Sunday, 6 April 2014

Going With the Flowing

Thunder Down Under
Barron Falls
Its not always moving at this level of intensity, but isn't it true that at times life can be pretty damn full on...!

When the flow is just too massive, we need to let go. Why resist the tumble, why resist what ever is happening? I guess 'resistance' is in our bones and our innate fear of change is instinctive.

If we can control an outcome, well and good, but if not, then the smart thing to do
is let go, let the current carry us rather than cling to our little preconceived notions, trying to resist whatever is inevitable.

Once we make our mind's up that we are in the mad house in any case, its easier to distance our selves with what appears to be 'happening' to us and get in touch with the part of ourselves in which everything is 'happening' and yet nothing moves.

If that sounds cryptic, its not...

Who what we really are transcends the fury, the foam and the frenzy of 'life.'
If we know that we are not what is 'happening' to us. That what is 'real' in us is in no way affected by the flotsam of an endlessly distracted mind or it's insatiable succession of needs and desires, then, and only then, do we get the chance to find our way to true inner freedom.

Wouldn't that knowing change everything about the way we perceive the world?

If we turn the tables on 'logic' and 'appearances,' we can say that the 'world is happening in us,' and not the other way around.
This kind of perspective is immensely liberating.
Everything we thought we ever 'knew' about the world is turned up side down and on its head!

We are certainly in this world, but it is this world that lives within us and which is given birth through us.

If we did not 'exist' where would the 'world' be?

Understanding that statement is far more simple than one might at first assume. It is a little golden key that can unlock a doorway in our mind. When we unlock a 'doorway,' open it and allow what 'is' in us to truly recognize itself as that, we can begin to know that what we are, in actuality, is far more than we ever imagined, something far grander than what the mind is capable of conceiving.

Yet we tend to cling onto our puny little notions of who and what we think we are without ever questioning anything.

Question everything, and be fully prepared to glimpse what is right there with us all the time. To do that we need to be still.

Inner stillness is our very nature. In the midst of the fury of life and our endless cycling up and down and through the waves of fear and hope we should know that
we are none of it. That it all goes on because of who and what we really are...

The mind will not grasp this truth easily, but the heart will know.
If we let it...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Mingyur Rinpoche, Compassionately Wise

Mingyur Rinpoche in the Mountains

When i saw these photos and this link on FaceBook there was a rush of joy and inspiration and then a flood of tears...

Its hard to describe all the feelings that arise. Here is someone that inspires me and in these days and times such 'beings' can be hard to come by. Mingyur Rinpoche was prepared to give up all the comforts, routines, pleasures and fame of his life, as an internationally renown Lama, and go out into the world with only the clothes on his back. He was prepared to face all the harsh conditions that such a lifestyle can throw at you.

He left behind his known, comfortable world in 2011 in order to embark on a period of intensive sadhana as an annonymous, wondering yogi, with no fixed abode, no certainties. He carried nothing with Him, just the clothes that he was wearing and a few of the simple dharma 'tools;' a malla, a few sacred texts and some relics from his Tsawai Lama, such as all Buddhist practitioners keep with them.

No one knew where he went, and he himself would have had only the vaguest plan.

I remember the first time i ever heard his name. His brother Tsoknyi Rinpoche, who had just emerged from a long retreat in Tashi Jong, had just returned from visiting his brother in Sherab Ling in Himachal Pradesh, Northern India. By the way he spoke of his brother and said, "you must meet Mingyur Rinpoche," i understood that he was someone 'special.'

Some time passed and i was staying in Boudanath, Nepal, when i visited Ka-Nying Gompa, which is very close to Shechen Monastery where my Master Khyentse Rinpoche was residing. There was a drupchen puja in progress and i had come during the recess and was just standing near the doorway.

People were milling about inside. When i looked towards the main shrine i noticed a figure standing just in front of the alter. His back was facing me and he appeared to be praying as he stood there quietly. I could not understand why, but my eyes were in some way drawn to that silent figure. I did not recognize it as anyone i knew and yet it was deeply familiar in some mysterious way.

