Arising of Phenomena
His Eminence the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,
Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge
Arising of Phenomena
Presented at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, N.Y., 1986
I am very happy to return to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, the main seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa in the Americas. I am very happy to share whatever teachings of the Dharma I know with you during this visit.
I feel that the event preceding this meeting is very auspicious. Traditionally, when great teachers turn the Wheel of Dharma, bells and drums are beaten and horns are blown to express the melodious sounding of Dharma. When great enlightened teachers turn the Dharmachakra, auspicious music automatically sounds – it is the self-sounding drum of Dharma. Such instruments are played to announce an important event. I do not see big bells or drums here, but the fire alarm that automatically went off has served the traditional purpose and accords with my intention to fulfil the wish of the Gyalwa Karmapa and our experience of him nearing us. I see the ringing of the fire alarm as an auspicious sign, even if the noise was discomforting to our ears. (The alarm went off again and again, confirming the auspicious occasion.) Planned programs aren’t particularly auspicious. It is good when things go as planned, but things happening on their own and in an appropriate manner are very auspicious signs.
While listening to the precious teachings of the Dharma, it is most important to express proper conduct of body, speech, and mind. One needs to present oneself with a sense of collectedness while receiving the teachings, especially with the genuine aspiration that all living beings without exception experience the awakened mind. We aspire to establish all beings in the state of buddhahood. For this reason, one takes the special opportunity to receive the teachings, listens to them with devotion, and maintains an altruistic motivation.
What is Not
The teachings I am presenting concern what is and what is not. The Buddhist teachings speak about samsara, conditioned existence, and nirvana, the state of enlightenment that is beyond samsara. The characteristics of samsara are suffering and pain. The characteristics of nirvana are happiness and well-being. Our relationship to samsara is to become liberated from suffering. Our relationship to nirvana is to experience freedom from suffering.
Lord Buddha’s teachings distinguish samsara and nirvana. One’s understanding of both is wrong, though. One doesn’t experience benefits in samsara due to being deluded, thus one seeks liberation from samsara and strives to attain the peace of nirvana. One’s notions of samsara as a state of suffering and nirvana as a state beyond suffering imply running away from samsara and towards nirvana. Such ideas are illusory – they are dualistic fixations about samsara and nirvana and are an expression of confusion.
The 84,000 collections of teachings that Lord Buddha presented are contained in the two truths: the relative and ultimate truths. While gaining a gradual understanding of both, one differentiates relative and ultimate reality because of phenomena’s display. The fundamental nature of all things presents no reason to separate the ultimate from the relative levels of being. The two truths are inseparable – this is the ultimate truth of the nature of relative existents. Discussing relative and ultimate levels of being misleads one to separate the relative truth as a world of confusion from the ultimate truth as a world beyond confusion. This separation itself is a misconception and an expression of confusion. It is a split, and therefore one relates to the relative world of phenomena in and around from a state of confusion. For instance, there are so many religions in the world that have evolved from many individuals’ wishes and attempts to become free of suffering and confusion, but confusion has developed around religions instead of being resolved. Many people see the world from a confused viewpoint, believing it was created by a self-created creator, by somebody who decided how it should be and fashioned it in that manner. Many people believe in a universal architect, in somebody who manipulates the world and its inhabitants. On the other hand, some people believe that nobody had anything to do with the world’s creation. How did it come about then? They shrug their shoulders and simply reply, “It just happened.” Both notions, belief in a creator and belief in coincidence, are delusive. The desire to leave a spot of suffering and to reach a spot free of suffering is the fundamental mistake, and more confusion evolves as a result. The teachings I will present deal with what is and what is not. The above concerns what is not.
The theme what is includes everything that is fundamentally valid without mistaken cognition, i.e., free of confusion. Somebody who is confused nourishes beliefs about things that contradict the way things really are. Bewilderment is confusion and has far-reaching consequences. Confusion is a mental state in the absence of knowledge as to the way all things really are and the way they arise and appear. But confusion can be unravelled; a mistaken view can be understood and dispelled. One’s approach is bewildered, though, as long as one’s practical relationship with one’s delusions make one shun confusion, which doesn’t bring about freedom from confusion.
