One day Clown Repa came before Tokpa Dorje with a very important question. Earlier that morning, Tokpa Dorje had thought that perhaps he’d go for a walk, so he had a disciple bring him his cane. However when he sat up from his common reclining Buddha posture he was struck yet again with the sheer wonder of enlightened manifestation and was so joyously inspired, he hadn’t moved from that position. And so it was like this that Clown Repa found him. Not wanting to disturb him, he sat near some other disciples who were meditating in the room.
After awhile Tokpa Dorje turned to the others and said, “Clown Repa has a very important question that he’s dying to ask and it would pain me greatly if the son died before his father.”
Clown Repa came before Tokpa Dorje and prostrated. “This question has been plaguing my practice for weeks and I must receive clarification before proceeding any further. Please, in all your incomparable kindness, explain how, if all is of the Great Perfection, if all is Prajnaparamita, and ultimately there are no beings and there is no suffering; why concern oneself with the path of compassion and wisdom for the benefit of sentient beings? Why dedicate our illusory life to benefiting illusory beings?”
At this a look of incredible fury came upon Tokpa Dorje’s face and he raised his cane high. “How about an illusory beating! What delusional muck of selfishness have you been sitting in?”
Clown Repa cringed and covered his head with his hands, trembling. Tokpa Dorje sighed and smiled, and scratched his back with his cane. “Oh Clown Repa, I could not hit you. It wouldn’t be worth it. You have to have much more faith to really benefit from a thorough beating.”
Tokpa Dorje set his cane down. “Should I ever lay into you with all the wrath of my impeccable discernment activity, you should know that cowering and shielding your precious corpse can turn a good auspicious beating of virtue into a discouraging self-beating towards hell!” Tokpa Dorje laughed and slapped his knees. “Your question does not merit a response though; you should be meditating on what is directly so, not thinking about thoughts and why you should think them.”
Then the other disciples stood up and the senior of them stepped forward and spoke, “Please Rinpoche, Clown Repa asks a very good question. We all have great faith in the path, however, were the question to be posed to me, even I cannot honestly think how I should answer it.” All the disciples prostrated and echoed Clown Repa’s supplication.
Tokpa Dorje considered this. “Very well; but understand that the Path has nothing to do with some deluded sentience analyzing a delusional question, in hopes of discovering a delusional answer, to validate its delusional course. Rather it is more, the miraculous activity of refining the ore of confusion into the clarity of the natural state.”
Tokpa Dorje’s Explanation
“As you know there are two paths, each with their accordant fruition. These are often summarized as the paths of mindfulness and un-mindfulness. Mindfulness is the unremitting clarity recognizing the immanent and limitless suchness-truth of empty awareness, as it is. Un-mindfulness is the self generating adventitious confusion regarding things as they are; exchanging the abidance of luminous nature with the deliberation of clouded nonsense.
“All of us, having foolishly crossed the threshold into this tent of dice and debauchery, lingered just long enough to forget our names so that now we find ourselves, since beginning-less time, either seeking greater illusory winnings (Tokpa Dorje winked at Clown Repa), or the closest exit by which we can depart this mistaken fantasy and remember who we are.
“From this position of entrapment and in collaboration with those who have gone beyond, we have developed a language of means by which to skillfully free ourselves of this den of defilement and obscuration. We know that the main tent pole is duality, joining the ground of mindless discursion with the peak of fixation. The service staff of afflictive emotions doles out heaping trays of worldly concern. Through cycles of habituation, the tent walls thicken, our bellies grow bigger, and a painful noise roars in our mind, numbing our senses and dulling our consciousness.
“From our relative deluded standpoint we can speak of what’s beyond the wall, we can compile brilliant clues whispered through the canvas by those who truly know; employing an extensive and superbly eloquent vocabulary of signs, illustrating approximate characteristics of the inconceivable essence of Ultimate Space. However even the most profound exposition melodiously sung by the Buddha himself, if filtered through the screen of Samsara, the caked earwax of patterned misapprehension; can be compounded into the contrived garble of ignorance. A Buddha, like a lotus, can walk through this tent without succumbing to any of its filth; but any revelation of Truth, when treated with the formulation of duality, offers just as much opportunity for poison and peril as anything else.
“For those of ripe capacity, engaging in study of the Great Maha-Ati Sky Treasury makes eons of difference in the duration and quality of their refinement activity. However even the most advanced practitioner would do better to leave it all alone. Once one knows how to practice they should just stick with that instead of seeking novel ways to garner the confidence to relinquish conceptual dependence. Hearing or reading the Truth ad-nauseum will not make you transcend all the reification you impute; only practice will do that.
“So there are two paths and two fruitions, yes? Awareness that liberates into the freedom gone beyond and confusion that mires into the hapless suffering of perpetual dreams. The first moment we strayed from the Mother Light of Omniscient Awareness and crossed the tent’s threshold, we became instantly lost. Separated from our Mother, the primordial ease to which we were accustomed had vanished. An unfathomable sense of fear arose, and out of this fear we established a self. It was the best we could do!”
Tokpa Dorje howled with laughter. “I’m sorry, you asked for clarification and I’m just filling your heads with yak dung."