Later i came to know that it was Mingyur Rinpoche on a brief visit to Nepal. I did not actually see his face at that time, yet somehow the impression of his 'presence' remained very strongly in my mind.

Several years after this, while i was staying in BodhGaya, i came to know that Mingyur Rinpoche was staying in a guest house nearby. I decided i would visit and make a connection with him as, until then, i had not had the opportunity to meet him.

I went along with my offerings of fruit and kadak and awaited my chance for a private interview. At that time an old monk was attending him. It was not long before i was taken inside.

I was very eager to meet with Mingyur Rinpoche, but i was not expecting that i would have such a strong reaction. Yet the minute i began to speak a few words i found myself quite choked up with a sudden and very intense emotion and then tears began to flow down my face. My initial response was one of embarrassment and annoyance that i should react in such a way and yet i could not help it. The tears just continued to flow and i could not say anything.

The threads of our dharma connections are deep, strong and mysterious. It is not easy to see how they are all intertwined within a larger context unless we can step outside ourselves and look at the much bigger picture of this and previous life times. However, i could infer that this bond ante ceded the current life, although naturally, i had no way of knowing how or under what circumstances.

However in the 1990,s when i asked Chadral Rinpoche where i should go in order to do a period of retreat, He immediately told me 'Das Mile.'
I understood that this must be one of the retreat centers that He had established in Nepal and India, but, until then, i had never heard of it before.

Years after i had moved there and been living in the forest, the son of the previous Kangyur Rinpoche suddenly appeared on the pathway that leads down to the old Monastery. It had been many long years since i had seen Tulku Pema Wangyal. I remembered his steadfast presence during the days of Khyentse Rinpoche and the many winter months that we spent around Him in Nepal. Tulku Pema was very often at Khyentse Rinpoche's side.

I was stunned that he should reappear at such an isolated and little know Monastery in the middle of the forest just near dusk and, as it had been so many years since i had seen him it seemed to be one of those extra-ordinary occurrences that can happen from time to time. He was equally surprised to see me. During the course of his visit he told me that his father, Kangyur Rinpoche, had stayed at Das Mile Gompa for a year immediately after his visit to the sacred, hidden valley of Pemako in the 1960,s. His three sons had stayed with him. All of them had left Tibet under trying circumstances.

Kangyur Rinpoche was a great Dzogchen yogi, a Terton, (a discoverer of spiritual treasures) and one of the most learned scholars of the Buddhist texts. He was the only living Lama known to have entered the secret portals into the fabled kingdom of Shambala and returned to tell the tale. He passed away in the 1970,s in Darjeeling.

Mingyur Rinpoche was recognized as the Tulku or reincarnation of Kangyur Rinpoche by Dilgo Khyentse and the Sixteenth Karmapa in the early 1980,s.

The reason i feel it is so important to highlight the life and activity of this particular Lama is that in our modern times we can seldom be sure of the authenticity of a 'teacher.' The conditions under which many of the younger Lamas of today, grew up in, were very different from what they were in previous generations.

Distinguishing an authentic teacher who has true 'experience' which is guided by deep seated compassion and wisdom is not easy in our current times. Many students might not be very discerning, yet in the beginning making the right connections is of the utmost importance. A bad experience can turn one away from the path altogether, but contact with an authentic teacher can swiftly bring one to the portals of realization.

Biography of Mingyur Rinpoche

Monday, 17 February 2014

Do We Need A Guru?

Cartoon by Leunig
These days fake 'Gurus' by far out number genuine ones, so we can hardly feel surprised at the amount of cynicism that abounds with regards to this particular topic. However this should not discount the importance of and the need for, not only authentic and genuine 'Gurus,' but also sincere and deserving 'Disciples.' Both are certainly out there, but many are not able to discern the difference between the 'pretenders' and the 'genuine' thing.

For those intent on treading a 'spiritual' path with sincerity, the issue of what 'we' bring to the table, in terms of our needs and expectations, can lead us to venture into realms of subtle, often subconscious motives and the laws of 'cause and effect.'

The above cartoon by Leunig depicts a trend that we often find in our modern times, particularly in western societies. This is because there is little understanding of what the 'Guru' really means and what it stands for. Here again also, one can equally say the same about the role of a 'disciple.' It is little understood.

