How dakinis transform experience

Full transcript

Now let’s talk a little bit about dakinis. Dakinis, the origin of dakinis, these were the aspects of experience ascribed to supernatural entities, that were called dakinis.

Mingyur Dorje, one of the karmapas, wrote a very nice composition about dakinis, in which he describes the origins of a group of four dakinis, which corresponded to the first four of the elements; earth, water, fire, and air. The water element, for instance, corresponds to the dakini whose name is Changeling. And Changeling was this spirit or demon that would appear to you in different forms and seduce you into doing things that were really bad for you.

And another one was called the Murderess. These were regarded as female entities. There were in Indian lore also male entities. They were called dakas, and dakini was the female form. And they were originally supernatural spirits. What happens in Vajrayana is that these elements of folklore—the way that experience is interpreted—then became symbols for the way mind works. Does anyone here have a copy of my book, who can loan it to me? Thanks very much. Oh actually, it’s in here.

And I included this song by Khyungpo Naljor, who’s probably known here as Tsultrim. He describes what the crucial element is. The ordinary dakini represents these unruly aspects of our mind, the wild, untamed, reactive mind which just take over. So he says:
When wanting and grasping hold sway, the dakini has you in her power. Wanting nothing from outside, taking things as they come. Know the dakini to be your own mind
What’s being expressed here is, whatever arises in experience, when we regard it as something other, then attraction, aversion, all of the reactive emotions operate. And we are in the thrall of dualistic fixation and dualistic interpretation. And alienated from our own nature, our own knowing. And just react to things. That’s what it means when he says that the dakini has us in her power.
Then he says:
Wanting nothing from outside, taking things as they come.
Those meditation instructions—wanting nothing from outside—now how much of our lives do we go around trying to get something from the world to make us feel better? Relationships, money, possessions. You know, the list just goes on and on. Trying to get these things from outside to make us feel good in some way. It doesn’t work. Well, no it doesn’t work. It never works. It’s temporary at best. Does that stop us from doing it? No, you keep doing it.
Taking things as they come.
This again is a meditation instruction. All too often, most of the time, we don’t take things as they come. Something arises and we want it to be a little bit different. [Chuckles] It’s not quite right. Many years ago I had a girlfriend who was just exactly right. I was never quite right. [Laughter] Never quite fit. Life was tortuous. It was very difficult.
Know the dakini to be your own mind.
That is, know that what arises in experience is not something other. Now, when we know that, and this is not an intellectual knowing, this is an experiential knowing, then everything changes. The way that we experience the world changes. And so rather than being fixed in this dualistic I/other framework; when we know what arises in experience to be your own mind. You know there is no difference—there is just experience. And you’re awake in that experience. So he goes on to say:
Know that the crystal is the non-thought of mind itself.
Crystal dakini guards against interruptions.
This is a very deep instruction. The crystal—this is the water dakini.
Crystal is the non-thought of mind itself.
So when you have a level of attention in which you can rest. And there is no conceptual process taking place in the mind. There’s no thought. Then things can arise. And it doesn’t matter what arises. It doesn’t disturb. You follow? And thus nothing can interrupt the quality of your attention and the quality of your presence.
Know that the source of wealth is contentment and the jewel dakini fills all wants and needs.
There’s a story from the life of Buddha in which a poor person, a very poor person comes across this wish-fulfilling jewel and he recognizes what he’s found. And he says, “Wow, this is so important and valuable. I don’t know what to do with this. The Buddha will know what to do with it.” So he went to Buddha and said, “I found this wish-fulfilling jewel. I don’t know what to do with it but you’ll know the person who needs this the most so I’m going to give it to you. The Buddha said, ”Thank you.“

Later that day there was a big festival and sponsored by the local ruler, the king. And in middle of this festival, Buddha called the king and said, ”Here’s this wish-fulfilling jewel. I was told to give it to the person who needs it most and I’m giving it to you.“ The king said, ”Why?“ ”Because you have more want than anybody else in this community.“ [Chuckles]

So, no contentment. When there’s no contentment it does not matter how wealthy we are—and we can think of wealth in terms of financial wealth or possessions. But it doesn’t really matter. It applies to other kinds of wealth, some people are greedy for knowledge, some people are greedy for connections, some people are greedy for power. It doesn’t make any difference.

