Cleaning up Samye Ling 1995 - Part One
by Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Practical teachings on mindfulness meditation for students in east and west given in Kagyu Samye Ling, Scotland, 1995.
Prayer to the Root Guru
Glorious root guru sitting on a lotus and moon disc
on top of my head
look on me with your great kindness
and grant me the accomplishment of body speech and mind.
The Four Dharmas of Gampopa
Grant your blessing so that my mind may be one with the dharma
Grant your blessing so that the dharma may go along the path
Grant your blessing so that the dharma may clarify confusion
Grant your blessing so that I may transform confusion into wisdom.
This is the first session of this weekend course called “Working together with me to clean up Samye Ling”. Tidying or cleaning up Samye Ling can be looked at from one point of view or another, but the main external image which we use, is very much influenced by ourselves. If there is something that is unclean, which needs to be tidied up externally, then it also must have something to do with our mind, because the mind is the one which influences and dominates our life. The mind and the body depend on each other. If the mind is unclear or impure, whatever we do physically is also unclear or impure. That does not mean the, majority of people in Samye Ling have an unclear mind, but on the other hand it doesn’t mean that they would have a very clear mind either.
I think since we are in a spiritual community, or we believe in such, it is our responsibility that at least what we do, spiritually or in a worldly way, is not unworthwhile. It means looking at the constant busyness, which is causing somebody else to become unmindful. I wouldn’t call it a bad action or anybody’s bad intention, but it is unthoughtfulness or unmindfulness. Everybody is thinking what would be easiest for themselves in the sense of responsibilities. For example, jobs, whatever is the shortest way to achieve the goal, even at the cost of causing extra work for other people, one is willing to do that, because the “me”, the “I” is so strong and powerful. But in a spiritual community one must think for other people’s benefit. It means whatever you do, it always benefits others. When we talk in a sense of prayer, whatever positive I am thinking, may it be beneficial to others. Whatever I practice, may it benefit others. My thinking, praying and physical action, whatever it is, may it benefit others. If that is our main idea, not just the words but our meaning, then even with very small things one always considers other people. If we always consider others first, we will develop it into a habit.
Sometimes when you think for others there is also a danger of overdoing things for others, questioning and reasoning why people don’t need your help. In the end, it becomes like a punishment and the person who is always offering their help becomes a nuisance constantly asking others what they need. Quite often elderly people feel it like a punishment, when somebody is overdoing things for them and caring too much. So, helping others should happen in the middle way, you don’t overdo it and you don’t ignore things. If you are mindful, you are automatically concerned: what is useful and what is not useful doesn’t depend on oneself, you don’t do things which someone else will be carrying out. You are aware of the other person.
Things have influence on your mind. Meditation is to try to understand these mechanisms of our mind; how the mind is working and how we ourselves can work together with others. It should not become a defence. Many people, when they think about the meditation aspect, they think: “Today I am meditating; now I am meditating.” So, you become like a warrior fighting the thoughts which arise within yourself. You have constant war and fighting within: are I and my mind winning, or is my behavior winning? After you have done a meditation session you become more tense and nervous and your behavior becomes strange rather than relaxed and peaceful. That will not be meditation.
Meditation means that you don’t fight within yourself. There is nothing to fight about, nobody to fight against. Meditation means to simply sit and observe all the thoughts which arise within yourself, the sounds which you hear externally or internally, feelings, fears and emotional states. Whatever is arising, you just let it come and go freely. You don’t aim to a peaceful mind state and you don’t try to achieve dark hollow empty space with no thought. So many people are looking for an empty hollow place when they meditate, and that is not meditation. Meditation means simply remaining as it is. In most of the texts it is said: “Do not try to think about past or future, but be with present moment.” It doesn’t matter what the present is like, positive or negative, useful or not, whatever it is, whatever thoughts arise, you should be mindful with those thoughts.
