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2021 Joy of Living 3 Excerpts

▍JOL Level 3 is all about “wisdom”. What is “wisdom”?

Wisdom means your own mind, sometimes what we call “clarity” or “luminosity”. When you light a candle, that light automatically eradicates darkness. So, clarity and luminosity are your own mind.

Actually, wisdom is with us twenty-four hours. Our mind always has clarity and luminosity. Without luminosity and without clarity, we cannot have mind. But the problem is that it is too close to us and so we cannot see it. When it is too easy, we cannot believe it. So, we need to practice step by step.  


Discover your own treasure, recognize innate qualities.

First, we need to recognize that which obscures us. So how to see these obscurations? There is a traditional example showing how our true nature is like a diamond, but the diamond is covered by mud. So the mud is the “obscuration”.

For example, let us say there’s a diamond covered by mud in a poor person’s house, but that person is unable to recognize that big diamond there. So, this person lives his life in suffering and in poverty. He doesn’t have enough money or enough food to eat, he has few things to wear and the house is half broken, so he has big problems. Then that person meets a treasure hunter who then discovers a diamond in this person’s home. The treasure hunter then cleans the mud from the diamond, and actually discovers the biggest diamond in the world. So now that poor person lives a very happy and rich life.

Actually, that person was rich from the beginning because he had the biggest diamond in the world. But the problem was not recognizing his own diamond, therefore he suffered a lot. So it is the same with us: we have this diamond with us — our true nature, awareness, love and compassion and wisdom are with us all the time but we just do not recognize.


To see as it is!The true nature of things

How to get rid of this ignorance? We need to see the nature of reality as it is. We need to see things as it is!

To see the nature of reality, we need to choose one object. Because now our mind is very small and limited, we cannot study the entire universe, all phenomena, and we don’t have enough time. Even if we did that, if we don’t have the right tool or right method, we cannot get the real answer.

Therefore, two things are very important.

First, we need to know the right method.

Through scientific investigation, we can understand a lot, but some situations cannot be solved by the scientific way. Only by using the thinking and dualistic mind, we cannot really get the whole answer.

You all learn about calm abiding in the Joy of Living Level 1, so you have a taste of that. Even though you are not yet a master of it and have not attained a high level of samatha meditation, at least you have some experience. If you try the homework, you will experience resting, and how to be with things as they are.

Another aspect is to connect with awareness, love and compassion. This is a very important tool. By Joy of Living Level 2, I believe that you all know how to be with it. Now you have the right tool and technique.

Second, the right object

If we choose any object, and explore that object well, finally we will get the real wisdom and eliminate ignorance. For example, this glass of water in my hand. If you explore the nature of glass and water with awareness, love and compassion, you can become fully enlightened.

But there is one problem: anything you choose, if your mind face outside and explore reality, it will take a long time. Therefore, now we need to choose the best object. What do you think the best object here?


Through “I”, recognize the true nature

The best object is “me”.

You all have the concept of “me, me, me”, and this “me” is the source of everything. Who is happy? “I” am happy. Who is not happy? “I” am not happy. Who is confused? “I” am confused. The meaning of the entire universe is interpreted through you, “me” is the entire universe. “I” like this, “I” don’t like that. It is all about “me”.

Normally we don’t understand who we are, nor do we really look at ourselves. We just believe and assume that there’s a “me”. And what we think about “me” mostly comes from what other people think of you. For example, my friend told me that I am like this, my father and mother told me I am like that. When we explore “ourselves” with awareness, love and compassion, that is really the best object, and very quickly we begin to recognize our true nature.


Can you differentiate “true relative” from “fake relative”?

When you look at the Buddha’s teachings in the sutras, he mentioned two realities: relative reality and absolute reality.

These two realities are always with us: relative reality is not true, it is fake; what is true, is absolute reality.

Absolute reality is the way things are, and relative reality is the way things appear. They seem to look alike but what we see and experience is relative reality.

Within the relative truth, there are two: the “fake relative truth”, and the “true relative truth”. In the case of absolute truth, there the ultimate reality.

If we drink this glass of water, it is good for our body, it’s real, which is the true relative. When you squeeze your eyes to see the glass, you will see double images. The double glasses are not true, it is a “fake relative”. Something which does not exist in the relative level is “fake relative”.

Here are other examples to explain: (some of them are made by students)

1. When we look up at the sky at night, we see clouds floating over the top of the trees. It feels as it the trees are moving but this is perception is “fake relative”, while the trees are “true relative”.

2. The reflection of moon in the lake
The moon in the lake doesn’t exist, so the image of the moon is “fake relative”. But the real moon in the sky is “true relative”.

3. Worldly love
If someone shows you fake love which doesn’t exist, it’s “fake relative”. If you have real love, that is “true relative”.

4. Worries
Scientists say that 99% of our worries may not be true, so actually lots of them are “fake relative”.

5. Rinpoche on computer screen
If you perceive that is real, that is “fake relative”, but if you see my image on the screen as not me, that is “true relative”. So “fake relative” or “true relative” depends on how we see.