Confusion and its Cause according to the Three Yanas
From the Buddhist point of view, it’s necessary to understand the source of confusion. One needs to investigate and recognize the ground of confusion.
During the times of Buddha Shakyamuni, his teachings were divided into three schools or yanas. Later, many great scholars studied how his vast body of teachings could be best presented and preserved for future generations. Based upon their insight, four schools developed, two from the Hinayana and three from the Mahayana, ‘the lesser and greater vehicles.’ I will give a brief summary on how each school defines confusion. The two schools that developed from the Hinayana are the Vaibhashika and the Sautantrika. The three schools that developed from the Mahayana are the Yogachara or Chittamatra, the Madhyamaka, and Vajrayana. Each school approaches samsara and explains the source of confusion differently.
The two schools of thought that developed from the Hinayana tradition of Buddhism see the ultimate and relative truths)] differently. In general, however, they agree that the consciousness exists in a single moment. They teach that the tiniest fraction of time is a moment and the tiniest fraction of consciousness truly exists in that moment. They also claim that the smallest imaginable particle truly exists. Confusion about the consciousnesses and phenomena arises due to assuming that the many moments of consciousness and the tiniest particles compounding a whole are each a unique and substantial entity. Hinayana followers argue that the basis for confusion is not seeing that an object consists of tiniest parts that truly exist and thus one mistakenly assumes that the collection of tiniest parts is a single entity. This mistake also applies to one’s cognition. They teach that instead of seeing that a consciousness only exists in a tiniest fraction of a moment, one erroneously believes that the collection of moments of consciousness are a single entity. They say that failing to see the moment and mistakenly taking the collection of all parts to be a unique consciousness is the cause for confusion.
Followers of the Chittamatra, the ‘Mind-only School’ of Mahayana Buddhism, teach that the basis for confusion is the all-ground consciousness or that aspect of the mind that is the storehouse for all other consciousnesses. Whatever activities one engages in become habitual patterns that subside and are stored in the alaya, ‘the all-ground consciousness.’ When activated by a thought, confusion arises.
The Madhyamika state that the cause for confusion is being ignorant of the true nature of existents, which arise due to interdependent origination. Failing to see that everything that one apprehends exists in dependence on other things, one relates to things as though they exist through and of their own accord. Assuming that phenomena truly exist is taught to be the source of confusion in the Madhyamaka philosophy. One identifies and designates apprehended objects as if they exist of their own accord and clings to one’s imputations as real.
The Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism explains that the true nature of all phenomena is the inseparability of luminosity or clarity and emptiness. Clarity is unimpeded manifestation, and emptiness is the non-existential ground for dependent manifestations to arise and appear when causes and conditions come together. The cause for confusion is failing to realize the true nature of phenomena. Not realizing that inner and outer phenomena are manifestations of luminous clarity, one assumes that apprehended objects exist in opposition to the apprehending self, calling them “self” in contrast to “other.” Both instances are being divisive, which is explained in great detail as the source of confusion in the Vajrayana tradition.
Summary: I explained that one needs to know the source of all one’s problems, which is confusion, in order to become free from suffering. One needs to know what confusion really is and shouldn’t see it negatively. In Buddhism, being confused and deluded is not seen as final, as unmanageable, or as unchangeable. The source of confusion must be understood, though, so that one can eliminate it.
One’s thoughts about samsara are based upon confusion and therefore evolve in confusion. One thinks confusion pertains to the external world, e.g., when coming to New York City, visitors certify their notions by screaming, “It’s big samsara!” But the world, as it expresses itself, is not deluded. Confusion is the way one relates to the world. One can relate to the world delusively or with awareness. From the Buddhist point of view, whatever happens in New York City is not samsara, rather samsara is one’s way of apprehending and judging. Certainly, one understands samsara based upon one’s confusion, which is why I spoke about the different Buddhist interpretations of confusion. All Buddhist schools agree and teach that the source of confusion is ego-clinging or self-cherishing. Belief in a truly existing self gives rise to one’s acceptance or denial that other things truly exist, no matter what “other” might be. Dualistic clinging is the major problem that brings on habitual patterns and the accumulation of karma.
