The Suffering Nature of Cyclic Existence
Teachings on the Four Convictions of Renunciation
By Khentrul Rinpoché Jamphel Lodrö
Rinpoché discusses how to use contemplation on suffering as a powerful method to cultivate renunciation and to drive one's practice towards virtue.
These teachings were recorded at the Rimé Institute in Belgrave, Australia on February 19, 2015
So tonight, our topic is the weakness of the samsara. Or you can say the faults of samsara. Faults of samsara. But when we talk about the samsara, and then always come along with karma. Because they are cause and result each other. That’s why Buddha’s first teaching, Four Noble Truths, the first talking, he talking the suffering. Which means he talking in samsara. Suffering means samsara. And then the origin of suffering, he talking about the two things, ***** (7.44 uses two Tibetan terms). Which means the affliction and the karma. So they connect each other, inevitable each other. For this reason, regardless our subject today, the weakness of samsara, we still talking karma and what is connection between them. Why we have to talk about the weakness of samsara? Why we need to identify? Because the lack of understanding the suffering makes a lack of the cause and condition of suffering, but also the lack of get away from the suffering, which means the renunciation. So without understanding samsaric faults, you don’t understand the renunciation. And of course then you cannot have renunciation if you even don’t recognise what renunciation is. So that is the reason we need to talk about samsaric faults.
So when we say samsaric faults, usually we talk about the difference of the sufferings from the six realms. And sometimes we categorise as three realms. Desire realm, form realm, formless realm and then we talk about their suffering. And sometimes we make three categories of suffering. Suffering of pain, suffering of change, and the pervasive suffering. But today we more focus what renunciation is. And how many categories or degrees of renunciation you can have. Probably we should talk about that. But that is our main subject tonight, but then we have to talk about the karma and what the connection is.
So first say, what is the cause of samsara? You can say two. One is ***** (11.15 uses Tibetan term). Which means affliction and one is ***** (11.21 uses Tibetan term), which means karma. So karma means all our actions, body, speech, mind, actions. So our actions make propensity. And from the propensity arise the realities we can experience. But this law we categorise these two, we categorise twelve. So usually we call the origination of the twelve links. The first two is mainly primary. First one called ignorance, that is the root of all afflictions. And the second one is formation, karmic formation. Which means the karma. Then if we say what is ignorance really is, depending what we are focusing. But in this case we say ignorance about the cause and effect. All our samsaric suffering comes from because we don’t know, really know what is the cause of our suffering. We don’t really know what we are doing, so that’s why is come. So that’s why ignorance of the cause and effect. Or you can say ignorance of the self. But more understand, more related to this topic, we say the ignorance of cause and effect. From this ignorance then we arise all other afflictions. Then we act accordingly. We act accordingly, which means we act ignorantly and we act hatred and resentment way and we act attachment, clinging, that way. So when we do this, what is really karma means, who is really doing this? This is our mind. Inside the fifty derivative mental factors, you call that one introspection. So introspection, in Tibetan we call ***** (15.10 uses Tibetan term). That your mental factor, this is the main karma. Who take this action, who take this position is this introspection. Which means part of your mind, part of your mental factor. All other mental factors we talk about before, they work together but who is the leader of the karmic holder, karmic maker and this introspection, this time. Then we say from the origin, the twelve links, this is second. First ignorance, second is introspection, third is consciousness, which means of course….
(Student 1.) I think it’s intention. You said introspection or intention?
No. Introspection, should be. You didn’t see? In Tibetan we call ***** (16.25 uses Tibetan term).
(Student 2.) ……says volition or formation.
(Student 1.) Volition is intention. Introspection is to look at. Looking within, introspection.
Should be introspection, I don’t know what translate, maybe different way of translate. So
(Student 1.) In Tibetan it’s semba? ***** (16.56 uses Tibetan term).
