A Teaching on Guru Rinpoche's Supplication That All Thoughts Be Self-Liberated
Tashi Chöling, Oregon, U.S.A.
Tashi Delek! I hope that for you everything is filled with auspiciousness, happiness, and excellence. To meet you all here makes me very happy. Gyatrul Rinpoche is a great friend of mine and I have heard a lot about his monastery here. Today, to actually come and be able to see it, to see what a secluded and beautiful place it is, makes me very happy.
I would like to explain to you a supplication that was composed by Guru Rinpoche, a supplication that all thoughts be self-liberated. Guru Rinpoche composed seven chapters of supplications for students to recite to him, and this one comes from a chapter that he taught to the monk whose name was Namkha'i Nyingpo.
Before listening to this teaching, please give rise to the supreme motivation of bodhichitta. When we give rise to bodhichitta, it means that for the benefit of all sentient beings, limitless in number as the sky is vast in its extent, we aim to bring our love and compassion to their ultimate perfection, and to bring our wisdom realizing emptiness to its ultimate perfection. We know that in order to do this we must listen to, reflect upon and meditate on the teachings of the genuine Dharma with all the enthusiasm we can muster in our hearts.
The first verse of the supplication1 is:
All these forms that appear to eyes that see,
All things on the outside and the inside,
The environment and its inhabitants
Appear, but let them rest where no self's found;
Perceiver and perceived when purified
Are the body of the deity, clear emptiness—
To the guru for whom desire frees itself,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.
What appears to the eyes are forms, which are made up of shapes and colors. Everything that is a shape and color is included in the source of consciousness (Sanskrit: ayatana) that is called form. The shapes and colors that appear to the eyes are found in all of the aspects of the environment in which we live, as well as in all of the sentient beings who inhabit this environment. What is the true nature of the appearances of shapes and colors of the environment and sentient beings? It is that they are dependently arisen mere appearances, which do not exist in essence. The forms that appear do not truly exist. In the abiding nature of reality, their nature is emptiness. They appear while being empty; while empty, they appear. They are appearance-emptiness like rainbows, water-moons, and reflections. All of the objects that appear to the eyes are appearance-emptiness undifferentiable.
As the protector Nagarjuna writes in his Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way2:
Like a dream, like an illusion
Like a city of gandharvas,
That's how birth, and that's how living,
That's how dying are taught to be.
The meaning of this verse and the one from Guru Rinpoche's supplication are exactly the same.
This is the actual way forms are. They are appearance-emptiness undifferentiable, but sentient beings do not see this because they think things truly exist, and their thoughts that cling to the true existence of appearances obscure the appearance-emptiness that is their true nature. That is why we practice the Dharma—to cleanse ourselves of this clinging to appearances as truly existent so that we can realize appearances' true nature is appearance-emptiness undifferentiable.
It is like when you dream and you do not know that you are dreaming. The appearances in the dream are appearance-emptiness, but your thought that they truly exist prevents you from seeing that. Even though the dream appearances are appearance-emptiness and have no inherent nature, they seem to be real when you do not know that you are dreaming. You think that they are real and you have experiences that seem to confirm your belief that they are real.
But however much you cling to the appearances in a dream, that does not change what the appearances are from their own side. The essential nature of these appearances is unchanging appearance-emptiness. It never moves from being just that. When you dream and you know you are dreaming, you are free of the thoughts that fixate on the appearances as being truly existent. You are free from that obscuration so you can experience the appearances just as they are: as appearance-emptiness. That enables you to do wonderful things like fly in the sky, move unobstructedly through rock mountains, and travel to pure realms. All that is possible when you recognize a dream for what it is, and in that way, not be blocked by thinking that the appearances truly exist.
In our waking life, even though the environment and sentient beings appear to us, the supplication says "let them rest where no self's found." The environment and sentient beings appear, but let them rest without clinging to them as truly existent. Let them rest in their natural state of appearance-emptiness without fixating on them as being real. When we let the appearances rest without fixating on them as being real, all of the thoughts of there being an actual object out there to perceive and an actual distinct subject perceiving it just dissolve. The thoughts that take the duality of perceived object and perceiving subject to be real dissolve. They are purified.
When that happens, everything shines as luminous emptiness, clarity-emptiness. At this point, you are ready to meditate on the deity, because the deity's enlightened body is also appearance-emptiness. It appears while it is empty; it is empty while it appears—it is like a rainbow. When you meditate on the deity, everything appears as the body of the deity—appearance-emptiness.