When there’s no contentment, then the jewel dakini has us in her power. When we know contentment, then we are the richest person in the world. Because we don’t need anything. So, this is how the dakinis transform experience. 

Guided meditations on the five dakinis
Dakini song
Spanish translation of the dakini song


Reactions have three components

From: Five Elements Five Dakinis 3
Full transcript

All reactions have three components. 
How they manifest physically in the body, which typically there’s a kind of tensing or contraction. There can be actual physical sensations in different parts of the body. Your stomach feels churned, or like it does butterflies. There can be a constriction in the throat. I mean there all kinds of possibilities— your heart can beat faster. There are always some—and sometimes some quite strong—physical components to the reaction. And most of the time we aren’t aware of them, which means we aren’t really aware of the reactive process taking place.

So in this set of practices that we’re doing, stay very much connected with your body—what is actually happening in my body. Again you don’t have to analyze it or explain it, but be aware of it and actually experience it.
The same is true at the emotional level. Maybe looking into someone’s eyes triggers fear, maybe it makes you anxious. Maybe you feel squirmy. The sense that someone is seeing you without any judgment may make you acutely aware of your own judgment. I think one of the things came up earlier is a feeling of being special. 
And I have one student in LA who’s working with that particular issue at this point. She’s very chagrined about it. Because she sees how much of the way that she relates to the world is coming from holding a feeling that she is in some way special. So it allows her to negotiate a lot of situations very easily. But at the same time there’s a certain pride and feeling of superiority. So that’s something you may watch for. Maybe a feeling of being naked, revealed, exposed. And there could be a whole other set of reactions connected with that.
And there are the stories that come up, which is the third component of reaction. This is the component of reaction that we most often notice and believe immediately. We don’t question it at all. And again someone looking at us, really seeing us and seeing us without judgment, we may say to ourselves, “Look what do they know?” Or, “What does she want?” These are what I mean by stories and they again those thoughts come up, I mean we don’t even question them—we just take them as fact.
But if we’re in touch with the physical and the emotional we may appreciate the fact that these are simply thoughts and ideas and may not have that much grounding in reality. And so now we can experience things very, very differently and experience all of that as, “Oh, this is how I’m reacting to this possibility.” You know all the discomfort, all the stuff is in me, even those intended see the projected out there.


