But the third one, the emptiness, it is very difficult to discuss. But yet it is the most important. I would say, out of these four, the third is the most important. For centuries, masters and saints all had tried to explain it. They sang songs about it. If you go to Tibetan monasteries, they even painted emptiness. I don't know if you have ever seen a blue, naked Buddha. No ornament. It represents the emptiness. The blue color represents the sky. The sky color again cross to the emptiness.
Remembering as I said yesterday? All these tools are just tools. They are not the actual truth. And I want to really emphasize this because many times we end up with falling in love with these tools. This is why I thought it is very interesting and important what Prof. Sharf said yesterday afternoon. Because as Buddhism travels to different places, the technique/the tools have to be changed. I was shocking to realize one of the greatest influence in Japanese Buddhism probably has a little bit of Christian influence. That is shocking.
These are important for specially academic students to know, not necessarily by practitioners. Because with these information we will be guarded from the misunderstanding.
My translator told me that in china when Buddhism was introduced in the beginning. Because the begging bowl, the Chinese couldn't really accept the whole Vinaya kind of phenomena that all believed in India. Because maybe Chinese are very practical people, they think the begging is not the right thing to do. You have to earn. Now in place like India, even today, a life that led with a begging and wander. They call it ...(Hindi). They consider it a very good life. It's a very honorable life. It's a very, what they call the right livelihood.
As the Buddhism is traveling, it becomes different. In Tibet, if a monk wears blue, the Tibetans will just condemn it. This is funny. Because actually the Buddha allows monks to wear blue. But I think because the king actually thought monks can only wear either red or yellow. That's why it became like that.
And many times, actually it becomes a little bit bad also, you know. The things like these culture influences. Like the Tibetan Mahayana. The Tibetan Buddhists are Mahayana Buddhists, they shouldn't really eat meat. But okay, in Tibet, maybe nothing grows. So they can eat meat. But When they are in places like Beijing, there are so many vegetables. So They should really eat vegetables. They still say, you know, we still have this old habit. They use Tantra as an excuse also. Oh…we are Tantra practitioners, so we can eat meat. So it is really important for academic students to know these things.
Okay, also the culture habit. Let me tease you a little bit. The Chinese value common sense. They are the people with a lot of common sense. Because their culture has taught them to value common sense. India? No common sense. Because they value wisdom, transcending the common sense. Stuff like reincarnation (Next life), it's nothing to do with the common sense. Common sense is very much about this life. Just trying to tease you so that you maybe become a little bit agitated with me. You know, why I'm telling you this is because of that the Buddhism also has to adapt.
Anyway, let's go back to the third view. Now to speak in very layperson's language: the emptiness. What you see is not what it is, that's emptiness. I think that's probably the best thing I could do right now. If you see your boyfriend or girlfriend is very handsome or beautiful, you have to realize that most of other people would think they are ugly. The beauty or the ugly is not there, empty of beauty and ugly. So everything that appears is not what it is. So they must ask what is really there. We human being always like to ask these questions: what is really there? Okay, how it appears is not what it is. So in that case, what is there? This habit of needing something there is very difficult to break.
So much so, even the Buddha indicated many times in many other Sutras, such as Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha nature, which is very much related to China. I think Xuanzang really liked this. Also, all my Chinese friends love Buddha nature. You see, again, the common sense is moving in here. If you do something, there is a beginning point, so the Buddha nature is good.
The Nagarjuna people like the Indians, they said nothing exists. Then if you ask, okay, what Buddha said about Buddha nature, what is that? There is a convenient way to say the Buddha nature is a name given to what they called the result of elimination. (The elimination of dualism—Rinpoche said this in the 2nd lecture.) And actually even Nagarjuna said, that is wonderful. Because of that, you could put it like this.
You could put everything like this. Go back to the beauty and ugly. If your boyfriend is really ugly, really ugly. Then other people would never think he is handsome. Because the ugliness is the truth. And the space is occupied by ugliness. I'm not talking about other people, even you yourself. In the evening, you found with the candle light your boyfriend is good looking. But in the morning when you waked up, who is this? You see, there's a change. This change can't take place if the ugliness really does exist outside.
These are probably the best thing I could do to really talk emptiness with very layperson's language. But even though it is something not expressible, it is something that can be experienced through examples. There are three basic experiences. They have a height ranking. The lowest, examples, like a dream, like magic, at the end of Diamond Sutra. That's the lowest way. Then the higher way: reasoning, which is like what we've talked about the beauty and ugliness. And that's probably what Mahayana people mostly do. Now for some Mahayana, especially the Vajrayana, then they say, if you have a master who can point out directly the experience of this emptiness, that's the best way! And this can come in the form of many things. I think the Zen people have Koans. Anyway, conclusion: what you see or how it appears is not what it is. That is the emptiness for now.
Next is nirvana. Nirvana is the fourth truth.
Nirvana in our head is something like you will get it after a long long time. Something like a heaven. That's not a good understanding of nirvana. Because Buddha said, Nirvana is beyond extreme. When all extreme is exhausted, that's the experience of nirvana.