Semba yer. Not ***** (16.58 uses Tibetan term). That is motivation or intention, we call ***** (17.01 uses Tibetan term). But this is semba. So in the rough way, easy way, we talk about always of course we say your intention, you motivation. That is easy way to say. But when we say you like more academic way, you say introspection ok. So whatever. The introspection and the consciousness working together, but the introspection is in charge, that’s why we call. So then the third one we say consciousness. Why we say consciousness? Because imprinted consciousness, because the other one is secondary so not all the time there, it goes. But his job, who keeps, the consciousness keeps, so that’s why always, you never lose. You working the computer and you go outside to do gardening, but the computer keep your work. Same thing. You working with computer but we don’t say computer working, our stuff is computer, we don’t say this our computer, you know stuff is this person. So that kind of. So, and then, this consciousness carry this karma and then next rebirth. Start from name and form. And then arise, slowly arises the doors of consciousness, our senses. Ok that’s name and form is fourth and then arise consciousness that is the fifth. And then we got contact with object and subject, and six. And then we have feeling. So feeling is seven. Then we have feeling, then of course, then arise our desire, attachments, because you have feeling. That is eight. Not just desire, but then we have clinging and grasping. That’s ninth. Everything. First we have desire, then we have attachment and clinging and grasping. All this together then you formed samsara. You project next rebirth, or some other karmas not enough powerful to project other form, other rebirth, but another suffering, another happiness, all these things you completed. And then, that is tenth, tenth we call existence, or you made exist. So then, then you born, and then you aging and die. So that’s twelve. So this twelve, inside twelve, the first one and the second one is the main cause. The first one is the ignorance, root of all affliction. The second one is the karmic leader, or whatever you call, karmic director ok. All work together ok, but there is a person in charge, kind of similar. So, samsara formed with the cause and conditions. The cause is the first two links mainly. The conditions, like before we say this desire, attachment, clinging, grasping, those things main conditions for forming samsara. You have just have contact, you just have senses, and contact is not, not primary conditions, but you have desire, attachment, clinging, grasping, the main cause. Which means makes completion, makes completed, your karmic experience ok.
So, today we not talk about each realms suffering specifically details, because in the book already have. More I think we try to understand what is renunciation and why we need renunciation. Usually we talk this, and people are like “ohhhh, how can I have this renunciation? I’m not ready for this and this”. So this is little bit really confusion. So if we break down a little bit this, may be helpful. First, renunciation is not only one, you can have many degrees. Ignorance also have many degrees, and affliction have many degrees. So you know, your compassion, your wisdom, all of course have many degrees.
Firstly, the most important thing, renunciation is not you scared of the obvious suffering. That is not renunciation. We have to have ability or some wisdom, you can scared, or you don’t want it, the suffering, the hidden suffering. Or you have some wisdom or believe, strong believe, understanding the relation between suffering and what the causes. Let’s say, somebody doing fishing. My family have no food, my kids have no food, so I must fish, and kill the fish and cook for them. Very, very, absolutely acceptable in society, absolutely acceptable. But the question, does this action have any consequence of suffering? The answer is yes. Why do you think? And some people think that is not fair. Why? Because you absolutely have no choice, these children have no food and dying. So they should not have karmic consequences, the consequence should not be suffering, because you save these children, you give them food. But then you need to question, why your fish, is alive and it desire to live, more important than kids? Why? It is difficult to prove good point, your kids are more important, that the fish should die for these humans. So definitely they have consequence of suffering. However, however, is any make degrees of the consequences different? There must be ok. Let’s say somebody really try to save some human salvation and kill some animals. You know this animal have desire to live. This animal don’t want to die. Everything you know, but you have more sympathetic toward the humans. A little bit less sympathetic, much less sympathetic to the animals. But still you have a little degree of sympathetic to the animals, but you have to kill them because your feeling is toward the humans and this animal not exactly the same, so you can’t help. If only this reason you did, does that killing consequence mean hell rebirth? The answer is very hard to say, but probably not, because the usual rule, killing, the consequence is rebirth hell. But that is generalisation, specifically, you kind of have big sympathetic these humans, and you have only have little sympathy to this animals. You killing animals and feeding the human. You still have a little bit guilt you doing this and you have a lttle bit sympathetic these animals, but you feels have no choice. Regardless your feeling right or wrong, that’s you feel. The feeling is kind of, some kind of compassion, some kind of caring. Not real compassion really with wisdom, but a form of compassion, so that’s why probably the consequence you not have to go rebirth in hell. Probably the consequence could be hungry ghost or animal suffering. You will be born maybe animal, let’s