Poison is Medicine: Has Dzongsar Khyentse Clarified or Muddied the Waters?

Today we have a post by Joanne Clark as a follow up to her last post on Dzongsar Khyentse and nihilism.

“In our practice, we may view the guru’s behavior as that of a mahasiddha, but in the   conventional world we follow the general Buddhist approach, and if a certain behavior is harmful, we should say so.”

HH Dalai Lama, The Foundation of Buddhist Practice

Leaving the Boat Too Early

In Dzongsar’s recent publication, Poison is Medicine, which is based on teachings that he gave in Rigpa Centres following the revelations of abuses by Sogyal Lakhar, his intention is to clarify “the misunderstandings and misapprehensions about the Vajrayana that were exposed by the Vajrayana guru-related scandals of the 2010s.” (Poison is Medicine; vii) By “scandals”, I presume he means “abuses.” However, with statements such as the following, I question what clarity can result:

“Do you recognize the limitations of reason and logic? Do you accept that empiricism is subjective? Do you trust that what lies beyond reasoning and logic is more than the inspiration to write a poem or the feeling of falling in love? Are you strongly attracted to the state in which nothing makes sense? Do you accept that a state that makes no sense cannot truly be attained by using drugs and alcohol? Have you temporarily experienced that drug-induced state and found it not enough? Do you long to go beyond, once and for all, never again to become entangled in definitions? If you do, then the Vajrayana is for you.” (Ibid; pp 140-141)

In my own experience, I began my Buddhist journey “strongly attracted to the state in which nothing makes sense.” I had powerful experiences, went weak at the knees when my guru was around, and longed to “go beyond.” In Western terms, I was a “born-again” Buddhist. In Buddhist terms, I was ignorant, lacking basic knowledge of the Dharma. In the end, I wasn’t even sane and harm resulted to those closest to me. It wasn’t until I turned to a daily dose of “reason and logic,” studying the Buddhist canon from the perspectives of both the Kangyur and Tengyur, that I regained my sanity and clarity of mind.

So when I read statements such as that one, I recoil. The Dharma’s strength is that it does not require us to rely on born-again experiences or blind faith. Everything can be unpacked—and every word of the Buddha has been unpacked by such scholars as Nagarjuna and other masters of the Tengyur. And discernment and reason are critical tools. Yes, eventually we have to leave it all behind, leave the boat, but we cannot leave the boat until it has safely brought us to shore. Safely.

Does the Vajrayana Need to Be Changed?

A central thesis of this text is that there are essential truths spoken by the Buddha that cannot be altered. That while the trappings, language and cultural contexts can be changed to improve students’ understanding—and DK has much to say about both Tibetan and Western trappings—the Buddha’s core teachings cannot be changed. DK expresses a concern several times that students are asking for the Vajrayana to be “changed” in order for abuses to end. He says “Throughout this exercise, the basic teaching that everything is a deity cannot and must not be changed.” (Ibid, p. 38)

I myself have never asked for the “Vajrayana to be changed.” Practices of pure perception and tantric commitments are important. However, they have to be upheld in a manner that is coherent and consistent with the essential Buddhist outlook- in a manner that doesn’t cause harm or fly against reason. I don’t pretend to be qualified to suggest how that might be envisioned, which is why I have quoted from the Dalai Lama below.

DK claims, as an example of those words of the Buddha that cannot be changed: “The Vajradhara – the name Vajrayana students use for the Buddha – said that everything is a deity. From the bubbles on the surface of a pond to a snow mountain, from a maggot to the family who lives in Buckingham Palace, everything is a deity, including you, the practitioner.”

And he then goes further to write, “The Vajradhara repeated again and again that, having made all the proper preparations and received the highest tantric teachings from your Vajrayana guru, you must not only see her as the Buddha, but she must be even more important to you than the Buddha. And as your guru is the Buddha, you must do whatever she says. “ (Ibid; p. 38)

I am accustomed these days to sources being provided for all claims of what the Buddha or other masters have said. Did the Vajrayadhara/Buddha actually say that? Where, when? Or is it an instruction within a tantra? Which tantra? I am also accustomed to the words of the Buddha being unpacked, often by the great masters of the Tengyur and then maybe by contemporary teachers. I am aware, and DK does discuss this, that within the secretive Vajrayana, in a writing such as his addressed to a general audience, it is not possible for him to be too clear about tantric sources, impossible for direct quotes or advanced practice instructions etc., In fact, he admits that some things he says here about the Vajrayana will necessarily be a little vague.

Nonetheless, it leaves me uncomfortable. One of the greatest features of Buddhism is that it demands of students more than just blind faith. More than just saying “the Buddha says” and following blindly. We don’t just repeat, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form” over and over. We engage with it dynamically, unpack it with reasonings provided by such masters as Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. We realize that emptiness might not be simply a “paradox” of things appearing out of nothing, as DK insists over and over in Poison is Medicine. It might be a coherent and beautiful example of dependent origination. For example, Nagarjuna writes:

“Whatever is dependently originated      
That is explained to be emptiness.                                                                                                  
That being a dependent designation                                                                                                
Is itself the middle way.

Since there is no phenomena                                                                                                           
That is not dependently originated,                                                                                                      
There is no phenomena                                                                                                                  
That is not empty of inherent existence.”

Nagarjuna, Mulamadyamakakarika Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way; Ch. XXIV, Verses 18-19

The beauty of this view of dependent origination for myself is that it maintains a coherent and fluid dynamic between conventional and ultimate truth, one with deepening levels of subtlety that correspond to practice. We can view it in terms of cause and effect, then in terms of dependence on parts, then in terms of dependence on a designated basis. And then Chandrakirti unpacks Nagarjuna, Tsongkhapa unpacks Chandrakirti, the goal being not to change the teachings but to clarify them. 

Nilanda University today.

Is “Paradox” The Best Way to View Emptiness?

Because of this, I was surprised (and confused) to read DK use Nagarjuna to support his view of emptiness as being a paradox. He writes:

“Nagarjuna tells us that, long ago, having transcended belief himself, the Buddha gave his quintessential teachings about how to shrug belief off altogether. To go beyond belief, without exaggerating the absolute truth or underestimating the relative truth, is the goal of the Buddhist path. I wonder if Stephen Batchelor’s reluctance to accept the notion of reincarnation is a symptom of having underestimated the relative truth. Such an underestimation is equivalent to the MIT physicist throwing away his son’s panda. If Buddhist practitioners continue to underestimate the relative truth and overestimate the absolute truth, it will become impossible for them to go beyond Buddhist beliefs altogether.

“It seems to me that most of the great Indian thinkers of the past, especially the Buddha, saw everything as a paradox. A number of western thinkers would probably agree, but only to a point. As far as I can tell, only the Buddha taught an entire range of techniques to help us live with and enjoy paradox, and to prevent us from preferring one side of a contradiction to the other.

“I would like to stress and repeat once again that Buddha taught in paradoxes because everything is paradoxical.” (Ibid p. 95)

I am no Buddhist scholar—and it’s well beyond my abilities to question his understanding of Nagarjuna—but this is a very different understanding of Nagarjuna’s perspective than any I have received and I don’t really understand what it means. Nonetheless, this view of emptiness as “paradox” perhaps explains some of the interactions I see between DK and his students, where he tries to turn moral values and perspectives on their head (a paradox), where he challenges students to exist in a sort of groundlessness (something that I would see as “underestimating the relative truth” and he clearly does not)

“Paradox” suggests an experience where reasoning and discernment have broken down. Where coherence has broken down. Indeed, a person I engaged with on the blog in response to my last article on DK’s approaches claimed that Vajra hell is described “as being caught up in reason and logic that keeps you out of realizing the truth”

And DKR writes:

“Only the Vajrayana teaches a genuine appreciation of the paradoxical fully and painlessly.” (Poison is Medicine p. 97)

And:

“But to practice the Vajrayana properly we must be ready and willing to let go of old ideas and values and have the courage not to get stuck in the rational world. It’s like the difference between drinking just enough wine to get pleasantly tipsy but in control and throwing all caution to the wind and getting completely sloshed. By the time your wish to shrug Samsara off has passed the point of no return, your Vajrayana practice will no longer involve self-flagellation or penance of any kind, it will just be blissful.” (Ibid p. 140)

And What About Bodhicitta?

I also found in Poison is Medicine very little emphasis on the vital role that bodhicitta plays in Vajrayana practice, the need to generate bodhicitta and have a stable practice of (conventional) bodhicitta as a foundation for Vajrayana practice. This is very different from the coherent fabric of Nagarjuna’s reasoning in his Commentary on the Awakening Mind where he states in the introduction:

“Those bodhisattvas who practice by means of the secret mantra, after having generated awakening mind in terms of its conventional aspect in the form of an aspiration, must [then] produce the ultimate awakening mind through the force of meditative practice. I shall therefore explain its nature.” 

I mention this only because that stable mind of bodhicitta is another means by which students navigate safely within advanced practices, safe from extremes.

However, to be fair, DK does speak clearly in this text about no-harm. There are several clear statements such as this throughout the text:

“If a tantric guru abuses a sentient being spiritually, emotionally, physically or sexually, or harms anyone in any way, he is not only breaking the Shravaka and Mahayana vows, but also the Vajrayana vows. An authentic tantric or Vajrayana guru is supposed to love and care for each disciple as if they were her only child.” (Poison is Medicine, p. 181)

Pure Perception Goes Beyond the Boundaries of a Country’s Legal System

He also clarifies his stance on crazy wisdom, using a similar metaphor to the one I used in my last article:

“Unless we can perform miracles, like Virupa, Guru Padma- sambhava or Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal, we are all bound by causes and conditions, and therefore subject to the laws of the land. Crazy wisdom does not give gurus free license to do whatever they like, nor does it say that if both guru and student are consenting adults, what happens between them is their business. The guru and student are free to choose the course of their relationship within the boundaries of their country’s legal system. Even so, the practices of pure perception and obedience to the guru go far beyond all that.” (Ibid p. 158)

I was happy to read that he wasn’t pushing crazy wisdom. His admiration for Chogyam Trungpa and many of his statements, with gurus drinking bourbon and teasing princesses etc., have not made that so clear. However, the last sentence in the quote above is ominous!

In fact, this is the main point. I and other Rigpa students sat through many teachings listening to Sogyal Lakhar publicly humiliate other students. Compassion in his words, harm in his actions. We said nothing. Even for those who had not taken a vow of pure perception, there was a culture of pure perception and when my 16 year old daughter complained to me about Sogyal Lakhar’s behavior, to my shame, I told her that we could not judge how he “worked” with his senior students. This was a complete turn-around from the values I had upheld as her mother. Within such a culture, it is hard to measure the extent of potential harm.

Baby Talk?

And DK commends Trungpa Rinpoche’s unique techniques:

“It bugs me that more is being said about Trungpa Rinpoche’s eccentric behaviour than his courageous and inventive approach to teaching Americans. Just as parents spend hours talking baby- talk with their new-born babies, Trungpa Rinpoche willingly absorbed as much as he could of American culture and then tried to communicate with his American students on their level. How many other lamas have even made the attempt?”

There is a strange dynamic within Poison is Medicine that on one hand, DK encourages us to “analyse, analyse analyse” a teacher before committing to the Vajrayana path—and he also commends the analytical faculties of many Western students– but in the same text he extols those who wish to leave the “rational world behind,” commends teachers who talk to them in ‘baby-talk’ and condemns reasoning himself:

“Analyse the guru, do a thorough background check and test his reactions to awkward situations, even if that means purposefully annoying or contradicting him privately and publicly. You should also ask yourself how serious you are about learning to think outside the samsaric box. How serious are you about learning how to think differently? Only those of you who have genuinely set your hearts on learning how to transform how you think should even consider setting foot on the tantric path.”(Ibid p. 173)

This statement is an oxymoron. In the same breath that we are told to analyze, we are told that the tools of analysis are to be left behind. And no mention is made of the qualifications a guru should exhibit.

And this is my concern. Unless we have a strong foundation in—yes!— reasoning and discernment, unless we’re prepared to unpack the teachings with those tools, then there is no way that we can possibly assess a teacher and his/her teachings– or understand the purpose of the practices we are engaged in, practices such as pure perception. 

Following are the Dalai Lama’s perspectives on this.

The Dalai Lama on Pure Perception 1982

“The practice of guru yoga means that one ignores any negative traits that the guru may seem to have, and that one meditates upon his or her positive qualities. If we can develop the habit of always seeing the guru through his or her good qualities, our confidence naturally grows, and eventually we become able to take our preconceptions about faults he or she seems to display and transform them into spiritually useful tools. Perceptions of faults in the guru should not cause us to feel disrespect, for by demonstrating faults to us, the guru is actually showing us what we should abandon. At least this is the most useful attitude for us to take. An important point here is that the disciple must have a spirit of sincere inquiry and must have clear rather than blind, devotion.

“It is frequently said that the essence of the training in guru yoga is to cultivate the art of seeing everything the guru does as perfect. Personally, I myself do not like this to be taken too far. Often we see written in the scriptures, ‘Every action seen as perfect.’ However, this phrase must be seen in the light of Buddha Shakyamuni’s own words: ‘Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith in me.’ The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns into poison for both the guru and the disciple. Therefore, whenever I teach this practice, I always advocate that the tradition of ‘every action seen as perfect’ not be stressed. Should the guru manifest un-Dharmic qualities or give teachings contradicting Dharma, the instruction on seeing the spiritual master as perfect must give way to reason and Dharmic wisdom …

“The disciple must always keep reason and knowledge of Dharma as principle guidelines. Without this approach, it is difficult to digest one’s Dharma experiences. Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru, and even then, follow that teacher within the conventions of reason as presented by the Buddha.” (The Dalai Lama and Glen Mullin, The Path to Enlightenment; pp 70-72) 

The Dalai Lama on Pure Perception 2018

And here, in a recent text, after devoting some pages to explaining the benefits of the general practice of seeing the teacher as a Buddha, in the context of focusing on his good qualities and perhaps learning from his bad, even outside of tantric practice, and then addressing some problems of abuse within Western Dharma centres, His Holiness states:

“Some texts make statements such as, ‘See all actions of your spiritual mentor as perfect’ and ‘follow your mentors’ instructions exactly with complete devotion.’ These statements are made within the context of highest yoga tantra and apply to exceptional cases in which both the spiritual master and the disciple are highly qualified—for example, Tilopa and his disciple Naropa and Marpa and his disciple Milarepa. If we are the not the caliber of Naropa and our mentor does not have the qualities of Tilopa, these statements can be greatly misleading. Hearing stories of Tilopa’s seemingly abusive treatment of Naropa—instructing him to jump off a cliff and so forth—and Marpa instructing Milarepa to build some buildings and then tear them down, some people think that following their teachers’ instructions includes allowing themselves to be abused. This is not the case at all! Marpa told Milarepa, ‘Do not treat your students like I treated you or the way the great Naropa treated me. Such practice should not be continued in the future.’ This is because it is very rare to find both a teacher and a disciple who have realizations comparable to those great masters.

“I have had many teachers whom I value greatly, but I cannot accept seeing all their actions as perfect. When I was in my teens, my two regents fought with each other in a power struggle that involved the Tibetan army. When I sat on my meditation seat, I felt both teachers were extremely kind and had profound respect for them: their disagreements did not matter. But when I had to deal with the difficulties caused by their dissension, I said to them, ‘What you are doing is wrong!’ I did not speak out of hatred or disrespect, but because I love the Buddhadharma, and their actions went against it. I felt no conflict in loyalty by acting in this way. In our practice, we may view the guru’s behavior as that of a mahasiddha, but in the conventional world we follow the general Buddhist approach, and if a certain behavior is harmful, we should say so.

“The advice to see all the guru’s actions as perfect is not meant for general practitioners. Because it is open to misunderstanding, it can easily become poison for both mentors and students. Students naively whitewashing a teacher’s bad behavior by thinking anything the guru does must be good gives some teachers a free hand to misbehave. On the teacher’s part, poor behavior is tantamount to drinking the hot molten iron of the hellish states and it contributes to the degeneration of the Dharma in the world. Only in particular situations and to particular practitioners should it be taught that all the guru’s actions are perfect. Buddhism is based on reasoning and wisdom and must remain so.” (2018, Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron, The Foundation of Buddhist Practice; p 123-24)

Yes, “Buddhism is based on reasoning and wisdom and must remain so.” How else can the water be clarified?    


Recommended Reading:

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion

120 Replies to “Poison is Medicine: Has Dzongsar Khyentse Clarified or Muddied the Waters?”

  1. I see no paradox in form being emptiness and emptiness being form. They are a unity, not two things in opposition, and to teach that they’re a paradox is to teach that they are two separate things in opposition, not a unity. Buddha addressed that misunderstanding when he said, ‘Form is no other than emptiness and emptiness is no other than form’.

    And this applies to relative truth and absolute truth as well. They are also not a paradox, one (the absolute) is simply the true nature of the other (relative). Not separate things with separate rules.

    A coin has two sides, but it is one thing. There is no contradiction between the two sides. It’s the same as things being made of atoms. We can’t see those atoms in a teacup without a powerful microscope, but there’s no contradiction between those two views of the same object. They are not two different things joined together. One exists because of the other. You cannot change the atoms without changing the cup and visa versa.

    DJK accuses others of not placing enough emphasis on conventional truth, but I think it is DJK who is doing that. As Joanne is pointing out, he’s not seeing ’emptiness’ as dependent arising, which means he’s really not seeing it.

    Vajrayana doesn’t need changing. It needs people to understand it correctly, and for that teachers have to actually know what they’re talking about, to have experienced directly as well as to have studied. It appears to me that DJK is taking a defensive stance on this matter, so he’s interpreting his knowledge in light of that agenda. It’s unfortunate that so many people listen to him and take his words as gospel. Better they read The Library of Wisdom and Compassion by HHDL and Thubten Chodron and use their own mind to understand than listen to someone who is pretty obviously muddying the waters.