When all of the appearances of the physical environment shine as the appearance-emptiness immeasurable palace of the deity, and all the sentient beings in the environment shine as the appearance-emptiness enlightened bodies of the deities themselves, then all desire is free in its own place. It is self-liberated. Thoughts of desire do not come from anywhere and they do not go anywhere. They do not arise, so they do not cease. Since they are free from coming and going, and free from arising and ceasing, thoughts of desire are self-liberated. For this reason the verse says, "To the guru for whom desire frees itself, To Orgyen Pema Jungnay, I supplicate."
The second verse of the supplication is:
All these sounds that appear for ears that hear,
Taken as agreeable or not,
Let them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness
Past all thought, beyond imagination;
Sounds are empty, unarisen and unceasing,
These are what make up the Victor's teaching—
To the teachings of the Victor, sound and emptiness,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.
What appear to the ears are sounds. What is the nature of this source of consciousness that is sound? In fact, the sounds we hear are like sounds in a dream. Their basic nature is that they are always appearance-emptiness—they appear while being empty, and while being empty they appear.
The two main kinds of sounds we hear are those that we find pleasing and those we do not. Both kinds of sounds, however, are equally appearance-emptiness, sound-emptiness, just as the sounds in a dream are sound-emptiness. If we know this and meditate on the mandala of the deities, then all sounds manifest as the natural sounds of the deity's mantra: sound and emptiness.
From among the eight worldly dharmas,3 four of them are related to sound—sounds that are pleasing, sounds that are displeasing, sounds of praise, and sounds of criticism. We need to give up attachment to the eight worldly dharmas—the four that we like and the four that we do not. To do that, we can see that we need to realize that sounds are sound-emptiness. Then we will not be attached to sounds that are pleasant and sounds of praise, and we will not be averse to sounds of criticism and unpleasant sounds.
In a dream, all sounds of praise and all sounds of criticism, all sounds we like and all sounds we do not, are equally sound-emptiness. They have no inherent nature at all. But when we do not know that we are dreaming, we think these sounds truly exist, and we have experiences of happiness and suffering based on sounds of praise and blame, sounds that we like, and sounds that we do not; all because we do not recognize sounds' basic nature is sound-emptiness. Guru Rinpoche instructs: "Let them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness/Past all thought, beyond imagination." This is an instruction to rest free of clinging to sounds as being truly existent, free of clinging to them as being real. In their basic nature that is sound and emptiness, just let go and relax. Settle into your own basic nature within the nature of sound that is sound and emptiness.
Since the enlightened body of the Buddha is appearance-emptiness, then the sound of the Buddha's speech is also emptiness. It is sound-emptiness undifferentiable. When you know that all sound lacks inherent nature in the same way, then all sound is like the sound of the Buddha's teachings and all sound manifests as the resonance-emptiness sound of the Buddha's speech. The last line of the supplication reads, "To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate." Here Orgyen Pema Jungnay represents the Buddha's speech that is the sound-emptiness abiding reality of all the sound there is. To this Orgyen Pema Jungnay, we supplicate.
At the beginning of this twenty-first century, everywhere we go there are radios playing, tape recorders playing, the sound of movies and televisions—the world is filled with sound. At this time, then, it is quite important to know that all sounds have no inherent nature. They are sound-emptiness. These days, moment by moment, sounds can be carried across the globe and change so many people's feelings all at once—from happiness to suffering, from suffering to happiness. Just on the basis of hearing a few sounds, millions of people's feelings can change. Also these days it is easy to realize that sounds are sound-emptiness, because if you pick up the phone in America at noon and you call somebody in another country, then for some people it will be midnight, and for some people in other countries it will be morning. So at what time is this sound really being made? In this way, we can easily recognize sound-emptiness. If somebody in America calls someone in India and talks to them on the phone, in America it is noon, in India it is midnight. A daytime mouth is talking to a nighttime ear—at the same time! If sounds were truly existent, that would be impossible. It would be a contradiction for sound made during the day to be heard simultaneously at night. But it is not a contradiction when we know that it is just sound-emptiness. Thinking about things in this way, during these times it is much easier to understand how sound is sound-emptiness.
