Friday, August 8, 2014


Joel AgeeJune 15

Dharma and Marriage
Lama Shenpen Hookham
Summary: Lama Shenpen gives Dharma advice to a student about to get married.

A student writes:

"I wanted to share with you our wonderful news. My partner and I are to be married in September.

It is so wonderful to find a friend to share my life path with!

Can you tell me please, of some readings, or prayers, that would be good for our wedding ceremony? Also, your thoughts on marriage, and sharing life together."

Lama Shenpen:

How lovely to hear from you. Congratulations on your forthcoming marriage.

I cannot think of any particular readings right now.

In general it is wonderful to find a companion to share one’s life with but particularly so if that companion is helping and supporting us on our spiritual path. Best of all is when both people in the partnership are able to support and help each other as Dharma companions.

I believe this happens because of our strong pranidhanas (clear intention prayers - ed.) in past lives and having met again and again as Dharma companions in past lives. It is important to make pranidhanas for future lives too.

The important thing is to keep a good samaya between you and to remember what Khenpo Tsutrim Gyamtso said when blessing a couple’s marriage – he told them to always remember that the good qualities that they see in each other are the manifestation of their Buddha Nature and their bad qualities are illusory and empty like dreams and illusions.

The good qualities therefore represent what is real and permanent about them and the bad qualities what is impermanent and mere illusion.

Isn’t that excellent advice?

I wish you much happiness in your lives together.
With much love
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    Goose Saver, Wil Kin and 4 others like this.
    Joel Agee I'm struck by her distinction between a permanent Buddha nature and transient illusory confusions.
    June 15 at 12:58am · Like · 1
    Soh Lama Shenpen is an expounder of Shentong, so it is kind of not surprising.
    June 15 at 1:04am · Edited · Like
    Joel Agee I thought so. Good to know. Is her Shentong different from Jax's?
    June 15 at 1:06am · Like
    Soh I'll let you decide for yourself.

    Summary: If the self is non-existent, what motivates people to do things?

    A student writes:

    I know you are very busy, but I was very puzzled about no-self as discussed in book 3 of the course (Discovering the Heart of Buddhism).

    What I cannot understand is that if the self is non-existent, what motivates people to do things, such as this course?

    Lama Shenpen replies:

    Do I actually say that the self is non-existent? I didn’t mean to. What the Buddha always taught was that what was impermanent, unsatisfactory and not as we wanted it could not be the self - the self is the one who wants happiness and none of the things we grasp at as self provide that happiness - our whole idea of our self causes us suffering - so who is the us that discovers that? It is the un-grasping self, the true self, the self that is not impermanent, not suffering, that is as we want it to be. It is the Buddha Nature. When we discover that, we realise that this is what we always wanted but sought in the wrong place in the wrong way. We found aspects of it that we tried to grasp at and own but they just became unsatisfactory as soon as we grasped them -in fact we tried to grasp them only to find we had grasped at thin air - but instead of just ceasing to grasp, we became terrified and grasped more and more - and became more and more confused and still were left with just thin air. It is only when the fundamental awareness of our being turns towards that thin air, and recognises its experience of itself for what it is, that it can relax the grasping reaction and let that truth be.

    You could call that the end of ego grasping and the life of the true self - or true nature - the ultimate reality of what we are. It is not something we can know by the grasping mind. It is not something to believe in as a concept – it’s a reality that discovers itself!

    So it itself is motivated to discover itself and do this course!


    If it is purely awareness reacting to circumstances, we would not get out of bed.

    Lama Shenpen:

    Volition is actually an aspect of that fundamental awareness - even our volition that tries to grasp, is an aspect of fundamental awareness - but it is confused awareness. It wants the joy of life to the full, it wants the happiness of all beings, but in its confusion it does not recognise that this is possible and so chooses lesser goals that seem more attainable. Actually none of the lesser goals bring the happiness it longs for - nonetheless the search for happiness drives us on and on from life to life. What will stop that? Realising that happiness is in awareness itself and so giving up searching for it elsewhere. That is what motivates you to follow this course. A part of you - the Buddha nature part - recognises something true about what you are discovering in your direct experience and that is motivating you to look deeper - because it’s true and it brings a feeling of rightness and happiness. Even if it’s painful, it feels alive and true and as if all this is going somewhere meaningful.

    And all that is sensed by awareness itself as within itself, not something that it can grasp as an idea but something it can live, it can follow and it can find meaning in.

    Do you think that is true?
    June 15 at 1:17am · Like · 1
    Travis Eneix This post, and conversation, comes at a perfect time for shifts and openings occurring in my recent meditations.

    Can someone point out an English version of "shentong"? Thanks!
    June 15 at 2:30am · Like
    Kyle Dixon Shentong is 'gzhan stong' is Wylie. And translates to 'empty of other'.
    June 15 at 3:09am · Like
    Travis Eneix Got some resources to expand on that Kyle?
    June 15 at 3:11am · Like
    Soh There are various strains of Shentong, some are more extreme and prone to the wrong view of eternalism from the perspective of Buddhadharma (that is their views are akin to the Vedantic sort of view), however, some are quite balanced, it all depends on who teaches.