“So now, every Buddhist knows that self grasping is the biggest tragedy, the source of all our woes; it is the most insidious lie. Actually you could say it is the only lie! Truth is what is and the self is all there is not! There is not one feature of relative existence to which one can place any blame; this tent is merely the spontaneous mandala of enlightened activity. It is only the self, lord of death and limitation, who has imputed this elaborate circus of Samsara. The self is the kingpin of Samsara who has hired the performers, service staff and henchmen, and then reclines at the back table mesmerized by the pomp of his establishment. As long as we are dependent on self, as long as we look to it for guidance, its consistent fraudulent advice will at best incapacitate us and at worst drive us deeper and deeper into the darkest misery. People think that surely self isn’t all bad, even if it is an illusion, for how else could one experience joy throughout their lives, or the fruition of merit, or even enter the path of mindfulness to begin with? They do not realize that the sun of uncreated Truth shines ceaselessly, illuminating eons of darkness at every glimpse; the recognizance of their Buddha nature is always within them; Buddha’s and bodhisattvas emanate in countless ways and forms to skillfully guide them; merit is accumulated through conduct in accordance with the law, the fruition of which manifests to the degree innate virtue has been revealed and adopted. None of this has anything to do with the self! Self substantiates dreams and clings to what is broken! Fortunately this tent of Samsara is merely transitory fabrication, while the three Kayas of unelaborated space and light are the essence of all realms. They are the source of all goodness.
“I don’t mean to bore you with ravings about the self. You all know this already, you’re experienced Buddhists. I could have said this a lot more simply and then moved on. Maybe in my old age I’m souring in my renunciation and desperately trying to make up for so many years of silence. Indulge this elder with your patience and attention.”
Tokpa Dorje grinned and downed his now tepid cup of tea in one gulp. He sighed with satisfaction and wiped his mouth.
“Now where was I? Ah yes, so there are two paths and two fruits. We know that one is bogus and the other is worth all the time and energy we can muster. From our relative standpoint we have two good words for summarizing both this worthwhile path and its fruit; they are love and wisdom. These two words can be unified as Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the path and the fruit. Conveniently, for those of us of human birth endowed with leisure and capacity, we can see that these two paths, the paths of confusion and Bodhicitta, are completely opposed; so the very horror of Samsara proffers invaluable guidance and insight into the conduct of liberation. Just do the opposite of everyone else and confusion
dawns as wisdom!” Tokpa Dorje laughed and laughed.
“If we choose to we can delineate between Relative Bodhicitta as the path and Ultimate Bodhicitta as the fruit. Since we’ve made this delineation, let’s focus on Relative Bodhicitta, since no one here is enlightened, except maybe me, hah! So the opposite of selfishness is selflessness, yes? The opposite of self cherishing is to cherish everyone and everything else. Perhaps a rock is not sentient, and so it won’t directly benefit from your kindness; but you will certainly benefit from the kindness that recognizes your co-arisen kinship with that rock. This is mindfulness. In addition, every moment we abide in this mindfulness, our interdependent link with all other beings becomes a blazing mirror of immaculate Truth; this mirror shines directly into the deluded darkness of all sentient beings without exception. This is why practice is the most beneficial activity we can engage in.
“The virtuous activities of body, speech, and mind, are just the opposites of non-virtue; they constitute the mindful, liberating conduct of selflessness. These ten virtues are just a ten fold delineation of love. So really you see that love is the supreme sadhana that refines the ore of confusion into the clarity of the natural state. Of course this isn’t worldly love as some might mistake it; this love is gone beyond love. That is why wisdom is paramount in the refinement activity.
“The path of mindfulness, of refinement revealing clarity, of relative Bodhicitta; is concerned solely with cultivating the view and conduct of Prajnaparamita for the benefit of all beings. The fruit of this path; self arisen awareness, the natural state, Ultimate Bodhicitta; is utterly unconcerned and yet spontaneously accomplishes the benefit of all beings by its very nature of revelatory suchness. All that manifests as goodness, beyond the impoverished dualistic designation attributed to that quality, is none other than Ultimate Bodhicitta.
“Finally, if it can be said that there is no duality, then there are no beings existing inherently and thus there is no suffering to be substantiated either. There really is nothing that can be substantiated apart from the Perfect Vajra Wholeness of the Eternally Here and Now; all that there is. That is why Ultimate Bodhicitta or Prajnaparamita is beyond any hesitation when it comes to the welfare of even the smallest particle of her ‘beyond being’. Although there is no coming or going, this tiny particle, which could be you or me, is totally lost in the sea of un-awareness. We go this way and that, seeking the All Ground of Sure Footing, but even were we to encounter an island of wish fulfilling jewels; we wouldn’t know it for what it was. Self is the illusion that obscures our view. Illusion is not defined by impermanence. Impermanence is merely the law of all mandalas of phenomenal display. There is nothing that isn’t Prajnaparamita and she is as real as it gets! So who says that there are no beings and no suffering? Only the self says anything.
“All that aside, look inside your mind and all around you. If you are truly happy and at peace, that is rare and remarkable; but what good is your own happiness when all of your mothers are needlessly suffering the most unbearable pains of hell?”