• A Mother’s Five Necessities | A Printable Excerpt from The Fourth Trimester

    Remembering to care for yourself as a mother can sometimes be the most difficult thing about your postpartum time. Kimberly Ann Johnson, author of The Fourth Trimester, has compiled a list of the five basic necessities every mother needs in order to be healthy, happy, and ready to care for a new child.

    Below you will find a printable piece with a mother's five necessities for you to print and keep.

    Fourth Trimester

    Click on the image above to access a printable page.

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  • Free Download | 20 Lojong Cards from Pema Chödrön’s Compassion Cards

    Pema Chodron

    Pema Chödrön’s Compassion Cards: Teachings for Awakening the Heart in Everyday Life

    The practice of lojong has been the primary focus of Pema’s teachings and personal practice for many years.

    Here, you can read an introduction to the 11th-century mind-training practice, the first 20 traditional slogans, and Pema’s commentary. Print them out and display one each day to sharpen the mind and open the heart.

    Enter your email to download.
    *You are agreeing to receive promotional messages from Shambhala Publications. You may unsubscribe at any time.
    Joyful Lojong
    Grateful Lojong
  • Techniques of Harmony | A Selection of Excerpts from the Art of Peace

    The Art of Peace is Required, Not the Art of War

    The divine beauty
    Of heaven and earth!
    All creation,
    Members of
    One family.


    Eight forces sustain creation:
    Movement and stillness,
    Solidification and fluidity,
    Extension and contraction,
    Unification and division.


    Now and again, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life. Sit comfortably and first contemplate the manifest realm of existence. This realm is concerned with externals, the physical form of things. Then fill your body with ki and sense the manner in which the universe functions—its shape, its color, and its vibrations. Breathe in and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe out and bring the cosmos back inside. Next, breathe up all the fecundity and vibrancy of the earth. Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with that of your own body, becoming the breath of life itself. As you calm down, naturally let yourself settle in the heart of things. Find your center, and fill yourself with light and heat.


    The Art of Peace originates with the flow of things—its heart is like the movement of the wind and waves. The Way is like the veins that circulate blood through our bodies, following the natural flow of the life force. If you are separated in the slightest from that divine essence, you are far off the path.


    Crystal clear,
    Sharp and bright,
    The sacred sword
    Allows no opening
    For evil to roost.

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    Morihei UeshibaMorihei Ueshiba (1883–1969) was the founder of Aikido. He came to believe that a real warrior was one who was rooted in love, and it was in this spirit that he began to develop Aikido, a martial art that emphasizes harmony and the peaceful resolution of conflict. See more about him here.

  • The Future of Religion | An Excerpt from the Religion of Tomorrow

    A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions

    Religion of Tomorrow

    A Religion of Tomorrow

    This is a book about what a possible religion of tomorrow might look like. It is meant to apply across the field of the Great Traditions; I believe that all of them will, in fact, most likely end up incorporating many of these elements into their own fundamental teachings at some point, simply because the forces driving toward such are so varied and far‑reaching and, on balance, indeed make such a great deal of sense.

    Nonetheless, in this particular presentation, I have chosen one religion—that of Buddhism—to use as a concrete instance, because specifics need to be given as actual examples of what is directly involved, and that requires a real religion to use as an example. I am not suggesting that Buddhism is somehow superior or more advanced and thus more open to this (in fact, as only one example, there are already a dozen books in print using exactly the same framework I will be introducing here to create a similarly “futuristic” Christianity). So there is no particular bias involved here; I believe any of the Great Traditions could be used as examples, and versions of many of them (including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, as well as Buddhism) have already been presented following the same suggestions made in this book to show what would be involved in their own cases, with each of them indeed appearing to end up much more inclusive, complete, and comprehensive (not to mention fitting more easily with modern and postmodern developments, including those of basic science, without violating any of their main teachings).

    So if you hail from a different faith—or if you are yourself “spiritual but not religious”—please work with me in the following pages and see how these suggestions could apply to your own spiritual path, formally or informally, and see if they don’t help address many problems that your approach may be facing in today’s world. Just see if the suggestions I’m about to offer don’t make a certain basic sense to you in many, many ways.

    But we start with Buddhism. It has been close to three thousand years since Gautama Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and arose with his Enlightenment, which marked the First Great Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (ultimate Truth); some eighteen hundred years since Nagarjuna and his genius birthed the Emptiness realization and the Second Great Turning; and some sixteen hundred years since the half brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu made the Third (and final) Turning of the Wheel of Dharma with the refinement of the Yogachara view. And even looking at the wondrous developments of Tantra, especially as pioneered in the great Nalanda University in India from the eighth to the eleventh centuries CE, it has been close to a thousand years since something profoundly new has been added to Buddha Dharma.

    The world’s other Great Traditions find themselves in not much different circumstances, most of them being anywhere from one to three thousand years old. At the time that the major texts in all of these Great Traditions were first written, people really did think the earth was flat and was circled by the sun; slavery was taken to be the natural state of affairs, the way things were supposed to be (and this was challenged by none of the traditions); women were second‑class citizens, if even that; atoms and molecules were unknown; DNA was unheard of; and evolution crossed nobody’s mind.

    And yet the world’s great contemplative and meditative systems—East and West—looked into the minds, hearts, and souls of men and women and came up with staggeringly astonishing discoveries, many as timelessly true and profoundly significant today as they were two thousand years ago. After World War Two, Jean-Paul Sartre was touring Stalingrad, scene of an epic battle between the Russians and the Germans, where the Russians—finally, and barely—defeated the Germans, at the cost of millions dead. “They were amazing,” Sartre mumbled under his breath. “The Russians?” his aide asked. “No, the Germans, that they got this far.”

    That’s the only appropriate sentiment you can take toward these great adepts and ancient sages—that thousands of years ago, they got this far; they saw into the core of human beings and discovered, virtually each and every one of them, the ultimate Ground of Being, not only of humans but of the entire manifest universe. With no telescopes, microscopes, MRIs, or PET scans, they saw into the very essence of an ultimate reality that not only anchored all of manifestation but, when discovered, acted to radically free men and women from suffering itself, and introduce them to their own True Nature, known by many different names, but pointing to the same groundless Ground—Buddha-nature, Brahman, Godhead, Ayn Sof, Allah, Tao, Ati, Great Perfection, the One, Satchitananda, to name but a few.

    That’s the only appropriate sentiment you can take toward these great adepts and ancient sages—that thousands of years ago, they got this far; they saw into the core of human beings and discovered, virtually each and every one of them, the ultimate Ground of Being, not only of humans but of the entire manifest universe

    The “Exoteric” and “Esoteric”

    Most of these traditions divided their teachings into two broad areas, often called “exoteric” and “esoteric.” The exoteric was the “outer teaching,” meant for the masses and the ordinary, and consisted of a series of tales, usually in mythic form, and it was taught that those who believed them would live everlastingly in a heaven with that tradition’s ultimate Being or God or Goddess. But the esoteric teachings were the “inner teachings,” the “secret teachings,” usually kept from the public and open only to individuals of exceptional quality and character. These teachings weren’t merely mythic stories and beliefs; they were psychotechnologies of consciousness transformation. By performing the specific practices and exercises, an individual could reach an actual awakening to his or her own True Nature, gaining a Great Liberation and ultimate Freedom from the terror‑inducing limitations of ordinary life and a direct introduction to ultimate Reality itself. This Great Liberation was also known by various names—Enlightenment, Awakening, moksha, kensho, satori, metamorphosis, emancipation, salvation. In all cases, it was said to be the discovery of the timeless and eternal, spaceless and infinite, Unborn and Undying, Unlimited and Unfettered, the one and only One and Only, ultimate Reality itself. As Arthur Machen’s fictional character Hampole so truthfully put it, of these esoteric practices:

    Some have declared that it lies within our choice to gaze continually upon a world of equal or even greater wonder and beauty. It is said by these that the experiments of the alchemists of the Dark Ages . . . are, in fact, related, not to the transmutation of metals, but to the transmutation of the entire Universe. This method, or art, or science, or whatever we choose to call it (supposing it to exist, or to have ever existed), is simply concerned . . . to enable men [and women], if they will, to inhabit a world of joy and splendour. It is perhaps possible that there is such an experiment, and that there are some who have made it.

    This experiment does indeed exist, and there are in fact many who have made it—that’s what the esoteric Paths of the Great Liberation are all about. Many of the original meditative schools that taught such practices are still flourishing to this day. Zen Buddhism, as one example, has been training individuals to discover their own Buddha-nature since the sixth century CE, when it was brought to China from India by Bodhidharma; Tibetan (Vajrayana) Buddhism, whose most famous follower is the Dalai Lama, was brought to Tibet in the eighth century by Padmasambhava and others, and is flourishing to this day; Vedantic Hinduism, one of the most sophisticated and philosophically astute of the Paths of the Great Liberation, is alive and well in India; and numerous contemplative schools exist in the West (from Jewish Kabbalah to Christian contemplation to Islamic Sufism) and are still passing on this “knowledge which is unto liberation.” All in all, they represent one of the great and extraordinary treasures of human history.

    But they are, the lot of them, becoming less and less influential in the modern and postmodern world. One reason is that the only “religion” the West is generally familiar with is the “exoteric,” “outer,” mythic‑story type of religion, which retains much of the often childish qualities of the age that produced it, and becomes more and more embarrassing to modern men and women, silly even. Moses really did part the Red Sea? God really did rain locusts down on the Egyptians? Elijah really rose straight to heaven in his chariot while still alive? We’re supposed to believe that stuff? It’s not exactly an easy sell in today’s world, given that the same essential worldview can be produced by any five-year-old child.

    But another reason is that, in the one or two thousand years since these Great Traditions were first created—and whose fundamental forms have not substantially changed since that time—there has been an extraordinary number of new truths learned about human nature, about the mind, emotions, awareness, consciousness, and especially the growth and development of human traits and qualities, not to mention the explosion in knowledge related to brain chemistry and its functioning, things that the ancients simply had no way to know, and so did not include in their otherwise so‑impressive meditative systems.

    But what if that which we have since learned in the past thousand years, even the past fifty years, would actually affect how, for example, a person would directly experience Enlightenment or Awakening?

    But what if that which we have since learned in the past thousand years, even the past fifty years, would actually affect how, for example, a person would directly experience Enlightenment or Awakening? What if we have discovered aspects of human awareness that most definitely determine how humans interpret any and all experiences that they have, and what if these interpretive frameworks, which will determine the different ways we directly experience Enlightenment, not only exist, but actually grow and develop through over a half-dozen well‑documented stages during a human’s overall life—and that they continue to develop during a human’s adult years? Awakening or Enlightenment is traditionally taken as being the unity of the individual self with ultimate Reality—what the Sufis call “the Supreme Identity”—resulting in a Wholeness or Nonduality, which, including all of reality, conveys a sense of utter Freedom and total Fullness to the individual. But what if these interpretive frameworks actually govern how individuals see and experience “Wholeness,” and thus directly determine how an individual experiences Enlightenment itself? That would change the nature of the Paths of the Great Liberation profoundly, with, in effect, a different “Liberation” being experienced at each of these different stages of growth and development. But the evidence is already in: those framework stages definitely exist—they have been found in over forty cultures (in every culture checked so far, in fact)—and they definitely alter how one experiences Enlightenment, or any other experience, for that matter. The very ground has shifted under the Great Traditions, and they don’t even know it.

    All of the Great Traditions are certainly in need of this information; and I am going to suggest that all of them need to incorporate the types of facts that I will be introducing in the following pages. Of course, I say this in all humility, and in the spirit of suggestions to be considered honestly, not commands to be taken unreservedly. But I am going to present a series of arguments—and significant evidence and research—to back up every suggestion I make. The idea is not for any of the Great Traditions to throw over their accepted truths, dharmas, or gospels, but simply to add some of the following facts to their overall teachings. None of what follows threatens the essential truths of any of the traditions—these facts are rather additions, simple supplements, that could be quite easily included in any major tradition. (In fact, I will provide several examples from every single major tradition where these facts are already being used and are already incorporated into their core teachings—all with extremely positive outcomes.)

    The “Integral” Approach

    This “Integral” approach (meaning “inclusive,” as in including these new and major facts) is actually an approach that can be used in virtually any human discipline. Indeed, we already have seen the rise of things such as Integral Medicine, Integral Education, Integral Therapy, Integral Architecture, Integral Business and Economics and Leadership—all told, over sixty different disciplines have found this Integral approach enormously helpful and gratifying. And, as I said, virtually every major Great Tradition has some teachers who have included this Integral approach in their own teachings—including many “Integral Buddhists.”

    And I believe that if spirituality is going to start having a real impact on the modern and postmodern world, it will have to include a fair number of these modern and postmodern facts that I am about to summarize for you.

    And I believe that if spirituality is going to start having a real impact on the modern and postmodern world, it will have to include a fair number of these modern and postmodern facts that I am about to summarize for you. Failing to include them just makes the spiritual approach look truly dated, outmoded, and archaic, and that is one of the major reasons that religion is continuously losing ground in the modern and postmodern world—only 11 percent of northern Europe, for example, is “churched.” That is, only one out of ten people have anything to do with institutional religion; nine out of ten find it unbelievable and useless.

    Not to mention the growing number of people who feel deeply spiritual but do not feel moved by any of the existing Great Traditions. There is a phrase for this that has become quite common: “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Polls show that some 20 percent of Americans identify overall with that phrase. And some polls have shown that, in the younger generation—those between eighteen and twenty-nine—this percentage explodes to an astonishing 75 percent! In other words, three out of four young individuals have a deep spiritual yearning that no existing religion is addressing. And I believe—and there is already a significant amount of evidence supporting this claim—that a more truly “Integral” spirituality speaks compellingly to this demographic.

