The Ultimate transcends Difference and Unity

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Samdhinirmochana Mahayana Sutra Chapter 3, part 1

Samdhinormonchana Sutra (Part VII),
Chapter Three, Afternoon Dharma Talk
Saturday June 14, 2009, P.M.
No Abode


Transcribed by: Karen Mueller


“Moreover [Purified Intelligence], if the character of compounded practices and the character of the ultimate were not different, then just the character of compounded practices would be included in the afflicted character”. “The character”,.. [did I read that right?] “Then just as the character of the compounded practices would be included in the afflicted character, the character of the ultimate would also be included in the afflicted character.” (Second reading saying “just as” is correct.) . So again this reminds me of what I mentioned earlier is that the compounded,.. compounded phenomena are included in the phenomena that have outflows, that are impure. They are included there with one exception; that (which) is the practice. But if the ultimate were not different from the compounded practices then they would also be included in the impure. “[Purified Intelligence], if the character of the compounded [practices] and the character of the ultimate were [totally] different,”.. then the ultimate character within the characters of compounded things, would not be their general or common character. Did you follow that? Speaker: Once more.. Reb: If the character of the compounded practices and the character of the ultimate were totally different, then the character within all characteristics of compounded things would not be their general characteristic.” Get it that time? Speakers: No: Speaker A: General characteristic thing at the end throws me. Reb: If the character of compounded things, practices and the character of the ultimate were totally different then the ultimate character within all characters of compounded things, the ultimate character would not be their common character. But the ultimate character of phenomena is their common, or general character. Generally, all compounded things are empty. Uncompounded things are also empty, but emptiness, the ultimate is also the ultimate. The ultimate of emptiness is also empty.. of emptiness. But emptiness is not the common characteristic of emptiness. But emptiness is the common characteristic, the ultimate truth, the ultimate meaning of events. There’s just one ultimate meaning of events. It’s common to all of them. But the ultimate meaning of events, which is common to them, would not be common to them if the ultimate meaning of events was different from the events.. was completely different from the events. Now if we know it’s, it could be a little different, just can’t be completely different. Because if it wasn’t.., it couldn’t be a little bit different, then it would have to be the same. And it could be a little bit of same, but it can’t be completely the same. Otherwise, it couldn’t be different. But it actually can sometimes be different and sometimes be the same and in this way, it turns out to be transcending completely, perfectly all this sameness and difference. “[Purified Intelligence], since the character of the ultimate is not included in the character of the afflicted, the compounded are included in the character of the afflicted.” Compounded except for one big exception, called the practice of the path. The compounded are included in the afflicted. But the uncompounded, or the ultimate is not included within the afflicted. It’s not included within the impure. Emptiness doesn’t have outflows. And in emptiness there isn’t any outflows. So anyway, the character of the ultimate is not included in the character of the afflicted. “And the ultimate character in all characters of compounded things is their general characteristic. It is neither suitable to say.. it is neither suitable to say, ‘The character of the compounded [practices] and the character of the ultimate are not different’. Nor is it suitable to say, ‘The character of the ultimate is different.’” “Know by this form of explanation, that those who say the character of compounded [practices] and the character of the ultimate are not different, and those who say the character of the ultimate is different are improperly oriented. Their orientation is incorrect.” And those also, know that those who do not like repetition are welcome here too. Know that by…”Moreover [Purified Intelligence] if the character of the compounded and the character of the ultimate were not different, then just the ultimate character does not differ within all characters of compounded things.” I think I read it wrong. “Just as the ultimate character does not differ within all characters of compounded things; so also the characters of compounded things would not differ”. Did you follow that? No? You didn’t follow it. Do you want to hear it again? Speaker B: Yes. Reb: And this is, if this goes into a book, it probably will not be repeated, but… Because you can read it over and over. (Laughs) But now you want to