Also, these days a famous person can give a speech that is broadcast all over the world. The people who like that person will hear that speech as something very pleasant and beautiful. The people who do not like that person will find it repulsive to listen to. The people who have no opinion do not have any reaction to that sound one way or the other. If we ask, "What is that sound, really? Is it good or bad?" again we see that the true nature of sound is inexpressible. These days, sounds beam down from empty space. They come from empty buildings and even empty cars. It is important for us to be able to examine these sounds and their sources to see that they are sound-emptiness, because most of the suffering we experience comes from hearing sounds. We need to train in the understanding of sound as it is taught in the Middle Way, which is that in genuine reality, sounds are empty of any essence. In apparent reality, they are dependently arisen mere appearances.
As the glorious Chandrakirti wrote,
Things do not arise causelessly, nor from Ishvara,
Nor from self, nor other, nor both;
Therefore, it is clear that things arise
Perfectly in dependence upon their causes and conditions.
Things do not arise from any of the four possible extremes: from self, other, both or without cause, and there's no fifth possibility. Therefore, things do not truly arise—they do not come into existence; they do not actually happen. Then what is the appearance of them happening? It is just like the appearance of things happening in a dream; like the appearance of a moon shining on a pool of water; and like the appearance of an illusion. It is dependently arisen mere appearance. In this way, since sounds do not exist in genuine reality, and since in relative reality they are just dependently arisen mere appearances, all sounds are simply sound-emptiness. When you recite mantras, then mantras are also sound-emptiness.
We supplicate Guru Rinpoche at the end of the verse, because even though we know that sounds are sound and emptiness, we are obscured from realizing that directly by our thoughts that cling to sounds as being truly existent. We supplicate for Guru Rinpoche's blessing so that these thoughts that sounds truly exist may dissolve, and when they dissolve, that we will recognize the true nature of sound is sound-emptiness.
The third verse of the supplication is:
All these movements of mind towards its objects,
These thoughts that make five poisons and afflictions,
Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances,
Do not review the past nor guess the future;
If you let such movement rest in its own place,
It liberates into the dharmakaya—
To the guru for whom awareness frees itself,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.
For ordinary beings, mind is discursive. It moves. It moves towards objects. It moves towards the three times. It is constantly thinking about one thing or another. Mind is moved by thoughts of the five poisons. When mind encounters an object it likes, it moves towards that object with thoughts of attachment. When mind encounters an object it does not like, it moves towards that object with thoughts of aversion, thoughts of anger. When mind judges something incorrectly, it moves towards that object with bewilderment. When one's mind believes that one has qualities that one does not have, it moves towards oneself with thoughts of arrogance. When mind looks at somebody else and sees things that it does not have, it moves towards that person with thoughts of jealously. In this way, thoughts of the five poisons constantly move the mind. "Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances." When thoughts of the five poisons are moving the mind, just let mind rest without trying to fix anything, without trying to change anything, without reviewing the past kleshas (disturbing mental states) or wondering what happened to them; and without anticipating what types of disturbing states of mind one might experience in the future. Do not review the past, do not guess the future. Just let mind relax as it is right now.
We do not need to try to prevent thoughts of desire from arising. We do not need to try to stop thoughts of anger or jealously once they have arisen. Do not try to prevent anything; do not try to stop or change anything; just simply do not take any of those movements of mind to be truly existent. That is the instruction because we could not stop the thoughts of the five poisons from arising, even if we wanted to! We could not do that, but we do not have to. All we have to do is recognize that these thoughts lack any essence.
How do we do this? Whatever thought arises, look straight at it with your eye of wisdom and settle into its basic nature. When you do that, all thoughts and all disturbing states of mind are liberated within the dharmakaya. They are self-liberated. The whole collection of thoughts is free just as it is. This is awareness, and this awareness is awareness-emptiness. Since this awareness-emptiness is pure in nature, whatever obscurations there may be have no essence. Awareness itself is self-liberated. It is free just as it is.
Then we supplicate the guru whose awareness is self-liberated. This is Guru Rinpoche. For Guru Rinpoche, awareness frees itself. We supplicate you Orgyen Pema Jungnay for your blessings so that we may realize, as you do, the self-liberation of awareness.