Many of the present day 'gurus' seem, sooner or later to fall far short of our initial ideals and expectations.
In these times it almost seems that just about anyone who has a charismatic, charming or magnetic personality can become a 'Guru,' but this, of course, is bound to lead, eventually, to disappointment, disillusionment and frustration.

Without understanding 'who and what' the 'guru' REALLY is, it seems inevitable that he or she will at some point 'fall from grace.' As a result, there is a good deal more cynicism with regards to Gurus, far more in Western societies, than in Eastern ones. In the East the 'Guru' is a long held and well established tradition and one that has been assimilated into the culture and general life style of the people over millennia.

Do we need a Guru?

This question comes up often.

In the first place it is paramount to understand what the 'Guru' really is and what it actually stands for. We are conditioned to believe that a 'guru' is a man or woman who has achieved realisation and who can guide us towards the same exalted state.

However, in essence, 'guru' really stands for the 'Self,' Rigpa, God, the Natural Essential State; what ever word or phrase one likes to use to describe 'divinity.'

It has so many names, yet in essence it is formless and One.

Ramana Maharshi, (the peerless Sat-Guru of Arunachala) always told His disciples that they should not identify with His body, He said "Guru, is in essence, beyond form."

That may indeed be true, but for ordinary people like you and me, who live and move in this world and who identify with the world's forms and happenings, we find it much more accessible and comprehensible to connect with the 'self' or 'god,' when it shines through the form of another human being, be it a man or a woman.

We have a deeply entrenched habit of anthropomorphising our 'gurus,' to make them appear more like us.

Intriguingly though, the Maharshi said that the Hill of Arunachala was His 'Guru.' To us this may seem strange and incomprehensible because if we look at Arunachala it just appears to be an ordinary Hill made up of dirt and rocks.

But, to the Maharshi, it embodied pure divinity and silence.  He composed numerous verses in praise of the Hill and each one attested to His devotion and sense of complete identification with the essence of the Hill. This is something which is difficult to comprehend with the mind.

He showed us that 'Guru' need not appear in a human form, that in fact, 'Guru' is something that goes far beyond form...

And yet, He, Himself appeared to us as precisely that; a 'Guru' in a human form. He lived in this world as one of the most exemplary 'Gurus' of our times. In many ways He was exceptional, yet also perfectly attuned to the age in which He lived. This is the 'trademark' of an 'Awakened Being,' absolute relevance and timeliness.

Most of us are only able to identify with a 'Guru' who can reflect 'the truth of our being' through a human form that we can recognise, identify and interact with. As long as we identify with form, so long will we need a Guru to appear to us as a fellow human being. And this brings us back to the original question...

Do we need a 'Guru'?

Some Masters will say yes, while other will say no. The majority say that we do; that a Guru is absolutely necessary in order to achieve the ultimate realisation. In the vast majority of cases, disciples are given that final push, 'to recognise their true nature,' by the grace of a Guru.

Yet, to all appearances, the Maharshi did not appear to have a Guru, His was one of those very rare cases which, seemed to take place quite spontaneously. Yet, there was a 'catalyst' for the Maharshi's realization and this came in the form of a 'death experience.'

His story is well known and well documented so we need not recount it here. In so many ways His presence and life provided for us a peerless example of the 'Supreme and perfect Guru in human form.'

We can more easily recognise and follow such a 'Being' and he/she will give us the needed 'push' towards the 'Self'. Without that initial impetus, it is very unlikely that we can permanently awaken to 'reality.' Fleeting 'realisation' may take place, and these days many seem to have a taste of this, but to become firmly established in the awakened state requires something more.

Take, for instance, the case of the Maharshi, He awakened to His inmost self at the age of sixteen years, without the apparent intervention of a 'Guru' and yet He was almost immediately drawn to Arunachala and spent the rest of His life on or near the Hill.

What He 'recognised' in the moment of his 'awakening' did not change and yet He spent His first decades on the Hill, to all appearances, in silence and samadhi. The presence of Arunachala provided the impetus and grace, with which to peel away every last vestige of self identification with the body, to become fully established in the awakened state and then merge that state with seemingly 'normal' activity in the every day world.

