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Lions Roar : September 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2010 64 years old, a deep, consuming sense of dread began to take over my being. i couldn’t figure out what was happening to me or why. all i knew was that even the simplest things—like a thun- derstorm or the arrival of a stranger—could throw my mind into a tailspin. Fear would well up from the pit of my stomach and terrifying thoughts would crowd my mind, leaving me paralyzed with the feeling that something terrible was about to happen. this difficult period provided me with a powerful motivation to explore my mind and feelings. though i didn’t know much about meditation at the time, i had a vague sense that it could help me deal with my anxiety. For a while i tried to meditate on my own, but aside from a few fleeting moments of inner peace, the feeling of dread continued to follow me like a shadow. most winters my mother and i would travel from our vil- lage in the mountains to Kathmandu, where we would spend six months with my father, the great meditation master tulku urgyen Rinpoche. yap Rinpoche, as i affectionately called him, lived in a small hermitage on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley, where he taught his unique style of effortless meditation to students from all over the world. in the mornings, the monks and nuns from his hermitage would come to receive teachings about meditation or the rituals of tibetan buddhism, and in the evening he would teach his non-tibetan students. i would often sit quietly to the side and listen as he taught. though i didn’t really understand much of what he said, i yearned for the calm serenity that he radiated. at first i was so timid that i couldn’t muster the courage to ask him to teach me about medita- tion, but after a while my anxiety became so in- tense that it overrode my shyness. i still couldn’t ask my father directly, though, so i begged my mother to make the request on my behalf. i was overjoyed when she told me the news that he had agreed to teach me. at the same time as i was beginning to medi- tate, i was learning how to read and write. in the afternoons i would sit with my father in his meditation room, which had a huge window that looked out over the entire valley. as part of his daily practice, he chanted a text called The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena, which is considered one of the most elegant works on the great perfection, the most profound and treasured teachings of my father’s lineage. my father used this text to teach me how to read. as we sat together in his small hermitage, he would sing the words of the book to me in a beautiful melody and ask me to repeat after him. i would then do my best to imitate him, and eagerly wait for his approval. at the time, i thought he was just helping me learn to read, but looking back i can see that he was actually introducing me to the ground, path, and fruition of the great perfection. the gRound oF the gReat peRFection you might think that the hours i spent learning to sing the words of the Precious Treasury would eventually sink in, but i really had no idea what they meant. to me, the book was just a bunch of weird terms that didn’t mean a thing, but i liked it because of the soothing melody that my father used when he sang it to me. one day, as we sat together in his room chanting and meditating, i noticed a word that i’d heard my father say many times when he taught his students. “What does this word mean,” i asked, point- ing to the tibetan word ka dak. “oh, that’s a very important term,” he replied, pleased to see my interest. “do you remember what i told the students last night about the mind’s true nature?” the truth was that i didn’t understand much of what he said when he taught, so i looked down and shook my head in embarrassment. seeing my reaction, he patted me gently on the shoulder and said, “there’s no need to feel embarrassed. When i was young i had to learn the meaning of all these words just like you.” he then paused for a moment and looked at me with such affection that all my fear and embarrassment dissolved. “What i taught the students last night is that our true nature is completely pure and good. the word you asked about, ka dak, means ‘pure from the very begin- ning.’ it might not always seem like this is the case, but there isn’t the slightest bit of difference between your true nature and the buddha’s. in fact, even an old dog has this original purity.” “What does purity mean?” i asked. “purity means that our true nature is already perfect and complete,” he continued. “none of our confusion and fear can change this inner purity. it doesn’t get worse when we suffer or improve when we become enlightened like the buddha. We don’t need to add anything to it or take any- thing away, nor do we have to do something to get it. it’s here with us each and every moment, like a diamond in the palm of one’s hand.” “if our true nature is so wonderful,” i asked, “then why do we suffer?” “that’s a good question,” he answered. “the problem isn’t that we need to get something that we don’t already have, or that we have to get rid of all the things we don’t like. the buddha can’t magically appear and take away all our suffer- ing and confusion. the problem is that we don’t YongeY MingYur rinPocHe is a master in the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. He teaches throughout the world, bringing together tradi- tional Buddhist practice with con- temporary culture and science. His most recent book is Joyful Wisdom: embracing change and Finding Freedom. photobyRayellis