    Anyway you can read more about Shentong here:
    June 15 at 3:22am · Like · Remove Preview
    Travis Eneix Thanks Soh. I will check the link out. Hopefully there is something in there I can grok. Cheers!
    June 15 at 3:23am · Unlike · 1
    Soh Also this book is not bad on the subject:
    Shentong and Rangtong: Two Views of Emptiness
    The Mahayana path of Buddhism requires the development of wast loving-kindness a... See More
    June 15 at 3:24am · Like · Remove Preview
    Kyle Dixon I would say Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche's exposition on gzhan stong in his book 'The Progressive Stages of Meditation of Emptiness' is a safe bet. Gzhan stong is a tricky subject, when done right it can be a good view, however sometimes its position is interpreted in an eternalistic way, which I don't believe is its intention.

    Jamgon Kongtrul's gzhan stong is also a safe bet, because it is considered to be 'white' gzhan stong, which is a transitional view between Yogacara and Madhyamaka. The other type is 'black' gzhan stong, which is more so what you find in some interpretations found in the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism, it tends to be a little more essentialist.
    June 15 at 3:25am · Like
    Travis Eneix Thanks again, Soh. I've put it on my wishlist. What I really wish though is that it were available on Kindle. I have precious little space to put more physical books.
    June 15 at 3:25am · Like
    Travis Eneix Kyle, thanks. Can you expand on how you are using the words "eternalistic" and "essentialist"? There is something I am missing in what you just wrote, and I think those are the key words I am missing.
    June 15 at 3:27am · Like
    Travis Eneix Apologies if the group as a whole has come to some agreed definition of those terms which I missed.
    June 15 at 3:28am · Like
    Joel Agee A reply to Soh's question: "Do you think this is true?"
    June 15 at 3:31am · Like
    Joel Agee I’m not in a position to resolve whether this is true or not. It’s very similar to the way teachers like Rupert Spira talk about Awareness as a self-existing eternal something that enjoys itself in self-recognition. In my experience, this does not hold up to scrutiny. But maybe there are subtle aspects to her view that I’m not aware of.

    It’s odd that she uses “emptiness” only in the negative sense of “unsatisfactory.” Naturally the self as she describes it is exempt from emptiness in that sense.

    I like the generous and affirming perspective she gives on the dharmic potential of a marriage. Also her advice to make pranidhanas.
    June 15 at 3:32am · Like · 1
    Soh Yes, I agree, it is also the case here that Awareness as a self-existing eternal something does not hold up to scrutiny. Well it used to utterly seem to be that way - that is, Awareness utterly seems to be changeless, and is sort of like an all-encompassing backdrop containing and embracing changing thoughts and perceptions but remains as the one factor that remains unchanged is I - doubtless pure presence-awareness - ground of Being itself. This is the case even when nondual glimpses lead to seeing the inseparability of awareness and content. That is until the Bahiya Sutta realization.

    We understand each other well. From your sharings you undergone quite a similar progression.
    June 15 at 3:35am · Edited · Like · 1
    Soh Yes it is always good to focus on someone's good points... dwelling into the faults of others are what Buddha and all the Buddhist masters has told us not to do so.

    This is discussed in details in
    Aghatavinaya Sutta: Subduing Hatred (2)
    Ven. Sariputta said: "There are these five ways of subduing hatred by which, whe... See More
    June 15 at 3:38am · Like · 1 · Remove Preview
    Soh By the way I did not ask "Do you think this is true" lol, that was from the article by Lama Shenpen. But thanks for sharing.
    June 15 at 3:39am · Edited · Like · 2
    Travis Eneix I like to keep Wittgenstein's distinction in my back pocket for these sorts of conversations: (paraphrase here) "As philosophers we are not involved in a search for truth. What we are after is the true enough."
    June 15 at 3:39am · Like · 1
    Piotr Ludwinski
    June 15 at 3:41am · Like · 1
    Joel Agee "by the way I did not ask 'Do you think this is true'" -- lol, that is funny! Well, I took her question to heart.
    June 15 at 3:44am · Unlike · 1
    Kyle Dixon Travis, eternalism or essentialism would be erring into a view where one aspect of experience, such as cognizance or awareness etc., is viewed as independent, unconditioned, inherently existent, infallible, truly existent etc.
    June 15 at 3:57am · Like
    Travis Eneix Ah, got it, Kyle. Thanks. I grok. My response to any such claims is usually to reach for my back pocket where the Wittgenstein is kept.
    June 15 at 4:12am · Like
    Joel Agee Travis, can you show me the context of Wittgenstein's "true enough"?
    June 15 at 4:32am · Edited · Like
    Travis Eneix I'll try and do some digging, Joel. I'll see what I can find.
    June 15 at 5:26am · Like · 1
    Travis Eneix One thing I find very laudable about other people is when they can rattle off book references at the drop of a hat. I have always been terrible at that.
    June 15 at 5:47am · Like
    Joel Agee Mainly I'm curious about the spirit in which it was said. The phrase "good enough" sounds lax, as if accompanied by a shrug. But Wittgenstein was a rigorous thinker. So I wonder how, in the context of that rigor, the "good enough" shows up.
    June 15 at 6:40am · Like
    Travis Eneix Well one thing, Joel is I think it's important to note that he said "true enough", and not "good enough." At least not when he got at the distinction I am mentioning.
    June 15 at 6:46am · Like · 1
    Joel Agee I meant to write "true enough" ! Clearly I was hearing it with an implication of "good enough," which I'm sure wasn't the case with Wittgenstein.
    June 15 at 7:13am · Like · 1
    Diana Galbraith I would love this experience as well!
    June 15 at 12:00pm · Like
    Diana Galbraith Two things to make a relationship work. Trust and communication.
    June 15 at 12:01pm · Like · 1

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