Liberation through Interdependence: Teachings from the Secret Empowerment

These teachings were given as a prelude to the secret Empowerment Khandro Rinpoche was bestowing in Madrid, Spain, on 21st April 2024.

Transcript of the teaching video:

At the outset of the empowerment, according to the tradition, an offering will be made to those who may cause obstacles to the giving and receiving of the empowerment.

When we talk about those who may cause obstacles to the giving and receiving of this empowerment, it's imperative to reflect that obstacles are not really outside of ourselves; rather, they are within ourselves. Accordingly, we reflect that at this present moment, we have a precious human experience, a precious human birth, and thereupon, we have met lamas who are none other than the Buddha in person, the Victorious Vajra Holder in human flesh. We've received their instructions on the greater vehicle, the Adamantine or Vajra vehicle. And when we reflect, in light of sentient beings in general, our predicament is one of extreme fortune. Accordingly, when we reflect upon the present moment, we are going to receive an empowerment, which is the entrance-way into the Vajrayana practice, and having received that, the empowerment, we will be able to actualize the state of union or Buddhahood very swiftly. So with such profound Dharma, there is every danger that there can be what we might call outer and inner obstacles, but these outer and inner obstacles are none other than the disturbing emotions that are  desirous attachment or aversion and hatred that arise through this fundamental distortion of reality - confusion. Accordingly, when this torma is offered, the reason is to pacify these disturbing emotions such that they go away. Go away in the sense that we banish them from this place of empowerment, from the moment, such that we are able to receive the full effect of the ripening empowerment itself.

I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to come here. Today you've requested me to bestow Vajrayana empowerment, and I'm going to do that, and you're going to receive it. So when we talk of empowerment or abhisheka, we should understand the meaning of that, its benefits, etc. What we're actually doing.

When we reflect on the teaching of Buddha, our teacher, the source of the practices that we do. He appeared in the world more than 2,500 years ago and at that time gave many vast and also many profound instructions. And these were not given randomly but rather in accordance with the dispositions, fortunes, and inclinations of sentient beings. And based thereupon, we can talk of receiving the transmissional teaching in and of itself and also through practice, the realization thereof. Accordingly then the teachings of Buddha can be divided into that of transmission and realisation, something most precious.

When we think of spiritual teachers that have come into our world system and the teachings they've given, what makes our teacher, Buddha, special is that principally, he taught interdependence, or rather, he observed interdependence and then revealed that which he perceived in such a way that he taught us how to become our own refuge, how to protect ourselves from the experiences of dissatisfaction that we all have. So it's imperative to reflect upon the teacher through his teaching and thereby generate a sense of faith or devotion or trust or openness to his instruction. Accordingly we would say that trust and openness to the teaching of the Buddha comes through then initially looking at the teaching in and of itself and then analyzing it and realizing the truth of it for oneself.

When we think of ourselves and indeed when we look around us, at others, we have something in common, and this is a  feeling of dissatisfaction. There's something that's not quite right. Accordingly, Buddha introduced this as simply the way of things, what is often translated as suffering but let us use the Pali expression term or the Buddhist hybrid term, dukkha. Dukkha means a lack of enduring satisfaction, and it is that that is the flavor of our predicament, what we may call samsaric existence. And it is this that the Buddha introduced to us. He revealed why we are feeling discomforted. Where this feeling of discomfort comes from, was introduced as the origin of dukkha itself. Action! Action that is formed through an engaging of disturbing emotion with its origin and this fundamental distortion of reality. Thereupon, the nature of that reality was revealed as not something that truly or inherently exists, but rather as something which is mutually dependent. As it is mutually dependent or interdependent, it lacks independence or existence from its own side.

So if we are familiar with this, we can bring about the cessation of the origin of dukkha, the experience of dukkha, and thereby, we can actualize what is known as the cessation or the stopping of that dukkha experience. Now, when we think of the cessation or stopping of dukkha, there is that which experiences the stopping, and this is the nature of awareness or the nature of mind itself - the nature of mind in the aspect of the ultimate cessation, the stopping of this experience of dukkha, which is often understood to be the final experience of what we may call luminosity in the aspect of great bliss. So in order to get to this point, one needs to engage mutual dependence or interdependence, and in order to do that, the Buddha taught many methods, many means, many instructions. These can be put together as what is generally surmised as the path, the instructions leading to the cessation. Accordingly, we can reflect upon cause and effect, the origin of dukkha leading then to the path, leading then to the experience of cessation of dukkha and accordingly, we can reflect upon the nature of appearances and their nature. Accordingly, we talk of the relative and ultimate truth or truth as a convention and truth as the ultimate expression of something. So when we talk of the way things appear to us and the way we can hanker or grasp after them, this is the all-obscuring truth that is relative, and we can similarly talk about its nature, its essential nature, which is completely free of any tangibility or inherent being. This is then the ultimate truth. And within reality, as revealed by the awakened one or Buddha, what we would say is that there is nothing that isn't included within truth as convention and truth in its ultimate expression.

