Mind in Comfort and Ease

The Vision of Enlightenment in the Great Perfection

Author : Dalai Lama

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Mind in Comfort and Ease

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Synopsis

In these special teachings given to an audience of 10,000 in France in 2000, the Dalai Lama gave a brilliant overview of the path from the Dzogchen point of view, based on the classic Nyingma text Samten Ngalso by Longchenpa, from the Trilogy on Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation on the Great Perfection (or Kindly Bent to Ease Us).

"Like an expert jeweller the Dalai Lama set the teaching of Dzogchen within the context of the other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, highlighting their parallels and their uncommon ultimate aim of realizing the clear light nature of the mind." Sogyal Rinpoche.

"One of the absolutely best and richest books on meditation practice that I have ever read, offered by His Holiness with remarkable precision and clarity, and with astonishing humility and candor. This book has it all." Jon Kabat-Zinn.

"Tibetan Buddhism's sublime science of consciousness finds lucid expression in the teachings on the Great Perfection. In this book, His Holiness the Dalai Lama draws on his vast learning and insight to reveal both the meaning of the Great Perfection and its place within Buddhism as a whole. This beautifully translated book is a treasure, of great value to all who are interested in fathoming the secrets and possibilities of the mind." B.Alan Wallace.

"All who wish to be at ease in the awakened, boundless, sublime nature of their own mind - Buddhahood - should read this book." Tulku Thondup.

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Preface

"CAN YOU TELL us something about your extraordinary destiny?" asked a journalist as His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived at Lerab Ling on the morning of September 17, 2000. His Holiness turned to him and said, 'All human beings have an extraordinary destiny! Sometimes things bring us joy and, at other times, sadness. But these ups and downs are part of everyone's destiny. I believe the most important thing in this existence of ours is to do something that can be of benefit to others. What we need more than anything is to develop an attitude of altruism-that is what truly gives meaning to life. The fact of having been recognized as the Dalai Lama allows me on various occasions to do a bit of good around me. This is the path I try to follow, to the best of my ability"

In these few words, the Dalai Lama captured the message of compassion and altruism that has made him known throughout the world and that figured prominently throughout his visit to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France in September 2000. This was His Holiness' seventeenth visit to France, and in the course of the year leading up to it, three very different events took place that vividly displayed the scope of his compassionate action in the world. The first was in 1999 with the publication of Ethics for a New Millennium, in which the Dalai Lama distilled his sixty-year study and practice of Buddhism into a nonreligious, but fundamentally spiritual, vision for individuals and society based on the training of the mind. He called for a spiritual and ethical revolution-"a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self, toward the wider community of beings with whom we are connected." Ethics for a New Millennium is a handbook for human survival, which begs to be put into action with imagination and rigor, by being translated into a practical program of training and education.

The second was in March 2000, when His Holiness met with a group of neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, and Buddhist practitioners in Dharamsala in India, for the eighth in the series of conferences organized by the Mind and Life Institute. These ground-breaking meetings have constituted the most profound and important collaboration ever to have taken place between Buddhism and the sciences. The 2000 dialogue studied destructive emotions and led directly to a number of far-reaching initiatives in research into the effects and applications of meditation training. Experiments took place the following year in the United States in Madison, Wisconsin, on the effects of meditation practices on brain function, which involved experienced Tibetan Buddhist practitioners and received attention not only from the world press but also from prestigious scientific journals. Many people began to realize the extraordinary repercussions if the universal value of Buddhist contemplative techniques for training the mind in meditation and compassion were to become more widely recognized. The momentum of this seminal meeting in 2000 continues still; in 2005 His Holiness addressed the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC, and the following year published The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, wherein he describes this encounter of science and spirituality as having "farreaching potential to help humanity meet the challenges before us."

