus/masters.

Masters such as the late Geshe Lama Konchog and Drubwang Rinpoche (who passed away recently) are clear examples that high realizations are not beyond our human reach within a life time. It’s only a matter of whether and how much commitment and effort we are ready to put to attain it. Both of these masters meditated for years in retreat. If we are not ready to give up our worldly pleasures like these two masters had, we will not be able to achieve any enlightenment. The most we can hope for by our “part-time” practices here and there is to create the karma/ circumstances for a better rebirth after our death. Or, we can hope to be reborn in a Pure Land. Or, request some Lama to conduct phowa for us on our death and hopefully reborn in a pure land. If we don’t practice much, these are some things we can do to prepare for our good rebirth.

However, if you have the capacity to practice, as far as Vajrayana is concerned, I think we should have a short-term goal of attaining to at least the first Bodhisattva bumi or The Path of Seeing. The long term goal remains as attaining ultimate Buddhahood. Recently I found out that through practicing Action Tantra, it is possible to attain this first Bodhisattva level. So, if you find high tantric practices beyond your scope at the moment, and I must confess not everyone will have the capacity to practice highest tantra, we still have some hope in the lower tantric practices. So, if you have taken a lower tantric initiation, do not look down on it as lacking the “ummmphhh”. Instead, practice it properly. In my opinion (at least), this short-term goal of The Path of Seeing seems more achievable, compared to achieving the Path of No-more Learning within this lifetime. But of course, if you have the capacity to engage in highest yoga tantra, that will be even better and will bring you shiftly to the Path of No More Learning. As in any of our worldly goals in life, we should plan and breakdown our long-term goal into short ones. It’s like trying to drive from Penang to Singapore: we must know what are the towns and cities and highway tolls we will be passing through. Even if we are going there by airplane, we must plan how to go to the airport first, right? Therefore, apply it also in your spiritual endeavour. Your first short-term goal could be something lower….e.g.…“to complete the ngondro practices”. Whether you are practicing Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana, the same principle applies. Plan your long-term goal into short achievable ones. That’s basically my main point here.

Strive on with diligence, but do not push too hard, otherwise you will develop obstacles; balance it diligently with various practices. But we shouldn’t put any timeline of when we should achieve the short-term goal. Putting a timeline would only create more obstacles. But once you have achieved the 1st bumi, you change your short-term goal to be “attaining 2nd bumi”. You keep on going up until you achieve final complete enlightenment, because that’s your ultimate goal.

My aim in writing this short piece, is to give some hope to some people, especially to those who have written to me asking for advice. As I’m still a beginner and still learning, take it as a discussion/ sharing only. If you find it beneficial and it has given you some hope and some direction in your practice, then it’s good. If you find this a load of nonsense, then I apologise.

Last but not least, I wish everyone here great health, great fortune, and great practice in the Lunar New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!