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Posts Tagged ‘Tibetan Buddhism’

Every once in a while (or in my case, several times a year), I come across a rare book in Tibetan Buddhism which I wonder how it made its way to the public.

Personally I am very inspired by some Dharma stories of previous Tibetan Masters – like Dzo Khyentse Rinpoche or his student, Patrul Rinpoche. I love the book by Lama Surya Das – the Snow Lion’s Turquoise Mane. It is full of inspiring stories of Lamas making subtle or abrasive emphatic moral points, while practicing humility and grace. So very inspiring. That is not the book I am going to talk about here though.

I inherited a small library from a Dharma practitioner who recently passed away – early this year. I was amazed and awe-struck by how gracefully she passed through the hellish gates of cancer. And I am sincerely grateful for the Dharma artwork and the books she left for us. May her Dharma activities spread far and wide!

One of the those books is by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, a Nyingma mater of Dzogchen and Dream Yoga. The title of the book is Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light.

In this particular case, this is not a special retreat book – only for the eyes of people who have received special instructions or special transmissions or initiations. I have been fortunate to see a couple of those books, but the wisdom contained in Chogyal Rinpoche’s book is still vast and precise. It is not a long book. But he covers – very rapidly I might add – the basics of Dream Yoga and the stages that we might pass through as our practice stabilizes and our realization becomes more pure.

He does go so fast through some topics (which I am glad for) that it is very important that we find an authentic teacher to lead us through this complex and potent practice. One of my heart teachers, Drupon Thinley Ningpo teaches Dream Yoga – he is based near Tampa Florida (Drupon is also my root lama, so I am a little biased in recommending him). He is an incredible practitioner, his presence is so compassionate and wise and he is not afraid to tell you how he really feels – like if you are ready for the practice you are asking about. (You might not want to hear it but Dream Yoga is NOT a beginner’s practice. It is quite advanced. Without a foundation under us, we are just wasting our time trying for such a profound practice. It is highly recommended that we finish our Ngondro before attempting such a subtle practice.)

In Dream Yoga (the book), Chogyal Rinpoche talks about several dreams that he had when he was younger. Let me just say it is extremely inspiring to hear what is possible. Who knows, maybe if I apply myself diligently for fifty years or more, I might one day have a dream full of mandalas and dakinis like he describes!

If you can get your hands on this book – it is cheap on Amazon – I would highly recommend it. Even if you are not working on this particular practice, hearing about what is possible is very inspiring and motivating!

Good luck on your journey!

km

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Every winter, my friend and mentor and bodywork teacher and coach, Janet Evergreen hosts a retreat for 10 days at her Sanctuary space.  Last year, I was going through a tough stretch and I did not make it to much, if any of that retreat, which I would later regret.

I say that because this retreat is like a sling shot for the new year.  It is a shot in the arm of Dharma juicy-ness.  Even if I could only do a couple hours a day of meditation, the combined space created a mandala of potency, of virtuous momentum and resourced support to lean into.

Due to work – December and the holidays are our busiest time of the year – I missed two days of the retreat.  Then with family in town, I missed another two days.  But I’m so glad I went to some part of every other day – six or seven days total.

I would be lying if I said I did not experience any resistance.  For instance, I woke up a couple of days at 5 am with the possibility of going to the 6 am session, only to choose to fall back asleep (! ^ !)  What can I say, I am human and sometimes a bit lazy.  I also needed my sleep as I have been quite stretched and stressed out with work.

The session I went to most often was from 10 am until noon, and then I would stay for a delicious, dynamic, organic lunch which was eaten in noble silence.  Occasionally there might be a little playfulness at lunch (silently) but for the most part we could all just enjoy our food at our own pace, in peace and quiet and good company.