Lastly, after visiting Poland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden in the early summer of 2000, His Holiness traveled to the United States on his last trip abroad before going to France in September. He took part in the massive Folklife Festival, "Tibetan Culture Beyond the Land of Snows," in Washington, DC. There, on July 2, in an hour-long free public speech to fifteen thousand people on the National Mall, he made a powerful plea for inner values, basic human qualities, and concern for others: "In modern times, I feel it is vitally important to promote basic human values. Otherwise in the future, material development will be our only goal, and inner values will be neglected. Then humanity will face many more problems." But what most people there will remember is His Holiness' uncompromising words on the damage to the environment caused by the richer nations and by those striving to copy the American lifestyle and pattern of wealth and consumption. He warned of the long-term global dangers of economic and social inequality at its present scale, and he spoke explicitly about Washington's poor. To a mounting tide of applause, he said: "This is the nation's capital, in the richest country in the world, but in some sections of society here people are very, very poor. This is not just morally wrong, but practically wrong. . .We need to close the gap between the rich and poor."

A revolutionary formula for a saner and more peaceful world, a groundbreaking collaboration of science and spirituality, and a deep and outspoken concern for humanity and the planet-these powerful examples of the Dalai Lama's compassionate involvement with the world all formed part of the background to his visit to France in 2000.

THE CONTEXT OF THE TEACHINGS

Beginning in 1991, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began to give a regular series of Buddhist teachings for a federation of the Tibetan Buddhist centers in France, and in 2000 it was the turn of the centers grouped geographically in the Golfe du Lion region, near Montpellier in southern France.' The honor of arranging His Holiness' teachings fell to Lerab Ling, which is Rigpa's main international center, founded by Sogyal Rinpoche and now at the heart of his work. Chosen and blessed by Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and consecrated in 1991 by Kyabjé Dodrupchen Rinpoche, Lerab Ling became the site for Rigpa's summer retreats from 1992 onward, since when many eminent Tibetan Buddhist masters have been invited to teach and retreats have taken place continuously. In the ancient Occitan language, the original name for the site means "the place of springs," and its wooded slopes, streams, and meadows lie on the edge of the immense Larzac plateau, most of which is national parkland.

In September 2000 for two weeks, monks from the Namgyal Monastery led by Khamtrul Rinpoche and their abbot Jadho Rinpoche, conducted an intensive group practice at Lerab Ling, a drupchen of Vajrakilaya according to the terma revelation of Lerab Lingpa, Sogyal Rinpoche's previous incarnation. His Holiness' arrival was timed to allow him to preside over the final day and culmination of the drupchen and to grant the empowerment for this practice the following day. Also present was Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche, from whom His Holiness was receiving the transmission of The Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease, an important work by the great Dzogchen master Longchen Rabjam (1308-64). This was the context for his choosing to comment on and explain one of the texts in the trilogy, Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation on the Great Perfection, in Tibetan Samten Ngalso.

The teachings of Dzogchen, or Great Perfection, are treasured at the heart of the 'Ancient," or Nyingma, tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which dates back to the eighth or ninth century, when Buddhism was established in Tibet by the great Guru Padmasambhava, King Trisong Detsen, and the scholar-abbot Shantarakshita. The origins of Dzogchen are traced to the primordial buddha, Samantabhadra, from whom a living heritage of wisdom has been transmitted from master to disciple in an unbroken lineage down to the present day. Dzogchen is described as "the primordial state, that state of total awakening that is the heart-essence of all the buddhas and all spiritual paths, and the summit of an individual's spiritual evolution." While considered the very pinnacle of all teachings, the practice of Dzogchen is also renowned as particularly clear, effective, and relevant to the modern world and the needs of today.

His Holiness divided his teachings into two sections. First, he gave an introduction to the key principles of the Buddhadharma. Second, to demonstrate how to take the teachings to heart and practice them, he began to explain the root text of Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation on the Great Perfection. At the same time, he gave the oral transmission for the whole of the root text.

In choosing to teach on a text by Longchenpa, His Holiness was going to the very heart of the ancient Nyingma tradition and its Dzogchen teachings. The "omniscient" Longchen Rabjam was one of the greatest scholars and realized masters of Tibet, who gathered and synthesized all the traditions of Dzogchen in Tibet, setting out a complete foundation for the study and practice of Dzogchen in his extraordinary writings such as The Seven Treasuries, The Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease, The Trilogy of Natural Freedom, and The Three Inner Essences.3 The great Dzogchen master Patrul Rinpoche (1808-87), to whom His Holiness often refers in his teachings, wrote:

So did this omniscient master reveal in his sublime works
The entire range of the Victorious One's teachings.
Never before had any of the wise masters of India or Tibet
Left such a legacy to the world.