The 'unlearning' of realisation and full awakening to truth may be instantaneous, but a process of adjustment and rebalancing subsequently enables a Jnani to 're-engage' with the world from this fully awakened state. This can take decades and the result is that every last fibre of self identification is completely and uttered dissolved so that what remains is but the 'shell' of the old form, through which 'awareness' shines in its purist expression...

In Maharshi's case, all the 'work' had already been accomplished in previous lives. Coming into this life, His 'merging' into the One was as seamless as that of a ripe mango falling from a tree, nothing could have prevented it. Such 'readiness' is seldom seen.

We often hear it said that "The Master is within." Yet until we are fully established in the reality of that truth and recognise it within ourselves, we will seek it outside ourselves in the form of a Guru.

"When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases, the Master will be found as none other than the Self." 
Ramana Maharshi

Guru or no Guru? There are likely to be conflicting views on this for a long while to come and yet both views are correct in their own way. It is really all a matter of perspective on the one hand and karma on another. Those who claim that a Guru is needed and those who say that one is not needed, it all depends upon the point of view and the readiness of the disciple.

I am including a quote from Lakshmana Swami, who achieved realisation in the presence of Ramana Maharshi shortly before that great Master passed away;

"Staying here is very beneficial, the power that is flowing from Arunachala stills and purifies the mind. Devotees who live and meditate here will make good progress.

The grace of Arunachala can take you to the final state of Sadhana, which is the effortless thought-free state, but for the final destruction of the ego, a human Guru is required."

The Maharshi stated very clearly that 'realisation' in the presence of a qualified Master is not the result of the "teachings, lectures or meditations, he may be giving. He said these things are secondary aids only, that the primary and essential cause is the Master's grace."

And what is 'grace?'

None other than the Self/Silence, incarnate and flowing effortlessly and constantly like the sun which bestows its light and blessings on all without discrimination.

When the Master's grace encounters a disciple who is ready, it will ripen him/her spontaneously. Just as the sun, if shinning through a magnifying glass, focuses its rays on dry leaves; a disciple who is 'ready', will likewise and surely ignite to the fire within.

Our 'work' then, is not to be searching for a Guru, but to become responsive, receptive and ready, so that we will receive the 'grace' of the Guru when ever and where ever we may encounter that grace and be ready to 'ignite/melt,' under the intensity of that focussed energy.

May we open our hearts so that we will recognise the true Guru, 'lest He pass us by and we know Him not...' 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Don't Miss the Sunrise

Leunig. Sunrise
We think we are immersed in 'life' but how much of it REALLY touches us. How much of it truly engages our heart, how much do we really feel?

We may actually get up early enough to watch a sunrise, but do we really see it? Are we fully alert to the freshness of this present moment or is the mind wandering somewhere in a past memory or a future hope or desire?

Are not most of us just like the subjects in Leunig's cartoon? The sun is rising, all we need to do is walk to the window and turn our gaze to the east, but instead we switch on T.V. We watch the sun rising through the veil of endless chatter in the closet of our mind and it doesn't touch us at all. All those thoughts, hopes, fears and desires block out the healing rays of life and cut us off from the inner fount of our true selves.

The rays of the sun cannot touch our hearts, even if they can warm our bodies. Unless we live with our attention in the present moment, those 'rays' cannot give us their vital inner refreshment; the radiance of which is spontaneous joy. Yet, the sun's rays shine on all and are freely available throughout the day.

The simplest thing in life is free and present all of the time.

This is a statement of great profundity. I pray that this is your lucky day, that this is the moment when you will look up and see the sun as it really is and let it's healing rays shine right into your heart.

The sun is a metaphor for the inner spiritual awareness from which we all live, move and have our being. It is the 'paper' upon which the story of our life is written out. Normally we look only at the print on the page and not the page itself.

Lets us turn our attention to what is most important in this life...

Thursday, 23 January 2014


Being present means accepting whatever is happening right now and just staying with it as long as it lasts.

