Maybe we are going to practice yoga tantra, but it’s not easy to do. In order to practice yoga tantra we need a foundation—the preliminaries.
First of all, in order to practice yoga tantra, we need to receive an empowerment, or initiation. There are degrees of initiation, but we do need initiation. In order to receive an initiation, we need a certain extent of realization of the three principal paths to enlightenment, which are the wisdom of shunyata, bodhicitta and renunciation. Therefore, it is not easy.
When I say it’s not easy, the sense is not that it’s a difficult job in terms of money; I mean it’s difficult because of our present level. I’m saying it’s difficult to practice yoga tantra without a proper foundation, without the right qualifications.
Why is it difficult?
Because of our level. If we check out our own reality, our present situation, do we have some kind of small understanding of the reality of our own mind? The nature of the mind has two aspects—its relative nature and its absolute nature.
Do we know our own mind’s relative nature? If we know the relative nature of our own mind, it’s easy to direct our mind’s attitude. That is each individual’s responsibility to check out.
Then, there’s bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is a heart that’s open to other people rather than totally closed. I’m not talking from the philosophical point of view: “You should be open to other people; if you are closed, I’m going to beat you.”
I’m not talking that way. If you are not open, the symptoms are great–you suffer a great deal, you’re in conflict with yourself and you experience much confusion and dissatisfaction—as you already know; as you already experience every day.
The sense of being open is also not so that others will give you presents, that you’ll get chocolate cake. That’s not the way, although normally we are like that.
Of course, we are not Buddha, but to some extent we should have an inner, deep, perhaps intellectual understanding, some discriminating wisdom, that the human need is not simply temporal pleasure. To some extent, we all have temporal pleasure, but what we really need is eternal peace. Having that highest of destinations is the way to be open. It eliminates the problems of everyday life—we don’t get upset if someone doesn’t give us some small thing. Normally we do.
Our problem is expectation. We grasp at such small, unworthy things. That grasping mind is the problem; it produces the symptom of reacting again and again and again. Last year, we reacted in a negative way and this year, it’s the same or worse. That’s how it seems. We’re supposed to get better and better but our problems are still overwhelming.
Philosophically, perhaps we can say that karma is overwhelming—consciously and unconsciously. Don’t think that karma is just your doing something consciously and then ending up miserable. Karma also functions at the unconscious level. You can do something unconsciously and it can still lead to a big result. Today’s problems in the Middle East are a good example. That’s karma. They started off small, but those little actions have brought a huge result.
As a matter of fact, that’s karma.
In order to have the enlightened attitude, an attitude that transcends the self-pitying thought, you need the tremendous energy of renunciation of temporary pleasure—renunciation of samsara. I think you know this already.
What do we renounce? Samsara.
Therefore, we call it renunciation of samsara. Now I’m sure you’re getting scared! Renunciation of samsara is the right attitude—the wrong attitude is that which is opposite to renunciation.
You probably think, “Oh, that’s too difficult.” It’s not difficult. You do have renunciation. How many times do you reject certain situations, unpleasant situations? That’s you renouncing. Birds and dogs have renunciation. Children have renunciation—if they want to do something for which they’ll get punished, they know how to get around it. That’s their way of renunciation. But all that is not renunciation of samsara.
Perhaps your heart is broken because of some trouble with a friend, so you change your relationship. Anyway, your friend has already given you up so you have to do the same thing and renounce your friend. Neither is that renunciation of samsara.
Perhaps you’re having trouble coping with society, so you escape into the bush, like an animal. You’re renouncing something, but that’s not renunciation of samsara.
What, then, is renunciation of samsara? Be careful now—it’s not being obsessed with the objects of samsaric existence or with nirvana, either. Perhaps some people will think, “Now that I’m not concerned with pleasure, now that I’m renounced, I would like to have pain.” That, too, is not renunciation of samsara.
Renouncing the sense pleasures of the desire realm and looking for something else instead, grasping at the pleasures of the form or formless realms, is still the same old samsaric trip.
Say you’re practicing meditation, Buddhist philosophy and so forth and somebody tells you, “What you’re doing is garbage; nobody in this country understands those things.” If somebody puts the nail of criticism into you like that and you react by getting agitated and angry, it means that your trip of Buddhism, meditation or whatever is also samsaric. It has nothing to do with renunciation of samsara. That’s a problem, isn’t it? You’re practicing meditation, Buddhism; you think Buddha is special, but when somebody says, “Buddha is not special,” you get shocked. That means you’re not free; you’re clinging. You have not put your mind into the right atmosphere. There’s still something wrong in your mind.
