maanantai 10. joulukuuta 2018

How Zen Buddhism Can Be Bettered

How Zen Buddhism Can Be Bettered

In this text, I will use Hakuun Yasutani Roshi's instructions on just sitting, as a source for commentary of my own, where I present an idea how the training paradigm of zen buddhism, could be greatly enhanced. For those not familiar with Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, a rather famous figure of Japanese and Western Zen of the 20th century, I recommend reading his Wikipedia page.

Yasutani Roshi's instruction of shikantaza, or just sitting, are from the book ”On Zen Practice: Body, Breath and Mind” by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman. You can read this chapter that I will quote and comment below, from here. I would ask the reader to read his instructions carefully, to be sure that with my comments I am not mispresenting him.

Quotes from Yasutani Roshi, with added comments.

Yasutani: ...I will briefly explain how to practice shikantaza... This is the key to practicing shikantaza... Casting all sorts of self-centeredness away and making yourself as a clean sheet of paper; sit, just firmly sit...
In doing shikantaza you must maintain mental alertness, which is of particular importance to beginners - and even those who have been practicing ten years could still be called beginners! Often due to weak concentration, one becomes self-conscious or falls into a sort of trance or ecstatic state of mind...
When you thoroughly practice shikantaza you will sweat - even in the winter. Such intensely heightened alertness of mind cannot be maintained for long periods of time. You might think that you can maintain it for longer, but this state will naturally loosen. So sit half an hour to an hour, then stand up and do a period of kinhin, walking meditation.
During kinhin, relax the mind a little. Refresh yourself. Then sit down and continue shikantaza.
To do shikantaza does not mean to become without thoughts, yet, doing shikantaza, do not let your mind wander. Do not even contemplate enlightenment or becoming Buddha. As soon as such thoughts arise, you have stopped doing shikantaza...
Sit with such intensely heightened concentration, patience, and alertness that if someone were to touch you while you are sitting, there would be an electrical spark! Sitting thus, you return naturally to the original Buddha, the very nature of your being.

Kim's Comment: In his instructions, Yasutani quotes Dogen (see the original text), to indicate what shikantaza is. However, Yasutani's take on shikantaza is clearly different to Dogen's, because his instructions describe ”intensely heightened concentration”. Anyone who has studied vajrayana buddhism, and its clear expositions of meditation practices, can see that Yasutani confuses concentration practice or cultivation of one-pointedness (skt. samadhi, j. zanmai), as it is termed in zen buddhism, with effortless buddhanature sitting, which is what just sitting is. He confuses effort-based heightened concentration or heightened attention, with knowing awareness.

Yasutani: Then, almost anything can plunge you into the sudden realization that all beings are originally buddhas and all existence is perfect from the beginning. Experiencing this is called enlightenment...

Kim's Comment: Here, Yasutani describes how ”anything can plunge” the practitioners into ”sudden realization”, or kensho. This is where he unknowingly explains his erroneous pedagogy of just sitting. In the above bits, he gives instructions of sitting with high alertness, that can only be maintained for short periods of time, until it loosens. This is a classical description of samadhi meditation, which as many zen stories depict, is shattered by some sight, sound or event, which makes one see one's true nature (j. kensho). In a nutshell, Yasutani describes concentration practice of heightened intensity that is then plunged or shattered, which makes the natural state appear, to effect an insight, and he calls all of this with one term, that of shikantaza. This is where the pedagogical mistake is, for heightened concentration, or heightened attention is not the same as kensho, which is a synonym for shikantaza. For this reason, there is a significant difference between Yasutani's and Zen master Dogen's instructions.

Yasutani: In short, shikantaza is the actual practice of buddhahood itself from the very beginning - and, in diligently practicing shikantaza, when the time comes, one will realize that very fact. However, to practice in this manner can require a long time to attain enlightenment, and such practice should never be discontinued until one fully realizes enlightenment. Even after attaining great enlightenment and even if one becomes a roshi, one must continue to do shikantaza forever, simply because shikantaza is the actualization of enlightenment itself.

Kim's Comment: In correct buddhanature sitting, there is no beginning, realization or diligent practice. In correct shikantaza, there is no effort, nor distraction, such as drowsiness, to a slightest degree. I offer my further comments. 
Samsaric beings, such as myself, have two kinds of minds: one bound by confusion (samsaric mind) and the other one free (buddhanature). The way to illuminate the samsaric mind and its many traits, in Rinzai-style of zen buddhism, is to focus strongly and keep focusing strongly (samadhi), for in some cases several years, until some spontaneous event from outside occurs, breaks the samadhi, and in consequence, the practitioner momentarily sees his or her buddhanature. What happens with concentration practice, is that one becomes focused, instead of being distracted, while at the same time, establishing calmness of the mind. This is how it ideally is, but in some cases strong concentration, carried over a long period of time, can also create great health problems. For this reason instructions like this, without learning how to relax well, can be altogether counterproductive. In regards to strong sitting, I find it questionable what is the benefit of this for older people, from middle-aged and older, who many are already calm and in general have less vitality than younger people.
Being concentrated is in a way, being self-immersed, self-indulgent. Because the mind is restless and distractive, it requires a lot of training to be able to create a samadhi, a state of complete self-immersion or absorption. In rinzai zen, the logic is to create this samadhi which when it is accomplished, will be automatically smashed into bits by a sound or a sight, such as view of mountains, red Autumn leaf falling from a tree, barking of a dog, sound of rain, seeing of a flower or a yell of a zen master. The main point here is that the cause that shatters the samadhi, never comes from the mind of the practitioner him- or herself, because the mind is in samadhi, in a state of immersion, without thought. In tantric terms, the cause that generates kensho, always comes from outside of the practitioner's energy field.

In my view and experience, as well as those of my students, it is not necessary to generate samadhi first. I have discussed this in Rethinking Zen and Kensho, which mentions how the whole process could be made more efficient, through dynamic concentration. In the instruction above, Yasutani speaks of dynamic concentration, done silently, actually at a medium, rather than high intensity.

If the reader is not familiar how concentration is used in Open Heart, as in Tibetan dzogchen, we use short sharp shouts, like short vocal explosions, to cut through the many layers of the mind, to access and recognise the natural state. This is not unfamiliar to zen buddhism where teachers and students yell to each other, or in some lineages have shouted MUUU! for hours on end to have kensho.

