Can I ask you a few questions? Alright.
Ask yourself what is it that you really and actually want from your dharma and meditation practice? What is it that you need? Do you want to get the same benefits and results that yogis and yoginis of the past did? That Buddha did? Do you want to know yourself in the most thorough meaning of the word or do you wish to follow a religion, be it any form of religion? What is it that you want of this thing?
I've seen it in many of my friends who I started practicing with back in the day and who I've known over the years, that they heard about enlightenment, about bodhi, and they relate to it so deeply that they want to have the same awakening, the same transformation and the same existential wisdom that the Buddha and other masters got. Countless masters have told how great this discovery or these discoveries are. It has been well described by both past and modern masters how great of an impact awakening, discovery of the buddha within, can have and it rings our bells so loudly that we automatically want the same thing. I've seen the ignition of this inspiration in so many people everywhere around the world. It is awesome to see when people find out what has been the matter with them and realize that there is a way out of this constant sense that something is off in their lives, that something is somehow fundamentally wrong. By reading a book or by hearing a talk we can so easily discover what is our problem and how it could be removed. This in turn leads people to practice; to dharma, meditation, retreats and so on.
What happens next is that people find their way to dharma centers and meditation groups, and this is where things get tricky. Why? Because if you start thinking and analyzing it, how many centers, groups and lineages actually help you to awaken? How often you are taught about the nondual nature of the mind and given practices to realize it? How often people are taught forms and ways that do not help generate awakening? Think about it. Awakening and transformation happens in the mind and mind alone but are we really taught that way from day one when we enter dharma centers? Are we given practices that can right away be applied to generate the very same insights and awakening experiences as the Buddha had? In 99.9% of cases the answer is no. If you, as a beginner, ask for a practice that will help you have the same insight, the same opening as the Buddha did, you get laughed at, chuckled at, you're told to just count the breath (shamatha), you're told to ”just do the practice” or to ”follow the tested method”, you're told that such practices do not exist or you're told anything else except how to get awakened. Whatever answer you get they all say that it's ”not possible” or at least it's not possible ”yet” for whatever reason. Then what happens is that you take their word for it, after all they have the authentic lineage that goes way back to the Buddha, so surely they know what they're talking about. Some people try a different dharma center but get the same answer. At this point your initial motivation and inspiration starts to get muddied and the calling starts getting unrecognizable. Some people when not getting clear answers never go to dharma centers again.
Those who stay despite of not getting clear answers, start to do some prayers and meditations, bows and other forms, start getting instructed by a teacher, and perhaps even take some vows. In this way one gets sucked into the system which is not necessarily a bad thing but the original question remains unanswered: ”What is awakening? How do I get awakened? Have I awakened yet? Do these practices and commitments help me to solve the fundamental problem of self-based delusion? Do I really feel any clearer or sober in my daily life? I still experience myself as a separate entity, I haven't had any insight into the empty nature of mind, I guess I'll just stick to the ways of the system...”
This is how you get indoctrinated to a belief-based dharma, also known as religion. Years go by but the fundamental existential problem remains... and is left unadressed... ”Just follow the way that has been followed for centuries”. Over time the initial spark dies and the real inspiration and hunger to get awakened is lost, even with daily recitations of prayers that say, ”Buddhahood in this life, for the sake of all beings...” Sincere connection with this motivation gets lost and mixed in the pool of religious beliefs. Looking at the promise and encouragement of actual liberation in a single lifetime, given by the past and modern masters such as Padmasambhava and Tulku Urgyen, the projection of you actually getting there looks perfectly unlikely, at this stage. This is the harm done by religious indoctrination.
Years or even decades go by and sure there is some transformation that takes place but first hand certainty about the nature of dharma remains a mystery, and it always will in a dogmatic setting. People remain in doubt about their own authority because they do not know themselves as a living buddhas. They keep reading books, collecting quotes, asking lamas and remembering good old times. At this point they have so much ”experience” of dharma that others look up to them and ask for their advice but really all they have is religious baggage and experiential limitations, not living recognition of buddhanature. The irony is that this basic nature has been with them or us all along, through all the years of ”spiritual training” that didn't help us to discover it and failed to make our lives complete. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo is one of the very few who has had the guts to admit that buddhism has failed*. It certainly has. Buddhism is no different than all other religions. It was just another attempt to help mankind awaken but like all other attempts it failed and became a belief-based religion. Jetsunma went even farther in saying that Shakyamuni himself failed because he couldn't (even) offer a technique that would pop people's minds, that would help them awaken easily and quickly. She herself confirmed me that this is what she meant in her interview.