hear it over and over. “Moreover [Purified Intelligence]…” [That’s you, your intelligence is getting purified by this repetition. The cobwebs are getting swept away. The eucalyptus leaves are being collected and re-cycled.] “If the character of the compounded practices and the character of the ultimate were not different, then just as the ultimate character does not differ within all compounded things..:” [Ok? Got that part?] “Also, so also all characters of compounded things would not differ.” If the compounded and the uncompounded are not different, then just as the uncompounded, the ultimate does not differ among the compounded things, the ultimate would not,.. I mean the compounded things, just as the ultimate does not differ among the compounded things, the compounded things would not differ among the compounded things if they were not different. But compounded things among compounded things do differ. Totally. They totally differ from each other. They just don’t totally differ from the ultimate. So compounded things like you and me are actually closer to the ultimate truth than we are to each other. In terms of like, similarity. We’re totally different from each other. Completely. We’re even totally different from the way we were a second ago. Totally different. Related but totally different. But we’re not totally different, we’re a little bit different, but not totally different from the ultimate. Also we’re not the same. We’re not the same as we used to be and we’re not the same as other things. We’re never the same but we’re sometimes kind of the same as the ultimate. So we’re really at, we’re always more intimate with the ultimate then we are with other compounded things. Even though we depend on them all, we’re really completely different and completely not the same. And, not at all the same. Yes? Yaron: Don’t all compounded things have, there’s the ultimate character of compounded things. Reb: Uh-oh. Yeah, so in that way they are the same? Yaron: So they have not-empty intersection of their character, of the ultimate part. Reb: We overlap in the ultimate part? Yaron: Yeah. Reb: Except that we don’t. Because the ultimate part is not a general ultimate part. We all have, it’s a.. we share in having the ultimate. But the ultimate of you is not the same as the ultimate of me. The way you’re empty of Yaron is different from the way I’m empty of Reb. It’s our common characteristics, but your emptiness is not my emptiness. Catherine: How is that knowledge helpful? Reb: How is it helpful? She says how is that knowledge helpful? I think it makes, I think it helps the.. it helps you from thinking there’s a fixed.. a general characteristic that’s a fixed thing for everything. So again, it’s not even.. it’s not a fixed substantial general characteristic. It’s also a dependent co-arising. It’s not this one thing we all share. So it’s called common or general but it’s not the same thing. Does that help you a lot? Catherine: And the difference is? Knowing that, the knowledge of differences, how is that helpful? Reb: It helps you…well, it helps you in your whaddacallit? Your unceasing effort to explore and manifest the ultimate. It’s part of your study of the ultimate. Catherine: I’m not understanding. Reb: You’re in this school, you’re in a school where you’re learning about the ultimate. Catherine: Right. Reb: That’s part of what I said earlier, “Those who say [blah blah], they have not investigated and manifested the ultimate.” So this is some details about the ultimate. And then you said.. and part of your study of the ultimate is to say why talking about the ultimate that way, what’s helpful about that? And my response was to tell you that although the ultimate’s a general characteristic or common characteristic of all the different things, it’s not this fixed thing sitting out there that we’re all have a general… that we all share in general. It’s not like… we share it in a sense, but it’s not something, it’s not a substantial thing we’re sharing. It’s just that we all have this nature. But you can’t grasp it because mine isn’t yours. The way I’m selfless, the way I don’t have a self, it’s not the same way you don’t have a self. So that gives you more information about the ultimate which you’re trying to become more intimate with. And you’re developing intimacy with the ultimate comes through the conventional, or through the compounded practices of language and discussing texts. Because education,.. we can’t get educated about the ultimate if the ultimate was totally different from the conventional. So our afflicted, conventional, impure nature can be educated about the unafflicted. And in particular, a special kind of compounded character that’s unafflicted called ‘the practice’. Does that make some sense now? Like a lot? (Laughter) Ok? So what’s helpful about what you just heard. How is it helpful. Catherine: I felt like I was just trying to decipher what we could use. What we could use or give away or? Reb: Ok? So that’s important, to decipher what you can give away. In other words, to