The main difference between medium and (truly) high intensity focus is that with short explosion the desired outcome, that of recognition of buddhanature which is kensho, is accomplished in few seconds, while with medium concentration it takes a lot longer, for the above mentioned reason that one constantly gets distracted. Medium intensity concentration also needs to be fed with energy which makes it demanding of vitality and can even ruin one's health, as in the cases of young zen master Hakuin, and my own, for example.

It is a simple fact that the process of samadhi can be bypassed, while prioritizing the recognition of buddhanature. The essential point is that it is not through concentrative focus but through many kenshos that one becomes familiar of one's buddhanature.

Thank you for reading,
- Kim Katami, 10.12.2018
Helsinki, Finland.

In my book, available free of charge, I have given detailed instructions about dynamic concentration and its effectiveness, What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice.

See demonstrations of dynamic concentration, playlist here.

lauantai 8. joulukuuta 2018

Just As It Is – All Beings Are Free

Just As It Is – All Beings Are Free

Few days ago, compassionate motivation of enlightenment (skt. bodhicitta, j. bodaishin/菩提心), from the relative perspective, was discussed at Facebook. Mahayana and vajrayana approaches of buddhism are big on bodhicitta, where practitioners remind themselves of the suffering and confusion of all sentient beings, while mentally praying and physically acting for the liberation of all beings. This is what bodhisattvas, those aiming at full liberation, do, with great spiritual benefits. Bodhicitta is the tip of the spear of mahayana buddhism, which reveals our innate buddhanature while uncovering our selfish confusion in all of its forms, including those that are not easy to detect.

There is also another perspective to bodhicitta, ultimate bodhicitta, where all beings are already free. This perspective exists simultaneously with the relative one. The ultimate perspective doesn't deny the relative one, this is essential to understand.

In my experience, ultimate bodhicitta can be glimpsed along the way, as we keep praying and acting for the liberation of others. Then at some point, the fact that all beings are free already, sneaks on us, and we experience both perspectives. This makes our practice mature, as well as realistic. It is realistic because sentient beins are both, free and imprisoned, buddhas and samsaric beings, until we cease to be samsaric beings.

In my article, Nuts and Bots of Bodhicitta (to be published at, I gave a simple meditative exercise to boost one's experience and understanding of bodhicitta.

The gist of this exercise is this: Be or sit with all beings.

This is a highly useful meditation for those who work to understand one's true nature. When familiarity increases, this exercise ceases to be an articial practice, and becomes what we actually are, a mind of perfect clarity and stability, that is shared by all life, in a dynamic lively way.

This can also be used to check if one's atiyoga (t. dzogchen atiyoga), or nonmeditation is correct. If we generate bodhicitta during nonmeditation, and our energyfield disappears by blessings shooting outwards from our body, and by consequence we become connected with sentient beings outside our energy field, it is an indication that our atiyoga is still unripe. It is unripe because atiyoga is ”buddhanature sitting” and in buddhanature all beings are already connected. In this case, we need to keep generating bodhicitta and focus on tantric practice. However, if nothing happens by saying a prayer, our practice is sound and correct.

This is how I understand, ”just as it is”, a phrase often used in zen buddhism, and this is what I believe, correct just sitting (j. shikantaza/只管打坐) is.

Thank you for reading,

- Kim Katami, 8.12.2018.

sunnuntai 2. joulukuuta 2018

Rethinking Zen and Kensho

Rethinking Zen and Kensho

There are many examples of zen practitioners, both monastics and laypeople, who experienced seeing one's true nature, or kensho, first by cultivating one-pointedness (skt. samadhi, jp. zanmai), and then shattering that one-pointedness through various spontaneous or purposeful ways. What happens when one-pointedness becomes shattered is that one's mind shifts from self-based and self-experienced concentrative calm, to one's natural state, or buddhanature.

I have questioned the necessity of cultivating samadhi because, from the point of view of having kensho, it seems quite useless, that takes a lot of time and effort to come up with. While from one perspective being mindfully concentrated is better than being distracted, neither of these conditions are the natural state, that is, kensho. Thousand hours of concentration on one's breath or koan is little, based on queries and observations, and still it is not certain that kensho will happen. All in all, it is very unreliable. The good side is that it needn't be so.

Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings have buddhanature, so the question is how can we most effectively access this buddhanature of ours, instead of remaining in our samsaric state? If we managed to recognise our natural state correctly, on regular basis, we'd be glimpsing and familiarising (kensho) our buddhanature all the time.

In my view, the reason why kensho zen is near to extinction is because training in samadhi has taken the place of prioritising kensho. It's all backwards. If recognition of one's buddhanature was prioritized, we would instantly see a change in our sanghas and in the whole zen culture.

The thing is that in order to have kensho, we need not cultivate samadhi. We need not go through the hardship of learning how to concentrate but by the means of dynamic concentration (pg. 21 in What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice) can access the natural state as soon as we utter a sharp shout. In this way we can bypass samadhi cultivation and save a lot of time and energy, while inevitably having one kensho after another.

Thank you.

-Kim Katami
Open Heart Sangha,

torstai 15. marraskuuta 2018

Christian's Awakening

Christian's Awakening

Hello Kim.

I am 32 years old. I have been trying to figure out the I illusion for at least 15 years. Never went past an intellectual understanding, though. As suffering increased and drove me almost to suicide I eventually started to meditate I think 2-3 years ago. Breath meditation (The Mind Illuminated), one Goenka retreat and Finders Course by Jeffrey Martin (18 weeks all sorts of practices like self-inquiry, noting, mantra, body scan etc.). At times I sat for 4 hours or more a day and although I saw positive changes (e.g. becoming able to rest in awareness for periods), suffering continued. So much that I started to lose hope in this whole spirituality business. Then I found your 2PF and for the first time in my life there is a big decrease in suffering! I can't say how grateful I am for what you are doing.

I have read through your book Awake! and practiced your Two-Part Formula (2PF) for 3 or 4 days. Yesterday evening I had a subtle shift and ever since then, no matter how often I say I, I, I, Me, Me, Me, it doesn’t bring up this sense of me anymore. Before that shift this special sense of “Christian” behind the eyes came up pretty much immeditately. Now it just doesn’t attach to anything and “I” immediately go back to this simple, clear space.