The Madhyamaka philosophical school of thought explains in great detail that the fundamental nature of all existents is non-substantial emptiness, which is not a negation of the phenomenal world. Lord Buddha never negated the relative world, rather he spoke about the relative truth of conventional reality and the inseparability of the ultimate and relative truths. The great Mahasiddha Tilopa taught that we are not entangled in confusion on account of appearances rather due to clinging to inner and outer appearances as true existents.
Karma and the Habitual Mental Patterns
The source for confusion and delusiveness is dualistic clinging, not the world of appearances. One seeks the source of confusion outside oneself and struggles to vanquish it with outer means. Buddhism teaches students to look inwards and seek the source of confusion there by asking questions like, “Where does confusion abide?” By investigating, one slowly starts discovering that confusion is a state of dividedness and that the world only seems to be confused to the extent that one experiences it in that way. By investigating, one sees that one apprehends dualistically and thus experiences the world darkened by one’s own confusion. This means to say that due to clinging to duality, emotional patterns are born and increased in one’s mind and thus one creates more and more karma. The Buddha did not teach that an architect or creator made the world or that things arise haphazardly. For a Buddhist practitioner, believing in such ideas means seeking an easy way out. When one investigates well, one discovers that such statements fall short of reasoning. Buddhist practitioners strive to understand the world based upon awareness. What is awareness? It is awakening to one’s relationship to the world and to the way the world is. Awakening to the way the world is means awakening to emptiness; awakening to one’s relationship to the world means awakening to loving kindness and compassion.
Appearances in the world are created by one’s own karma. The truth of karma, ‘cause and result,’ is that one’s wholesome activities give rise to positive experiences and one’s unwholesome activities give rise to negative experiences. The result of karma need not be experienced immediately after or simultaneously with the cause nor need the result be an evident experience. One experiences the consequences of karma, one’s actions, when it ripens.
One fabricates one’s ideas about solidified existents outside oneself, believes they are real because one clings to a truly existing self, and acts accordingly. All experiences that develop from mind-made constructs become habits, which are stored as habitual patterns in one’s all-ground consciousness and arise again as karmic results. As long as one clings to duality, one’s ground consciousness will remain the storehouse of one’s karmic imprints that ripen as results. No matter how often one takes on a new birth, accumulated karma is never spent and cannot be washed away until it has ripened. Every individual creates his or her own karma, which can be experienced after many lifetimes due to the unerring force of karma. Nothing remains unaccounted for – the law of karma is infallible. Nobody can run away from karma nor deceive it. Karma is definite and can’t be eliminated through wishful thinking.
The Antidote to Confusion
As Buddhists, we have learned that it is possible to become free of habitual patterns by correctly purifying karmic imprints that are stored in one’s ground consciousness. The most important point to remember while engaging in the purification practices is to regret one’s past unwholesome negativities of body, speech, and mind. One can engage in wholesome activities, but the benefit of doing good depends upon feeling genuine regret for past bad deeds. The pure experience of regret is a deep experience that loosens one’s clinging to oneself. Heart-felt regret directly addresses ego-clinging and causes one not to want to repeat negative actions again. In fact, sincere regret is the primary means to correctly engage in purifying one’s habitual patterns.
One should not think that karma is something one borrowed and can simply return later. Such an illusion isn’t the correct approach. Karma is the active cause created from clinging to duality, habits being the result. One needs to apply an antidote in order to untie the knots of karma.
Lord Buddha’s teachings elucidate how one accumulates negative karma due to the three main mind poisons, which are ignorance, attachment, and aversion. These three mind poisons arise from clinging to duality. The method that discourages one from continuing to remain stuck in one’s mind poisons is genuine regret. It is the most workable antidote to purify one’s karma. One needs to be aware of the basic problem instead of entertaining concepts like guilt. Furthermore, working with karma does not mean one merely denies or covers it up. There is no cosmetic solution and thinking there is only intensifies its effects. For example, should a thief acknowledge and admit his misdeeds and have the sincere wish to give up that bad habit, he will readily accept a fair verdict. Genuine regret stops one from engaging in further negative deeds and from thus accumulating more negative karma. Without regretting past bad actions, one’s unwholesome activities will most likely increase.
