Order Practice Series SPRING 2020 – Mind to Mind: Dharma Transmission
- Sun Mar 1st 2020
- 10:00 am
- 5:00 pm
- Booking not required
*NB* These study/meditation days are for Triratna Order Members only
The term upadesha is used in Vajrayana Buddhism to refer to informal teachings where the specific details of Dharma practice is shared from experience, usually personally or to a small number of people. This is what I’d like to achieve in these 3 series of teachings for Order members. The themes have been chosen to illustrate important aspects of Order practice, which I hope will relate to us all, so we can come having freshened our experience with recent practice and bringing any current questions, especially practical ones.
Death and Spiritual Death practice
“Think! Then you will practice Dharma.”
It can take many forms, but reflection is an essential element of Dharma practice.
If spiritual practice is to wake us up and make us happy, we need to be motivated, and motivation is fed by reflection. Often though, we’re just too distracted to reflect! But if we let it in, the fact of death and impermanence can make us reflective. We need to be reflective enough to really realise what is worth pursuing and what is not. This is the actual point of reflection. This is how it motivates us.
Reflection on Impermanence of all kinds, including death, sobers us, brings us down to earth. Just enough is needed to enable that effect; too much may be depressing. But get it just right, and we feel more in touch with what’s real. Accompanied by the Brahmaviharas, it can be liberating and intensely joyful. The reality of death lights up the mystery and vastness of the world. Death is sad sometimes, but death, and even sadness, is an important aspect of life. We should train so we can embrace it. One day we will meet death ourselves.
The Six element practice is often seen as a reflection on death; it can certainly be, but it has far more to offer as a vipassana meditation. In our tradition it is the main insight practice at ordination, learned as part of our preparation for initiation. It is intended not merely as a reflection to motivate us, but to help us realise the nature of emptiness, sunyata. That is its most important role in the sadhana practice. So we’ll explore this, and at the end of the day do some sadhana in relation to the reflection and the insight meditation that we’ve been discussing and practising.
Rebirth and Spiritual Rebirth practice
“Now when the bardo of dharmata dawns upon me,
I will abandon all projections of fear and terror,
Recognise whatever arises as the self-display of awareness,
And know it to be the visionary nature of the bardo.”
First, a clarification of terms. The stage of ’spiritual death’ is crucial to the Buddhist path. It is that element in the overall system of Buddhist practice that has to do with insight into the true nature of our existence. This is always a surprise! …because certain big ideas we have been assuming are true all our lives, simply collapse, and it is a big thing—like death itself, an opening to reality. Our world is never the same. In some ways, we start all over again.
The stage of ‘spiritual rebirth’ is that ‘starting all over again’, applying and assimilating that new perspective revealed by the insight. It is associated with sadhana practice, because with sadhana we visualise embodiments of awakening — Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who represent how we will be when that process of spiritual rebirth is complete.
The Cycle of Lotön Gendun:
Studying, Meditating and Contemplating the Dharma according to the Tibetan Yogi Milarepa
Group Study of The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa (the new translation by Christopher Stagg) and meditating based on what arises from the text.
Milarepa: Transformation in the Wilderness
The Life of Milarepa was the first Buddhist book I read. As a twenty year old it made me feel that, somehow, I wanted to be like that. Milarepa’s example inspired me — in a naive way no doubt, but still it influenced some major life choices that eventually gave me important spiritual experiences. So I feel he has been a great teacher for me. And it’s a very appealing idea to spend time with some of you, meditating in his presence as we evoke Milarepa through the impact of his teachings. What Milarepa teaches comes straight from his experience, and the experiences he has — most of them at any rate—we all have as well. He just looks at them more closely.