If we stop to think for a moment how much time we spend pushing away the things that we don't want to deal with, trying to change things, trying to feel better, it is amazing how much time and energy we actually spend trying to avoid whatever is happening right now.

A little shift in perspective here can be very revealing. If we turn the 'camera' of our mind around and take a selfie, just as we are now and if we are prepared to stand by what is reflected back to us, without trying to manipulate the image in any way, then we are taking our first little baby steps in 'owning' this present moment.

If true freedom is about letting go of our concepts, then imagine the feelings that will flood us when we begin to just start 'living our lives.' This means living ALL of what ever comes our way, not trying to deflect what is not wanted or invite what is. Not trying to manipulate the moment in order to change an outcome, not trying to change how we are, by replacing it with an image of what we 'think' we are.

Usually, depending on our innate tenancies, the minute we begin to feel the slightest twinge of discomfort our habit is to 'reach for something.' Be it the phone, the TV, something to eat, a cigarette.
Anything that will distract us from what is actually happening.

Its true isn't it? We don't even realise that we do this constantly. Yet we are all, almost obsessively, busy with nonsense most of the time. When we are already distracted and our attention drawn elsewhere we are fine. The moment a space opens up before us we shut it off by turning our attention elsewhere. Why are we afraid?

We don't know how to just be any more. Our modern age has robbed us of 'ourselves.' Whether we are actually doing anything or not our attention is constantly engaged in the 'outer,' whatever that may be at any given moment.

This is a kind of modern epidemic of constant engagement and busy ness. The incessant inner 'noise' prevents our natural ability to just abide.  It prevents us from just letting ourselves go and allowing whatever is arising in this present moment to wash over us without any resistance from our side, without any judgement, with out trying to change anything.

If it is painful, let it be. Taste the pain, know the pain. Accept the pain and above all look into 'who is feeling the pain.'
If it is fear, watch it rising up inside, let it come, look it in the face. Look at what and who it is that feels the fear.
If it is sadness, allow the tears to flow, don't judge yourself, don't try to interpret your moods, don't try to stop them. Simply recognise them.

Our inherent power arises from tasting all the moods and emotions that arise within us without accepting or rejecting. When we are familiar with the moods, we no longer fear them. At a certain point we come to see that what it is that is watching the moods is never in any way affected by what is going on. We begin to understand that we are not our moods, that moods arise and pass away, yet something is always present and aware.

Our thoughts operate in the same way, they are constantly coming and going, yet can we say that 'we are our thoughts?' Can we identify the thoughts as ours? Can we find the source of our thoughts?

As we begin to notice these fundamental aspects of the way that we live and express ourselves in this world we begin to give ourselves the opportunity to function in an entirely different way. Becoming conscious of our inherent reactions can empower us to begin to view things differently. Rather than blindly following our thoughts and emotions, we can begin to witness them. Remaining as the hub at the centre of the wheel and not the spokes spinning around and around endlessly we give ourselves the opportunity to connect with the inner core of silence which is always present and which is inseparable from who and what we REALLY are.

Discovering this is not discovering something new or created or in any way contrived. It has quite simply always been there, from the very beginning.

How many fish are aware of the water that they are swimming around in.  They could not exist as fish, without it, yet do they notice it? In the same way, how many of us are aware of the air that surrounds us and fills our lungs; the air that makes it possible for us to breath and remain alive in our bodies? Yet if the air were not present, we all would very soon perish.

In the same way, who and what we really are is the very basis of our existence. Nothing is more vital than discovering this truth which is nearer to us than any other...

The true selfie enables us to dive beyond the image, 
to dive within and remain, 
just as we are in this moment, 
reserving all of our attention for what is, 
for what has always been and will always be.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Satsang, Gathering Together in Truth

What is Satsang?

According to the Wikipedia,  it means "In company of the highest truth."
Satsang first originated in India with the Rishis (Enlightened Beings).

It is a coming together, a gathering 'for truth.'

Being with the truth is another way of putting it, one should join such a gathering without 'agendas' or 'conditions,' save simple, clear openness, awareness and goodwill.

When we come together in 'truth' we are giving ourselves the opportunity to open our minds and our hearts; to 'listen' to the present moment.

