Retreat discussion

Retreat discussion

Part of a series of teachings given during the Winter Retreat in November 2007 and from January to March 2008 at Sravasti Abbey.

  • Generating a proper motivation
  • Question-and-answer session:
    • Where does the mindstream reside?
    • Why do we get a buzz out of being angry?
    • Discussion on the causes of anger
    • Where is the obscuration in the mind?
    • Is there a vibe or energy to the Medicine Buddha’s qualities?
    • Do the Buddhas have karma?
    • What are the 12 links?

Note: Recording is incomplete

Medicine Buddha retreat: Q&A (download)


Let’s generate our motivation and especially since it’s Medicine Buddha wanting to heal our own mind from the afflictions; and by doing that to heal physically; and to be able to assist other sentient beings in healing from the defilements in their minds and generating their good qualities as well; and so aiming for full enlightenment to do this.

Ok. This is a Q&A session so the ball is in your park first.

Where the mindstream resides

Audience: I still don’t understand where the mindstream resides.

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): Where does the mindstream reside? Well, I thought about this myself and they say that at the time of conception that the mindstream you have unites with the sperm and the egg and then the sperm and the egg grow from there. And they say that the root of the mind abides in the heart, in other words at the time of death when all of the conscious sense-consciousnesses are losing their ability to function because the body elements can’t support them, then all of the consciousnesses absorb into a very very subtle consciousness at your heart charka. And then from there it leaves the body; the consciousness leaves the body.

But then they say that when you perceive objects the consciousness rides on the energy wind. So near your ear there is a certain energy wind and a consciousness operates in conjunction with that energy wind. They say things like this as if there is a specific place. But then when you think about it, the consciousness is formless. Formless means it has no form. It’s not made of atoms and molecules. How can something that’s formless be located somewhere? From another way of looking at it—that last part is my thinking. What did they mean it’s located inside the body? It’s not even form, how can it be located there? So maybe there are different ways of looking at it. Because they do say that it enters into the union of the sperm and the egg and it departs from the body via the heart charka, hopefully going out the crown, that’s more auspicious. But on the other hand, it’s not form. So those are my reflections. No answer, some reflections.

Anger—why it affects us

Audience: Why are human beings so receptive and accepting to being angry? It’s almost like we’re happy to be angry.

VTC: Okay, so why do we get a hit out of being angry? Why do we get a buzz out of being angry? Everybody get a buzz out of being angry? It’s a painful buzz, isn’t it? You know anybody happy when they’re angry? No, we’re miserable. So we’re totally miserable when we’re angry, but there is one part of our mind that really gets something out of it. We get some kind of buzz, some kind of hit, some kind of something.

Fire puja at the end of Medicine Buddha retreat.

Purification practice at the end of Medicine Buddha retreat. (Photo by Sravasti Abbey)

So in terms of my own personal reflections on this, one idea is if somebody says or does something that hurts me: they criticize me, they don’t acknowledge my achievements, they don’t approve of me, they don’t praise me, they don’t love me, you know, something like that. Then I feel hurt. Now when I feel hurt there is a certain kind of helpless feeling. When I feel hurt: you know the way deluded mind functions? When I feel hurt I feel like I have no power: “Somebody else hurt me. I’m vulnerable and they did it to me and I’m helpless and powerless.” And it doesn’t feel very good to feel helpless and powerless. And it doesn’t feel very good to have your feelings hurt, because you feel like somebody did something to you. So I think one way that we mask our hurt feelings is we get angry. Because when we get angry our nervous system jumps in, we get this whole adrenaline rush. The body’s all pumped up because the mind is thinking a few certain thoughts. So we get this adrenaline rush. So then all of a sudden, instead of feeling helpless, and listless, and hurt, and lying around, and powerless; we all of a sudden have this energy because the adrenaline, and we have a sense of power, and we’re angry, and “I am right and they’re wrong,” and, “I’m going to punch them in the nose,” or “I’m going to criticize them,” or “I’m going to do something.” You know. And because it’s the body and mind working together, it gives us a feeling that we have power.