This change is so subtle and there are still a lot of self-referential thoughts coming up, though. Like “I am soo happy that there finally was a shift”, but if I inquire “who or what is this I that is happy?” nothing comes up anymore.
I don’t really feel special or one with everything either. There is still this impression that here is someone who is experiencing everything, but when I take a look or inquire then no sense of me comes up anymore.

Has awakening happened for me? Should I write a bit more about the shift, or the changes before and after? Should I perhaps send you a photo? Or should I simply give it more time? I would really appreciate your feedback!
Best regards.

Hi Christian.

Wait until tomorrow to get a little more taste of it. I am quite sure this is it, as you make it clear that it doesn't stick and that there has been a change . Tomorrow, write me a description of the change and include a photo for analysis. It would be nice to read a litte narration of your path/search up until this point, how you found 2PF, what practices you did before, with some interesting details etc.

I'm very busy with work right now, so I'll just briefly describe the change and I also have attached a picture of me from today.

After a couple of days with the 2PF I was able to observe the I and bring up this distinct feeling of a "me behind the eyes" very easily.

Two days ago, during my evening meditation a shift occured and ever since then, no matter how hard I try, I cannot bring up this feeling of me anymore. The funny thing is, now after only a couple of days I cannot even remember what this "me behind the eyes" felt like.

Everything has become calmer, clearer, more relaxed. The shift was so subtle, yet the two days since the shift have been just amazing. I am filled with so much gratitude right now...

Still, as I already mentioned yesterday, there are a lot of self-referential thoughts. My mind is actually quite active. And there is also no feeling of oneness. It still kind of feels like there is someone experiencing all of this. This feeling only stays for a few seconds at most, though. And as I said, when I look for a separate self, there is only clear, ordinary space.

Perhaps this is just a case of wrong expectations?

Anyway, I can't wait for your feedback! If this really was awakening, then I'll gladly write more about my path, former practices etc.

Yes, that's it. Simple as that. Congrats!

It varies greatly how easily "me behind the eyes" dissolves. Some people are at it for weeks, some for half an hour. Nevertheless, the result is the same, what in Open Heart we call opening of the 1st bhumi.

>My mind is actually quite active. And there is also no feeling of oneness. It still kind of feels like there is someone experiencing all of this.

The mind can be active, thoughts and emotions, but the experience of them is noticeably different, as you can see, because the I that they attach to, is gone. Yup, no oneness, haha. I don't know if you are familiar with buddhism but this is what selflessness or emptiness means. With awakening, or insight meditation, one begins to see and experience this selfless, me-less, mind. Everyone has it but it goes unnoticed because the habit patterns are so strong. That last sentence, "kind of feels like there is someone experiencing all of this". Now that the small self, to a degree, has been deconstructed, the real self, without an entity, comes about. If you feel into it, can you see how it has been there all along? That, this me-less mind is actually the real you? In dzogchen teachings, we say that awareness cognizes itself, that it is self-cognizant. There is no "me" doing it but our basic awareness, see, feels, thinks and so on. It is not impersonal but very personal, the way I see it.

Congrats again.

tiistai 13. marraskuuta 2018

Invitation to Open Heart

Invitation to Open Heart

Hello folks.

I would like to invite you all to join Open Heart Yoga Level 1 Empowerment and Online Course, on 2nd of December 2018. You can find all the necessary info from links in the Facebook event, including fee information, so I won't describe the practice itself, but as suggested, I'd like to offer some information and statistics of how this practice, Open Heart Yoga (OHY) works.


If some of you don't know who I am, I am Kim Katami, the founder and head teacher of Open Heart Sangha. I mainly teach tantric practices as a way to full liberation, traditionally known as buddhahood or perfect enlightenment. If the word tantric is foreign to you, you can replace it with ”energywork” as in tantric yoga one works with energybody in different ways such as breathwork, visualisation and mantra sounds. I have done training all my life with many different teachers and masters. Some of my work that you might know already are the so called Two-Part Formula (2PF) for awakening and Open Heart Bhumi Model (OHBM), that is used as a path map.

In Open Heart, we measure one's progress, from pre-awakening stage to medium stage to advanced stage to full attainment, with OHBM. We discuss bhumi openings and bhumi perfections because it is a solid way to measure where one's at, or where someone else is. This means that with sufficient training and skills one can learn to sense anyone's stage of attainment. Bhumi openings and perfections are commonly called with terms such as sudden and gradual enlightenment. I have written two books (Awake! and What's Next?) about these topics so if you haven't read them, I recommend going to the Open Heart-website where the books are available for free.

Bhumi Openings

Openings of bhumis are important because each opening directly correlates and increases one's sense of freedom, openness, and mental and emotional clarity. I have explained this in great detail in my books, so this is a nutshell description.

The core matter that all spiritual, yoga or dharma systems are concerned, is how one's mind can be illuminated or freed. All schools of buddhism say that the sense of self, or me-ness, is what causes us to believe in illusion and makes us deluded. For this reason, we experience existential confusion and feel that we are lost. In consequence, we seek a way out.

The sense of self is made like Matryushka, Russian doll, that has a certain amount of layers, where the sense of self is stored or imprinted. All systems aim to erase these imprints with varying results. It is not that easy to accomplish because the mind is not only organic but also abstract, not something we can see or hold in our hands. It is like removing spoiled parts from meat. Without sufficient knowledge, it is close to impossible to do. This is where OHBM and energy work (tantric practice) comes into the picture. Tantric meditation is very effective in clearing up the mind, without us needing to become masters of mindfulness/concentration-based meditation (which requires full time training).

Practice that is based on mindfulness and observation, only carries so far in the process of self-deconstruction. It is very useful in the beginning but apparently comes to a halt at some point, usually before or around 6th bhumi, at latest. This is my observation from hundreds of practitioners and teachers of theravada, zen, vipassana, TM and so on. In fact, they rarely get to open 6 bhumis. Tantrics, however, if they are able to open the 1st bhumi, advance to higher bhumis (6-10), if they keep practicing. On the other hand, buddhist tantrics, very rarely get to open the 11th bhumi. 11th bhumi is a major turning point because when that opens, natural awareness becomes one's default mode. In all traditional schools those with 11 bhumis open are almost non-existent. I say this based on few thousand bhumi analyses of all kinds of practitioners.

