Wednesday, March 21, 2007

?The enemy is not out there?

Tibetan lama speaks about death

Express Staff Writer

Tibetan Lama Tenzin Dhonden drew from years of monastic studies and his own personal work with the dying during a teaching session in the Wood River Valley earlier this month on "Near Death Experiences."

Using translations from Tibetan texts on "Sutra" and "Tantra" traditions as well as stories from his experience as a Tibetan monk, Lama Tenzin presented an intricate outline of the many subtle categories of human thought and sensory experience that dissolve at the time of death. These categories are familiar to Tibetan monastics as they prepare for the 49-day intermediate "bardo" state between death and re-birth.

About 40 people attended the session at the home of David and Bex Wilkinson.

"The bardo is a state of wandering in which the soul is looking for something unique," Lama Tenzin said. "During the bardo state of mind, we go through the manifestations of our life experiences. Fear is the biggest obstacle in taking advantage of the bardo state. We should face our fear, analyze its nature, and ask why we take it so seriously. If you try to escape from it, you will never learn."

"The Sutra practice provides a background for Tantric practices," he said. "Sutra teaches the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings, which is buddhichitta. This is the method in sutra practice. It involves the six perfections: giving, morality, patience, concentration, effort and wisdom."

"In Tantric practice," he explained, "the unique method is the visualization of deity yoga. Rare practitioners will have the opportunity to visualize themselves as a deity. The visualization process is subtle and complicated, even envisioning entire mandalas. You can think of it as being compressed, digitized information, rather than an old single-frame movie."

According to Lama Tenzin, "Compassion beginning in the heart has no end. If it begins in the brain, it won't last very long. You see, the mind is self-grasping, and once grasping begins, you no longer have compassion. Compassion and kindness surpass all religion. The more you share yourself with others, the more peace you will experience. Jealousy and anger create fences between people. I want to see beyond the fence. Compassion is a genuine motivation to be in service to all living beings without having any expectation in return."

Lama Tenzin led a breathing practice and a guided visualization during his teaching, which drew from the 2,500-year-old Buddhist tradition. He also described some 22 distinct mental faculties, 25 gross bodily materials, and several categories of invalid thought or delusions inherent to the human condition, all with corresponding "karmic formations" that can be transformed into an experience of "clear light" during spiritual practice.

"There is no such thing as guilt in Buddhism," he said. "Everything can be purified through a deep sense of genuine regret and further good deeds in life. Someone who lives an ethical life and trains himself in meditation and compassion will have strength and focus of mind when he comes to the near-death experience. Without this, one loses focus and strength as he approaches the dissolution of life. The enemy is not out there. It is within us. It is a projection of our own thoughts. In the end, our life's perceptions are less important than how we take them into account."

Lama Tenzin advised praying for departing loved ones, asking "may all of their wishes be accomplished," rather than grieving in front of the dying person.

"Grieving will cause them to be sad and discouraged," he said. "The mind should be more happy than worried at the time of death. The mind in a state of fear is unstable. The more you rely on fear, the more unstable it becomes."

"The bardo is when we download all of our life's meditation experience," he said. "The highest practitioners are the ones with the most compassion. We never know who these people are. Only you can know. There is an unknown being inside us, one which even our closest friends and relatives cannot know."

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