Buddha gave many discourses or instructions/teachings to deal with the predicament that sentient beings find themselves in, wishing to be free from the experience of what is essentially a lack of satisfaction and to experience happiness with some  degree of stability. Accordingly, we can say that the Buddha gave the causal teachings of the Sutrayana, the resultant teachings of the Mantrayana or Vajrayana. Now, when we put the teachings of the Buddha into categories. The first, what is known generally as the first turning of the Dharma wheel, the first category, includes teachings such as those of the Four Noble Truths, which I mentioned just now. The second turning of the Dharma wheel then is the particular grouping of teachings or instructions which introduced the nature of things, the essentially empty nature of things. We can say, for example, when we look at or when we contemplate the Four Noble Truths, mention is made of the truth of cessation, isn't it? So we reflect then upon Gog Den or the truth of cessation, how do we bring that about, how do we experience it? Well, in a way, we can say we need to rely upon the path. So what is the path? Path here then is the direct recognition or cognition or realization of emptiness. Accordingly then, it's imperative to reflect upon the experience of dukkha, to understand its origin of action motivated by disturbing emotion or destructive states of mind, which find their basis or their origin in this fundamental distortion of reality, which we will call confusion or sometimes translated as ignorance or dimmed awareness, etc.

There is a projection of autonomy onto that which has only ever been interdependent and then not only is there a projection but rather there is a grasping thereupon, a reification. And this reification then is in and of itself because its object is mistaken. It is generally what we would call a wrong consciousness or a confused mind. And this confusion then engages with objects in a confused way and thereby, we experience a variety of emotions, each and every one of which projects a sense of autonomy onto its object and then reacts. That action is then karma. Accordingly then, we have the very origin of dukkha, the experience of dukkha, which is none other than the effect of the action engaged under the influence of this emotion, which has its foundation in this fundamental distortion of reality. Accordingly then, within the second turning of the Dharma wheel, the Buddha taught various means or methods, instructions so as to begin to chip away at this projection and reification of autonomy. Accordingly, when those teachings are grouped together, as they were, and we can talk of the Vaibhashika school, the Great Exposition school, the followers of Sutra school, the Mind-Only school, the Middle Way school. And the Middle Way school that has two divisions, Svatantrika and Prasangika, for argument's sake. And within the Prasangika Madhyamika school, there what we find is the ultimate expression, the actual nature of things. So why, you may wonder, are there so many teachings taught that are grouped together in these four or five different ways. And the simple answer is that they were given so that the recipients could slowly begin the process of refining their understanding of things. Here then, we begin with a gross understanding of emptiness, and then this progresses in subtlety such that a person is able to make gradual progression to bring about then their ultimate understanding of the empty nature of things. And thereby, that is to say, with familiarity, one is able to upturn and thoroughly do away with this fundamental mental distortion of reality that is to say, we can bring reality into focus. So here, it is imperative then to reflect upon this nature of this mistaken mind. It is mistaken because it is mistaken with regard to the object it imagines is in front of it and subsequently, reifies, that is to say, grasps upon. Now, along with this, we should also pause to reflect upon the mind that aspires to awakening for the benefit of all sentient beings. Here, it is imperative to reflect on how just as oneself experiences or feels this lack of contentment or lack of satisfaction, others do feel this lack as well. And when we reflect upon their experience, it is similar to ours. We've understood how we perpetuate our own experience of this lack of satisfaction, what we call contaminated existence. And we're able to then turn that back to bring about its cessation. But alas, others are not like us; they are still projecting and hankering after autonomy. Based thereupon, they put themselves forward as some independent entity that has to move towards something that it perceives as able to give it pleasure and move away from something that it perceives will cause it harm etc. This putting oneself above others, what we call self-cherishing is that which then drives the adherence to this fundamental distortion of reality. So accordingly, when we are turning back this distortion or bringing reality into clarity or a more clear view, we should also pause to reflect on the plight of others because we have a relationship with each and every sentient being. And when we reflect thereupon, it is just this attitude of putting oneself forward, of holding oneself as superior to others, as independent from others, that is causing our ill and it's also causing the difficulties that others are experiencing. Accordingly, as we are progressing towards awakening, we should reinforce that with a strong attitude within which we pledge or vow, to awaken so as to awaken all sentient beings, having seen how they themselves are so pitiful in that they are bringing about their own experience of dissatisfaction or discomfort, an experience that they are so desperate to be free of yet perpetuate continually.