Buddhist tantrics from Tibet, specifically mahamudra and dzogchen practitioners, are the ones who most consistently produce fully attained (buddhahood) adepts. In Tibetan buddhism, this wealth of knowledge and practices, are shrouded by secrecy, rules and religious hindrances, so unfortunately if one wants to follow a traditional tantric path, one has to go through the traditional system, which is far from being suitable for modern laypeople, with jobs and families, as it was formulated in time and culture far removed from ours. Here Open Heart is different, even thought the goal is the same. Our method is suitable for ordinary laypeople who have the motivation to go deep or all the way. We don't have taboos or silly religious rules, and the teachings are available to all, with or without money. We are a buddhist community, without religious dogma or medieval views.

Open Heart Sangha is a community of 70 people worldwide. Everyone in our group is awakened, thanks to Two-Part Formula, or more. 32 people, almost half of us, have opened 6 or more bhumis. 16 of us have all 13 bhumis open, who have stabilized their natural state and therefore are in the process of perfecting their practice. Those who opened all of their bhumis, and had 13 consecutive openings, practiced from 2½ months to few years, which if you study traditional accounts, is unheard of. For a while now I have verified 5-10 bhumi openings every month. Bhumi analyses of traditional practitioners and teachers from existent schools of buddhism, or other religions indicate that, despite of great efforts, this does not happen widely. It is important to understand that this is not a claim or boasting but an analytical fact. This also does not mean that Open Heart would be a short cut, for if one aims for the highest attainment, commitment, effort, perseverance, correct motivation are needed.

Practices Unique to Open Heart

All tantric practices are based on the same principles. They have empowerments, mantras, visualisations and breathing practices, that are practiced on regular basis, while remembering the futility of life and common ethics. This is also the case in Open Heart Yoga. Anyone is free to look into what we do. What you will find is a lot of similarities with traditional approaches, both scriptures and tantric practices. We haven't invented anything new (!) but we have put together bits and pieces, useful techniques, that otherwise have been scattered around the world, to come up with this practice.

The biggest difference between Open Heart and other forms of yoga and dharma, are:
1. Have a clearly explained technique for generating awakening (2PF),
2. Have tantric empowerments that supports the student without needing him or her to do all the heavy lifting,
3. Use of mantras and other techniques for washing up the energy system, and most importantly,
4. Use of dynamic concentration, which means shouting of mantric syllables.

When empowerment mantras and dynamic concentration are combined, it literally breaks the delusion into pieces, and the natural state is effectively revealed. This is the reason why Open Heart practitioners open and perfect bhumis so fast.

So, I would like to invite everyone to try it out. If you are already awake, join the empowerment, learn Open Heart Yoga level 1, and in a short while you know whether it works or not. If you don't like it, you are perfectly free to leave the practice, and you are in no way tied to the method or the teacher, (your truly). Give it a go and see for yourself.

The next online empowerment of Open Heart Yoga will be held on 2nd of December. The sessions lasts 1-2 hours, after which the students will be provided with online learning materials of the techniques.

Thank you for reading.

- Kim Katami, Head teacher,
Open Heart Sangha.

sunnuntai 4. marraskuuta 2018

Three Approaches: Mantra, Mindfulness and Direct Path

Three Approaches:
Mantra, Mindfulness and Direct Path

From online discussion.

Tantric means mantric. It would be better to call it mantric buddhism, instead of tantric. Anyway, mantric means deities. Deities are archetypes. Deities are universal, same for everyone because that's what archetype means. Any buddha will do for a deity, and reveal the basic mind. 
The reason why in Open Heart we have many deities squeezed in together is because the mind is made of many frequencies, like the many keys of a piano. Now, if we only used one deity, let's say Amitabha, for example, it could be compared to stepping down the sustain pedal and playing one note or a combination of few notes. If we kept hitting that or those notes, the rest of the keys would eventually start vibrating and emitting sound, in a gentle indirect way, because of reverberation in the instrument. We could do that, as many do, and have a path that only uses one or two deities, and it would reveal the basic mind but in this way, we don't directly adress all of our baggage.
The logic with the set of deities we have, is that when we directly push all the keys, like a wild jazz player, we cover or better reveal all of the mind, with all the remaining stuff, karmic spots, in it. This is an example how tantric or deity related paths work.

In this type of approach we gain calmness and insight, both axles of buddhist practice, from the deity. If one doesn't understand that the deity is an archetype of one's own basic mind, one is bound to thinking in dualistic terms but that issue should take care of itself in relatively short period of practice, even for stubborn secularists, who everything about this kind of practice. If this knowledge doesn't arise soon after starting tantric exercise with a deity or a guru, there is something wrong with the instructions. The bottom line is that its all devoid of self and nondual in the end, and in the start. Tantric approach is called "other power" approach because seemingly it relies on, well, "other" power but this terminology should not be taken literally because if seen dualistically, it is entirely misleading. In my view, Pure Land buddhism, which is also what we do in Open Heart, is entirely nondual.

"Self power" approach is the alternative to other power approach. In self power, one relies on one's own skills, abilities, wits, effort, view and teachings, to effect insight and illumination. This is mindfulness, basically, and its relentless cultivation. Now, there are many wonderful aspects to this type of training. One learns to sit well, in good posture, learns to calm the mind and gains patience. But the challenge of this approach is that the mind keeps getting distracted. It requires very good health, vitality, determination and a lot of time to do this practice alone, to get the real dharmic benefits (not just a little calming down). It is a hard path but the things one learns, one learns well. If I consider this kind of path, apart from mantric or direct paths, in the light of my analogy above, it takes a long time to get to the piano and get even one note playing. A decade or two goes by easily. That's the downside of it.

There is a third option which is the direct path, also known as dzogchen or advaita. Here one goes to a guru, who points out the basic mind to you, you get it and your doubts are removed. And that's it... unless it isn't. This can be taken as a path as well, but the problem here is that the confused mind is so tangled that you can go to the guru few hundred times, over the span of decades, not get it correctly and make a lot of faulty assumptions about it. The danger in this approach is that if one is too hasty, one can easily assume that one has understood the teaching, has sufficient understanding and is done. This is the tragedy of those who do not really understand the direct path.
Using the piano analogy, the point is that whether the notes play or not, makes no difference. Both silence and sound are the same. Everything is already perfect as they are. No solution or confirmation is needed because there never was a need for either, in the first place.

