The Four Aspects Of Being Download
The 4 kayas: dharmakaya, nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, svabhavikakaya; the four practices: accumulate merit, confess evil actions, fill obsessions with awareness, nourish wakefulness in your life. The audio for this series of podcasts was originally recorded on audio cassette. As such you may find the sound to be of a lower quality.
Well, I’ve just blown my schedule, I’ve just blown my teaching program. We’ll just have to salvage it as best as can be. Okay, we’re working with taking and sending, working with mind training in daily life situations. This is under Application, page 37 in the booklet.
This morning I talked about the whole notion of transformation. And then we looked at transformation using the tools of awakening to what is apparently true. There’s the two instructions: Drive all blame into one and Be grateful to everyone.
Now, we move into a deeper or higher level tool—awakening mind for what is ultimately true.
The ultimate protection is emptiness. See projections as the four aspects of being. Now for those of you who are steeped in Buddhism—and particularly Tibetan Buddhism—the four aspects of being are the four kayas: nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, dharmakaya, and svabhavikakaya. And, of course, this is a very straightforward and simple aspect of Buddhist practice which nobody has any trouble with whatsoever. [Laughter] So I don’t need to say anything about it. Moving on…
My father—an accountant—was once giving a lecture at an extension course at the local university. And he went through this very, very long and complicated analysis of an accounting problem and said, “Is this clear to everybody now?” And one person put up his hand and said, ”Mr. McLeod, wouldn’t it be a little bit easier if you just…” and he gave another analysis, which just dropped the whole thing down to something very straightforward. And my father looked at it, and looked at him, and looked at what he put on the board, and turned to the person and said, “So, in so many words you’re calling me a damn fool, right?” And the student took a big gulp and said, “Yes.” My father said, “Well, you’re quite right.” [Laughter]
Now, the four kayas. There’s such a long history here, and I’m going to give you a little bit of it, so you can understand how so much fuss is made over something that’s very important but not such a big deal. It’s a very good indication of how teachings get screwed up as they go from generation to generation. At one point in his life, Buddha said,
He who sees my form does not see me. Now how would you understand that?
He who sees my form does not see me.
Guy: I am not my form.
Neal: He sees his projection. He projects onto him.
Ken: It’s closer to what Guy is saying really, Neal. That buddha isn’t the physical being. Buddha is being awake. So, if you look at the buddha and say, “Oh, I see the buddha,” you’re not really understanding what buddha is. This clear to everybody? Okay, that’s all it means.
Now here’s what happened.
He who sees my form does not see me. Well, the Indian mind is a brilliant analytical mind. “Ah,
He who sees my form does not see me. There must be a form which we can’t see, and this is the true form of the buddha, dharmakaya. Okay, if that’s the true form of the buddha, what’s the one that I do see? Oh, that’s the form form.” They get in a little trouble in English here.
Then they got elaborated because there was an energetic component which you perceive, but you don’t perceive with your senses. That’s the sambhogakaya. And then people got into the thing, “Well, there’s the nirmanakaya, and the sambhogakaya and the dharmakaya,” and they started talking about these things as if they’re three different things. So they came up with the svabhavikakaya, which says they’re all the same. [Laughter] And not to be outdone by the Nyingmas, who always have to outdo everybody—have to go one better than everybody else—they said, “Well, yeah, there’s a fifth kaya really, there’s the bliss aspect, so there’s the bliss form.” And I think somebody else came up with a sixth kaya somewhere else. So it got totally out of hand, as everything always does. [Laughter]
Now, experientially, what does this mean? You can do it with anything. You can do it with a form, you can do it with an emotion, you can do it with a sound. Doesn’t make any difference. We’ll do it with sound today.
[Ken taps a gong]
I did this yesterday a little bit. What do you experience? Oh, come on, this is not a hard question. [Laughter]
Ken: SOUND! Okay, there’s a gong, at least I heard it, did anybody else hear it? Okay. All right, let’s do it again, see.
