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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 46 |buddhadharma That purpose is to free ourselves of self-grasping, and we are asked to investigate to what degree that is happening. on a relative level, then, we are on the path of developing toward enlight- enment. on the ultimate level, it is all simply a matter of being present with the perfection that is already there. at the end of dilgo Khyentse rinpoche’s com- mentary on The Seven-Point Mind Training, he says that when you come to the very end of the path, you lose even the preference for nirvana over samsara. You relinquish even the desire to achieve enlightenment. But you don’t want to lose that too soon. otherwise, you end up mucking about in samsara, like we all have been for countless lifetimes in the past. Ken MCLeod: when you are talking about just being simply present from the dzogchen or Mahamudra point of view, that’s a very profound way to be, whether on the mat or in your life. How to do that is where the skillful means comes in, which of course doesn’t mean just doing nothing. There has to be a maturation. one of the challenges we face in the west is that with so much information available, people are coming at Buddhism from all different perspectives – elementary, middle, and advanced. People may embark on something without the maturation required. sorting out what works for someone on the path can become very confusing, at which point a teacher can be extremely helpful. Judith Lief: it’s also important to be careful not to view any slogan purely in isolation, as if it is an eternal truth. The slogans work as a system. They balance one another. if you become too generous, so to speak, perhaps you need to sharpen up. if you are too sharp, perhaps you need to soften. if you take the slogans personally and you let them be mirrors, they expose the obstacles, shortfalls, pretenses, and mistaken views of all sorts that we need to bring to the path. buddhadharMa: some of these sayings are rather obscure. what does “of the two witnesses, hold to the principal one” mean? Ken MCLeod: i think it can be understood quite simply. if you find yourself in a situation where you know absolutely what is the right thing to do, and you know it is going to cost you some- thing – inconvenience, embarrassment, a friend- ship, a job – but you do it anyway, how long do you think about it afterwards? But if you don’t do the right thing, then how long do you think about it afterwards? That’s the internal witness, and it is more important than the other witness, which is people’s opinion of your behavior. buddhadharMa: what about deluding yourself? aLan waLLaCe: Certainly, self-delusion is very easy. one could pick up a book or take a short program and try to incorporate whatever meager under- standing one has gleaned into one’s pre-existing understanding. if one then tries practicing on one’s own with only intermittent contact with a teacher, or none at all, the possibilities of self-delusion are pretty enormous. People start thinking they have realized something profound. However, when one makes a genuine relation- ship with the dharma, there arises the possibility of depending on the teacher or the teachings to answer everything for you: “shucks, what do i know? i can’t evaluate myself. You tell me. You tell me.” That’s an infantile approach that won’t take one very far on the path. right from the start, one needs to be cultivating a clear awareness of the quality of one’s mental tendencies and one’s engagement with reality and then be in dialogue with a teacher. But in the final analysis, we have to be our own teachers. It’s important not to view any slogan in isolation, as if it’s an eternal truth. The slogans work as a system. They balance one another. — Judith Lief michAeldAVidmurphy