Sincere, heart-felt regret can be approached from a theistic or from the non-theistic viewpoint in Buddhism. It is an experience that arises from deeply realizing one’s transgressions. Thinking a being outside oneself washes away all wrongs one has committed upon confession is not the Buddhist approach. Regret is a personal experience and doesn’t mean one needs confirmation from someone else. It is being honest with oneself and having the wish not to repeat misdeeds – it is an earnest resolution without any ifs or buts. One needs to know that karmic habits increase and bring interest by becoming stronger and stronger. This is why one needs to develop sincere regret. I want you to understand that genuine regret is an antidote for negative karma and that one’s unwholesome habits diminish if one sincerely gives rise to it.
Again, the cause for confusion is clinging to duality. Due to dualistic clinging, habitual patterns and karma are born in one’s mind. The world, i.e., all inner and outer phenomena, are created by karma. Where do the phenomenal world and one’s experiences come from? They come from karma. The Abhidharma instructions explain karma according to six causes, four conditions, and five results.
Summary: I have explained that the world is seen differently due to various religious beliefs. Some religions teach that the world and phenomena are real. Buddhism teaches that the main misconception one can have about the world and appearances is thinking that phenomena really exist and that believing this is an illusion. According to Buddhism, phenomena appear because of dualistic clinging – the twofold discursive fixations that a self and things other than the self truly exist and are separate. Based upon these erroneous concepts, emotional patterns evolve and give rise to karmic patterns. As a result, one experiences individual and collective karma. Lord Buddha showed that the world is only the appearance of collective and personal karma, that it is not a solid entity separate from the cognizing mind, and that it is not produced by anybody but oneself. Lacking awakened awareness of how things are and how they arise, one imagines that the relative world of appearances and experiences is solid and real. The Vajrayana teachings state that one fails to experience the world and oneself correctly as long as one has not ascertained the inseparability of lucidity and emptiness. The problem is that one hasn’t been able to see phenomena and experiences in the light of wisdom.
Karma according to the Abhidharma
The general definition of karma is ‘the truth of cause and effect.’ There are many coarse and subtle classifications of karma and it’s very hard to fathom it in its entirety. Only a fully awakened buddha is able to know the subtle workings of karma. The Abhidharma explains karma according to six causes, four conditions, and five results. I will explain the six causes now. His Eminence to the translator: How you are going to translate this is up to you. I wish you all the best.
The first cause of karma is byed-pa’i-rgyu in Tibetan, which means ‘the cause of creating or developing.’ For instance, there is the visual sensory organ and a visual consciousness. There is no direct connection between a visual consciousness and a perceived object. But due to the specific faculty of the visual sensory organ - said to resemble a fresh flower that has a form, which is the essence of sight – one perceives forms. One has five sensory faculties on the one hand and the objects that can be perceived with a respective sensory faculty on the other hand. When these three components come into contact – a sensory form faculty that is associated with a sensory organ and the respective object – then a sensory perception takes place. One sees a flower, for example, with one’s visual sensory faculty that is associated with that specific sensory organ. One’s sensory consciousness does not identify the flower, but the visual consciousness becomes involved with that specific perception and experiences the sensation of that sight. This is due to the law of cause and effect. Cause and effect do not coexist for an ordinary being, for whom perception and the associated apprehension of a form, for example, arise successively. They are co-emergent for a fully enlightened being, though. Back to the example: The eye faculty perceives a flower and the visual consciousness senses that it has apprehended an object that is other than the apprehending subject, which is the self. When an object, a sensory faculty, and the respective sense consciousness come together, cognition of a visual form, sound, smell, taste, or tactile object is established.