In Open Heart, we combine all three approaches, with some unique flavours.

>So the deities are purifying karma without us having to face and process the experience, subconsciously?

-No. The deity/deities are the natural state. By cultivating a deity we make the natural state appear and when that happens, our baggage, that is hidden in the nooks and corners of the mind, come to light. Baggage coming to light is no different than in mindfulness approach but with deity practice, they become uncovered faster and sooner, without having to wait for it. That is both the value and challenge of the tantric path. Challenge because it is not pleasant. However, if one has an unshakable motivation to become enlightened as soon as possible, for the sake of all beings, it will be much easier. If this motivation is not there, it will hurt like hell and be very unpleasant. For this reason, compassion is crucial.

I have some criticism towards the mindfulness path. It is my observation that one can end up spiritual bypassing because of all the calmness and also that this approach, as a standalone practice, takes way longer than mantric approach. But then, if calmness is enough, it is not a problem. Another issue is what you say is the lack of understanding of the practice. Here's the thing. If the natural state is not prioritised and recognised in every day practice, it is like trying to make a puzzle, seeing only one piece at a time. It is close to impossible to finish a puzzle like that. Because direct path prioritizes the natural state, one gets glimpses of all the pieces of the puzzle at once, and these glimpses keep coming at a steady rate. Which one do you reckon finishes the puzzle sooner? These approaches are very different in the way they work. Having said that, I think that combining all three approaches creates a good and efficient combination.

>What do you mean by ‘cultivating a deity’? Is it just doing the mantra with devotion? Is the idea that it releases subconscious sankaras that are then observed and dissolved or what is the action of purification?

- Deities are practiced through mantra, mudra, and visualisation, mainly mantra. Yes, that's the idea.

>Having said that, I have found the introduction of awareness of the natural state incredibly useful in vipassana practice and it adds a very important dimension that most vipassana schools seem to miss. But I still work with emotional states using pure awareness practice and feeling into the body. The awakening has really transformed and energised this process though, big time.

- That's right, a big difference with both factors.

That Was Emptiness!

That Was Emptiness!

There is little agreement between buddhist schools and lineages about what is what and the qualifications. Some have low standards, some high, some think they have high standards when in fact they have low standards. The point is that there is little consensus, so who can be considered an authority?

Anyway, buddhism is concerned with confusion and removing of it. That's all buddhism is meant to do and the way it is done, is through the emptiness principle. Emptiness or selflessness means that we come to perceive ourselves and all things in our mind, having no solidity, no entityness, no fixed existence. That's all. Everything else is just an elaboration of this core teaching. This very point removes all of our problems, because it removes all of our narrowminded selfing.

Stream entry is known by most schools of buddhism, although the names vary and the methods of getting there vary. For the sake of clarity and simplicity I'll call it awakening. What is awakening? What's the point of it?

We have basically two minds: 1. basic mind that is clear, pure, untainted and without confusion and 2. confused mind that is the construction of the self, in various forms. We are confused because we are stuck in the self-based mind, without knowing the basic mind and that the confused mind is actually also the basic mind. The purpose of vipashyana meditation, that is typical to buddhism, is to enable us to see that me, my thoughts, my emotions and my subtle body is actually the basic mind that is free and has no confilct. The purpose of buddhist meditation is to see and realise this simple fact. This realisation comes about through glimpses, awakening and integration. Awakening or stream entry is the first irreversible hit, or a blow, that causes the sharpest peak of our selfing to collapse, so that it won't reconstruct. This cannot be accomplished through calmning down meditation, although it is useful in the process.

An analogy of a glimpse, where a dog represents the basic mind that has no self. Imagine you are sitting in front of a small window, hoping to see the dog on the other side of it. If we haven't seen the dog, we don't know what to expect, even if we know other people's descriptions of it. Then, out of nowhere, the dog runs past the window. Swoosh! All we see is smudge run by. We are not completely sure how the dog looked because it went by so quickly but we saw it well enough to see that it had four legs, a tail, two ears and had the general appearance of a dog, just like the dog specialist said it would. This is a glimpse of the basic mind. It is something but it is not enough for us to see the dog well, so that we'd have certainty about the dog.

Awakening is different from glimpse. You sit behind the window again, hoping to see the dog, and then all of a sudden it comes, sits down, right behind the glass for a brief moment, during which you can see it perfectly for the first time ever, until it stands up and runs away again. Ah! That's it! That was the dog! Woohoo! Maybe you have such initial joy and wonder, many do. After the initial excitement passes, you realise that seeing the dog has somehow changed you. You no longer feel the same as before. Something is clearly different and its so much better now. You feel more you, freer, clearer, more natural, chest doesn't feel heavy and so on. It's all because you saw the dog, your true nature, without "you", the entity, in it. And because you did, it deconstructed your sense of self as an entity. That's why you feel different post-awakening. Now you gained unshakable certainty about the dog.

Whether we call this awakening, kensho, stream entry or anything else, is of no importance. The importance is on what it does to one's confusion and dissatisfaction, that, as I said above is the heart and soul of buddhism. What matters the most is how our confusion, or self, comes torn down, or seen through.

Now, some say that awakening is this or awakening is that, and are keen to deny if some single specific criterion is not checked. "You're still getting angry, huh? Well, that wasn't stream entry then". "You can't have your finger chopped off, without screaming on top of your lungs and becoming grudgeful against your abusers? Oh, you certainly didn't wake up!". As I said, there is little consensus but the way I see it, is like I explained above. What matters most is the selfless hole in the mind, that no longer has selfing in it, and that is also what is most meaningful for the person her- or himself. Whether one can read other peoples minds, walk on water, have light shining from one's heart, see past lives and so on, are just side dishes, somethign extra that you can do without. Emptiness is the main meal that fills the belly.

perjantai 5. lokakuuta 2018

Overcoming Sexual Trauma Through Awakening

Overcoming Sexual Trauma
Through Awakening

This is an account written by Open Heart-practitioner, who awakened when trying the Two-Part Formula for the first time. Since then, for about one year, she has engaged in Open Heart Yoga.