We can talk of the third category or grouping of the instruction of the Buddha. This is one which is labeled as a Secret Mantra. And these were instructions that were given at various extraordinary places throughout the noble land of India. And as the teaching is special, it is said that the Buddha would often teach these instructions displaying then the supreme enjoyment kaya, or dimension or sometimes other occasions, the higher or supreme emanation, dimension or body.

When we reflect on the different types of teaching, well, we are all individuals, as we've reflected, who would like to be free of this ultimately dissatisfying experience or to be free of discomfort, free of suffering. And so, each teaching of the Buddha is designed with that very purpose in mind. Accordingly then, we can reflect upon the discourse of the Buddha, the 84,000 bundles or types of teaching. And what we generally categorize as the causal vehicle of the Sutrayana is used to overcome what we call the gross levels of mind or obvious levels of disturbing emotion but that is on the surface. But when we reflect upon the innermost subtle workings of the mind, then in order to remove that which obscures temporarily this  nature, there are these subtle obscurations which lead to this ultimately dissatisfying experience, we then need to reflect upon the teachings of the resultant vehicle of Vajrayana, for it is they that will uproot and remove this adventitious defilement.

Accordingly, we, as individuals, when we look within in moments of contemplation or introspection, we realize that we do not truly experience enduring satisfaction. To a greater or lesser extent, this realization bothers us. Thus, the Buddha taught myriad methods for overcoming this experience of dukkha.

For example, we can discuss the three higher trainings. It is known that the Buddhist practitioner will engage in the higher training in ethical conduct, concentration or meditation and ultimately wisdom. The point of these three higher trainings, which are found within the various discourses of the Awakened One or teachings of Buddha is to subdue the unruly mind. In other words, it's to overcome that which brings about the origin of dissatisfaction or suffering.

For example, the higher training in ethics involves restraint, the way one restrains oneself physically, verbally and mentally through taking up various vows and samayas and so forth. By doing this, one is able to curb the appearance of disturbing emotions because one holds oneself away from predicaments within which said emotions could arise easily. So, this is a way then of subduing the unruly mind in a very crass or gross aspect, in a very obvious style or way.

Then, if we look at the second higher training, which is the higher training in concentration, again, through practicing simple sitting meditation, we're able to pacify the coarse movements of the mind. We're able, in the moment, to somewhat release our adherence to or following after or hankering after the disturbing emotions.

When we think about all of these practices and we can similarly look at different teachings that were given by the Awakened One, which we may say are found within the relative truth or all-obscuring or truth as convention. Therein, we find ways of  looking at individuals and dealing with them in such a way that we are not affected by their perhaps abusive behavior. We can practice patience, etc. We can restrain ourselves from engaging in various activities so as to curb our adherence or addiction to a desirous attachment, for example, or pride, jealousy, what have you, by being ethical and open. Thereafter, we can curb thoughts of miserliness that accrue through our being, by being charitable and so forth. We can perhaps extend the teachings of concentration, taking it from a simple absorption - perhaps we can meditate on various deities, repeat various mantras, meditate on mandalas and so forth. But all of these are still within the realm of the world.

So, if you were to ask, what is it then that makes them unique to the teaching of the Buddha? Well, all of these actions—ethical conduct, concentration, the various actions that come out of meditative absorption and so forth, patience, charity, and meditation on deities, mantras and so forth that I've mentioned—what would make them uniquely Buddhist is if they are all engaged within the understanding of mutual dependence. If one understands this interdependent nature of things, one is able to go beyond grasping at autonomy or independent existence. If one is able to go beyond that, one is able to perfect whatever action one is doing. So, we talk about the six perfect actions or Paramitas. What this actually means in translation is to go beyond. So, whatever it's applied to—meditation, for example—that goes beyond, what does it go beyond? It goes beyond this fundamental distortion, this projection of autonomy and subsequent reification and adherence, grasping thereafter. If these activities—ethical conduct, meditation, whatever—are then engaged with this understanding, thereby one can go beyond.

What is it that goes beyond? What is the experience of having gone beyond? That is what is often termed as great bliss. What is great bliss here? Great bliss is designation for completely going beyond grasping mind and that which it grasps at. So, when you have the two in play, what we'll call duality, so going beyond the duality, one experiences then what is known as the great bliss. Great bliss of going beyond duality through understanding the mutually dependent nature of things.

