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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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Instructions for Equalizing and Exchanging Our Attitudes about Self and Others

Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche I
Munich, Germany, November 1982

Session Six: Final Assorted Questions

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:18:48)

Participant: He says in Western science it is said that any kind of mental activity needs as a basis some kind of body. What happens with the five skandhas in the bardo? How is mind functioning?

Alex: The five skandhas or does it have a body?

Participant: What happens to the skandhas at the moment of death?

Serkong Rinpoche: Buddhists would agree with the scientific position that you do need a body as a basis for the mind, and in the bardo or in-between state that comes after this life and before your next life; you do have all the five aggregate factors of experience complete. You do have a body in that state, but it’s an extremely subtle ethereal type of body and it’s in the form of what you’re going to be reborn as. But let’s say if it’s as a human, it’s as a small child that you will become in that next life and you’ll have all your senses complete. A bardo body is something that is extremely subtle and ethereal. For instance, it can walk through walls.

Participant: When you are using vajra and bells, which kind of puja do recite?

Alex: When you use vajra and bell you should use it to do the various practices of the highest class of tantra which is called anuttarayoga yoga, or the peerlessly integrated deity practices.

Participant: Where do you find these things?

Alex: You should ask the various teachers who are in this part of the world such as Geshe Rabten and others. Rinpoche says he visited the Schloss Nymphenburg [palace of the rulers of Bavaria] today and perhaps you may be able to find the rituals somewhere inside there. But, I’m only joking with you.

Participant: Rinpoche has said about two different views, about awareness that perceives voidness, and if the conventional “I” could perceive it. If Rinpoche could talk about this point some more?

Alex: What are you referring to, the two different types of consciousness that can take voidness?

Participant: Two views of awareness which perceive voidness.

Alex: Two views about the awareness that is the consciousness of voidness.

Serkong Rinpoche: What was mentioned is you have a difference in sutra and tantra not in terms of voidness as the object that is understood. What is understood is the same, but the consciousness that understands it is different. In tantra it’s a blissful type of consciousness that understands and realizes voidness; whereas, in sutra you don’t have the generation of a blissful type of consciousness or a blissful awareness with which you understand voidness.

In the four classes of tantra you have four different levels of blissful consciousness that take voidness as its object. You have the types of blissful consciousness that would arise from looking at your partner, and the blissful consciousness from exchanging smiles with your partner, and then a blissful consciousness from holding hands with your partner, and a blissful consciousness from being in sexual union with your partner. These are the four levels of blissful consciousness that take voidness as their object.

When you have a practice in which you have a blissful consciousness that arises from looking at the partner and this blissful consciousness takes voidness as its object, that’s the first class of tantra called kriya tantra or ritual deity behavior. When that takes voidness as its object, that’s the crucial thing of ritual deity behavior. Then when you have a blissful consciousness that arises from smiling at a partner and that takes voidness as its object, those types of practices are called charya tantra or behavioral deity practice. When you have a blissful consciousness from holding hands with a partner and that takes voidness as its object, those types of practices are called yoga tantra or integrated deity practice. When you have a blissful consciousness that arises from being in sexual union with a partner and that takes voidness as its object, then that type of practice is the peerlessly integrated deity practices of anuttarayoga tantra.

In this type of anuttarayoga practice, the highest practice, you take desire as a path because from desire arises this blissful type of awareness, and this blissful type of awareness is then used to understand reality or voidness. In that way you get rid of all desire and attachment. The example is like when you have a termite, a small insect that is born inside a piece of wood, it grows up and eats the entire wood away.

You have desire in anuttarayoga tantra taken as a path. From desire you develop a blissful type of awareness. With that awareness you understand reality or voidness, and by that awareness of reality it eliminates all desire and attachment. Because of being aware of reality, you get rid of all desire and attachment. It’s like the example of a termite that is born inside a piece of wood but then eats away and completely destroys the wood. Likewise, born from desire, it destroys and eliminates desire.

Participant: What is enlightenment?

Serkong Rinpoche: Enlightenment, you can understand as meaning either being totally clear minded and fully evolved, or being completely purified and achieving all growth. It means to have completely overcome and cleared out and purified yourself of all shortcomings, so that you’re clear-minded and purified on one hand; and on the other hand able to achieve all possible good qualities that can be achieved. That’s fully evolved or the highest level of growth. That’s the meaning of enlightenment. That’s to become a Buddha, that’s it.

When you speak about what is “purified” or “growth,” it means to purify all the shortcomings and achieve all good qualities through growth. When you speak of being clear-minded, it’s clearing away all the disturbing attitudes like opening up the curtain so you can see everything clearly, so clear-minded. Then fully evolved in the sense that once you’ve opened up the curtain of your mind and you’re fully clear-minded and can see everything, then you see the totality of everything and can evolve to your fullest potential.

Participant: You open the curtain and then you see all the qualities?

Alex: That then you can see everything so that you can evolve to the fullest because you can see everything.

Serkong Rinpoche: When you have the expression of perfectly enlightened, “perfectly” has the idea that you have no more faults. When you say fully, like perfectly and fully enlightened, the fully has the connotation that all possible good qualities are complete within you. Does that answer your question?

Participant: Yes.

Participant: Would you yourself know that you are enlightened?

Serkong Rinpoche: Once you’ve been crowned as a king, do you know that you’re king? Once that you’re a king you know that you’re a king, don’t you? It’s the same.

Participant: A king is okay, but if I'm enlightened...

Participant: Is getting enlightened something gradual or something sudden? He says there are certain persons where it is well known that they have gotten enlightened at a certain day, but he’s never heard that from Tibetan sources.

Alex: Which certain persons?

Participant: Buddha himself, he got enlightened at a certain date which is celebrated. Is it something sudden which happens at a certain date or gradual?

Serkong Rinpoche: Whoever becomes enlightened, it’s through a gradual process of having built up a tremendous amount of positive potentials and so on over many lifetimes, but when they actually do become enlightened, like the evening when the Buddha sat down, then all at once he became enlightened. It’s something that is very gradual, that is built up over a long period of time, but when it happens, then it happens. When you graduate from school is it a gradual process to graduate or do you just graduate all at once?

Participant: He asks what’s the difference between a university professor who knows forty thousand words and a person who milks cows who knows maybe a hundred and fifty words? What’s the difference?

Serkong Rinpoche: The only difference is that the one who only knows one hundred and fifty words hasn’t trained himself. Because he didn’t train, because he didn’t practice, because he didn’t learn, he didn’t become like the professor.

Participant: Maybe he didn't have the possibility to learn. It can’t be just that the cause is himself that he couldn’t learn more than a hundred and fifty words.

Alex: Of course you need the proper circumstances. Are there any further questions? No, then finished.