Transcendent Dhyana and Purifying One’s Continuum

Transcendent Dhyana and Purifying One’s Continuum

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 4
2 April 2023

His Holiness began the fourth day of teachings by explaining that he had to spend a few days resting and preparing the text for the Five-Deity Tara practice. He announced that the sessions will continue until he has finished teaching the texts.

Today’s teachings centered on the twenty-sixth, twenty-seventh, and twenty-eighth good deeds from the Autobiographical Verses “Good Deeds.” According to the outline from attendant Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary on the Meaning (Drepung manuscript), these are in the portion discussing how Mikyö Dorje practiced the path of the greater individual. This has three parts:

a) The intention: rousing bodhichitta (v. 9)

b) The action: meditating on the two types of bodhichitta (v. 10–21)

c) How he trained in the precepts of the two types of bodhichitta (v. 22–33)

The Transcendence of Dhyana

His Holiness had arrived at the third part, which has seven sub-divisions. The first is on how Mikyö Dorje trained in the six transcendences, and we have discussed until the fourth transcendence. For the fifth on dhyana, the root text is:

I applied antidotes to all the subtle and coarse afflictions,
For they are not conducive to inspiring myself to virtue.
Beside focusing one-pointedly on the causes and results
Of perfect buddhahood, how could I think of anything else?
I think of this as one of my good deeds. (26)
This is the twenty-sixth among the thirty-three good deeds described in the autobiographical verses Good Deeds. According to Mikyö Dorje’s Instructions in Training in the Liberation Story, as Karmapa had emphasized previously, we need to meditate on patience and be diligent in order to abandon what needs to be discarded, develop the antidotes, and completely discard the negativities of the obscurations. Nevertheless, arousing patience and diligence is insufficient; we also need the samadhis, the dharanis, the great gates of liberation and so forth that the buddhas and the great bodhisattvas have in their beings. In addition, we also need to be able to rest in the absorption of the dhyanas and have the wisdom that knows all phenomena as they are and as many as there are.

Nevertheless, Karmapa explained, many different obscurations prevent us from developing such qualities.

To eliminate all of them, we need to be able to rest in the equipoise of the luminosity free of thoughts. Many adverse factors prevent us from achieving the workability of mind and body. To rid ourselves of these obscurations, we need to apply mindfulness, awareness, and carefulness. We also need to make sure that we don't lose the qualities we already have and that we are able to increase them by achieving the ones that we still have to gain.

In brief, this means that we need to be very diligent about our practice of samadhi.

Dhyana According to Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary

His Holiness then turned to Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary on the Meaning. He explained that in the current age and in the past, many people from different countries, including Tibet, claim they have reached a very high level of realization. This leads others to regard them as a source of refuge, and they themselves pretend to be able to grant people refuge and protection.

Karmapa explained,

The root of what produces suffering for ourselves and others is the minds of attachment and aversion to the world. It comes down to whether the afflictions have been pacified or not. If we want to pacify or eliminate the afflictions, we must achieve the worldly or supramundane dhyanas.

We need to attain the worldly or super-mundane dhyanas if we intend on pacifying or eliminating the afflictions. There's no choice but to achieve the dhyana meditations. We need to have the antidotes for the various afflictions belonging to the different levels—the lesser, middling, and greater. This depends upon having a workable mind or shamatha.

He stated that those claiming high realization do not understand this critical point. On the contrary, they are audacious enough to boast that they have achieved the shamatha of the insight of the buddhas and the bodhisattvas, claiming they have the same level of realization. Furthermore, they declare they are completely free of the obscurations that impede that realization.

Karmapa pointed out that Mikyö Dorje felt like that was the most painful thing that he saw, for people to be charlatans and pretend to be something they were not. It was not a question of him not liking the people, but the fact that they acted as such charlatans. He explained,

The worldly dhyanas cannot completely eliminate afflictions, but can at least pacify the manifest afflictions. As long as you have the realization of dhyana, then the manifest afflictions of attachment and aversion won't arise. But these people who claim they have high realization haven't even developed the worldly dhyanas, much less the super-mundane or transcendent dhyana. Nevertheless, they are audacious enough to say that they have the same level of realization, the same qualities of absorption that all the buddhas and the bodhisattvas have.

Karmapa pointed out that we will accumulate unvirtuous actions if we are unable to block even the manifest afflictions. This in turn makes it difficult for us to even achieve the states of gods or humans in the higher realms, making it impossible to achieve the dhyanas. Without a higher realm birth as a god or human, there will not be a support or basis to achieve the dhyanas. Mikyö Dorje understood this point.