I was groomed and abused when I was 6, and again when I was 15 years old. I lived with anxiety, bouts of depression, bitterness and anger for many years. I am 46 now. I didn't really like myself very much and I didn't think others did either. I was snappy and impatient. This is not a victim story, by the way. Awakening took away the sharp edges and I calmed down. I saw life with more clarity. My perspective did a 180 degree change and I began to love more fearlessly. It's like a type of freedom. People gravitate towards me now... Who knew?

I've been through horrendous dark nights though but once they're over the pain drops away and there is meaning behind them. I was also able to forgive the enablers as I realised they had also been victims.

I feel lighter. I'm not chancing that all the pain has gone but with awakening and dark nights came a clarity and peace I've never felt. This is not a survivor story either. This is just me sharing with you how Open Heart practice has changed my life. This is how this practice helps the minds of the vulnerable and I guarantee there will be more stories like mine. Open Heart wisdom is spreading. I was guided to Open Heart and seized the opportunity. Without Open Heart I would probably have given up. This is my truth. It may sound like a pity party but it's not. It's amazing. Thank you.”

perjantai 31. elokuuta 2018

Sean's Awakening

Sean's Awakening

After 20 years of practicing buddhist meditation, I had an awakening experience in April 2018. This happened right after Open Heart Yoga weekend course in the middle of the night. I spent the night in the home of a sangha member where a Guru Rinpoche statue was placed in my bedroom. The same statue was at the altar at the course and apparently was given to the Irish Open Heart Sangha by Kim, who had consecrated it in Finland.

I literally awoke in the night with what felt like incredible flow of energy through my body that would have lit up a city. This energy with my directing flushed through the third eye on my brow. Over the next few days I noticed the chatter in my mind had subsided and there was another indicator, I was due in court over a property licence issue, I have been to court through my business many times over the years. This time I felt different in my mind. Normally it would be spinning with thoughts and my body would feel sick with fear but this time my mind and body was not reacting in the same old way. I felt a lot more relaxed, the thoughts and fear had subsided so much that it became noticeable. Afterwards I sent a photograph and a written account of my experience to Kim Katami who after analysing confirmed I had awoken.

I had been told that awakening could be a dramatic experience for some or so subtle that they may not even notice that they had in fact awoken. For me the key to this breakthrough was the Two-Part Formula, while the powerful charge emanating from the Guru Rinpoche statue finished the job.
I know I have a lot more work to do but this was the first blow into the delusion of self.
The mentioned statue.

perjantai 6. heinäkuuta 2018

What Does it Mean to Be a Terton?

What Does it Mean to Be a Terton?

It is widely believed, especially within the Nyingma school of Tibetan buddhism, that only few chosen ones can receive dharma teachings mystically, non-physically, and be "dharma treasure revealers", or tertons. I asked my good friend and student Karl Eikrem to write down his initial account of receiving his first nonphysical teaching, or terma as they are traditionally called. In this video he reads his account (follow the link to read it) and then guides the actual practice that he learned. At the end of the video I read a couple of related quotes and expound the matter a bit more. I hope this sheds light on this matter and makes people think a bit more open mindedly about it all.

To conclude I would like to present a quote from Kunzang Dechen Lingpa, as stated by his close student Acharya Malcolm Smith:

My late teacher, an important terton, said if you want to be a terton, the only real requirement is faith in Guru Rinpoche. If you supplicate him strongly enough with genuine compassion for sentient beings, then you might be able to reveal terma.”

tiistai 3. heinäkuuta 2018

Psychologist on Guru Yoga

Psychologist on Guru Yoga

Q: Guru yoga is actually also a practice of developing devotion especially when practiced with a Tibetan buddhist teacher, is that right?

A: Yes, well, I have to say that is where I always went a bit against the grain. My devotion flows easier towards an icon such as Padmasambhava than to a living teacher because I could also see that this was just a human being with his habits. To see him as perfect you could say that I failed in this but I think I couldn't do it and didn't want to. I think if you do guru yoga well then everything the guru does, feels and says if perfect but also everything you do, feel and say yourself is perfect. It means your ability to be critical is also buddha. Now we are talking, that's something you can work with. But if your abilities are seen as confusion and everything the guru does as perfect I think that's a distortion if you'll allow me. It's a misconception of what guru yoga is.

Answered by Hans Knibbe, psychologist and dzogchen-teacher.

sunnuntai 1. heinäkuuta 2018

Not even a scrap of Tibetan culture by Keith Dowman

Not even a scrap of Tibetan culture
by Keith Dowman

I don't think we need even a scrap of Tibetan culture, including vajrayana buddhism, in order to recognise the nature of mind. If somebody walks in of the street here who never heard of Tibet or Tibetan buddhism and has a natural antipathy to anything other than American culture, is given the essence of dzogchen, there's no reason why that person should not attain immediately the same state that we have reached, having gone through that whole circuit of oriental culture and Tibetan buddhism.” - Keith Dowman

keskiviikko 27. kesäkuuta 2018

CR Lama's Unholy Style

CR Lama's Unholy Style

James Low talks about his teacher Chimed Rigdzin Rinpoche, also known as CR Lama:

"My main teacher is the late Chimed Rigdzin Lama, also known as CR Lama. He was a married lama who lived with his family and, when I knew him well in India, he taught in a university. He was a great scholar, a very powerful person, and he was not at all holy. He was very ordinary in his way of life. His qualities showed themselves without his making special claims about himself. In the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism there are many different styles of practice. Some lineages display themselves as being very pure and holy; that is to say, they set themselves in the domain of the sacred and create a mood which is separate from ordinary life. When you encounter that kind of setting you have the opportunity to experience something which is not like ordinary existence. Such settings tend to be ritualised and choreographed so that everyone knows their place and what they are, and are not, allowed to do. My teacher was, however, very much in ordinary life. He was very fond of university politics, supporting his friends and attacking his enemies. This is not holy activity. But oh, so very pleasurable! For many years I was his secretary, and I had to write, on the basis of his special English, very insulting letters. In order to enter his world I had to let go many of the assumptions I held about how to live in a proper way. In the end, in order to practise, we each have to find a style which is in harmony with the energy of our potential as it responds to each unique setting in which we find ourselves. Being in the mandala, or environment, that Rinpoche created was very disturbing, and yet it was also liberating. It opened the space to see that our world is indeed a construct of our beliefs and assumptions. Freeing ourselves from relative truth, from truth based on comparing and contrasting, involves a leap of faith. Encouragement to make this leap was Rinpoche’s wondrous gift."

lauantai 9. kesäkuuta 2018

What is Emptiness?