From 10 until 11 am, we did a breath meditation (following, analyzing, shifting, exploring, stretching, resting of the breath) called the Anapanasati Entryways.  These were fairly powerful, but I never got through all 16 stages in one 50 minute segment.  Nonetheless, it was very potent just to track the mind and breathe, to track the body while breathing, to get distracted for a moment with thoughts and come back to the breath.  I would usually get through at least 4 or 5 of the stages of breath awareness – opening up to, deepening, refining, refreshing, calming, stabilizing the breath.  This was the hour where I usually experienced some resistance, so there was less enjoyment than I would have liked.  If this sounds interesting to you, go to http://www.liberationpark.org

But then from 11 am until noon, we did a practice called the 8 Jhanas.  This is more of an analytical meditation, where we are aware of our breath, then that fades into the background and we become more aware of a pleasant physical sensation (which can be as simple as a forced smile).  That pleasant sensation can become more intense and we can notice joy and happiness arising.  Etc etc and eventually it leads to contentment, equanimity, awareness of a boundless space around us, etc.  The end result being to rest in a vast open spacious aware of a tiny spot close to our face with our state of being having no characteristics.  This is extremely simplified.  See http://www.leighb.com for more!

One thing I especially like about the Jhanas is there is a recommended daily recollection to do before and after the practice:

  1. Aging happens, no one avoids it
  2. Illness and sickness happen, no one avoids it forever.
  3. Death happens, no one gets away from death.
  4. Everything that I love is and will change.
  5. I am responsible for my actions (karma).  My thoughts words and deeds create happiness or suffering.  I am born of my actions (karma).  I will inherit my actions (karma).  Whether good or evil deeds, I will always inherit my actions.

There are 5 things to do at the beginning of a session:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Why am I doing this (motivation)?
  3. Working up some determination – for instance, practicing for the benefit of all beings (self included)
  4. Wishing ourselves and others, well-being and happiness
  5. “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile.”

Then at the end of the session:

  1. Recapitulation – what did I do to get here?  How did I get here?
  2. Impermanence – whether highs or lows, our emotions, feelings, sensations are changing and are gone or will be gone shortly
  3. Insights – did I get any?  What were they?
  4. Dedicate the merit earned for the liberation of all beings
  5. Resolve to be mindful as I go about my activities

This is a good stopping point for now.  All in all, so glad I attended this year’s winter retreat.  Next year, here is what I would change to prepare better for it:

Start preparing for retreat weeks in advance – have all errands and nursing school requirements done by December 15th if possible.  Do all Christmas shopping (if any) before Dec 15th.  Do more resting down, self care and Dharma practice two or three weeks before retreat starts.  That way I can be more receptive to retreat mind mode.  This year, it was a bit jarring to be really busy up until retreat started and then to hit the brakes hard.  Fortunately I would still gain benefit from that less-than-kind version of preparing… but I could prepare better!

Thank you for reading!

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I have titled this post “progress in the Dharma.”  I want to be clear about what I mean by that (and describe what this post will be about).  It is not supposed to be a catchy title to hook readers.  Rather, I am making progress in my heart and it is showing up when I repeat inspiring stories of enlightened masters.  How can I tell?  Good question.  I’m not 100% certain I am making progress, but at least on one level I believe I am.  Read on to discover what I am trying to get at.

To provide a bit of context here: I have been doing treatments with babies over the past few weeks (craniosacral treatments to help the infants unwind any birth trauma).  Therefore, on some level, I have made a commitment to do my own pre- and perinatal psychological work (on myself first, so I can do it more easily for others).  And I have been assisting in teaching Vagus (Nerve) System work – moving toward self-regulation and emotional stability by resourcing the social nervous system (strengthening the parasympathetic nervous system).  And on top of all this, I had a bit of a fight yesterday with a good friend, which triggered me and I got poor sleep last night in a new and different bed as a result.

With all of that in mind, today I had about 20-30 minutes to kill at work, so I was talking with a friend there about Dharma teachers and great enlightened masters and their stories.