      1. That’s true on many levels, the union of shamata and vipasyana, of form and emptiness, study and practice, compassion and wisdom, and the union of our wisdom mind with the wisdom mind of the teacher – their wisdom mind not their deluded mind. It seems that some modern ‘teachers’ are confused themselves on the difference.

    1. “viewing the relationship between conventional and ultimate and basing one’s understanding on that.”

      Thalia , how is this not dualistic!?

      1. The relationship between the conventional and the ultimate is nondual. They are one. Two sides of the same coin. That’s the point. That’s why there is no paradox. You only see it as dualistic because you do not understand.

        1. Thalia

          To state that a relationship is nondual, is paradoxical.

          “Relationship: the way in which two or more people or things are connected”

          DJKR answered a student who said they were two sides of one coin, that there were not two sides.

          Statements are easy to make, it doesn’t mean you understand a very subtle subject.

          Each person should use their sense of logic to test the gold that’s being peddled.

          With merit of previous karma, and your own genuineness, you know what true gold should be.

          It’s up to each person to know their mind.

  2. Thank you Joanne. Well said, and also balanced, quoting statements where for instance DKR is clear about abuse.

    I think his stressing of “Vajrayana can not be changed” is just a straw man argument. I’ve never heard anyone demanding this. What has been demanded is that the abuse of power, sexual abuse by Vajrayana gurus or other types of gurus must be halted, and that a culture that enables abuse must be changed. I think, this straw man argument helps DKR to bypass the real issues: abuse, abuse, abuse. Consequently, as you rightly pointed out, he speaks of “scandals” and not of abuse.

    I also agree with your criticism of the paradox. Emptiness and dependent arising, conventional and ultimate truths, have nowhere been described as paradoxical. At least not in the texts I’ve read. I think this is an invention by DKR. Denying the need for logic and reasoning combined with his stressing of paradox seems to form a perfect basis for fuzziness. And fuzziness is the realm of cults and cult leaders. I don’t say he is a cult leader, but I see patterns I know far too well from cults.

    1. Well said Tenzin. And these “people want to change the Vajrayana” statements make the conversation emotively charged, e.g. the religion is being threatened etc. A way of missing the problem entirely, as you say.

      And I intentionally avoided that word– “cult”– but yes, as you say, the fuzziness is there and it really makes people vulnerable.

  3. Thank you so much Joanne – I have found this post to be most helpful and it has made clear to me how DKR has indeed muddied the waters. And the material from the Dalai Lama is exceptionally valuable in clarifying the waters and in showing how it may be possible to follow the Vajrayana path without getting trapped in blind devotion.

    1. Graeme, yes, it’s helpful for me also to have these conversations. The writing helps me find clarity. And I also find value in the Dalai Lama’s perspective.

  4. I’m too fast to comment but I’m excited to see this “I am accustomed these days to sources being provided for all claims of what the Buddha or other masters have said. Did the Vajrayadhara/Buddha actually say that? Where, when? Or is it an instruction within a tantra? Which tantra? I am also accustomed to the words of the Buddha being unpacked, often by the great masters of the Tengyur and then maybe by contemporary teachers.” in the early stage of this – its so important to me for you to ask this.
    At a certain point I just decided that these polemics of Orgyen Tobgyal and others like Dzongsar Khyentse … were often mixing ideas from here and there and they would say “its all there written, i can prove it” but not really ever do that and get away slippery style to stay busy making other points and playing their guru game.
    The point that we are a Buddha but because someone else gave us a vows or some initiation now we are inferior and must follow them … well it really can’t be justified beyond various “new traditions” … the logic of it. The lack of ability to say no to things that don’t make sense … which at some times you are told “of course you can and should say no” and later “no you must obey without question” .. alternating in a dissonant fashion. It really undermines whatever credibility [one can only assume they got their guru throne from guru school and matriculated] established these self made guru folk. It is always assumed they are learned beyond measure, or if not … wise beyond measure or if not pure of motive beyond question.

    The endless straw man attacks should be exposed such as when you mention “never asked for the “Vajrayana to be changed.” – ie the claims and exaggerations, distortions to attack critics who haven’t made those.

    Most of the time Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti will be taught in isolated situations but in general assemblies bypassed with “its too hard and takes too long …. swift path … the big V”. Instead a family traditional text will be gifted on a whim with a lot of talk about why we have to see things a certain way, obey and those samaya vows that were summarized as “just be a good person” actually didn’t mean that and now they will be pulled out of a hat to tell you how to be and see.

    The only real paradox is that the 3 sets of vows don’t override each other – but fit together all nicely except when a lama decides that they don’t. So at that point it’s time to undermine any variations of conventional truth, provisional truth and relative truth with “just shut up its a paradox”. I’m sure they would have used a word equivalent to paradox if that was the point they were getting across when they said form is emptiness and emptiness is form … form changes – change brings form – one might say. Impermanence is one of the main clues to emptiness because there are texts that reveal emptiness merely by deconstructing things using the imagination to crush them into dust – which is what happens to them over time anyway. There is no paradox in that part but if everything is a paradox as he says … well, i guess you should give up trying to understand. Enlightenment through giving up rather than working hard towards it as Buddha put on his deathbed.

    Vajrayana teaches … “painlessly” … you must be joking DJK – this is one of those whopper lies that cowmen like to tell. I guess pain is also not what pain is. You see relative reality is how things are and that is the gist of Buddha’s. teaching not just erasing them via dismissive argument such as “the other path takes aeons so … its infinity pain vs a little inconvenience in this life like working as a slave in our dharma center extracting wealth for organized religion.

    On this point – ““If a tantric guru abuses a sentient being spiritually, emotionally, physically or sexually, or harms anyone in any way, he is not only breaking the Shravaka and Mahayana vows, but also the Vajrayana vows. An authentic tantric or Vajrayana guru is supposed to love and care for each disciple as if they were her only child.” (Poison is Medicine, p. 181)” the big concern is that basically someone like Sogyal Lakar got the point where he said “don’t worry about my karma, worry about your own” when he got caught and told people he thought would buy it that he was beyond karma … (funny, even Buddha wasn’t so much beyond it). Its not really Buddhism … when a convoluted set of tools to bypass anything exists and is used day in and day out with people who expose the harm being scapegoated and those who turn a blind eye being called great and pure students seeing purely etc.

    So you bring in HHDL quotes – which is good, and we have been doing that for years but I’d like to see open debate on these things rather than roaming about running sects that “don’t see it that way”.

    1. Yes, Sangye, much of what you write is the implicit meaning of what I have written– what we are seeing over years as we simply ask for ways to put and end to the abuses. As Tenzin says, when things get fuzzy (e.g. when we are asked to swallow things whole without critical thought or reasoning, when we are told that reasoning itself is error and then fed strange logic) then there’s a risk of cultic harm– or just regular license for gurus to behave harmfully. We simply want the abuses to end, but we are told to “analyze the guru” (e.g. then we won’t run into trouble) and then things will be fine. But how do we analyze without reasoning? This idea of analyzing the guru becomes in itself simply a form of gaslighting.

    2. “There is no paradox in that part but if everything is a paradox as he says … well, i guess you should give up trying to understand. Enlightenment through giving up rather than working hard towards it as Buddha put on his deathbed.”

      Well put, Sangye. Calling in the paradox is basically asking: give up any attempt to understand. Stopping to try to understand is basically a call to abide in ignorance. Abiding in ignorance is the opposite of awakening. Awakening is not attained by abiding in ignorance.

      1. … and ignorance is groundless.

        It’s only there because you understand it. That is the ground of ignorance : your understanding. Because you think you have to know something extra, as if you are not already all there is.

        If you realised you are already all there is (to know) you would sit in peace and breathe the simple truth of every breath.

        You would no longer have ground for negative emotions that are against anything. That is the groundless experience, it’s finding yourself with yourself and no further referencing.

        Sure the mind reels off all its usual incessant imaginings or projections, but they won’t disturb you at all. Because those are groundless.

        It’s the most positive and peaceful situation, there’s no struggle with ignorance or knowledge.

        You are already there. You don’t realise it, because of all your expectations.

        That’s all I meant by groundless, it’s a way to say ‘free’.

        Paradox here would be like Saraha said : look at the mind, tied down in runs in the ten directions, free, it remains immovable.

        No need to make a big deal of paradox as if it was a real thing was denying something else, this is the realist’s mode like Joanne pointed out. The realist rejects prajnaparamita. The realists thinks as if everything truly exists.

        But Lord Buddha always reminds us that things only exist because we think they do. Sentient beings also conceptions.

        You still haven’t read the noble Mahayana sutra Victory of the Ultimate Dharma, if you are a Buddhist, what are you waiting for?
        It’s brilliant.

    3. There is no Vajrayana without Mahayana, that bit must have slipped by your head so busy with grumbling.

      Without bodhicitta, vajrayana is no better than voodoo, which is the kind of vajrayana people imagine here, some kind of voodoo.

      Cause you don’t understand or apply or even remotely care to know bodhicitta.
      But you love to go on and on about voodoo.

  5. I’m too fast to comment but I’m excited to see this “I am accustomed these days to sources being provided for all claims of what the Buddha or other masters have said. Did the Vajrayadhara/Buddha actually say that? Where, when? Or is it an instruction within a tantra? Which tantra? I am also accustomed to the words of the Buddha being unpacked, often by the great masters of the Tengyur and then maybe by contemporary teachers.” in the early stage of this – its so important to me for you to ask this.
    At a certain point I just decided that these polemics of Orgyen Tobgyal and others like Dzongsar Khyentse … were often mixing ideas from here and there and they would say “its all there written, i can prove it” but not really ever do that and get away slippery style to stay busy making other points and playing their guru game.
    The point that we are a Buddha but because someone else gave us a vows or some initiation now we are inferior and must follow them … well it really can’t be justified beyond various “new traditions” … the logic of it. The lack of ability to say no to things that don’t make sense … which at some times you are told “of course you can and should say no” and later “no you must obey without question” .. alternating in a dissonant fashion. It really undermines whatever credibility [one can only assume they got their guru throne from guru school and matriculated] established these self made guru folk. It is always assumed they are learned beyond measure, or if not … wise beyond measure or if not pure of motive beyond question.

    The endless straw man attacks should be exposed such as when you mention “never asked for the “Vajrayana to be changed.” – ie the claims and exaggerations, distortions to attack critics who haven’t made those.

    Most of the time Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti will be taught in isolated situations but in general assemblies bypassed with “its too hard and takes too long …. swift path … the big V”. Instead a family traditional text will be gifted on a whim with a lot of talk about why we have to see things a certain way, obey and those samaya vows that were summarized as “just be a good person” actually didn’t mean that and now they will be pulled out of a hat to tell you how to be and see.

    The only real paradox is that the 3 sets of vows don’t override each other – but fit together all nicely except when a lama decides that they don’t. So at that point it’s time to undermine any variations of conventional truth, provisional truth and relative truth with “just shut up its a paradox”. I’m sure they would have used a word equivalent to paradox if that was the point they were getting across when they said form is emptiness and emptiness is form … form changes – change brings form – one might say. Impermanence is one of the main clues to emptiness because there are texts that reveal emptiness merely by deconstructing things using the imagination to crush them into dust – which is what happens to them over time anyway. There is no paradox in that part but if everything is a paradox as he says … well, i guess you should give up trying to understand. Enlightenment through giving up rather than working hard towards it as Buddha put on his deathbed.

    Vajrayana teaches … “painlessly” … you must be joking DJK – this is one of those whopper lies that cowmen like to tell. I guess pain is also not what pain is. You see relative reality is how things are and that is the gist of Buddha’s. teaching not just erasing them via dismissive argument such as “the other path takes aeons so … its infinity pain vs a little inconvenience in this life like working as a slave in our dharma center extracting wealth for organized religion.

    On this point – ““If a tantric guru abuses a sentient being spiritually, emotionally, physically or sexually, or harms anyone in any way …” My big concern is that basically someone like Sogyal Lakar got the point where he said “don’t worry about my karma, worry about your own” when he got caught and told people he thought would buy it that he was beyond karma … (funny, even Buddha wasn’t so much beyond it). Its not really Buddhism … when a convoluted set of tools to bypass anything exists and is used day in and day out with people who expose the harm being scapegoated and those who turn a blind eye being called great and pure students seeing purely etc.

    So you bring in HHDL quotes – which is good, and we have been doing that for years but I’d like to see open debate on these things rather than roaming about running sects that “don’t see it that way”.

  6. “In the final era of five hundred years,
    I will take the form of teachers.
    So consider them the same as me,
    And, at that time, arouse devotion towards them.” from The salty Ocean sutra

    “Without the foundation of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, whatever your practice, however many hours of meditation you do, you are not practising the path of the Buddhadharma. And without bodhichitta, all Vajrayana practice is reduced to little more than shamanistic voodoo.” Poison is Medicine, p.209

    Wonderful to see Joanne you are reading Poison is Medicine, thinking about it fairly, using it to question our assumptions, and writing clearly your thoughts. Thank you very much.
     
    If I may express some inspiration from your brave and intelligent activity. Please correct me. 

    One very basic way to establish the understanding that paradox is the template of all of Lord Buddha’s teachings, is that the aspiration to liberate oneself and all beings from samsara (also known as bodhichitta) is formulated on the ground that samsara exists, with a ground-breaking faith that the belief that samsara exists is groundless.

    From the start you have a complete paradox : there is a ground from which we ordinary beings suffer endlessly, and we call this experiential phenomena of suffering ‘samsara’. The root cause of this ground of suffering is ignorance, and ignorance is groundless. 

    The groundlessness is sensibly offered for consideration by Lord Buddha’s first turning the wheel of dharma, as we learn the impermanence of all compounded things, and the suffering inherent to experiencing impermanence, and yet also the absence of inherent selfness to anything perceived or experienced, and finally the view that liberation is beyond all extremes. Extremes are the material of samsara. But let’s not forget that this material is a delusion, or an illusion, debatably. In short, all of samsaric existence is groundless because it doesn’t truly exist. 

    We can and do admire paradox by finding via contemplation, or shamata and vipassyana, like an intuition difficult to grasp, that the apparently truly existent ground of phenomena as we ordinarily perceive it is concurrently with our experience : not truly existent, empty of any essence, and caused by its own co-emergent ignorance. 

    Co-emergent ignorance as you well know since you are well read, is a term encountered from studying Chandrakirti’s Madhyamikavatara, that implies the subject and the object in anyone’s mind arise simultaneously. If i am looking at the ‘same’ tree as William, i am seeing the tree according to my conditions and William sees the tree according to his conditions, and due to this we discuss its aspects by sharing our views, never from seeing the same truly existing outer object from the same truly existing subjectivity. If the latter were the case there would be no language. There is language because we attribute an outer reality of objects from each’s own pervasive subjectivity. This means that phenomena and self, like language itself, are purely relative spheres. If we cannot at first appreciate the paradox therein, it is only because our habitual logic cannot transcend itself, it is always making a kind of tautological sense for us, like readymade packaging. And since we share this condition as human beings, we extrapolate and exchange similar assumptions, in such a vague way that we need lawyers to determine where beings stand in what situations. As a vast majority, we inscribe laws. Our practice as Buddhists is not at all to question these conventions. Usually it is to go along with them.

    The fact that our ordinary logic, functioning as the radical conviction that phenomena and self truly exist, cannot see beyond itself, is as perfectly logical as a packaging box. And this box is the very logic we have to break out of as practitioners of Buddhadharma.

    Literally I mean this is the only logic we have, to break out of misconceptions. And this is the meaning of ‘poison is medicine’, it is also the sign of our Buddha nature, realising that the means out of samsara is the very logic that creates samsara. We have nothing else than our own mind! This is also the meaning of ‘you are your own master’, as explained by DJKR in the recent teaching by that name YOU ARE YOUR OWN MASTER, June 20, 2021, on YouTube. 

    The paradox endures, paradoxically speaking. 

    With Madhyamika path teachings we can transcend our ordinary logic little by little, because logic as a tool and with the right intention as a rudder, can consistently if not methodically outwit itself. The Mahayana path as DJKR has often quoted, is like sharpening a knife, the whetstone wears out the metal and the result appears to be a sharp knife, but really it is one element wearing out the other, in this case path logic wearing out samsaric logic until there is no logic left at all. Don’t imagine any kind of consequence, that would be plunging head first back into logic. Imagine sharpening a knife to the point there is no metal blade left to call knife. This is the advent of leaving behind the boat, which suggests realising there is no path to cling to, and stays perfectly inline with the heart sutra. The path is a means not an end. This DJKR explains once again in a recent teaching.

    Liberation is complete, it is not a paradise better than or beyond the real. This also points to the fact that the two truths, relative and ultimate, are one and the same. And this, that will interest you most and rightly so, is where the quote that ‘our view should be as vast as the sky and our actions as careful as sifting fine flour’ appears to make sense. 

    As we are crossing to the other shore, and realising the ultimate vast equanimity of phenomena and self, the single taste of basic purity, or as Trungpa Rinpoche says the basic goodness of all reality without exception or bias, when we are emerging from samsara by having implemented path logic to eliminate wrong views (permanence, nihilism, truly existing self, truly existing phenomena, and hierarchical states of mind, all of which harbour tortuous suffering) and concurrently gotten used to a view of no view – a groundlessness Lord Buddha names ‘unconditioned’; and also ‘unoriginated’ in the brilliant must-read noble Mahayana sutra ‘Victory of the Ultimate Dharma’ (https://read.84000.co/translation/toh246.html?). Once we have shrugged off samsara’s groundless cyclical logic, we are found exactly at the place where every action is as precise as sifting fine flour. Because relative truth is causal, we are acutely aware how it is entirely conditioned by cause and effect. 

    Cause and effect is the relative truth, the ultimate truth is the inherent pure emptiness of all phenomena, all experience, all belief, all thoughts, all actions, all paths, and all the rest, are as empty as the heart sutra states. And both of those, the precious relative causal reality and the precious ultimate realisation of its true changeless nature, are one and the same. If that is not a paradox… what is?

    Thus far we haven’t strayed from paradox by a hair’s breadth.  