What is Emptiness? How to Make Sense of Emptiness?

Emptiness in sanskrit is shunyata. Emptiness is also called selflessness, I-lessness or me-lessness (anatman, anatta). Emptiness and selflessness refer to the self-empty nature of mind. This is the basis of buddhist thought and practice. One who has seen his mind to be completely without a self, has mastered the teaching of emptiness, is fully awake, that is, a living buddha.

The main reason why we suffer is the sense of self (skt. atman). We have thoughts, emotions and reactions within our mind and because of the accumulation of the self-thought, I or me, these mind elements make us convinced that we exist independently as separate entities. This is the basis of delusion and suffering (dukkha).

The buddhist path is concerned with interruption and putting an end to cyclic existence (samsara) through proper understanding of the nature of suffering and through proper yogic effort. Particularly insight meditation (vipashyana), also called by different names such as lhaktong or prajna, is what is unique to buddhist meditation. According to the teachings of buddhist masters vipashyana, lit. clear seeing, is the key to removing existential confusion (dukkha).

Buddhist teachings on emptiness such as the Heart Sutra famously states that, ”Form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. What is the meaning of this? Form refers to any sort of relative phenomena, physical or nonphysical. Relative phenomena occurs in one or two ways: 1. external phenomena reflected on the mind and 2. internal mind phenomena. If all phenomena are experienced empty, there is no cause for confusion to arise. If any phenomena appearing in the mind is not experienced as empty, and hence causes selfing, self-based reaction, this impulse can and should be used as fuel for vipashyana practice.


Emptiness cannot be properly understood by contemplating the existence of external things, such as a chair or a desk. The only way to have a liberating insight is to see that selfing happens in the mind, not somewhere outside.

Emptiness needs to be understood through emptiness. Even though impermanence (anicca) and suffering (dukkha) are the other two pillars of buddha dharma it is the insight into the empty nature of mind that liberates, not the other two.

Understanding emptiness through insight is crucial for all buddhist meditators, and in fact to all who suffer of existential confusion.

Meditation on emptiness is not difficult or lofty, but simple, grounded and easy-to-understand when taught and applied correctly. If the instructions are vague and lack clarity, there will be no result or it will take unnecessarily long time. Without emptiness insight it is impossible to make sense of any buddhist teachings. This is so because all buddha dharma is built on realisation of emptiness (insight, awakening, kensho, semngo tropa). If the foundation of emptiness is not solid, there is nothing to build a stable house on.

In the long run, not having a proper insight leads to twisted dharma that is harmful and misleading. The imporatnce of direct insight has been stressed by numerous buddhist masters throughout the existence of buddhism. Without insight, the noncausal paths such as of zen, dzogchen and mahamudra are impossible to understand.

On societal and cultural levels the lack of experiential understanding of emptiness leads to great numbers of lost practitioners who are unable to have real faith about the buddhist path. For this reason the mahasangha of all beings doesn't reap true benefits through interconnectedness. All practitioners should first and foremost make sure that they understand emptiness through direct experience.

How do I know if my understanding of emptiness is right?

Insight, awakening or kensho means that part of one's deluded self-based mind becomes permanently deconstructed of the sense of self, me or I. Figuratively speaking, an insight makes a lasting hole in the wall through which the sight on the other side of the wall becomes easier to see. Without the hole one is shut behind the wall of self-delusion. An insight has a liberating effect. It makes a notable difference to have even a small hole in the wall, instead of having none, because looking through the hole instead of looking at the wall are two very different experiences.

Consecutive insights (bhumi openings), after the first one, keep making the hole bigger and bigger and in consequence it becomes easier and easier to see what is behind the wall. When insights are combined with regular daily practice, the outcome is that the separating wall becomes entirely deconstructed.

Also ”glimpses” into the self-empty nature of mind are needed. The difference between a glimpse and insight is that glimpse is not permanent.

When the hole is there our everyday life becomes a significantly different. A part of our narrow minded selfing has been permanently removed so this cannot not have an effect on our lives. Social relationships, work, creative work and other things in life are met from a more open minded and less opinionated place. Because selfing no longer happens the same way it used to, how the mind used to think, feel and react according to the self-based habits, life becomes more direct, more fresh and more intimate. This is the most profound change we can have.

There is nothing that can replace selfless insight because nothing else will deconstruct the sense of self. A simple indication that one matures in insight meditation is that one feels clear minded, open hearted, fresh and less reactive in everyday life.

Practical advice

In Open Heart vipashyana is practiced in both sutra and tantra forms. Sutra vipashyana refers to the Two-Part Formula for the first awakening and object-vipashyana instructions after that. Tantra vipashyana refers to Tibetan Heart Yoga which because of the unique aspects in the practice has the power to generate a whole series of awakenings, bhumi openings, within a relatively short period of time. These awakenings (bhumi openings) are matured (bhumi perfection) by regular practice over a longer period of time.

A practice hint: When selfing happens, pay attention to tensions in the head space. The area inside the head, pre- or post-awakening, is the place where the impulse can be effectively seen through.

Dudjom Lingpa's autobiography, p. 75:

Just as many springs and rivers in all directions merge as one taste in the vast ocean, likewise, all teachings without exception can be grouped as relative or ultimate truth. The two truths inseparable are fused within Great Perfection. If you understand the meaning of Great Perfection, you see the truth of the nature of reality. Connection to its vital instructions will carry you to the level of awareness holder.”

perjantai 8. kesäkuuta 2018

Taoist Master Attains Rainbow Body

Taoist Master Attains Rainbow Body

From book ”Qi Gong” by Baolin Wu

Du Xinlin, known as the Master of the Purple Luminescence, was an extraordinary modern seer. From his earliest childhood to his mystical passing from this plane, he lived his life as something more than a mere man. Tales of his feats of divination, martial artistry, and healing are recorded within the annals of both the Purple Cloud and White Cloud Monasteries.