Now of course we don’t have any more power than before we got angry. And in fact, actually we have less power when we’re angry because when we’re angry we don’t have any control over our mind. Our anger controls us. So it’s a very false sense of power. But it’s the body mind together, with adrenaline and everything that gives us that. And so it gives us a sense of power, that’s one function of it, and the second is that it masks our hurt. Or it distracts us from our hurt. Because sometimes we find it hard to admit that we feel hurt. Remember when we were talking before about how people don’t cry, you know guys don’t cry, not supposed to cry that kind of stuff. So then when your feelings feel hurt, then you feel kind of down, you might want to cry, but then if you have all this rubbish social conditioning you’re not supposed to cry then, what do you do? Well, you get angry, and then you no longer feel like crying. And you’re totally distracted from what your hurt feelings are. And so then you don’t feel vulnerable because you got hurt. You don’t have to look at all of that. Making some sense? So that’s one theory that I have about why we like getting angry.

Another theory is, and it’s not contradictory with the first one, is when we are angry, there is such a strong feeling of “I exist.” Isn’t there? It’s like nobody’s going to tell me at that time that the self doesn’t exist. “I exist because I’m angry.” There is this huge big “I.” So the self-centered mind, the self-grasping ignorance, it feeds, that’s what the self grasping ignorance apprehends is that inherently existent self. That solid self. So the ego mind, the self-grasping mind, the self-centered mind: it doesn’t like when the solid feeling of self starts to decompose. It wants to feel “I exist” and so when we feel angry, boy, no question about that. That’s kind of the ultimate in “I exist” isn’t it? You know, no himing and hawing about: “Do I exist or don’t I?” Or, “Gee, I went through the four-point analysis and the feeling of self feels a little bit vague.” None of that stuff—“Me!” So I think that’s another way in which we feed off of anger. But those are my reflections. What ideas to all of you have about why we get angry, and how you feed off of it?

Anger as expectation

Audience: Anger? Sometimes it’s the subject expecting something or something more from the other. Like, for example, during one of my journeys I go back home and my brother, my older brother he doesn’t say anything to me. Like I expect him to love me and then he doesn’t, he doesn’t play that part of my brother. So I get angry, you know. Hit the wall, and then they say it’s better than his face!

VTC: But that’s a very good example. It’s like you have this expectation of your brother, that he’s going to be interested in you, and he’s going to care about you and the way he’s going to care about you is ask how you were when you come home after you’ve been traveling. And then when he doesn’t do it, it seems like he doesn’t care about you, so you get angry at that. I would say in between your feelings got hurt. You expected something out of him.

Audience: … there shouldn’t be any expectations; there shouldn’t even be an idea of a connection; just because of coming out of the same womb like my brother … that seems more of an illusion now also.

VTC: So just seeing him as your brother and making that a solid category; and therefore having certain expectations and that he is not fulfilling your job description of a brother. So maybe you’re starting to question your job description of a brother. Like, “Why do we assume that because we came out of the same womb that we should have some kind of special connection?” We’re very different mindstreams from our siblings, aren’t we? Even from our parents.

Anger as judgment

Audience: Actually I had a further question with … all that makes really perfect sense and this seems to be the case most of the time. I know when we do the meditation about anger or hostility we label a lot of different things [as anger] and pretty much all those ill will feelings. And I don’t see that that is so much the case with, say annoyance; because sometimes I don’t like people just because they look funny. And it has nothing to do with them hurting my feelings. I just don’t like something. And it really isn’t even based on anything. It’s just, for some reason, I choose not like something. And so when it happens I get angry at the person. It just comes in. And I think that’s more of my version of anger; because I don’t really go into the belligerent state too much because it’s pretty obvious, to me at least. But the annoyance seems to be a lot more sneaky: that I can dislike somebody “Just because.” And so I am wondering what you think? Maybe, where that is? Or, for what reason? Where does that come from? Because it really doesn’t have any purpose.