say animal. But if you have more degree of attachment to your kids or whoever, and very, very little sympathy with these animals, but you have tiny sympathetic there, and then maybe hungry ghost rebirth. But you don’t kill at all these animals, you even proud about killing animals and feed these humans, definitely the consequence will be hell. And if you even angry and hatred and kill them, of course, definitely the consequence will be hell. Even more deeper hell. But remember always karma you can purify, it’s not just one’s made in concrete and can’t do anything, it’s not like that, never. But if you didn’t then yes definitely the consequence. Do you know why? You just have to think about the fair, fairness. It is not enough by human suffering, something is not enough human suffering, the consequence, and then of course an animal suffering. The animal suffering not enough the result, what you made the cause, then of course hungry ghost. If that’s not enough then of course hell realm. Because that is just natural law of order. Depending what degrees you doing. It’s not somebody deciding, according to Buddha. Not Buddha deciding at all, not God deciding and whatever your auction consequence, the degree of your affliction. So if we look very, very, rough way, it’s not enough punish, this human punishment is not though punish. It is not punish at all, but if you understand that way it’s easier. It’s not punishment, somebody’s punishment, it is natural punishment. So that’s why I think.
For this reason, if you try to do some virtuous practice….ok, you are doing some practice. What are you practice? You try to generate your compassion, you try to generate loving kindness. You practice and you try to generate or develop your devotion, how you call, humility, anything these good qualities. With very high renunciation or lower renunciation you doing, that makes different consequence again. Whatever the virtuous practice you doing, you know you holding some vows, the ethics you made like a vow, rather than just ethic. Ethic and the vows, what difference, precepts, what is the difference? Ethics means you have conscience, this is right or wrong, but you didn’t really make a vow. But you have not only have conscience, but you committed so you made a vow, “I not do these wrong ones”, and then is huge difference between this. So somebody have ethics but not precepts, not holding the vows. This person and somebody made these precepts, have vow, promised and you have commitments in your mind, these two people done some good deeds together, did same thing, but who generate merit? The somebody have a vow , this person one, generate 100,000 times, sometimes a million times. So whatever good deeds, two people doing the same good deeds. One person have renunciation like….renunciation, one person renunciation like “oh whatever the causes of hell rebirth, I never ever want to do it and I want to take a vow and I never want, in my mind, I have a vow, I never want to do anything causes of hell, hell rebirth”, and you believe 100% and you 100% you have this vow. That is you renunciation, that is your renunciation of degree of enough to not be reborn in hell. But the causes and conditions of rebirth in hungry ghost, you’re not very sure 100%. You kind of don’t want it, and kind of believing but you not really sure 100%. That means there is chance. There is chance you can be reborn as hungry ghost but not in the hell. Even you doing some good deeds, but you don’t have renunciation of hungry ghost, so your good deeds, if you have another bad deeds, compete karma to reborn as hungry ghost, and during that time, your good deeds without renunciation in the hungry ghost, probably you have to experience some…in generally, hungry ghost means, we just call hungry but is more than hungry, it’s not just hungry but they have nothing, all our five senses….beauty, they haven’t got any of them. Why? Because the consequence of stinginess. Lack of generosity, completely lack of generosity and completely selfish and stingy so that’s why. So their realm is like completely desert, have no green or nothing. Even no fresh water nothing. And you know, not just hungry but everything is harsh, everything is ugly, everything is hunger, that kind of. Even you born there and another negative karma from previous life or whatever, you are born there, maybe one day you can experience some green, some fresh, you have sometimes this happened. Why? Because you did some good deeds without renunciation in hungry ghost, so that’s why. There are many stories like that. And somebody really have renunciation of hungry ghost, which means you know the cause of hungry ghost, you have no stinginess. No stinginess means also, can’t be zero stinginess, everybody have some degree of stinginess, but you definitely don’t have high degrees of stinginess, kind of that means you are safe, you are safe to hungry ghost. But the causes of animal to be reborn, the ignorance and laziness, complacency, many things ok. These things you have, which means you not really not renunciated the animals and some people think these animals are beautiful, I want to be born this you know. Because they don’t know what the disadvantage they have, these animal. They only knows looks nice, colourful, cute. So that’s kind of you don’t have that kind of….and then you can be born animal and your deeds is good deeds, your merits could be like nice pets, not so much suffering, kind of like that. Or if you only had projection of the non-virtuous to project to be reborn animal, you didn’t have any other virtues, then you are born animal suffer, every second anxiety, somebody attacking them, birds eating them, trying to find food and at the same time you have to look everywhere. You know that kind of suffering you have to experience your entire life. But if you have some good deeds, these completion karmic consequences, you are sometimes peaceful, cats, dogs pets, that one’s ok.