I mentioned Asanga and how difficult it was for him to attain enlightenment (with Maitreya Buddha).  http://www.lamayeshe.com/article/chapter/asanga-and-maitreya-buddha

I mentioned a couple of the stories about Patrul Rinpoche from the Snow Lion’s Turquoise Mane.  That book has an incredible array of inspiring stories by the way!  And it is so cheap?! http://astore.amazon.com/kirmoosblo-20/detail/0062501836

And the most bizarre thing happened to me as I was relating these stories: every time I got to the kicker about how the realized master was acting extremely compassionate or displaying Bodhicitta and skillful means, my voice cracked and I teared up.  I got emotional just relaying a simple story!

Well let me tell you something.  For me, this is progress.  I have gone entire decades wishing I could cry.  I was in the military for five years and I may have cried once that entire time I was enlisted.  There were times I gave up on my desire to emote through crying because it was so foreign and distant!  And now it is happening three times in a row, within a 10-minute span, as I relate these Dharma stories?!

Something is up.  Either the person I was talking to has a special connection to the Buddha-Dharma (quite possible, as he is very sharp, both logical and intuitive) or I am making progress with my own heart chakra work or my lack of sleep caused me to be unusually, radically emotional today (or some of all of the above!).  I never teared up for any other reason tonight though, so I think I can rule out that last option.

No matter what is the case, I love telling those stories as they inspire me to do my own personal Dharma practice.  And if there is a willing listener who is not shutting down upon hearing the stories and seeing my joy in telling them, then that is a great start!  🙂

Thanks for listening to my confused mind ramble on and on,

~Kirby

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I have observed my relationship to Tibetan Buddhism (and Buddhism in general) mostly wax over the past 9 to 13 years, with a little bit of waning.  And in that time, I dove in deep and yet I am still understanding new realizations everyday.  Because I dove in so deep, my current realization does not shatter the earth or boggle the mind, but it is more of the subtle type of “Ah-ha!”

I am understanding more about the concept that most Westerners have been spending all of their time worried about the material realm – getting ahead, going to school, earning, churning, burning money.  Why?  Because our culture says to, and because they mistakenly believe that having every possession (or plastic surgery or fashionable toy dog etc) leads to happiness.  And this time spent in the material realm is known as the Compassion side of the Wisdom / Compassion balance.  Most mainstream Westerners do not spend much time in the Wisdom sphere – meditating, working with spiritual teachers, doing truly cathartic psychological work on themselves (sure we do what we must to get by, but a lot of mainstream types avoid the discomfort of elective process-oriented psychotherapy or bodywork as much as possible – so we tend to only do the psychological work when there is a crisis or sickness – when it is a necessity).

I am not like most mainstream Westerners (in case you are not a follower of my blog or if you did not notice that fact).  I was raised Christian but I always knew in my heart that that religion was not complete (enough), that it did not go deep enough for me, that it was not the faith in which I felt at home.  Sure being Christian is probably better (due to having a moral compass) than being an anarchist atheist, but I have always known that something else existed beyond Christianity’s limits.  And I think this is the reason my mother says that I have always been Buddhist, while it was only in 2002 that I encountered Zen Buddhism and I started meditating, and it was in 2006 that I met my heart teachers in the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.  And then I felt at home and began to do (efficacious) spiritual practice in earnest.

Aside from my religious leanings, I am also not like most mainstream Westerners because I have always felt guilty when I did not do my spiritual practices.  I feel guilty if I “waste” a day resting and reading and watching movies without doing any formal Buddhist practice.  But self-care is vital.  And I believe that guilt is going away with this new realization.

I watched a documentary on some of the Dalai Lama’s students, and the beautiful thing was that they spoke about His Holiness’ emphasis on staying in the world and practicing compassion alongside wisdom.  I suspect it is a small select few people who get told – “You must go into retreat!  Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, go sit now!  And here is the retreat master to study with…”

As an astrological aside, if someone has a North Node (of the Moon) in Pisces or in the 8th house, then that person might be needing to get their butts on a meditation cushion.  They might be the type to be told to go into retreat quickly – forsake the worldly householder life.  But for the most part, the rest of us need to stay put in the world and do spiritual practice as we benefit others IN THE WORLD.