VTC: Okay, so you’re giving me an example of when we make up judgments about people that we don’t even know, or people we know, and then almost everything they do is annoying to us. Anybody have that? Actually, this comes up a lot during retreat because you know you’re supposedly in silence but you get to know each other in all sorts of other ways.And so the mind just needs something to pick on. So you know who arrives 15 seconds late for things, you know who coughs in the middle of sessions, and you know who turns the pages is loudly, and you know who clomps in with their boots, and who has a certain kind of jacket that makes a lot of noise, and you know who fidgets a lot, and you know who slurps their soup. You know who puts the most amazing ingredients together in a sandwich that you can’t imagine anybody eating. So all these tiny tiny things and then the mind just makes up stories about people and judges them.

Audience: Sometimes I don’t even think I make up stories. Sometimes it’s just like almost, “Snap! I don’t like it.”

VTC: Actually there is a process of making up a story but it happens very quickly. So then the mind says, “I don’t like this.” But it can be very helpful to us to stop and say, “Why don’t I like this? Why do I find that annoying?” Okay. Somebody clicks their mala: “Why do I find that annoying?”

Audience (other): I think there are things that the mind does make up about people that we shouldn’t dislike them; but the scientists say that we also all have pheromones and we don’t smell good to each other. It’s all on a very subtle level. Because we actually have some olfactory makeup that other animals do, but it’s not operating on a conscious level the same way human beings … so some people don’t like our smell and we don’t even know it.

VTC: And it’s how you say, pheromones? So then we smell each other at a very subtle level. So that would mean that people who have stuffed up noses would like more people. So then you have to do a test, when you have a cold, do you like people better? And when you don’t, when you smell well?

Audience: It’s part of attraction too.

VTC: But also very much on the mind too. And sometimes we might have karma with somebody from a past life, you know, and so something there that when we meet them there is this feeling. Or sometimes somebody might remind us of somebody else who we don’t like, and then without even seeing the person freshly we’re bringing in all of our conceptual baggage about somebody else.

Audience (other): For me it happens where I don’t have a clue as to why I’m generally annoyed and it might be a long time later that I go, “Oh my goodness, it reminded me of so and so.” You know it wasn’t in my consciousness, or my thoughts, maybe meditating for years later and I figure, “Oh, it reminded me of somebody else.”

VTC: Somebody else, or I met them in a situation that reminded me of an unpleasant situation. And sometimes we’re not aware of it for years. But also, even that kind of stuff, it gives our mind a hit, you know. Because there’s this feeling of, “I don’t like this person.” And, “That person’s wrong.” And my judgment about everybody is the “right judgment.” So we’re coming back again to that whole feeling of “I”: “I don’t like them. My opinions about them are correct. They should change.”

Anger as distraction

Audience: In a retreat situation there could also be the fact that you’re not progressing: that your mind is at a point that can’t go any further, so you’re looking for distraction or you’re just making up illusions; you’re making up that person that you don’t like, that you don’t even know. Like your mind isn’t at the right state.

VTC: Yes, it could be that you’re just at a certain place where your mind’s a little bit stuck, so having people to dislike distracts you. And you know what I’ve also discovered, especially on retreat when I get annoyed, it’s usually because I’m not happy with myself. I’m usually not happy with the way I’m thinking, or the way I’m behaving, or something like that. And because I’m irritated with myself then it just goes around and gets put on everybody else. And like you said, they don’t need to do anything but blink. And that’s enough for me to criticize them. Everybody suffering from picky angry irritated mind? Everybody suffers from this? We are all alike, aren’t we?

Audience: As much as we don’t want to admit it!

VTC: As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are. Does that answer your question, somewhat? Or give you some ideas? What do you think?

Audience (other): I don’t know, I just think it’s ridiculous.

VTC: It’s ridiculous, but we still do it.

Audience: Yeah, that’s why it’s so ridiculous. So it’s weird, like I know it’s horrible: a horrible state of mind to have, no matter your reason for being angry is, or your cause, or whatever. But the mind still wants to do it. It’s going to yell, “Watch it carefully; don’t slip into it.[anger]” At least for me, I don’t understand, it’s a horrible place and still my mind will slip right back into it if I don’t be careful. And I don’t even know if I can be careful enough.

VTC:: So anger is a really horrible state of mind?

Audience: Yes, exactly.

VTC: You don’t like it, and yet the mind just kind of goes into it.

Audience: Like the mind doesn’t mind at all.

VTC: The mind has a mind of its own? And it goes right into it even though we’re miserable saying, “Why am I angry again? I hate being angry.” Everybody experience that?

Anger as protection

Audience: I think it’s kind of a protection sometimes. For exactly what you were talking about in the beginning. Especially when I get into a place where I’m immediately feeling vulnerable; if I just stay angry then at least that hurt can’t get hit anymore. So it’s like the armor. So in that way it’s kind of comforting. I mean the habit is sort of comforting.Well, at least I’m angry and they can’t get me.

VTC: So anger becomes like a protective armor.

Actually you know the guys I write to who are incarcerated, that’s very much what anger is for them. It’s protection, because if you look angry, nobody else is going to bug you. But I think sometimes in our Dharma practice, sometimes, Dharma’s getting through and we’re seeing some changes starting to happen and ego-mind, self-centered-mind doesn’t like that. So what better way to booby-trap ourselves, but to get angry. We just booby-trap ourselves. And then we’re angry. And then we don’t need to think of that point where the Dharma is pushing against one of our old habits that we want to change, but ego-mind doesn’t want to change. So there’s some discomfort in there. Then if we just get angry then we don’t have to deal with that. So, it could be something to look at. Look at different times when you get angry and see sometimes if something is actually working in your practice or beginning to work in your practice. But self-centered-mind, self grasping ignorance, don’t like that. It’s just an idea. Check it out.


Audience: Well, that kind of leads to a question, that in some ways is kind of technical but I don’t think it is, because you know I’ve been thinking about karma. And now I’m looking at this obscuration thing, and what is the relationship between the action which ripens in these four ways. And I can see that the action ripens: and the results similar to the cause because a habit gets going and then it gets to be accumulated. What’s the relationship to the obscuration? If the obscuration is like the afflicted mind; and the karma ripens in result to the action, the action is driven is driven by the affliction, but where’s that?

VTC:: So you’re asking where in this whole thing is the obscuration. Well, the affliction is an obscuration.

Audience: The very fact that it even exists?

VTC: Yes. The manifest affliction: the manifest anger, let’s say, is definitely an obscuration because we can’t think straight. Then even there’s the seed of anger on your mind, that’s obscuring your mind. Then you get karma, your actions, and the seeds of the karma, that’s also dirt on the mind stream. Okay? So when we talk about obscurations there are lots of different kinds. So it’s kind of like you’re taking the ashes from the furnace and you’re just scattering it all over the garden. Except it doesn’t nourish the soil it just obscures it. Even though the karma hasn’t ripened, the potency there obscures the mind.

Audience: I see. And so even though karma’s finished….

VTC: Well, if the karma’s finished then it’s exhausted. But we have infinite karma.

Audience: Yes, but what Rinpoche [Khensur Wangdak] very clearly said, “Even when karma is finished the obscuration remains.” So that’s….

VTC: What?

Audience: Yes, he said when even the karma is finished, obscuration….

VTC: Oh. Did he say when it’s finished, or even when you’ve done some purification?

Audience: No, he said when it’s finished.And I had asked the question again because….

VTC: Because there’s a thing about when you purify karma until you…. Oh, I know what he’s talking about. Okay. When you do a karma, you plant a latency. A latency has two aspects. One is the karmic seed and one is the subtle latency. The karmic seed can ripen, but that subtle latency can still be there until you’ve realized emptiness.

Audience: Which means the potential to then to reenact that karma created….

VTC: I have to look in my notes a little bit more exactly to see the karma’s ripened what the subtle latency does. Oh, I remember what it does. Like in the case of arhats: I don’t remember if this is the latency of karma or the latency of afflictions so I might be getting it confused here. But some arhats even though they’ve eliminated the afflictive obscurations they’ll still do things like shout across the room. But they have no negative mind when they’re doing it and there’s no negative karma being enacted, but just from the habit of shouting. Yes, so that would be like a subtle latency of the karma. So they say that arhats sometimes might do things that seem a little bit rude or whatever, but they have no afflictions when they’re doing it.

Audience: And they’re not creating any new karma when they’re doing it?

VTC: No. No they’re not creating any new karma because there’s no affliction.

While those subtle latencies are there, we need to think about the big ones, the big seeds, the karmic seeds: the ones that are going to throw us into the lower realms. Those are the ones we need to look at: the seeds of the afflictions and those kinds of things. I mean we’ll get to those subtle ones.

Vibe or energy of Medicine Buddha

Audience: Something I’ve been doing in my meditation with the thoughts and the feelings that come up in reflecting on the qualities of Medicine Buddha: thinking of those in myself. And the words that come, that have surfaced for me are things like: “to attune” to the—almost like an energy, almost like a vibrational energy—of what the qualities of Medicine Buddha would be. It generates a feeling. If I want to emulate the qualities of that, not only just looking at that, but there’s a certain subtle feeling. So it’s not a physical look or attraction. When I think of the qualities of compassion or what that would look like, it seems like what my mind wants to do is: “I want to be like that.” So I want to attune myself. Or it’s like saying the mantra, you know, getting into a long period of the mantra recitation. And I was just wondering if the choice of words, or that kind of feeling of wanting to attune my mind: make my mind one and inseparable from Medicine Buddha, is that concept, is that?

VTC: I’m not sure what you’re … I’m hearing a few different questions. Maybe I’ll say what I’ve heard, you let me know. When you’re thinking about the qualities of the Medicine Buddha then this feeling comes up, “That you want to be like that.” And then what was your question about that?

Audience: Well, when I think about that, the energy state of that. It’s like that kind of consciousness, that omniscient mind of the Medicine Buddha, has like a vibrational energy. And my mind is much more gross and not vibrational. So I’m just using that terminology of energy and vibration, I mean….

VTC: …vibration and energy. I have no idea what they mean, but we can talk about them anyway. So you’re saying, like the energy of the vibration of infinite compassion, of all-knowing wisdom, of generosity, and ethical discipline, and kindness: and how there’s those mental qualities but there almost seems to be an energetic vibration from those qualities.

Audience: Like when I see His Holiness [the Dalai Lama], it’s like there’s something physically, that feels like an attraction or a draw; because his state of mind, that’s very attractive. At that level it feels….

VTC: Yes, there’s a vibe. Okay. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes you can tell people’s state of mind by the way they speak, by the way they carry their body. You know I don’t know if the vibe is some kind of intangible thing or if rather it’s being expressed in a tangible way: just somebody’s movements. Because there’s a difference between moving your arm like this and moving your arm like that: the arm’s still going in the same place, but there’s a whole lot of difference in how you’re doing it.

So, whether it’s a physical energy that we can’t notice in terms of exactly what it is, so we call it a vibe; or whether there’s actually a real vibe, I have no idea. But definitely you get different feelings around different people because the tone of voice, the way they carry themselves, is often reflective of what’s going on in their mind. So it makes you attracted to one thing or another.