    The Fourth Turning

    Although various teachers in all the Great Traditions have begun using this Integral approach, I chose Buddhism to use as an example, in this presentation, of what exactly would be involved. I did this for several reasons. As I pointed out earlier, this Integral approach has already been applied to many other Great Traditions (and this includes several Integral Buddhists), and I have written about many of these other traditions as well (the first book outlining this Integral approach for spirituality—namely, Integral Spirituality—was written as a nondenominational presentation designed and meant for any and all traditions). But it seemed an appropriate time to specifically address Buddhism as one of the many examples. Although I have practiced virtually all of the world’s great religions to varying degrees, I have spent an unbroken thirty years practicing Buddhism—fifteen years in Zen, then fifteen in Dzogchen and Mahamudra Tibetan Buddhism. But Buddhism also has a tradition—referred to as “the Three Turnings of the Wheel”—of tracing out its own evolutionary unfolding into wider and wider forms of belief and practice over the years, as if it understood that spiritual truths continue to grow and evolve, and that any spiritual system that wants to stay current and up-to-date needs to continue to expand its own teachings and include these new truths as they come into being. I therefore called a preliminary version of this present book The Fourth Turning; the title of that book itself implies a series of suggestions for Buddhism to actually take a Fourth Turning, in addition to its first Three Turnings, and incorporate some of the new facts I’ll be presenting here. Whether Buddhism actually takes a “Fourth Turn” or not, of course, depends upon Buddhism itself. But as the years stretch on, and it increasingly becomes longer and longer than a thousand years since new truths have been added in a new turning, the more likely it becomes that Buddhism itself will be seen as increasingly obsolete, out of date, out of touch, outmoded. This would be a disaster—not only for any Great Tradition that doesn’t take the leap—but especially for Buddhism, which contains perhaps the world’s most sophisticated and stunning understanding of meditation of any tradition anywhere, anytime. But what these new modern and postmodern discoveries have found, for example, is that the stages of meditation themselves will actually be interpreted and experienced quite differently depending on the stage of development of the individual doing the meditating—and this has been happening all along; it’s just that none of the Great Traditions were aware of it.

    That particular discovery (which is only one of the half dozen or so major types of facts we’ll be looking at)—the idea that all humans grow and develop through up to a dozen stages of interpretive frameworks that govern how they interpret and therefore experience their world—involves something much like the existence of grammar. Every person brought up in a particular language‑speaking culture (German, English, Mexican, and so forth) will end up speaking that culture’s language quite accurately—they will put subjects and objects together accurately, they will use adverbs and adjectives accurately, and in general they will end up following the rules of grammar of that language quite correctly. But if you ask any of them to write down the rules of grammar that they are following, virtually none of them can do it. In other words, they are all following the rather extensive rules of grammar perfectly, and yet they have no idea that they are doing so, let alone what those rules are!

    Growing Up and Waking Up

    These stages of interpretive frameworks are just like grammar—they are “hidden maps” that determine how we see, think, and generally experience the real territory around us. If it were possible for a six-month-old to have a real Enlightenment experience—just play along here—whatever it would be like, we could be pretty certain that it would be different from how an adult would experience it. And the main reason, of course, is that the infant hasn’t yet really grown up. And it turns out that “growing up” means moving, growing, and developing through these stages of increasingly adequate interpretive frameworks—so much so, that I refer to the sequence of these stages as “Growing Up.” In that regard, these stages are distinguished from, say, the stages of meditative development that lead to Enlightenment, or Awakening—stages that I refer to as “Waking Up.” So, as we’ll continue to see in clarifying detail, human beings have two major types of development available to them: Growing Up and Waking Up.

    And here’s the point. The states of awareness that constitute meditative states, or Enlightenment states, or Awakening states, or other types of “peak experience” states—these have been seen, known, and understood by humans for thousands and thousands of years, going back at least fifty thousand years to the first great shamans, who, in their vision quests, explored “altered states of consciousness” that were the forerunners to Enlightenment or Awakening experiences. These are direct, immediate, 1st‑person experiences that are very clear and very obvious when you have them, and these are the foundations of Waking Up. But these “hidden maps,” these hidden stages governing the overall processes of Growing Up, are not so obvious—just like the rules of actual grammar, they weren’t discovered until just about one hundred years ago. All the Great Traditions had long, long since been fixed, and none of them had a chance to include these stages of Growing Up with their carefully researched stages of Waking Up.

    Does that really matter? I mean, Waking Up is Waking Up—when you discover your True Nature, or ultimate Reality, or pure Nondual Suchness, or radical Godhead, who cares what your “relative self” is like; you’ve just discovered your one and only Real Self, or true Suchness. But that’s exactly the point. In terms of the Buddhist notion of Enlightenment, which is the union of Emptiness (pure unqualifiable ultimate Reality) and all Form (the actual manifest world in its entirety), we could put it this way: Emptiness is not affected by whatever stage of Growing Up you might be at (although a certain minimum stage might be required—we don’t really think, for example, that six-month-olds could really experience Emptiness, even though they are drenched in it), but how you experience Form is directly related to the stage of Growing Up that you are at. As you will amply see in the following pages, the very experience of Form changes from stage to stage of Growing Up. Emptiness, being beyond manifestation per se, doesn’t grow or evolve—it has no moving parts—but remains rather the timeless Thusness, or Suchness, of what is; but the world of Form is exactly what does grow and evolve and change. Therefore, the union of Emptiness and Form will likewise change from stage to stage. In other words, the very core of the Enlightenment experience itself will differ considerably from stage to stage.

    Not a single Great Tradition is even vaguely aware of this or has anything even close to these stages of Growing Up, for the simple reason that you can’t see these “hidden maps” by looking within. Just as if you look within right now, you will find no hint as to the actual rules of grammar that you are faithfully and fully following every time you think, speak, or write, so too if you look within, you will not see any of these “hidden maps” that, research confirms time and again, you are as faithfully and fully following as any rules of grammar. And yet exist they do, and they are largely determining how each one of us thinks, feels, and behaves, and these ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving change stage by stage by stage. The stage we happen to be at will even determine the likelihood that we will be interested in meditation to begin with! (In the following pages, as we go through these stages, you will quite easily be able to spot which stage you are likely at, and what you can do about it. . . . )

    So the suggestion is simple: read over the following evidence, see if it makes sense to you, and if it does, then begin applying these facts to any discipline you’re now involved with—including, as noted, medicine or nursing, business, leadership, therapy, education, politics, law, international relations, among numerous others—or, the specific topic at hand, to whatever spiritual system you happen to be practicing, including, of course, Buddhism.

    The discovery of these stages of Growing Up is one of around five or six other, equally important, modern and postmodern discoveries that affect the Paths of Waking Up in far‑reaching and profound ways. So the suggestion is simple: read over the following evidence, see if it makes sense to you, and if it does, then begin applying these facts to any discipline you’re now involved with—including, as noted, medicine or nursing, business, leadership, therapy, education, politics, law, international relations, among numerous others—or, the specific topic at hand, to whatever spiritual system you happen to be practicing, including, of course, Buddhism. The teachers of the Great Traditions who have already done so uniformly report a greater, more effective, more enhanced system of practice when these new areas are added to their standard training, which itself remains essentially the same—again, these are simple additions, not subtractions, supplements to be added to the standard practice, not things to be taken away from it. See if, by applying this Integral approach, your own practice doesn’t work better, faster, more effectively, and more efficiently.

    And remember, these aren’t specifically my ideas; I’m simply taking research that has already been done by hundreds of other people and suggesting ways that it can be applied across the board in various areas. This isn’t something like “deconstruction,” a mere theory invented by Jacques Derrida that you can believe in or not, as you wish; it’s much more like “science,” research performed by knowledge communities in dozens of areas, repeated and confirmed, representing discoveries that have been made by humanity in the past thousand years—or even the past hundred years, or even the past ten. I have no doubt whatsoever that if any of the Great Traditions were being created today, they would categorically and absolutely include this information in their fundamental teachings, dharma, gospel, or dogma. In the areas we will examine, from “Cleaning Up” to “Showing Up” to “Growing Up,” these are facts that affect “Waking Up” in profound, far‑reaching, and absolutely crucial ways, affecting and changing the very nature of the Paths of Waking Up in ways that, I honestly believe, can no longer be ignored in our modern and postmodern worlds. It is time to bring all of the Great Traditions up to speed in this world, or watch the demographic they influence continue to shrink to 11 percent or less of the population, as the world increasingly looks to systems more up-to-date for guidance on when, where, why, and how to live their lives.

    And this is an urgent, utterly urgent, task, because virtually none—not one—of the world’s modern and postmodern worldviews has anything resembling Waking Up. They know about Growing Up, and Cleaning Up, and Showing Up (the latter terms to be discussed below)—those are the only maps they use to make sense of the territory in which they find themselves—but of Waking Up, they know nothing, literally and absolutely nothing. This is a catastrophe of the first magnitude, a cultural disaster of unparalleled proportions.

    Relative Truth and Ultimate Truth

    The traditions uniformly divide truth into two categories: relative truth and ultimate Truth. Something like “Water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom” is a relative truth. But something like “Water itself is a manifestation of an ultimate Ground of Being” is an ultimate Truth. And ultimate Truth can’t readily or easily be put into words, although it can be experienced, or directly and immediately realized—namely, by taking up the meditative stages leading to a Waking Up. What one wakes up to is exactly ultimate Truth.

    Our culture is awash in relative truths, in every sort of area imaginable, but it is absolutely bereft of ultimate Truth. Moreover, it doesn’t even suspect its existence; it is absent ultimate‑Truth knowledge, and absent an awareness of its absence—a double lack. It’s like frostbite: the affected area doesn’t hurt, so the person thinks that things are just fine, whereas it doesn’t hurt, not because things are fine, but because the person is numb and hence numb to the numbness itself. It’s a double absence, and it is killing this culture, top to bottom.

    We are not short of criticisms of Western culture; it’s a hobby for any would‑be philosopher or sociologist anywhere, a cottage industry. We have critiques of capitalism, consumerism, sexism, racism, patriarchy, greed-driven business, fossil fuel energy, multinational economics, environmental despoliation, global warming, militarism, worldwide poverty, the gap between rich and poor, human trafficking, epidemic drug use and marketing, worldwide hunger, global water shortages, worldwide disease epidemics, increasing food shortages—and on and on and on.

    I find merit in virtually all of those critiques. But there is one critique that is, arguably, as important as, or more important than, any of them that is never, but never, even mentioned—a critique based on the fact that Western culture has lost track of its own sources of Waking Up. It has no ultimate Truth as a North Star to guide its overall actions, which means, ultimately, it has no idea where it is actually heading. So it generally throws its hands up, and awaits technological advances to address any really severe and persistent headaches—after all, we do have the hi‑tech singularity headed this way, right? And it will soon enough solve all our problems, even some problems so difficult that we don’t even know we have them yet, but beyond‑brilliant computers will ferret out, pinpoint, and solve them, ushering in a transhuman heaven on earth, hallelujah!

    It’s not that I have major disagreements with any of those views, either. It’s that they are all relative truths, relative realities, relative solutions. There is still no ultimate Truth, no Waking Up to an ultimate Reality, which, as the groundless Ground of Being, anchors and gives reality to any such relative endeavors in the first place. We are diving headfirst into the shallow end of the pool, and encouraging all of our fellow citizens to do the same as fast as they possibly can. It’s mass suicide; that’s what it is. And to make matters worse, we’re proud of it! Proud that we are wallowing in relative truths and that we adamantly maintain that there is no ultimate Truth anywhere anyway.

    But ultimate Truth is not something that can be rationally demonstrated or proven. As the Great Traditions would put it, humans have at least three modes of knowing: the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, and the eye of contemplation. The eye of flesh is what grounds conventional science—all conventional science rests its proofs in sensory experience (or extensions of the senses, such as telescopes, microscopes, CAT scans, and X‑rays). The eye of mind gives us rationality, logic, and reason. Mathematics, for example, is a mental experience (nobody has ever seen the square root of negative one running around out there in the sensory world—it is a mental experience, pure and simple), and likewise logic, its rules and regulations, are mental experiences. And there are no sensory proofs for mental realities—there is no sensory proof for math or logic; can’t be done. The “eye of mind” is a higher-level development than the eye of flesh, and the lower cannot prove the higher. Likewise with the “eye of contemplation”—a higher level yet, which cannot be proven either by the eye of flesh or the eye of mind (senses, reason, or logic). The eye of contemplation is the eye with which a human has authentic spiritual experiences, and just as sensory experiences are the foundation for the natural sciences, and mental experiences are the foundation for mathematics and logic, so spiritual experiences are the foundation for Waking Up realizations—for Enlightenment, Awakening, metamorphosis, gnosis, jnana. And scholars of the mystical, or esoteric, or inner teachings of the world’s Great Traditions are fairly unanimous in saying that although the outer teachings of each tradition are considerably different, often even contradictory, the inner esoteric teachings, the teachings based not on beliefs but on direct spiritual experiences of Waking Up, show a remarkable similarity in what they say, which is why the mystics of virtually all the world’s religions have great ease in understanding each other, even as their exoteric brethren argue themselves silly.

    But this universal core of Waking Up and ultimate Truth is, as we noted, slowly but surely becoming less and less influential everywhere in the world, and this is for two basic reasons: First, they are too often confused with the outer, exoteric, childish, mythic narratives that constitute probably 90 percent of the world’s religions as presently taught (and as humanity continues to mature, it increasingly finds these childish myths embarrassing and silly). Second, and this is what I am emphasizing, even the Waking Up schools have become out of touch, out of date, outmoded in certain ways, by simply failing to continue to add new and profoundly important truths to their own teachings. As I said, I have no doubt whatsoever that were these paths being created today, the Waking Up schools would absolutely include these truths as crucial components of their Waking Up teachings. Including these new truths and facts makes Waking Up work even better! Why on earth wouldn’t they include them?

    I mentioned that the “hidden maps” of Growing Up are so hard to spot that they weren’t discovered until around one hundred years ago. Humans have been on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years, and only in the last one hundred years did they discover these maps, even though humans have been growing through them from the
    start! Another discovery, barely any older, is that of evolution itself. All of human history, and it was only around 150 years ago that evolution itself was discovered. Modern science now believes that evolution touches essentially everything in existence (even though it is lagging behind theoretically on exactly how to explain this). But the fact of evolution (if not the “how” of evolution) is now undeniable. There are even leading‑edge thinkers who maintain that what humanity took to be immutable “laws of nature” are actually closer to “habits of nature,” that these “laws” themselves evolved over the years.

    The Evolution of Religion

    But that makes one thing certain: spiritual and religious systems themselves have undergone, and continue to undergo, evolution. It’s hard to read the Bible, for instance, and not notice the “growth” in God, from a childish, malicious, malevolent little monster—who in over six hundred passages early in the Bible recommends that his own people commit aggression and murder—to a being who recommends loving your enemies in all cases and always turning the other cheek. And what are the Buddhist “Three Turnings” but something close to an evolutionary unfolding of deeper and deeper truths and realizations? But one thing is for sure: whatever that evolution was, it didn’t up and totally stop one or two thousand years ago; no, evolution continued to unfold, whether it was realized or not. You can even see evolution as driven by “Spirit‑in‑action,” which I think is the only theory that can actually explain the mysteries of evolution satisfactorily; but in any event, spiritual realities have continued to unfold, to evolve, to follow what Alfred North Whitehead called that inexorable “creative advance into novelty.” And part of catching the traditions up with the modern and postmodern world is to simply follow their own evolutionary unfoldings as they continued over the ages (and they did continue, even if often in hidden and obscure sects and followings; but a trained eye can look at the history of virtually any religion and see, overall, movement through the stages of Growing Up—and these are parts of what need to be included in any new and updated Fourth Turning in any and every Great Tradition, if it is to find its way in the modern and postmodern worlds).