The earth reaction

From: Five Elements Five Dakinis 2
Full transcript

For instance can you recall something over the past week where you were rigid? Can any of you think of anything like that? Okay, check.
Okay. Just go back to that feeling of being rigid. And let your attention go beneath the rigidity. What do you find there?
Most of the time, and actually I’d probably say all of the time, you find that that rigidity is a kind of hardness which is covering a sense of hollowness or uncertainty. And that’s why you’re rigid because inside there’s this uncertainty. If you’re really confident about something you’d never get rigid. You always stay very relaxed. But it is that little lack of confidence which causes you to clamp down. “I’m not sure it should be this way,” so you clamp down. You become rigid.
Now if you go a little bit further than that, you get in touch with an internal feeling that things are actually pretty unsteady inside. The ground is shaking and this is the earthquake and you’re not sure if you’re going to keep your footing, or you’re going to keep your balance. And there’s a very definite fear here.
Now in the ordinary course of our lives this stuff usually goes by so quickly we don’t even notice it. And what we’re doing in this practice is actually slowing the whole process down so we actually feel each component of this.
And I think if you review situations in which you react rigidly—you just dug your heels in and became very stubborn and stiff. You’ll see that there’s an underlying fear of losing your position or losing your balance. And that’s what’s provoking you actually.
So here I’ve described the movement from form which is this rigidity and stiffness. To emptiness, which is this open space when it feels like the ground is shaking, in which there’s a fear. A fear of losing balance.
Now when we hit that fear, it’s very predictable. What happens?
You know if you stand somebody on a table or something like that and then you start shaking the table that’s like the ground is shaking. What’s the first thing that a person does? They grab something, just like that. That’s what we do. That’s the reflex reaction. And so we grab anything in order to keep our balance
Now, once we grab that thing and because we think I need this to hold onto my balance, now we hold on to it. And then something very interesting happens. We’re holding onto this so tightly, like this. We can’t move. We’re stuck. We’re in imprisoned. And you see this in people all the time. That they are so, holding so tightly to certain principles or certain ideals or certain aspects of their life that there’s no flexibility there and they themselves are imprisoned by their perspective. So that describes the movement from emptiness to form.
And the reaction chain is, it just cycles around and around and around. We become rigid as a reaction to fear. We grab something. It imprisons us. And because it imprisons us we become very, very inflexible. And any kind of movement puts us in touch with the underlying shakiness again, and so it just keeps cycling around becomes more and more intense.


Manifesting Things

From:  Warrior's Solution 8
There are several steps here. I don't have them nicely formulated, so we'll just go through them.

The first step is to be clear about what you want.

Many years ago, I was staying with a couple of friends, husband and wife, who'd been practitioners for some time. And the wife wanted to ask me about how to work at ngondro. She'd tried the practices and just hadn't been able to complete them. And so I asked, "Why are you doing ngondro?" (Ngondro is a set of practices in the Tibetan tradition, for those of you who are not familiar with it.) And she answered and we had this discussion. And what it came down to was that she was trying to do ngondro out of a sense of obligation to a certain teacher. So I started to question her about her sense of obligation. And what it boiled down to was that she wanted to feel a closer connection with this teacher. So she didn't really want to do ngondro at all. She just wanted a closer connection with this teacher. And that kind of thing is very, very common.

We aren't in touch with what we really want. We want this because somewhere else in us we think it will bring about this. And that's what we really want. And you can't possibly manifest something that's out here if this is what you really want. Because your effort will be striving to manifest this, but it won't be based in what is actually the case in you. So it won't go anywhere.

So the first step is to be clear about what you really want.

Now, one tool is a technique called the five whys.

"Why do I want this? Because I want..." And you're going to go down to the next level. You do this five times, you'll probably get down to the core. This is not an easy exercise. And it's going to bring you, usually, into some fairly uncomfortable feelings. But you will become clear about what you want.

Second, is to check whether this want generates balance or imbalance. And part of this is, "Is this realistic from where things are now?"

I want a million dollars tomorrow. Quite unbalanced, quite unrealistic. Okay, I want a million dollars. Well, there are ways to do that. Not all of them are legal. But when I start considering that, a sense of balance or imbalance, that's important.

The next is making use of a magical technique, not for the purpose of magic, but it's a technique that's often used in magic. And that is: get a symbol of what you want. Something relatively small and durable that you can carry around with you, in your pocket or your clothes or what have you. And every time you touch it or look at it, you move into your intention. So, it's basically a way of reminding and strengthening your intention.

In my executive coaching work, most the people I work with are quite resistant to a meditation practice, but I try to give them enough information about the possibility of presence that they get some idea of how helpful it is. And then I ask them to get an object which reminds them of their intention to be present. Usually, I suggest a pen, a very brightly colored pen. So whenever they see it, it goes, boom! It works remarkably well! There they are in a meeting, somebody says something, they pick up their pen, and they remember. That's the way the object works.