Quite often people’s idea of meditation is to try to get rid of the thoughts, but that’s not meditation. To get rid of them is not possible, but when the thoughts arise, face them. For example: ”I sit in the shrine,” the thought arises. Don’t think about the shrine, but about the one who thinks “I am in the shrine, I stay in the shrine.” So, relax the thoughts. The next thought could be for example: “I came here.” When that thought arises, be mindful of whoever is thinking: “I am coming here.” If you are face to face with that, it is called mindfulness.
In order to develop mindfulness, you don’t have to have positive thoughts like: “I am very joyful.” You don’t have to create that. And you don’t have to look at “I want to murder somebody” as a terrible thought. In the meditation itself, you should not look for what is good or bad, but face whatever thoughts appear. You don’t try to escape or sort out your thoughts. If the meditation is based on positive motivation or aimed to develop positive words or ideas, then you try to increase positive thoughts and you try to get rid of negative thoughts. But in the actual meditation there isn’t something to pick up or throw away.
When we train in this way, it’s called mindfulness. When we are mindful, we can be mindful of all our actions. If we are mindful, we don’t become tired or feel “I need to rest and relax. I need some place to lie down, I’m too tired.” You don’t have any of that, all that is due to unmindfulness. When you do things unmindfully, you have much pressure in your mind. The pressure takes over your peacefulness. The best rest, relaxation, and achievement in whatever you are doing, is mindfulness.
However, mindfulness should not be applied only in the shrine, but every day in whatever job you are doing. Mindfulness in eating, sleeping, talking, writing, in all jobs you need to do. Don’t apply mindfulness in one area only, forgetting about it the rest of the time and being unmindful all day. That way you will waste so much time. In a meditation session, you concentrate in developing your mindfulness as much as you can, as you don’t have any other jobs at that moment. As soon as you come out from the meditation, apply the mindfulness to your jobs.
Being mindful you won’t make so many mistakes in the sense of wrong compassion, wishing to help others but overdoing it or underdoing it and not being actually concerned about anybody or anything. Nobody wants to harm this community intentionally, but because of unmindfulness our actions become obstacles for other people. We leave things in the middle of others’ way and they need to do extra work, unnecessarily, for our sake. What we think, do, and say, are contradictory. We say we want to help others, but others have, to do things after us three or four times, because in one thing after another we become unmindful. Or whatever we are doing is based on our own ideas, and not on other people’s ideas. For example, if someone asks you to do something for them, and they explain what they want you to do, you forget the instructions, because you already fixed your own idea which way things must be. So, whatever you are told you forget, at least half of it. And you put together your idea and the other person’s idea and arrive at a conclusion. Then whoever you are doing something for, that person has, to undo at least half of it, because it’s now based on your idea.
But I have a good feeling, if you have good awareness or mindfulness − I suppose awareness is developed through mindfulness, and mindfulness is what we need to concern ourselves with more right now − then through mindfulness one can develop coordination. All our life we ourselves and our organization, not only in here but wherever you go, whatever you do, the biggest problem in our human society is the problem with coordination. There is no coordination whatsoever. We just try to feed our ego without coordination. Even we want to do some coordination, it’s very much reflected on “I”, to fulfil our own ego. You have coordinated with me, but the coordination is never in the middle way, it’s only one way. That is not pure coordination.
As I said in the beginning, our community is not just simply putting stones and wood and bricks together. That is called one way to clean up. You may have to repeat that every day in your life, but on the other hand at the back of that, behind that is the mind training, mindfulness. If we are mindful of our actions, then the constant collecting rubbish from outside is not necessary. With mindfulness, you put the rubbish in the right place to start with, when you throw it out from Samye Ling community, so there is no constant movement of rubbish.