So, if you have all this renounce these three lower realms, you don’t want to be born at all, not just you not want to be born in these three realms but also you know what the cause and conditions and you are very careful of this. That means your renunciation is safe enough to lower realms. But if you have attachment in human, yes, that’s most difficult. Because human life is fantastic and this time I’m not that great, but next life I want to be better, more prettier, more prettier, and more handsomer and more intelligent, more wealthier, whatever. That is the problem. So we just have to remind ourselves, as long as human, doesn’t matter how you are pretty and handsome, there is something else you’re not happy. Always there is somebody better than you, and somebody attacking you. All these things if we know all human suffering and we don’t want this, and then your renunciation safe. Again your renunciation, which means your practice, whatever your practice doing….I think in general, as we are human, if we have really renunciation in the human realm, then definitely our practice becomes causes of, condition to reach Nirvana. And Nirvana means, this time, Nirvana is free from samsara, I’m talking about that. But if we don’t have this and we have struggling in this human realm, human condition. But also you have to understand this. You cannot, you are attached your wealth right now and you are attached your family right now, you’re attached your social status, your reputation, recognition, all of them you are attached right now. That doesn’t mean you are zero renunciation ok. Why? Became that means you could have all the other lower realms, you not attached at all, so you are very aware of this cause and conditions and even you are very aware this human suffering. You are attached right now, but you attachment maybe not 100% only attachment, not only dominate attachment. There is some degree of your connection, you kind of like responsible. This responsible something connected with the ethics, and you know, some degree you are just developing now. This renunciation and those things you need to develop, like enormous training, enormous practice. It’s not just flip over, it’s not like that. Not just one step and open the door and inside go door and that’s it. It’s not like that. So it’s degree, always developments. So you are just on the path of renunciation you are steps of the renunciation. But if you have like this degree, I would say the family, the job, all these difficult ones, if you say, if you see this family is an obstacle, if you see this job, this recognition, social status, is you kind of see this as some obstacle. If you seeing this, you not ready to get rid of completely yet, but you seeing, you can see something, that means your renunciation already start. Not only start to save from lower realms, but you even you start from high realm. That means you are on the path. So your path meant to be slow or meant to be fast is up to you. We have to remember that.