Nyoshul Khenpo (1932-99), who was such an authority on Longchenpa and his works that many of his students regarded him as Longchenpa in the flesh, wrote: "Longchenpa appeared in this world as a second primordial buddha Samantabhadra, transmitting teachings with the lion's roar of the three categories of Dzogchen. . .His works are indistinguishable from the words of the Victorious One and constitute an inconceivable body of secrets. Simply to read them causes realization of the wisdom mind that is the true nature of reality to arise in one's mind."

Longchenpa composed The Trilogy on Finding Comfort and Ease at his hermitage of Orgyen Dzong, located at Gangri Thokar in central Tibet to the south of Lhasa, where he taught and composed many of his works such as The Seven Treasuries. In his own catalog of his writings, dividing them into outer, inner, and secret, he placed The Trilogy in the secret category and within the more general explanations that, he said, "serve to show how the Dzogchen path, together with its fruition, is in accord with, and incorporates, all the other vehicles, so that one can understand the ultimate point of these vehicles: that they are simply skififul preliminary paths leading to the path of Dzogpachenpo."

Nyoshul Khenpo gathered Longchenpa's works on Dzogchen into three groups:

First are those that represent the extensive, scholarly, or pandita's approach, principally The Seven Treasuries and The Trilogy of Natural Freedom. This group also contains commentaries such as Longchenpa's overview of the tantra The All-Creating Monarch, which constitute the portion of his writings concerning the category of mind. The portion of his writings related to the category of space in this extensive scholarly mode includes a short text known as The Vast Array of Space, along with his commentary.

The second group is that of the profound, kusuli's approach, that is, the streamlined approach of a Dzogchen yogi. This group consists of the three Yangtik cycles that Longchenpa revealed:

The Innermost Heart Drop of the Guru (Lama Yangtik), The Innermost Heart Drop of the Dakini (Khandro Yangtik), and The Innermost Heart Drop of Profundity (Zapmo Yangtik). These teachings are designed for the very unelaborate lifestyle of a wandering yogi or someone in retreat.

The third group consists of the teachings that are the underpinnings of both the extensive, scholar's approach and the profound, yogi's approach. These are Longchenpa's teachings on the graduated path-lamrim. The most well known is The Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease, which comprises Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind (Semnyi Ngalso), Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation (Samten Ngalso), and Finding Comfort and Ease in the Illusoriness of Things (Gyuma Ngalso).

Longchenpa explains the sequence of the three works in The Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease:

In the beginning, when we first set out on the path, it is important that we establish a good foundation in the Dharma, and that is why the thirteen chapters of Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind offer an elaborate explanation of the bases for the view that is beyond the two extremes, from the difficulty of finding the freedoms and advantages onward. At the same time, they also explain aspects of the stages of the path and fruition.

Once we have understood the ground, we can begin meditation on the path, and so the four chapters of Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation offer a step-by-step explanation of the places where meditation can be practiced, the types of individual suited to the practice, the techniques we can use in meditation, and the types of concentration that can be achieved.

While this path is being practiced it is important to have teachings on nonattachment and nonclinging toward phenomena. So, as a support, a clear and elaborate presentation of the stages of action is given in the eight chapters of Finding Comfort and Ease in the Illusoriness of Things. These chapters reveal, thoroughly and without any error, how to relate to all phenomena, and how to experience them as the eight similes of fflusoriness.

His Holiness frequently quotes Longchenpa's works in his teachings on Dzogchen in the West and in 1989 based his teachings in San Jose, California, on sections from The Precious Treasury of the Dhannadhatu.7 When he visited the Dzogchen monastery in south India in December 2000, at the invitation of His Eminence the Seventh Dzogchen Rinpoche, he also gave a transmission and teaching on both Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind and Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation.

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