So, renunciation of samsara is not easy. For you, at the moment, it’s only words, but the thing is that renunciation of samsara is the mind that deeply renounces, or is deeply detached from, all existent phenomena.
You think what I’m talking about is only an idea, but in order for the human mind to be healthy, you should not have the neurotic symptom of grasping at any object whatsoever, be it pleasure or suffering. Then, relaxation will be there; that is relaxation. You don’t have superstition pumping you up. We should all have healthy minds by eliminating all objects that obsess the ego. All objects. We are so concrete that even when we come to Buddhism or meditation, they also become concrete.
We have to break our concrete preconceptions, and that can only be done by the clean clear mind.
For example, when you see an old tree in the distance and think that it’s a human being, your superstitious mind is holding that wood as a human being. In order to eliminate your ego’s wrong conception, you have to see that collection of energy as wood. If you see that clean clear, the conception holding that object as a human being will disappear. It’s the same thing: the clean clear mind is the solution that eliminates all concrete wrong conceptions.
Because our conceptions are concrete, we are not flexible. Somebody says, “Let’s do it this way,” but you don’t want to change. Only you are right; other people are wrong.
Tied by this kind of grasping at samsaric phenomena at the conception level, it is difficult for you to see the possibility of achieving a higher destination. You are trapped in your present limited situation and can see no way out of it.
Practically, renunciation means being easygoing–not too much sense pleasure and not so much freaking out. Even if you have some pain, there’s an acceptance of it. The pain is already there; you can’t reject it. The pain is already there, but you’re easygoing about it.
Perhaps it’s better if I put it this way–you’re easygoing with the eight worldly dharmas. I think you already know what they are. If you are easygoing with them, that’s good enough. You should not think that renunciation is important simply from the Buddhist philosophical point of view in order to reach liberation. Renunciation is not just an idea; you should understand renunciation correctly.
Shakyamuni himself appeared on this earth. He had a kingdom; he had a mother and a father; he drank milk. Still, he was renounced. There was no problem. For him, drinking milk was not a problem–ideologically, philosophically. But we have a problem.
Another way of saying all this is that practicing Buddhism is not like soup. We should approach Buddhadharma organically, gradually; we are fulfilled gradually. You can’t practice Dharma like going to a supermarket, where in one visit you can take everything you want simultaneously. Dharma practice is some-thing personal, unique. You do just what you need to do to put your mind into the right atmosphere. That is important.
Perhaps I can say something like this: Americans practice Dharma without comprehension of the karmic actions of body, speech and mind. American renunciation is to grasp at the highest pleasures; Americans try to become bodhisattvas without renunciation of samsara! Is that possible? Perhaps you can’t take any more of this! Still, be careful. I’m saying that there’s no bodhisattva without realization of renunciation. Please, excuse my aggression! Well, the world is full of aggression, so some of it has rubbed off on me.
Of course, actually, we are very fortunate. Just trying to practice Dharma is very fortunate. But also, it’s good to know how the gradual path to enlightenment is set up in a very personal way. It’s not just structured according to the object. If you know this, it becomes very tasty.
Of course we can’t become bodhisattvas all of a sudden, but if you can get a clean clear overview of the path’s gradual progression, you’ll approach it without confusion.
Dharma brothers and sisters are often confused because of the Dharma supermarket. There are so many things to choose from. After a while you don’t know what’s good for you. The first time I went to an American supermarket I was confused; I didn’t know what I should buy and what I shouldn’t. So, it’s similar. You should have clean clear understanding—then you can act in the right direction with confidence.
So, you should not regard the three principal paths to enlightenment as a philosophical phenomenon. You should feel that they are there according to your own organic need.
If you hunger for sentimental temporal pleasure, it’s not so good. You don’t have a big mind. Your mind is very narrow. You should know that pleasure is transitory, impermanent, coming and going, coming and going like a Californian friend–going, coming, going! When you have renunciation, you somehow lose your fanatical, over-sensitive expectations. Then you experience less suffering, your attitude is less neurotic, and you have fewer expectations and less frustration.
Basically, frustration is built up by superstition, the samsaric attitude, which is the opposite of renunciation of samsara. Following that, you always end up unbalanced and trapped in misery. We know this. So, you should see it clean clear. That is the purpose of meditation.
Meditation is not on the level of the object but on that of the subject—you are the business of your meditation.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise