Today we’re going to look at the condensed form in five forces, and then the proficiency. And looking at this from the point of view of the world of complete experience.
Now, if you’ll recall, we have these five forces: impetus, familiarization, virtue, repudiation, and aspiration. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
When we were going to do this before, I said that impetus is basically intention, and here the intention is to cultivate awakening mind. Being very clear about your intention, not only in your practice, but in every aspect of your life is very important. You cannot be present if you do not know your intention. What are you there for?
A very useful method of uncovering the emotion that is driving a reactive pattern is to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” You ask, “Why am I working at this job?” “Well, to earn money.” “Well, why am I earning money?” And you just keep asking why. And with each why, you cut deeper. You’ll reach a point where you’ll say, “I don’t know.” And right at that point, at that moment, there is going to be a feeling. You may or may not be able to name it, but that feeling is what is driving that particular reactive pattern.
So, if you aren’t clear about your intention in any specific situation, you are susceptible or probably are already in a reactive pattern.
The second force…well to go back, we’re working with the world of complete experience, the totality of what you experience. When you experience no separation from what is arising, any sense of a self separate from this has dropped away. Then your intention becomes the direction of the present.
Student: How do you get to that point?
Ken: Reeaaally slow….[Laughter] Well, when you don’t experience separation, you move with what is arising. And so intention may change moment to moment. One example that I rather like is of the Dutch person who went to Japan in the late ’50s, early ’60s, somewhere around there, to study Zen. And he just had a hell of a time in the Zen monastery. He couldn’t adapt to the food, he couldn’t adapt to the schedule, he was always screwing up. He couldn’t understand how things were meant to be done. At the monastery, they were pretty patient with him because he just kept trying. He had a very good attitude.
And on one occasion in the middle of sesshin, his work duty was to serve tea at one of the breaks. The way this happened is that two people would leave the meditation hall. One person would get the cups and distribute them, and another person would pick up the tea pots and go around and pour tea in all the cups. And his job was to pick up the tea pots. He went to get the tea pots, came and saw that the person who was meant to have distributed the cups hadn’t done anything. So, he just put the two tea pots down, went back, got the cups, distributed them, and then poured the tea. Right? No-brainer right?
Well, at the end of the sesshin all the monks came up and said, “Good job! Good job! Good job!” And he thought, “What the hell are they talking about?” He had just seen what needed to be done and did it. It was kind of an immediate response to the situation. And he couldn’t figure out why they were making such a fuss about it. But it was the one time that he had acted without thinking. [Laughter] Okay, did you have a question?
[A student describes her experience of acting without thinking and asks Ken if that is what he means.]
Ken: Well, yes, what you seem to be describing is dropping any sense of what you’re going to do with the information, and just receiving it. And then a response is going to arise naturally out of that. That’s the kind of thing that I mean about direction of the present. So, intention—very important.
Ken: Then, the second force, which is translated as familiarization. This is your practice. This is what you do to implement your intention, or also to be able to implement your intention. This is the clearing away of stuff. For instance, if your intention in practice is awakening mind, or no separation, or compassion, then the force of familiarization is your practice. It’s what you do to train that ability or remove the blocks, or whatever, that prevent that from being present in you.
Ken: Then, the third force is the force of virtuous seeds. This is basically about taking care of your internal environment. We noted earlier that when you do something virtuous, you feel clearer and lighter. When you observe ethical behavior, there’s less for you to be thinking about. One of the traditional lists of virtuous actions in the Mahayana is the six perfections: generosity, morality, patience, diligence—slash enthusiasm—meditative stability, and what’s usually translated as wisdom, as in the Perfection of Wisdom, but really, it’s closer to intelligence, a kind of intelligence.
Now, Milarepa once sang a song about these, interpreting the six perfections in terms of, not so much external activity like giving generously to other people, but when, how do you say…
When you give up any sense of self, what other generosity can there be?When you never experience shame, what other morality can there be?
When you don’t react to anything, what more patience can there be?When you are never separate from your practice, what more diligence can there be?
When your mind is never distracted, what more meditative stability can there be?(I think the last one is) When you don’t hold to anything at all, what greater wisdom can there be?
These six perfections are being interpreted in just how you relate to the totality of experience. I learned those from Dezhung Rinpoche. It’s one of Milarepa’s songs. Garma C.C. Chang translated it somewhat differently in The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. You can find a translation of that on my website.
