The Three Patiences

The Patience of Enduring Suffering

Enduring suffering is a natural state for all of us. If we did not experience suffering we would have no negative karma ripening. This is not possible in this world, so we all experience suffering. Understanding that brings compassion – “I am one of many”. Enduring suffering is the natural state for our whole life.  Happiness is a relief from suffering when things seem to be going right. But things cannot go right for ever, and even apparently fortunate people experience unhappiness. “What is my unhappiness compared with anybody else’s? It is natural for me to experience unhappiness because everybody else is.”  Understanding this is gaining the Truth of Buddha’s First Teaching – the teaching on the First Noble Truth, True Sufferings.

We should not be unhappy when we are experiencing pain, but glad for we are experiencing dharma. When we are happy, and things are going well, we hardly remember Dharma, but when we are suffering we can use it to remind us of the truth of Buddha’s teachings – All Beings experience suffering.

The Patience of Not Retaliating

The reason we retaliate is because unexpected harm causes anger to flare within us. This is Buddha’s second Noble Truth (True Origins) which states that all harm arises from either delusions or karma.

Examining my mental continuum throughout all my actions,

As soon as a delusion develops

Whereby I or others would act inappropriately,

May I firmly face it and avert it.                 (Geshe Langri Tampa)

We expect not to be harmed and so when we are, anger rises automatically. As long as we expect not to be harmed, so will we always have anger.  Only when we have changed our expectation to that which understands the true nature of phenomena is to arise in dependence on karma, will be free of anger arising. Anger arises only because we do not expect the world to conflict with our wishes. Because Buddha teaches that the world will always conflict our wishes, in the three states of discontent, so anger will always arise. When we have conquered the three states then the world will not conflict our wishes because our wishes will be in line with Buddha’s teaching, and anger and all other delusions will not arise.

The Patience of Definitely Perceiving Dharma

When we start to perceive emptiness, and the way it arises, we can face up to Dharma. Dharma means phenomena or things. So, when we are seeing things we are perceiving dharma. Allowing things to happen is a way to practise. For instance, if we are at a festival and we see a group of people who appear to be not too pleased with us we could slink off, or we could go up to them and face our karma. In the latter case, we are going against the natural way of things to avoid conflict. By accepting the pain of unhappiness we are accepting karma – and it disappears. This is a way to release karma. If we face up to all unpleasant karma, eventually we will have nothing left to throw at ourselves. We will be free of our negative karma. This ends the Buddha’s teaching on the second Noble Truth – True Origins. By bringing karma, negative karma, to an end – all suffering is extinguished (nirvana, True Cessation, The third Noble Truth) and we are enlightened (the completion of True Paths, The fourth Noble truth).

This Patience could also be called the Patience of Definitely Sitting in Dharma. Attempting to meditate can be painful on our time, our pleasure, our body and our mind. As we overcome each of these we can congratulate ourselves on definitely practising the Patience of Sitting. The suppleness in our mind and body arising from the accumulation of virtue and the release of pure wind is our reward. As we realise emptiness so our meditation continues even when we are not sitting. Metaphorically this is still The Patience of Sitting in Dharma because we see all phenomena as related to our mind, and hence related to our karma. Since all negative karma is painful, so are all phenomena arising from that karma. This is Definitely the Practice of Sitting in Dharma where ‘Definitely’ means emptiness.

Stories of The Mad Yogi – 4

A lottery ticket blew into my flowerpot. Not a crisp packet, or a newspaper. Two lines of numbers for Wednesday’s draw.

“Do not be fooled by the universe!” I told my students. “It will only let you down! A sign from the Universe that I should use the wealth wisely? No, a sign of sunyata, the worthless, the clothing of samsara. Ignore it and the universe will be yours.”

Confident was I in my practise of Sunyata.

Anyway, there was was only one right number in both lines.

Emptiness, Selflessness and The Two Paths

1. Sunyata

Nothing, that which is worthless. It is sunyata. It is empty of worth, meaning. All grasped at and craved phenomena are sunyata, worthless.

2. Selfless

2.1 Gross

The soul, self, I, is not permanent because its bases are impermanent. Vaibashika.

2.2 Subtle

All persons and objects lack self or selfhood. Where self here means actual, outstanding self, independent of all around it; part of the world, but existing in a different individual causation continuum. Spawned or PRODUCED from a previous continuum or creator (who can be human).

This self has to be shown to be dependent on parts and causes and conditions. Thus not independent continua but part of one, illusory-like appearance continuum of continuous, spontaneous causes and created moment to moment. Hence the Prasangika view on subtle impermanence. Not distinguishable from one moment to another, but a play, or sea, of continuous causes. Thus Buddhahood ‘writes’ this script from the nature of the spontaneous now. This is buddhahood, the Tathagata that ‘writes’ or ‘produces’ all things. Not a person, not a god, but a potential of all. More than a person, a deity – a whole, (definitive). Now,  we arrive at the Shentong (and the Tantra) from the Prasangika in a natural progression.

3. Existence

If something exists it exists as a part of the great continuum (all causes, all existence, the play of buddhanature) or as independent nature. This latter is denied by the Prasangika as false. The former is realised as conventional nature.

This existence (profound path) does not differ in any way from the Mahayana (method path) realised experience. Thus Tsongkhapa’s view that there should be a union of the two schools may be seen as an indistinguishability of result, method from profundity.

Now, in both, the ultimate is the creative buddha potential. Dharmakaya, Dharmadhatu and Tathagarbha are seen as synonyms from this realised point of view. The conventional is the manifest appearance of cause, karma, joy, or dependence-related mind and cause.

These cannot be separated anymore than the motion of water can be separated from water or the play of light through that water can be separated from its motion.

This does not include archetypes, the idea that forms already exist in some way that can affect the play of manifestation. For the nature of buddhanature is ultimately unknowable in that it cannot be described and exists as a base for the mind; a base that cannot be separated, or distinguished, from the play of appearances itself.

Absorbtion of the self into the ultimate tathagarbha is the gone, the tathagata. The existence of the body in the play, the wisdom, is the nirmanakaya – the gone; gone into the immediate being of existing. The joy arising is the sambhogakaya, the union of self and existence. The all, the whole, all three is the svabhavikakaya (the entire nature, buddhahood).

The Mahayana (method) arrives at this through merit, purity and blessings. The profound arrives at this through the contemplation above. In the first, it is the mind seeing non-existence in the play of form. In the second it is the realisation of seeing the space of existence. Therefore by concentrating on the conditional the Mahayana method finds the delightful existence of non-existence, dependent-related mind phenomena. And the profound, by concentrating on the non-existence, the emptiness of space or things, – uttermost selflessness of the most subtle, finds its glorious existence of nonindependent-related phenomena, the play of existence. That which it looked at, the ultimate, is the buddhanature, and is not found separate from the play of existence. Thus the madhyamaka prasangika dwells finally in existence and the Mahayana Cittamatra first finds the ultimate, the emptiness of wisdom, in phenomena; phenomena utterly non-independent of the mind, and finally dwells in the tathagarbha, the union of the divine.

Sunyata – The Abandonment of All

Sunyata, emptiness or voidness, is the nature of that which has been abandoned. By realising sunya, the lack of worth of everything, the renunciate begins to examine the nature of those same things that he or she has abandoned to see if they too lack anything worth pursuing. This begins the process of analysis common to many approaches to Buddhism.

Indeed, understanding sunya as the approach to sunyata reveals directly why there are two stages or mental factors associated with this process (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Understanding the Mind, chapter: the four changeable mental factors). On the path of very subtle renunciation we use investigation to determine if any object is worth following. Then entering the path of sunyata we use analysis to examine the very nature of that same phenomenon.

Thus, meditation on the results of your analysis leads you to gain a direct realisation of the nature of phenomena. The nature of the very phenomena you have discarded in your investigation rescues you from the danger of despondency that you might experience otherwise through the result of your investigation. Now sunyata becomes a joyful thing and surprisingly its first realisation is called ‘The Joyful’!

Sunya – The Worthless

Sunya, according to Edward Conze, means worthless as in ‘this tissue has no value to me, it is worthless’.

To quote Bodhidharma “all things are empty, and there is nothing desirable or to be sought after”, and to quote Edward Conze, “Things are empty in the sense that they are unsubstantial and unsatisfactory”.

This ‘unsatisfactoryness’ I associate with duhkha or contaminated suffering in Buddha’s original teaching.  This is the second of three signs or four seals within Buddhism that mark a person as being a buddhist. This sign states that all phenomena or dharma are unsatisfactory or marked with suffering. ‘Unsubstantial’ I interpret as to be ‘unable to fulfil desire’, and relate it to a difficult concept in emptiness – the phrase held by all schools that phenomena are not self-supporting or substantially existent. I will look at all these words over the next few posts.

Bodhidharma then is saying not that things are void like space, but empty of meaning or worth.  That there is nothing in samsara, or life as we know it, that is worth pursuing; it cannot fulfill your desires which are the desires for happiness or satisfaction. This is very important and explains the whole of Buddha’s position.

The Three Doors To Liberation

I was reading Edward Conze’s Buddhist Thought in India Page 59 onwards and came to this conclusion. First I understand both Signlessness (animitta) and Wishlessness (apranihita), the second and third doors of liberation; and I will write or teach on these in the future.  Indeed, I realised Signlessness was my very own path. So what about Sunyata, the first of the doors to liberation?  Sunyata, emptiness or voidness, has always given me a problem since it seems to lead to nothingness. Yet, it is the principle, or only, method in the tradition in which I have studied and practised – The New Kadampa or Gelug Tradition. So what is Sunyata? Over the next few posts I will examine and explain these different doors to Liberation and especially where I think Sunyata comes from

– Sonam