Then explore possibilities. How does what you want actually come about? You are going to have to learn something here about how the world works or about how that particular world works. If you are going to buy a house, you have to understand how the real estate market works, and it works differently in different locations. If you want a particular kind of job, you've got to learn what kind of industries, what kind of companies, have that kind of job available. Or need that kind of work. What kind of people? So you explore the possibilities. This can be quite interesting, quite fun. And you end up with a list of possible ways that this could come about. You have the opportunity to be quite creative. One person wanted a particular kind of job, so he talked with some senior executives in General Motors, they said, "We don't have anything like that." But he kept talking to them. And he persuaded them that they actually needed someone to do exactly this job in their company. So they hired him. So he created his own job. That's a possible way. So you explore and develop possibilities. Get a good list. Six or seven is not too many. Some of them will be a bit far-fetched, some of them will be adventurous, some of them will be very traditional or conventional. Then look over the list. And pick three or four that interest you. More than that is often too much. It divides your energy. Pick three or four. More than that, you can’t keep track. You can’t really put your energy into them.

Watch the signs; that’s the next step. And the principle sign here is balance versus imbalance. Sign is balance versus imbalance. You remember when I talked about balance originally, the sign of balance is that doors open. The sign of imbalance is that things become progressively more difficult. So as you pursue possibility, you see what happens.

In 1970, I was journeying overland to India with Ingrid, my wife at that time. And we had no clear direction. We arrived in Tehran, I came down with hepatitis, we got stuck there for a long time waiting for the insurance money to come, and we asked ourselves, “What the hell are we doing?” And then we decided -- we’ll go to India and learn how to meditate. We were staying at a campsite outside of Tehran, and all kinds of people came through that. Some going east and some going west. This was before the Shah fell, so the overland route was quite well-traveled. And so we started talking to people. And from one of these we learned about some kind of mission outside of Delhi which was a good place to stay. So when I was healed and we set off, and we got to Delhi, got to this mission, it turned out to be a Buddhist mission. We weren’t even aware about that when we left. It was very cheap. It was safe. It was fine. And there, there were a lot of people, westerners, interested in Buddhism, coming and going. We’d started to read a little about Buddhism, picked up some books in Tehran. And there was a monk there, and we asked him if he would give us instruction, and he said, “No, I’ve got to do traveling, and it’s important to keep progress steady, and I’m not going to be around consistently enough, so no, I’m not going to take you on as students.” Then we met another person, who was a Dutch woman who was a nun with Kongtrul Rinpoche, and we said, “Where do we go?” And she said, “Oh, why don’t you go and see Kalu Rinpoche. Well, you go to Darjeeling, but you’ll need a permit in Darjeeling, you are Canadians, right? You can get the six month permit. You go here in Calcutta.” So we went. Got the permit. Got to Darjeeling. Doors just kept opening all of the way.

Now there are other areas of my life where I tried to move something, and it’s just been block, block, block, block. So you pay attention to the signs. Yes? 
You move into things, but the key is, do you get moved out of balance? And if all of your reactivity gets stirred up so that when you get moved out of balance, then everything else is going to move further out of balance. But if your intention is clear, then even though you encounter difficulties. What I left out of this is that in Herat, Ingrid contracted appendicitis. And she had to have her appendix out in Herat. Have any of you been to Herat? It is not the place you really want to have your appendix out. But she healed fine. And all of the difficulties, you stay in balance, so you make a balanced effort. That is most likely to lead to the dissolution of them.

Obstacles arise, but the essential point is balance. Can you maintain a balanced effort? Because it is only through being in balance that balanced results can come about.

Student: What does that effort consist of?
Ken: What does that effort consist of? Exactly. Not trying to avoid it, not actually trying to get through it. Just experience it. Because trying to get through it sets up an imbalance.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Well, it doesn’t necessarily shift right away. The big thing is can you stay in balance. If you are being pushed more and more out of balance in the effort to get what you want, or to make what you want happen, that’s the problematic sign. Some people work for years to bring something about. But they are never moved out of balance.

There was an article--I think it was in the New Yorker--about this guy who worked on the LA river. Did anybody read that? Yeah. I mean, this is nobody. He’s just this guy who wanted to, who had this idea about the LA river. And he just worked at it for the last twenty or thirty years, and it’s now becoming a political issue in LA, that they are going to possibly dismantle all of the concrete which encloses the river. All kinds of--

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Intention more than temperament. Okay? Now,I need to read my notes here. Yes, the signs of imbalance. What are you ignoring, what do you avoid feeling, seeing, or knowing? Now, key to this is that manifestation is a process. You may discover as you work to make one thing manifest that it is not what you actually wanted at all. And now you start moving in a different direction. So it is not like simple cause and effect, "I do this; this comes about." You start moving in a certain direction, and something will come out of that. But it may not be exactly correspond to where you initially started. But if you make this movement in awareness, in attention, it usually moves things in a good direction.

I had the same thing after I came to LA at Rinpoche’s behest. Well, I meant to start a center or revive the center ,which was pretty well in ashes. And I did that for a couple of years, and really didn’t enjoy it. And then Rinpoche asked a number of senior students to come over to initiate a major translation project. So I left LA for three months and naturally closed down the center because there wasn’t going to be any income at that point. No point in paying rent, etc. And while I was over there, in India, I spent a long time doing just this, "What do I want?" Clarifying it, going through it again and again. We were in Bodhgaya, so I could spend time going around the Mahabodhi Temple there, where Buddha achieved enlightenment walking through the fields, and so forth. It was very nice. I spent a great deal of time reflecting, What do I want to do when I get back to LA? And little by little it became clear. I want to work with students in a way in which I'm getting regular feedback from them about their practice so that I can guide them, so they don’t get stuck in particular points. That was the main thing I was aiming it. So I thought, "Okay, what does this look like? Okay, I need to meet with them on a regular basis. And what models do we have for this? We already have the consultant model; we have the therapy model,"  and so forth. And that’s what gave rise to working with people individually. And once I made that decision, it was amazing what happened. I came back to LA met with the old group of students, told them what I was doing, they all disappeared, they just left. That was that. What they wanted was something else. And then people just started calling. I don’t know how they knew about me or anything like that. But Unfettered Mind is the result of that.

So you become very, very clear about what you want. And if you bring your attention to it in a balanced way, and you stay in balance in the process...I mean, this business about setting intention, when you really set intention--and this is the point of the symbol--it changes how you see things. So when I say here “doors open,” it’s a little bit more than that actually. Because of your intention, you see things a little differently. And whether it is on a conscious level or on an intuitive level, you sense possibilities and you start pursuing them. Naturally. And they start opening up. But it all comes from being clearly grounded in your attention and staying, as much as you are able to, in awareness in the process. Tenacity helps. Okay.

Note: See related material in Making Things Happen


Order and chaos

From:  Death: Friend or Foe 3
Full transcript
We know we’re going to die. But we don’t know when. So, in one sense, there’s a kind of order to the world. In another sense, there’s this chaotic or unordered aspect. Now if you notice anything about people, you will see that they basically fall into two categories: those who like order, and those who don’t. Those who like order we call accountants, those who don’t we call artists. Very broadly.
But you see, we want things one way or the other, but that’s not how life is. And this is why I’m putting these two together. Because by putting these two together, we enter into what some writers and teachers call the core dilemma of human experience. We can’t approach our lives as if everything was chaotic, because we could live for a very long time. And if we didn’t actually plan for that, we could be in trouble. On the other hand, if we live our lives, things totally ordered, as if everything is totally ordered, then we’re unable to respond or take in, or deal with the unexpected.
This is wonderfully brought up by two relatives of mine who are very good friends in a small town in southern England. One was a doctor; one was a retired nurse. And they were very, very good friends. So they decided to go on a trip together. Well, the doctor had a very ordered life. She was the kind of person who, when she fell down in her backyard and sprained her back, said to my younger brother, “If you go into my den, on the set of shelves on the west wall, on the third shelf, second one over, in the middle shelf you’ll find five rows of bottles. In the third bottle three over from the right, you’ll find--.” That was her life.
The retired nurse on the other hand just liked to do things that felt good. So, first day of the trip, “We’ll spend half an hour here, an hour here, fifteen minutes there, have lunch, etc.” And the retired nurse would go, “Oh, this is interesting, why don’t we stay a little longer? I’m just…Oh, and why don’t…, we didn’t consider that. Let’s go and look at that.” After ten days of this, no mention was ever made of the trip to anybody, ever. They returned to being friends but they never traveled again. So, order, chaos.


Detecting imbalance

Full transcript

Now as I said a few moments ago one is never actually in balance. Instead what happens is you become more and more adept at detecting imbalances, and are able to address them earlier and earlier. So there’s more continuity and less huge fluctuation. And it feels like you’re doing very little, but a great deal is being accomplished. 
So we rely on awareness for the detection of imbalance. In particular, meditation, we have two components of attention. The first, and here I’m using the Mahayana definitions which are different from the Theravadan definitions. Two components of attention are: mindfulness and awareness. Not the big awareness, the direct awareness, just awareness. 
Mindfulness here is defined as being present with the object of attention. So if that’s your breath you’re present with your breath. If it’s a book your attention is resting on the book. If it’s nature of mind you’re experiencing nature of mind. 
Mindfulness is the quality that you always start with. And basically you establish a connection with mindfulness when you are able to rest on the breath for three or more breaths in a row. You have then experienced mindfulness. So it’s not some mystical magical quality. Very ordinary quality just a certain steadiness in attention.
The second quality, awareness, is defined as knowing what’s going on. And all of you have experienced this in your meditation. Attention becomes steady and there you are resting say with the breath. At the same time you are aware of all that other stuff which is very useful, because it is in that broader awareness that you’re able to detect whether things are in balance or not. “Am I going to sleep. Am I thinking?” etc.
In our practice we get more and more adept at detecting when we’re moving away from clear stable attention. We can move away in one direction, lapsing into dullness; in the other directions lapsing into busyness.
The five elements allow us to bring a higher level of attention to the whole matter of balance. So here the steadiness of attention would be like the earth element. Clarity is the water element. Knowing is the fire element. The dynamic quality is the air element. And the indefinable open quality is the void element.
Now it’s not particularly helpful to sit while you meditate analyzing the quality of your attention like crazy. It takes you out of the practice basically. A lot of us have this problem. We sit there and we have this running commentary on how we’re doing. Anybody else know that one? “You’re doing fine now, just keep going, yep, good [laughter]. Not! You’re getting a little dull, yep. No, don’t follow that thought. That’s it! Good!” [Laughter]. It’s just thought.
We can do the same thing in all areas of our lives. In our relationships the support of nurturing quality is earth. The flow of emotional energy back and forth: water. The passion interest, etc: fire. The ideals that you aspire to: air. And the space in which all this takes place: void.


The mind of all buddhas

From: Chö 7
Full transcript
Let your breath settle. Let go of any thoughts about the past. Don’t anticipate the future. Don’t think about the present. And the knowing that arises, right there. Look and rest. That clear emptiness which is no thing, free from any kind of thinking, as empty and dimensionless as the sky. But not simply empty space because this clear knowing quality is there as well. It’s not different from the emptiness. That is the mind of all buddhas and the meaning of the perfection of wisdom. There is no other buddha than that. We don’t need to look anywhere else. It doesn’t come from anywhere. It doesn’t go anywhere. There’s nothing you can point to and say, “It is that.” Yet it is present all the time. It is no thing in itself. Yet it is the basis of all experience. Even in the most crazed confusion it is present, just as it is present in the quietest, stillest mind. 


Why study Buddhism?

From:  Learning from the lives of the lineage holders: Khyungpo Naljor
Full transcript
I was with Rinpoche in Hawaii, and this is our first trip. And we’re on O’ahu, and we were staying with a couple who retired in Hawaii and she was a kind of strange woman—extraordinary palm reader. I mean just totally extraordinary—very sweet person. And her husband was such a grouchy, old, retired, aeronautics engineer, who had no time for things mystical. So dinner was a debate between him and Rinpoche. I mean he was just picking holes, and Rinpoche would be answering—I was doing all the translating. Great fun. 
And that evening Rinpoche started off his talk—about four hundred people there—in a way that I’ve never heard him open up a talk before. He said, 
“Some of you may be wondering why it’s important to study the dharma, study Buddhism. Well, I want to be very clear about this. It’s not important for everybody. There are three kinds of people who don’t need to be here tonight. First, if there are any of you who know that you aren’t going to die—you’re never going to die—there’s no reason for you to be here, so you might as well leave right now.” 
Nobody left. 
"Second is, Those who know when they die nothing happens: it’s over, it’s done, nothing. If you know that, there’s no reason for you to be here, so you can leave too. Third, those people who know that when they die they’re gonna be born into circumstances that are definitely better than the ones that they have here. If you know that for certain, there’s no reason for you to be here tonight. It’d be just a waste of your time. But if you don’t know one of those three things then maybe you should stick around."
I’m sure he was talking to the grouchy old engineer. But the point here is, it’s not enough to hear it from somebody else. You can take in those teachings but you’ve got to think about them, and think about them, and think about them until, you know, “Right! I, I am going to die. And if I die like I am now I’m not gonna feel very good about it. I feel I won’t really have done anything meaningful in my life. And I’ll have these questions that I haven’t answered, and I will die with regret.” 
And that has to become very, very strong. And that’s it. The shade and flavor of it is actually a little different for everybody. It can be expressed in general terms but it really has to become one’s own experience and motivation. You cannot adopt that as a motivation without having gone through the process of making it your motivation. When you make it your motivation by really thinking about what is important, deeply, deeply important to you in your life. You follow? And it is absolutely essential.


Why people practice

From: Sutra Session 27
Full transcript (not available)
Well, the key question possibly, is what do you want from your practice. Now, there are various possibilities.

Some people, what they want from their practice, is a way to dissipate the tension in their lives, dissipate stress Okay? If that's what a person wants from their practice, twenty minutes a day is usually enough. Once a day, maybe twice a day. But that's usually enough. And it's very very effective that way.

Other people, they want to heal old wounds with their practice. That's what they want from their practice --healing old wounds. They're probably going to need more than twenty minutes a day. But they're also probably going to need someone to talk with as well. And they are maybe able to do it just through their practice, but they're probably gonna have to learn through interaction with someone actually how to do that.

Some people what they want from their practice is to be able to function better in their lives. They want to be less distracted, more focussed, more able to face the challenges of life. For that, the benefit of practice comes because through practice you build a capacity in attention. And if that's what one wants from practice, what I found for that is you have to meditate a minimum of half an hour a day.  Twenty minutes is not enough. You don't build a capacity in attention, but with half an hour you start to.

Other people, what they want from practice is to engage some of the deep questions. Like, who am I, why are we here? Now, these kinds of things. They probably have to put more time in.

Other people, what they want from their practice is they want to change how they experience life completely. They gonna have to put quite a bit of time into that, because that's a non-trivial exercise.

So, that's the first place is what do you actually want from your practice.

Now, if you decide, let's say, you want to change fundamentally how you experience life, and this is what deep spiritual practice is about whether it's in Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism, then you're gonna put in a lot of time. For instance in both Christianity and in Buddhism there is the technique of recitation. In the Christianity you use the centering prayer, in Tibetan Buddhism you use a mantra, and it doesn't matter what mantra, it can be om mani padme hum or what have you. But you recite a mantra. Well, the way the mantra works or the centering prayer works, you recite it so much, you recite it all the time. You recite it while you're working, you recite it while you are having a shower, you recite it while you have conversations. You're not reciting it out loud while you having conversations, but you have it going inside. You recite it so much that it replaces all of that undercurrent of thoughts that's always going through. Okay? And what you end up with is a silent mind because it is being replaced by the prayer or by the mantra. But that only comes about by putting serious time into it.