And also, another thing important, what we try to practice, we not practice completely pure pratimoksha way. We try to combine bodhisattva path. We try to combine Tantrayana path. So in pratimoksha way, maybe yes you have renunciation, or you have no renunciation, black and white, tick box, or cross the box, maybe like that. Even Theravada tradition, even pratimoksha tradition, I don’t think is exactly like that, but let’s pretend could be like that, but when you try to combine with bodhisattva practice, cannot be like that. Remember we have poison in the garden, if you are pratimoksha way, yes you have to cut off and throw away. But if you try to adjoin the bodhisattva way, you not really cutting, but you find other solutions, you looking for other solutions. So if you try to adjoin Tantrayana way, even you can think of, become useful this poison. That’s you try to doing. So that means the renunciation your renunciation, there is way of, not only pratimoksha way. The pratimoksha way is kind of like foundation, kind of like more generalisation, kind of like more in general. But in specific ways, based on some degree of your renunciation and pratimoksha way and then you maybe, you finding another ways or you starting and slowly progressing. So that’s why we have to know renunciation in many degrees way. But for some individual people, you could have renunciation in human life but you don’t have renunciation like form realm and formless realm, or desire god or kind of like you really want to be born desire realm god or form realm. Possible, but that is very little chance, for us that is very little chance. If we kind of have some taste, start some taste of human renunciation and then we already start. So your practice becomes whatever your degree of renunciation. Whatever your taste of the renunciation. Becomes like that. So that’s why, something’s 100% sure, if you, all the worldly concerns like wealth, reputation, social expectations, all these things are really number one priority for you, and Dharma is secondary, that means you are not zero Dharma, but guarantee you are not reaching Buddhahood this lifetime. Guarantee. Few other lifetimes, almost guarantee, but we don’t know yet, but this lifetime yes, because until you die you didn’t have this priority, samsara is always number one, no matter what ever path you taking, you are guaranteed you not reach Buddhahood, that’s all. But, maybe you can think of “oh I never reach Buddhahood guaranteed, then what does help?”. Still helps enormous, enormous, enormous. Do you know why? Maybe you can think of this ok, somebody have no renunciation human at all, human life no renunciation at all, and still you are doing Kalachakra practice, you doing Tantrayana practice, what does help? Because that is so far away, so, so, so, so, so, so far away. Helps propensity. So the minimum benefits, another lifetime, another lifetime you already have seed. But if you didn’t, you don’t even have the seed. That means you have countless eons you have no chance to end this path, to progress this path. And just samsara again and again and again and again like that. But you have some propensity, even is not real, but still you trying, so at least you are the cautionary (?) practice, you doing some similar.
So, the practice is very difficult, other people judge you. But quite easy you judge yourself. It’s really matters of individual. So what degree of renunciation you have? I guess all of you, definitely should have some degree of renunciation. What degree? You are all different, I don’t know, I can’t judge, you know yourself. You know yourself but you don’t know the others, so you can’t really compare. But you know exactly how much I have. Do I know the cause and conditions of hell realm, hell rebirth, of hungry ghost, ok all of them? How much you want it, don’t want it. Like it, dislike it. Wishing for. You measure that, so you know. The main thing, the worst case, still you’re not doing pointless. The worst, the worst case, still I can guarantee is not you doing worthless. That’s’ for sure. The high higher degree you can reach Buddhahood in this single lifetime or during the die, death opportunity, remember, and after death, the bardo opportunity. Or next Shambhala reborn. Or second, reborn on this earth when we have second golden age, during that time. That means much more like, like million kilometres closer to reach Buddhahood, even that. In that time. So that could be your one lifetime or two lifetimes.
So everyone know what is Shambhala? Of course, you don’t know because that is not your fault, because nobody explained. Nobody explained, how do you know? Probably you see or read on the website, how many people read on the website, what is Shambhala? Two people, three, four, five, six, seven. Oh gosh. The rest of the people didn’t read even on our website? Ok brief, everybody have this question. Is Shambhala, where is Shambhala? Everybody start, where is Shambhala? In this earth or not in this earth? Millions of people have that question and nobody answered properly. I’m not saying I am going to have perfect answer but I try. When we say where is Shambhala, then we are start a problem when we say where. We make directions. East, west, south, north. That is imputation. That’s only like it not exists, we just made up. If you think it exists, without that mountains, earth, whatever you call east, because they are depending each other. We call east because we compare the west, and we call north because compared to south. Everything interdependent, only arise, not exist independently, true? So that’s why it’s not really exist, so that’s the problem.