At the age of 116, Master Du left the earthly plane. He lived his life as a towering mystic and master of the Taoist arts and had decided to dedicate his passing to a demonstration of the truth of his lifelong beliefs. What he accomplished was a manifestation of the power of Oi Gong few have ever attempted and no one had ever truly succeeded at in the modern era. His accomplishment is a significant event in Chinese cultural history. To present the inner teachings of 9 Palaces Microcosmic Orbit Oi Gong is a testament to his attainment and the fulfillment of his last living wish.

A few years before, when Dr. Wu was still living with him, Master Du told him that he believed that Lao Zi, Wang Chongyang, and all his other teachers were waiting for him in the Nine Central Heavens. As Lao Zi's disciple, he was ready to join him there. He told the young boy about the Rainbow Body that a worthy believer could cultivate inside his mortal body and that if his righteousness  merited it, it could leave the body with consciousness and spirit intact, instead of physical death, to fly up to Heaven in a rainbow of light.

Transubstantiation and eternal life that bypasses corporeal death has a long tradition in the East. It is known as hong hua, literally a form of the word "rainbow" that can be used as a noun or verb: The Rainbow Body is cultivated within a righteous person's physical body at the moment in passing. Taoist and Tibetan Buddhist tradition is peppered with stories of famous monks, hermits, and high lamas who attempted this feat by devoting their lives to meditation, training, and saintly acts. The ones who attained the RainbowBody were revered forever as saints and Immortals. Those who tried to pass over by "rainbow-ing" but did not succeed in leaving the world without a trace of their physical remains left behind were still venerated , the remnants of their bodies kept enshrined as holy relics. One such relic had been housed in the White Cloud Monastery when Dr. Wu was a boy there. It looked like a tiny, shriveled little man about a foot and a half high, covered in leathery, age-darkened skin. It was explained to him that if there were any portions of the Rainbow Body practitioner's body that had not been properly purified beforehis or her attempt, it would be left behind in a shrunken, desiccated form.

Master Du told young Wu the day and the hour he was going to Rainbow and made him swear to be there to watch his attempt, no matter what. Soon he became so focused on his future that he would spend the whole day quietly whispering, "I'm going, I'm going" to himself. In the beginning, the boy thought, "My teacher must be too old ... what is he talking about, all day long just saying, 'I'm going, I'm going!' Toward the end, when he had to return to Beijing for his studies, he remembers pleading with his master to stop worrying and continuously talking about it with him, assuring him that he would skip school and do whatever else he had to do to be there and watch him when he was ready to leave. Even with his childhood of Taoist training, the teenage Dr. Wu was still skeptical of his master's unconventional ways and crazy ideas. But when that particular day finally came to pass, Master Du attained his Rainbow Body. Ever since, Dr. Wu deeply believes.
The day before he was set to make his attempt, Master Du called his young student to his side. He told him, "Tomorrow I will be rainbowed. I am goingto my place in the Ninth Level of Heaven to do my practice there. I am going to continue my studies with my master Lao Zi and sit at his feet, learning what he teaches, but from now on you are going to have to study by yourself. You're going to have to work hard. Of all my students, you have learned much, but I am worried for you. You don't study hard, you are skeptical in your practice, and yet you absorb my teachings so well. All that I know, I must pass to you because none of my other students have the wisdom and insight that you barely realize that you possess. Because of the troubles in China, there is no time or place to find someone better than you to pass these traditions to."

As he sat in a tub of hot water strewn with fragrant flower petals, being washed by his student, he talked to him at length about the key points of 9 Palaces and 5 Centers Qi Gong. He told him of the real meaning of martial arts, When you learn martial arts, you are not going after specific movements, or their proper visual form, or if your hand moves correctly or not. You have to have the feel of a natural force living within you. If you feel it rising inside you, then you can bring it out with power and dynamism. Why does it take more than one person to catch, control, and subdue an insane person? They have left behind all the things that have separated them from their original abilities. Within your own original abilities lies your power. Why was Wang Xiangzhai (the founder of yiquan) so successful in his martial arts? Because he was able to bring out his own personal essence, his own unique force. There are special trainings to accomplish this. If you just focus on supple movements it might be good exercise, but if you really want to learn true striking power, true healing power, true energetic power, the basic foundation is Qi Gong.

They talked together like that all night, the student bathing the master, the
master transmitting his last words of wisdom, from eight o'clock in the evening to five the next morning. When Master Du had said all that he could,he faced his apprentice seriously. "I know you question what I have taught you, but tomorrow I will show you the reality of this knowledge. Of all mystudents, you are the one with the most doubts. You have difficulty trusting in me or believing in the teachings. But I believe, because I believe my owneyes. I believe in myself. I know you are a good student. You're a very smartperson. You have good comprehension and understanding, you can see things through, clearly and quickly. You have your own measure of wisdom. If tomorrow I fail to attain the Rainbow Body, all I ask is that you bury my remains in the place I have directed you. You can go on with your life and never think about Taoism again. I have high hopes that if tomorrow you seewith your own two eyes that I have indeed succeeded, you will vow to teach the 9 Palaces nine hundred and ninety nine times in honor of the truth you have been witness to."

That day, the temple was decorated with flowers and auspicious banners. Monks with musical instruments played continuously. Over one hundred people were assembled, including silent monitors from the Communist Party. Master Du sat in complete stillness and silence on a silken meditation cushion embroidered with dragons. At high noon, the moment for the transition had arrived. At first he remained immobile. At his side, Dr. Wu momentarily grasped his shoulder with a small shake. Suddenly his teacher flared with a burst of energy. Still enclosed in profound contemplation, his body began to levitate, spinning straight up from its cushion, rising by itself and revolving faster and faster. Turning so fast his body was a blur, he hovered for a fleeting moment just above the heads of the stunned onlookers. The solidity of his form shifted, became indistinct. His outline evaporated into red smoke; a piercing ray of red light shot straight through the center of the sun, transfixing him; and at once, the Master was gone. He had departed. No trace was left, except a pleasing fragrance that filled the courtyard for hours after.

How can this be understood? How can it be explained? For the rest of the afternoon, Dr. Wu and his companions were lost in wonder and shocked
speechless. They had been witness to proof of the heights a lifetime's study
in Qi Gong could achieve.