Where does the sound go? Or where does the experience of sound go? It’s gone. Okay. It’s gone, right? Well, we might say it goes into the silence. Now, I want you to listen very carefully.
What happened to the silence?
Student: Became the sound.
Ken: It became the sound? Anybody else? I want you to listen very carefully, okay. Pardon?
Student: The silence got noisier.
Ken: The silence got noisier? Well it wouldn’t be silence, would it? Okay, anybody hear the silence? Okay, keep listening to the silence, okay.
Ken: Where does the silence go?
Ken: Yes. So you have silence and sound. Okay. This is a little crude analogy, but it’s good enough for our purposes. Silence is the dharmakaya. It is the space in which sound can arise. Is the sound separate from the silence? No. Is it the same as the silence? No. So it is the same and not? It is not the same and it is not separate. Is this beginning to sound rather Buddhist? Okay.
So, the sound itself, that’s nirmanakaya, that’s expression in form. The silence, there’s nothing you can define it by, you know. Is it big, is it small? Is it long, is it short? Is it white, is it black? The silence has no quality, follow? So you have the silence on the one hand, sound on the other—dharmakaya, you know, true form, if you want. Expression and form here. And when you experience them both together, what’s that like? Before you were experiencing one, and then the other, right? When you experience them both together, what happens in you? When you hear the sound and the silence at the same time?
Student: You’re right there.
Ken: Yeah, you’re less reactive to the sound and at the same time you’re more responsive. This make sense to you? Okay, that quality of the sound and the silence together, and that shift we experience, that’s sambhogakaya. The energetic quality, the enriched quality, if you wish. Its literal translation is the enrichment body, or quality body, or enjoyment body. Very difficult term to translate. Okay, now final question: the sound, the silence, and that quality, are those three different things?
Ken: No. That’s svabhavikakaya. Essence body, literally. Now, basically, that’s all there is to it. That’s it.
Now, you can do the same thing with anger. There’s the vividness of the anger, that’s nirmanakaya. There’s the no-thing quality to the anger, dharmakaya. The no-thing quality and the vividness arise together, sambhogakaya. And those three aspects of experience are not separate, svabhavikakaya.
To do this, you don’t think nirmanakaya, dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, svabhavikakaya, because that’s just thought. How do you do it?
Student: Experience it directly.
Ken: Experience what directly?
Student: I think if you experience the first two, you have…in other words if you experience the anger, if you can also experience the no-thing aspect—
Ken: How do you do that?
Judy: Experience the anger so deeply so that you come out into the other space.
Ken: Why would you come out into the other space?
Judy: Well, the only way I can describe it is if you’re focusing a camera and you go beyond the focus, you’re on the other side.
Ken: Ah yeah, it’s a good analogy but it breaks down. Okay, how do you do this? But you’re on the right track. How do you do this? Okay, what is the nature of anger?
Ken: No-thingness. How do you know the nature of something?
Student: By experiencing it.
Ken: By experiencing it what?
Ken: Completely. So it’s not that you go beyond. It’s that you experience it completely. And because its nature is no-thing, then you necessarily experience its nature by experiencing it completely. So this involves no conceptual apparatus or approach whatsoever. It involves moving totally into the experience. Yes?
Student: Either by taking and sending?
Ken: No, you don’t really; this is not about taking and sending. That’s what
Drive all blame into one. and
Be grateful to everyone. is [pp. 18-19]. This is more about,
Regard everything as a dream [p. 10], being a phantom person so you experience it completely. This is
Awakening to what is ultimately true. Okay, some people may use taking and sending to get them into the experience and then open to it completely, and that’ll be fine.
What we’re talking about here is moving into the experience so there’s no separation. And so you become the anger in attention. So, this depends on having a level of attention, a capacity of attention which can penetrate subject-object duality. So this is not a beginner’s instruction. But what I want to emphasize here, this is not a conceptual framework that you apply to experience. It’s something you move into directly and experience fully and then it just arises. And when it arises, that is the protection circle of emptiness.
Student: Could you say that again, about subject-object duality?
Ken: I can never repeat things. What did I say?