Similarly, the coordination is most important, but it should not depend on one’s own ideas only. It must depend on whatever is most beneficial for the general public, or in this case for the overall community; beauty of landscape, the cleanliness, how to preserve this precious Earth, this precious planet, how to grow plants, flowers and fruits, which give us the right kind of nourishment when we eat, smell, look and touch. It’s the positive side. Thinking this way, if we do things for the benefit of others, then automatically you will be included, there is nobody left behind. “Oh, I forgot myself, my own benefit.” Ego is so tall, it will never be completely, demolished and you don’t need to worry that you suffer by accomplishing others’ benefit. You will never suffer. But you are full of ego, each of us are.
In this way, our responsibility is to train our mind, and whatever we see outside is our projection. If we are pure, then outside will be pure. If our mind is impure, outside will be impure. At the moment, the majority of people’s mind is impure and that reflects constantly in rubbish everywhere. I have also been out of touch of Samye Ling community, but here people say they are out of touch. You don’t stay here that long. There are many worldly human relationships, and it is said that Samye Ling is not what it used to be. There are expectations and longing for the early good times. At those early times people did not think they were particularly good times. Somehow Samye Ling people found right now that the early times were good. In few years’ time, these days we are now having will be found as the early good times, too. The good times should be present, not always longing for something in the past. Present has, to be made into good times.
Chatting is one of the ten non-virtuous actions, and what we need are the pure virtuous actions. Talk less, think less, and do more positive things, things which benefit everybody. Nowadays we have, to talk everything together, and we think talking solves the problems. It doesn’t. It’s our ego, dealing with our emotions, dealing with our ego which solves our own problems. And not only our own problems, but those related to other’s problems. You don’t need to beat anybody to solve their problem, but if we beat our mind, we solve other’s problems. If we see that our face looks ugly in the mirror, it’s no use to break the mirror, there are millions of mirrors. Until you change your body you will see the ugliness in your face on all the mirrors in east and west. However, if you deal with it and see, this is my face, how beautiful my face looks like even if it is ugly − even in its ugliness it’s so beautiful − then you can see that in all mirrors. It has nothing to do with the mirror, but it has, to do with how you relate to yourself.
So, when we have a problem in kitchen or office or wherever, it has nothing to do with other people, but you: you are the one who is not able to deal with the matter. Talking doesn’t solve the problem, but mindfulness does. Talking to me doesn’t solve it: “Oh I have to go to see Rinpoche, because I have a problem.” If you have a hole in your shoes, you need to go to buy new shoes from a shop. Talking to me about it does not solve the problem, but is a waste of your and my time. Nobody needs to waste anybody’s time if they sit and be mindful, relax and let things come and go freely.
You don’t need psychology to deal with your problems, you don’t need to take tranquilizers, or go to a mental institution or see a teacher or any advisor in order, to overcome your problems. Your problem is in you. The problem arose because you were unmindful. If you are mindful when panic develops, just relax one or two minutes, and let the panic come and go. Let it pass and you become peaceful. You don’t need to run after a packet of cigarettes or cup of tea or coffee in order, to overcome it. You don’t need to cry. You don’t need any of this, those are exaggerated emotions and they are unnecessary.
We are human beings and always looking for somebody else, saying: “Are you in a problem, what can I do?” We constantly blame each other. What is there to blame? We say: “Why don’t you be concerned about me?” Why don’t you do the one thing and say: “Be happy, be nice, you should enjoy yourself.” If someone is trying to enjoy themselves you say: “Why you don’t think about me, be concerned about me?” What you want is somebody crying (in pity): “What is happening to you?” If a person doesn’t do that to you, you wonder why they are not concerned about you. At that time, you are not allowing others to have happiness, but you want them to cry and worry about you constantly. If they do that, for example your spouse, you say that my husband or wife is very good, because they are constantly concerned and regularly crying over my affairs! And they are not allowed to laugh; if they do, they are no longer a good spouse. So, that kind of expectations constantly feed our ego. If we lead a spiritual life, to not feed our ego is most important. And to be mindful all the time is most important.
We will do a short session of meditation, and after that I hope that once you are mindful and do things properly then there will be no more rubbish inside us or outside of us. Okay?