    So that is the suggestion. Please take your time, and look over the following evidence, facts, and research, particularly as it applies to any spiritual system for Waking Up—I generally use Buddhism as an example, but my suggestions are meant to apply across the board—and see if some of it, at least, doesn’t make some sort of sense. And remember, we’re not taking anything away; this is not a painful subtraction of truths that you have become accustomed to; it is a simple addition, and in terms that can be completely accommodated to the already fundamental truths and doctrines of any tradition to which they are being added. These additions can be made in completely “kosher” forms to any tradition, as the many teachers in each tradition using an Integral approach have already demonstrated.

    Above all, it is to preserve the ultimate Truth disclosed in the process of Waking Up that this effort is dedicated; this is such a precious, such a gorgeously glorious discovery of humankind, that the percentage of the population aware of its existence cannot be allowed to drop to 11 percent, then 5 percent, then 0 percent, as the only ultimate Truth ever uncovered by humankind is allowed to slip into the gutter and wash away into obscurity. A greater crime could hardly be imagined. But something, indeed, must be done, in terms of the packaging in which this ultimate Truth and Waking Up is presented—thousands‑of‑years‑old packaging not only has no interest for today’s humans, it isn’t even keeping up with Spirit‑in‑action itself. Spirit‑in‑action has itself moved and evolved well beyond the forms in which it presented itself to humans thousands of years ago, and it has been moving forward ever since, driving new discoveries in science, art, morals, education, politics, economics, and, yes, even religion and spirituality. However, the latter two fields suffer from arrested development, as it was believed that the original forms of spiritual presentation were somehow cut in stone, never to be changed or improved on again, and not to believe in their original forms was the equivalent of heresy, blasphemy, and horrid disbelief. Thus, the effects of Spirit‑in‑action were listened to in virtually every other area of human activity—from science to morals to medicine to economics—except in religion and spirituality itself, perhaps history’s greatest (and saddest) irony.

    And remember, the discovery of this ultimate Reality is said to be not only the groundless Ground of all Being “out there” but also “in here”—it is the discovery of your own, truest, deepest Self and Suchness, the utterly most central and most real Reality of your own being, the discovery of which constitutes directly your own Awakening, your own Enlightenment, your own Metamorphosis:

    Some have declared that it lies within our choice to gaze continually upon a world of equal or even greater wonder and beauty. It is said by these that the experiments of the alchemists of the Dark Ages . . . are, in fact, related, not to the transmutation of metals, but to the transmutation of the entire Universe. This method, or art, or science, or whatever we choose to call it (supposing it to exist, or to have ever existed), is simply concerned . . . to enable men [and women], if they will, to inhabit a world of joy and splendour. It is perhaps possible that there is such an experiment, and that there are some who have made it.

    Well, there is such an experiment; and men and women for thousands of years have made it; and all have returned to tell a remarkably similar tale of what they saw and witnessed first hand, of the ultimate Reality to which they were introduced and that changed them deeply and forever. This is humanity’s one and only discovery of something that, once experienced, individuals almost unanimously claim to be an ultimate Reality, an Absolute Truth, the most real and most certain experience that they have ever had. This is the precious jewel that we must not let perish. This is the treasure we must not let go uncovered. This is the Truth that we must not let die. Please join me in taking steps that hopefully will help prevent perhaps the greatest catastrophe in humankind’s history, won’t you?

    Related Books

    Ken WilberKen Wilber is the author of over twenty books and the founder of Integral Institute. See more about him here.

  • Being Human | An Excerpt from Zen in the Age of Anxiety

    Wisdom for Navigating Our Modern Lives

    being human
    I can’t get no satisfaction
    ’Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
    I can’t get no, I can’t get no

    (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

    The Rolling Stones’s first big hit in the United States was “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and is still considered by many the greatest song they ever recorded. It made the charts in 1965. I was in my fourth year at Stanford University, on the supposed fast track to success and happiness. I’d been born into an upper middle class family, I lived in the beautiful and prestigious San Francisco Bay Area, and I never gave more than a moment’s thought to the concerns about money and economic status that the previous generation had worried about during the post–World War Two era.

    So you may be wondering why the lyrics of that classic Stones song would resonate so deeply with me and my generation. The reason is that, in the sixties, there was more going on than just the restless angst of a privileged generation. Younger Americans were among the first to deeply question the decisions coming out of Washington and the aggressive international path our country had taken. The anguish and actions of college students and other young people around the country polarized the nation: Peace activists (including me) rallied against the Vietnam War while returning soldiers, with mangled bodies and war-weary eyes, were honored in parades and then forgotten. Angry and often violent polarization was reflected on streets and campuses, in our art, and in our music.

    And that man comes on the radio
    He’s tellin’ me more and more
    About some useless information
    Supposed to fire my imagination

    The idea of the American dream, so fulfilling to my parents and grandparents, no longer nourished the hearts and minds of many in my generation. I tried, and I tried, and I tried, but I got no satisfaction—not as a peace activist, or a student, or at my job. I got a little satisfaction in love, but then we broke up. A little satisfaction from sex, but it didn’t last very long.

    A year before “Satisfaction” came on my radio, I’d begun a meditation practice with Suzuki Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center. For a while my heart was calm and peaceful, but when the dissatisfaction returned, it seemed deeper and more impenetrable than ever.

    Meditation doesn’t save us from life’s trials and tragedies. In fact, Zen meditation allows us to enter completely both the joy and darkness that make up this great life. Deep healing often begins in darkness, in times when we feel deep dissatisfaction and little or no vitality.

    Meditation doesn’t save us from life’s trials and tragedies. In fact, Zen meditation allows us to enter completely both the joy and darkness that make up this great life. Deep healing often begins in darkness, in times when we feel deep dissatisfaction and little or no vitality.

    The place of our deepest fears can be rich soil when it is entered into fully. As our eyes adjust to the dark, clear-seeing becomes possible. Standing firm in the darkness, without withdrawing or lashing out, we discover what motivates us in healthy, wholesome ways and what drives us to exhaustion and depression. We see for ourselves how fear-based thinking and emotional reactivity influence us individually and collectively. Fear is used by us and against us, and recognizing this truth is the first step toward healing.

    This book offers an approach to life that opens us up to a new way of thinking and being in the world. The approach is not new, but too often confusing language, unfamiliar metaphors, and practices that confound and bewilder obscure it. This book is written in the style of an owner’s manual, a guide to being human, and begins by focusing on the four most troublesome areas that most of us are intimately familiar with: feelings of unworthiness, and issues surrounding sex, money, and failure. These are the outermost layers of the onion, and they must be penetrated with clear-seeing, generosity, and openness.

    Year after year,
    the monkey’s face
    wears a monkey’s mask
    —Basho, seventeenth century

    Basho’s poem points to the difficulty of penetrating the onion by seeing through our fear-based thinking. But as I stayed with my meditation practice, I began to see through the layers to realize a direct correlation between the fear-based dramas playing out in my mind and my can’t-get-no-satisfaction life. Maybe you can, too.

    One Step at a Time: The Footprint Stage of Practice

    Every major religion includes contemplative practices that can move us beyond the confusion, disintegration, longing, and weariness associated with fear-based thinking. Often, however, we have to completely exhaust ourselves before we are ready to embark on this life-altering path.

    Here in the United States, we are exhausting ourselves at a younger and younger age. I was twenty when I began my meditation practice. Meditation was an oddity then. But today more and more people are turning to this ancient practice to cope with the mental and emotional stress and weariness that have become hallmarks of American culture.

    Maybe you’ve tried to meditate in the past but have lost your way and quit—perhaps repeatedly. It’s not an uncommon experience. Often people read or hear something inspiring and begin a regular practice. They’ve caught a glimpse of something meaningful, like rabbit tracks on the surface of new-fallen snow. But then the deeper teachings that support the practice become remote and incomprehensible, and the footprints fade away like tracks vanishing in falling snow.

    Maybe you’ve tried to meditate in the past but have lost your way and quit—perhaps repeatedly. It’s not an uncommon experience. Often people read or hear something inspiring and begin a regular practice. They’ve caught a glimpse of something meaningful, like rabbit tracks on the surface of new-fallen snow. But then the deeper teachings that support the practice become remote and incomprehensible, and the footprints fade away like tracks vanishing in falling snow.

    This is what I call the footprint stage of practice. When the tracks disappear, people become overwhelmed or discouraged and withdraw back into their frenzied life of dissatisfaction. Later, the tracks reappear, and for a time, the path is clearly marked. Repeatedly the footprints seem to disappear and reappear.

    Eventually, you’ll come to realize that the tracks are everywhere—but always, the snow keeps falling and covering them up. Life is continuously unfolding in unlikely and unpredictable ways. Repeatedly, we seem to drift back into the dramas, anxieties, and worries of a fear-driven life. But this, too, may be the path. Each time we return, we are a little wiser and a little more sure-footed as we realize that the path is right where we are, even when the footprints fade from view. When the footprints are visible, we feel secure; when they vanish, we learn to trust. Even though the path is always here, the way we walk it is uniquely our own.

    Our Movie-Making Mind

    In 2015, forty-five years after I moved away from the Bay Area, I went back to promote my first book, Nothing Holy about It. One afternoon, I walked to Bush Street where the San Francisco Zen Center had been. It was now a senior center.

    As I stood on the corner of Bush and Laguna, my mind was flooded with memories. I had practiced at the center for five years, from 1964 to 1969, with Suzuki Roshi, who became one of the most famous Zen teachers in the world. Five years may not seem like a long time to absorb Suzki’s teachings, but in the days before he was famous he had only a handful of devoted students, so I saw him frequently.

    Thinking back to those days, I looked through a window into the room where the auditorium used to be, where on Saturday evenings Suzuki watched imported movies with his Japanese congregation. Then on Sunday mornings he would give dharma talks for his small group of American students. The Japanese congregation didn’t meditate or go to his dharma talks. In Japan, only the monks living in monasteries meditated and studied the teachings.

    Each day as I entered the building for morning meditation, I passed a giant poster advertising the upcoming movie. A typical poster featured swords dripping with blood, decapitated limbs, and geishas in distress. These looked like pretty lousy movies by my standards. When I wanted some entertainment, I went to North Beach, where they showed artistic movies that had some depth and were emotionally moving. I felt bad that my teacher had to watch those B-rated imports.

    One Sunday morning Suzuki looked tired.

    “Do you have to watch movies every Saturday night?” I asked.

    “Oh, yes,” he said, cheerfully. “We watch movies together on Saturday nights.”

    “I’m sorry you have to watch those movies. Do you like any of them?” I asked.

    “I like them all,” he said.

    He liked them all? Apparently my teacher was pretty unsophisticated when it came to movies.

    This was during a time when my Zen practice had become very difficult. It was my can’t-get-no-satisfaction phase, and all sorts of memories and fears were coming up in my meditation. Over and over, I relived past dramas and projected them into the future, rehearsing how I wanted to be different. The stillness and joy I’d experienced my first few months of Zen practice had vanished. I seemed to have no control over the images that cycled through my mind, on and off the cushion.

    “I like them all,” was a teaching that I didn’t recognize until much later. Even though I didn’t understand the significance of those four words at the time, they stayed with me. Suzuki wasn’t judging the movies he saw. He wasn’t comparing them to the artsy films playing at North Beach. He was simply present, attentive, and engaged. This was his way.

    “I like them all,” was a teaching that I didn’t recognize until much later. Even though I didn’t understand the significance of those four words at the time, they stayed with me. Suzuki wasn’t judging the movies he saw. He wasn’t comparing them to the artsy films playing at North Beach. He was simply present, attentive, and engaged. This was his way.

    Today, people say that Suzuki Roshi was a great enlightened being, but I don’t know about that. He lived lightly, joyfully. That is what I remember most about him. It’s what drew me to him and continues to draw me to him, though now he lives only in my heart.

    “I like them all” was a footprint along my path, one that disappeared and reappeared, over and over, until I finally got it. I realized that I could be present and attentive to the movies inside my head without getting caught up in which ones were good and which were bad.

    I think this is a challenge that most of us face. We create movies in our heads to try to make sense of the world and of what’s happening around us. But these movies are based on our memories of past experiences, and if they’re so dense we can’t see beyond them, they tether us continually to the past.

    We can learn something about ourselves if we look closely at these movies and recognize their genres and themes. When we’re fearful, our movies may be tension-filled dramas. When moody or anxious, gloomy melodramas. For many people, ghost stories are a favorite genre. Here’s one of mine:

    In the mid-sixties, there weren’t many of us meditators, so I got to hang out with Suzuki as much as I wanted. Then we purchased Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery, and more and more people came to practice with him. Things began to change.

    I had a friend whom I’ll call Louise. She was a serious Zen student, and I appreciated her sincerity. But after a while it seemed that she was dominating Suzuki’s time and I began to appreciate her less and less. Whenever I saw her, I was overwhelmed with jealousy and confusion.

    Finally, I realized what was going on. In this situation Louise was like my sister, and I was jealous of my sister my whole life because my dad seemed to give her more time and attention than me. I became aware that the movie I’d created so many years ago was now playing out even here in this calm, monastic setting, dedicated to the cultivation of stillness, compassion, and deep inner joy. I was trying my best to live in today—but memory ghosts swirled around me, separating me from what was actually going on. I felt isolated even while surrounded by kind and caring people.

    This is the human situation: We often see others through our prior experiences and expectations. We are so mesmerized by these ghostly images that we don’t really encounter each other. Memory ghosts can be so dense and murky that we can’t see through them, forming a protective shell that makes us feel disconnected from life.

    This is the human situation: We often see others through our prior experiences and expectations. We are so mesmerized by these ghostly images that we don’t really encounter each other. Memory ghosts can be so dense and murky that we can’t see through them, forming a protective shell that makes us feel disconnected from life.

    Memory ghosts sometimes signal a deep hurt or disappointment that needs to be attended to and released. So we have to pay attention to the types of movies that cycle through our minds. If we learn to see them clearly without judgment or criticism and without getting caught up in them, they can serve a deeper purpose, becoming an inner resource that nourishes our aspiration and offers insight and emotional release.