This is the extraordinary feature of the teaching of the Buddha. Everything is understood within the confines of mutual dependence, for this is simply the nature of things as it was observed by the Buddha. And when the Buddha observed this, he became familiar with it and he awoke to it through familiarity with it. So, awakened then is the way of translating the word Buddha. What is Buddha awakened to? The nature of things. What is the nature of things? It is simply the mutually dependent or empty way things actually abide. And it is this understanding of interdependence that will allow us to achieve the state of awakening because we're simply being awake to that nature.

So, in order to become awake to that nature, one becomes familiar with the nature itself, that is to say one understands mutual dependence and becomes familiar with it. Thereby, one awakens to it and that is then what is meant by Buddha.

Now, on the way to Buddhahood, to becoming awakened, to becoming Buddha, it is imperative that we reflect upon others because, like it or not, we are mutually connected. We are interdependent with others. Other sentient beings have a pivotal role not only in our lives now but when we reflect upon the fact that we've come from innumerable lives in the past, within those lives we were born and as the past lives are innumerable, sentient beings are innumerable. It is fine to say that at some point or another, each and every sentient being has had the experience of being a parent to us. So, we reflect then upon this parental nature and we reflect upon perhaps the mother or parent of this life. How our parents showed us incredible kindness, from giving us the body that we now inhabit to nurturing us, bringing us up and so forth. Reflecting upon that kindness will naturally bring about a wish to repay it. And then how to repay that leads to an understanding of love, compassion and the way to do that then leads to the special  thought or intention to awaken. That is the only way to really repay the kindness of sentient beings by awakening, so as to awaken or give each and every one of them the method or means to awaken themselves.

Similarly, we can reflect upon others and their relationship to us. We can reflect upon equalizing and exchanging oneself with others, recognizing the benefit of doing that, recognizing the demerit of avoiding it, etc. So, these particular instructions are possible. Indeed, the possibility of our waking up, of our becoming Buddha is possible because nothing exists in and of itself independently. Everything is mutually dependent or dependently arisen. Accordingly, anything can happen. So, it is because of dependent arising that an ordinary sentient being can become Buddha. It is because of dependent arising that we can through our reflections develop the precious mind which aspires to awakening for the benefit of all sentient beings. All of this is possible because of the kind and compassionate teacher, Buddha, revealed interdependence and also the way of getting close to that, getting familiar with that. It is this that marks our teacher as different from others. It is the Buddha himself who taught mutual dependence and no other teacher. So when we look in at other spiritual traditions, we can there see both in the secular world and also in the spiritual world, we can see then methods or means of calming the mind by meditation - meditating on deities or colors and shapes and spheres etc., meditating on the subtle channels, drops and winds in the body. But all of this is done with an understanding that something exists autonomously truly in and of itself. Accordingly, any result that comes is going to be similarly seen or thought of at least as being independent. And then thereby one is blocking or distorting the reality that is mutual dependence because of this fundamental distortion, there is not the liberation. That is to say, the liberation means leaving this duality that will mark our awakening or our thorough cessation of the experience of dukkha.

So accordingly when we reflect upon practice of meditation and we think about where we would like to go with that. Generally speaking, we talk of meditation that is of the world and there beyond. And with regard to meditation that goes beyond in a way that is one that is held with wisdom. So we talk about Bodhichitta with its relative and ultimate aspects. We can say then that if we would like to achieve the state of Liberation or put it in another way, temporary Liberation or ultimate Liberation, the state of omniscience, that which knows all. If we're able to do all of our activities, meditation and otherwise, held by this particular attitude, then whatever we engage, whatever practice we do, will bring us closer to the state of Liberation and omniscience. For the very reason that when we're engaging those actions, we are looking at their nature. We're acting in accordance with the nature of things.