In a sense, why do the buddhas manifest in all these different forms? It’s because the color speaks to us; the different colors speak to us on a certain level. And the energy of the mantra, now that has a definite vibe to it, doesn’t it? And the energy of the mantra vibrates inside of you. Sometimes you can feel your own energy going this way and the energy of the mantra is going the other way and they’re just not [in sync], you know. You can feel how raw your own energy is and how un-subdued your own energy is. When you get into what you were saying, when you do a lot of mantra recitation and let your mind sink into the energy of the mantra, you can sometimes feel this incredible smoothness, can’t you? It’s just very, very smooth and gentle. So, yes, feel these.

Audience: Can I share something about my little journey? My mother was sick and the doctor gave her no hope of anything, so we were trying various alternative things. One thing we tried had to do with frequencies. The woman we were working with was telling us about a scientist who was in California in the early 1920s and 30s. And it seems that everything in the universe has its own frequency and if you get it…. She was using the frequency to vibrate the bacteria and microorganisms to make them blow open so they’d die and my mother might feel better.

At one point I was asking her about different frequencies. And I asked if there was a frequency for love and she said, “Yes it’s in this range.” She showed me the numbers. And she said it’s very close to the scent of roses. And I said is there a frequency for death and she told me what it was and it was a lower number than love. And she said the frequencies for negative thoughts are even lower than death.

I said, “Oh and that makes sense and it’s very interesting.” Recently on National Public Radio there was a fellow who was on who was doing things on the sounds in your house. I thought of this because I can hear the electricity in the cabin and it goes back and forth really fast between two notes. Then there is another tone and frequency for the heater. I said, “Oh, I hope they’re making a pleasant triad.” When you were doing the chanting, twice, Marcia was in a perfect fifth and it’s a very beautiful sound. She probably didn’t know she was singing in a fifth, but anyways it blended very well. In the Catholic Church they had what’s called an augmented fourth with like a demonic sound because it was so off-putting for a person to hear it or to be exposed to it for very long. So I think that there is something to vibration; for everything to have its own frequency in the universe.

VTC: Yes, definitely with sounds and things, you can really feel that.

Do the Buddhas have karma?

Audience: Last session you spoke somewhat on disintegratedness. You said earlier, maybe implied in some way that it was somehow involved in the ripening of karma or that it was somehow involved in some way in karma itself. And then you also spoke that everything that ceases has disintegratedness. So, how does that involve the Buddha? If disintegratedness can ripen upon them then … Wouldn’t they not have disintegratedness, if they can’t have karma ripen upon them?

VTC: Yes. Okay. Disintegratedness. When you have an action and the action ceases, the having-ceased-ness of the action is the disintegratedness. And when the action ceases it also leaves a karmic seed. And so the two things together, the karmic seed and the disintegratedness, both work somehow (and don’t ask me how) to bring the karmic result. Okay? But the having-ceased-ness: they carry the energy of the action into a ripening state. So then your question is, as you progress along the path, your karma, your actions of body speech and mind get purified. So then your karmic seeds and your disintegratedness are going to be of constructive actions, not negative actions. Okay? Remember there’s positive karma too. Everybody forgets and thinks karma only means negative karma. There’s also positive karma. And so as you progress along the path in stages, then you’re creating more and more purified karma.

Audience: But the Buddhas don’t have karma ripen upon them, correct?

VTC: Right, right, because they purified all that karma from their mindstreams. The Buddhas still do actions. Okay?

Audience: And those actions lead to disintegratedness, which … then the disintegratedness then creates some kind of ripening effect of something?