    Throughout this book, I’ll offer hints and techniques to guide you along, but in the end we learn how to do this deep inner work by doing it. If you stay with it, at some point you will begin to disidentify with your movies and experience an inner openness that allows you to remain receptive to life. Eventually, you’ll learn to recognize responses that sustain this openness. But first, you’ll have to see clearly those responses that close you down.

    Caught In a Self-Centered Dream

    We know so many things but we don’t know ourselves.
    —Meister Eckhart

    I’d like to share a story about a woman I’ll call Alice. Alice had a beautiful daughter that she was proud of. She was very involved in her daughter’s life, and she considered herself to be a good mother, but when her daughter went to college and had a psychotic break, everything changed. Alice felt responsible. This was the early seventies, a time when many people believed that mental illness was inherited from the mother. So now, in Alice’s mind, she was a bad mother. To escape her guilt, she began to drink heavily.

    She went into therapy that lasted for several years, during which time she learned that her daughter’s schizophrenia had nothing to do with her. Alice became a mental health advocate, because she now felt that she was a good person with something meaningful to contribute.

    Then Alice’s youngest son got kicked out of college for using drugs, and her husband left her for her best friend. Now Alice felt that she was a terrible mother, a terrible wife, and even a terrible human being.

    Soon thereafter, her daughter with schizophrenia gave birth to an adorable baby that they parented together, and Alice became a happy, fulfilled mother and grandmother. A few years later, however, her daughter went off her meds, had paranoid delusions, and ran off with the child. Who did Alice think she was then?

    Like Alice, many people wander through life experiencing a series of changing roles, like actors in a succession of movies. Who are we in the midst of all these roles? Are we our ideas? Are we our thoughts, our concerns, our movies? Or are we the extended feelings, the moods, the instinctual urges that underlie the movie-making world that we live in?

    Meditation is about seeing the multiplicity of roles we identify with, and the way these roles continuously arise and vanish. If we hold them lightly, the roles remain transparent, allowing us to see and appreciate their ever-changing nature.

    Meditation is about seeing the multiplicity of roles we identify with, and the way these roles continuously arise and vanish. If we hold them lightly, the roles remain transparent, allowing us to see and appreciate their ever-changing nature.

    As Alice’s story shows, we identify with certain components of our experience, tie these components together, and call this string of events our self. This seems to be the nature of our movie-making mind. These mental movies have the capacity to either diminish or enrich our lives.

    Buddha taught that what we experience as continuity arises from a continuous flow of activity, rather than a solid, unchanging self. Alice’s story points to the key to understanding the wisdom of this chapter.

    KEY #1: Recognizing the self as a process frees us from a self-centered dream.

    We begin to experience freedom from our habituated way of experiencing the world as we learn to see the self as a process rather than a solid being moving through time. For most of us, however, freedom from our fear-based way of thinking does not come easily.

    In the thick of the forest is where you will find your freedom.

    We never know when we’re going to find ourselves in the thick of the forest. For my friend Sydney, a long-time meditator, the discovery of freedom came through a major stroke that left her unable to speak. When I went to see her, she used a writing pad to communicate. Her hand shook uncontrollably as she wrote, “I’m okay. Learned not this face. Learned not this body.” When I looked at her, her eyes were suffused with loving acceptance.

    Sydney found peace, even tranquility, after her stroke because she had sustained a regular meditation practice for many years. Even a practice of only twenty minutes a day can help you hold your movie-making response lightly.

    To really penetrate the movies and follow them all the way in so as to see the patterns that produce them, however, requires more. That’s why we have Zen retreats that last from three days to a week or even longer.

    A few years ago, during a long retreat, a student came to see me for a private meeting. She said, “I think it’s going well because my mind has gotten very quiet. But it’s kind of scary. Who will I be if I lose myself? How will I function in the world?” As she spoke she churned up more and more doubt until finally she exclaimed, “I think I should go home now.”

    This frequently happens in Zen retreats. When you finally experience some stillness, these questions become relevant. How do you identify with non-being? There’s nothing there to identify with. It can be disconcerting at first. But it’s right here, in the thick of the forest, that we discover a wonderful freedom that our movie-making mind cannot touch.

    I encouraged the retreat participant to stay with her anxiety and ride it out. She agreed to give it try. When she came to see me a couple of days later, her mood was quite different. She spoke of the stillness and peacefulness she was experiencing. “When the bell rang to end a meditation session, my body rose on its own. My body knows what to do.”

    Whatever you experience in meditation becomes your teacher if you just stay with it. Even asthma can be your teacher, as my friend Eleanor discovered. Eleanor was planning a long retreat with Katagiri Roshi, then the guiding teacher of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. She was worried about doing the retreat because she had to use an inhaler frequently. That meant she would have to use it during meditation, but she was clinging to her idea that she should not move during meditation.

    Katagiri Roshi encouraged her to do the retreat. He counseled her to be with the stress in her throat if she could and to use her inhaler whenever she needed to. “Use the stress in your throat as the object of your meditation,” he said.

    Eleanor began the retreat knowing that she could use her inhaler any time. But as the retreat went on, she was able to relax into the stress in her throat more and more. She stayed for the entire seven-day retreat. By the end, she noticed that her throat muscles had relaxed and her breath was not so shallow.

    By being with it rather than trying to avoid or escape it, asthma became Eleanor’s thick of the forest. It became a place of freedom where before there was only limitation.

    Being human can feel like being trapped—trapped in a body that demands and bullies, a mind that ridicules and spins out over every little thing, a dangerous and confounding world. But is it really that way? The next three chapters will take you into the darkest forest, to the very places where we feel most lost and most vulnerable. But you’ll have a guide and a flashlight. All you need to bring is an open mind and a willing heart. The last section of each chapter, Doing the Work, is where your eyes begin to adjust to the dark, and your own insight becomes your guide.

    Core Meditation Practice for Calming and Centering

    If you’re meditating at home, it’s important to designate a certain place for your practice. It can also help to create a bit of ritual that signals to your brain your intention to meditate. You might begin by closing the blinds or curtains, dimming the lights, lighting a candle, or perhaps burning a bit of incense. Take each step with your full attention. Feel the floor against your feet and the feel of the match or lighter as you light the candle; notice how the flame flares up and the smoke curls and spirals. When these tasks are performed with attentiveness, always in the same order, and with one-pointed focus, they become a calming and centering ritual. Your mind will start to settle down before you even begin the meditation.

    During meditation, when your mind becomes distracted from your breath (and it will, over and over), try to notice the distraction and then return without comment or reactivity. When some emotional reactivity does bubble up, say frustration or irritation, focus on the bodily sensations of frustration or irritation rather than your thoughts. Stay with the sensations until they dissolve and then return to the object of focus. Don’t try to suppress your thoughts. The point is to become aware of your thought patterns by noticing the arising of a pattern without getting caught up in it. That’s why we stay focused on the breath, using it as an anchor so we can see our patterns without reinforcing them.

    During meditation, when your mind becomes distracted from your breath (and it will, over and over), try to notice the distraction and then return without comment or reactivity. When some emotional reactivity does bubble up, say frustration or irritation, focus on the bodily sensations of frustration or irritation rather than your thoughts. Stay with the sensations until they dissolve and then return to the object of focus. Don’t try to suppress your thoughts.

    Start by taking a few deep breaths and notice where in your body you feel your breath most prominently. It may be in your nostrils, or as your breath moves down your throat, or in the rise and fall of your chest or belly. Just rest your focus in that area and then allow your breath to return to its natural rhythm, without trying to control it. If your breath is shallow and quick, let it be shallow and quick; if it’s slow and deep, let it be slow and deep. Feel the openness that allows the breath to come and go on its own, without hindrance. Bring that same non-attached openness to whatever arises in your mind.

    Allowing your breath, thoughts, emotions, and sensations to arise and then dissolve on their own is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do. The specific nature of the difficulty reveals something about our own patterns of reactivity. Is it difficult to let your breath be, without controlling or judging? Do you get agitated or angry when you catch your mind wandering off? You can start to free yourself from your inner control freak by simply observing the rhythm of your own breath without interfering and then extending that gentle attentiveness to your thoughts and emotions as they arise.

    As we follow the natural rhythm of our breath, we begin to discover in an experiential way that our thoughts, sensations, and emotions come and go as naturally as the breath if we do not cling to them or try to avoid them. Of course emotions are more viscous and slow-moving than breath, but they come and go nevertheless, because this is the natural rhythm of life. It is only our fear that we’ll be overwhelmed by our emotions or do something stupid that makes us feel out of balance or out of sync with reality. Meditation gives us the opportunity to get to know our emotions in an intimate way so we’re comfortable with them. Even the strong emotions that we try so hard to avoid become fresh new avenues of insight and deepen our capacity for compassion.

    Doing the Work

    1. Think for a moment about a personal narrative—a mental movie—that you play over and over in your mind. As an antidote, imagine the unfolding of an opposite story. See if you can find a memory that affirms this new story line. Or you may bring to mind a memory that supports the old story line—and open yourself up to a new interpretation.

    2. Recall a time when you found yourself in the thick of the forest. What did this experience teach you about yourself?

    Related Books

    Tim BurkettTim Burkett is the former CEO of the largest non-profit organization in Minnesota for individuals with mental illness. He is a psychologist, a Zen Buddhist priest, and the Guiding Teacher of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. See more about him here.

  • Chogyur Lingpa: A Profile

    Chogyur Lingpa

    By www.treasuryoflives.org [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Few Treasures of the Nyingma School have left a larger imprint on contemporary Tibetan Buddhism than those of the famed nineteenth century master Chokgyur Dechen Shigpo Lingpa (1829-1870). Since the time of his revelations a century and a half ago, Chokgyur Lingpa’s Treasures have become pop­ular not only within the Nyingma School but also in the Kagyu lineage where they have been actively promulgated by such prominent figures as Jamgön Kongtrul, the Dazang and Situpa Tulkus, and, above all, several Karmapa hierarchs. The Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa together with their commentaries are known collectively as the New Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa. Today they comprise an extensive collection in 39 volumes including more than 1000 in­dividual titles and several genres that, prior to the time of Chokgyur Lingpa, had never been revealed as Treasure but only existed in the older lineage of Transmitted Precepts.

    In addition to his role as a Treasure revealer, Chokgyur Lingpa was an influential figure in the ecumenical (ris med) movement that arose in eastern Tibet during the nineteenth century around the figures of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. It was in large part the close relationship that Chokgyur Lingpa enjoyed with these two extraordinary masters that helped the New Treasures to become a widespread and popular tradition. Considering its significant impact on nineteenth and twentieth century Tibetan thought and society, it is surprising that the ecumenical tradition so far has received little scholarly attention.144 Still, although the ecumenical tradition is only peripheral to our topic here, given the active involvement of Kongtrul and Khyentse in the revelations of Chokgyur Lingpa, future studies of the New Treasures will doubtless yield significant information on the workings of that movement.

    The features of the New Treasures that make it so valuable—its vastness, visionary variety, and philosophical complexity—are at the same time also the greatest challenge to engaging with this collection and getting a basic overview of Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelations. As a result, the New Treasures have previously remained almost unnoticed by Western research.145 In this light, the present study aims to provide a general introduction to Chokgyur Lingpa and his tradition by outlining the major events, features, and people related thereto and so create a preliminary platform from which future, in-depth studies may proceed. For this, we first turn to the rich hagiographical literature concerned with the spiritual life and visionary achievements of Chokgyur Lingpa himself.

    We are fortunate to find in the New Treasures a wealth of information collected and composed by several central figures of the lineage, including Chokgyur Lingpa himself. In colophons throughout the New Treasures Chokgyur Lingpa writes about the nature of his Treasures and the way they were discovered, often noting the details of time and place and thereby providing valuable information for a chronological reconstruction of his career. Besides the information supplied in colophons, Chokgyur Lingpa also composed a brief autobiography (predominantly in verse) written sometime during 1867 or early 1868 that later was joined with various accounts of Treasure revelation likewise recounted by Chokgyur Lingpa himself. This compilation was included in the New Treasures under the title Basic Account of the Emanated Great Treasure Revealer’s Biography Combined with a Few Treasure Chronicles. These writings of Chokgyur Lingpa are of great value for understanding his role within the ecumenical movement, especially a section in the autobiography in which he expounds on the philosophical values of the ecumenical tradition and the role of the Treasure tradition within this movement.147 It is generally well known that Chokgyur Lingpa was a prominent figure within the ecumenical tradition,148 but little is known about his specific views on ecumenicalism. In this chapter, Chokgyur Lingpa encourages spiritual practitioners to abandon one-sided critique of other traditions and instead to appreciate the commonalities between the many Tibetan religious traditions while still remaining respectful of their individual unique features. Specifically in relation to the Treasure tradition, Chokgyur Lingpa admonishes the followers of the Nyingma School to abandon attachment to the revelations of individual revelers and, instead, to focus on the relationship between all Treasures and the general Buddhist tradition and so acknowledge that the philosophical roots of the Treasures are firmly planted in the general teachings of sutra and tantra.149

    Besides Chokgyur Lingpa’s own writings, the New Treasures contain sev­eral early writings by his foremost teachers, Jamgön Kongtrul and Khyentse Wangpo. These sources form the basis for all the subsequent hagiographical works on Chokgyur Lingpa. Most central is a short praise to the career of Chokgyur Lingpa composed by Jamgön Kongtrul under the title Auspiciously Curling Tune: A Supplication to the Life of the Emanated Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa. In this work Kongtrul outlines the most significant events in Chokgyur Lingpa’s life, listing his most prominent teachers, students, Treas­ures, and visions. The supplication is augmented with numerous annotations (mchan ‘grel) in which Kongtrul provides a commentary on the events of the supplication. In the colophon Kongtrul notes that he composed the supplica­tion at the request of Chokgyur Lingpa’s consort Dechen Chödrön and several other devoted students.151 As with so many works in the New Treasures the text is undated, but it was most likely composed soon after the death of Chokgyur Lingpa.152 Later, at the request of Chokgyur Lingpa’s famed scholar-student, Karmey Khenpo Rinchen Dargye (nineteenth century), Khyentse Wangpo composed an outline (sa bcad) of this praise, which he named Divisions of the Auspicious Tune: The Condensed Meaning of the Supplication to the Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa.