be, to figure out where are the things I can give away. I gotta, I want to find out what I can give away. And you can give away anything that you can conceive of. And so you maybe want your conception to be a little bit more developed so you can give away that conception. Right? It’s hard for you to give away something before you even know how to get a hold of it. The point of attachment is the point of donation. So yes and yes and yes and yes? Speaker C: So are you in a sense saying that our understanding of the ultimate is contingent upon the compounded which is the practice. Reb: We compounded beings,.. C: Right. The ultimate is not contingent upon…, is the ultimate aside from my understanding, that’s contingent upon the compounded. The ultimate beyond our understanding. Reb: The ultimate beyond our understanding? Well the ultimate beyond our understanding is just an ultimate we haven’t yet understood. But we can understand the ultimate. Matter of fact, the ultimate is the correct understanding. That’s one…one translation of this is “the ultimate meaning” of events. So it’s not just the ultimate way they are but the ultimate way that they are meaningful to compounded beings. So there’s an ultimate meaning for compounded beings about compounded being. So the idea is that we can understand it. Otherwise there would be no point in us doing this in a way. So we can understand the ultimate. We can explore this ultimate meaning. We can manifest it. And the way we manifest is in conditional things; because the ultimate is not manifested. However it’s not completely different from the manifested. And the way it’s manifest is through the Practice. And when our practice is selfless, when the compounded things are organized in such a way that it’s selflessness, then there’s,.. then the ultimate is manifested in the conventional, or the compounded. And, yeah, and you also said something about the ultimate isn’t contingent. But in some ways, even the ultimate, if it exists at all even in a Middle way, because it is the Middle Way, it’s still a dependent co-arising. So the Middle Way that things are, or the practice, which is the way things are too, because the practice is how we manifest the way things are, that’s a dependent co-arising. So in a way, the ultimate is contingent on the compounded, because it needs… because it’s the ultimate meaning of the compounded. So it’s, in some sense, depends on the compounded. If there were no compounded things, there would be no ultimate meaning of them. Now you say, what if there were just uncompounded things, what if there were just emptiness? But emptiness is not just the emptiness of emptiness. There is an emptiness of emptiness, there is an ultimate meaning of the ultimate meaning. There is an ultimate truth about the ultimate truth. But it’s also ultimate meaning of the non-ultimate truths. C: And we would imagine that as the realm of the Buddha’s then? Reb: No, there isn’t such thing as just the ultimate of the ultimate. There could be an ultimate of the ultimate but the other ultimate is the ultimate of non-ultimates. Buddhas are not floating around with any non-ultimates to operate on. Buddhas are just the sum total of all the non-ultimates, of all the compounded practices. Plus they also…. they aren’t always however manifesting.. they’re not always manifesting just as the practice. They also manifest in a kind of, not manifest. They’re also in an unmanifest way, but the unmanifested, the way they are is in relationship to all manifested beings. That way is called the Dharma body; the way they’re un-manifested in relationship to all the manifested. But they are still dependent on the manifested. But they can also be manifested themselves. Buddhas can also adopt a compounded body. C: What’s the bliss body then? Reb: The bliss body is the enjoyment of this.. of the whole operation. It’s the social club of the Bodhisattvas who are enjoying the relationship between the way the Buddhas are, the ultimate meaning of all conditioned things, and also the way the Buddhas can become conditioned things in order to help conditioned beings learn about the Buddhas. There’s an enjoyment and a reward for meditating on this relationship. That’s the Bliss body. It’s called Bliss body, but it’s also called “reward body”. It’s a reward for meditating on these teachings. Patti? Patti: Yes, I was thinking the light that shines through you and me and everyone is the same light. Is that incorrect? Reb: Yeah, it is incorrect. The light that shines through you is the light of how you are. Patti: In it’s manifestation? But then in it’s source, it seems the same. Reb: No, it doesn’t really have a source. But as, sort of, it’s opportunity for demonstration is you. The way you are is what’s being demonstrated by the ultimate meaning of you, which is your light. The light of me is not the light of you. The light of me is how I am not entirely… The light of me is how I’m not the same as you, how I am different from you, but how I’m not, I’m not really different from the fact of my own