Let me give you an example, this is from a Buddha Sutra. There is a girl dreaming and really longing for a child. She dreamed that she actually got pregnant and gave birth. She is very happy. In the same dream, the child died. She is unhappy. When she waked up, both that happiness and unhappiness have no reference. They don't exist. She is free from these two extremes. But this is difficult as I said before, because we already have painted a lot of these pictures, like the flowers, the Western Land and all that. They are very important. We need them. The Amitabha Sutra has many descriptions about the lotus land.
I always give this example. I'll give you this now. If you are asking me that do you really want enlightenment? I don't think so. Not because of my compassion that really drives me to samsara and help people. Nothing to do with that. Because I want to watch the World Cup and enjoy it. Because I want to read suspense books and see mystery movies. Do you know what happened when you get enlightenment? There is no time. The extreme of time is gone. There is no past, no present, and no future, which also actually means omniscience. So the whole next World Cup, everything, the results of play I know instantly. That's not fun. If you watch mystery movie, you know what will happen right from the beginning, you don't even have to watch the movie. No fun again. What I want to say is, usually, we are looking for an enlightenment that is partially omniscient, like enough to read your lover's diary or the like.
I'm telling you this is because I want to paint a picture of enlightenment, beyond time and beyond space. I do know you would think, wow…this is just beyond me. How I can do that? You should not be discouraged like this. This is doable. If you can really pursuit a path, let's say, a few minutes of meditation everyday, training your mind everyday. Now, I'd like to really mention this. People always recognized these sensations like, my forehead is itchy, or my third eye is about to burst out, or I had a good dream. Please don't speak about that. Because this is disgrace. It's not good.
The result of practice is when you began to have a little bit of shift. Let's say you are someone who gets so stuffed up when somebody is praising you, or get really depressed if someone criticizes you a little bit. Let's say, after a few years of mediation, you don't have much that kind of hang-ups. That is amazing! That is equal to ushnisha. The tip of Buddha's head. I mean even the smallest obsession, let's say you are someone who need to iron your underwear every night, because you are so obsessed with cleanness and tidiness. But after years of meditation, you think that doesn't matter, maybe your underwear haven't washed for two years. I would say it's a small enlightenment. That's what we are going to look for.
Before I close, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you a little bit Vajrayana. Because what we've been talking about is basically the common ground for both Vajrayana and Mahayana. By the way, Vajrayana is Mahayana. I'd like to really tell you, without Hinayana, there is no Mahayana. Without these two, there is no Vajrayana. I know the Vajrayana is very ***y in some places. Many people forgot its danger also. A classical example. If you have jaundice, and you are looking at a conch, you see it's yellow. I want to present you how Mahayana and Vajrayana deal with this. Mahayana and Hinayana, they say, look, you should eat this medicine. Your idea of yellow conch is wrong. You should eat medicine and get rid of that yellow conch. Now in the Vajrayana, they say it's a quick path. The reason why it's a quick path, they say it's because you bypass this thinking of yellow conch is wrong, I should eat medicine, so I can get rid of the yellow conch. They don't emphasize all these. Immediately, you begin to think it's white. Because it is white. You are looking at a conch. You are seeing at a yellow conch because you have jaundice. Then think, think and think it's white. The reason why I want to tell you this is because Vajrayana has rituals. All rituals involve deity. All the deities from your self-reflection are like six-armed and stuff like that. The reason why I say this is exactly why we talked about the conch. Instead thinking I will become him, I am him or her! But this has been misused a lot.
In fact, many Hinayana and some Mahayana, they don't believe Vajrayana is Buddhism. They think it is Hinduism. Especially the Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism is under scrutiny of many scholars. And rightfully so. I forget the name of this master. This Tibetan master was going to India. On the way in Nepal, a Hindu master was going inside to Tibet. They met on the road. A Hindu master was going in. A Tibetan master was going out. The Tibetan master asked this Hindu master, where are you going? The Hindu master said, oh, I'm going to Tibet to teach Buddhism. "But you are Hindu.""I'm very much Hinduism. But I know Buddhism. At the moment the Tibetans are so enthusiastic about Buddhism. They'll give me a lot of gold." We have a story like that.
There's another more interesting story. The Atisha Sagara, when he heard XXX died in India. He cried. His disciple asked him, you've heard so many bad news, but why you cry on this? He said, in whole this world, there are only two people who can actually differentiate between Hinduism Tantra and Buddhism Tantra. I am here in Tibet. The other one died in India. So there is no more who can differentiate that. We are talking about the thing happened more than a thousand years ago. I'd like to give you this. You need to think about it, and discuss it with people like him (Prof. Sharf).
Q & A.
Question : About retreat.
Retreat has a lot of definitions. Basically you are supposed to creat a boundary. There is an outer boundary such as I'm not going out of my room, out of my cave, or out of my monastery. Then you lock yourself in there for maybe one day, one year, one lifetime. Right? That's only the outer boundary. This kind of retreat is a sort of ordinary retreat. But the highest boundary you can make is between the past mind and the future mind. Being in the present. Even when you are brushing your teeth. That kind of retreat is the best.