    On the past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa, Dazang Karma Ngedön Tenpa Rabgye (1808-1864), another of Chokgyur Lingpa’s foremost teachers, com­posed a supplication to the past existences that Chokgyur Lingpa previously had occupied. This work, entitled Rosary of Red Pearls: a Supplication to the Past Lives of the Vidyadhara Master—The Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa,154 was composed while Chokgyur Lingpa was still alive. It presents the details of his past lives predominantly based on information found in Treasure literature but also, to a lesser degree, on information accessed through medita­tive visions. As an elaboration on this supplication, Khyentse Wangpo com­posed a slightly longer text; Lapis Lazuli Drama: General Notes on the Rosary of Red Pearls Past Lives Supplication.  The main source for both works (and other subsequent descriptions of Chokgyur Lingpa’s past lives) is a Treasure text revealed by the visionary Shigpo Lingpa Gargyi Wangchuk (1524-1583) named Radiant Lamp, which recounts Shigpo Lingpa’s past lives in great de­tail.  These previous existences of Shigpo Lingpa are relevant for Chokgyur Lingpa as well since Shigpo Lingpa came to be regarded as one of Chokgyur Lingpa’s previous incarnations, whereby the Radiant Lamp became an account of Chokgyur Lingpa’s past lives as well.  Khyentse’s work, which consists almost entirely of a lengthy quotation from the Radiant Lamp, establishes the authority of this prophesized account by categorizing the past lives experi­enced in meditative visions as merely an appendage (kha skong) to the revealed descriptions.  The past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa are presented below as they are recounted in these two sources.

    Khyentse Wangpo composed yet another biographical text entitled Breeze of Requesting the Auspicious Tune: Replies to Questions Arising from the Hagiography of the Great Treasure Revealer, which is a series of answers to questions posed by Chokgyur Lingpa’s students regarding the life of their master. This text forms the basis for the subsequent hagiographies of Chokgyur Lingpa by both Kongtrul and Dudjom where longer passages often are quoted verbatim. Khyentse presents events central to Chokgyur Lingpa’s life and career in a structured manner that gives an excellent overview of the identity of Chokgyur Lingpa’s main teachers, the divisions of his Treasures, his sevenfold trans­mission of teaching, and the major group practice sessions over which Chokgyur Lingpa presided.

    Apart from the works of famed authors like Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Dazang, we .nd another important source of information in the so-called “general hagiography” (phyi’i rnam thar) of Chokgyur Lingpa entitled Melody of the Fifth Auspicious Birth: A General Outer Biography of the Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Lingpa composed by Pema Yeshe (nineteenth/twentieth century)—a student of Chokgyur Lingpa and an important chant master (dbu mdzad) within his tradition. This hagiography, written at the request of the first Chokling reincarnation in the Neten lineage, Pema Gyurme Thegchok Tenpel (1873-1927), builds on the themes raised by Kongtrul and Khyentse but also gathers information from several smaller manuscripts in the New Treasures. In addition to this formal hagiography, Pema Yeshe also composed a lengthy description of Chokgyur Lingpa’s journey to central Tibet at the end of his life.166 Elsewhere in the New Treasures we find a brief account by an anonymous author describing Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelation of Seven Profound Cycles.

    The richest source for information on Chokgyur Lingpa is surely the 600 page hagiography A Clarifcation of the Branches of the Auspicious Tune: The Life of the Great Treasure Revealer Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa composed by the first Chokling reincarnation in the Kela lineage, Könchog Gyurme Tenpey Gyaltsen (nineteenth/twentieth cent.). This text offers a wealth of informa­tion regarding both the outer events in Chokgyur Lingpa’s life and his inner experiences and meditative realizations. It was composed in 1921 and draws heavily on the above mentioned early works, but also incorporates new sources in the form of previously unpublished notes and manuscripts related to the life of Chokgyur Lingpa. Curiously, the works of Pema Yeshe are not men­tioned in this text, and it seems possible that Könchog Gyurme might not have been aware of them.169 Like the earlier works, Könchog Gyurme’s biogra­phy is also structured along the framework previously established by Khyentse and Kongtrul.

    The Tibetan hagiographical genre is unique in that it does not limit itself to a single life but often recounts the saint’s existence within a framework of past, present, as well as future lives. Not only does Könchog Gyurme provide de­scriptions of all such lives of Chokgyur Lingpa, he also uses several biographi­cal sub-genres that lend further uniqueness to the hagiographical literature of Tibet. The main body of the text is structured into three sections: 1) a brief teaching on the definitive and the provisional hagiographies, 2) an expand­ed explanation by means of ten amazing accounts,171 and 3) a conclusion by means of supplication and aspirations.172 The definitive and the provisional ha­giographies introduce two variant modes of hagiography: 1) the ultimate and essential hagiography and 2) the symbolic, provisional hagiography.174 The first of these divisions is a brief philosophical chapter that presents Chokgyur Lingpa as primordially inseparable from the basic nature of all phenomena. In spite of this being a condensed hagiographical exposition this chapter is nevertheless billed as the essential and true way to appreciate the actual being of Chokgyur Lingpa:

    In reality, his nature, all-pervading like the sky, is primordially the
    supremely luminous dharmakaya of great bliss, the indivisibility of
    ground and fruition.

    This chapter is termed “ultimate” and “essential” even though it barely covers two full pages, supporting the position that underneath the detailed historical narrative of the Treasure cosmos lies a reality of timelessness (dharmakaya), which gives historical events a relative quality and frees them from the confines of a strictly linear historical consciousness. Thus, similar to the historical nar­ratives of Treasure revelation that rely on the backdrop of timeless reality, the acts of a Buddhist saint such as Chokgyur Lingpa are likewise to be viewed with a hermeneutic that acknowledges their occurrence in the world as reflections of this “ultimate and essential” way of being.

    The following explanation of the symbolic provisional hagiography is a one-page listing of the topic for the main part of the text—Chokgyur Lingpa’s achievements as perceived from the framework of relative existence. This leads into a more formal historical narrative structured on a three-fold division of Chokgyur Lingpa’s past existences, present life, and his activity in future lives for the continuous benefit of sentient beings. The chapter devoted to his past lives consists of two divisions: 1) a general explication of the hagiography of the three kayas and 2) a particular division of the way that Chokgyur Lingpa appeared in this world. The first of these categories once again highlights the importance of approaching the Tibetan hagiographical genre with sensitivity to the general Mahayanist metaphysical conception of rupakaya emanations emerging from the underlying dharmakaya matrix. Here Könchog Gyurme describes the manner in which buddhas and bodhisattvas take birth in the world without ever moving from the reality of dharmakaya and how they engage in the benevolent actions of converting sentient beings through the activities of “the fourfold taming” (‘dul ba bzhi) of body, speech, mind, and miracles. Having reminded the reader of Chokgyur Lingpa’s inherent affilia­tion with the basic nature of existence itself, Könchog Gyurme has prepared the ground for the ensuing detailed discussion of the events in Chokgyur Lingpa’s “garland of lives”—the numerous preambulary existences preceding his feats in nineteenth century eastern Tibet. Below, we shall return to a closer look at these past lives.

    In spite of the various hagiographical sub-categories presented up to this point, the main part of Könchog Gyurme’s work is, after all, devoted to the life and career of Chokgyur Lingpa. In presenting his life, Könchog Gyurme follows Khyentse Wangpo’s ten chapter outline that describes 1) Chokgyur Lingpa’s youth, 2) the awakening of his karmic potential, 3) teachers, 4) spiritual development, 5) meditative realization, 6) visionary experiences, 7) Treasure discoveries, 8) students, 9) his sanctification of the environment, and 10) his passing into nirvana. Since Könchog Gyurme, like Pema Yeshe, bases his presentation on the early sources, there is a great deal of duplication found in his hagiography, but as his narrative is other­wise richly adorned with quotations from both Treasure texts and classi­cal scriptures, the repetitiveness is not as pronounced as one could expect. Könchog Gyurme also incorporates several oral accounts into his narrative, but considering the vulnerability of the oral tradition in the turbulent social upheavals of the twentieth century, an even greater number of such reports would have been desired. Still, as Könchog Gyurme begins to unravel anec­dotes of Chokgyur Lingpa’s visionary life and the many extraordinary events connected thereto, we obtain a valuable look into the inner workings of the Treasure tradition. In these chapters (6 – 9), we not only receive a tour into the fascinating world of Treasure discovery with its rich symbolic lan­guage and ritual but also encounter the main protagonists in the ecumeni­cal tradition as they relate to Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelations. Previously, the main .gures of the ecumenical tradition such as Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokling have been studied only little, but here valuable data on their work and relationship are presented.179 Finally, having covered the main events of Chokgyur Lingpa’s life, the author completes his work with a brief descrip­tion of Chokgyur Lingpa’s future lives (silent on the fact that he himself was one of them!).

    Apart from the hagiographical material of the New Treasures, Jamgön Kongtrul also included a hagiography of Chokgyur Lingpa in his survey of the Treasure revealers. This in turn formed the basis for Dudjom’s chapter on Chokgyur Lingpa in his history of the Nyingma School, which is most­ly a verbatim copy of Kongtrul’s writing. It is also said that a longer and more detailed biography was written by Chokling’s student Karmey Khenpo Rinchen Dargye (nineteenth century), but it is uncertain whether this work still exists. Now, before we consider the life of Chokgyur Lingpa any further, let us first look closer at some of the many lives leading up to the birth of our Treasure revealing protagonist.

    The past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa are recounted on the basis of the Radiant Lamp, a text revealed in the sixteenth century by the visionary Shigpo Lingpa as testimony to his own previous lives. As this scripture is a Treasure revelation, these past existences are not presented as if narrated by Shigpo Lingpa himself but instead by Padmasambhava back in the eighth century as a prophesy of what is yet to come. In Tibet it was standard prac­tice that Treasure revealers discover this kind of ex post facto prophecy in which Padmasambhava foretells, as Ratna Lingpa puts it, “even the moles and physical marks on their body” although, not surprisingly, this was a type of writing often looked upon with suspicion by many, even among the followers of the Nyingma School.

    In any case, Shigpo Lingpa’s revelation lists his many past lives in India, China, Tibet, and elsewhere his karma and aspirations are said to have tak­en him. Since Chokgyur Lingpa is considered the reincarnation of Shigpo Lingpa this text is extensively quoted throughout the biographical texts of the New Treasures, where it becomes the primary source for retelling the past lives of Chokgyur Lingpa. Here we are told how he (Shigpo Lingpa/ Chokgyur Lingpa), in a distant past, .rst connected with the dharma in general, and especially with the all-important .gures of the Treasure lineage: Padmasambhava and his royal disciple Trisong Detsen.

    The Radiant Lamp begins in the early days of this aeon with the well-known story of Padmasambhava, Trisong Detsen, and Santarakita (in their former lives) building the stupa called Mistakenly Granted Permission. Here we are told that the future Trisong Detsen witnessed a black bird landing on the stupa and made a wish that, in the future it would become his son. As the bird was none other than the Chokgyur Lingpa-to-be, the original karmic connection was thus established between him and the Buddhist dharma. The seed having been planted in the mind of the future Treasure revealer, he embarked on a series of rebirths predominantly unfolding in India and Tibet. As the fortu­nate black bird passed away it was, according to the Radiant Lamp, first born in Bodhgaya as Kirti Jìana, son of the elder Dharmabhadra. At that time he jokingly offered flowers to a representation of a buddha, thus sowing the seeds for liberation. This act in turn led to rebirth in the Tushita Heaven as a divine being. Thereafter he was born as Aniruddha, the Buddha’s cousin and one of the ten close disciples. In that existence he attained the state of an arhat and, even though he had perceived the truth of dharmata, he still wished to enter the resultant vehicle. Thus, he continued in existence and assumed a series of animal and human existences in various regions of India, Nepal, China, and Tibet.

    Finally, however, the obscurations of the future Chokgyur Lingpa were pu­rified during his life as a prince from the Indian kingdom of Bedar. From this point onwards, all subsequent reincarnations are said to be conscious and voluntary. This is also the time when he enters the Tibetan religious scene as well-known historical personae such as the famed minister Garwa at the court of King Songtsen Gampo (ca. 617-649/650). Then follows a life as the prince of Entse before we arrive at the all-important birth as Murub Tsenpo, the sec­ond son of King Trisong Detsen.

    In describing this life the text shifts to present tense as Padmasambhava (who in the Treasure text is recounting the lives of Shigpo Lingpa) now speaks in person directly to his Tibetan disciples. Padmasambhava lists the various names given to Murub Tsenpo and tells of the karmic bond be­tween this prince and his wife Bumcham who, upon death, according to Padmasambhava’s prophecy, will be united in the pure buddha fields.191 Chokgyur Lingpa’s life as Murub Tsenpo is of central importance as it is during that existence he comes into contact with Padmasambhava, receives empowerment and is prophesized as a major Treasure revealer. Now, once again, Padmasambhava changes his narrative and speaks in future tense as he prophesizes the future lives of Murub Tsenpo.

    As this prince passes away, Padmasambhava predicts, he will be born as a king in the country (pure land?) of Urgyen Zangling from which he will continuously send out emanations, working for the welfare of all beings. Padmasambhava then brie.y describes a series of other births as various tant­ric practitioners of mixed prominence including, notably, two lives as female Treasure revealers. Then follows a description of his life as the great Treasure revealer Sangye Lingpa (1340-1396), known for his revelation of the influen­tial Embodiment of the Realization of the Master Treasure cycle. Having proph­esized the life of Sangye Lingpa in detail, mentioning his birthplace, looks, name, etc., Padmasambhava continues by predicting Murub Tsenpo’s subse­quent birth as the female Treasure revealer Bummo Cham from Nyang in up­per Tsang, as an unnamed minister also from the Tsang region, and finally, the life as Shigpo Lingpa whose virtues are extolled in considerable detail. As the Lamp is a revelation by Shigpo Lingpa, the account goes no further. Still, it is surprising that the New Treasures contains no attempt to recount the in­terim existences that presumably would have followed from the time of Shigpo Lingpa up until his rebirth as Chokgyur Lingpa—leaving a period of roughly 250 years unaccounted for.

    Having in this way considered the traditional recounting of Chokgyur Lingpa’s genealogy of past lives, we may now turn to some of the events of his life as they occurred in the nineteenth century, in particular his numerous revelations that secured him such fame and influence with a number of the greatest religious figures of his time.

  • Flowers | An Excerpt from The Dhammapada

    A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic

    The Dhammapada

    Who will master this world
    And the realms of Yama and the gods?
    Who will select a well‑taught Dharma teaching,
    As a skilled person selects a flower?

    One in training will master this world
    And the realms of Yama and the gods.
    One in training will select
    A well‑taught Dharma teaching,
    As a skilled person selects a flower.

    Knowing this body is like foam,
    Fully awake to its mirage‑like nature,
    Cutting off Māra’s flowers,
    One goes unseen by the King of Death.