So we talk of precious human life, and if we would like to really give meaning to our life, it is imperative then that we are familiar with this attitude of Bodhichitta, and then whatever we do, when we reflect upon this activity that we're engaging, we understand its mutually dependent nature. Thereby, any grasping or attachment, any dislike or aversion and hostility that may come about on top of that, any type of destructive attitude or emotion can be exhausted through the familiarity with this mutually dependent nature. And so then, when we reflect upon life, particularly when we put this in the big picture within which we reflect on this life as one within many, it is the failure to recognize this mutually dependent nature that holds us within the confines of contaminated existence. So this being held there is because of this fundamental distortion of reality. This is this contaminant. Now if we want to clarify reality, to remove the distortion, the only thing that can do that is wisdom. And the understanding of mutual dependence or wisdom is imperative to the Buddhist practitioner. If we would like to achieve the state of Liberation and omniscience, it is only through understanding mutual dependence that we're able to do that. Indeed, it is only through this understanding that we are able to exhaust this fundamental distortion of reality, to bring it out of a distorted view into a clear view. And so this is the way we need to reflect upon ourselves, our lives. When we for example think of ourselves, usually we think of the body. When we think of that which we possess, our possessions, etc., and so forth, we try to kid ourselves these things exist in and of themselves, independently and our reaction with them brings us a independent or truly existent pleasure or discomfort or whatever. This confusion is made by ourselves, projected by ourselves, reified by ourselves, grasped upon and acted under the influence by ourselves. And when we recognize this, we recognize that we are bringing about our own experience of dukkha. We are perpetuating our Samsara. We are perpetuating the contaminant which contaminates our experience and brings about all that we would like to be free of. It is imperative to reflect upon that which brings this about and its opposite.

So its opposite, as I mentioned, is wisdom. Wisdom is the understanding of mutual dependence or interdependence. And this is not another projection. It is rather the stopping of projection and simply looking at what's there. When we think about the teachings of the Buddha, the discourses of the awakened ones, all of these are methods to bring this familiarity closer to home. If we couple this with the methods of the accumulation of merit, purification of previously engaged misdeed, which are all possible because there is no independent misdeed that can't be purified. There is no independent merit, the one that will ultimately, because of its independence, lie outside of one's reach. It is because the actions that we've engaged and the results thereof are mutually dependent, because they are void or empty of autonomous existence that we can accumulate merit and purify ourselves of previously engaged misdeeds. But this is only possible if the activity is held within what we call Bodhicitta in both its ultimate and relative aspects. And based thereupon, we are able to engage these activities with this understanding, then we are able to exhaust them on a gross level, in the moment almost, our adherence to or hankering after true or independent existence. But on a more subtle level, when we think about cause and effect, the karmic law, to really understand this on its most subtle level, one needs to understand that the mutual dependence between subject and an object, this duality. And on that level, if we are able to overturn this very subtle hankering after the projection of an independent object that is able to be overturned within ourselves, then that experience is called Liberation or that is called Freedom. Freedom from what? The projection of a subsequent reification of this subtle duality. And it is this then that is over or we are only able to overturn with wisdom. Here the wisdom then is of mutual dependence. And indeed, if we are wishing to change a position in the world where we find ourselves, if we would like to secure a particular position or to hold a particular position in the world, perhaps we're not having it the way we would like it at the moment - it is not impossible to achieve that if we work at gathering the respective causes and conditions. So in a way, we understand mutual dependence and work with that in a secular way. However, this reflection is somewhat limited by our particular view of the world and with our regard to the peculiarity of what we would like to experience. But understanding mutual dependence with regard to every single thing in our lives, this will allow us to overcome grasping on both gross and subtle levels. Similarly, it will allow us to overcome hostility, etc., on both these gross and subtle levels. So here the idea of going beyond this adherence to duality, to go beyond that or to emerge from under the boot is an attitude of renunciation which is of course necessary. However in and of itself, it needs to be enhanced, enhanced with great compassion and mutual dependence. Interdependence allows this to happen.

Accordingly then, when we are practicing and we experience useful things, good things, etc., we should understand that it is these things, good experiences that we have, subjective happiness in the moment, this is only possible because of dependent rising and it's exactly the same for its opposite. But nevertheless, when we experience things, when they appear to us, it is our tendency to grasp upon them as existing independently over there and we act upon that. In other words, we are deceiving ourselves and through this self-deception, which is the greatest self-deception in the sense that we feel that through projecting autonomy on an object, an object that we then project a sense of "I like that" upon and act thereunder the influence of, then we bring about or we propagate our own experience of contaminated existence. So accordingly, once again, in order to rid ourselves of this duality or the understanding thereof, the only thing that we can engage is realization of a wisdom that realizes selflessness. So selflessness here then, we can also translate as without independence, without inherent existence, without autonomy etc. When we reflect upon purification, when we think about these kinds of activities or changing a particular experience in life, this is possible because nothing exists in terms of objects or the subjective experience independently. And so when we talk of perfecting ourselves and bringing about this attitude of Bodhichitta in both its ultimate and relative aspects; If we deal with, for example, the relative, we can reflect upon how each and every sentient being has had the experience of being a parent to one, recalling the kindness, repaying the kindness, and so forth. The six causes, one leading to the effect of the relative Bodhichitta, understanding its nature as mutually dependent, thereby we understand then the ultimate Bodhichitta. Indeed, when it comes to anything, when we reflect upon Bodhichitta, yes, it refers in the ultimate aspect too. In the ultimate aspect, Bodhichitta then refers to the interdependent nature of things, the empty nature of things. But on the relative level, it refers to engaging with the world in a way that is held by our understanding of mutual dependence. So accordingly, we rely upon other sentient beings to bring about Bodhicitta and it is through the influence of that reliance that we're able to progress to the stages of complete and perfect Awakening.

