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Nondual Highlights  #2360 - Sunday, January 8, 2006 - Editor: Gloria Lee

Completely freed from yes and no;
great emptiness charged within;
no questions, no answers;
like a fish, like a fool.

- Robert Aitken, Roshi, Verse of the Han

"Swooping down from above while climbing up from below"

a quote of a passage of a teaching by Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche from his
book 'Natural Great Perfection: Dzogchen teachings and Vajra songs':

"It is very easy to say that the nature of everything is emptiness, and emptiness is inseparable from forms and appearances. However this is an extremely deep and difficult idea to thoroughly comprehend. The great Madhyamika is a subject as vast as enlightenment itself. Compared with the view of Madhyamika, what we ordinarily perceive is like the difference between what we see through a hole in a needle or a drinking straw, and directly seeing the sky itself. When we say "emptiness", it is the same emptiness, whether narrowly or broadly viewed, as in the straws-eye-view analogy, but there is a great difference in magnitude, understanding, and actual realisation. It requires more than mere intellectual understanding. A true understanding of emptiness grows deeper, ever more and more expansive, towards the realisation of the fundamental union of the absolute truth of emptiness and the relative truth of karmic law and phenomenon-it grows into the complete realisation of enlightenment.

Throughout our practice, we need to constantly make our mind broader, less rigid, and more open. This effort is worthwhile in so many ways. In our ordinary activities, our mind is often narrow and closed in upon itself; it is very difficult to achieve any goal, to really relate and have an unselfish attitude towards others. Such close mindedness can only lead to miserable consequences. On the other hand, if we diligently try to open our minds, we will naturally have compassion, faith in the three jewels, inner peace, and a pure perception of others. This attitude will not only lead to a happy life free from obstacles, but it is precisely the way to gradually understand the absolute truth and the profound nature of everything just as it is, in a completely open and unconditioned way. In both our meditation and the activities of daily life, it is very important for us to continually open our mind and free it from its limitations, gradually transcending concepts, mental darkness, conflicting emotions, and delusion.  

One can see in the life of exalted beings how powerful is the realisation of truth. The realisation of emptiness naturally provides boundless compassion and pure perception. The ultimate point of the absolute truth is the realisation of emptiness. The ultimate practice of the relative truth is the practice of bodhichitta, compassion. When we speak of the indivisibility of the two truths it is because when one realises emptiness, one will naturally and spontaneously have compassion; there will be no need to fabricate it. Practicing bodhichitta will automatically lead us to the understanding of absolute truth. These are not two distinct things; rather, they always appear together. This is why it is important to constantly associate them - trying to develop our understanding of the absolute truth while trying to use the skillful means of bodhichitta. Our practice of the two truths, relative and absolute, must go together inseparably. We must understand from above with the absolute outlook, while practicing climbing the spiritual mountain from below with relative practices, according to our individual capacity and inclination. That is what is meant in the Dzogchen teachings by the phrase, "swooping down from above while climbing up from below," the practice of combining the two levels of truth, also known as "understanding according to the supreme view and practicing according to ones ability." This is the most complete and efficacious form of spiritual practice, which can be applied in the context of almost any particular form of practice - including the ordinary activities of life.


posted by Tibetan Punk to Dzogchen Practice

  "You believe you are observing life, controlling life, using life or being used by it.  Regardless of what you believe, the fact is you are life."

Thaddeus Golas, posted to AlphaWorld



Practice the Five Strengths, the Condensed Heart Instructions. the Mahayana Instruction for Ejection of Consciousness at Death is the Five Strengths, How You Conduct Yourself is Important

The five strengths are instructions on how to live and how to die. Actually, there's no difference. The same good advice applies to both... Suzuki Roshi said, "Just be willing to die over and over again." As each breath goes out, let it be the end of that moment and the birth of something new.

The first strength is strong determination. Rather than some kind of dogged pushing through, strong determination involves connecting with joy, relaxing, and trusting. When you wake up in the morning, you can say "I wonder what's going to happen today. This may be the day that I die. This may be the day that I understand what the teachings are all about." The Native Americans, before they went into battle, would say, "Today is a good day to die." You could also say, "Today is a good day to live."

The next strength is familiarization. What familiarization means is that the dharma no longer feels like a foreign entity, your first thought becomes dharmic. We talk about enlightenment as if it's a big accomplishment. Basically, it has to do with relaxing and finding out what you already have. Familiarization means you don't have to search any further, and you know it.

The third strength is called the seed of virtue. In effect, this is Buddha nature or basic goodness. Buddha nature isn't like a heart transplant that you get from elsewhere. It's just something that can be awakened or, you might say, relaxed into. Let yourself fall apart into wakefulness. The strength comes from the fact that the seed is already there; with warmth and moisture it sprouts and becomes visible above the ground.