    Death sweeps away
    The person obsessed
    With gathering flowers,
    As a great flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

    The person obsessed
    With gathering flowers,
    Insatiable for sense pleasures,
    Is under the sway of Death.

    As a bee gathers nectar
    And moves on without harming
    The flower, its color, or its fragrance,
    Just so should a sage walk through a village.

    Do not consider the faults of others
    Or what they have or haven’t done.
    Consider rather
    What you yourself have or haven’t done.

    Like a beautiful flower,
    Brightly colored but lacking scent,
    So are well‑spoken words
    Fruitless when not carried out.

    Like a beautiful flower,
    Brightly colored and with scent,
    So are well‑spoken words
    Fruitful when carried out.

    Just as from a heap of flowers
    Many garlands can be made,
    So, you, with your mortal life,
    Should do many skillful things.

    The scent of flowers
    —sandalwood, jasmine, and rosebay—
    Doesn’t go against the wind.
    But the scent of a virtuous person
    Does travel against the wind;
    It spreads in all directions.

    The scent of virtue
    Is unsurpassed
    Even by sandalwood, rosebay,
    Water lily, and jasmine.

    Is the scent of rosebay or sandalwood,
    But the scent of the virtuous is supreme,
    Drifting even to the gods.

    Māra does not find the path
    Of those endowed with virtue,
    Living with vigilance,
    and freed by right understanding.

    As a sweet‑smelling lotus
    Pleasing to the heart
    May grow in a heap of rubbish
    Discarded along the highway,
    So a disciple of the Fully Awakened One
    Shines with wisdom
    Amid the rubbish heap
    Of blind, common people.

    Related Books

    Gil FronsdalGil Fronsdal has practiced Zen and Insight Meditation since 1975 and is the primary teacher for the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California. See more about him here.

  • The Life of Jigten Sumgön, an excerpt

    by Drigung Kyabgön Padmai Gyältsen

    [An excerpt from Opening the Treasure of the Profound: Teachings on the Songs of Jigten Sumgon and Milarepa]

    The victorious Shakya saw the five sights.
    He showed the victorious path,
    and, to expand the teachings, took birth again as the victorious
    regent Ratna Shri.
    I prostrate to him.

    Jigten Sumgon

    By treasuryoflives.org [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    The glorious Phagmo Drupa had five hundred disciples who possessed the white umbrella, an honorary title; but, as he said again and again, his successor would be an upasaka who had attained the tenth level of a bodhisattva. This is the story of that successor, the peerless Great Lord Drigungpa, Jigten Sumgön.

    Limitless kalpas ago, Jigten Sumgön was born as the Chakravartin Tsib­kyi Mukhyu (Wheel Rim), who was the father of a thousand princes. But then he renounced the kingdom, attained enlightenment, and was called the Tathagata Nagakulapradipa (Tib. Lurik Drönma). Although he had already attained enlightenment, he appeared later as the bodhisattva Kun­sang Wangkur Gyälpo. At the time of Buddha Kashyapa, he appeared as the potter Gakyong. At the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, he appeared as the Stainless Licchavi, who was inseparable from the Buddha himself. Later, he was born as Acharya Nagarjuna. Through all these births, he ben­efited the Buddha’s teachings and countless sentient beings.

    Then, so that the essence of the Buddha’s teachings might flourish, Jig­ten Sumgön was born into a noble family in Tibet in 1143. His father was Naljorpa Dorje, a great practitioner of Yamantaka, and his mother was Rakshisa Tsünma. Many marvelous signs accompanied the birth. Jigten Sumgön learned the teachings of Yamantaka from his father, and by the age of four became expert in reading and writing. From his uncle, the Abbot Darma, the great Radreng Gomchen, the Reverend Khorwa Lungkhyer, and others, he learned many sutras and tantras. At that time, he was called Tsunpa Kyab and later, Dorje Päl.

    Jigten Sumgön’s coming was predicted in many sutras, tantras, and ter­mas. For example, in the Yeshe Yongsu Gyepai Do (Completely Expanded Wisdom Sutra) it is said: “In the northern snow ranges will appear a being called Ratna Shri. He will benefit my teachings and be renowned in the three worlds.” In the Gongdü (Quintessential Sublime Vision) it is said: “At a place called Dri, the Source of the Dharma, Ratna Shri will appear in the year of the Pig. He will gather a hundred thousand fully ordained monks. After that he will go to the Abhirati (Tib. Ngönga) buddhafield. He will be called Stainless White Sugata and have a large retinue.” In the Gyälpo Kaithang it is said: “Northeast of glorious Samye, at a place called Drigung, the source of the Dharma, the Lord-King Trisong Detsän will be born in the year of the Pig as the sugata Ratna Shri. He will gather a hundred thousand bodhisattvas. He will go to the Abhirati buddhafield and be called Stainless White Sugata. In that buddhafield, he will become the fully perfected king, the perfected Dharma teacher.” Thus, his coming was clearly predicted.

    When Jigten Sumgön was still young, his father passed away. His fam­ily’s fortunes declined, so he had to support his family by reading scriptures. Once he was offered a goat. As he led it away, it tried to break loose; he pulled back, but the goat dragged him for a short distance and he left his footprints in the rock. When he was eight, he had a vision of Yamantaka. On another occasion, while meditating at Tsib Lungmoche, he saw all the phenomena of samsara and nirvana as insubstantial, like a reflection in a mirror. Even when he was in Kham he was renowned as a yogin.

    Jigten Sumgön realized the practices of mahamudra and luminosity, and in his sleep he visited the Arakta Padma buddhafield. As mentioned earlier, from the great Radreng Gomchen he learned all the teachings of the Kadam tradition. From Lama Lhopa Dorje Nyingpo he received the teachings of Guhyasamaja and others. Once when there was a drought in Kham, he took the food offered to him as a fee for his reading and distributed it to those who were starving. Thus, he saved many lives.

    Many important people began to approach Jigten Sumgön for teach­ings. One, Gönda Pandita, who came from Central Tibet, told him about Phagmo Drupa. Just by hearing the name of that being, Jigten Sumgön’s mind quivered like the leaves of a kengshu tree blown by the wind. Endur­ing great hardship, he traveled from Kham to Central Tibet. A rainbow stretched the length of his journey, and the protector Dorje Lekpa took the forms of a rabbit and a child and attended him, looking after his needs. When he came to the dangerous, rocky path of Kyere, a natural formation of the six-syllable mantra transformed itself into a vision of the face of Phagmo Drupa.

    Jigten Sumgön traveled day and night. On the way, he met a woman and man who said, “We have come from Phagmo Dru.” Seeing them as the guru’s emanations, he prostrated to them. He arrived at the Phagdru Monastery at midnight, and a Khampa invited him inside. When he met Phagmo Drupa, the guru said, “Now, all of my disciples are present.” Jig­ten Sumgön then offered his teacher a bolt of silk, a bolt of plain cloth, and his horse. Phagmo Drupa refused the horse, explaining that he did not accept offerings of animals. Jigten Sumgön also offered a bag of food, which Phagmo Drupa used to perform a feast offering to Chakrasamvara. Then Phagmo Drupa gave Jigten Sumgön the twofold bodhisattva vow and the name Bodhisattva Ratna Shri. As one vessel fills another, Phagmo Drupa gave Jigten Sumgön all the teachings of sutra and tantra.

    At that time, there lived a woman who was an emanation of Vajrayogini. Phagmo Drupa suggested to Taklung Thangpa that he stay with her; but Taklung Thangpa, not wishing to give up his monk’s vows, refused, and shortly afterward the emanation passed away. Lingje Repa then fashioned a cup from the woman’s skull. This made him late for an assembly, and the food offerings had already been distributed by the time he arrived. Tak­ing the skull cup, he circulated among the monks, receiving offerings of food from each. The monks gave only small portions, but Phagmo Drupa gave a large amount, filling the skull cup completely. Jigten Sumgön gave even more, forming a mound of food which covered the skull cup like an umbrella. Lingje Repa then walked again through the assembly, and as he walked he spontaneously composed and sang a song of praise in twenty verses. Finally, he stopped in front of Jigten Sumgön, offering the food and the song to him.

    One day, Phagmo Drupa wanted to see if any special signs would arise concerning his three closest disciples, so he gave each of them a foot of red cloth with which to make a meditation hat. Taklung Thangpa used only what he had. Lingje Repa added a piece of cotton cloth to the front of his hat, and Jigten Sumgön added a second foot of cloth to his, making it much larger. This was considered very auspicious. On another occasion, Phagmo Drupa called Jigten Sumgön and Taklung Thangpa and said, “I think that the Tsangpo River is overflowing today. Please go and see.” Both disciples saw the river following its normal course, and returned; but Jigten Sumgön, thinking there was some purpose in the guru’s question, told him, “The river has overflowed, and Central Tibet and Kham are now both under water.” This foretold the flourishing of Jigten Sumgön’s activities, and he became known as a master of interdependent origination.

    At this time, in accordance with the prediction made by Phagmo Drupa, Jigten Sumgön still held only the vows of an upasaka. One day, Phagmo Drupa asked him to remain behind after the assembly and instructed him to sit in the seven-point posture of Vairochana. Touching him on his head, throat, and heart centers, he said om, ah, hung three times and told him, “You will be a great meditator, and I will rejoice.”

    Jigten Sumgön attended Phagmo Drupa for two years and six months. During that time, he received all of his guru’s teachings and was told that he would be his successor. At the time of Phagmo Drupa’s parinirvana, a radi­ant five-pronged golden vajra emanated from his heart center and dissolved into the heart center of Jigten Sumgön; this was seen by the other disciples. Jigten Sumgön then gave all his belongings to benefit the monastery and to help build the memorial stupa for his guru.

    After this, he met many other teachers. From Dakpo Gomtsul he received the four yogas of mahamudra. A patroness then promised him provisions for three years, and Jigten Sumgön, earnestly wishing to practice the teachings he had received, retired to Echung Cave to meditate. In those three years, he gained a rough understanding of the outer, inner, and secret aspects of interdependent origination. He then realized that the cause of wandering in samsara is the difficulty wind has in entering the channels, and so he practiced moving the wind, saw many buddhas and bodhisattvas face to face, and had visions of his mind purifying the six realms. Then he went on a pilgrimage to Phagdru and other holy places.

    On his return to Echung Cave, he practiced with one-pointed mind. In the same way that Mara arose as obstacles to Lord Buddha at the time of his enlightenment, and the Five Sisters and others tried to hinder Mila­repa, the final fruition of Jigten Sumgön’s karma then arose, and he con­tracted leprosy. Becoming intensely depressed, he thought, “Now I should die in this solitary place and transfer my consciousness.” He prostrated to an image of Avalokiteshvara that had been blessed many times by Phagmo Drupa. At the first prostration, he thought, “Among sentient beings, I am the worst.” At the second, he thought, “I have all the teachings of my guru, including the instructions of bardo and the transference of consciousness, and need have no fear of death.” Then, remembering that other beings didn’t have these teachings, he sat down and generated profoundly compassionate thoughts toward others. His sickness left him, like clouds blown away from the sun, and at that moment he attained buddhahood. He had practiced at the Echung cave for seven years.

    Shortly after this, he had a vision of the seven Taras. Because he had a full understanding of interdependent origination, and had realized the unity of discipline and mahamudra, he took the vows of a fully ordained monk. From this time on, Jigten Sumgön did not eat meat. As he had already been named Phagmo Drupa’s successor, the chief monks of his guru’s monastery invited him to return.

    After taking the abbot’s seat at the monastery, Jigten Sumgön insisted on a strict observance of monastic discipline. One day, some monks said, “We are the ‘nephews’ of Milarepa and should be allowed to drink chang.” Say­ing this, they drank. When Jigten Sumgön admonished them, they replied, “You yourself should keep the discipline of not harming others.” Phagmo Drupa then appeared in a vision to Jigten Sumgön and said to him, “Leave this old, silken seat and go to the north. There you will benefit many sentient beings.”

    Jigten Sumgön went north and, on the way, at Nyenchen Thanglha, he was greeted by the protector of that place. At Namra, a spirit king and his retinue took the upasaka vow from him, and Jigten Sumgön left one of his footprints behind as an object of devotion for them. He gave meditation instructions to vultures flying overhead, and they practiced according to those teachings. Once, at a word from Jigten Sumgön, a horse that was run­ning away returned to him. He also sent an emanation of himself to Bodh Gaya to pacify a war begun by Duruka tribesmen.

    On another occasion, at Dam, he gave teachings to a large gathering and received many offerings. At the end of a day which had seemed very long, he told the crowd, “Now go immediately to your homes,” and suddenly it was just before dawn of the next day. To finish his talk, Jigten Sumgön had stopped the sun. When he was at Namra Mountain, Brahma, the king of the gods, requested the vast and profound teachings. On the way to Drigung, the great god Barlha received him. The children of Dzänthang built a throne for Jigten Sumgön, and he sat there and instructed the people of that town. Even the water, which has no mind, listened to his teachings and made the sound “Nagarjuna.”

    Then he came to Drigung Thil. In his thirty-seventh year, he established Drigung Jangchub Ling and appointed Pön Gompa Dorje Senge as supervi­sor for the construction of the monastery. Many monks gathered there and enjoyed the rainfall of profound Dharma.

    In Tibet, there are nine great protectors of the Dharma. Among them, Barlha, Sogra, Chuphen Luwang, Terdrom Menmo, and Namgyäl Karpo bowed down at Jigten Sumgön’s feet, took the upasaka vow, and promised to protect the teachings and practitioners of the Drigung lineage.

    At one time, water was very scarce in Drigung. Jigten Sumgön gave 108 pieces of turquoise to his attendant, Rinchen Drak, with instructions to hide them in various places. Rinchen Drak hid all but one, which he kept for himself and put in his robe. The pieces he hid became sources of water, and the one he kept turned into a frog. Startled, he threw it away, and in falling it became blind in one eye. Where the frog landed, a stream called “Blind Spring” arose. Most of the streams were dried up by fire when Dri­gung Thil was destroyed around the end of the thirteenth century, but some still remain.

    Twice a month, on the new and full moons, Jigten Sumgön and his monks observed a purification ceremony called sojong. Once some monks arrived late, and Jigten Sumgön decided to discontinue the practice, but Brahma requested him to maintain that tradition, and he agreed.