Indeed, if we kid ourselves that we like to be alone, well, everything that we do is a product of something else. Everything that we possess was wrought by other others, so if we think I'm alone, I'm completely alone, we're just kidding ourselves in the sense that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever we possess, wherever we are going, etc., we are continually relying upon others. Others who are less fortunate in the sense that they are still under the influence of this destructive attitude of projecting autonomy onto that which has never had any truly existent entity and perpetuating thereby their own experience of Samsara or dukkha. And this is a sign of great, great shame, something that is deeply  disturbing. So accordingly, it is imperative to reflect upon others in terms of relative and then the nature or the mutually dependent nature of the mind that aspires to Awakening for the benefit of others.

We've been speaking of Bodhichitta, of the wish to awaken for the benefit of all sentient beings. We may have looked at this in two aspects: the appearing aspect, the aspiration to awaken for the benefit of all beings, and its nature being mutually dependent, where we meet, Ultimate Bodhichitta. Now today, I'm going to give an Empowerment. Empowerment belongs to a category of Buddhist teaching known as Vajrayana. So accordingly, we can divide the teaching of the Buddha into the Sutra vehicle or the causal vehicle of characteristics, and Vajrayana, the adamantine vehicle, the resultant vehicle. So it's essential to understand the difference between these two. What is the difference between the causal vehicle and the resultant vehicle? Within the causal discourses, the Buddha, and by the way, it's imperative to understand that the so-called lesser vehicles are subsumed within the higher vehicles, they're not abandoned per se. And so, when we think of the Sutrayana path as it's presented, we are told that it is possible for an ordinary fellow to awaken, but that such an individual would need to strive for three countless eons in order to achieve that state. So countless is generally speaking something considered as a number with 29 zeroes following it, so quite a long time as you can imagine. Whereas within the resultant vehicle of Vajrayana, then it is possible to actualize the state of Awakening much faster. Indeed, within the practice of inner Tantra, it is possible to do that within one short lifetime. So accordingly, when we think about self-cherishing, of course, that has no place in practice, whether it be of the causal or the resultant vehicle. And the understanding of the ultimate nature of things, the mutually dependent empty nature of things, of course, this then belongs in both categories or both divisions of the teaching because it's simply the nature of things that was observed. But how do we then interact with that nature? So here, the resultant Vajra vehicle utilizes the resultant state by meditating upon what is known as the four-fold purity: place, object, person, and activity. Now, with regard to this particular way of understanding the world, we talk of pure appearance within Vajrayana. What is it that is pure? When we say meditate on purity, then what are we actually talking about? Here, the purity that is mentioned is Buddha-Nature, a Buddha-Nature is the nature of the Mind itself. So when we talk of, for example, having a base for a designation, etc., the basis here for everything that we experience is the nature of experience itself, that is to say, the nature of awareness. To put it another way, Buddha nature, everything comes from this nature. When we say, for example, "I'm going to meditate on a deity," where does the deity appear from? Yes, it has a color and a shape, etc., but it's not something that exists outside of our experience over there. So when we say, "I'm going to appear as a deity," this is not something coming from outside, rather it is a means of bringing to mind or recalling the innate nature of awareness, Buddha nature itself. In the moment, having brought this to the forefront of one's experience, then one utilizes this, one grasps a hold of this, one becomes this, and then utilizes this pure nature as a path. Now, of course, the mind, as you know, indeed the entire makeup of the subtle body, is innately empty, it is free from any notion of autonomy whatsoever. This is simply then the nature, the nature of the subtle body. But most importantly, when we talk of the innately pure nature of the mind, this then refers to mind itself being in a way responsible for the way we perceive the world. So we can talk of the indivisibility of the subject and the object, indivisibility in the sense of one relying upon the other or in union. Now, here this needs to be understood in its ultimate nature, in its ultimately pure nature. And the way of revealing the pure nature of the mind, if we think of the pure nature of the mind, the innately empty nature of natural luminosity, which is in terms of ultimate and relative, which is the relative, that which appears. This natural awareness or luminosity itself is innately pure because it is innately empty. As it is innately empty, then, as we know, anything is possible. So with regard to the teachings of Vajrayana, teachings can be broadly speaking divided into outer and inner. Within the outer, then, we can talk of action, performance, and yoga. And with inner, then, we can talk of various divisions, but primarily when we talk of inner Tantra, this refers to the highest Tantra. And these methods differ in that the way of introducing the innate purity of the mind is, in the case of outer Tantra, a little bit on the more obvious level, the gross level. And this becomes, through the various divisions of Tantra, increasingly more subtle. And when we talk of highest, highest here then refers to the innate luminosity that is brought to the fore through those particular methods. Accordingly, we can divide the path into the basal ground of the two truths, ultimate and relative. So ultimate refers to the mutually dependent or empty nature of things, and the relative, an ultimate expression to the innate luminosity or natural awareness of mind itself. The part of which, as we've gone through, of the four truths and the resultant two-fold kaya of both the way things are and the way things appear, the Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya respectively. Now, when it comes to the Sutrayana, the notion of the two truths is introduced. Where is it introduced? So in its most obvious aspect, in the Heart Sutra, when we say, "Form is Empty, Emptiness is Form. Form is none other than Emptiness, Emptiness is none other than Form." Here, we're introduced to the appearing form and its nature, its interdependent nature, its Empty nature, and the two of these then are introduced separately. But there is also then the hint of their interdependence, for example, "Form is none other than Emptiness, Emptiness is none other than Form." So there is this mutual dependence. But what happens here is when we understand then the nature of the appearing object, whatever that may be, whatever that form takes and its nature, when the object appears to us, rather than looking at its nature, which is empty, we rather project a sense of fullness, fullness in the sense of independent self-entity.