And one of my teachers, Dezhung Rinpoche, he set as his goal to say a hundred million mantras, om mani padme hum. So, whenever we were talking with him, he would be sitting there saying "om mani," he'd be listening to us, "om mani," then when we finished our question he'd talk with us, and as soon as he finished "om mani." And that's what he is working on, getting rid of that subconscious gossip.

So, that's just one example of the kind of effort that one has to be prepared for.


After retreat

From: Death: Friend or Foe 7
Full transcript
Ken: Now, as I said the tendency is to try and take the peace and clarity into your regular life. Well, there are many problems with this, we'll just start with the first one, we don't need to go any further. To do that, it means you have to be holding onto the peace and clarity. Peace and clarity can be a little bit like a cat. How many of you have tried to hold onto a cat? What happens?

Student: Their claws, right?

Ken: Soon as the cat doesn't want to be there, it's either out of your arms, or things get extremely unpleasant. Very quickly. So, you can't hold onto this.

Now, where does the peace and clarity go? Let me ask this a different way. It's quite quiet in here. Sometimes in the early morning in the zendo before the cars start running up the hill, the highway, it's completely quiet. A noise arises. Maybe it's the sound of the birds. Maybe it's the wind. Maybe it's a motorcycle. Maybe it's a bomb. Maybe it's a boombox. Where does the silence go? What happens to it?

Student: It's still there.

Ken: Yes, what happens to it is we stop listening to it. The silence is present in all sound. Peace and clarity are present in every experience. Now, I've had some experiences which is pretty damn difficult to find that peace and clarity. And maybe some of you had some of those too. And that's the purpose of practice. It isn't to hold onto the peace and clarity and try to take it everywhere with us. It's to develop the ability to experience the peace and clarity in every situation. It's a very different kettle of fish, and it involves a qualitatively different kind of effort.

Now we've already touched on this, particularly this afternoon in the fire circle. A couple of the coaching points that I did going around were, "Just be with what you're experiencing, or open to what you're experiencing, and something shifts." And there it is. Sometimes in a way that the various parts of us never considered possible.
It's not unreasonable to define awakening as being able to experience what arises, whatever arises, as an expression of peace and clarity. If you look at the moment of Buddha Shakyamuni's awakening, there's a wonderful genre of thangkas in the Tibetan tradition which show Buddha at the moment of his awakening, and there he is sitting like this. And around him is Mara's army, these hordes of demons brandishing and hurling all kinds of weapons, whole universes, cogs, bows, arrows. If someone were to draw this, paint this today, it would be AK-47s, and nuclear bombs, and missiles and tanks, you know. Buddha's sitting there like this, but as these weapons rain down on him they're transformed into a rain of flowers. That's what it says in the text, he transformed the attacks of Mara into a rain of flowers.

Now, in keeping with what I was suggesting yesterday, what experience is this depicting? Well, many of you, if not all of you know exactly what experience this is depicting. You sit in these turgid, visceral, horrific, overwhelming, painful experiences and you open to them and you find you can just be there. And all you're experiencing is the extraordinary dynamism and energy of experience, of mind. And that's what it means to find peace and clarity in experience. And the only way is to open to the experience, not to try to bring something to it, because as soon as you do that, you're engaged in a war. And it's a war between the forces of peace and clarity and confusion and turmoil on the other hand. Well, we all know who wins that war. You find peace and clarity in experience.

So what you take from this retreat is your experience of that possibility and the experience of having done it a few times. Now life being what it is, how you did it here may not work there. That's just how it is. But you know the principle. Now in daily life, it can be very difficult to do this.