The first classification of the cause of karma is that a sensory faculty perceives an object that is fit to be perceived with that faculty and is sensed by the respective sensory consciousness; then the mind consciousness apperceives and becomes involved with that specific consciousness. By becoming involved, the mind consciousness gives rise to subtle mental activities, differentiating good, bad, or neutral sensations. These mental reactions are called sems-byung in Tibetan, ‘mental factors or events,’ or ‘thought patterns’ that are not the same as the object that was perceived.
The second classification of the cause of karma is based upon an object of engagement, which means that the mind and mental events are simultaneous. The third classification is that a similar mind and mental event arise after having perceived an object, i.e., they arise in the same stream of consciousness. The fourth classification is that mental activities correspond to the concept one has of a perceived object. The fifth classification is called “all-pervading cause,” because a cause can give rise to various results. For instance, there are the five mind poisons of ignorance, attachment, aggression, jealousy, and pride. In this case, attachment needn’t necessarily give rise to attachment, but can give rise to pride, jealousy, aggression, or any other mind poison. If this weren’t the case, it wouldn’t be all-pervading, rather an identical or similar cause and effect. Since the habitual patterns lead to effects, birth in any of the three lower realms of the desire, form, and formless realms takes place. Usually, desire and attachment only lead to birth in the desire realm, but the all-pervading cause leads to experience different realms. The sixth cause is rnam-smin-pa’i-rgyu and means ‘the fully ripened cause.’ It refers to all living beings who have a body and mind. Virtuous activities lead to birth in the three higher realms of conditioned existence and non-virtuous activities lead to birth in the three lower realms of conditioned existence.
Cyclic existence, samsara, continuously takes place. Why do beings experience samsara? Other than that one knows that it exists, one is lost for an answer. Yet one comes up with many assumptons why and how the world exists. One should know that the Buddhist texts cannot be understood that easily. The instructions I presented here are a brief outline of the paramount topic of Buddhism, which is the law of karma. Being aware of the fact that karma applies to one’s life in many ways is already very beneficial.
If you have any questions, please ask.
Questions & Answers
Student: “How do the sensory consciousnesses relate to the ground consciousness?”
Rinpoche: The sensory perception of sight, for example, is related to the visual consciousness, which makes it possible to perceive colors, forms, etc. The sixth discursive mind consciousness identifies a sensory perception. There are other aspects of the mind too. The sensory perception is not only held but is judged as good or bad by the mind. One has feelings about a perception and thus emotions develop concerning good/appealing or bad/repulsive perceptions. Phenomena are experienced through the senses. Other mental activities arise from the habit of adopting and rejecting appearances and thus one clings to one’s thoughts, which solidifies one’s idea of an object. These habits are stored in one’s ground consciousness.
Next question: “I didn’t understand the different views in Buddhism.”
Rinpoche: The Vaibhashika and Sautrantika of Hinayana argue that a fraction of an instant of consciousness as well as tiniest particles of matter truly exist and state that our senses cannot perceive them. They negate the existence of a whole and affirm the existence of smallest parts, calling them ultimate, true existents. They say that one perceives the relative world as a solid entity by solidifying perceived objects as a unique whole and state that this is the source of confusion. When solidifying a thought, a chain reaction of thoughts arises, just like there is a continuous chain-reaction taking place among particles. They teach that when a second moment in the relationship between particles and moments of consciousness occur, the first moment has ceased. One fails to realize this interaction and intellectually solidifies apperceived objects and one’s apprehending mind as solid and true existents.