    The logic that continues samsara is hermetically sealed like a tautology : it posits its ‘being’, and this is the basic illusory continuity of samsara. To liberate from such conviction : the grasping at experience, the fundamental belief that the experiences of phenomena and self are truly existent, and the habitual logic that is the root cause of maintaining the above misapprehensions, is the aspiration called bodhicitta. There is no bodhicitta other than the heartfelt wish to liberate ourself and others from the basic ignorance of cyclic existence, aka samsara : the empty but appearing manifestation of suffering that we desperately but groundlessly cling to. 

    All this to say that Buddhadharma is not about self and phenomena being born again, with juicy excitement and lust for life; Buddhadharma is about freeing oneself and all beings who are drowning in the conditions of birth, sickness, old age, and death. Buddhadharma is vast… so vast… Buddhadharma believes in deathlessness. 

    Now imagine trying to achieve deathlessness with the samsaric logic we are born with. And who would not wish deathlessness on their mother, father, daughter, son, and all other beings who suffer groundlessly from birth, sickness, old age and death? This is the tip of aspiration bodhicitta. There is no other.  

    To even begin to see or hear this, not as a mere fairy tale but as the truth Lord Buddha taught, and as the way of liberation, and as the very liberation, we need to trust the appropriate leader, and we need to trustingly engage with the appropriate means and stick to them when the going seems tough, and yes we do need to question the authority of our samsaric logic from the ground up. We need to entirely reassess ourself.

    In fact, once we have agreed with ourself on the above, the entire path is to develop the courage and conviction to undermine our own, very powerful and demanding samsaric logic that we have been slaves to from time immemorial; otherwise known as the ego. That black box with five senses. The one seeking pleasure, comfort, ease, the delusional one that doesn’t know where it’s going or what it’s doing, the terrified one that refuses to change, the prideful one that refuses to know, the boss that has us so convinced we are always right, and also crushes us with insecurity, that flatters us constantly, always blindly looking for the way to win, to get something for itself; that mind that maintains our delusional world with its obscure apparent reasoning, will need to go if we aim to liberate ourselves and all beings. 

    And it’s not evident to see our ego, let alone to grapple with it successfully. Otherwise Freud would not have written his opus of mind science and shrinks wouldn’t proliferate.

    One sure way to see and consequently deal with the ego is when our very compassionate guide hurts it. That’s how we become quickly aware and learn to recognise it. Our compassionate wisdom friend sees our ego, pulls the rug from under it, and until we become savvy enough to appreciate this awkward manner, we who cannot differentiate between awareness and emotion will feel very awkward. This is relatively true. We think wrongly that we are being made to suffer by lack of compassion. 

    The point of poison is medicine is that the undertaking of wearing out of the ego is the liberation. They are not two different things, the ego versus liberation. The ego is the means of liberation from the ego. And the ego hates to suffer, but also does a lot of it. And so the paradox ever outshines all linear logic. 

    (I am not broaching the subject of abusive lamas because I have not experienced it. All this I have said I have learnt from following my brilliant and compassionate teacher, and I apologise in advance to my teacher and to you for my inelegant and quoteless understanding.)

      1. Thank you Matilda.

        I suggest that we practice some prayer for sentient beings together as a group.
        At these tying times for the entire world, we should be brave and honest when bringing the past into the present.
        We should be heroes and heroines of wisdom beyond bartering over feuds of us and them.

        What better way to do this than gather our heartfelt aspirations for the benefit of all beings, all beings, all beings.

        How else is anyone able to define bodhicitta !?

        If I am wrong then please go ahead, define bodhicitta for us here and now.

        Is bodhicitta a law case somewhere in the ever crumbling sand castles of illusionary existence ? Is this what Shantideva and Atisha ever for an instant taught ?

        As each’s boat sails toward dissolution, never to arise again how we are, why stray and stray and stray as if there were anything else but complete peace, here and now.

  7. Brilliant article. Too much is made of ‘paradox’ by DJK. He seems to get hung up on this, making a dualistic frame out of it. Every contradiction born of sloppy logic is not a paradox. Sometimes it is just a lack of subtlety and nuanced perception. Or a dodge to hide behind when you don’t really have the cognitive abilities you claim to possess.

    This idea that your teacher is to be seen as better than the Buddha, so obey whatever he says…is inherently flawed. The Buddha stated that his ideas were to be tested and adopted only if they made sense. Siddhartha himself left teacher after teacher in order to reach the kind of perception which was later called ‘Buddha’. So who came along and said, ‘we lamas are better than the Buddha (or even if we aren’t, you should see us that way), so do everything we say’..? The teaching that pure perception sees all beings as Buddha from maggots to lamas and even oneself certainly has merit AND the ring of truth when one follows the Vajrayana path. Or just when you want to take your Buddhism seriously. So…who is to be followed as ‘better than the Buddha’. That’s not a paradox, it’s just misunderstanding the dharma.

    1. “The teaching that pure perception sees all beings as Buddha from maggots to lamas and even oneself certainly has merit AND the ring of truth when one follows the Vajrayana path. Or just when you want to take your Buddhism seriously.”

      Having said that very well, if you wish to benefit yourself and all beings by mindfully practicing pure perception, then every impure perception or negativity your mind contrives should be abandoned.
      Because you can’t practice pure perception for any other mind than your own, Lord Buddha said I can show you the path but I can’t take the path for you. It’s up to you to tame your mind. Technically the lama is an experienced guide, but you have to apply the methods you are given on yourself by yourself.
      The lama is only said to be more valuable than a Buddha because the lama, who represents the triple gem, is alive in human form in your spacetime; which is said by Lord Buddha to be an extremely rare happenstance that shouldn’t be wasted.
      It is said like this: the Buddha shines everywhere like the sun, but unless you have a magnifying glass, you will not be able to light a fire. The lama acts as the magnifying glass.
      It’s also said that if you really do make your perception pure by practice, even a dead tree or a maggot can be a source of truth and a teaching. In fact, when you do realise pure perception, everything is a source of truth and teaching. That is the bliss we are all hungering for without acknowledging it. To experience one’s life arising as an endless stream of profoundly blissful realisation. This is why for beginners, negativity should be abandoned first and foremost.
      Since this is difficult for all of us, it is said the best method is to bring negativity onto the path. If you do this, you have to be aware of your negativity and work with it positively, that is without hypocrisy nor by using it as a means to deride your and others’ efforts at liberation. This is important, if you take your practice seriously.

    2. Really good points Nancy. Yes, paradox is like making a “dualistic frame” out of understanding emptiness, existence/nonexistence instead of viewing the relationship between conventional and ultimate and basing one’s understanding on that.

      Also, as you say the lama is only “more important than the Buddha” after one has determined that he/she is to be trusted, after being tried like gold etc. Even then, we refer to the Buddha’s own teachings, along with those of the Kangyur, to continue always enriching and testing our lama’s teachings. Atisha is renowned for refuting his lama’s position on ultimate truth while still revering his lama because it was from him that Atisha realized bodhicitta. That is the true spirit of the Dharma in my mind, never losing that discernment, never giving away our nose rope.

      1. “viewing the relationship between conventional and ultimate and basing one’s understanding on that.”

        … is by all good reasoning, a classic dualistic frame : basing one’s understanding on a relationship between two things that are thereby objectified and consequently locked in the oubliettes of undefined terms;

        sounds like a recipe to eternalise dualistic thinking.

        “ Atisha is renowned for refuting his lama’s position on ultimate truth while still revering his lama because it was from him that Atisha realized bodhicitta. That is the true spirit of the Dharma in my mind, never losing that discernment, never giving away our nose rope.”

        Atisha was profoundly involved in refining the formulation of the madhyamika along with the enlightened thinkers of his day, and he informs all those whom you reject in one sweep of your boom.

        We eagerly await to hear what you mean by bodhicitta and which of Lord Buddha’s sutras has convinced you.

        The noble Mahayana sutra Victory of the Ultimate Dharma is a brilliant question and answer between Lord Buddha and the great seer Ulka about what defines a sentient being.

      2. “viewing the relationship between conventional and ultimate and basing one’s understanding on that.”

        … is, by all good reasoning, the classic description of dualistic thinking : since in order to ‘base your understanding’, which implies a ground on which an understanding arises and perdures, you objectify two separate things (the conventional and the ultimate) and conjure a relationship between the two which, unless you extrapolate it for us as your thesis, is just like the example of the man with an eye problem in chandrakirti’s madhyamika who sees an eyelash floating on his retina when there is no such thing.

        “ Atisha is renowned for refuting his lama’s position on ultimate truth while still revering his lama because it was from him that Atisha realized bodhicitta. That is the true spirit of the Dharma in my mind, never losing that discernment, never giving away our nose rope.”

        We eagerly await to hear what you mean by bodhicitta and which of Lord Buddha’s sutras has convinced you.

        The noble Mahayana sutra Victory of the Ultimate Dharma is a brilliant question and answer between Lord Buddha and the great seer Ulka about what defines a sentient being. Lord Buddha explains how sentient beings are caused by conceptual thinking. And how Lord Buddha is free of conceptualisation from a lack of origination. Subjectivity, objectivity, relationship, basis, ground, all that conceptual structuring you propose, has no origination.

        It is not a question of existing or not existing, and this is a well know error caused by an eternalistic tendency : ‘nonexistent’ also is nonexistent, this must be remembered when trying to outwit dualistic logic, to realise the nondual truth.

        The key is to realise that the ‘truly existing’ quality of reality is mind made. It doesn’t mean that cause and effect goes out the window, it doesn’t undermine the conventional truth, because the ultimate and relative are inseparable, it’s not a question of identifying two things and a relationship in between. That is exactly the model of dualistic thinking. And this dualism is the fundamental violence that causes of all the troubles like undermining relativity, creating bias and maintaining negativity.

        Paradox is not an object, so it cannot be a frame, least of all a dualistic frame, it is a means to express the nondual.

  8. Louise, I cannot follow all of your reasonings, but I will do my best to address a few points. First, an overall point, there is no way that I can see how understanding Chandrakirti or Nagarjuna can be achieved without the use of logic and all our human powers of reasoning. That is their language.

    For example, instead of determining that “nothing exists,” they both explore “how” things exist and don’t exist. They determine that while phenomena exist conventionally, it lacks “inherent” existence. They define terms constantly.

    For example, in Chapter 24 of Nagarjuna’s Mulamadyamakakarika, he addresses the realists who claim:

    “If all of this is empty/ neither arising nor ceasing/ Then for you it follows that/The Four Noble Truths do not exist.” (vs. 1)

    “If the Four Noble Truths do not exist,/Then knowledge, abandonment,/Meditation and manifestation/Will be completely impossible (vs. 2)

    Down to verse 5 where Nagarjuna concludes:

    “Hence [you realists] assert that there are no real fruits./And no dharma. The Dharma itself/And the conventional truth/Will be contradicted.”

    And then Nagarjuna counters strongly in Verse 7: “We say that this understanding of yours/ Of emptiness and the purpose of emptiness/ And of the significance of emptiness is incorrect./ As a consequence you are harmed by it.”

    Verse 8– “The Buddha’s teaching of the Dharma/Is based on two truths;/A truth of worldly convention/And an ultimate truth.”

    And verse 10– “Without a foundation in the conventional truth,/The significance of the ultimate cannot be taught./Without understanding the significance of the ultimate,/Liberation is not achieved.”

    And as you probably know, there are teachings on the 3 criteria by which we determine whether or not a conventional truth “exists”– Groundlessness and paradox are definitely not part of this perspective!

    And Nagarjuna elaborates further with the verses on dependent origination I quoted above in my article and then turns the argument around to state that WITHOUT the view of dependent origination, enlightenment and the Four Noble Truths are impossible, refuting both the view of realist and nihilist:

    “Now if suffering, its origin,/And cessation are nonexistent,/By what path can one seek/The attainment of the cessation of suffering?”

    And Nagarjuna further elaborates on this in Chapter 26, “Examination of the Twelve Links” , which is “grounded” on dependent origination being the ultimate view, e.g. one link causes the next, causing the next etc. and thus both samsaric and enlightened existence can be coherently maintained, while their inherent existence is negated. There’s nothing paradoxical in this view!

    And as far as your reference to Chandrakirti, here is a quote from Tsongkhapa first and then the Dalai Lama: “Furthermore, when appearance dispels the extreme of existence/And emptiness dispels the extreme of nonexistence/And you understand how emptiness arises as cause and effect/You will never be captivated by views grasping at extremes.”

    The Dalai Lama: “This stanza echoes Chandrakirti in his Entering the Middle Way (Madyamakavatara) where he writes just as reflections, echoes and so on, are empty of any substantial reality and yet still appear through the meeting of conditions, phenomena– form, feeling, and so on– though devoid of intrinsic existence, arise from within emptiness with their own characteristics and identities. The point is that emptiness itself acts like a cause for the flourishing of the world of multiplicity; all phenomena are in some sense manifestations of emptiness– a kind of a play that arises from the sphere of emptiness.” (Dalai Lama; The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason; p. 144)

    Louise, this coherent view is the one upheld by Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. No paradoxes there. And as far as Chandrakirti and “co-emergence” goes, I am not sure what passages you are referring to. But I believe that the ability to view the full multiplicity of conventional reality while remaining in meditative equipoise on emptiness, is one of the features of full Buddhahood. And that practicing the union of method and wisdom (highest yoga tantra), conventional and ultimate, Trekcho and Togal (Dzogchen) is the essence of Vajrayana.

    1. That’s a terrific comment Joanne. You’ve pulled out the core passages that back up my comment, and I remember studying them at some point. There’s no paradox when you understand all this.

      Thanks so much for finding the textual reference. I’ve studied all this stuff in the past, taken away my understanding and then recognised it in my practice, but I don’t remember the places where I learned any particular thing. It’s so good to be reminded of the exact wording of these key teachings.

      The word ‘groundlessness’ was made up by Chogyam Trungpa and spouted a great deal by Pema Chodren. I’ve never seen it used anywhere in any of the texts before Trungpa.

      Louise, the trouble with the idea of groundlessness is that it basically trains students to set aside their discernment and encourages them to think that a dissociative state is the awakened mind. It isn’t. Look it up. And discernment is one of the 5 wisdoms of the Buddha mind, so it isn’t something we should be ignoring.

      Pema Chodren used the idea of groundlessness to justify ignoring Trungpa’s abuse – presumably that’s how he used it too – but the actual state of rigpa, of the awakened mind or panoramic awareness, or whatever you want to call it, is actually extremely grounded. The recognition that emptiness is dependent arising is the experience of emptiness grounded in physical reality. It’s not floating off somewhere. If you’re groundless, you’re probably in a dissociative state. I’ve been there. I know the difference. I think pushing groundlessness and paradox both point students in the wrong direction.

      Joanne, you are correct in what you say in the last paragraph. There are 2 aspects to buddhood: to know all things in their true nature (absolute) and to know all things in their multiplicity (relative nature.) The knowing happens at the same time, of course. There is no paradox.

      1. Methodically misunderstanding the boundless goodwill of buddhadharma, and freely discriminating its teachers without knowing anything about them, decisively embarks in a direction of little worth.

        Defining the word ‘groundless’ as :
        – the experience of a dissociative state;
        – implying obfuscation of intent;
        is absurdly regressive.
        It’s cruel even, to relentlessly bind mentality back into self-suffering, self-defense and enmity.

        If moralising is all you do, why mention madhyamika at all? Why even pretend to be a Buddhist? No need!

        Write some love stories or something, everyone like that.

        1. Well, Louise, you bypass the arguments and issue an emotionally loaded statement because you are not able to answer logically or reasonably you escape to emotionally charged accusations. This is very cheap and not convincing.

          1. if pointing out that philosophical terms, in the continuum of a precious 2,500 years discussion on the ultimate emotional and experiential freedom of sentient beings, are systematically misunderstood by the good people of Beyond the Temple who insist mind be kept bound to negativity and helplessness because they have fell it that way, and deduce that the point of reasoning is to dwell on and maintain that, then it follows logically that anyone who argues with the good people of Beyond the Temple are perceived to be “escaping to emotionally charged accusations”. That is exactly what the good people of BtT wish all sentient beings do, basically, to be guilty.

            May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness,
            May they be free from from suffering and the cause of suffering,
            May they never be separate from the great happiness that is devoid of suffering,
            May they be free from attachment to loved ones and rejection of others
            and dwell in boundless equanimity.

            The four boundless qualities of a bodhisattva are the heart and spine of the above prayer, The four immeasurables, or boundless qualities : equanimity, love, compassion, and joy.

            “Buddhism teaches that there is no such thing as the self as we think we know it: a separate, bounded self, strictly cordoned off from what is “other.” When we are freed from the reactive patterns sprung from the boundaries we live by—good and bad; love and hate—we are not the self we were before. And when the boundaries themselves dissolve, self as we understand it disappears.

            Buddhist tradition offers two central paths to disestablish our overwrought, constricting sense of self: enlightened love (bodhicitta) and enlightening wisdom (jnana).

            The four boundless qualities, enumerated in the early canon’s Mettanisamsa Sutta as the “four Brahma dwellings,” further both of them.

            These four boundless qualities, which literally have “no measure” (apramana), are equanimity (upekkha), love (metta), compassion (karuna), and joy (mudita).
            By dissolving the boundaries that constrain us, these four qualities expand our capacity for experience.”

            Anne C. Klein (Rigzin Drolma) is a professor of religious studies at Rice University, a lama in the Nyingma tradition, and a founding teacher at Dawn Mountain Center for Tibetan Buddhism in Houston. From TRICYCLE magazine, read all about it!

        2. I am not a Buddhist anymore. Funny how you see what I say as moralising. That is your projection. I just call it as it is. It’s discriminating awareness not judgement. And actually, I do know DJK enough to say what I say. Your dismissiveness as an attempt to diminish someone who’s words you don’t want to hear is all too familiar unfortunately from those who call themselves Buddhist. It doesn’t work on me.

    2. dear Joanne, thank you very much for your beautifully careful and well informed writing.

      Yes you are right, I apologise, I didn’t mean to defend a realist view, arguing that ‘nonexistence’ is a negation of something that truly exists.

      Thank you for inspiring clarification, am very happy to respond :

      I mean that the ordinary samsaric assumption we are all born into : that ‘there is a truly existent reality of self and phenomena’, is said to be based on two kinds of ignorance.

      I mentioned coemergent ignorance. The second is conceptual ignorance.

      I said this coemergent ignorance, which to us means experiencing our subjectivity arising separately from objects, like a normal empirical world, that experience is groundless.

      It is not a negative statement.
      Negativity is a sign of a realist tendency.

      To say ‘groundless’ is not a denial or an impoverishment. Groundlessness doesn’t negate conventional reality at all. But it doesn’t favour it over anything either. Groundlessness has no bias, it is space like or sky like, unobstructed by anything.

      Conventionally we accept the dualistic (subject object) illusion, and no one questions this. No one is out to destroy the conventional illusion. That would be folly and impossible. Because it is a mere illusion, so how do you destroy an illusion? It’s not possible to destroy an illusion. Conventional reality doesn’t mind being an illusion, and nothing stops it from being so.

      If it were arguably not an illusion then it could be destroyed. This is the realists thesis.

      It is a very vast view we are grappling with. Far beyond the moral disputes this page tends towards. The vast view doesn’t deny moral disputes, because it goes well beyond adhering religiously to any logic. Its task is to shake off all dualistic thesis, for the sake of all beings. To free them from their obsessions, from their emotional obscurations and all the rest.

      We have never said not to use logic. Please reread what I wrote, I realise it’s long, but it says repeatedly that logic is necessary to dismantle the kind of logic that William Blake – if you prefer a non Tibetan lama type – blatantly calls ‘mind forged manacles’.

      If we strive to defend our self-protective logic we have no chance to free ourselves from self-cherishing. Self-cherishing is a form of hope and fear. Hope and fear are causes of suffering. And since self is an illusion, why defend it? There is no need to defend an illusion. Illusion is effortless.

      There is nothing wrong or bad about logic other than, as it fixates on illusory ‘truly existing subject object phenomena’, it keeps us from seeing the blissful liberating truth.

      As for the two truths, it is well known to be a mistake on the path of the philosopher to assume that the terms ‘ultimate and conventional truths’ signify two separate objects, and therefore the goal is to maintain them in a relationship.

      If you read Nagarjuna while mindfully avoiding conclusion-making (that is one of the four maras to be overcome), eventually you hear through the terms ‘ultimate and relative truth’, the one nondual truth Buddha realised.

      The conceptual impasse of these two linguistic terms is well know in madhyamika study, yet rare are those who speak as if they have dissolved it. More often thinkers grappling with nonduality succumb to nihilistic or eternalist tendencies. Basically they succumb to mental passions, self-defense, and realism.

      It’s normal, habitual thinking.

      1. Louise, thank you for your response. However, you have yet to allay my primary concerns.

        Those concerns are– how on earth can we analyse/assess a teacher when our only point of reference to assess his/her skills as a teacher and test if he has the qualities that a teacher should possess come from from his own words and not from the Kangyur and Tengyur???!

        Because still,, you don’t engage with anything except your lama’s views. You say, “If you read Nagarjuna while mindfully avoiding conclusion-making (that is one of the four maras to be overcome), eventually you hear through the terms ‘ultimate and relative truth’, the one nondual truth Buddha realised.”

        However, then you provide no demonstration of how that might occur, no passage from Nagarjuna, or reasoning from that, and then I can’t understand it.

        And are you referring to the mara of conceptualizating, unique to Dzogchen and Mahamudra (and from the viewpoint of Urgen Tulku)? It is not one of the 4 maras generally understood.

        In my view, your statement is just another example of destroying the boat before it has brought students safely to shore- giving up the tool of conceptualisation before the path has been clearly understood and realized. The problem, over and over, that I see, is that DK has his students leap over all the foundational understandings (involving concepts) to high practices (nonconceptuality) With statements like that one, you are actually reading Nagarjuna (if you ever actually read him) with your own pre-concieved views on emptiness (e.g. emptiness as paradox), your own “conclusions” because you seem unwilling to engage with his journey of reasoning. So if you actually mean a “mara of conclusion making” then that’s an oxymoron.

        In the meantime, you reference Western philosophers (because we might not like Tibetan sources?) and refer to Chandrakirti with no actual reference from his work and your lama claims that Nagarjuna says something without giving us any direct quote or reference to the context in which he said it. Your lama uses Nagarjuna and the Buddha to demonstrate his view of emptiness as paradox, with no clear sourcing or explanation.

        The result? Confusion and students who must practice blind faith, nodding when their teacher claims “Buddha says” and who seek “blissful states” without fully understanding that bliss is not the goal— and that it is actually considered a downfall of meditation to get caught up in bliss. Etc. Etc. There are reasons that volumes of kangyur and tender are provided! They provide safety.

        Most significant of which are passages on the qualifications a teacher should have– and explanations of the path by which we can measure and assess our lama’s own explanations. If you don’t take those sources on, if you base your understanding on the perspectives of your lama, then it’s a closed system like a cult. You are vulnerable to abuses. Reading Poison is Medicine, sometimes it seems that we only assess the lama on the basis of whether or not he’s a nice guy. It’s simply not enough!

        And the Buddha NEVER sought a state where “nothing makes sense”- so why would we seek to cultivate such a state? How could we benefit others without understanding fully their realities, without making sense? How can we assess? Show me where these teachings, all your long explanations of emptiness being paradox, and nothing making sense, come from the Buddha.

        You see, your views on madyamaka and the Vajrayana are dramatically different from those I have encountered in my studies. As are DK’s views. If he or you could demonstrate how his views align with those of the teachings of the Buddha or great masters, then we could have a real conversation. Otherwise, I just can’t engage with them. It appears like he is asking students to just fly off into some state of oblivion.

        1. Joanne, am not a lama and am not a scholar of ancient texts. But my teachers are. My teachers have received all the teachings from their teachers, have read and have had translated for you to read the sutras. Have taught all the texts you wish to base your reasoning on. So am not sure what you mean. Buddha himself is not around, so such teachers as I have just done my best to briefly qualify are next best thing for us to work with on, for and with ourself.

      2. Louise, you say: “As for the two truths, it is well known to be a mistake on the path of the philosopher to assume that the terms ‘ultimate and conventional truths’ signify two separate objects, and therefore the goal is to maintain them in a relationship.”

        “If you read Nagarjuna while mindfully avoiding conclusion-making (that is one of the four maras to be overcome), eventually you hear through the terms ‘ultimate and relative truth’, the one nondual truth Buddha realised.”

        However, Nagarjuna is pretty clear about the two truths, both that they are in relationship and that one doesn’t need magical thinking to understand Buddha’s non dual truth. It can be conceptually understood, which then forms the foundation for later direct realizations.

        “The Buddha’s teaching of the Dharma
        Is based on the two truths:
        A truth of worldly convention
        And an ultimate truth.

        “Those who do not understand
        The distinction drawn between these two truths
        Do not understand
        The Buddha’s profound truth.
        (” Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Ch 24, Verses 8-9)

        And then you say:

        “The conceptual impasse of these two linguistic terms [conventional and ultimate] is well know in madhyamika study, yet rare are those who speak as if they have dissolved it. More often thinkers grappling with nonduality succumb to nihilistic or eternalist tendencies. Basically they succumb to mental passions, self-defense, and realism.”

        Impasse? Where is the “conceptual impasse” that is “well known”? And does it have to be dissolved or just well-understood as not being an impasse?

        You seem to have a lot of judgments– about our moralistic tendencies generally here, and the nihilistic or eternalistic tendencies of “thinkers” who “succumb to mental passions, self-defense and realism.” It all sounds a little dualistic to me.

        And still you haven’t shown how Nagarjuna has shown emptiness to be a “paradox”.

  9. Good points Tahlia. I think there is that risk of dissociation with “groundlessness” but it also reminds me a little of Koans used by Zen and Chan masters. And in those traditions, there is much less emphasis on study and reasoning etc., more on mere thoughtlessness etc. But I know very little about those traditions so the comparison could be off.

  10. @Louise, from my point of view DJKR has invented this term and notion “paradox”. I have never seen it in any classic texts.
    This description creates a form of dualistic mental separation between relative and absolute truth, obviously a very counter-intuitive approach.

    From my understanding when DJKR speaks about paradox, he means in fact that the conceptual mind can’t grasp the absolute truth, the nature of reality. And obviously you’ll find this notion in many classics.

    As apparently you have been following DJKR teachings and as he is supposed to teach according to a tradition, can you indicate the classics texts where this notion of paradox is clearly explained.
    From my perspective, instead of explaining simply the nature of reality, DJKR explanation is very confused. And as it is explained in the texts, it is often the case of those who have not already recognized the nature of their own mind.

    Concerning the notion of “groundlessness”, from my perspective we are just talking about the empty aspect of the mind. What’s the big deal? It is just the way things are. When you realize it, it is completely obvious. But I don’t think you can get there through explanations…

    1. French Observer, very well said, particularly your observation that “paradox” “creates a form of dualistic mental separation between relative and absolute truth, obviously a very counter-intuitive approach.” Very true!

      As for groundlessness, I think the way it’s used by DK and Trungpa is more as a teaching technique to destroy/confront attachments and has nothing to do with realization of emptiness, which undermines attachments (e.g. realizing that what we are attached to has no inherent existence and is not a source of happiness). In reality, watching DK work, it looks like something of a game, challenging students by having their connections to the conventional world (their moral and political convictions, their attachments etc.) pulled out from under them. It seems to result in confusion more than realization.

    2. there is no term “paradox”, this idea that DJKR invented a term called paradox has all come about here on this page in the east 48 hours because here Beyond the Temple we argue as realists, and consequentialists, and conventional conceptualist, or whatever words I can display for you… the base of it is that here, we want to disagree with DJKR and our reasoning proliferates with pop-up reasons that enable us to do so. The last one being that there is a term called ‘paradox’ and DJKR invented it. It’s just not true.

      I for one, used the common idea of paradox to blab on about how FORM – that is undeniably tangible and real, and suffers pain, elation and all that, birth death etc – is EMPTINESS.

      two seemingly opposed things are one and the same.

      that’s what I think the common idea of paradox is useful to point out.

      Since prajnaparamita is the quintessential teaching of Buddha, then it follows that this apparent paradox that two opposite ‘things’ are one and the same, is in all of Buddha’s teachings.

      in madhyamika which we agree is regarded as the most convincing relative establishment of the ultimate understanding, if not realisation, of that ‘paradoxical’ truth, they argued fervently and sincerely on how how to express the truth of Buddha.
      They also argue against those who falsify the path.

      Why do they have to argue so finely? because like you say the truth is nearly impossible to express. And why is that? because it is paradoxical. Meaning you’d have to say two opposite things at the same time. DJKR said once he really needs two mouths to speak at the same time, in order to utter the unutterable.

      Paradox is just a word to conjure this ‘two things happening and not happening at once’.

      meanwhile, a fad started here in the last 48 hours: that paradox is a term DJKR has invented from dualistic misapprehension;
      such ‘false news’ is grossly absurd to a genuine buddhist!

      this gross absurdity is intentional, as it is clearly the whole endeavour of beyond the temple to badmouth DJKR in particular and Tibetan lamas in general, in an attempt to destroy anyone’s engagement with buddhist faith, devotion and liberation.

      I agree about how you understand the word groundlessness, this is what I meant by it.
      “Concerning the notion of “groundlessness”, from my perspective we are just talking about the empty aspect of the mind. What’s the big deal? It is just the way things are. When you realize it, it is completely obvious. But I don’t think you can get there through explanations…”

      It’s ok if DJKR sounds muddling, but since he doesn’t sound muddling to some, for their sake it is not proper to accuse him of being muddling on purpose.

      One thing we can be certain of is since DJKR has been at it from birth just like the king of a country has been ‘at it from birth’, we just don’t know what he knows.

      some people have a link with a country and some people don’t.

      I understand that the object of Beyond the Temple is the “abuse” by Sogyal; but again, this is not the definition of Buddhadharma. Therefore I remain convinced by all evidence that there are no buddhists here.

      1. @Louise, you said: “there is no term “paradox”, this idea that DJKR invented a term called paradox has all come about here on this page in the last 48 hours”.

        What you are saying is not accurate. In the very few videos I have watched, DJKR was talking at length about paradox. In this poison is Medicine, it is mentioned 57 times. Page 78, there is a long explanation of his term Paradox:
        “What is a paradox? The English word ‘paradox’ (a combination of contradictory features) implies the involvement of two or more elements. In the context of the Buddhadharma, the word ‘paradox’ could, from one point of view, be summed up as ‘an appreciation of the non-duality of emptiness and appearance’. But, like many translations, this does not do justice to its Buddhist meaning”.

        “The bottom line here is that all Buddha’s teachings are paradoxical”.
        “But the question remains, why did Buddha fill his teachings with so many paradoxes? Why did he teach in such a contradictory manner?”
        “Intellectually, the distinctions between the two truths and the paradox or union of the two truths are difficult to grasp”.
        “The paradox of the union of appearance and emptiness, sound and emptiness, taste and emptiness, touch and emptiness, and smell and emptiness must also be understood. In this case, the paradox is that each pair are inseparable.”
        “To follow the Vajrayana path, you must understand and appreciate, at least intellectually, the union of appearance and emptiness – in other words ‘paradox’.
        Do you accept the paradoxical nature of the union of appearance and emptiness throughout all aspects of phenomenal existence?”

        Coming from my background, taking your example, I neither thought for once that Form and Emptiness are seemingly opposed. From my understanding, emptiness describes the fact that the form doesn’t have any essence per se. Emptiness doesn’t mean that there is nothing, no form. Honestly I don’t see any contradiction between form and emptiness and I never did.

        So you can see why I am surprised by the presentation of DJKR. And I wonder: is this perspective of paradox DJKR fabrication or is it really part of the traditional Buddhist Doctrine. In fact, I would appreciate to be indicated a classic source so I can ponder about the subject. All Buddha teachings would be paradoxical and I never thought about it? That would be an important learning as you can imagine.

        1. I see…

          The fact that DJKR uses our common understanding of ‘paradox’ to elucidate what for you is evident but for others might not be, prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom, and the fact that DJKR explains that a common understanding of paradox also exists in ancient Buddhism – I think DJKR says Indian thinking has a natural grasp of paradox – and the fact that DJKR explains how all Buddha’s teachings are all explanations to point us to the ultimate beyond any kind of explanation, should make us rejoice that a Buddhist teacher is being so thorough! And staying painstakingly close to the original teachings.

          As you kindly quote, DJKR explains how paradox is relevant to us, how’s it’s defined in our dictionary, and by example, it’s usefulness in seeing the union of appearance and emptiness as understood in ancient texts. How kind is that? What more can we expect?

          It is indeed very wonderful that you French Observer, understand form and emptiness being one and the same.

          And since you do, then there should be no problem thinking in and out of it’s paradoxical aspect.

          Not simply now and then thinking when you are theorising with someone, that form has no inherent essence; but that your self as you live day in day out with emotions of all sorts, preferences, decision making, memories, plans and what have you, that self doesn’t truly exist.

          In fact that form you call French Observer, and all related forms, partner, kid, dog, car, house etc, all of appearance or form in splendid incalculate interdependent arising, is completely free of self. Not just lacking intrinsic self, like lacking a soul, it’s very essence is pure emptiness. It’s very reality is pure emptiness. Not the object emptiness, not a quality of emptiness. If we consider the second turning of the wheel, the perfection of wisdom : form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is non other than emptiness, emptiness is non other than form.

          I think the emptiness you mention is the third of the four noble truths of the first turning of the wheel. And those four truths should be understood together, like a puzzle you still have to put together.

          I really don’t see how DJKR’s teaching is lacking. But I can sense how your understanding of emptiness is not the one Buddha expounds in the sutras.

          This isn’t a critique, happily we continue to be challenged by some well meaning teachers, if we care to be.

          1. @Louise, to be honest I may be a little dumm or a slow learner but on a conceptual level I don’t see any contradiction or paradox.

            Now, on an everyday basis, of course you need first to accumulate merit and purify obscurations before realizing on a continuing basis the nature of reality. But in this case we are mainly talking about direct practice and not reasoning. Sorry I don’t see any more paradox there neither.

            Please explain more. According to your comment, your understanding of the paradox would be just the fact that we are not realized and we don’t perceive reality as it is on a continuous basis?

            1. French observer,

              On paradox and why it’s a perfectly ok means to speak about the inexpressible:

              1- “a person or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.”

              Form is emptiness
              Emptiness is form
              Form is non other than emptiness
              Emptiness is non other than form

              Try to make a mother who has just lost her baby in a flood understand the above.

              2 – “a statement or proposition which, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable or self-contradictory.”

              That mother may feel this further definition of paradox.
              Also the survivors of sogyal’s abuse might go with this definition of a paradox in Buddhism.

              Nevertheless it remains that the prajnaparamita is the core of Buddha’s teachings.
              And the power of that core enables us to transcend all suffering and all the causes of suffering that we believe are how things truly are.

          2. Ok @Louise, I have done some homework searching for paradox in the teachings.
            In fact, I agree that there is a logical paradox in the Middle Way. Well illustrated by the eight negations of Nagarjuna:
            “All things (dharmas) exist: affirmation of being, negation of nonbeing
            All things (dharmas) do not exist: affirmation of nonbeing, negation of being
            All things (dharmas) both exist and do not exist: both affirmation and negation
            All things (dharmas) neither exist nor do not exist: neither affirmation nor negation”
            Nāgārjuna rejects all firm standpoints and traces a middle path between being and nonbeing. So here of course, we find a paradox vs. conventional logic.

            Maybe I got it this time ? : )

            1. French observer,

              Am not sure what you mean by Nagarjuna traces a middle path between being and nonbeing.

              Can you explain?

              1. Well, you know the Middle Way in Madhyamaka:
                “It exists” is an eternalist view; “It does not exist” is an annihilationist idea. Therefore the wise one should not have recourse to either existence or nonexistence.
                So in fact in term of pure logic there is a paradox.