My North Node is in the 2nd House, which means the South Node is in the 8th.  I am coming from recent previous incarnations where I was the spiritual person in the community – I was the medicine man or the monk or the nun or the Brahmin, whatever you want to call it.  I relied on my tribe to support me as I strove toward Wisdom, leaving Compassion for another time.  This explains why I have always yearned to do retreat.  I love spending time with my root Lama – Drupon Thinley Ningpo.  I would do any retreat he was leading if I had the time.

But even my root Lama said to me that I should get a good paying job in order to support a family and support my spiritual practice in the future.  He suggested I become a nurse.  I resisted that advice for about a year (because I wanted it to come from my heart) and now I feel fully in control and fully confident that that is the right thing to do for me and for my path, and it is coming from my being.

And because nursing school is so tough, there are some days that I can only go do clinical work in the hospital for 8 hours and then come home and nap.  And then I have to study or work on care plans.  There is an avalanche of assignments which I can barely stay in front of.  And there is less and less guilt about missing time on my meditation cushion.

In fact, learning how to be of benefit to others, but helping to heal the sick or at least provide comfort to those ailing, this is a spiritual practice.  This is the Compassion side of the balance.  Sure as a busy nurse, I will rarely if ever get time to meditate in the hospital, but if I am being of benefit to others, while causing very little harm to myself or others, then this is the highest form of right livelihood there is.  And this is what I must be doing right now.

So if I were to die tomorrow (knock on wood, hoping that is not the case), I would be fairly content with my life.  I yearned and pulled and struggled to get more Wisdom time into my life, I even had the good fortune to be able to attend dozens of Buddhist retreats between 2006 and 2012 (see all my posts in the Dharma category of this blog).  But now I realize that I need more Compassion time.  It is time to be present with others, to start a family, and to be a mentor to younger practitioners and sentient beings.  Maybe when I am 60 years old, I can do a longer retreat.  For now though, get through nursing school, make some money, and do the rarer formal practice on the side, when I can.

Kindness to self means realizing when to practice more Compassion and when to practice more Wisdom.  Speaking to a wise spiritual teacher can help you to know which would be better for you on a higher level (many people unfortunately struggle against their heart’s true desires – you see it in almost every spiritual community).  And perhaps knowing your astrology chart really well could also shine some light on this fine balancing act.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

~Kirby Moore

Konchog Chakchen

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I just returned from a weekend with His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon, Chetsang Rinpoche.  I will post pictures soon (hopefully).

I am in the midst of one of the busiest times of my life as I prep to enter nursing school this summer and in the fall.  My next day off with nothing on my to-do list might not be until August…  Ugh!

And in the midst of that busyness, I set things aside and went to sit with H.H.D.K. and about a dozen monks and nuns.  It was a great turn out – at least 100 people were there most days.  And for the Great Drikung Phowa on Saturday, there may have been 200 people (with a lot of local Tibetans attending).

I received the Amitabha empowerment (or at least His Holiness gave this empowerment, not sure if my mind was cogent enough to actually receive it).  We did a lot of Amitabha practice (mantra recitation with sadhana practice).  Then there was the Drikung Phowa Chenmo and an Amitayus sand mandala which was dissolved on Sunday.

Pretty amazing!  Fairly rapidly I settled down into a clear, aligned state where I did not need to “do” or “fix” or “create” anything.  To be honest, the first two days of retreat were a little tough – body aches and pains, mind was distracted and wanted out, and I watched my resistance slowly melt away.  Sitting in that potent energetic mandala of His Holiness and other highly realized Lamas was special indeed.

And now I feel more motivated and clear about everything on my plate at present.  (And there is a bunch…)

Please wish me luck with finding balance!

And may all sentient beings put the causes of happiness into place, leading to greater peace and harmony.

Thank you for reading,

KM

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I have written about this topic in the past.  I definitely experience this time of year (a time before the Tibetan new year – Losar – where things need to be reconsidered at best, and I often have to slow down to get through it with a modicum of ease).  Not everyone is going to feel it though, and perhaps, depending on other astrological factors, some years will be more intense than others.  So take this with a grain of salt if you like.