Seen from impermanence, there is coarse and subtle impermanence. One understands coarse impermanence easily when one sees something fall apart and break. Subtle impermanence is the constant change taking place in objects that seemingly exist and function in time and space. The particles compounding an object are never the same due to time, environment, and space. One doesn’t perceive subtle impermanence that continuously takes place. Individuals who have developed higher insight cognize the constant subtle change taking place. Individuals who haven’t developed higher cognizance, don’t notice subtle changes and therefore think an object is always the same. Hinayana schools call this misperception “confusion” because the world doesn’t consist of many solid chunks with each chunk maintaining its own solidity or entity. They bring the example of the sensation of touch. Should one have a strand of hair in the palm of one’s hand, one would not feel it. Should one feel it, one would be uncomfortable. Highly realized beings experience the same strand of hair in the palm of their hand as if it were in their eyes, which is a very irritating feeling. This analogy points to the fact that a highly realized individual is aware of manifold interactions taking place. In the example, a strand of hair is a strand of hair, but the skin of hands is less sensitive than that of the eyes. The analogy: One is less sensitive about the subtle change and interplay of phenomena due to one’s thick layers of habitual patterns and thus discerns big blocks of matter, failing to cognize the fundamental truth of all appearances. The Hinayana schools teach that one solidifies one’s mind and objects by judging perceptions, for example, by concluding, “This is a vase and that is something else.” One relates to thoughts as a whole instead of realizing that many events make up a first thought. They teach that this is the source for confusion.
Next question: “What remembers? What remembers in future times a vow that one took?”
Rinpoche: The ground consciousness is one aspect of consciousness. It holds the habitual patterns. On the immediate level, one remembers because of the habit of memory. Karmic patterns are not remembered, but karmic accumulations are stirred up from the ground consciousness when causes and conditions come together. Habits of wholesome activities are stirred up when respective conditions prevail. Habits of unwholesome activities are activated when conditions prevail at another time. One doesn’t remember, but karma becomes activated due to causes and conditions.
Next question: “Is there a permanent self?”
Rinpoche: The discussion of a mind consciousness doesn’t imply that there is a permanent self. One’s mind stores one’s habits in one’s ground consciousness.
Same student: “What continues from one lifetime to the next?”
Rinpoche: One’s mind. The term “permanence” in the Buddhist context concerns what is beyond the ordinary notion of permanence and impermanence. The nature of one’s mind is beyond and therefore is called “ultimate permanence.” The discussion of the ground consciousness is based upon instructions from the Abhidharma. Some Buddhist schools accept the ground consciousness, others do not. According to Abhidharma, the ground consciousness stores wholesome and unwholesome habits and memories of one’s life to one’s next life; this is an attribute of the ground consciousness. The Mahamudra instructions speak about the ground consciousness in the context of all-knowing or knower of the three times, which isn’t memory but knowledge and insight.
Next question: “Does a buddha have karma? How does a buddha see the world of appearances?”
Rinpoche: Yes, Prince Siddhartha accumulated karma before he became the Awakened One. The term for ‘buddha’ is sangs-gyäs , sang meaning ‘completely purified’ and gyäs meaning ‘perfectly realized.’ As to the question of how a buddha experiences the world, Buddha Shakyamuni said that he had not taught anything, but that the Dharma pervades everything. He turned the Wheel of Dharma three times due to having realized that Dharma pervades all things and all beings. That is one way of saying how a buddha perceives the world. From the ultimate point of view, though, a buddha does not teach because he sees and abides beyond concepts, i.e., even though disciples receive his teachings, he does not teach. Buddhas see the world just like ordinary beings see it, but he sees that it lacks inherent existence and is emptiness. He sees that samsara and nirvana are one taste, i.e., luminosity and emptiness inseparable.
Same student: “Does a buddha perceive the world?”
Rinpoche: Yes, but without attachment and fixations. He sees appearances as luminosity and the essence of those appearances as emptiness.
Next question: “Why are appearances deluded?”
Rinpoche: There are appearances and they aren’t confused, rather our problem is that we cling to a self and therefore apprehend appearances as solid and real. This process causes one to accumulate karma. Appearances themselves aren’t the source of karma. Assuming that once you are enlightened then nothing appears to you anymore is the same as believing that being unconscious or paralyzed are the same as being enlightened. That is a mistaken idea about enlightenment.
When one has become awakened, one is free of karma. Those individuals who aren’t enlightened experience karma. In fact, the truth of karma is perfectly exemplified in the stories of Lord Buddha’s life. On one occasion, a thorn pricked his hand and it is recorded that this was due to karma. Karma ripens as long as all karmic traces are not purified and exhausted. The very fact that Lord Buddha passed into Parinirvana didn’t occur because he was subject to death as we know it, rather to demonstrate impermanence.