So, the force of virtuous seeds is about taking care of your internal environment. So, you have the right environment for practice, for being able to discern intention and so forth.
Ken: Then the fourth force which, you may recall, is the force of repudiation. This is about what you do as all of the memories and associations about the past, which naturally emerge as patterns, are dismantled. As they’re dismantled—many of you described this, and it’s exactly what happens—you start working on a pattern, a certain behavior, and you say, “Oh.” And then you notice the same behavior over here and you go, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
You keep working on it, and then you notice it over there. Now you’re beginning to get a little disturbed. And then at a certain point it’s everywhere. You know, I like to say patterns have a fractal structure. And it’s really true. You can take any area of your life and find all of your patterns in there. Some of them may be very obvious in that area of life, and some of them maybe very subtle, but they’ll all be there.
All kinds of thoughts and memories and associations about the past come up, and this is where the force of what we call repudiation comes in. This is about letting all of that stuff go, because there is nothing to be done about it. I mean, one of the phrases in the Tibetan tradition,
The only good thing about unwholesome actions is that you can stop doing them. [Laughter]
So, in that context I’m going to read this story again. And pay attention to every word here.
Nuri Bey was a reflective and respected Albanian who had married a wife much younger than himself. (And to assist you in this, in most of these stories, the feminine is a symbol for original knowing.) One evening, when he had returned home earlier than usual, a faithful servant came to him and said, “Your wife, our mistress, is acting suspiciously. She is in her apartment with a huge chest large enough to hold a man, which belonged to your grandmother. It should contain only a few ancient embroideries. I believe that there may now be much more in it. She will not allow me, your oldest retainer, to look inside.”
Nuri went to his wife’s room and found her sitting disconsolately beside the massive wooden box. “Will you show me what is in the chest?” he asked.
“Because of the suspicion of a servant or because you do not trust me?”
“Would it not be easier just to open it without thinking about the undertones?” asked Nuri.
“I do not think it possible.”
“Is it locked?”
“Where is the key?”
She held it up. “Dismiss the servant and I will give it to you.”
The servant was dismissed. The woman handed over the key and herself withdrew, obviously troubled in mind. Nuri Bey thought for a long time then he called four gardeners from his estate. Together they carried the chest by night, unopened, to a distant part of the grounds and buried it. The matter was never referred to again.
And all it says here is:
This tantalizing story, repeatedly stressed as being of interior significance aside from its evident moral, is part of the repertoire of wandering Dervishes.
I may be reading too much in, I don’t know. But I think what’s been suggested here is basically how I’ve come to understand the story, too. The old servant is part of the whole old way of functioning and now Nuri has formed this new relationship with knowledge, and it’s tenuous. That’s what I think is wonderful about this story. It’s about the tenuousness of this relationship. And so,
“Will you show me what is in the chest?”
“Because of the suspicion of a servant or because you do not trust me?”
And Nuri’s question is very interesting.
“Would it not be easier just to open it without thinking about the undertones?”
Ken: It’s a little adversarial, and she says,
“I do not think that is possible.”
In other words, “If you know, then everything has to be dealt with. You know what’s really going on here.” And that’s when he’s reconnected with this reflective quality, capability. Right? There isn’t a shortcut here. You’ve got to deal with what is arising in you right now. Okay.
“Is it locked?”
“Yes, here’s the key. ”
“Here’s the key.”
Student: She presents it to him?
Ken: Yeah, she holds it up. It’s right there. And it’s interesting. I think the key has a two-fold meaning: It’s the key to knowing more than it is to the box. Yeah. Yes?
Student: So, what does it mean that he buries the box? Is it that he is separating himself from….
Ken: He’s dying to the reactive patterns from the past. It’s done. He’s allying himself with wisdom. This is what I love about this book. I highly recommend it. Tales of the Dervishes. It is full of stories like this, which are very rich. In my book, I included another one, The Lamp Shop Story, in the first chapter. In the Wake Up To Your Life group we have in LA, we spent four weeks going over that one story—all its nuances.
Student: That’s by Idries Shah?
Ken: It’s by Idries Shah, yeah. He collected these. This is an old edition but, yeah, it’s not too old, actually. These had fallen out of print and then Penguin Arcana republished them so you should be able to get a hold of it.
There is a Sufi teacher that I met at a conference some time ago, and he’s very, very deeply trained in one of the Sufi orders. He said just to contact him and this is one of the questions that I’m trying to take up, “How are these actually used?” But as far as I can understand, in reading this and some other stuff that I’ve read, these are stories that would be given to a student and they would sit with them and…
Student: They’re koan?