emptiness. I’m not really different from that. I mean I’m not totally different from that. And I’m also not the same as my own emptiness. My feelings are not the same as the emptiness of my feelings. My feelings are not the same as the emptiness of my personality. But the way my feelings are empty is not the same way that your feelings are empty. Your feelings are empty because of the kind of feelings that you have. Your feelings being the way they are is the reason why your feelings are empty. So your emptiness, your light, is not the same light as mine. Even though we both have light and it’s basically the same kind of light. It’s the light of ultimate meaning. But it’s not the same light. So there isn’t this one big light floating around, one substantial light. But you could say.. and also the way that your emptiness, your light, is not substantial, is different from the way my light is not substantial. So there’s not even ultimate meaning of ultimate meanings either. Like there are ultimate meanings of ultimate meanings; but there’s not one big ultimate meaning of all the other ultimate meanings. And there’s not one big ultimate meaning of all the compounded phenomena. Otherwise we’d have a substantial Big Deal, which you could call various things like a ‘Creator’. We do not have a Creator in this tradition. We have creation without a creator. We have the ultimate truth without making it into something substantial. And we have, what do we have.. we have compounded beings and.., who are doing compounded practices and who have a strong ability to imagine that there is such a substantial thing. Pretty much everywhere you look they can imagine substance and something that can be grasped. So we’re really good at that. So this teaching is for us who are good at that. And various things have come up where you can see there’s still some kind of grasping for ‘what is the ultimate truth?’. So then Oscar and Karen and Johnny and Houma and.. Oscar: You answered my question. Reb: Yes? Karen: I’m wondering if there’s something in here, I don’t quite know how it might work, but that when we say “the ultimate”, that’s a noun, but maybe it’s a verb. I mean the difference between a process and a thing. Does that have any application? Reb: Yes, well sometimes the ultimate… I think the ultimate actually is a noun. It’s a state, in a way. And sometimes it’s like, you know but we say ‘emptiness’,.. we say ‘empty’ and then we say ‘emptiness’. Karen: We say ‘dependent co-arising’ and that’s a process. Reb: That’s a process. Right. And dependent co-arising is the ultimate. Dependent co-arising is emptiness. However we can go back and say,.. again we can say compounded phenomena are dependent co-arisings, but compounded does not completely exhaust all dependent co-arisings. Cause there’s one dependent co-arising that’s not compounded for example. It’s called… not just one, but there’s one I’d like to draw your attention to, at that is (that) is ultimate meaning is not compounded. Karen: I’m having trouble with the thing-ness of it. When you were talking about the light, I was thinking what I was thinking was that you’re both shining, but what is being shone is different. Reb: Yeah. In some ways, the shining you could say is the shining of our dependent co-arising. But it’s not just the shining of our dependent co-arising. It’s also that our dependent co-arising is so bright that you can’t get a hold of it. So the wonder of how we’re made, which includes that you can’t get a hold of how we’re made; that’s the ultimate. But that’s also inseparable from how we’re made. So you could say how we’re made is our ultimate meaning. But our ultimate meaning… but how we’re made is not completely the same as how we’re made. And when we talk about this, this is another compounded phenomenon. And that is the Middle Way. The fact that the way we’re created is emptiness and that talking this way is conventional designation about this thing which is not a conventional designation. But we have to recognize that it (talking) has to be a conventional designation. Karen: So we’re back to Chapter One. Reb: Back to Chapter One and also back to that we have to use compounded phenomena in this process. Because this process is just about liberating beings; not about…and it’s not even just about that, but it’s about the compassion which is working to do this. Houma? Houma: It’s answered. Thank you. Reb: Johnny? Johnny: I have an image that, I don’t know if it’s pious.. but I get a sense that we’re experience prisms and that… . Reb: Uh-huh. We must have got the idea of a prism from somewhere. Johnny: So that we can have a practice, we might perfect that, we might get a sense of the ultimate, but there’s nothing there about which we could have a consensus. We really have nothing to refer to each other, although we have perhaps a unique experience in our practice perhaps of our participation in the ultimate. Reb: Mmm-hmm. Linda? Linda: I just wanted to talk about how we’re very definitely different from each other, each time you say that something