With the right motivation, this can be a potent sort of gathering. When individuals come together as a group and relinquish their clinging to the 'known world,' and what they perceive as 'themselves' within that world, it creates an atmosphere which is very conducive to recognising 'truth.'

Our minds continually create the 'stories' within which we live, move and have our being; in Satsang, we give the mind a rest, a holiday, if you like. When the mind is not busy with contrivance and distraction, a space opens up which is completely natural and innately clear.

This is not a 'religious' gathering, but rather a deeply 'spiritual' one. Whichever religion one may happen to belong to is of no moment in such a meeting. Satsang is beyond religion. In the spirit of 'truth' we meet without divisions and pre-conceptions.

Coming together with an 'awakened teacher' and a gathering of sincere seekers who sit together in silence, or simply listen, who talk about and investigate their 'true nature' together, putting aside, for a while, notions of separation and individuality, notions of me and you, my and other.

Satsang is the way of the future. These types of gatherings are a light house for those seeking what REALLY is. In Satsang one is not shackled by religious ideologies and pretensions. It creates a space in which people can really come together if they are prepared to let go of all the shackles and preconceptions that usually bind.

In simplicity and complete humility we can come together and recognise our true, inmost nature. To do so we need to let go of the false and open our hearts. By doing this we release a tremendous reservoir of silent knowledge and power which is inextricably steeped in compassion.

Finding our way back home to what is and has always been the true core of our inmost nature, need not take aeon's, decades or even days, it can happen at any moment that we are prepared to surrender to what really is and has always been present.

I Am, just as You Are, Ever Here Now...

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Accepting What Is

During the years (1991-2006) when i used to spend quite a lot of time near my Master Chadral Rinpoche, i never thought of requesting teachings from Him. I had numerous opportunities to do so but somehow in His presence it did not feel necessary. Just being near Him was a constant and unceasing teaching of the highest kind.

People would come and go endlessly, asking all sorts of things and making all manner of requests. Some were tragic, many were greedy for favours of a spiritual or even material kind, a few were deeply devoted, occasionally one also spotted true practitioners. Rinpoche watched the streams of people who came to Him with all of their different reasons and motivations like an unshakable mountain of grace.

Simply to witness how a 'Jnani' lives and moves in the midst of this seemingly endless throng was utterly compelling and gave me far deeper insights into the nature of reality and non reality than anything else could have.

Rinpoche played out every scene in the 'drama' of His life, in a way that always appeared to me to be absolutely perfect and yet nothing was ever in the least bit 'contrived.' Life just unfolded around Him in the most natural possible way.

He did not try to make things go one way or another, He simply moved through whatever was playing itself out at the time, from the silence of what is.

A good number of us fortunate 'students' had the opportunity to serve Him in various ways during these years.  Some of these were very efficient and helpful, others were hopeless and clumsy.

Throughout it all i never once saw Rinpoche complain or show any sign of irritation when He happened to be in the hands of one of his 'clumsy' disciples. He accepted what ever was playing itself out with the utmost dignity, grace, childlike innocence and humour.

This engendered an atmosphere around Him that was always fresh, unpredictable and intensely joyful. No matter how unfavourable conditions might appear to be, at any given time, He was always happy and at ease, always able to see the funny side of things.

The way that He moved through life was masterful and set a precedent for all us who hovered within His orbit.

Without words, yet enhanced by every move, gesture and look, He taught how to let life wash over us; how to be in this world and yet remain unaffected by it. We were given the rare privilege of being able to witness this first hand in His benign presence.

Learning not to fight against life, not to change things when they become uncomfortable, not to try to manipulate outcomes or grieve when things don't turn out as we would like them to, is a skill that requires diligence, patience and above all acceptance.

When we don't invest all our energy in trying to avoid what is actually happening to us, and most of us do this almost all of the time, we free up immense reserves of inner power.

This power, which has been released from its endless dissipation in day to day happenings and our reactions to the happenings, is then available for the greater task of recognising who and what we REALLY are.

Simply accepting what is enables us quickly to exhaust our karma and opens the way to true and unshakable happiness and peace.