From February 8th until the 17th, we might encounter extra obstacles to spiritual practice, obstacles to mindfulness, or possibly even physical obstacles.  It is recommended that during these ten days, we should do Vajrasattva mantras (purification), or Protector practices (Achi Chokyi Drolma or Mahakala, etc) and this is often the time of the year where Tibetans literally clean their houses.  I think it is viewed as a time to move stagnant energy out.  On Feb. 18th, it is a new cycle, a fresh start.  So get ready ahead of time!

I would recommend this article on the topic as well: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/02/don-season-how-to-survive-the-next-10-days-of-chaos/

Thanks for visiting!

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This is a post about the spirits known as Nagas. Also known as Lu in Tibetan. I need to start out by saying that any errors from my transcription are purely my own. They do not reflect on the teacher. This information comes from Lama Dawa who is a Nyingma Lama, and other lineages of Tibetan Buddhism and certainly other religious traditions would have different information about this topic. These words come from a teaching given on Saturday November 2nd, 2013. Please note that if you want to do a specific spiritual practice, including Naga offerings, you should get instructions from your teacher.

I will paraphrase the questions asked and the answers given, unless you see quotation marks – these are the Lama’s quoted words. Anything in brackets are my own thoughts and speculations. Again, pardon any confusing answers or errors.

First of all, where was I? I was at a Buddhist teaching in a practitioner’s home. There was a large shrine room that easily fit about fifteen people.

Who taught on this topic? Lama Dawa Chhoddak Rinpoche was the teacher. He is a lineage holder in the Dudjom section of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He gave these teachings on Nagas and how to do a Naga offering.

Next, what is a Naga? A Naga is a spirit. It is basically a long living animal (spirit). Most humans do not have the karma to perceive Nagas directly. Nagas are most often associated with the animals in the reptile kingdom – and snakes in particular. Basically Nagas are serpent spirits with extremely long lives.

Are Nagas malevolent? No. Generally speaking they mind their own business. There are some rarer classes of nagas who are “ill tempered.” In all cases however, Nagas cannot affect us at all unless we create the karmic connection for them to do so. See below.

Nagas have been around a long time! There are eight main kingdoms of Nagas. The Naga Kings (eight of them) are Buddhist practitioners. Some consider them to be Bodhisattvas – beings who have been traversing the spiritual path a long time and who manifested as Naga Kings to benefit other sentient beings and/or to guard holy scriptures not meant for this present time. Chenrezig, Vajrapani and Padmasambhava subjugated many Nagas, possibly even the Naga Kings. But the majority of Nagas are not Buddhists. And compared to the number of Human beings in this world, Nagas far outnumber us.

What does Nagas energy do? Naga energy affects health, wealth and weather. If a Naga(s) gets sick, the person (people) responsible for making the Naga sick might also get sick.

How could we possibly make Nagas sick? The most direct way to affect a Naga is to pollute water. Pissing in water is considered bad [the Tibetans say that pissing in water will cause the Nagas to give one skin problems]. Ejaculating in water (especially lakes, rivers, the ocean) is the WORST. Putting toxic chemicals in water can make Nagas sick. Then indirectly, polluting the planet in other ways can make Nagas unhappy.

Unhappy Nagas make bizarre weather patterns. It will be hot when it should be cold. It will be excessively rainy. It will be a bad drought year. Nagas are especially associated with the fertility of soil and the rain required to grow crops. Make the Nagas unhappy, and the crops will probably suffer. How much depends on how unhappy they are.

What sicknesses are Nagas connected with? Leprosy, boils, cataracts, kidney problems among other diseases.

Sometimes Nagas are considered Dharma protectors. This could literally be the case as some Nagas are guarding Buddhist scriptures which are said to be revealed at a later time. It could also be the case that Padmasambhava subjugated the Nagas and told them to protect the Dharma in our realm.

