Glimpses of Realization

The everyday practice is just ordinary life itself. Since the underdeveloped
state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or
try to attain or practice anything.
—Maha Ati

The sutra teachings are common to all Buddhist traditions and form the basis for all the teachings that came later. The insight into emptiness and nonsubstantiality is the essential platform from which the tantric and nondual teachings arise.

Tantra was a movement started and developed in India. It was an antidote in both Hinduism and Buddhism to the kind of rigid conceptual thinking that saw reality and the human condition in terms of good and bad, higher and lower, clean and unclean. Tantra saw beyond this into the essentially pure nature of all phenomena. It is understood in Buddhist tantra, that even though all phenomena are in and of themselves essentially pure and empty, we as sentient beings are ignorant of the true nature of ourselves, others, and the world. Very simply, the tantric yogic practices (which rarely, if ever, are done with a partner), serve to clear the subtle channels, release the obscurations, and generate bliss which can be mixed with the realization of emptiness in order for full awakening to the nondual or “one taste” state to arise.

Although it is possible for some of us to taste the nondual state, or even stabilize in it to some extent, it is very useful to draw from the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. These approaches help us transform the habitual patterns and karma, and thereby come to full and complete realization—one in which there is an abiding recognition of nonduality. It is said in Buddhist teachings that those of superior capability only need to hear the teachings once and they fully awaken; but most of us are not in that category. We can always check where we are by observing whether or not we are affected in any way by the eight worldly dharmas: gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and obscurity.

I would like to share with you some excerpts from two of the most beautiful and profound “pointing instructions” I have come across in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. One piece is Aspirations for Mahamudra, a prayer written by the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339), detailing the complete path of Mahamudra. The other is a contemporary piece, compiled and translated from an oral teaching, and given by Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), a realized Dzokchen master. In general, both the Mahamudra and Dzokchen lineages emphasize levels of purification and transformation and always include refuge in the Buddha, dharma, sangha; awakening for the benefit of self and others; and dedicating one’s practice and activity for the benefit of all beings. The Mahamudra teachings emphasize detailed insight or vipassana practices that lead one into the direct experience of nonduality, while the Dzokchen teachings emphasize the direct approach to recognizing our innate perfection.

In the Mahamudra piece, Rangjung Dorje discusses the stages as well as the ground (inherent Buddha nature) and fruit (full realization of the truth body or dharmakaya). In the fourth quatrain and again later in the prayer, he deals with the basis of ignorance, attachment, and aversion by pointing out that once awareness is taken to be a self, there is a splitting between subject and object, thereby creating dualistic fixation. Once we experience the world in terms of self and other, we want to protect and advance the aims of the self; we attach to what we like and avoid what we don’t like. Then we suffer because our security and happiness are based on impermanent phenomena, which doesn’t necessarily conform to our ego’s ideas of how things should be.

Fortunately, we now have a wonderful opportunity for spiritual unfoldment, with access to humanity’s most profound teachings and to people of many traditions who have actualized true wisdom. As nondual glimpses of realization arise, habitual patterns of attachment and aversion are loosened; as nonduality stabilizes, obscurations naturally drop away and we experience the radiant play of form and emptiness: daka and dakini, heaven and earth.

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