Student: Play the tape back. [Laughter]
Ken: Okay, yeah.
Student: Interested in protective circles…
Student: Protective circles and emptiness part. What was that?
Ken: I’ll go through it again. Yeah, I know. “By letting go of you.” [Laughter] That’s the rub. Okay now, it’s all right. You need to do this; one needs to have a capacity of attention that is capable of penetrating subject-object duality.
A few weeks ago I was taking a workshop with someone. And very unlike me, I was really angry at how the workshop was being run at that point. We’re given an exercise in which we have a partner and you’re to tell your partner everything that was going on with you at that point in the workshop. And you’re given a half hour. So this was basically about exhaustion. So, my partner talked for half an hour approximately about everything that was going on for her in the workshop and I held the space. It was an instruction in holding the space.
That was fine. Then it was my turn. I was feeling rather angry about a lot of things, and I just did not feel like sharing it. [Laughter] So, just as I had done for her, she was doing for me—she was looking me right in the eyes and I looked her right in the eyes—and I went straight into my anger. And I didn’t say anything for half an hour. About fifteen, twenty minutes into it there was nothing left. There was just the anger. I wasn’t there anymore, there was just anger. It was right there.
It was a little hard on her. [Laughter] She understood that her job was to hold the space, but it really did stretch her beyond her limits. So we had a little chat afterwards.
Student: You may have given her a little instruction about taking and sending…
Ken: No, I wasn’t the teacher in the workshop. I was just taking it.
Student: You should have prepared her.
Ken: Ah no, no. Comes with workshops. You take risks, whatever. But it was very…just right in it. And it just went empty—like that. That was a very useful experience for me. Actually, it turned out to be very useful for her, because she had just, in the first day of the workshop, been talking about holding the space for someone. Her roommate had some problem that morning and she was just able to do it and she held the space for her very well. And so she had this idea of, “I can hold space very well,” and then she ran into me [laughter] and understood that holding space really meant holding space. So, we had a talk about it afterwards and she really understood it. It meant not having an image of being able to hold space but just actually doing it, whatever it took in the moment. In the end it turned out to be quite helpful for her. Yeah?
Student: So the anger was really nothing, then.
Ken: No, it was anger and emptiness. The anger went empty so that I disappeared. There was just the anger experiencing it completely.
Student: Okay. When you returned?
Ken: Yeah, no anger.
Student: And there had been projection involved?
Ken: Oh, of course, they’re all my projection.
Student: So it worked out.
Ken: Yeah. I saw things very differently, you know. And things might be a little irritating but nothing to get angry about. It’s fine. And that’s what it means to know completely—right in the experience. No conceptual framework, no “Oh it is this, it’s this way or that way.” It’s pointless saying, “Anger is empty,” because that’s just a thought. That does nothing. You have to know it completely. Be it in attention. That’s how you know something.
Student: You drop the story.
Ken: Oh yeah. As soon as I realized I was angry I just dropped the story. And just, okay, this is what’s up—anger, experience it. If you stay in the story all you do is just keep churning stuff around. What is the function of the story?
Student: Keep you from the feelings…
Ken: Yeah, it’s to dissipate attention. That’s the function of the story. So as long as you’re churning around in the story you cannot experience what’s really there because your attention is being dissipated by the story.
Student: Does that mean that the stronger the story line, the more you’re resisting?
Ken: Well, very insistent stories are guarding something very insistently. Right? Okay, good.
Any questions about the four kayas? [Laughter]
Student: It seems like a very elaborate way of saying just what is…
Ken: Well, on the one hand that’s exactly right; it’s an elaborate way of saying that. On the other hand, as things develop they become a way of pointing out or training people to approach their experience. And they accumulate a power over centuries, literally. So they become a kind of shorthand. Kongtrul, or in this case Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, can just refer to the shorthand and bang. Someone who knows the shorthand knows exactly what he’s talking about and what effort to make. And this is one of the things you find about many of the Tibetan instructions. Because there is such a long history behind them, they carry centuries of power with them. You know, just cut right through.