Nagas can take several forms [if they appear to us at all – and I imagine there must be karmic reasons to see them at all]. They can be entirely serpentine (snakes). They can be half snake, half human. They can be fishes. They can be alligators / crocodiles. They can be half fish, half human [- mermen, mermaids come to mind here].

Nagas are not associated with any specific disease – meaning, they do not go out of their way to harm human beings. They do not make weapons to cause harm – only humans stockpile weapons for war! If we have caused pollution, in turn causing Nagas to get sick, that is why we do Naga Pujas or offerings. We do these practices to make the Nagas get well and to pacify any injury we have caused them. In other words, we do these practices to pacify the negative karma we may have created in this or previous lives.

Some Nagas live in fresh water springs, some live in rivers, others live in lakes and yet others live in the oceans. If a Naga lives near a spring, in rare cases, they may choose to live in a tree like a Juniper. Therefore, if you see a short tree near a spring, a tree that never gets old but which also never grows really tall, do not cut it down! The Naga is living in that tree.

Doing Naga practices can increase [our connection to the Nagas thereby increasing] our wealth, health and fertility. [Plus, we might get better weather in the area in the process.] The Eight Buddhist Naga Kings listen to requests. We just have to know how to make them. [As in we have to offer something to them to get something back in exchange.] A Naga King is a powerful being – they have more wealth than any human and they are in control of Nagas in a large area of land or sea.

Are there better days on which to be doing Naga practices? Yes! There are some days when Nagas are sleeping and they do not want to be disturbed. Do not disturb them on these days! Conversely, there are other days when Nagas are so active that they cannot receive our offerings – in Tibetan these days are called Naga return days because our offerings will be returned “unused” as it were. According to Kalachakra astrology, we can find out which days are good for doing Naga Pujas and which days are ideal. Basically there will be 0, 1, 2 or 3 days a month on which to do offerings for Nagas. Consult a good Tibetan calendar or there are several good websites which have quality Tibetan calendars on them, detailing these days.

There is a special incense to burn during Naga offerings and smoke ceremonies. It is in the Vetiver family. [I think it is the root.] I could not find this on Google, but the Indian name of the incense is Chet-a-mam-sa? It is definitely in the Vetiver family because we all smelled it afterward and Rinpoche said it was from a plant that was like a grass [Vetiver does this] that can grow in large fields.

In rare occasions, a Lama [or Tibetan Astrologer] might do a divination [or see it in the chart] and see that an individual needs to do a large number of Naga Pujas to pacify some negative karma OR they might recommend that the individual put a Naga Vase in the ground on their property. Creating a Naga Vase is an elaborate ritual involving writing mantras on special types of paper, including gold paper, putting in precious substances, metals and stones and then there is a 2 week period of practice where the Lama does an accomplishment [which I am assuming is a large number of prayers or mantras if it takes two weeks]. Then the Naga Vase is put in the ground and that part of the yard is respected from then on – no humans or pets should be allowed to pee in that spot.

Why do we do Naga practices? In addition to what has already been mentioned… [This was a very skillful answer.] Because we want all suffering to come to completion and end. We want all wars pacified. We want all famines to end. We want all sentient beings who have been our mothers in past lives to be happy and free of sickness. Basically we do Naga practices to generate bodhicitta – the mind that wishes for the happiness and well-being of all sentient beings (may all beings attain complete enlightenment).

So basically, we may want to consider doing a Naga practice to befriend the local Naga(s). They are considered guardians of wealth and sacred texts, so they are like “bank managers” and “librarians” and we could certainly benefit from being on their good sides. Plus, if we become spiritual masters down the road, we might want to borrow a text from their libraries, so we will need to know how to ask for them. 🙂

Hopefully this was not incredibly confusing. Maybe it was even a little helpful. Thank you for reading.

[Perhaps this information is all superstition. I don’t know. Perhaps you want to test this theory by going to the ocean or a local lake and peeing in the water. Then see if you get a skin problem or a cold sore in the next week or two. 🙂 Just saying. Up to you. I don’t know what your karma is though, so I would not recommend doing this.]

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