Suffering is caused by the fake ‘me’ or unhealthy self

From the absolute level, both the fake relative and true relative are not real. But within the relative, there are two: “fake of fake” and “true of fake”. When we practice, we need to eliminate the fake relative, but still need the other two: true relative and absolute reality.

Why do we need to remove the fake ‘me’? Because it is the cause of suffering, fear, disappointment, hatred, panic, depression, the five poisons and so on. For example, there is jealousy when we think, ‘he or she is better than me.’ The jealousy comes from the fake ‘me’.

When we practice more, we can see the fake ‘me’ and the healthy sense of ‘me’ will emerge and help us understand ourselves and others (compassion). If we continue to look, we will discover the luminous self (the ‘self beyond self’).


Awareness is like sunlight, the “unhealthy self” will melt away automatically

So how to get rid of this “unhealthy self”? If you want to cut off this “fake self” from now on, it doesn’t work.

Remember “pizza meditation”? When you say “no pizza, no pizza”, what happened? You will think about pizza more.

If you don’t want “unhealthy self”, only want “healthy self”, it doesn’t work. So, what we can do? Actually, very easy. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to get rid of this unhealthy self or try to make a healthy self.

All you need to do is one thing — whatever comes in your mind, be with it. When you see this “me”, just be with the feeling of “me”.

It is like putting ice under the sun. The sunlight will melt the ice automatically. The sun doesn’t think that “I need to melt that ice”, and the ice also doesn’t think that “I need to be melted by the sun”. Things are happening naturally. Awareness is like the sunlight, when the innate awareness expands, unhealthy self will automatically melt away.

The world is like a “dream pizza”

When you fully recognize emptiness, you will get total freedom and liberation! But as long as our shared common shared is not gone, the samsaric show is still continuing, as in a dream.

Let us say you are hiking in the Himalaya mountains and you find that there’s no pizza up there, but you really want to eat pizza. One night you have a wonderful dream in which someone was making pizza, and he said, ’Hi, would you like some pizza?’ And you happily thanked him and take the pizza. In the dream it’s a hot, aromatic pizza, with the sizzling sound of a newly baked pizza. And then you were so happy.

The pizza in the dream was quite hot, and so you could not touch it with your hands. The smell was so nice, it seemed to have some weight and the pizza just looked perfect.

You were so happy and considered it so precious, so you began to do some special prayers and offering. When your eyes were closed, a big bird came and took your pizza. You felt so sad in the dream and when you woke up, you realised that your pillow was wet with tears.

Was that dream pizza real or not?

You can say it was real, and also that it was not real.

The pizza in the dream was real. You could see, you could hear the sizzling sound, you could have the tasty pizza. When you had the pizza in the dream, you felt so happy. When was taken by the bird, you felt so disappointed.

These events existed in the dream. But at the same time, it was also not existing. Because the dream-pizza didn’t have even a single atom of real pizza. Dream-pizza is not real, yet it is not nothing. These two are one, that is a good example of emptiness. Now all of us and the entire universe are like dream-pizza. We are not real, yet not nothing. That is the main meaning of the Heart Sutra: form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”


The key of freedom—recognizing this reality as only a dream

Let me ask you a question. If you meet a tiger in a dream, what is the best solution when you don’t have to wake up?

The right answer is to recognize that you are dreaming.

Recognize “dream as dream” is the most powerful solution, and key to freedom in the dream.

If you can recognize it’s a dream, the dream does not need to disappear. You can go on dreaming, waving your hand to the tiger, and he won’t eat you.

You can fly in the sky, walk on the ocean, or jump into the fire without getting burned. At the same time you don’t need to follow the dream rules, that is real freedom.

But at the same time, you can have your dream, still enjoy your dream.

That is the same meaning of emptiness, samsara is just like a dream. When you fully recognize samsara as emptiness, just like recognizing that you are in a dream, then you can be free from karma, free from subject and object. You are free from time, matter, yes, no, both, neither. You are free from all these boxes.

At the same time, we can still see, hear, just like in the dream, everything can appear, yet we are free from it.


Practice again and again, transformation will happen automatically.

Now you all understand emptiness. But are you free now? Liberated now?

Actually, no because the knowing of emptiness has to be transformed at three levels:

1. intellectual level;
2. experiential (or feeling) level; and
3. direct realization level.

From the intellectual level to the experiential level, and then to the direct realization level, you have to practice emptiness again and again, to analyze who am “I”?

My body is emptiness, my mind is emptiness, everything is emptiness. To recognize I am emptiness, and be with that.

If you can find the ‘I’, see it like a dream; if you cannot find it, just be with that.

You have to practice this again and again. Then transformation will happen automatically.

That’s the main practice. Even if we presently don’t have any direct realization, or even if we have some doubt, it’s ok. The Buddha said, “If someone had doubt about emptiness, even that doubt can become the cause of purifying negativity, bad karma, and become seed of liberation.” Now we all have some belief about emptiness therefore we already have the cause of liberation.