To pacify the afflictions, at the very least the manifest afflictions, achieving worldly dhyana is extremely important, emphasized Karmapa. To do so requires eliminating the adverse factors to it and having all of the various causes complete. He pointed out,

If we look at what that is, it comes down to not seeing the sensory pleasures as faults or problems, which is the main impediment to achieving shamatha. To abandon such faults of attachment and aversion, you need to look at the thoughts of the sensory pleasures being like poison, like an enemy. You need to be very assiduous about your practice of being free of desire.

Mikyö Dorje realized that the afflictions of attachment and aversion prevented him from achieving the dhyanas. He applied the antidotes of mindfulness, awareness, and carefulness to torpor, excitement and so forth to purify all of the contaminants that contaminated his mind and made it intractable.

Mikyö Dorje had a lot of conscience and propriety at all times. He always put a stop to thoughts of the eight concerns and self-interest. He had a boundary that kept the thoughts of the eight worldly concerns or self-interest outside, and worked hard to never fall away from Mahayana thoughts and actions. In addition, he never had any pride or tried to say, “I'm this great person; I'm a Karmapa, a great being.” Neither did he behave as if he was some great or impressive person. Instead, His Holiness described, Mikyö Dorje always associated with humble people who were gentle and had little greed or hatred, and he did not like to trouble others either. He was always very authentic and genuine no matter what he did. Some people act differently when they are in front of other people, but not Mikyö Dorje.

Likewise, Karmapa explained, “Mikyö Dorje always maintained mindfulness and awareness. He clearly knew what he was doing, so he was always able to accomplish what he was working on. As a result, he never had any regret later, regardless of whether the task was finished or not.”

Mikyö Dorje also spoke to his students in ways that inspired renunciation. He talked about the problems of samsara, the suffering that beings experience, and praised the qualities of the Three Jewels. Karmapa pointed out that no matter what Mikyö Dorje did, it was to lead beings to a path to liberation. We can observe it through the aspirations and instructions that he gave, and the examples that he showed.

One of the great examples Mikyö Dorje gave was that he had a really strong bodhicitta. Due to the power of his love and compassion, people around him were never displeased no matter how much time they spent in his company. Karmapa clarified,

If there's someone who comes and spends a few hours with you, sometimes you get a little bit bored, right? You get a little bit irritated and say, ‘It’s better if you go; I can't stay.’ But no matter how long you spent in Mikyö Dorje’s presence, because of his bodhichitta, you never felt bored or frustrated. At the same time, people felt as if their afflicted thoughts just stopped, and faith and enthusiasm for virtue increased greatly.”

By spending time with Mikyö Dorje, people naturally and continuously felt faith and enthusiasm for the dharma. People never felt like they had spent enough time with him; they still wanted to see and hear him even if they have already spent a long time with him. As a result, Karmapa explained, people were really delighted and really enthusiastic whenever they went to meet Mikyö Dorje. Once they left his presence, they would think, “Oh, I didn't spend enough time with him. The hours just passed by so quickly.”

Another feature of Mikyö Dorje, as said by the great beings of the past, was that the focus of Mahayana dhyana is bodhichitta. When you meet Mikyö Dorje, Karmapa described, you feel like he was always completely within bodhichitta and remains unwavering from it.

It is said in the Buddha’s words and treatises that when people achieve the dhyanas, they receive miraculous powers and clairvoyances. But Mikyö Dorje never displayed such activities. His students, such as Sangye Paldrup and others said that he never did anything that anyone else could not do. Karmapa said,

When you looked at him from the outside, he seemed like someone on the lesser path of accumulation. You can tell that he had bodhichitta, but he didn't show anything that would astound everyone else. He didn't show any of the supreme human qualities like doing miraculous things or being telepathic.” Mikyö Dorje spoke just like a regular person. He did not fly in the sky or burrow into the earth; he didn't even pretend to have anything like that.

Many people came looking for Mikyö Dorje from all different places, mostly seeking the dharma. Sometimes they would ask for teachings on Prajnaparamita, the Secret Mantra or Mahamudra. He would personally teach everyone who came to ask for the dharma, and gave the pith instructions for a beginner to enter the dhyanas. He taught the teachings found in the general scriptures, but would not give them meditation instructions on Mahamudra or some amazing instructions that no one else could teach.

Karmapa pointed out that Mikyö Dorje taught his students according to his experience, and refrained from start talking about great topics like Mahamudra. He explained,

As a result, some people criticized him for this, and said that Mikyö Dorje doesn't know how to teach them Mahamudra meditation. They claimed that the reason is that Mikyö Dorje never went to a guru who had realized Mahamudra, and had never practiced the meditation that establishes the view.