When we say Shambhala, you have to think of the two truth. You have to think of the ultimate Shambhala, and conventional Shambhala. But again same time, even the conventional Shambhala is not ordinary conventional Shambhala, you have to know that. Shambhala is not ordinary, in general conventional phenomenon. The first, ultimate Shambhala is Buddha nature. Absolute, perfect peaceful and harmony, of course, there is no doubts, because Buddha nature is everything, every goodness ok. And conventional Shambhala, then we say “ok, if is conventional, then where? In this earth or not this earth?” The answer, yes in this earth or on this earth, the answer is yes. The next question, ok, can we see them, can we go there? The answer is no. You cannot go physically ordinary person, walk or aeroplane, you cannot go Shambhala. Why? Because the Shambhala is subtle form of world, it is not the gross our scientific detectable. If our science can, much more developed in the future, million times, maybe possible, I don’t know, who knows, but in this stage, our science not detectable Shambhala. And then people have question, it is pure land or impure land? So the answer is pure land. Ok if is pure land and then there is question, is like Sukhavati? Like Varochana’s realm, Amitabha’s realm, Aksobhya’s realm, is like that? The answer is no. why? Because Amitabha’s realm, like Sukhavati and so forth, they are, there is no direction, we say here and here, there and there, at all. Completely nothing to do. Secondly, nothing to do with specifically our earth. It’s just for all sentient beings, for every sentient being in general, for them, for everyone. That kind of pure realm. For everybody include us. Shambhala, physically in this earth in subtle form and pure, yet there some karmic connection with our earth. So that’s why our Kalachakra comes from Shambhala and our extraordinary practitioners can travel to Shambhala and Shambhala kings and sages they travel to earth during the Buddha time. Not anytime, not all the time. Not by aeroplane but in own way. So that means Shambhala is specific, is not like general Buddha pure realm. It is specifically have manifest for our realm, our earth, in this age, especially coming age. So that’s why. As we are Shambhala practitioner, you can say Kalachakra practitioner, you have the general, all Buddha realms, that is your chance to practice as everybody, but on the top of this you have specific connection, with something to do with our earth, something to do….in this practice and prophesise and the practitioners already experienced this connection we have. So in this case, what our aim? To practice this, to have renunciation of the samsara. What for? Number one, you can reach Buddhahood before you die. And before you die, probably you can visit Shambhala so easily, during that time, but you don’t even need Shambhala because you know the ultimate Shambhala, so you don’t even need this conventional Shambhala. That is number one, maximum our benefits. Second best, during the die time, Dharmadhatu arise, that time we recognise our own Buddha nature. And the child very feel safe and relax, mother’s love, similar. Whatever we practice during this time, we not practice this one yet, this one coming very soon. So this practice we recognise in the death so we reach Buddhahood that time, we completely liberate and during the death time, which means we don’t even have the bardo. The third best, we didn’t completely recognise Dharmadhatu, but during bardo time we have many levels of opportunities, at that time we are to liberate some pure realm. That could be Shambhala, or somewhere else. If that we fail, and then next emanation liberation that time, we definitely we can enter Shambhala. So Shambhala for us, Kalachakra practitioners, should be more available, more access, more opportunity. Even you fail all this great three, four, still you have chance. Ok let’s say even that fail, we can guarantee we reborn in this earth again when Shambhala rules our earth and everybody have genuine harmony and peace and we call golden age, which means completely no more barbarians like today. No more fighting for centuries, not damage our earth and everything unethical and financial crisis, all these things no longer exist. Which means we have much more chance to practice, and much more, so easy to practice during that time compared to right now. So that is our minimum goal. Minimum goal not maximum remember. So we have to renunciation, that has to be our renunciation. Our minimum renunciation not I don’t want be born during that time somewhere else, another universe, and suffering and problem there. That is our minimum renunciation should be. Understood? Hope so. Maybe we leave there
(Student). Can I just ask a question? Is it just the Jonang that are connected to Shambhala?
No, Kalachakra connected to Shambhala. But who, Kalachakra practice system, if Jonang only have Jonang nobody else, then less chance, less chance. But the connection of Shambhala is something to do with Kalachakra, nothing to do with tradition. But who has more practice system, that’s a matter of tradition.
(Student). I’m still confused about the levels of renunciation. Is it in your mind or is it something you’re actually do in your life, like actually step away from.
First in your mind. And then your action effect by your belief, your feeling and your perception. Everything. But of course, first in your mind. How long takes time, even let’s say you are married, you want a divorce. How long it take? Even in your mind, still takes a long time to come to the action isn’t it. Or many other decisions, it takes a long time sometimes. Many years. So that’s why we cannot say your mind is absolutely have no renunciation because your action is doing this. It’s a little bit too judgemental. But everything have to come first in mind of course. Whatever degree coming in your mind, then slowly, slowly. That makes sense? I don’t know how to explain more than that, no skills.
- September 29, 2017
Raw transcript created by Vanessa Mason