And then that is adhered to. Then this grasping comes into play. We grasp an object as being other than its nature. We reflect on the empty nature of awareness and the empty nature of the object; they are both the same. So when the object appears within our mind, there is this projection of it being something other than the mind. Thus begins the process of distorting reality. The reality is that something appears from within awareness itself, but as it appears within awareness itself, awareness itself being primordially pure, whatever appears within it is of the same nature, which is empty. But then there is the projection that what has appeared is other than the awareness once it arose, and it exists over there as something independent. And this adherence thereto is then the cause of all of our woes. The hankering after that experience, the grasping onto that experience is then what causes us to migrate throughout the various realms of cyclic existence.

So when we reflect upon the practice of taking the resultant state of the path within the empty nature of awareness itself, rather than hankering after ordinary appearance, the way things appear to us usually; if we reflect on their empty nature, we then bring to the fore the Buddha nature, its pure awareness in and of itself. And it's that Awareness and Emptiness that appears in the form of the deity, and then we engage in the particular activities. So, for example, when we think of appearing in the form of Tara, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, the great Vajra Holder, whatever, this particular appearance is not other than our experience. It's not something over there.

We think of the etymology of Buddha. So we look at the Tibetan 'sang' and 'ge.' The two parts that make up that particular phrase, the meaning of which is to be completely awake or the awakened one. So awake, what does this mean? Here 'sang' has the dual connotation of waking and also of purifying. What are we awakened from or what have we purified? Is these disturbing emotions or disturbing states of mind that arise from this fundamental distortion of reality? So the reality is no longer distorted; it is recognized in and of itself. And thereby, there are no more disturbing states of mind and actions engaged under their influence.

So, this is what has been woken up from. This is what is purified. And the experiencer, the one who is awake, the one who is experiencing said purification is awareness itself. So here, we talk of the awakened nature, Buddha is being none other than our awakened emptiness. It is essentially the emptiness of the mind that appears as the deity. When we appear as a deity, what we're actually doing is seeing through the illusory nature of things. There's no longer something over there that we can get upset about but everything is seen to be rather an illusion. Here, when we think about things appearing as an illusion within the experience of the fundamentally pure nature of mind, within the understanding of this empty awareness, then everything can appear purely. That's possible because this is simply the nature of things. However, again, going back to this misunderstanding of the fundamentally pure nature of things, misunderstanding of the innate Buddha nature, the awakened nature, leads to a distortion acting under the influence of said distortion of reality. Thereafter, come disturbing emotions. With these emotions come actions, and those actions bring reactions or effects - cause and effect. And so, the six realms of samsara, whatever they may be, whether it be from the lowest kind of hell experience to the hungry ghost, human is relatively straightforward, as is animal, titan, and divinity. All of these then appear after this fundamental confusion. But it's important also to reflect that this distortion is adventitious. It's not an inherent, autonomous part of who we are. And accordingly, it can be removed. The reason we propagate it is because of habit. We're just used to it and we've just become, in a way, inert. ”Oh, this is simply the way of things."