in me goes (gesture) and I feel like how can be if we’re basically empty and not-existent….or, while we’re having endurance, then how can we so, how can we have that quality of being different? So entirely different from each other? Reb: How could we have the quality of being different from other compounded things? Linda: Sure. It seems like you’re kind of stressing that which… . Reb: Yeah. I guess,.. I don’t exactly know how it came out to be that way, but without it I don’t know how anything could exist. If there was some confusion between this Linda and the past Linda, then I think it would be kind of … everything would be kind of murky, wouldn’t it? If this Linda was kind of the same as the last murky….last Linda? Linda: Ok? So you’re.. Reb: So you depend on the last…. Part of what’s particular about you is the particular way you depend on past Lindas. But the way you depend on past Lindas is a little different from the way I depend on past Lindas. This is just using the example of you and me. And so that makes you uniquely.. that makes you unique right now, a one-time event. Now it’s over. Now you get another one. So you, you’re unique. And I think unique means completely different from anything else. There’s only one of you. Linda: So you’re saying in each moment we’re not quite as different from our past moment as we are from someone else’s? Reb: No, I think we’re equally different from our past moments as we are from other people’s.. Linda: Aren’t you saying mine depends on my past Lindas? Reb: Yes, yours depends on your past LIndas and you depend on present Rebs who depend on past Rebs. But it’s different, the way you depend on past Lindas and the way I depend on past Rebs. But they are connected. Linda: It’s just that ultimately, you know we’re not really so different, right? Reb: Right. We’re not really so different. We’re just compoundedly different. We just are constructedly different. Linda: It’s the way we kind of … . Reb: Yeah. And the way we ultimately are, no construction can actually reach the way we’re actually.. the way we actually are. Finally. There’s nothing that gets at it. Do you want to hear a little bit more about this Sutra? No? Had enough? Me too. Well, this Chapter is really short but it’s really long. It’s dense. So I’m willing to not read anymore Sutra today and … . Shoho: Did you already say about the Dharmakaya? Does it come about that we call the Dharmakaya… I mean kind of (can’t hear) Is it just a terminology (can’t hear) … that there’s a difference? Reb: The Dharmakaya is something that supposedly can respond to beings. So the Dharmakaya is the ultimate, but this ultimate can respond to non-ultimates like, for example, a human being. And one of the ways it can respond is by becoming non-ultimate, by becoming a compounded. It can respond by manifesting in a compounded way in relationship to compounded beings who are calling out for some instruction. So that they can relate to the instruction in a way that they could open up to the uncompounded ultimate. So the ultimate is still uncompounded but it can.. it has the ability to manifest in a compounded way for the sake of compounded beings. Shoho: Would that compounded being not also be a compounded manifestation of something uncompounded to respond to that? Reb: Could it be? Yes it could be. I haven’t heard that it is, but it could be. But it seems like it’s actually a compounded… it seems like usually the compounded being is a response to, not really other beings calls for help, but kind of a self-maintenance program. So it seems like it’s born more in response to well-established compulsions and obsessions. Whereas the Buddha body manifests not so much just through obsessions and compulsions, but some request for something to appear to help them. So not everything is a teaching to beings who don’t want to have a teaching. But those suffering beings who want a teaching, then the Buddha comes and shows them something. So that’s the difference. That the manifestation of the Buddha is in response to a request from beings. And the response of beings to other beings is not necessarily responding to a request, but more a response to compulsion and obsession. Now some people who are manifesting in response to compulsion and obsession, they also sometimes call for something to relate to in a different way. Then the Buddha responds to that and manifests something for them to relate to in this new way. Speaker D: What would be an example of that? Reb: Somebody who you look at and feel you’d like to practice… you know, you’d like to praise them. You’d like to worship them. You’d like to make offerings to them. You’d like to ask them to teach the Dharma. You’d like to listen to their Dharma. You’d like to copy their practices. Somebody.. something that looked like that would be an example of it. And if something didn’t look like that to you, then for you it wouldn’t be the manifestation of the ultimate in a conditioned form for you. But when people do see that, that’s because the Truth Body felt that they wanted