Kevin: Seems like dharmakaya is a stepping-stone to sambhogakaya.
Ken: Well, you’re thinking in terms of attainment, as in the bodhisattva level. And that’s looking at the kayas in a very different way from what we’re talking. We’re talking about kayas as dimensions of experience right now.
[A student asks a question about taking and sending and in the context of the kayas.]
Ken: If, through the practice of taking and sending or any other technique you drop into presence, rest right there. That’s the point of the practice. Just rest right there. If it dissipates—go back to the technique. Okay? Now, as you go on and you are able to rest in presence, then you—and this is what I was referring to earlier—then you learn that these techniques actually enhance the experience of presence.
Student: How do you know if you are resting in presence? How do you know if you’ve arrived in presence?
Ken: You know. It isn’t a question. You’ll just know. In fact, you won’t know, you’ll just be there. If you’re thinking about it, that’s another matter. And you feel the separation as soon as thought starts to arise, you’ll feel the separation. Right. ”Oh, am I”—just like that.
And that goes back to the line that we discussed earlier,
Let even the remedy release naturally. If you’re present, the thoughts arise and they just go. So there’s no question. And there’s complete openness and responsiveness in that. There’s no defensiveness, anything like that. Okay?
Now. We now move into a number of special techniques for working with adversity or any form of unpleasantness in our lives. They are
accumulating merit, confessing evil actions, giving torma to gods and demons, and offering torma to dakinis and protectors. Page 21 in this book. How many of you know what a torma is? What is a torma? I’ve been dying to know. [Laughter]
Student: Edible cookie.
Ken: Judy, what’s a torma?
Judy: Kind of like Play-Doh that’s made into a shape.
Ken: A shape, okay. Yeah, I’ve made hundreds of those. Yeah, okay. Newcomb what’s a torma?
Newcomb: Wish I hadn’t raised my hand.
Ken: Here you are!
Newcomb: It’s a ritual object used in Vajrayana practice.
Ken: Okay. Alisha?
Alisha: I can’t do better than that.
Ken: Page 71. Okay, let’s go through these quickly. Tibetan Buddhism, partially because it’s a medieval society, uses a banking metaphor to convey certain ideas. Now, in almost all cultures, at one time or another, the monasteries and the temples were the banks. That is, that’s where the surplus of the society was stored. And it was doled out by the priesthood in times of famine or need. So you have this idea of accumulating merit and accumulating awareness. And you build up the spiritual bank account in the sky and then you can cash in your chips and get enlightened. It’s very nice. When you do something that is virtuous or helpful to another person, what is the effect on you? Yeah, what is the effect on your mind?
Ken: Calm, clearer, lighter, better. Years ago, when I first moved to Los Angeles, there’s a friend of mine whom I never expected to run into in L.A., a woman who moved from Vancouver. I met her when she was a student of Kalu Rinpoche’s. And she was very helpful to me in the first few months I was there because I didn’t know anything about L.A. One day she said, “I’m feeling very depressed,” and I said, “Well, you got twenty bucks on you?” Which was kind of insulting—she was at that point quite wealthy.
And she said “Yeah” so I said, “Let’s go,” and we went down to the fishing dock, and I said, “Okay, give me twenty bucks.” Bought a bunch of fish, bait fish, set them free in the harbor, etc. And the whole time she was looking at me, “Why are we doing this? What’s going on here?” etc., etc. I said, “Just go through it.” And then we left, and she looked at me and said, “You’re right, it worked.” [Laughter]
Mark Twain said, “When you’re depressed, when you want to cheer yourself up, the best way to do that is cheer somebody else up.” It’s just the idea. So by doing good you actually generate the conditions in you where the mind is open and more clear, and more likely to wake up. And you’re also putting in process conditions in you so that those kinds of conditions are more likely to manifest in the future. This is what accumulating merit refers to.
