Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen is a professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Co, and colleague of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche founder of Nalanda West and Nalandabodhi. Last weekend Lama Tempa was at Seattle’s Nalanda West where he gave a teaching entitled “Contemporary Dharma” that examined the “8 Worldly Dharmas” all of which are impermanent like the snow that fell on Seattle last night (Jan. 11, 2011). His initial focus was on the trials and triumphs of living life as a spiritual journey using the classic Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna’s teaching on the “Eight Worldly Dharmas.” These “Worldly Dharmas” are:
Gain & Loss.
Happiness & Pain.
Fame & Disgrace.
Praise & Blame.
All these conditions are present in our dualistic reality, and they create obstacles or adverse conditions to traveling on a spiritual dharma path. In other words, being attached to any of them will cause us to suffer. And if we really look, they fall into the Buddhist (and universal) category of impermanent, just like the “Snow Buddha” in the picture.
Still, we cannot have one of a pair without the other. As Buckminster Fuller said about such pairs of seeming opposites (tension & compression, love & hate, concave and convex, etc.), they “always and only coexist.” For example, in order to even recognize happiness, one has to have experienced unhappiness or pain. Without its dualistic opposite, the other phenomenon cannot exist in our worldly reality.
On day two of this teaching, Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen boiled these ideas down even farther to one set of issues – “hope and fear,” which from the Buddhist view represent adverse conditions (again impermanent) to being on a spiritual path. Lama Tenpa said that if one is rooted in hope and fear, he or she cannot be fully present in the moment. Thus, hope and fear critical aspects of being on a spiritual path because our minds tend to be constantly spinning from one or the other. We are fearful of some unknown thing in the past or in the imagined future. Or we are hopeful or fearful that some unknown thing will arise in the future.
In any of these instances, the unknown object or event exists only within our minds. Even if it occurred in the past, it no longer exists except within our imagination. It melts away quickly like snow in Seattle.
Lama Tenpa taught that if we continue to think about and pursue these thoughts, we are never present in this moment. Fortunately, simply watching a single breath as a form of meditation can help us to freedom. If a person is able to be fully aware of that single breath, one is present for that moment, and from that experience we can expand our consciousness and awareness to envelope larger amounts of time and space. We suffer because we make the mistake of believing that “hope and fear” are real and important when, in essence, they are actually formations of the mind that create obstacles to the freedom, peace and happiness we all want to achieve.
May we all find our “true roots” in the essence of our true nature as radiant, perfect beings born into a dualistic reality to learn and grow. And may we relaize that we do not have to suffer believing that anything (including the Buddha Snowman) is permanent.