to see it and sure enough, they did.. Cause when… “I thought you wanted to see that so here it is!” And the person says “Thanks! I’m really happy to see you and I’m so grateful that I could hang out with you”. So that kind of relationship where you feel like “I want to practice with this form, with this transformation of the universe”, that’s what it would be. That’s the transformation body of the Buddha. That’s the ultimate manifesting in a form that you can kind of try to practice with. Yes? Houma: If the compounded beings cannot come close to the real thing, how could the compounded.. Reb: Wait a second. I didn’t say the compounded things couldn’t come close to the real thing. They can. They definitely can. Matter of fact, they’re not really totally different from it. But they’re not also completely the same. That’s what this chapter’s about. But they are intimate. They are intimate but they’re not completely the same and they’re not completely different. Form is not completely different from emptiness. The Heart Sutra says it’s not different. It doesn’t say, it’s also not the same. Houma: Can you tell me,…one more question. Could you…do you find that exact meanings or feelings of emptiness and stillness, I feel there’s a slight difference. Is it or is it not? Reb: Just what comes to my mind.. I’ll just say this for now and you can do what you want with it later. This is not the end of the story. But stillness is a manifestation of emptiness. Is that what you said, what’s the relationship between emptiness and stillness? Is that your question? Yeah, I would say stillness is a manifestation of emptiness. So check into stillness. That will be a way for you to practice becoming more intimate with emptiness. If your pain was empty, you probably would be still with it. If it’s not empty, you want to wiggle. If ..also, if beings are empty, you might want to be intimate with them and, but still, not moving them around, because you don’t move ultimate truth around. Something like that. Yes? Oscar: So, in this presentation a lot of it is.. I’m seeing various kinds of presentations. For instance, I’m seeing this presentation of a series of logical statements and in this way one can see. So that’s one kind of presentation. And then later in this chapter, also there’s a presentation like, an example of the conch and the whiteness of the conch and other similar examples of that kind. Which is not exactly.. and then also sometimes.. Reb: Shifting from logic to examples? Analogies? Oscar: Yes. Analogies. And also in meditative practice there might be some appreciation of the same principle. Reb: Yes. This is a meditation practice, what we’ve been doing so far. It’s a meditation on logic. But then there’s other kinds of meditation practices in which then maybe you wouldn’t be looking at logic. Oscar: I’m just wondering what the relationship of these various types of meditation. How could…how they relate in practice. Reb: Ok. Well that’s kind of a big topic, Oscar, with five minutes to go. But maybe you could bring it up when there’s hours to go. Next time. Can you remember it? Matter of fact we might be on this same chapter a month from now because we didn’t finish it. And also I want to say just one more thing about this relationship between the ultimate and stillness. Maybe to say that the unconstructedness, the ultimate is unconstructed uncompounded. And so, when the unconstructedness comes into manifestation as stillness, this is our practice. It’s the unconstructedness manifesting in stillness. That’s one of the definitions of our practice. Unconstructedness in stillness. Or unconstructed stillness. But it’s not just unconstructed (claps); it’s unconstructed in stillness. Like in the ceremony of sitting, you’re actually not completely still, but there’s a stillness when you’re sitting and there’s a stillness when you’re walking. When we do the ceremony of sitting still, where we’re ceremonially celebrating the manifestation of the unconstructed in this stillness in this ceremony, which is also the unconstructedness of our body, the emptiness of our body which is also the emptiness of the stillness of our body. The emptiness of the stillness of our body. The emptiness of the stillness of our mind. So we do a ceremony of stillness. We manifest a compounded, ceremonial sitting-still body in which to realize the ultimate manifesting as the stillness of our body. And the unconstructedness manifesting as the stillness of our body. And we’re constructedly celebrating the unconstructedness in the stillness. So we’re playing with these things in our sitting ritual which we.. which fortunately we get to practice a lot. Which is wonderful. I mean, excuse me for saying so. So thank you Ilene for organizing this retreat and thank you Shoho for taking care of this space for us. And thank you Robin and Yaron for the tea treats. Did you make them? Thank you very much. And thank you all for your wholehearted presence here today and for your kindness to each other.

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