                Without knowing very much about those subjects, as shown in the example Nagarjuna used in his demonstrations the fourfold structure of the tetralemma for his demonstrations: “A”, “not-A”, “A and not-A”, “neither A nor not-A”.

                1. French observer,

                  Yes that tetralemma I encountered in a sutra or two. Lord Buddha implements it.

                  Yes in terms of pure logic, it is a paradox, which am sure we agree is relative. I mean, is only a paradox as long as mind is operating dualistically. And possibly all logic does operate dualistically.
                  While experience of the said paradox as truth, is like you said before, beyond ‘thinking’, beyond language. But all we have to share as path dwellers are words. And methods.

            2. FO and Louise, yes Nagarjuna does begin with paradox in his reasonings. However he then uses “conventional logic” to “reject all firm standpoints and trace a middle path between being and nonbeing.”

              This is appropriate because Nagarjuna’s goal is to unpack the Buddha’s thought and the Buddha does make paradoxical statements himself, such as in the Vajra Cutter Sutra:

              “Although limitless sentient beings have thus been caused to pass completely beyond sorrow, no sentient being whatsoever has been caused to pass completely beyond sorrow.”

              And Louise asks, “Am not sure what you mean by Nagarjuna traces a middle path between being and nonbeing.

              Can you explain?”

              And that is the point. DK leaves the student with the seeming paradox, a surface understanding of the Buddha. Nagarjuna begins with the seeming paradox and digs deeper, bringing the reader into a coherent understanding. And as Tsongkhapa demonstrates (quote below), a careful reading of the Buddha himself shows that dependent origination is the ultimate intention of his teachings– that there is no contradiction between his teachings on the Four Noble Truths, Twelve Links of Dependent Origination etc. (all based on causal relationships) and his teachings on ultimate reality.

              For example, In Mulamadhamakakarika, Nagarjuna begins in Chapter One with the diamond slivers argument to prove the impossibility of existence as it appears.

              “Neither from itself nor from another,
              Nor from both,
              Nor without a cause,
              Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.”

              But he doesn’t leave it there with that paradox. He explores deeper and by the 24th chapter, using the Four Noble Truths as a basis, he has developed a view of dependent origination that allows for a coherent middle way, free from extremes Eg.

              “Since there is no phenomena
              that is not dependently arisen
              there is no phenomena
              that is not empty of inherent existence.”

              And in the 26th chapter on the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, he states,
              “Through the cessation of this and that
              This and that will not be manifest.
              The entire mass of suffering
              Indeed thereby completely ceases.”

              It is one thing for DK to speak of the paradox, another for him to attribute that as Nagarjuna’s final position. It’s simply not true. And nor is it the Buddha’s final position, or his teachings on the Four Noble Truths and on the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination would become null with the Second Turning of the Wheel.

              As Tsongkhapa declares in his Praise to the Buddha for Teaching Dependent Origination:

              “All of this is devoid of essence”
              And “From this arises that effect”–
              These two certainties complement
              Each other with no contradiction at all.”

              and

              “So how can an intelligent person
              Not comprehend that this path
              Of dependent origination is
              The essential point of your [Buddha’s] teaching?”

              1. Joanne,

                I was questioning French Observer to be sure I understood what they meant within the context we were exchanging concerning paradox in particular.

                I have not read French observer’s writings and we have just met today, so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask what those words mean to French Observer who was writing them to me.

                French observer perfectly understood and explained more precisely what they meant.

                How you take this ordinary conversational happenstance out of its context to make me look as if I am confused by my teacher is just silly.

                Especially after admittedly agreeing with what my teacher says.

                Why you quote French observer as if words have inherent meaning within them is very naive.

                Words are the children of many people, the poet rightly said.

                1. Louise, I am sorry that I have offended you. I didn’t realize it was a private, exclusive conversation. I thought anyone could engage in the discussion and particularly wanted to respond to FO’s quote which demonstrated paradox in Nagarjuna’s views because I am interested in this discussion– not because I want anyone to “look silly”

                  In fact, I was rather thinking that I would want to thank you because exploring this issue has been very helpful in my understanding of Nagarjuna!

                  1. Joanne,

                    You haven’t offended me at all, and am thrilled to read you quote the sutras. So marvellous they sound!!

                    It’s perfectly ok, according to your own défense of logic, to ask your interlocutor, in this case FO, to explain what is meant by what they say to you.

                    But you took that conversational practice out of context to conclude my teacher had left me wanting.

                    This I thought was a rather silly way to proceed.

                    Because FO then explained how he understood what he wrote me, and so I knew his mind.

                    I think this is normal conversational practice to ask « what do you mean ».

              2. @Joanne, at least we may have understood what DJKR is speaking about with his paradox: the Middle way approach. Interesting, I didn’t know that Nagarjuna explained some seemingly contradictory statements from the Buddha.

                On the other side, you seem in your article to affirm that there can’t be any paradox because with the Madhyamaka and the view of dependent origination everything is rationally explained, especially the reconciliation with karma. But it seems to me a very Gelugpa vision, following the strict Madhyamaka approach of Candrakîrti.

                You know that other schools had a problem to explain the teachings of the 3d turning of the wheel and especially on Buddha nature. Initially Cittamātra was developed based on the direct experience. This school never developed completely in Tibet and it was easy for the Madhyamaka to find some limits within its logic. But on the other side, the Madhyamaka with all its negation approach couldn’t not really reconciliate with the teachings on Buddha nature.

                I have the impression that the Cittamatra was always limited in its logic in Tibet because from a certain stage of their practice the masters were saying: anyway everything is nondual, conceptual logic doesn’t apply anymore, we can’t describe the experience by words so this is beyond concept. And today in certain schools, of course with the logic of the Madhyamaka fully integrated, this kind of presentation is still given.

                I wouldn’t surprised that you find this type of presentation fuzzy. But I would say, the view of dependent origination is great but it doesn’t explain all.

                1. French Observer,

                  Am glad am not in your study group, the patronising tone alone would discourage me. And secretly the faithless undertone would depress me.

                  Poor Joanne, the only genuine thinker here.

                  Anyway, maybe she will find it flattering and encouraging.

                  Pure perception…

                2. FO, whether or not my perspective is a “Gelugpa vision” is just a label and doesn’t address our discussion, unless we are wanting to quote from Tsongkhapa etc. I think maybe part of the problem is that Tsongkhapa did a lot of reasoning, Gelugpa students study these extensively and reasoning is often frowned upon because ultimately realization is beyond reasoning. In that regard, “dependent origination … doesn’t explain all.” I agree with that

                  The question is– can we abandon our reasoning powers before we have reached a certain realization? Can we jump out of the boat before we’ve reached the shore?

                  Reasoning is also frowned upon because it’s not warm and fuzzy, not nearly as exciting as jumping straight into Vajrayana practice. But in my own experience, and watching so much trouble unfold in Western Dharma, I believe that without this foundation of (sometimes boring) reasoning, without a full, coherent understanding of madyamaka, students give too much power to “the lama says” and they are vulnerable to cult practices.

                  I also don’t think we can fully realize that final goal and understand Madyamaka without Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. They were the founders of the Madyamaka school.

                  As for the 3rd turning of the wheel, the Dalai Lama distinguishes between those teachings that use “a more essentialist language” and those “presentations that lack essentialist language”, saying, “as a Madyamaka, I prefer presentations that lack the essentialist meaning.” The point being that the Buddha taught in several different contexts in the third turning, one of which is the Chitamatrin view and another being teachings on Buddha nature. According to the Dalai Lama, he taught in different ways, partly to help those who struggled to understand the teachings in the 2nd turning.

                  Anyway, that’s how I understand it. But also, the different meanings of the 3rd turning in terms of Dzogchen, Mahamudra and Gelug is interesting, but not problematic in my understanding. Even Chittamatra can be viewed as a legitimate practice for those that find emptiness of self difficult. It seems to me that the very diversity within the 3rd turning is its strength.

                  I don’t know if I’ve addressed your points, because yes, I was a little fuzzy understanding them and I’m also pretty ignorant overall. Maybe you could explain a little more what you mean if I haven’t addressed them.

                  1. Dear Joanne,

                    That was a nice read thank you.

                    Do you think that the happenstance of ‘students giving too much power to lama says’ is an emotional phenomena, and consequence of an infatuation with the teacher that makes the student waive off reasoning.

                    And do you mean that reasoning, with the philosophy at hand, is important to temper emotion.

                    Would you agree with that?

                    If that makes any sense.

                    Thanks!

                    1. @Louise, yes thanks, good points. I agree with both of your perspectives on this. Also, we are more likely to recognize problems in our relationships with the teachers or the teachings if we keep our reasoning capacity active and healthy.

                  2. @ Joanne, thanks for your answer.

                    “According to the Dalai Lama, he taught in different ways, partly to help those who struggled to understand the teachings in the 2nd turning”. I had never heard anything like that before. This is quite surprising when you think that in the other schools, the teachings on Buddha nature are so central.

                    Anyway, I always thought that the approach of the Mind-only school is very interesting because it relates with direct experience. But it always appeared to me that its presentation and logic was not convincing even if on the level of experience I could say: this is accurate. It is kind of a mystery for me. Certainly I should study much deeper but I was just hoping to get some insights with an open question.

                    1. French O,

                      Interesting dilemma, since you have said to me you easily understand the emptiness of self and phenomena, or at least you easily find within your experiential reality the evidence that there is no inherent self to anything anywhere.

                      Yet when studying mind-only theory, you have difficulty with the logic that everything is reducible to mind.

                      Then what remains that is not reducible to mind?

                      Or are you thinking that form/emptiness as taught in prajnaparamita, exists outside the mind?

                    2. @Louise, the limitations and objections to the Mind-only school are well documented and been the object of debate for centuries. This is nothing new.

                      You can study them if you wish, very interesting topic.

                    3. Joanne is absolutely right,

                      am not attacking anyone or anything!

                      how marvellous that we can close on a positive note.

                  3. Hi Joanne,

                    I was lifting those understandings from what you wrote.

                    But I agree that emotion, of any kind, can carry us away from the aim.

                    In fact, all the time we feel some kind of emotion, and dwell in it – like the laziness I imagine French Observer said keeps him from practicing, laziness is described as distraction.

                    The general emotionality of our mind-stream keeps us distracted.

                    I mean we are always thinking, right?
                    And that thinking has emotional content.

                    And structurally, this ruminating moody mind-stream sometimes thinking good thoughts sometimes feeling negative, that goes on because we cling to self and phenomena as truly existing.

                    Isn’t that the point of Madhyamika reasoning?

                    To realise what’s going on (with mind) in order to see things as they are?

                    Otherwise what’s the purpose of all the theory?

                    Because we can repeat the theory forever and never begin to see our emotional distraction.

                    In fact, if you don’t intend on cutting through that emotional mind, theory can do the opposite of what it intends, and service the emotional mind rather than liberate it.

                    Which is why bodhicitta, the intention to liberate self and other, is primordial to the theory. Basically the practice of intention is primordial to Buddhadharma.

                  4. dear Joanne,

                    on the subject of emotion, infatuation, and renouncing your ability to reason;

                    you can say a teacher has the power to manipulate your emotions,

                    and so does all entertainment, your kids, everything!
                    go on you chose, our emotions are basically there to be manipulated;
                    I think we could say the infinite scenarios of emotional manipulation is “samsara”.

                    the idea created out of the Sogyal incident, that a ‘mainstream vajrayana’ be (re)defined so that it is palatable to those who might be attracted to these teachings (at their risk and peril) such that they be protected from being hurt and misguided, is like saying we should redesign buddha’s teaching to be not about liberating from samsara, but about making samsara comfortable for everyone in every way.

                    Because you engage with buddhism as a samsaric being, to begin to be a buddhist you have to sense if not see that samsara will never be comfortable. All emotions are suffering, remember? and all samsara is made of emotions. Emotions by definition include hurt.

                    according to prajnaparamita, the only way to liberate from suffering is by realising that suffering doesn’t exist. So you can read buddhist theory endlessly, but if in practice you are defending suffering as if it were real and you had to respect the boundaries of suffering, then by all buddhist logic you will never be free of suffering.

                    And since vajrayana is a restricted practice (not mainstream for a very good reason) that is designed to liberate you from suffering by making you see by insight, all the reasons suffering happens, like clinging to self and phenomena, then the prerequisite disposition is : you have to want to be free from samsara, at any personal cost.

                    If you say “I want to be free of suffering but you can’t make me suffer in the process” it is as logical as saying, I want a perfect new pair of white teeth but I don’t want any kind of painful dentistry done.

                    Sure, you can get knocked out with local anaesthetics, and a genuine vajrayana teacher has all kinds of anaesthetics they can use, or not. The ultimate aesthetic is their compassion and of course their skilful means in entirely informed by compassion, that is their overarching heartfelt mission to liberate you, as you requested. Sometimes it so happens compassion dictates that you suffer to the point of a blissful release, just like a yoga exercise!

                    unfortunately what is really happening here, beyond the temple, other than bashing DJKR to indulge a persistent love of theory, is that a rogue group of ‘hurt’ reformists are inventing something worthless; if liberation is your aim.

                    if liberation is not your aim, then you are not a genuine buddhist.

                    Basically seems like everyone here jumped from the boat too early, back to the ocean deep.

                    1. Louise, you write, “the idea created out of the Sogyal incident, that a ‘mainstream vajrayana’ be (re)defined so that it is palatable to those who might be attracted to these teachings (at their risk and peril) such that they be protected from being hurt and misguided, is like saying we should redesign buddha’s teaching to be not about liberating from samsara, but about making samsara comfortable for everyone in every way.”

                      Can you show me where that “idea” was “created?” I’ve never seen it.

                      And when you write,

                      “If you say “I want to be free of suffering but you can’t make me suffer in the process” it is as logical as saying, I want a perfect new pair of white teeth but I don’t want any kind of painful dentistry done.”

                      I assume you are referring to abuses? In which case, I think our conversation is over.

                      And as for this statement, “unfortunately what is really happening here, beyond the temple, other than bashing DJKR to indulge a persistent love of theory, is that a rogue group of ‘hurt’ reformists are inventing something worthless; if liberation is your aim.

                      if liberation is not your aim, then you are not a genuine buddhist.”

                      Once again, you spit the dummy and accuse people of not being Buddhist? Of “inventing something worthless”?

                      When you have to attack others in the cause of protecting your guru and practice, I suggest you are not protecting anyone or anything.

  11. Re-reading your comment, I would like to add that “ego” is not a buddhist concept. Can you prove otherwise from the classics?
    “And it’s not evident to see our ego, let alone to grapple with it successfully”: obviously because it doesn’t exist at all.

    The doctrine of Buddhism is anātman. The Indian concept of ātman is different from the Freudian concept of ego.

    1. ego is our concept of the day, again these are words and we are not in the practice of book thumping each other. We are just trying to communicate with our common language. And I did at length give my ‘feeling’ about the meaning of ego.
      Not all words are to be made into terms. Even the sacred two truths are both relative terms. That means we are always grappling with common language. We need to rely more on our basic goodness and our genuine intent to liberate ourselves and others from the human all too human condition. Not just find clever ways of disagreeing with each other, like kids in a school yard prison.

      1. @Louise, be sure that I appreciate our exchange because you are open and it is an opportunity to compare our views!

        Concerning the ego: in fact some modern teachers speak about it and destroying the ego. As you certainly know, this type of perspective can have serious consequences for the student (if he really believes that there is something to destroy). Even worst, when the guru thinks the same way.

        Why people are using the Freudian term as you did yourself? I don’t know. As far as I know “ego” is not a concept from the Dharma. There is just mentioned a false sense of self, some misperception.

        All this non-sense about ego is going on today, a form of imagined nightmare when in fact there was nothing to destroy at the first place. So just to answer you, speaking about “ego” is not common language. In fact I find it very misleading and even dangerous.

        1. @Louise, here is what DJKR wrote about ego in the book. I am of course concerned by the last 2 sentences. I am curious to know your take on it.

          “During my European tour of Rigpa Centres in 2018, a man who had been offended by my use of the word ‘crush’ posted a comment on social media. I used the word ‘crush’ in the context of it being the guru’s job to crush a student’s ego. The man said that this term does not exist in the Buddhist teachings. In a way, that is true: ‘crush’ is not a politically correct translation of the original Sanskrit. He went on to say that as Buddhists believe there is no such thing as a ‘self’, there is nothing to crush. And of course, he is right. I completely agree. But I would add that it is by recognizing that there is no ego in the first place that we crush that ego. In other words, we crush ego by realising there is nothing to crush. To those who grew up in a culture that lacks the concept of ‘selflessness’ (anattā), ‘crushing ego’ is often interpreted as shattering a person’s confidence or self-esteem. If there were such a thing as a truly existing ego, to crush it would certainly be an act of abuse. But there is no ego to crush”.

          Now tell me, why precisely some lamas try to shatter a person’s self-esteem? As far as I understand, this is what Sogyal Rinpoche was doing with his abuses.

          And why DJKR is using the expression “crushing the ego” when in fact it should mean simply a change of perception of the sense of self?

          Here is how I see it: if you attack someone self-esteem when he has not recognized his true nature (anatta). This person is going to suffer greatly, and I would call it useless abuse (even maybe a form of sadism).

          1. Yes it can appear, or be felt as sadism, because the student doesn’t yet understand what they are being brought out of themselves to see. Nor does the student understand that they are being brought out of themselves at all. But they do get used to it, and then the pain of being dismantled becomes the very means of truthful insight.

            At that point you recognise the pain as the doorway of profound understanding.

            The pain of one’s profound convictions being dismantled – or of the ego being crushed – is the most immediate and powerful means of seeing beyond the samsaric trappings.

            If you make it thus far with a vajra master, and you have managed to maintain at least one samaya unbroken, which might be just your refusal to be brow beaten, then the vajra master can pick you up by the power of unprecedented celestial insight and show you the nature of things that you never ever imagined. Anywhere anytime the connection is that powerful, with a good teacher, you are never abandoned as long as you continue to wish for liberation.

            If there was as people here like to imagine a ‘mainstream Vajrayana’, we would not be talking the way we do here. There is nothing mainstream about Vajrayana. There is nothing easy or ordinary about shedding the samsaric reality.

            There is a painless path and it is only available to those who give up all their resistance. Some students, of superior faculties as they say, will do that willingly. Otherwise, you have to learn to give up resisting by being ‘crushed’ and as DJkR says, eventually you realise there is nothing to crush. At that point you give up all your resistance.

            Why do all this? Well, to start it is for liberation from suffering. Then it is because you begin to see the truth.

            1. @Louise, I have the feeling that the methods used by gurus are very different between the schools and lineages. I have already heard what you are saying from some Nyingmapas. And certainly I would check the level of realization of gurus using this type of methods. Personally, because of my nature I wouldn’t take this kind of path.

              But I have been presented complete paths from other schools and they don’t involve at all those wrathfuls methods.
              For instance, they put the accent on intense practices. Like for example, going somewhere alone for a minimum of 2 years and not coming back until you get such and such result…

              Of course, I am just observing from afar. Not a serious practitioner at all, but I respect the dedication of others.

              1. French observer,

                So good that you respect the dedication of others. A precious quality. Rare in the west.

                My gurus are indeed nyingmapas. That is how it happened. I never looked further nor experienced a desire or reason to. I have stayed with what met me.

                I do wonder if for men it is different than for women, how they relate to their teacher.

        2. Well, most people do talk about ego.
          Ego is common language. If it wasn’t, there would be nothing dangerous about ‘not having an ego’. But it is quite common to assume a person has an ego.

          And it’s common to think that ego is problematic. Often time we say this person is an ego maniac, or that’s just your ego talking, or don’t be egotistical, or you hurt their ego.

          The idea of a teacher destroying someone’s ego can mean two things.

          Either it is like you say, the teacher is a monster who crushes someone’s ego as an abuse of the teacher student dynamic, meaning for no good reason.

          Or, the wisdom teacher sees how this said ego is preventing a person from seeing beyond their ego; in this case then yes I agree with you, there is no ego, but there are obstacles to seeing the truth and they are usually exactly how the teachings describe them (the five poisons, and the two ignorances) which we can package for the sake of brevity as the ‘ego’, basically meaning rather grossly, any removable and unnecessary mental phenomena (jealousy, pride, anger, doubt is one in the sutrayana) that obscures us from seeing the truth.

          But yes in the latter case the ego is an expedient way of packaging our habitual samsaric patterns and beliefs, which don’t go away easily because we are so profoundly convinced by them.

          In fact , we have no real intention of getting rid of them. It’s only by the blessings of their being removed, which is like an insight of suddenly not having them, that we develop a genuine need for them to go.

          Albeit they are not really there. They are conceptual forgeries, yes, I agree.

          But, because we are so attached to how we are, feel, and believe, chances are we will defend those conviction bitterly.

          It’s very painful to emerge from samsara there is no doubt. Which is why the teacher’s compassion is paramount. And a modicum of desire for our own genuineness, if at times our trust in the guru’s genuineness is shaken, because we don’t understand what it is to not be a samsaric being.

          I appreciate that you appreciate thinking things out, thank you very much.

          1. @Louise, I agree with most of what you wrote.

            Except that in the Vajrayana context, of course there is no intent to remove the five poisons and the two ignorances but to transform them into the different aspects of wisdom (the 5 wisdoms, etc…). Hopefully they will still appear but under a pure form.

            Also whether it is painful to emerge from samsara? I don’t know, I don’t have this perception. I would rather think the more the accumulation of merit and purification, the better it gets. But maybe some text in the Dharma said otherwise?
            I would say for my side, the most difficult part is renunciation. And also to keep advancing, not to get lazy or lost on the wrong track. Maybe we could postpone the necessary efforts for next life. ; )

            1. French observer,

              Transform poisons into medicine, or remove obscurations like washing dirt off a cup. Both examples have their virtue. It depends on the listener I suppose.

              I who am western to the tip of my nails, realise I do not see how Asians see. So many elements of cultural Buddhism that might enable Asians, i find are entirely lacking in western culture.

              Like the guru as a religious arbitrator of one’s spiritual life, Bhutanese for example take completely for granted, that’s just how it is over there.

              Tibetans also am sure.

              For us, dare I generalise, within our individualistic culture, the guru is a stimulator, like a challenge. We project many roles on them before understanding they are only here to liberate us.

              So going from the initial configuration of what a guru is for us as individuals, to realising what it’s really all about, because it involves having our samsaric expectations fundamentally disappointed, that process is painful.

              In that sense emerging from samsara is painful. Abandoning our expectations and our projections, all this is painful. Finally renouncing self cherishing, like you say, not a pleasant phase. So much resistance occurs, why am I doing this, what’s in it for me… all that crosses one’s mind.

              The fruit though, is not comparable to the husk.

              I say all this as a pure westerner with a french father and an Irish catholic mother. For me Buddhadharma is a challenge and a miraculous blessing. I couldn’t continue without it and would defend it with my last breath. It’s the most precious thing on earth and there’s nothing else that compares. It is truly and completely sublime. It is also the most normalising science there is.

            2. French connection,

              It is wise what you say about not removing the poisons, and wise to imply that without them we would be lacking.

              But transforming them in essence does get rid of their impact on us, as DJkR says we use them differently (albeit that statement remains mysterious).

              Am fairly certain that for DJKR they do not arise at all, am rather fully convinced DJKR is made of pure unadulterated kindness, but as they arise in his students, it is like he says : for a vajra master, when they see poisons arise in their students they rub their hands with glee, because one kilo of poison = one kilo of wisdom. It is like workable mater to effect the liberating transformation. Or as DJkR also says, as long as there are emotions there is a path.

              1. As far as I know, it depends of the practitioner.

                Actively transforming emotions into wisdom and compassion is one stage. But you are only generating less negative karma. Anyway it’s a big improvement.

                But when you go into Atiyoga: Dzogchen or its equivalent, there are also different levels of realization. Anyway, the energies still arise but with different levels of grasping. Spontaneously they are expression of wisdom and normally at the end will leave no karmic seeds.

                Anyway from my perspective with anyone even a great master you have to be careful. Because even if he has reached high level of realization, he will have still negative karma unfolding. So even if he is a high level master, there will still be sometimes obscurations that come through and he will still commit negative karma with negative results.

                I think you can find more or less realized masters, but I don’t expect that nowadays you can find a fully awakened Buddha.

                1. French observer,

                  I don’t agree with what you say about realised masters generating negative karma.

                  If their intentions are pure then according to cause and effect, what you say is not possible. If you intention is pure how can you possibly generate negative karma?

                  If for example DJKR were said to have accumulated negative karma from disturbing the good people of Beyond the temple, this would be their dualistic minded understanding.

                  How would any realised master liberate people of their wrong views if they could not risk mingling with them?

                  Realised masters wouldn’t even manifest if it depended on their being separate from the realm of wrong views.

                  Wrong views are your own projections. Your mind is your mind.

                  How is pure perception possible if it is not your mind’s own perception that is pure?

                  Because all objects you perceive are your mind. You either see things as they are, pure, or you see things with bias.

                  Realised masters are completely surrendered to the liberation of beings. There is nothing ordinary about them. They don’t live according to self.
                  Otherwise they would not be able to liberate beings.

                  You argue like a shravakayana and settle your practice in atiyoga. This may be so, but then how can you imagine realised masters accumulate negative karma?

                  It doesn’t make sense.

                  In truth, every single person who comes across realised masters in any shape or form is assured liberation sooner or later. Otherwise cause and effect isn’t true.

                  In truth, every good person here should bow down to DJKR at least once in this life, because their liberation will inevitably happen from coming across him.

                  If that were not so then aspiration would have no validity. And if that were so then mind has no power, and Buddhadharma is a sham.

                  I for one see everything pointing to the opposite of what you here suggest.

                  1. I have never said that I thought that they were fully realized masters. There are different levels on the path and a title is not enough.

                    Pure perception is possible but usually not continuous on a long period.

                    Simply said, negative karma comes from the past (still coming from the alaya). And sometimes the masters may miss some, otherwise they would be fully realized. And obviously this is not the case. They are not Buddhas.
                    In the Vajrayana, you receive the instruction to see them AS a buddha. Not to pretend that they are if they aren’t.

                    In fact I don’t think it is accurate to say that they are able to liberate beings. Even the Buddha couldn’t do that. Buddha said that everybody has to liberate himself.

                    1. French O,

                      It is up to you to practice pure perception.

                      It is up to you to see your teacher as Buddha.

                      This is the practice of pure perception.

                      Pure perception is not pitted against conventional perception nor is it ment to be tempered by conventional perception as a practice.

                      Pure perception is not just toward the teacher but toward all beings and all phenomena as teachers and teachings.

                      Accepting this is Buddha and nothing else.

                      Buddha is your mind and nothing else.

                      Otherwise we are just venerating a man who died 2,500 years ago and arguing about meanings long lost in translation.

                      This is last view expressed above is Buddhadharma as distraction for beings who adhere only to conventional reality.

                      “To an ordinary mind, everything is ordinary.
                      To a pure mind, everything is pure”
                      Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche

                      It’s up to you to maintain pure mind.

                      And that’s the bottom line, there are no ifs or buts.

                      It’s the only way to stay out of trouble.

                      It’s the only fruit of Buddhadharma.

                      Yes, in varying degrees as we purify our dualistic clinging to impure perception. But at the end, there is only one truth, Lord Buddha said. And truth is pure.

                    2. @Louise, I am pretty sure that pure perception (omitting here the guru yoga practice) doesn’t mean to consider always lamas as realized beings. And sorry, a tulku title is not sufficient. In fact the tulku system is not part of the BuddhaDharma.

                      About the guru yoga practice, the classics say clearly that there is no need for the guru to be fully realized for the practice to be effective and beneficial to the student. The guru just needs to be authentic.

                      So in fact it is not necessary to live in delusion pretending that some guru not fully realized is enlightened. In certain cases, it could be even dangerous as we have seen with Sogyal Rinpoche. Often this lama is just further on the same path than you are.

                    3. Just a note to be clear, when I said: “Pure perception is possible but usually not continuous on a long period”.

                      I was talking about the level of realization of the guru. If he has pure perception without interruption during 24 hours. Great, in this case he is effectively enlightened.

                      Now, I don’t know your lineage. Maybe they are saying different things.

                    4. FO,

                      If you really think:

                      « In fact I don’t think it is accurate to say that they (masters of buddhadharma) are able to liberate beings. Even the Buddha couldn’t do that. Buddha said that everybody has to liberate himself. » 

                      then you don’t believe in the power of aspiration, including Lord Buddha’s, (and obviously you don’t read sutras), and furthermore you don’t believe that all beings have Buddha nature.

                      But, as a Buddhist, because aspiration has power and all beings have Buddha nature, then every being’s liberation is guaranteed.
                      And where does that start?
                      It starts with those who make the aspirations.
                      And between you me and DJKR, am 100% certain the one making the aspirations for every beings liberation is DJKR. Just like Lord Buddha did and taught to do.

  12. @Louise
    Here are some thoughts about Pure Perception, because really people on the forums don’t seem to know what it is all about. I specify that I don’t betray any secret as you can already find those explanations available on internet or in public books.
    But I don’t appreciate that some lamas try to take some personal benefits from this traditional practice of pure perception.

    Pure perception means to see others with the union of emptiness and clarity.
    Pure perception doesn’t mean that we are unresponsive to harm being caused or encouraging people in harmful activities. We just never loose sight of their basic goodness and treat everyone with all the love and respect that we would towards a Buddha. Remembering that pure perception is about remembering these qualities within us.

    On internet, generally people speak only about the 1st step of training in pure perception toward the guru. It is difficult to have pure perception due to obscurations and so guru yoga helps by externalising these qualities in someone we trust and admire. Then it is easier to accept that the student is also having these qualities.

    But in fact Pure perception means appreciating that everyone has the capacity to be enlightened, everyone has a nature that can be totally revealed and perfected. Moreover, the five elements, the five aggregates, the five poisons—all the different aspects of experience—are by nature already pure. It is only because we see these in a confused way that they appear as impure. In the pure experience of not forming concepts of clean or unclean, pure or impure, everything is seen as it actually is—as manifestations of original wakefulness.
    Only confused thinking deludes us and prevents us from pure perception. Impure phenomena is thus the manifestation of our own deluded thinking. Impure
    phenomena—unaware perceptions—are the same as dream phenomena. Once we wake up from the delusion of sleep, they disappear.

    The main practice of the generation stage in Vajrayana is the cultivation of the practice of regarding oneself as the deity. From an ordinary point of view, we might regard this as useless. We would think, “Well, I am not a deity. What use is there in pretending to be a deity?” But in fact, the root of samsara is the habit of impure perception. By regarding oneself as a deity one gradually purifies, weakens, and removes that habit and replaces it with the positive habit of pure perception. It is for this reason that the meditation upon oneself as a deity is considered so important.

    In conclusion, I would say that from my perspective the confusion and problems come from that students think that they have pure perception. But as long as you don’t see others with the union of emptiness and clarity, you are just training and improving to reach this stage.

    1. French observer,

      You say “ Pure perception doesn’t mean that we are unresponsive to harm being caused or encouraging people in harmful activities. We just never loose sight of their basic goodness and treat everyone with all the love and respect that we would towards a Buddha. Remembering that pure perception is about remembering these qualities within us.”

      I trust intuitively that my teachers have pure perception. If i didn’t have that intuition happening, they would not be my teachers. But it has happened that when I feel dismantled, I question why they are doing this to me.

      The minute I question their reasoning, I am projecting my impure perception on them. They actually don’t mind one bit. They fully understand although they don’t show it. Their poker faces are perfect. They only come to my aid at the very last minute when I’ve broken my mala and am about to tare my hair out. They soothe everything as if by magic.

      Then I think to myself, wow they really take risks! I could really get mad at them and freak out! But the more I go on, the more profound my devotion becomes. Sometimes I wonder why am i so happily trusting, and find I stop resisting and I just am happily trusting.

      All the practice that you speak of, visualising self and others, all of appearance as deity, as precious, miraculous and pure, and the teachers as the three aspects of Buddha, body speech mind; all that for me has been transforming from being a fabricated effort to being the only possible way to see things. By the blessings of the teacher’s wisdom mind, and my acceptance to follow it, what is called practice becomes inevitable. You just don’t let yourself have a choice. You do end up knowing better. And you realise you are not completely unlike your teacher.

    2. French Observer,

      When you FO talk about pure perception you create and mix up two views.

      You think pure perception means being deluded about conventional perception.

      Not everyone who practices conventional perception, practices pure perception.

      Usually not actually.

      But anyone who practices pure perception understands it’s not just perceiving their teacher or friends or clan as pure.

      A pure perception practitioner realises it is their own perception that has to be kept pure, and nothing else.

      Pure perception practice doesn’t depend on anything being pure, other than one’s own perception.

      So your arguing that pure perception of bad people is dangerous and naive, simply means you practice impure perception. That’s all that means.

      As I practice pure perception, even if I see that you practice impure perception, I still consider meeting you as my teacher, and I still hear pure perception through your ‘impure’ perception.

      Therefore you will never be my enemy, you are completely safe and you will not develop negative karma on my account, because you won’t hurt me.

      And if I find your impure perception patronising in the conventional sphere, it is just like finding a glove too thin to keep the cold out.

      It has no other impact than the conventional ever has to a practitioner of pure perception. Wearing the gloves outside I will come home with cold hands. I will know cold, I will know hands, I will know outside from inside, I will know my awareness, the elements, the frailty of my body, my dependence on home, I will know which pair of gloves is appropriate; I will inevitably recall the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence, clarity, emptiness, love, Buddha nature, etc. I will have a steam of insights without a drop of negativity. In the end my heart will feel warmed by natural luminosity. Then I might make my dinner. And I will hold you effortlessly precious along with everything else.

      It’s the most normal practice there is, peaceful, liberating, and is based on prajnaparamita. The heart sutra.

      And my teachers whom you criticise taught it me. Yet it is entirely in your favour. How unfortunate that you ignore this.

      But like they say, the Buddha needs no defending.

      1. @ Louise, how surprising your comment. I didn’t mean what you say, and I doubt I wrote anything like it. Of course I am not a native English speaker and surely my writing is with mistakes. But when in the paragraph above I wrote “Pure perception means to see others with the union of emptiness and clarity” I think it was clear. Maybe I should add that this applies of course not only to seeing others but to seeing any phenomena.

        I realize that you may have been shocked that I criticized your teachers, by the way I ignore who they are nor do I need to know. But I had the feeling that on this blog we spoke openly and we could criticize the actions of anybody. As your are 50% French, you certainly know how the critical approach is common in the country of Descartes ; )

        1. French O,

          Pure reception is not conditional.

          So your appendix of viewing a teacher as being an ordinary person, is not relevant to the practice of pure perception.

          Am not shocked that you bring in this condition, that you have to be careful of viewing the impure as pure, and that you argue in general that teachers are as prey to generating negative karma as you and me; since it is very clear that this blog is all about being wary of Tibetan lamas, and I think you know at least that my teachers are Tibetan lamas.

          So this is always the underlying warning message. This the purpose of this blog, am I wrong?

          But that aside, my point is that pure perception practice is unconditional.
          Unconditional pure perception is the pure perception my teachers practice 24/7.

          Also I dress again : it is your own mind that practices this, it doesn’t have anything to do with truly existing beings who are impure which you make an extra effort to see purely.

          So when you say « it is to see others with the union of emptiness and clarity » and along side that you argue that no one is really able to practice pure perception, example being all teachers are still flawed, then to me you présent the practice of pure perception with an impure intent which must come from your overriding agreement with the good people here, to honour a Cartesian practice of ‘wariness’ and ‘knowing better than’.

          I suspect because you think you know better. Well don’t we all… and this Cartesian pridefulness of ‘knowing’ things, is one of the mental conditionings all the theory you talk about should dismantle.

          1. OK @Louise, I give up. I recognize that from my rational perspective and impure perception this discussion will lead nowhere. You live in a world of perfect teachers who are Buddhas, good for you.

            All the best to you and your practice!

            1. The Noble Great Vehicle Sūtra “Mañjuśrī’s Teaching”

              Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!

              Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was dwelling in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park, the Jeta Grove in Śrāvastī, together with a great congregation of 1,250 monks and five thousand bodhisattvas.
              At that time, the Blessed One was teaching the Dharma surrounded and venerated by an audience of many hundreds of thousands. Youthful Mañjuśrī then hoisted a jeweled parasol measuring ten yojanas in circumference and held it directly over the Blessed One’s head.
              Present in the retinue, along with his entourage, was a god from the house of Santuṣita called Susīma, whose progress toward unsurpassed and perfect awakening had become irreversible. He now rose from his seat, approached the place where Youthful Mañjuśrī was, and addressed him: “Mañjuśrī, aren’t you satisfied with your offering to the Blessed One?”
              Mañjuśrī asked in return, “Divine being, tell me, is the great ocean ever satisfied by having water poured into it?”
              “Mañjuśrī, no, it is not,” replied the god.
              Mañjuśrī said, “Divine being, likewise, the wisdom of omniscience is as profound, immeasurable, and boundless as the great ocean. Those bodhisattva mahāsattvas who wish to search for that wisdom should never be content in their desire to make offerings to the Tathāgata.”
              The god then asked, “Mañjuśrī, with what purpose in mind should offerings be made to the Tathāgata?”
              Mañjuśrī replied, “Divine being, offerings should be made to the Tathāgata with four purposes in mind. What are those four? They are (1) the purpose of the mind of awakening, (2) the purpose of liberating all sentient beings, (3) the purpose that the lineage of the Three Jewels will continue uninterrupted, and (4) the purpose of purifying all buddha realms. Divine
              being, it is with these four purposes in mind that offerings should be made to the Tathāgata.”
              When Mañjuśrī had spoken, the god Susīma, the monks, nuns,
              bodhisattvas, and the entire retinue, along with the world with its gods,
              humans, asuras, and gandharvas, rejoiced and praised the words of Youthful Mañjuśrī.
              This concludes the noble Great Vehicle sūtra, “Mañjuśrī’s Teaching.”

            2. Posting this most recent sutra translation, ‘Manjushri’s teaching’, and reading it here beyond the temple, I suddenly shudder at the thought that this unconditional holy text concerning omniscience, which is our ultimate aim and towards which our esteem if not our understanding is pivotal as buddha’s followers (omniscience is brilliantly defined by Manjushri in the noble Mahayana sutra The Miraculous Play of Manjushri), could be turned, by those defending a sectarian thesis such as cartesian logic being a means to implement ‘good’ buddhadharma, into a manifesto to give liberal vent to their biases. We shall see what happens.

  13. French O,

    there is no discussion;

    because you have a thesis (against pure perception) all I can do as a genuine madhyamikan is to dismantle it for you;

    and since you have a thesis, all you can do is give up arguing it.

    “If I had a thesis, I would be at fault; since I alone have no thesis, I alone am without fault” Nagarjuna

    ‘I alone’ implies that pure (or impure) perception is a matter of your own mind. In this case, Nagarjuna holding to the view of no view, is practicing pure perception.

    The discerning rigour at work is to not succumb to reasoning as if something truly existed, while maintaining a clear insight of the bias inherent to any thesis.

    In that way you will never be fooled.

    1. Louise, could you provide a source for your quote from Nagarjuna? I don’t doubt that he might have said such a thing, but taking his statements out of context can sometimes cause misunderstanding or fuzziness. As I believe happened when DK “quoted” from him, without giving the source, in Poison is Medicine.

      And as for your statement

      “The discerning rigour at work is to not succumb to reasoning as if something truly existed, while maintaining a clear insight of the bias inherent to any thesis.”

      I agree. So we use reasoning as a vital tool in determining the lack of inherent existence in self and external phenomena. Reasoning is an essential part of the boat. Good,. We’re in agreement (even though yes, I’m a dumb liberal) 😀

      1. And my understanding, Louuse, is that Vajrayana is one of the methods (the speedy one) to bring that understanding grounded in (conceptual) reasoning into non-conceptual direct realisation.

        And my problem with the approach put forth in Poison is Medicine is the idea that direct realisation can occur, as if by magic, without a firm foundation in conventional understanding and reasoning.

        Overall, there seems to be a bit of magical thinking, based on a magical relationship with the guru, underlying the approach in Poison is Medicine– and I have experienced this as well in Rigpa etc. And this magical thinking risks undermining the great profoundity of the Dharma, as well as students’ ability to discern.

        So I guess this would be where we disagree. But I send you my best wishes for your spiritual path.

        1. Dear Joanne,

          I hadn’t read you last comment.

          I have never understood in DJKR’s teachings anything mystical or mythical that happens ‘as if by magic!’

          In fact, DJKR insists that empowerments are not like having a supramundane power put into you; they are about meeting your own mind’s power, your Buddha nature.

          I understand ‘magic’ to imply the actual manifestation of Buddha nature;
          when self and phenomena instead of manifesting as they ordinarily do, manifest without obscurations as pure and miraculous.

          Or more naturally speaking if you prefer, ‘as it is’.

          Remember Lord Buddha said:

          Mind
          There is no mind
          Mind is luminosity

          You could say magic is apprehending the luminosity.

          Magic happens once we stop insisting we must manœuvre mind with logic.

          First of all, we already do. We calculate pros and cons all the time. The question is, in reference to what?

          Usually in reference to our obscure emotional content operating a conceptual dualism of self versus phenomena/other.

          Within that dualism of ordinary mind, that is profoundly insecure because the ground is ‘unproven’, we insist on logic as a form of protection against error, or abuse if you will.

          At least that’s what we think logic is for.

          But surely you can see how that formula you call ‘logic’, maintains in its function the very error or abuse it is afraid of, as part of a potential reality to be feared avoided and despised.

          The use of this logical system is the policing of self and other, that is designed for a kind of law abiding mind. This is fine and has very good place in conventional reality, but it is not Buddhadharma.

          I think the good behaviour that comes as a consequence of understanding Buddhadharma has an entirely different structure and reference, and purpose and outcome.

          The kind of logical mind you defend Joanne, will reject anything if it feels it threatens the logic of good sense, good behaviour, and all the rest.

          For example, you can see how my even suggesting this, makes it sound as if I am defending bad behaviour and illogical or unreasonable thinking. I am not, that feature is actually built into your logic. It is built into your logic to project an anti-logic coming from me. I am the victim of your logic perceiving me as threatening, not you the victim of an anti-logic am not holding.

          But if I talk to you of anything that doesn’t follow the exact template you deem appropriate within that logic, that logic will serve it’s purpose to reject me.

          That’s what’s wrong will a logical system of self-defense that conceptually acts as a tautology, and is hermetically designed for protection.

          If you want to realise Buddha nature beyond hope and fear this kind of logic has to be cracked open.

          Or fully abandoned, for the much happier and easier and possibly more magical disposition of holding no défensive views other than mind taking constant refuge in the four noble truths.

          The four noble truths once you take them to heart, are all the logic you will ever need to liberate yourself from suffering, and all others from your suffering.

          DJkR never ever has said there is no logic in Buddhadharma. Buddhadharma is a logic based on the nondual. It isn’t Cartesian logic that is for sure. Buddhadharma’s logic leads to uncovering Buddha nature, which is a magical experience that does not have a place in Cartesian logic. Because Cartesian logic is by definition exclusive.
          I think therefore I am will never become I think and this is magical.

        2. Dear Joanne,

          Again I cannot say anything about Rigpa, all I know comes from apparently a very different experience, of the sangha, of the teacher and possibly of Buddhadharma.

          Personally, I don’t identify with the fears you express about what DJKR teaches. Does that necessarily mean I am under some magic spell?

          And if you think so, which apparently you do, then your logic is very rigid and this is all I have been expressing, how rigid is your logic which you argue is Buddha’s Dharma. While all my thinking is merely the muddling effects of Tibetan Lamaism.

          This ‘irrational belonging to a cult’ is what I have been repeatedly ‘accused’ of here, which doesn’t apply to me so I haven’t minded it, but since we are arguing, this particular view enables me to consistently question its emotional ground. Because its fear is built in to it.

          Your and my natural good will I think transcend the law of beyond the temple administration, and so I believe we enjoy a small insight of Buddha nature. Which is completely peaceful.

      2. Very Dear Joanne,

        thank you kindly for your thoughts,

        although I studied Chandrakirti’s madhyamika, I have only ever heard : “I have no thesis therefore I am innocent” is the most famous stand point of Nagarjuna, and is the essence of the view.

        The view of no view, is the essence of Madhyamika.

        As Lord Buddha himself famously said since argumentation was so prominent in his time, “I have no viewpoint”.

        am certain someone on your forum knows this quote from Nagarjuna.

        I have also heard that Chandrakirti’s exposition on nonduality is done from the emptiness aspect of the view (of nonduality – the heart sutra);

        while Nagarjuna’s exposition of nonduality is done from the appearance aspect of the view (of nonduality – the heart sutra,) and explores Buddha Nature, which is very delicate since Buddha Nature is described as (an) unchanging, permanent, essence, etc. and these qualities seem to contradict the all pervasive emptiness aspect. The danger being that we can reify concepts as if they truly existed and stray from all pervasive emptiness.

        Facing this potential controversy, at the times this philosophy that you discuss was explored by “Tibetans” of one kind or another, very subtle and specific live arguments were inspiring it.

        Apparently they still do and this is very good. In all evidence studying madhyamika remains unfriendly to clinging to biases, and remains powerful in dismantling or deconstructing clinging to view points, as the long winded path of union of the two truths.

        If you are liberal or not makes no difference, yours is just a view, while in Buddhist philosophy nonduality is the most perfect form of liberalisms, it is all inclusive; I mean, not only is everything empty, but every living thing has buddha nature! How more liberal could you get?

        If we don’t take that to heart, we cannot possibly aspire or pretend to have Bodhicitta.

        It can take a while to see apparent enemies as having equal buddha nature to those we love, am with you and His Holiness on this. Also to consider our painful emotions as being as much wisdom as our elated ones, this is very difficult, and seemingly illogical! Also those who bring the pain out in us as being our best teachers, when the last thing we want to do is use the pain to see mind’s essential nondual nature. Frankly when we are suffering, who cares about anything else! It’s not easy that’s for sure.

        Rethinking what Thalia said : that the ‘relationship’ between the ultimate and relative truth is (‘the’) nonduality – albeit her example is meant to be ‘not at all paradoxical’ – I have been pondering it as an experience and found that, if opposing the relative truth and the ultimate, like opposing one’s emotional impure views (anger and pain and resentment) to the sense that these negative emotions are very painful and troublesome (which points to the ultimate peace of transcending them,) then that awareness that could be said to be the relationship between the emotional mind and the transcendence of the emotional mind, is the nonduality we are after. Or its shadow. I might very well agree and appreciate Thalia’s insightful formula. And I would attribute Thalia’s insight to her buddha nature, not to her views on Tibetan lamas. I would say Thalia’s views on Tibetan lamas, because they are emotionally charged and stuck to ‘what happen where and when’ remain hindrances to her buddha nature’s elegant insight, as long as she remains angry that is. Because it’s one thing to have insights, you still have to use them to liberate your condition.

        By the way am also not sure where you all learnt to study, was it with Sogyal?

        It’s kind of remarkable that even though you hate Sogyal, you still act like his students.
        I suppose that is commendable. Am not finding fault with you Joanne, but I do think it is completely useless to permanently hoist all of Sogyal’s shortcomings on DJKR and therefore hate him as if they are the same persons who did the same misdeeds.
        By all good judgement it is a transference of the same feelings from one figure to another; while DJKR as a very serious scholar (maybe Sogyal was not a serious scholar and this is his downfall?) found it wise to explain the buddhist vehicle called Vajrayana at that precise time when you found your teacher had deceived you;

        I mean vajrayana or tantrayana, for those who think it didn’t exist in India, when it was very secret – have you read “The Great Image”? Vairocana the translator’s biography, he brought tantrayana to Tibet, it’s a fabulous account, a must read, so profound.
        To get the tantrayana teachings Vairocana had to hide in a jar at the widow of the only Indian tantrika who agreed to teach, all night for many nights holding a straw to his ear through which he could hear what the tantrika was saying in his room.
        When the others found out the tantric teachings had been leaked, they went in hot pursuit to kill Vairocana the translator. Also it was prophesied then, that tantrayana would flourish in Tibet and leave India forever.

        I saw Sogyal in a crowd twice and was not in the least drawn to his appearance, and although I agree with anyone who has bravely confronted the sting of secret Dharma – and I can assure you that HH the Dalai Lama is not without this powerful sting – it is painful and disorienting, as one’s mind grapples with its own content from that wisdom sting like… like being stung actually.

        But then books appear that say ‘poison is medicine’, and if we have some strength we should take if not the book or the teacher, the idea that our inner pain, if we observe it with integrity as Thalia was suggesting, enables us to observe a nondual relationship between the two truths. This awareness is the only medicine and defence we need.
        Thalia who is not stupid at all, can cure herself. Why then linch the medicine man who is doing his best to corroborate with us from his relative ghetto where we sequester him, on the means to cure ourselves. He is not even asking to be liked, so we in return could be a tiny bit recognisant and appease our wrath. Our wrath as it stands is our suffering.

        Anyway, back to madhyamika, if you have a thesis or a view point logically it is clear you have a bias, you believe in something and you have to defend it. Possibly all relative thinking is like this, which is why neither Chandrakirti nor Nagarjuna ever make arguments of their own. It is everyone else who argues with madhymika, so that eventually their biases (their wrong views) will be dissolve from that exercise.

        As FO demonstrated very well : since FO wished to defend that no one ‘really’ has pure view, because he holds to the covenant that ‘Tibetan lamas are not to be trusted’, his argument came to be that Cartesian logic (I think therefore I am) is proper madhyamikan logic implemented to protect the ‘I’ – presumably of ‘I think’ – from the practice of pure view as an illogical and naive folly, unless it is relatively circumscribed by cartesian logic.

        That to my ear this is the summary of FO’s thesis, and it is based on FO’s underlying belief that ‘students of Tibetan lamas should not view their teacher as pure, because…’ and he gave some reasons. I won’t go into those, but it’s quite obvious FO’s thesis doesn’t come from having understood nonduality, it comes from FO’s socio-cultural and emotional and karmic background, which eventually he will mention to defend his view. In fact that is how he defended it.

        FO can argue that some emotions are reasonable and some are not, but this is an entirely different kind of (nonbuddhist) study. I do not recall where Madhyamika philosophy discusses which emotions are reasonable and which are not.

        That’s that on biases.

        Lastly dear Joanne, my comment of wanting a new set of white teeth without pain didn’t at all refer to “abuse”. I cannot talk about what I don’t know, so can’t really join you on any particular abuse issue. I would be falsifying my heartmind if I did do that, just to make you feel justified in your heartmind, and I don’t see how this leads anything, other than a candle vigil and a pat on the back; I think maybe this is why DJKR didn’t do that, but instead explained what tantrayana is.

        DJKR didn’t mean to do anything else. But of course, it stand to reason we will not necessary understand it right away. Emotions are all we have, relatively speaking, and they are very powerful. I think the impression we could have of DJKR arising as Sogyal’s double is a spectre from our own suffering mind, and since we are the masters of our mind, isn’t it time we liberate from negative impressions of relative reality? That is what buddhadharma is for, liberation from suffering, that is all wrong views. And I have heard Buddha’s turning the third wheel of Dharma in uncertain places at uncertain times, was to liberate beings from all their limited views.

        As a footnote to this very long piece, am so sorry, very lastly, there is an idea out there to reform vajrayana as if it was a mainstream science. But this is just… how to say… inventing something that isn’t there. Who knows though with the blessings of wisdom beings, anything can happen.

        I wish you well and am very grateful for our discussions, thank you Joanne, and all.

        1. Louise, just a few comments in conclusion because I don’t think you and I can be very successful in discussing Buddhadharma. We don’t have much common ground it seems.

          However, I would like to make one strong statement, which is that I don’t have any hatred or ill will (or even anger) in me towards any lama, nor towards anyone that I might disagree with. If we disagree, that doesn’t mean hatred. Disagreement and discussion is one of the wonderful features of much of Dharma culture. If I question a lama’s approach to Dharma, that isn’t hatred or anger.

          1. Dear Joanne,

            am very glad to hear it, we definitely have that in common.

            To close then, I have found that everyone gathered beyond the temple share an understanding and practice of finding inspiration not just from disagreement, but a systematic disagreement with DJKR on the ground that DJKR is wrong (“to not have expressed outrage and concern at Sogyal’s abuse”), (and therefore he can only be like Sogyal,) muddling, confusing and his approach confuses his students, that is me whom you hear as being mindlessly lost in some cult.

            So… very difficult if not impossible to discuss buddhadharma with these persistently evident preliminaries.

            I wonder with whom other than the good people beyond the temple do you discuss buddhadharma?

            Regardless, my teachers’ compassion is boundless and these days you good people have been my teachers. I have seen my mind clearly, not without suffering.

            You have of course heard HH say “consider all beings have been your father and mother at some time”, and I imagine concern for your children and your positions as parents is one main reason to maintain a sense of safe environment;

            rest assured that with the thought that you have all being my parents at some time, I go forth in my life’s practice with heartfelt gratitude, kindly disposed independence, and love.

  14. @Louise, just to let you know that you extrapolate or imagine a reasoning that I never had nor I ever wrote.
    You could just re-read with calm all I wrote simply on this page paying attention not to translate it into your own imaginary interpretation. As if I had written on this page your internal dialogs.

    Also your last post shows that there are many aspects that you ignore, you simply don’t know. It’s Ok to be confused. I am just asking you not to mix all your confusion with what I wrote. It’s a gross misrepresentation. This doesn’t make any sense.