VTC: Well, probably. The kind of actions or karma the Buddha has is called trinlay It means enlightened activity. And it’s the kind of spontaneous actions that Buddhas just naturally do, because they have so much accumulation of good energy that they don’t even need to think and make a concerted effort and a determination and an aspiration to do something beneficial. It’s just something that automatically happens. So I guess you perfect that habitual energy so much that you just kind of keep doing it. And those actions have disintegratednesses. But I don’t know, I mean the Buddha. I don’t know if the…. Ask Geshe-la that one. If that would affect, I mean, because the Buddha’s mind is omniscient so it’s not like those kinds of things are going to stick to an omniscient mind. You know, the Buddha’s thoughts disintegrate, true. Well the Buddha doesn’t have any thoughts actually because they see everything non-conceptually. But, you know every mind moment of a Buddha disintegrates. Then the next mind moment comes up. So there’s disintegratedness there. But I don’t think that necessarily means it’s going to influence what a Buddha experiences. Yeah? I don’t know that’s a question for a Geshe. I’m sure they could debate all night about that one.

12 links

Audience: Talking about the 12 links, what are you…?

VTC: Okay, so you’re mentioning the 12 links. There’s one teaching called the teaching of dependent origination. And they talk about the way in which we take rebirth in samsara. In other words, all the different steps that happen that lead to us taking one rebirth after another rebirth. So it’s quite an extensive teaching. It’s probably, is it in one of Geshe Zopa’s books?

Audience: I don’t know. There’s a little bit on the Dalai Lama’s, Heart Sutra. The … talks a little bit about….

VTC: Oh, and actually his book, The Meaning of Life. Yeah, it explains it in there. I would do something, but it’s quite an extensive thing to explain in a Q and A. But it’s very good because it really shows how ignorance leads to karma that’s implanted on the consciousness and how it ripens at death and then throws us into another body where we experience various suffering results. And by understanding the evolution of samsara, then we can also understand how to get out of it. Because if you cut off ignorance then you stop the whole chain of events.

How’s everybody doing?

Audience: I’m good.

VTC: Yeah. Are you enjoying?

Audience: Today was, I don’t know. For me, was nice to have a full day of sessions kind of following the teachings and everything. And the energy was down, fewer people. It was really nice to have the whole day just to … practice. I don’t….

Audience (other): Speaking of vibes, I was shocked at how quiet the meditation was tonight after everyone left. It was like, I can’t, real quiet. Bizarre.

VTC: Yeah, so we’re in the process of another transition now. Because we had the whole influx of people and we had Geshe-la coming and there was such wonderful energy receiving the teachings. They were quite something. And then all that came and then all that ceased. And so, you know, like you said, the meditation hall is quieter, the energy is down now. We can become much more reflective and internal this last week.

VTC: You had something?

Audience: I have a question about … initiation. The commitment … the mantras?

VTC: Yeah as many mantras as you’ve decided to do.

Audience: But when he said the one … the first one you said something about you have to self generate for….

VTC: No. No, no, no. The commitment was just the mantra, however many mantra you wanted to do.

Audience: I have a question.

VTC: You guys you don’t have to strain for questions. I’d actually much rather hear what’s going on with all of you. Because in previous years people shared a little more during these sessions about what was happening with them. In other words they weren’t asking intellectual questions about teachings. They were asking practical questions like Ezekiel’s question.

Audience: I … throughout the retreat there have been, you know, sort of different stages. Having fewer people here, having more people here. Having more sessions, having less sessions and so forth. And of course this has an obvious effect on mind. That much is very clear. In fact it’s very easy to…. Having 25 people in the meditation hall verses having five. You know, you can definitely tell the quality of the meditation changes. But even in the times when there has been stability. And talking about the sort of stability where almost nothing changes from day to day, like it was the first two weeks. So the external conditions were quite stable, but my mind still was going in and out like the tide. Like, um, especially in regards to being able to meditate on compassion. Some days I felt like I really nailed it and the hair would be standing up on my arms. And other days I tried to bring the face of a loved one to mind and generate compassion for them and I couldn’t even think of, I couldn’t even remember a single person to think of to generate compassion to and it just seemed so strange. Establishing the external conditions to have this ability of … but even then, I just wondered, does the stability for example, of generating compassion…. [End of audio]

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.