But here what we are doing within this particular practice is to seize that in the moment and utilize the method of deity yoga, merging with the deity so as to draw out the innate Buddha nature, to meditate on what we can call the all-pervasive purity of things. Everything is innately pure because everything is ultimately simply the misunderstanding of this innately pure nature. And it is simply a case of addressing this misunderstanding in the moment and allowing the innate Buddha nature to manifest in the moment. So, the utilization of appearing as the pure deity within the pure realm, engaging in pure activities, and so forth, these are all means or methods to simply become familiar with what is already there. This is what is meant then by taking the result as the path. And this method or means is one within which, as I mentioned, we are bringing the result to the fore. Having brought the result to the fore, what happens thereby is our hankering after ordinary appearance - which we're already familiar with because I've been mentioning it so much, this projection of autonomy and subsequent adherence thereto reificating it and acting under it’s influence becomes exhausted as the power of becoming familiar with simply the nature of things, pure appearance takes over.

And so, this is an extremely profound path to utilize this innate purity as a means or as a way to draw out the innate Buddha nature within us. Because the understanding of this nature is simply that wisdom is simply understanding the true nature of things. It's nothing anymore outrageous than that. So the practice of Vajrayana or Mantrayana is something truly amazing because in the moment, it allows us to awaken. It gives us the means to exhaust samsara in its entirety in the moment. So through the practice, we talk of the four fold purities, as I mentioned earlier, meditating on oneself as a deity. So we always have the idea of subject and object, right? So the subject is oneself as the deity. In the moment, we meditate upon ourselves in a particular pure form and independence thereupon. When we actualize that in reality, we will awaken in the aspect of whatever we are meditating upon, whatever aspect of Buddha we are meditating upon ourselves in right now. Similarly, when it comes to mantra repetition, the benefit of mantra repetition is to draw out the innate purity of speech, such that one will actualize the resultant state, the speech of the Buddha, which is unconfounded and unimpeded. And similarly with the mind, what we are meditating upon now is the natural luminosity, natural awareness itself. And this of course, is abided within or meditated upon in its nature. In other words, the emptiness of luminosity and emptiness as the mind. And, of course, this exhausts any kind of grasping or hankering after ordinary appearance or any projection of autonomy thereupon.

So, when we talk of a blessing, this is the fundamental blessing of drawing out the Buddha in the moment. And what makes deity and all of these pure practices, arise or possible in its ultimate way is because of union of Emptiness and compassion conjoined. Without that, these don't really work. You can't really meditate on the empty nature of one's mind while grasping after the true nature of the deity etc. So when we talk of appearance and emptiness, ultimately, appearance is awareness, natural awareness, sometimes known as innate luminosity, which is naturally present but obscured by our grasping after or hankering after or addiction to ordinary appearance.

Now, when we think of all the other methods within the Vajrayana, such as a deity having a particular color, particular form, particular attribute or aspect, being a singular deity in union or whatever, this is all symbolic. What is it symbolic of? The qualities of this basal or foundational awareness and its nature. And it is this which is drawn out through the particular method or the means to actualize it, which can have various forms. Various forms, that is to say, meditational scenarios or methods or means. And these are practices which reveal the innate nature of everything that we experience in the moment.

So, for example, when we think of samsara and nirvana. Samsara being the mire within which we find ourselves, which causes us so much dissatisfaction and difficulty; nirvana being then the actualization of the resultant state of pure awareness. These are just the same thing viewed differently. It's not that one kind of steps out of samsara into a new set of clothing that is nirvana. Nothing like that. Here, one simply recognizes the nature for what it is, the innately pure nature of things. And this is not something that is obvious. Not at all. It needs to be introduced. And for this reason, it is imperative to rely upon a spiritual teacher, a spiritual friend, if you like.  And generally, we use the term guru or lama. So when we look at the word guru, it means somebody who is heavy with qualities. If you look at the Tibetan translation of lama, it means somebody who has the highest quality. But the quality needs to be known as this understanding of emptiness, the innate purity, the nature of things, of Bodhichitta in both its relative and ultimate aspects, in both its gross and subtle presentations and means of application, whether they be causal or resultant. And it is for this reason that we say that the lama or the spiritual teacher is extremely precious. Why? Because they embody the experience of the resultant state, and they are able, through their kindness, to introduce this to us, such that we can recognize the innately pure nature of things, such that we can wake up. And in particular, with regard to the resultant vajra vehicle, we can wake up relatively quickly. That is to say, at best in one short lifetime.

Translated by Ven. Sean Price