    I stopped exchanging with you simply because you were unable to integrate what I wrote. Also you were not intellectually honest in the exchange. At first I was interested to exchange to discover what kind of argument or ideas could develop a student of DKJR. Now we all know, things are very clear. You are ready to believe and justify anything in the name of enlightenment. Also you can’t deal with cognitive dissonance, between the facts and your system of believes coming directly from one guru.

    My conclusion from this exchange: gurus as DKJR will always find a marginal number of westerners to follow them. I don’t think it will ever go mainstream as nowadays people are educated and won’t fall for a system of organisation and ideology kind of similar to what we had in the Middle Ages (times of miracles with saints leaving marks in the rock and the legitimacy of the king coming from God).

    I congratulate Joanne for the work she is doing, exposing all the weaknesses and harmful consequences coming from what we could call “archaic lamaism” i.e. the tulku feodal system. As long as this current will stay marginal in the West, I don’t think that universities will put sufficient efforts to respond to this issue.
    And sadly, westerners sometimes marginals or with psychological predispositions will be victims of this system of exploitation perpetuated by far from innocent lamas who certainly are not ready to saw off the branch of priviledges they are sitting on.

    How to stop the spreading of fundamentalist, abusive sects in the name of Buddha? Maybe through the media, informing about the sad consequences for the victims and that those archaic sectarian movements don’t belong to the Lalaland paradise but rather to Lalaland hell. This situation is so crazy, that non-specialists can’t imagine that so much absurdity is going on…

    1. FO,

      I don’t think I need to reread you, I think you expose exactly as I predicted to Joanne, all your personal relative reasoning to defend your personal view that you think equates to ‘knowing ‘ buddhist theory and furthermore Buddha’s Dharma as it really is.

      Whereas all I have done evidently is stimulate the emotionally based reasoning of those passions you at some point said were better not got rid of and I think you added a 😉 to seduce me to agree with you, by my pointing out in your thinking what Buddhadharma isn’t, according to the heart sutra, the four noble truths, and the essence of madhyamika which is the view of no view, nonduality. I invite you to reread me.

      I will agree that genuine practitioners of Buddhadharma as as rare as stars in daytime.

      It is unclear what you think Buddhadharma is for.

      You have only suggested you are related to the culture of Buddhadharma and find it needs some Cartesian reform.

      1. FO,

        didn’t you write that, because I am 50% french I should understand the value of Cartesian logic?

        You did write this about vajrayana:

        «Except that in the Vajrayana context, of course there is no intent to remove the five poisons and the two ignorances but to transform them into the different aspects of wisdom (the 5 wisdoms, etc…). Hopefully they will still appear but under a pure form. »

        « hopefully they will still appear but under a pure form »

        Why ‘hopefully’? you either apply the method or you don’t apply the method, there’s no hope involved, it’s not a whimsical endeavour.

        « they will still appear but under a pure form »

        What does this mean?
        If the poisons have been transformed into aspects of wisdom, then what appears are aspects of wisdom. What else could you name their ‘pure form’? (which sounds borderline platonic.)

        If they appear as wisdom then they are not poison anymore. And wisdom can’t create negative karma. Otherwise the causal vehicles wouldn’t have any pure results, and it would be impossible to be enlightened by following them.

        And you also wrote this:

        « Actively transforming emotions into wisdom and compassion is one stage. But you are only generating less negative karma. Anyway it’s a big improvement. »

        Which is a contradiction to your earlier understanding of transforming poisons into aspects of wisdom. Or as you put it ‘their pure form’.

        Unless you are trying to say that the poisons never transform into wisdom, only they become pure forms of poison. Hopefully.

        To compensate your undecided mind, you add this hierarchical exposition of another, this time truly magical sounding method:

        « But when you go into Atiyoga: Dzogchen or its equivalent, there are also different levels of realization. Anyway, the energies still arise but with different levels of grasping. Spontaneously they are expression of wisdom and normally at the end will leave no karmic seeds. »

        « Spontaneously they – the energies that still arise but with different levels of grasping – are expression of wisdom and normally at the end will leave no karmic seeds. »

        How do energies that still arise with different levels of grasping become spontaneous expressions of wisdom?

        ‘normally’ they don’t leave karmic seeds?
        What would be an abnormal scenario?
        A grasping energy still arising in the dzogchen practitioner that isn’t a spontaneous expression of wisdom?
        Why is that?
        Are some grasping energies less spontaneous expressions of wisdom than others?

        With energies like that, no wonder you don’t believe in realised masters!

        « Anyway from my perspective with anyone even a great master you have to be careful. Because even if he has reached high level of realization, he will have still negative karma unfolding. So even if he is a high level master, there will still be sometimes obscurations that come through and he will still commit negative karma with negative results. »

        We don’t know how you conclude this, it’s your personal opinion, and it reiterates your overall doubt that Buddhadharma’s methods works at all.

        Cartesian logic is much more important.
        If at least to convince the ladies that they are muddled and fuzzy, and that men take advantage of them.

        1. @Louise, “grasping energies”: you have really no idea what you are talking about and invent terms without meaning.
          All of this Marshmallow doesn’t make any sense. I already told you. That’s OK. It’s not my fault if you don’t know about the practices I mention and it doesn’t make any sense to you.

          But it’s not a reason to deform what I wrote or imagine my personal opinions. Quoting is OK, better in the right order. But if I need to express an opinion, I will do it myself. Thank you, you don’t need to invent it in my place.

          As you wrote above, we don’t have a discussion. In fact, I agree. So let’s just let it go.

          1. FO.

            Perhaps you begin to appreciate how others feel.

            Even though my deconstruction of your knowledge is perfectly well informed, because my teachers are very thorough when it comes to logic, and precise when it comes to practice.
            Their teachings of theory are accurate, profound, vast, infinitely generous and exhaustive.

            Not altered by the karmic happenstance that you have no faith in them.

            As my teachers’ student I must say I have honoured our exchanges by learning what there is to learn about my own mind, and I thank you all for this with due recognition, and keep you in my prayers.

            1. And just to conclude and wrap everything up, Nagarjuna is very clear in his Commentary on the Awakening Mind, a commentary on the Vajrayana, on the Third Turning of the Wheel, that emptiness is not paradoxical. (Neither Louise nor DK– nor even FO– here have provided sources or context for their “quotes” from Nagarjuna).

              Here are two succinct passages, translated from Tibetan by Thubten Jinpa:

              “67:
              “When the [ultimate] truth is explained as it is
              The conventional is not obstructed;
              Independent of the conventional
              No [ultimate] truth can be found.

              “68
              The conventional is taught to be emptiness;
              The emptiness itself is the conventional;
              One does not occur without the other,
              Just as [being] produced and impermanent.”

              1. That’s because you Joanne think that ‘paradoxical’ means contradictory.

                Paradoxical doesn’t mean that one truth obstructs the other, paradoxical expresses how two apparently different truths are one and the same.

                “the emptiness itself is the conventional’

                I believe you are rather drawn by your logic to not agree with that.

                Am glad to hear you uphold it.

                Thanks for wrapping it up for us!

              2. Honestly Joanne, well done, I think you are the first here to say it how it is.

                You are a relentless student, so commendable.

                Relentless students get to the truth.

                Thank you very much.

              3. @Joanne, I agree fully with what you wrote and that’s also what I thought all along.
                I may have misunderstood that Nagarjuna in his demonstrations was dealing initially with paradoxical statements from the Buddha. So I understood that this notion of paradox was in fact coming from this seeming paradoxes.

                I have really no skill at all for philosophy but I found this article which may have some interest for your study: “DIALETHEISM, PARADOX, AND NĀGĀRJUNA’S WAY OF THINKING” by Richard Jones.

                Cf. “The ultimate truth of the true ontological status of conventional entities does not deny or negate conventional truths about the relation of those non-self-existent conventional entities. Thus, conventional truths are truths, and Nāgārjuna never denies that there are conventional truths—such truths simply do not state the correct ontological status of things since they ostensibly treat phenomena as “real” (self-existent) entities. Nor is there any paradox in claiming both that we can use the word “chair” to refer to a temporary configurations of parts that is functioning as a unit at present and that there are no timeless, eternal, permanent, unchanging self-contained entities called “chairs” in the world—both the conventional truth about chairs as existing and the ultimate truth about the absence of anything permanent and independent in them can be affirmed at the same time as long as the contexts of the two claims are recognized. Again, there is no genuine paradox here since statements are made in different contexts and thus do not contradict each other”.

                https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1251&context=comparativephilosophy

                Thanks again for your work.

              4. @Joanne, I am curious to know what you think about this article. Apparently, there is currently a philosophical debate on this subject. Clearly, it is for the specialists.

                cf. “But it will be argued here that there is a consistency to Nāgārjuna’s thought and that introducing paradoxes into it only muddles his presentation. What he wrote is not inconsistent or paradoxical in content when understood in terms of his overall philosophy. It will be shown that even those of his expressions that are paradoxical in form can be restated without paradox, and thus we cannot conclude that those paradoxes reflect his way of thinking—in fact, nothing in his works suggests that some truths can only be expressed in inconsistent statements”.

              5. @Joanne, the article seems pretty clear and by the way it also explains the seeming paradox with the use of the tetralemma.

                In its conclusion:
                “Nāgārjuna’s arguments presume the basic laws of logic and are free of genuine paradoxes.
                Nāgārjuna was trying to show by a rather rigorous conceptual analysis and the use of classical logical reasoning that any metaphysical system that affirms self-existing, permanent entities leads to inconsistencies with what we see actually happening in the world and thus cannot be accepted. Indeed, logic and the avoidance of contradictions are absolutely central to how his arguments proceed”.

                1. FO, I would love to engage with you in this discussion, but it clearly needs more mental capacity than I have until after this holiday season. I do find that Western scholars can sometimes really help in my understanding, so thank you for introducing this. Maybe in a few weeks?

                  1. @Joanne Of course, I hope you will find some nuggets in that text as I did. I am amazed by Nagarjuna writings. He is so clear even on the most difficult topics:

                    Conventional truths accept our worldly categories, but ultimate truths do not. However, ultimate truths do depend on our conventions: without recourse to our conventions, these truths could not be taught or even stated.
                    But an ultimate truth can be stated without reference to entities—e.g., “The that-ness (tattva) of reality is empty of self-existence and is dependently-arisen.”
                    Dependent arising is affirmed, and according to Nāgārjuna it only works if things are empty. Beyond that, Nāgārjuna has little to say about the nature of reality as it is independent of our conventions. MK (Root Verses of the Middle Way) 18.9-11 states:
                    “The characteristic of what is actually real is this: not dependent upon another, peaceful, free of being projected upon by conceptual projections, free of thoughts that make distinctions, and without multiplicity. Whatever arises dependent upon another thing is not that thing, nor is it different from that thing. Therefore, it is neither annihilated nor eternal. Not one, not diverse, not annihilated, not eternal—this is the immortal teaching of the buddhas, the guides of the world”.

                    Merry Christmas to all!

              6. Dear Joanne,

                When at the beginning of your essay you say : “Yes, eventually we have to leave it all behind, leave the boat, but we cannot leave the boat until it has safely brought us to shore. Safely.”

                You may be dreamily imagining a point in your philosophical career as a Buddhist thinker – am teasing us all a bit here – when having understood the philosophy you will understand there is no need to query anymore, and so it is time to leave the boat of questioning and safely place your all-knowingly steady foot upon the shore of liberation.

                More realistically, in view of impermanence and lack of inherent self, there will come a time called dying and death when you’re obliged to leave the boat whether ready or not, and there is no shore, no safety at all, it’s not up to you to chose when, there is no foot, no knowing, philosophy didn’t leave a hair to hold to in your mind, before you can begin to think you are robbed in full by the bardo that has no reference point at all. The terrifying bardo of no reference point.

                That time is what Vajrayana is for. To ready for that time and nothing else. To be aware of it, to maintain some consciousness through it, that is what we are aiming at and really nothing much else. To be awake at that time is to be leaving the boat and reaching the other shore at once.

                If it’s not for you, that’s perfectly ok. But everyone dies, and it just may be the ticket for some Buddhist practitioners to confront death with those methods.

                What ever you Joanne chose to believe in this life doesn’t outweigh the fact that everyone has to deal with their own death.

                If you think that what happened with Sogyal is the case with all of Vajrayana, if you insist that Sogyal and Vajrayana are synonymous, then you are selfishly fixated on one chair – with a closed binary logic – you can try to sit on it all you want but by no means will it prevent the boat from leaving you or anyone else.

                Moreover to a sincere Buddhist practitioner, your boat, safety and shore are like describing Joanne’s dream chair made of beechwood and inscribed with safety rules. It doesn’t ease the reality of death.

                In any case, it’s silly to demand of anyone to follow your conceptual convention in view of their dying, death and the fact that you can only do so for yourself. You can’t do so for others. Considering that alone is a compassionate act, and should make you let go of your fixation.

                Other than that you can play around with your friends all you want, it’s not because you read nagarjuna that you understand.

              7. Advice on Recognizing the Nature of Mind
                by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

                What we call mind is that which thinks endlessly of everything under the sun. When investigating its essence to determine the true nature, we examine each momentary thought that originates, remains and departs. We inquire where the arising might be and look into the place or source of origination. We investigate the place of remaining and nature of what remains, and, for the departure, the nature of what ceases and its place of cessation. Each time we ask what these are like in essence. And through this, we realize that they lack even so much as an atom’s worth of true reality. Yet in spite of this unreality, there is still something which knows, or is aware of, good and bad, and which is present unceasingly. By allowing this to settle by itself, without altering it or fabricating it in any way through inviting or following thoughts, we can naturally experience a state that is beyond all expression and is the inseparability of clarity, awareness and emptiness. To sustain the continuity of this is what we call looking into the essence of mind.

                Still, it is very important to purify obscurations as a preliminary, to pray to the guru with deep devotion, and to exert oneself in receiving empowerment. When we understand this essence of mind well, we will not have so much attachment and aversion towards friends and enemies or hope or fear concerning pleasure and pain. This is difficult to realize, no matter who we might be.

                Chökyi Lodrö offered this merely to avoid turning down a request.

              8. A gift on this winter solstice :

                The Noble Mahāyāna
                Ākāśagarbha Sūtra

                Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!

                Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavān was dwelling on the Khalatika Mountain, in the abode of the Sage’s hermits, together with an incalculably large assembly of monks and of great śrāvakas. Great bodhisattva mahāsattvas in numbers as limitless as the sands of the River Ganges, forming an incalculably immense assembly of bodhisattvas, were also staying there. The moment the Bhagavān completed his prophecy on the splendid vows of the tathāgatas, the Indranīla jewel appeared in the west. Many hundreds of thousands of precious wish-fulfilling jewels spread out and surrounded it. The light of that precious jewel rendered invisible the totality of manifest form in the whole trichiliocosm. Thus, with the exception of the tathāgatas, all gods and humans, śrāvakas, and bodhisattvas, as well as the manifest forms of the great elements of earth, water, fire, and air‍—however many manifestations there were of the great elements‍—all without exception were obliterated, and only the precious jewel remained visible. Everything appeared to be limitless, boundless, and ineffable like space. The Bhagavān, too, became most radiant, clear, and brilliant.
                Indeed, the sentient beings assembled there could not even see themselves, or each other. For them, all visible manifestations of the great elements also ceased and became imperceptible to the eye. They could not perceive their bodies, their features, or shape, nor did they have a sense of touch. Whatever they observed, howsoever they observed it, they saw as empty. They did not even see the orbs of the sun or the moon. The stars and the earth element, water element, fire element, and air element also became invisible to their eyes. Sounds did not resonate in their ears. Odors were not perceived by their noses. They did not take their minds and their mental events as “me,” or take them as “mine,” and the perceptions of the six cognitive bases did not arise. The great elements were also imperceptible.
                Instead, in whichever direction they looked, in all those directions they saw everything as the physical marks, colors, shapes, and bodies of the tathāgatas. Only the precious Indranīla encircled by wish-fulfilling jewels appeared from afar; apart from that, nothing at all was visible.

                At that place, the bodhisattvas dwelling on the tenth ground, who had achieved the meditative concentration of brave progression, and who were bound by one more life and in their last existence, looked and saw, yet were not at all frightened, afraid, or terrified, because they realized that all phenomena are by nature endowed with final reality, suchness, and emptiness. Therefore, they were not at all frightened, afraid, or terrified.

                The remaining great bodhisattva mahāsattvas, the śrāvakas, devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, kumbhāṇḍas, pretas, piśācas, pūtanas, kaṭapūtanas‍—all of the assembled humans and non-humans‍—were very frightened and in despair. They were bewildered about what was here and what was there, and in their confusion they were not able to perceive one another. In that state, they asked questions such as “What is this?”, “How did this come about?”, and “What is the nature of this?”, but could find nothing.

                At that time, the great bodhisattva mahāsattva known as Great Nail of Brahmā bowed down toward the Bhagavān with folded hands and said:
                “Ordinary beings do not recognize
                The nature of all phenomena.
                They live in the form aggregate,
                And so their six sense faculties become deluded.
                There is not a single aggregate to be seen,
                Yet ordinary beings conceptualize the form aggregate.
                Consequently, some of these people
                Develop doubts about the Buddha’s teaching.

                It is for them that the Bhagavān
                Taught the characteristics of the suchness of phenomena.
                Thus, here and there
                They come to know the characteristics of space, which bears everything.
                This indeed is brave equipoise,
                A state that cannot be expressed.

                “A most precious wish-fulfilling jewel
                Rests on the crown of his head.
                Those who perceive a precious Indranīla jewel from afar
                Are very fortunate beings:
                They will perfect the brave progression.

                “All who have come to see the Teacher are wise indeed.
                Today in this place, a profound discourse
                Will undoubtedly be proclaimed.

                “O Bhagavān, please give relief
                To the sentient beings who have come here.
                Bringing them to full maturation
                Is the heroes’ sphere of activity.”

                https://read.84000.co/data/toh260_84000-the-akasagarbha-sutra.pdf

  15. @Louise, I won’t spend any more time.
    “Cartesian reform of Buddhadharma”: how foolish is that concept coming from nowhere…

    You are writing so much nonsense. What a weird situation!

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