    Jigten Sumgön continued to look after his old monastery at Phagdru, Dänsa Thil. Once when he was at Daklha Gampo, Gampopa’s seat, dakinis brought an assembly of 2,800 yidams on a net of horsehair and presented them to him. To memorialize Phagmo Drupa, he built an auspicious stupa of many doors, and placed images of those yidams inside compartments, with a door for each of them. The tradition of building stupas of this type origi­nated from this. While he was visiting Daklha Gampo, light rays streamed forth from Gampopa’s image, merging inseparably with Jigten Sumgön, and he attained both the ordinary and extraordinary siddhis of the treasure of space. In a vision, he met with Ananda and discussed the teachings.

    Once Lama Shang said, “This year, the dakinis of Oddiyana will come to invite me and the Great Drigungpa to join them. He is a master of interde­pendent origination and won’t have to go there, but I should go.” Soon after this, the dakinis came for him and he passed away; but when they came to invite Jigten Sumgön, he refused to go, and the dakinis changed their prayer of invitation to a supplication for the guru’s longevity. Then all the dakas and dakinis made offerings to him and promised to guide his disciples.

    Jigten Sumgön had many important students. Among them, the leaders of the philosophers were the two Che-ngas, the great abbot Gurawa, Nyö Gyälwa Lhanangpa, Gar Chöding, Pälchen Chöye, Drupthob Nyakse, and the two Tsang-tsangs. The foremost vinaya holders were Thakma Düldzin and Dakpo Düldzin. The Kadampa geshe was Kyo Dorje Nyingpo. Among the translators were Nup, Phakpa, and others. The leaders of the tantrikas were Tre and Ngok. The leaders of the yogins were Düdsi, Bälpu, and others. When Jigten Sumgön taught, rainbows appeared and gods rained flowers from the sky. Machen Pomra and other protectors listened to his teachings, and the kings of Tibet, India, and China were greatly devoted to him. At this time, Jigten Sumgön had 55,525 followers. To feed this ocean of dis­ciples, Matrö, the king of the nagas and the source of all the wealth of Jam­budvipa, acted as patron for the monastery.

    Near Drigung Thil there was a rock called Lion Shoulder, which Jigten Sumgön saw as the mandala of Chakrasamvara. He established a monastery there and, to spread the teachings and benefit sentient beings, built another auspicious stupa of many doors using a special method. He also repaired Samye Monastery.

    Jigten Sumgön’s main yidam practice was the Chakrasamvara of Five Deities, and he sometimes manifested in that form in order to work with those who were difficult to train. When a war began in Minyak in East­ern Tibet, he protected the people there through his miracle power. The number of his disciples increased to 70,000. Many of the brightest of these attained enlightenment in one lifetime, while those of lesser intelligence attained various bhumis, and everyone else realized at least the nature of his or her own mind.

    In one of the predictions about Jigten Sumgön it was said, “A hundred thousand incarnate great beings, tulku, will gather.” Here, “tulku” meant that they would be monks and have perfect discipline, and “great beings” meant that they would all be bodhisattvas. In other life stories, it is said that in an instant Jigten Sumgön visited all the buddhafields, saw buddhas such as Amitabha and Akshobhya, and listened to their teachings. Jigten Sumgön himself said that whoever so much as heard his name and had the chance to go to Layel in Drigung would be freed from birth in the lower realms, and that whoever supplicated him—whether from near or far away—would be blessed, and his or her meditation would grow more firm. He also said that all sentient beings living in the mountains of Drigung, even the ants, would not be born again in lower realms.

    From the essence of the instructions of sutra and tantra, Jigten Sumgön gave teachings which were compiled by his disciple Che-nga Sherab Jungne into a text called Gong Chig, which has 150 vajra statements and 40 addi­tional verses in an appendix.

    A naga king named Meltro Zichen once went to Drigung for teachings. Jigten Sumgön sent a message to his disciples to remain in seclusion so that those with miracle power would not harm the naga, and those without such power would not be harmed themselves. The message was given to everyone but the Mahasiddha Gar Dampa, who was in meditation in the depths of a long cave. When the naga arrived, he made a loud noise which was heard even by Gar Dampa. He came out to see what was happening and saw a frightening, dark blue snake whose length circled the monastery three times and whose head looked in at the window of Jigten Sumgön’s palace. With­out examining the situation, he thought that the naga was there to harm his guru, so he manifested as a giant garuda which chased the naga away. At Rölpa Trang, there is a smooth and clear print left by the naga, and at Dermo Mik there is a very clear claw mark left by the garuda when it landed on a rock. Near the river of Khyung-ngar Gel there are marks left by both the garuda and the naga.

    A Sri Lankan arhat, a follower of the Buddha, once heard that Maha­pandita Shakya Shri Bhadra was going to Tibet, and he gave that teacher’s brother a white lotus, asking that he give it to the Mahapandita to give to Nagarjuna in Tibet. When Shakya Shri Bhadra arrived in Tibet, he ordained many monks, but didn’t know where to find Nagarjuna. When giving ordination, he would usually distribute robes, but once, when an ordinary disciple of Jigten Sumgön approached him for ordination and asked for a robe, none were left. Nonetheless, he insisted strongly. One of Shakya Shri Bhadra’s attendants pushed him away and he fell, causing blood to come from his nose.

    Before this, Shakya Shri Bhadra had been accustomed to seeing Tara in the morning when he recited the seven-branch prayer, but for six days after this incident she didn’t show herself. Then, on the seventh day, she appeared with her back turned to him. “What have I done wrong?” he asked her. “Your attendant beat a disciple of Nagarjuna,” she replied, “and brought blood from his nose.” When he asked how he could purify this misdeed, Tara told him, “Make as many Dharma robes as you have years, and offer them to fully ordained monks who have no robes.” Shakya Shri Bhadra then searched for the monk who had been turned away. When he found him, and learned the name of his teacher, he realized that Jigten Sumgön was Nagarjuna’s incarnation. So he sent one of his attendants to offer the white lotus to Jigten Sumgön. In return, Jigten Sumgön sent many offerings of his own and asked that Shakya Shri Bhadra visit Drigung, but the Mahapandita could not go there, though he sent many verses of praise. Because Nagarjuna had knowingly taken birth as Jigten Sumgön in order to dispel wrong views and was teaching at Drigung, Shakya Shri Bhadra saw that there was no need for him to go there.

    At this time, many lesser panditas were visiting Tibet. One of them, Vibhuti Chandra, said, “Let us talk with the Kadampas; the followers of mahamudra tell lies.” Shakya Shri Bhadra replied, “Because Jigten Sumgön is a great teacher, you should now apologize for having said these things.” Vibhuti Chandra then went to Drigung, made a full apology, and con­structed an image of Chakrasamvara at Sinpori Mountain. He also trans­lated into Sanskrit one of Jigten Sumgön’s writings about the fivefold path of mahamudra, named Tsin-dha Mani.

    One day, a great scholar named Dru Kyamo came to Drigung from Sakya to debate with Jigten Sumgön. When he saw the guru’s face he saw him as the Buddha himself, and his two chief disciples—Che-nga Sherab Jungne and Che-nga Drakpa Jungne—as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. There was no way he could debate with Jigten Sumgön after this. His devotion blossomed fully, and he became one of Jigten Sumgön’s principal disciples. Later, he was called Ngorje Repa and wrote a text called Thegchen Tenpai Nyingpo as a commentary on Jigten Sumgön’s teachings.

    The number of Jigten Sumgön’s disciples continued to increase. At one rainy season retreat, 100,000 morality sticks were distributed to count the monks attending. Not long after that, 2,700 monks were sent to Lapchi, and equal numbers were sent to Tsari and Mount Kailash, but by the next year 130,000 monks had again gathered at Drigung.

    Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa once came to Drigung after visiting Dak­lha Gampo. At Bam Thang, Jigten Sumgön and his disciples received him warmly. At that time, the Karmapa saw Jigten Sumgön as the Buddha and his two chief disciples as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, surrounded by arhats. When they returned to the main assembly hall, the Serkhang, the Karmapa again saw Jigten Sumgön as the Buddha, with his two disciples appearing as Maitreya and Manjushri, surrounded by bodhisattvas. Thus, Düsum Khyenpa showed great devotion and received many teachings. He also saw the entire area of Drigung as the mandala of Chakrasamvara.

    The question arose of who would hold the lineage after Jigten Sumgön’s passing. Jigten Sumgön had confidence in many of his disciples, but had thought for a long time that the succession should pass to one of his family clan, the Drugyäl Kyura. Since he had been born in Kham, he sent one of his disciples, Pälchen Shri Phukpa, there to teach his family members. Dis­playing miracle power and proclaiming his guru’s reputation, Pälchen Shri Phukpa taught Jigten Sumgön’s uncle Könchog Rinchen and his uncle’s son Anye Atrak and grandsons. Their minds became attracted to the teachings, and they moved to Central Tibet. Their stories are told in the Golden Rosary of the Drigung Kagyu.

    One day Jigten Sumgön told his disciple Gar Chöding to go to the Soksam Bridge and offer a torma to the nagas living in the water. “You will receive special wealth,” he told him. A naga king named Sokma Me offered Gar Chöding a tooth of the Buddha and three special gems. Generally, it is said that this tooth had been taken by the naga king Dradrok as an object of devotion. This was the same naga who usually lived in the area of Magadha but had access to Soksam by way of an underwater gate. Gar Chöding offered the tooth and gems to Jigten Sumgön, who said, “It is good to return wealth to its owner,” indicating that the tooth had once been his own. “As you are wealthy,” he continued, “you should make an image of me and put the tooth in its heart.” A skilled Chinese artisan was then invited to build the statue, and the tooth was enshrined there as a relic. Jigten Sumgön consecrated this statue hundreds of times. It was kept in the Serkhang and called Serkhang Chöje (Dharma Lord of Serkhang). Its power of blessing was regarded as being equal to that of Jigten Sumgön himself. It spoke to many shrine keepers, and to a lama named Dawa it taught the Six Dharmas of Naropa. Later, when Drigung was destroyed by fire, it was buried in the sand for protection. When the Drigung Kyabgön returned to rebuild the monastery, a search was made for the statue, which came out of the sand by itself, saying, “Here I am!” Thus, this image possessed great power. Gar Chöding made many other images of Jigten Sumgön at this time.

    Jigten Sumgön had by then grown old and could not often travel to Dänsa Thil. He sent Che-nga Drakpa Jungne there as his Vajra Regent, and that disciple’s activities were very successful. Under the leadership of Pan­chen Guhya Gangpa, Jigten Sumgön sent 55,525 disciples to stay at Mount Kailash. Under Geshe Yakru Päldrak, 55,525 were sent to Lapchi. Under Dordzin Gowoche, 55,525 were sent to Tsari. Even at the time of Chungpo Dorje Drakpa, the fourth successor to Jigten Sumgön, there were 180,000 disciples at Drigung.

    Once, Jigten Sumgön went to the Dorje Lhokar Cave at Tsa-uk. “This cave is too small,” he said, and stretched, causing the cave to expand and leaving the imprint of his clothes on the rock. Because the cave was dark, he pushed a stick through the rock, making a window. He then made shelves in the rock to hold his belongings. All of these can be seen very clearly. Jigten Sumgön also left many footprints in the four directions around the area of Drigung.

    One day, Jigten Sumgön fell ill. Phagmo Drupa appeared to him in a vision and explained a yogic technique by means of which he became well again. Jigten Sumgön taught according to the needs of his disciples. To some, according to their disposition, he gave instructions in the practice of the Eight Herukas of the Nyingma tradition.

    Toward the end of his life, he predicted a period of decline for the Dri­gung lineage. Taking a small stick that he used to clean his teeth, he planted it in the ground and said, “When this stick has reached a certain height,

    I will return.” This foretold the coming of Gyälwa Kunga Rinchen. Jigten Sumgön asked Che-nga Sherab Jungne to be his successor, but the latter declined out of modesty. Then he asked the great abbot Gurawa Tsültrim Dorje, who agreed.

    In order to encourage the lazy to apply themselves to the Dharma, Jigten Sumgön entered parinirvana at the age of seventy-five, in the year of the Fire Ox (1217). His body was cremated on the thirteenth day of the month of Vaishaka. Gods created clouds of offerings, and flowers rained down from the sky to the level of one’s knees. His skull was untouched by the fire, and his brain appeared as the mandala of the sixty-two deities of Chakrasamvara more clearly than if a skilled artist had painted it. His heart also was not touched by the fire and was found to have turned a golden color. Likewise, countless relics appeared.

    After Jigten Sumgön’s passing, most of the funerary responsibilities were taken on by Che-nga Sherab Jungne, even though he had earlier declined the succession. He went to Lion Shoulder (Tib. Senge Phungpa) Moun­tain to view the mandala of Chakrasamvara, saw Jigten Sumgön there, and thought that he should build a memorial in that place. Jigten Sumgön then again appeared in a vision on the mountain of the Samadhi Cave and said to him, “Son, do as you wish, but also follow my intention.” Then he disappeared. Doing as he wished, Che-nga Sherab Jungne built an auspi­cious stupa of many doors called “Sage, Overpowerer of the Three Worlds.” In that stupa, he put Jigten Sumgön’s heart and many other relics. Follow­ing his guru’s intention, he built the stupa “Body-essence, Ornament of the World,” which was made of clay mixed with jewel dust, saffron, and various kinds of incense. In that stupa, he put Jigten Sumgön’s skull and brain, along with many other relics, including vinaya texts brought from India by Atisha, and the Hundred-Thousand-Stanza Prajñaparamita.

    Jigten Sumgön now abides in the Eastern Great All-Pervading Bud­dhafield, surrounded by limitless numbers of disciples from this earth who died with strong devotion to him. When such people die, they are imme­diately born there. Jigten Sumgön places his hand on their heads, blessing them, and welcoming them there.

  • Mountains in My Blood | An Excerpt from Himalaya

    Meditations on the Roof of the World


    It was while I was living in England, in the jostle and drizzle of London, that I remembered the Himalayas at their most vivid. I had grown up amongst those great blue and brown mountains; they had nourished my blood; and though I was separated from them by thousands of miles of ocean, plain, and desert, I could not rid them from my system. It was always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.

    And so, in London in March, the fog became a mountain mist, and the boom of traffic became the boom of the Ganges emerging from the foothills.

    I remembered a little mountain path which led my restless feet into a cool, sweet forest of oak and rhododendron, and then on to the windswept crest of a naked hilltop. The hill was called Clouds End. It commanded a view of the plains on one side, and of the snow peaks on the other. Little silver rivers twisted across the valley below, where the rice fields formed a patchwork of emerald green. And on the hill itself, the wind made a hoo-hoo-hoo in the branches of the tall deodars where it found itself trapped.