The Lord of Yogis Milarepa sang in his vajra song of realization called "The Three Nails"4:
To describe the nails of meditation, the three
All thoughts in being dharmakaya are free
Awareness is luminous, in its depths is bliss
And resting without contrivance is equipoise
All thoughts are dharmakaya in their nature. Thoughts are free all by themselves, without having to do anything to them, stop them, or change them in any way. They are naturally dharmakaya. What is dharmakaya like? It is luminous. It is awareness. It is bliss. How do we experience this dharmakaya in meditation? Rest without contrivance. Rest without artifice. This is equipoise. This is the experience of dharmakaya. The verses of Milarepa and Guru Rinpoche have the same meaning.
What is awareness-emptiness like? Milarepa described it in the following way in the song "The Ten Things it is Like"5:
When you know the true nature of everything to be known
The wisdom that's aware of the true nature's like a cloud-free sky
With these two lines, Milarepa tells us the emptiness aspect of awareness is like the sky completely free of clouds. Then he sings:
When the mud settles down and mind's river is crystal clear
Self-arisen awareness is like a polished mirror's shine
Milarepa illustrates the luminous, bright, vivid aspect of awareness with the example of a perfectly polished mirror's sparkling shine. In this way, we see what emptiness is like, we see what awareness is like, and then we can understand that the two are undifferentiable.
The great pandit Shakya Chokden described the noble Asanga's explanation of genuine reality as follows:
Clarity-emptiness, mere awareness, empty of the duality of perceived and
perceiver is all phenomena's abiding reality.
Knowing this and combining it with a limitless accumulation of merit, the
spontaneously present three kayas will manifest.
This is Asanga's tradition.
In this way, Asanga presents the true nature of reality of all phenomena as nondual luminous emptiness, nondual awareness-emptiness. The explanation that the true nature of reality is emptiness beyond all concept of what it might be is the presentation of the Middle Way Consequence School (Prasangika Madhyamaka). The presentation of the true nature of reality as awareness-emptiness, luminous clarity, is the presentation of the Shentong Madhyamaka, the Empty of Other Middle Way School, and also the presentation of the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions. What does the term "empty of other" or shentong mean? This is described in the text called the Gyu Lama, the Treatise on Buddha Nature:
The element is empty of that which is separable from it, all fleeting stains.
But it is not empty of that which is inseparable from it, its own unsurpassable qualities.
"Empty of other" means that the buddha nature, the true nature of mind, luminous clarity, awareness, is empty of that which is different from it: stains and flaws. It is empty of those. But it is not empty of the spontaneously present qualities, the naturally present qualities of enlightenment. These unsurpassable qualities are totally inseparable from the true nature of mind.
In short, this supplication is a supplication that we will manifest our own basic nature. We supplicate the guru to bless us so that we can manifest the awareness-emptiness that is the true nature of mind. It is a supplication that all appearances will be self-liberated as the enlightened body of the deity, all sounds will be self-liberated as the enlightened speech of the deity, and all thoughts will be self-liberated as essential reality itself.
The last verse of the supplication sums it all up:
Grant your blessing that purifies appearance
Of objects perceived as being outside;
Grant your blessing that liberates perceiving mind,
The mental operation seeming inside;
Grant your blessing that between the two of these
Clear light will come to recognize its own face;
In your compassion, sugatas of all three times,
Please bless me that a mind like mine be freed.
Grant your blessings that all clinging to objects on the outside as truly existent will be self-liberated. Grant your blessings that all thoughts on the inside will be self-liberated. Grant your blessings that in between, luminous clarity, Dzogchen, will recognize its own face. In your compassion, realized buddhas of all three times, grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from clinging to characteristics. Grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from the bondage of samsara. Grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from the bondage of believing that duality truly exists. Grant your blessing that all of our concepts of duality will be self-liberated.
My departing prayer is that Gyatrul Rinpoche be healthy, that he live a long life, and that his activity for the benefit of all sentient beings flourish. And I pray that all of you, his students, bring your activities of listening to, reflecting on and meditating on the teachings of the genuine Dharma to their perfection and that, through this, you are of great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings. And especially here at Tashi Chöling may the teachings of the practice and explanation lineages flourish and bring great benefit to all of the beings of this land.
Translated by Ari Goldfield.
1 The Guru Rinpoche Prayer is translated by Jim Scott.
2 Translated by Jim Scott and Ari Goldfield.
3 The eight worldly dharmas are what worldly beings strive to attain or avoid. The four not explicitly mentioned in this paragraph are happiness, pain, gain, and loss.
4 Translated by Jim Scott.
5 Translated by Jim Scott and Ari Goldfield.