The practice is about softening or relaxing, but it's also about seeing clearly. None of that implies searching. Searching for happiness prevents us from ever finding it.

The fourth strength is called reproach. This one requires talking to yourself: "Ego, you've done nothing but cause me problems for ages. Give me a break. I'm not buying it anymore." This approach can be slightly problematic because we usually don't distinguish between who we think we are and our ego. To the degree that you actually are hard on yourself, then this dialogue could just increase your self-criticism.

Reproach can be very powerful. You teach yourself the dharma in your own words. You can teach yourself... ANYTHING that has to do with the moment when you're just about to create samsara as if you personally had invented it. Look ahead to the rest of your life and ask yourself what you want it to add up to.

The last strength, aspiration, is also a powerful tool. The notion of aspiration is simply that you voice your wishes for enlightenment. Aspiration is much like prayer, except that nobody hears you. Aspiration, yet again, is to talk to yourself, to be an eccentric Bodhisattva. It is a way to empower yourself. In fact, all five of these strengths are ways to empower yourself. Buddhism itself is all about empowering yourself, not about getting what you want.


From Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron, Copyright 1994, Shambhala Publications.

The Second Mile


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.  
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.  
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.

photos by Alan Larus




“You find a flower half-buried in leaves,
And in your eye its very fate resides.
Loving beauty, you caress the bloom;
Soon enough, you’ll sweep petals from the floor.

Terrible to love the lovely so,
To count your own years, to say “I’m old,”
To see a flower half-buried in leaves
And come face to face with what you are.”

- Han Shan, circa 630 CE
Translated by Peter Stambler

Cold Mountain Buddhas


Dear Marifa,

When most of us approach a spiritual philosophy such as nondualism, we habitually turn it into a self-improvement project. We say, "Well, there is Ramana, or Niz, floating in bliss, and then there's hopeless little me", and so the comparative mind projects an imaginative gap between the holy enlightened ones on one side of the spectrum, and this miserable, frightened ego (I) on the other end, and consequently becomes attracted to strategies that seem to promise a way to bridge that gap. This project then becomes "the struggle" -- the struggle to change oneself and become holy, free, happy, fulfilled, better. In identification with all that appears undesirable about ourself, we feel weighed down by the burden of our "sins", and come to believe that, if we could only rid ourselves of these faults, we could be happy, realized, liberated.

In fact, this doesn't work. The mind cannot free itself, despite monumental efforts. Sometimes those efforts may be necessary to realize the utter futility of any effort, but regardless, sooner or later it will become obvious that all the efforts have failed to achieve the desired result. There is, of course, a very good reason that they do not work. The very self that was believed in need of salvation, awakening, and enlightenment, does not actually have any inherent substantiality. We've been feeding and nurturing a flower in the air!

We've been trying to change what never existed in the first place! When the impact of this finally sinks in, the whole momentum of the struggle collapses in on itself, and what we are left with is a kind of natural acceptance. We find that we can accept ourself, just as we are, and in this acceptance, we can finally love ourself without any condition. In this love of ourself, we gradually notice that everyone and everything is included in this embrace -- not based upon an ideal of love, but anchored in the very clear recognition that loving is the only possible response to the unknown. We have surrendered trying to be knowers (and the fear that not knowing once implied), and so learn to be comfortable with the unknown, to love it as ourself, without the internal conflict, without imagining ourselves to be some problem in need of a final solution, without the guilt-filled need of purification, restoration, re-distribution, or transmigration to a superior metaphysical plane.

In fact, despite our warts and bumps and goofs, we can be happy, and in fact this happiness is our natural state. Have you ever noticed, however, when everything is sweet and blissful, there comes a little voice whispering, "Yeah, but what about the dead-end job, or the pain in your back, or the mean letter you got from Joe, or the criminals in power, or the meteors heading towards earth?" This little voice is the invitation to unhappiness, but because you recognize now that your actual nature is happiness, you learn to ignore this annoying critter, and so stop feeding it. After a while, it will die from lack of fuel, but you won't even notice, because your natural state has become so present that nothing can disturb you.

Then Ramana is happy, Niz is happy, you are happy. Your happiness is no different than theirs, and all the books and philosophies have become superfluous -- superfluous to your own prior happiness, your own immense heart, in which the whole world is lovingly reflected. At least that's the way it seems to me. Happy New Year, my Brother!

Love Always,

Bob O'Hearn, posted to Unsay Myself

We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.

- Carlos Castaneda

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