    During the rains, clouds enveloped the valley but left the hill alone, an island in the sky. Wild sorrel grew amongst the rocks, and there were many flowers—convolvulus, clover, wild begonia, dandelion—sprinkling the hillside.

    During the rains, clouds enveloped the valley but left the hill alone, an island in the sky. Wild sorrel grew amongst the rocks, and there were many flowers—convolvulus, clover, wild begonia, dandelion—sprinkling the hillside.

    On a spur of the hill stood the ruins of an old brewery. The roof had long since disappeared, and the rains had beaten the stone floors smooth and yellow. Some enterprising Englishman had spent a lifetime here making beer for his thirsty compatriots in the plains. Now, moss and ferns and maidenhair grew from the walls. In a hollow beneath a flight of worn stone steps, a wildcat had made its home. It was a beautiful gray creature, black-striped, with pale green eyes. Sometimes it watched me from the steps or the wall, but it never came near.

    No one lived on the hill, except occasionally a coal burner in a temporary grass-thatched hut. But villagers used the path, grazing their sheep and cattle on the grassy slopes. Each cow or sheep had a bell suspended from its neck, to let the boy know of its whereabouts. The boy could then lie in the sun and eat wild strawberries without fear of losing his animals.

    I remembered some of the shepherd boys and girls.

    There was a boy who played a flute. Its rough, sweet, straightforward notes traveled clearly across the mountain air. He would greet me with a nod of his head, without taking the flute from his lips. There was a girl who was nearly always cutting grass for fodder. She wore heavy bangles on her feet, and long silver earrings. She did not speak much either, but she always had a wide grin on her face when she met me on the path. She used to sing to herself, or to the sheep, to the grass, or to the sickle in her hand.

    And there was the boy who used to carry milk into town (a distance of about five miles), who would often fall into step with me, to hold a long conversation. He had never been away from the hills, or in a large city. He had never been on a train. I told him about the cities, and he told me about his village—how they make bread from maize, how fish were to be caught in the mountain streams, how the bears came to steal his father’s pumpkins. Whenever the pumpkins were ripe, he told me, the bears would come and carry them off.

    These things I remembered—these, and the smell of pine needles, the silver of oak leaves and the red of maple, the call of the Himalayan cuckoo, and the mist, like a wet facecloth, pressing against the hills.

    Odd, how some little incident, some snatch of conversation, comes back to one again and again, in the most unlikely places. Standing in the aisle of a crowded tube train on a Monday morning, my nose tucked into the back page of someone else’s newspaper, I suddenly had a vision of a bear making off with a ripe pumpkin.

    Odd, how some little incident, some snatch of conversation, comes back to one again and again, in the most unlikely places. Standing in the aisle of a crowded tube train on a Monday morning, my nose tucked into the back page of someone else’s newspaper, I suddenly had a vision of a bear making off with a ripe pumpkin.

    A bear and a pumpkin—and there, between Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road stations, all the smells and sounds of the Himalayas came rushing back to me.

    Related Books

    Ruskin BondRuskin Bond is the author of numerous books, many of which take place in the Himalaya region. See more about him here.

    Namita GokhaleNamita Gokhale is a best-selling author and codirector of the Jaipur Literary Festival and of the Bhutan literary festival Mountain Echoes. See more about her here.

  • Singapore Dream | An Excerpt from Singapore Dream & Other Adventures

    Hermann Hesse’s Southeast Asian Travels

    Singapore Dream & Other Adventures

    In the morning I had chased butterflies on the byways, overgrown with grass and overhung with foliage, that run among the European gardens. In the white heat of noon I returned to the city on foot, and I passed the afternoon walking about, visiting shops, and doing my shopping in the beautiful, lively, teeming streets of Singapore. Now I was sitting in the high, pillared salon of the hotel eating supper with my traveling companion. The large wings of the fan were whirring industriously in the heights, the white-linen clad Chinese boys were gliding through the hall with silent composure purveying the bad English-Indian food, and the electric light was glittering on the small ice cubes floating in the whisky glasses. I sat facing my friend, tired and not hungry, sipped my cold drink, peeled golden yellow bananas, and called rather too soon for coffee and cigars.

    The others had decided to go see a film, something for which my eyes, strained already from laboring in full sun, were not eager. However, in the end I went along, just to have the evening taken care of. We walked out of the hotel bareheaded and in light evening shoes and strolled through the teeming streets in the cooled-down, blue evening air. In quiet side streets, in the light of storm lanterns, hundreds of Chinese coolies sat at long, rough wooden tables and cheerily and politely ate their mysterious and complex dishes, which cost practically nothing and are full of unknown spices. The intense scent of dried fish and warm coconut oil floated through the night lit by a thousand flickering candles; calls and shouts in dark Eastern languages echoed out of blue arch-covered alleys; pretty made-up Chinese girls sat in front of lightly barred doors, behind which rich, golden house altars dimly glittered.

    The intense scent of dried fish and warm coconut oil floated through the night lit by a thousand flickering candles; calls and shouts in dark Eastern languages echoed out of blue arch-covered alleys; pretty made-up Chinese girls sat in front of lightly barred doors, behind which rich, golden house altars dimly glittered.

    From the dark wooden gallery in the movie house, we looked over the heads of innumerable Chinese with long queues at the glaring rectangle of light where a Parisian gambler’s tale, the theft of the Mona Lisa, and scenes from Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe flitted by like ghosts, all with the same harsh vividness, the ghost-like quality being doubled by the atmosphere of unreality or awkward implausibility that all these Western things take on in a Chinese and Malay environment.

    My attention soon went slack, my gaze hung distractedly in the twilight of the high room, and my thoughts fell to pieces and lay lifeless like the limbs of a marionette that was not in use at the moment and had been laid aside. I let my head sink onto my propped-up hands and was immediately at the mercy of all the moods of my thought-weary and image-sated brain.

    At first I was surrounded by a soft murmuring twilight that I felt good in and that I felt no need to think about. Then gradually I began to notice that I was lying on the deck of a ship, it was night, and only a few oil lanterns were burning. Aside from me, many other sleepers were lying there, body to body, each stretched out on the deck on his travel blanket or on a bast mat.

    A man who was lying next to me seemed not to be asleep. His face was familiar to me, though I didn’t know his name. He moved, propping himself on his elbows, took rimless golden spectacles from his eyes, and began to clean them meticulously with a soft little flannel cloth. Then I recognized him—it was my father.

    “Where are we going?” I asked sleepily.

    He kept cleaning his delicate spectacles without looking up and quietly said, “We’re going to Asia.”

    He kept cleaning his delicate spectacles without looking up and quietly said, “We’re going to Asia.”

    We spoke Malay mixed with English, and this English reminded me that my childhood was long past, because back then my parents told each other all their secrets in English, and I could understand nothing of them.

    “We’re going to Asia,” my father repeated, and then all of a sudden I again knew everything. Yes, we were going to Asia, and Asia was not an area of the world but rather a very specific but mysterious place somewhere between India and China. That is where the various peoples and their teachings and their religions had come from, there lay the roots of all humanity and the source of all life, there stood the images of the gods and the tables of the law. Oh, how had I been able to forget that, even for a moment! I had been on my way to that Asia for such a long time already, I and many men and women, friends and strangers.

    Softly I sang our traveling song to myself: “We’re going to Asia!” And I thought of the golden dragons, the venerable Bodhi Tree, and the sacred snake.

    My father looked at me in a kindly way and said, “I am not teaching you, I am just reminding you.” And in saying that, he was no longer my father, his face smiled for just a second with exactly the same expression with which our leader, the guru, smiles in dreams; and in the same moment the smile dissolved, and the face was round and still like a lotus blossom and exactly resembled a golden likeness of the Buddha, the Perfect One; and it smiled again and it was the mellow, sad smile of the Savior.

    The person who had been lying next to me and had smiled was no longer there. It was daytime, and all the sleepers had gotten up. Distraught, I also pulled myself to my feet and wandered around on the weird ship among strange people, and I saw islands on the dark blue sea with wild, shining chalk cliffs and islands with tall windblown palms and deep blue volcanic mountains. Cunning, brown-skinned Arabs and Malays were standing with their thin arms crossed on their breasts. They were bowing to the ground and performing the appropriate prayers.

    “I saw my father,” I shouted out loud. “My father is on the ship!”

    An old English officer in a flowered Japanese morning gown looked at me with shining bright-blue eyes and said, “Your father is here and is there, and is in you and outside you, your father is everywhere.”

    I gave him my hand and told him that I was traveling to Asia in order to see the sacred tree and the snake, and in order to return to the source of life from which everything began and which signified the eternal unity of appearances.

    I gave him my hand and told him that I was traveling to Asia in order to see the sacred tree and the snake, and in order to return to the source of life from which everything began and which signified the eternal unity of appearances.

    But a merchant eagerly took hold of me and claimed my attention. He was an English-speaking Singhalese. He pulled a small cloth bundle out of a little basket, which he untied and out of which small and large moonstones appeared.

    “Nice moonstones, sir,” he whispered conspiratorially, and when I tried forcefully to pull myself away from him, someone laid a hand lightly on my arm and said, “Give me a few stones, they’re really beauties.” The voice immediately captured my heart as a mother captures her runaway child. I turned around eagerly and greeted Miss Wells from America. It was inconceivable that I had so completely forgotten her.

    “Oh, Miss Wells,” I called out joyfully, “Miss Annie Wells, are you here too?”

    “Won’t you give me a moonstone, German?”

    I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out the long, knit coin purse that I had gotten from my grandfather and that as a boy I had lost on my first trip to Italy. I was glad to have it back again, and I shook a bunch of silver Singhalese rupees out of it. But my traveling companion, the painter, who I hadn’t realized was still there and was standing next to me, said with a smile, “You can wear them as buttons; here they’re not worth a penny.”

    Puzzled, I asked him where he had come from and if he had really gotten over his malaria. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Modern European painters should all be sent to the tropics so they can wean themselves from their orange-ish palettes. Here is just the place where you can get much closer to the darker palette of nature.”

    It was obvious, and I emphatically agreed. But the beautiful Miss Wells in the meantime had gotten lost in the crowd. Anxiously, I made my way farther around the huge ship, but did not have the courage to force myself past a group of missionary people who were sitting in a circle that blocked the entire width of the deck. They were singing a pious song and I quickly joined in, since I knew it from home:

    Darunter das Herze sich naget und plaget
    Und dennoch kein wahres Vergnügen erjaget
    (Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving,
    No true lasting happiness ever deriving . . .)

    I found myself in agreement with that, and the heavy-hearted, pathetic melody put me in a sad mood. I thought of the beautiful American woman and of our destination, Asia, and found so much cause for uncertainty and care that I asked the missionary how things really stood: Was his faith truly a good one and would it be any good for a man like me?

    “Look,” I said, hungry for consolation, “I’m a writer and a butterfly collector—”

    “You’re mistaken,” said the missionary.

    I repeated my explanation. But whatever I said, he responded with the same answer: “You’re mistaken,” accompanied by a bright, childish, modestly triumphant smile.

    Confused, I got away from him. I saw that I was not going to accomplish anything there, and I decided to drop everything and look for my father, who would certainly help me. Again I saw the face of the serious English officer and thought I heard his words: “You father is here and he is there, and he is in you and outside of you.” I understood that this was a warning, and I squatted down and began to chasten myself and to seek my father within me.

    I remained still that way and tried to think. But it was hard, the whole world seemed to have been gathered on this ship in order to torment me. Also it was terribly hot, and I would gladly have given my grandfather’s knit purse for a cold whisky and soda.

    From the moment I became aware of it, this satanic heat seemed to swell and grow like a horrible, unbearably piercing sound. People lost all trace of composure. They swilled greedily out of straw-covered bottles like wolves, they tried in the most bizarre ways to make themselves comfortable, and all around me the most uncontrolled, meaningless actions were occurring. The whole ship was obviously on the brink of insanity.

    The friendly missionary, with whom I had been unable to come to an understanding, had fallen into the hands of two gigantic Chinese coolies who were toying with him in the most shameless ways. Through some hideous trick of authentic Chinese mechanics, they were able, with a nudge, to make him stick his booted foot into his own mouth. With another kind of nudge, they made both his eyes hang out of their sockets like sausages, and when he tried to pull them back in, they prevented him from doing so by tying knots in them.

    This was grotesque and ugly but it affected me less than I would have thought, in any case less than gazing at the view afforded me by Miss Wells, for she had taken off all her clothes and wore over her amazingly buxom nakedness not a thing on her body but a marvelous, brown-green snake, which had coiled itself around her.

    In despair, I closed my eyes. I had the feeling that our ship was spiraling rapidly down into a glowering, hellish maw.

    Then I heard, coming as a comfort to the heart like the sound of a bell, a wanderer lost in the mist intoning with many voices a joyous song, and I immediately began to sing along. It was the sacred song, “We’re going to Asia,” and all human languages could be heard in it, all weary human longing, and the inner need and wild yearning of all creatures. I felt myself loved by my father and mother, led by my guru, purified by Buddha, and saved by the Savior, and if what came now was death or beatitude, I simply could not care which.

    Then I heard, coming as a comfort to the heart like the sound of a bell, a wanderer lost in the mist intoning with many voices a joyous song, and I immediately began to sing along. It was the sacred song, “We’re going to Asia,” and all human languages could be heard in it, all weary human longing, and the inner need and wild yearning of all creatures. I felt myself loved by my father and mother, led by my guru, purified by Buddha, and saved by the Savior, and if what came now was death or beatitude, I simply could not care which.

    I got up and opened my eyes. They were all there around me—my father, my friend, the Englishman, the guru, and everyone, all the human faces I had ever laid eyes on. They looked straight ahead with an awestruck, beautiful gaze, and I looked too, and before us a grove grew that was thousands of years old, and from the heaven-high twilight of the treetops came the rustling sound of eternity. Deep in the night of the holy shadow shone the golden glow of a primevally ancient temple gate.

    Then we all fell on our knees, our longing was stilled, our journey was at an end. We closed our eyes, and my body toiled its way up out of its profound torpor. My forehead lay on the edge of the wooden railing, below me palely glimmered the shaved heads of the Chinese spectators; the stage was dark, and a murmuring echo of applause could be heard in the big projection room.

    We got up and left. It was excruciatingly hot and there was a pervasive odor of coconut oil. But outside, the night wind off the sea, the flickering lights of the harbor, and the faint light of the stars came to greet us.

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    Hermann HesseHermann Hesse is a novelist known best for Demian (1919), Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927), Narcissus and Goldmund (1930), Journey to the East (1932), and The Glass Bead Game (1943). Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. See more about him here.

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