Ken: They aren’t really the same as a koan. They aren’t about stopping the mind the way that koan is.
Student: They’re emotionally involved.
Ken: Yeah, they’re about bringing out an understanding which then the student would be responsible for exercising in life. And what’s interesting here is that there are several stories which are paired, and the two stories would be given together or be studied consecutively.
So, this fourth force, the force of repudiation is about letting go of the past, or as we’ll be discussing as much as we can in the time we have remaining, dying to the past.
And then the fifth force is the force of aspiration.
Student: Wasn’t the first force the force of aspiration?
Ken: No, first force was force of impetus or intention. You’re in the section on dying. We’re still in the section on living.
To my mind what’s happening here, is—this is part of the genius of these things—you look to the future. All of these hopes and aspirations come. And what one’s doing here is taking all of those, which are basically projections onto the future, and that tendency to project onto the future what you’re experiencing now. And using that to reinforce the original intention. That’s what the aspirations do. There is that natural thing to project into the future and by forming the aspirations it brings you back into the present, into “What is my intention here? It is to wake up, to wake up for the benefit of beings.” And that brings you back, “Oh, this is where I am.”
So, those are the five forces in life.
Now, remember that it then promptly turns around and goes through the five forces as they apply to dying. And I checked in Chekawa’s original commentary—which I have here with me—because I was curious to see if Kongtrül had changed the order. But Chekawa goes through in exactly the same order. One of the things that I have learned from studying Tibetan Buddhism and practicing it is that the order of these lists is often important. The six perfections are in a certain order for a certain reason. The four immeasurables can be ordered in three different ways; and each one of them embodies a certain approach. And I talked about that in the chapter on the four immeasurables. Actually, I just discovered a fourth ordering, one which starts with compassion. It’s the first time I’ve come across one that starts with compassion, but that’s another story.
When you’re talking about dying, however, the first force is addressing the internal environment, that is, generating virtue. The instruction is to give everything away. In other words to let go of what is defining you now; and all the things that you’ve accumulated.
That’s basically about preparing to die. Which means you’re no longer in denial, which many of you will recall is the first stage of the dying process—denial. One of my students who’s a federal agent said, “And denial ain’t a river.”
So, the second force is about aspirations. And what’s the one thing that you’re concerned about when you’re dying?
Student: The future.
Ken: Yeah, the future [laughter]—what’s going to happen. So you set these aspirations. It’s a way of forming a relationship with what’s arising right there. And if you remember the five stages of dying, from Kübler-Ross, the second is anger. It’s anger about not having a future. You’re angry that you’re dying. This change is coming. So, aspiration is a way of addressing that anger.
And then the third force is the force of repudiation, which is discussed in terms of addressing the past. If you recall, the third stage of dying is bargaining. And a lot of that bargaining is about getting enough time to address stuff that is really bothering you as you’re dying; i.e., stuff that hasn’t been sorted out in your life. “If you give me another three months, I’ll do this.” You know, you follow me? So, by acknowledging to oneself, “Yeah, this is what I did; wasn’t good, ” and really letting oneself feel and experience that completely, that’s how you lay it down. That’s all you can do with regrets that one has about the past. So, this is about coming to terms with one’s past, so that you can be at peace.
Then the fourth force is intention. This is my aim, this is what I intend to do right here in this situation with me dying. And that, of course, is to be as awake as possible as I die. Now, the fourth stage of dying is depression or despair. But the one thing that counteracts despair is having a clear intention. Because despair is like, “There’s nothing to be done.” Ah, but there is. I’m doing this. This is what I intend.
And then the fifth force is the force of practice or familiarization. It’s what you actually do as you die. This is acceptance. “Okay. This is what is happening, and here is what I do.” You’re relating directly to the situation.
The whole subject of dying is very, very important in Buddhist practice because in order to know, we have to die. To enter into a new kind of knowing or new way of knowing you have to die to the world based on the old way. So, the practice of Buddhism is a constant process of dying and being reborn, dying and being reborn.
All of you know this from your struggles with meditation. You know, something comes up and you realize, “Ah, I’m going to have to let go of this, and this, and this.” And it’s painful to let go of all of that.
|This transcript by Ken McLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. This transcript has been edited to make it more readable. There may be minor differences between the audio file and the transcript.|