So when you encounter adversity, what good can you do in this situation? That’s the first method. “What good can I do in this situation?” And that’s how you use that experience of adversity as your path to awakening. Not anybody else’s, your own. This goes back to the discussion we had earlier about will. “Yeah, this is a terrible situation, everything’s crummy. Oh, well, I can do this.” And now you’re using that situation.
You note at the bottom of page 21 [p. 23], you have this lovely little prayer, which is really great.
If it’s better for me to be ill,
I pray for the blessing of illness.
If it’s better for me to recover,
I pray for the blessing of recovery.
If it’s better for me to die,
I pray for the blessing of death.
Very disturbing prayer, isn’t it? I was working with a woman who was dying of cancer, and one day she said, “Can you give me some prayer?” So I gave her this one, and she said, “You’ve got to be nuts, Ken.” I said, “Okay if you don’t want it that’s fine. But you asked me for a prayer, here you are.” And next time I went to see her she said, “You know I couldn’t get that damn prayer out of my head.” I just said, “Oh!” And I went back a couple of weeks later and she said, “You know I just keep saying that prayer to myself and I don’t get it…I feel better.”
Notice how Kongtrul introduces this prayer
Pray to put an end to hope and fear. When you engage hope and fear, you are not present in the situation. You are either in the future, or you are in the past. What this prayer does, whether you like it or not, it pulls you right into the present. There you are. Your mind becomes clear, more awake. It’s called accumulating merit because you’re using a prayer, an act there.
Confessing evil actions. Confession is an unfortunate term. The Tibetan really means just to open the whole thing up. You cannot undo a reactive pattern without acknowledging that it’s operating in you. So when we do something that’s unwholesome or harmful to another, the very first step in undoing the karmic process that we’ve set in motion by the action is acknowledging that we’ve done it. And that’s what this is about. Opening it up. Then things can open up and shift around.
Now, it talks about the four forces in there. Repudiation or regret, translated either way. Remedy, reliance and resolve. I wrote about these in somewhat greater length in my book, so you can read about it there. But these are all ways of opening fully to the action and the consequences of the action for you. And as you take all of that in, then the inclination to go that way again is basically eliminated. And that’s how you undo the karmic process, the reactive patterns that have initially been set up by the action itself. Okay?
Student: Is there an external component—
Ken: What would be the external component?
Student: Well, I was just joking last week with someone about how I always feel better when I talk with someone else about something I’ve done.
Ken: Okay. It is basically an internal process. When it comes to the remedy part, if you can actually remedy the action with the person that you offended or hurt, that really helps to undo it. That’s not always possible. But if you can, that is much the better thing to do.
The reliance part is where you renew your connection with your spiritual intention. And for some people that is better done by acknowledging in the presence of another person or in the presence of a symbol of that enlightenment, such as an image of Buddha or whatever. Their own shrine at their own home or what have you. So you’re saying yes, here in the presence of the Three Jewels, or one’s teacher, or a monk or a nun, or whatever, and saying yeah, this is what happened. Then it helps it to go deeper. But that depends on circumstances and on the individual. Okay. Read this section over. If you have questions I’m very willing to take them up.
[A student asks if guilt is part of this process.]
Ken: Aha, very good question. The word for unwholesome action in Tibetan is sdig pa (pron. dee(k)pa). It’s derived from the word for scorpion. Now, if you put on your boot and there is a scorpion inside and it stings you, do you feel guilty? Do you? Do you feel guilty for that?
Student: I actually have an experience of killing a scorpion…
Ken: No, no, not talking about that. The scorpion stings you. Do you feel guilty for that?
Ken: No. Do you regret it? Yes. And that’s the difference here. Because unwholesome actions sting us. It’s not that we’ve broken any cosmic law or anything like that, that’s not where Buddhism is coming from. It’s the fact that the actions that we do that harm others set in motion a process that hurts us. So we regret the action for that reason. And that’s very different from guilt. Okay? It really does hurt us more than it hurts the other person.
Remember Thich Nhat Hanh, a poem Remember My Names [Please Call Me By My True Names],
I’m the pirate who raped the twelve year old girl… During the Iran-Iraq War back in the…
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