What starts as a system of yoga and realization over time becomes distorted into a religion and those who are indoctrinated always fail to see the fact that they aren't practicing yoga - the art and science of liberation – anymore. Believers always miss the essential points and will instantly pick a fight with anyone who makes claims of authentic realization, even if that's exactly what was done by a large variety of past and modern masters (see links below) . Ironically, so many masters who later became regarded as great masters were met with contempt and insult of religious fundamentalists. Even some profound teachings of dharma, like mahasandhi (t. dzogchen) was met with contempt until it was integrated into the religion. Looking at the history and present, the church goers will always be there to swing their banners of truth to protect it from the false believers. At the swimming pool, all the noise comes from the shallow end, as the saying goes.
I started by asking you what is it that you really want and seek? What would make you so satisfied that you didn't need any medicine anymore? What would need to happen for you to get rid of all and any practices? It's a big question but it does have a simple answer.
If you are familiar with the basic view about buddhanature, you already know that the answer is buddhanature. Your existential problems will disappear when you know that you are a fully realized buddha – awakened being – yourself and this happens through a process of familiarization. This is simple logic based on mahayana buddhist theory and some of its methods of direct realization. According to the teachings of countless past and modern masters, there is nothing else that will quench our thirst except our awakened nature. And the good news is that we all have that nature. No matter what you try, nothing else will make us satisfied and complete, and therefore the only way to finish this project of enlightenment is to start discovering, familiarizing and getting to know this awakened nature. This is obvious. It is the only way to finish the process of enlightenment and therefore also the only way to start it. For this reason all practices that we do should enable us to recognise our buddhanature and if this requirement is not met, then we are merely wasting our time. Most practitioners out there are following views and doing practices that keep them away from recognising their awakened nature and therefore stay bound by confusion (samsara).
Methods to buddhahood need to be discovered and rediscovered again and again for the simple reason that old things break and collect dust. Apply common sense and hear what masters like Tulku Urgyen and many others have repeatedly said: It is possible to attain full enlightenment – buddhahood – in this life. Don't get indoctrinated. Avoid getting dusty. Stay sober and honest. Keep asking questions. I'm just repeating what the Buddha told us to do.
From day one you should demand teachings that will enable you to have glimpses and awakening experiences that will profoundly change the way you are and the way you see yourself and the world around you. From day one, from your first week of practice, from your first month of practice you should get glimpses. If you have a great teacher and do practices that actually enable you to recognise yourself as a buddha on daily basis, in 1-2-3 years you'll be a completely different person than before. Depending on your readiness, effort and compassion you can finish the whole path of emptiness meditation and become a buddha in few years, exactly like the training manuals say. Few years, people... This is the power of correct recognition and the immense gift of efficient methods.
I wrote this text to (again) adress some fundamental problems out there. It will be met with ridicule and contempt by those who are victims of the very indoctrination I explained. There are always people who cherry pick from the teachings of the masters to suit their own worldviews, or in this case to suit their indoctrination but really what I have said here is the same message that has been delivered over and over and over by countless teachers.
To some readers these words are like fresh breeze and it is for you that I have written this to remind you of the fundamentals and to tell you that there is still hope in authentic realization of dharma.
Despite of all the chaos of samsara and various problems in dharma, there is a fully awake being in you right now. In seeing, there is buddha. In hearing, there is buddha. In thinking, there is buddha. In sleeping, there is buddha. There is no moment when wakefulness was away from you, except when kept away by your belief in yourself as a separate entity.
Please take refuge in the three jewels; buddha, dharma and sangha
Please grab the hand of the mahasiddha gurus that is always extended out towards you. Sit, breathe and live with Padmasambhava.
Dudjom Vajra, 8 July 2022