Next question: “What is the relationship between practice and karma?”
Rinpoche: That is a very good question because there is a connection. The teachings on karma are presented to encourage one to practice. Karma is the accumulation of habitual patterns. Samsara is related to an accumulation of negative karma which leads to negative experiences. Due to accumulating further karma, one’s dualistic fixations intensify. The practice of accumulating wholesome karma weakens and diminishes the accumulation of negative habits. One practices not to follow after unwholesome habits. Meditation practice works in that karmic habitual patterns stop increasing and it is an accumulation of positive karma. In this sense, practice is a subtle habit. Yet, one needs to become free of every habit, which is accomplished by first knowing what karma is and then engaging in practices to eventually eliminate karma altogether.
Same student: “Is Vajrayana practice more effective in eliminating karma?”
Rinpoche: The methods taught in Vajrayana must be practiced correctly. One’s practice can only be beneficial if one regrets one’s past negative actions and develops genuine love and compassion for all living beings. Simply completing 100,000 recitations of a specific liturgical text is not perfect practice. The sign that one perfected a practice is whether one has integrated the meaning of the practice in one’s life. If one engages in a practice correctly, then one’s karma from many aeons becomes purified in a short time. Then one’s karma may ripen as a headache or as an unpleasant experience. This does happen.
Next question: “What is ultimate truth in the middle?”
Rinpoche: From the Buddhist point of view, if there is a center then it is short of being an ultimate truth. Ultimate truth means being beyond any extremes and therefore is beyond any center. If you want to call that center, that’s fine. But it is free of all complexities – that’s how we speak of the ultimate truth.
Next question: “Where did consciousness come from in the first place?”
Rinpoche: Though we speak about beginningless time, a person’s first thought can only be known at enlightenment. This is within the scope of your knowledge when you have attained enlightenment; it is one of the qualities of all-knowing. Presently, one can understand the teachings on beginningless time by studying and contemplating the teachings on interdependent origination. Cause and result exist in dependence, so one cannot know whether a cause or a result came first. Thoughts arise out of emptiness. If you are aware that occurring thoughts arise out of emptiness and subside into emptiness again, then you have it – then it’s fine.
Next question: “How do the consciousnesses relate to one’s continuum?”
Rinpoche: I was referring to the entirety of a person – body and mind - when discussing the continuum. Different reactions arise out of this totality and may distort it. One develops an own personality as to who one thinks one really is due to ego-clinging and due to feeling good or bad. One’s different consciousnesses are doors through which one’s mind experiences the relative world in and around one. The Abhidharma instructions explain relative reality and one’s confusion about it. One’s mind can realize what is beyond existence and non-existence, which is the true nature of one’s mind. One clings to duality and solidifies one’s apprehensions. The notions of a self and others are the source of confusion. An apprehending subject and apprehended objects lack true existence. One has false assumptions about what one calls “I” and what one calls “other,” though, and this is the source of confusion. Relatively and ultimately, everything lacks inherent, true existence.
Thank you very much.
Through this goodness may omniscience be attained
And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara
That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha and then
Lead every being without exception to that very state!
May precious and supreme bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so,
And may precious bodhicitta that has already been never decline, but continuously increase!
Long-life Prayer for His Eminence the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,
Lodrö Chökyi Nyima
May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.
May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in its extent.
Having accumulated merit and purified negativities,
May I and all living beings without exception swiftly establish the levels and grounds of buddhahood.
The instructions were translated from Tibetan into English by Ngodrub Burkhar, transcribed in 1988 & edited again in 2009 by Gaby Hollmann from Munich for the website of Karma Lekshey Ling Institute in Kathmandu. Gratitude to Jan Puckett from San Antonio for having made the recording available. Photo of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche courtesy of Lee from Puli-Nantou. Lotus graciously offered by Yeunten, Nguyenthi Mydung from Paris. This article is copyright of the Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang at the Great Pullahari Monastery in Nepal, 2009.