These people believed that Mikyö Dorje did not have the experience in Mahamudra to give direct and precise instructions, and as a result, there were very few among his students who are realized meditators. No student of his could touch rocks and break them in half or split the earth by merely touching it.

According to Sangye Paldrup’s text, Karmapa pointed out that there are people who don't have the capacity even to develop the preparations for dhyana. Nevertheless, many gurus still teach them Mahamudra, Dzogchen, and other great practices. But Mikyö Dorje did not do as others wished. He did not give instructions or teach the view on Mahamudra to those who lack the capacity to practice it.

To illustrate this, Karmapa raised the following example: You can call a beggar by the name of a king, but who is going to think that the beggar is a king? Merely having a name of a king is just something that everyone will laugh at and think of as strange.

Likewise, teaching Mahamudra to those without the fortune and capacity to develop it is pointless. They do not have all the preparations that they need, so it is too early to teach them. Sangye Paldrup himself stated the following:

I can't say whether Mikyö Dorje has achieved the actual practice of dhyana or not. I have no way of knowing it because I don't have the experience of achieving dhyana, so I don't know what it's like. Some people say that if you've achieved the actual practices of the dhyanas, then you would be able to produce miracles and clairvoyances, but I've never seen any signs of Mikyö Dorje having done so.
But, for those who desire liberation and omniscience, I know that he is someone able to teach them the methods for developing them—the methods of dhyana and prajna. I'm certain of this because no matter what method of the Mahāyāna he teaches, it is all for the sake of achieving buddhahood.
In order to achieve buddhahood, you need the focus of bringing all sentient beings to buddhahood. Whatever dharma Mikyö Dorje taught, he only taught in order to bring all sentient beings to buddhahood. Likewise, Mikyö Dorje was very well-versed in the stages of the path to achieve buddhahood and omniscience as he was always thinking about it.

How He Trained in Purifying His Own Continuum

His Holiness reiterated that prajna was already taught during the verse on ultimate bodhicitta, thus it was not specifically mentioned here. The next point is how Mikyö Dorje trained in purifying his own continuum.

As long as you hang on to your intractable character,
You will not tame the mind streams of your followers.
So I focused on my own accumulation and purification
To increase accumulation and purification among my students.
I think of this as one of my good deeds. (27)
According to Mikyö Dorje’s Instructions in Training in the Liberation Story, His Holiness explained that in order for the practice of dhyana or yoga practice to progress along the path to great enlightenment, it depends primarily on seeing your own and others' faults as being faults. Karmapa said, “Once you recognize that a fault is a fault, then you need to strive at uprooting the fault or eradicating it completely. You should seek to see whether the gurus whom you follow have the qualities to protect you.”

When we recognize what a fault is, then we can see how to eliminate them and what are the qualities we need to develop. Karmapa pointed out that in order not to waste the virtues we and others have accumulated, we need to dedicate and rejoice in them. We need to check to see whether we are doing this or not.

As Karmapa mentioned earlier, merely having dhyana is not enough. In order for it to become a cause of great enlightenment, we need to recognize what is going to benefit ourselves. With the roots of virtue we have, we need to try and make them more powerful and stronger so that the results can ripen visibly, meaning in this lifetime. We need to be diligent about such thoughts and actions.

In addition, Karmapa reminded us, “You shouldn't get conceited about having a few qualities. If this happens, then you have been seized by the great mara of satisfaction. This will prevent you from developing the qualities of the higher paths and levels.” Therefore, we need to always be examining the faults and qualities in our own being.

It is the same with our current day and during the time of Mikyö Dorje, His Holiness pointed out. Whether it is how people are serving the Three Jewels or trying to protect defenseless sentient beings and bring them to happiness, there are many people who said that they are unrivaled, that they are really great. But in actuality, in order to do so, we need to be able to recognize its opposite, which is non-virtue, but they are unable to do this. Karmapa explained, “They get a lot of people to practice, accumulate merit and do virtue. Nevertheless, they themselves are unable to recognize that unvirtuous behavior is unvirtuous. The sign is that they verbally say they are getting people to do virtuous things, but actually encourage those who have faith in them to do unvirtuous things.”

These people boast about taming others without having tamed themselves, and they do not know how to think for the sake of future lives but consider only the pleasures of this lifetime. They seem to benefit others, but Karmapa likened this to lepers doing the garuda practice: Leprosy is a disease said to be caused by the nagas, and the antidote for naga illnesses is by doing the garuda practice. If someone actually knows the garuda practice, they will not catch it. Thus, before we teach other people the practice, we should first cure ourselves of leprosy. His Holiness then concluded today’s teachings by pointing out that it is overly bold and very laughable if we claim that we are working for others' sake without seeking anything.

2023.04.02: Transcendent Dhyana and Purifying One’s Continuum