Experiencing versus perception?
Photo: Kechara Forest Retreat when we first visited the land
On June 2nd 2014, Tsem Rinpoche, in kindly responding to a question posed by a student gave a very important teaching. For me, it is one of those very crucial key teachings for a number of reasons, amongst which are:
1. It provides tremendously valuable insight into the mind of the Buddha – how a Buddha ‘thinks’ versus how we think that returns us to samsara’s trap lifetime after lifetime.
2. It is in fact the Lamrim, an easy to understand and apply manual that charts the way for us to realign our thought process or at least begin to, to take us down the right path towards enlightenment. This is important because we can do all the external exercises and rituals and prayers we like but if we do not adjust or rewire or thoughts which have become instinctive, we may not achieve our potential in dharma. For instance the decision to run faster and to fight the fatigue and keep going may be futile if in fact we are actually running in the wrong direction. This is a road map to enlightenment;
3. It is one of those very precious teachings that provides a visual platform and triggers us to step away from our usual helpless and completely involved mind and instead allows us to become ‘observers’ of how we create the kind of karma that defeats us. How we reinforce the karma that keeps us in samsara;
4. It provides an opportunity to see how just by the way we go about our normal and habituated routine that are not seemingly harmful, we do ourselves no favours but the opposite;
5. It is the treasured teachings of our Guru. And it explains the kindness of a Guru who retrains from celebrating joyous experiences and events and in all compassion, refrains from pandering to all our samsaric complains and grievances.
The question that the student asked Rinpoche was as follows:
Is the state of enlightenment also an experience albeit a prolonged one? Or is the phenomenon of ‘experience’ altogether absent in that state? Does an enlightened being feel as human beings feel, but with perfect understanding of that feeling? Or are feelings absent”?
Below, I have transcribed Rinpoche’s answer and Teaching with some minor edition. I hope many will benefit from this Teaching as I have.(From Mr. Martin Chow)
Audio teaching by Tsem Rinpoche
|Martin’s Question about Enlightenment||
Teaching by Tsem Tulku Rinpoche On ‘The Enlightened Mind Versus Our Samsaric Mind’
1. Enlightened beings do not ‘experience’ per se. They do not see something and like it and feel attached and from attachment create grasping and…from grasping create different mental states of aversion or liking and then engaging in the act and then become stuck in the act and then be overwhelmed by the act and then be overwhelmed by the habituations of the act and then further be caught up in the act and create karmas and then do it over and over again.
So therefore an enlightened being does not experience positive or negative from a deluded mind. When we experience things from a deluded mind, we actually experience…and experience can be positive or negative [but regardless of positive or negative]…grasping comes. For a negative experience a grasping to eliminate and the actions that follow and the karma that follows and the repeat of that action and the habituations and all the tumultuous states of mind that follows that action comes and then we are stuck and we are in a kind of quicksand. When we see something that we like and we grasp, the same thing happens except we desire it. So enlightened beings definitely do not experience or grasp. They perceive. When they perceive, it is without attachment because the deluded mind which it arises from, the ‘I” consciousness, the ‘I’ grasping is not present.
2. [Rinpoche made some comments on the question… and then proceeded in Rinpoche’s elucidation]. Therefore an enlightened being is a permanent state – it’s not a state to achieve, it’s not a state to grasp, it’s not a state to be grasped, it’s not a state to be looked for. It’s a state within us.
So it’s not a matter of achieving it, it’s a state of finding it for the lack of a better word. It’s a matter of finding that enlightened state – so when we find that enlightened state…to be in that enlightened state we must eliminate the space that occupies it which is grasping on to a non-existing ‘I’. [A grasping for] hatred, desire, fears, attachments, delusions, sensory perceptions, sensory grasping – all that arise from a non-existing ‘I’ because for example, if we were to remove someone’s eyes, ears, nose [and so on] we will nullify their nervous system. They do not have their 5 sensory perceptions – they cannot taste, touch, see, hear [and smell]…so therefore when someone is without the 5 senses, they can still perceive.
So sensory perceptions are also something that arises from a non-existing ‘I’. How? Because the non-existing ‘I’ has the existence of the ‘I’ that denotes grasping and that grasping manifest in the 5 sensory perceptions of ‘I want this’, ‘I smell this’, ‘I hear this’, ‘I touch this’, ‘I desire this’, ‘I want this’…So when we have that grasping, we re-habituate ourselves.
3. So when we have that grasping, it re-habituates ourselves over and over until a point where we cannot hear, see , perceive, understand or listen to anyone or anything – dharma, a monk, a teacher, a friend, wisdom – we cannot hear or perceive anyone teaching us otherwise. In fact we are so caught up with our delusions, we are so caught up in our grasping, we are so caught up in the self-perceived ‘I’ and all that arise from it which is grasping, sensory perceptions, attachments, anger, hatred…we are so caught up in it that if we were told anything else we will see that person or that doctrine as an enemy.
We will see that as someone who disrupts, disturbs and destroys our ‘peace of mind’ – our false peace of mind. Therefore we will [have the urge] to escape from the dharma, the truth…we will wish to escape that truth, that meaning, that realization, that understanding and the institution, the people, the doctrine and anything that has to do with it because it threatens our false peace of mind. Why? Because that peace of mind we have is being enraptured, caught up in our habituations, caught up in our sensory perceptions, caught up in our grasping, caught up in our ‘good’ or ‘bad’, caught up in our prejudices…and all that arise from the self-grasping ‘I’. So when we do that lifetime after lifetime, it becomes very difficult to escape. Hence the blind turtle coming up once after a hundred years and having a ring slip through it, is a very good analogy of our samsaric situation. And once we get the dharma we have a chance to become better, we should never let it go and go back to it.
4. Hence the analogy of the blind turtle coming up and having a ring slip through its neck is the rarity of us hearing the dharma, the teachings, having the truth – remember that dharma is manifested as the truth not in the sense that Buddhist dharma is the ultimate truth but that the Buddha taught the ultimate truth. So in His Teachings, you have the ultimate truth.
There is a possibility that there are other teachings, other masters and other manifestations of the truth that may come under different labels, different people, different ideas, different types of outer appearances, different dimensions, and different planets. It is possible. But right now we have the Buddha manifesting as the Buddha and the Buddha speaking the universal truth. Again, I would like to reiterate – this truth of the self-grasping mind, the non-existing ‘I’ that creates a self-grasping mind that blinds us, is not something the Buddha made up, something that is indigenous of the Buddha’s perception. It is something that exists and because a Buddha became a Buddha, by the process of eliminating it he or she [Buddha] is able to perceive it, and to expound it and share with us.
Therefore when we come across such a rare doctrine we should do everything we can to fight all the heavy torrential current of the river, to go up-river rather than down-river, to understand, practice and put it into our minds. Because this chance is absolutely rare and will not come again easily due to the explanations that have been given.
SARVA MANGALAM AND ALL ASUPICIOUSNESS TO YOU
~ Tsem Tulku Rinpoche
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