Loch and Tibetan Buddhist teacher Anam Thubten share a deep dialogue about the ways they each bring a modern approach to ancient teaching to support the awakening of all beings. They explore their appreciation for the simplicity and elegance of the nondual Dzogchen ”Great Completion” teachings, which reveal the already awake consciousness and embodied natural compassion. After the talk, Loch offers a guided micro-meditation to “unhook” awareness from the small mind to drop into the heart mind. Anam Thubten grew up in Tibet and, at an early age, began to practice the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the founder and spiritual advisor of Dharmata Foundation, located in Richmond, California, which serves as a container for spiritual community following the pathless path through the essential teachings of Buddha and the lineage of great Buddhist masters – uniting individuals who have a genuine desire to discover inner freedom and peace through realizing the true nature of all things. Anam Thubten is also the author of various books, which include: Choosing Compassion, No Self No Problem, Into the Haunted Ground, and The Citadel of Awareness. Through the essential wisdom of Buddhism and his personal experience on the spiritual path, Anam Thubten brings alive timeless teachings. He invites everyone to participate in his events and retreats in the U.S. and abroad. https://www.dharmata.org/events-calendar/ Anam's website can be found at https://www.dharmata.org/. He can also be found via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anamthubten or via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/@dharmatafoundation-anamthu4494. For more info about Loch, visit: https://lochkelly.org/ For additional information about this podcast, visit: https://podcast.effortlessmindfulness.com/ For the Loch Kelly App, visit: https://effortlessmindfulness.com and to donate, visit: https://lochkelly.org/donate
Anam: We're watching a movie, it's called, in our mind, "Reality" but it's just a movie and the problem is that we forgot that was a movie and we have no popcorn, so that's not a good combination.
Loch: Welcome everyone. It's my honor and great joy to welcome Anum Thubten to our conversation today. Hi Anam.
Anam: Hello. Thank you for the invitation. Nice to see you again here.
Loch: So wonderful. Just seeing your face, I just feel your presence and reading your words as I've been doing in your recent books, I just resonate. I'm always saying "Yes!"
Anam: Yeah. Happy to hear that.
Loch: Yeah, so I've really enjoyed meeting you a few years ago and you were so generous to read my books and to give such wonderful endorsements. And every time I read your books, if any students of mine ask, 'I've read your books, what else do I read?' And then I very often will send them to your books because I feel like you are really like an ideal translator for our contemporary times because you live it and you understand what it is that you come from a rich history and training. And then, You really bring into modern language, making it easy to begin to understand things that can be esoteric.
Anam: Yeah, that's my intention. And also you are in that sense, a wonderful interpreter of all these profound ancient teachings. And you are doing a wonderful job through writing books.
Yeah. My intention is to use more contemporary language to interpret those traditional teachings which are so profound. They're like the medicine to the heart. And I always wish that people in the west would. Have access to those traditional teachings such as no language barrier. Sometimes, the language can be very much the barrier as well as also culture too.
Loch: Yes, I agree. Yeah. You're willing to give it direct access to awakening and our true nature, which you say beautifully is already here, equally within each of us. So that Dzogchen approach is so important today. We have a lot of Buddhism and mindfulness and some of the Vipassana, Theravada, some Zen.
But I really wanna kind of dive in today with you to some of the Dzogchen illuminations and the Bodhicitta, the heart awakening. That's not just the absence of everything, but the fullness and the including of the wake phenomena. All phenomena, being awake. And the recognition [and] realization of that.
So I'd love to explore that as much as we can in words.
Anam: Right. Yeah. Doctrine is such a profound teaching and also practice. On the other hand, it can be extremely simple too. Recently, somebody sent me this video clip of a very extraordinary Dharma teacher, and Dzogchen master.
His name was [inaudible] who passed away quite a long time ago. He was the founder of the largest Buddhist monastery in the world, at the Barong in the Eastern Tibet. Anyway, in that video, he was encouraging everybody to practice Dzogchen in old days. That Dzogchen was regarded as a very esoteric, mystical by even Tibetans, but it's simple, unbelievably simple, and yet it is a profound and therefore I didn't have so much reservation to write the book that you are talking about.
The Citadel of Awareness is a commentary on the [inaudible] aspirational prayer. And because I felt that my lineage has given me permission to write about it and to talk about it. I also hold [inaudible]'s in such high regard. And so I felt that he has given me permission, and many of us permission to teach Dzogchen through the blessings of the lineage. And so it seems that this is like Dzogchen time right now. Like a Dzogchen era because Dzogchen is the heart of Buddhism, but it's not so much shrouded in lots of concepts and dogmas. And there's a kind of timelessness in it. And it has a universal appeal.
And so if we are able to just interpret this traditional teaching with the more modern and contemporary language, then perhaps lots of people would benefit from it.
Loch: Yes. Beautiful. So the themes I would like to touch on are many, I'll just say a little bit and then we can dive in.
I'd love to touch on perhaps the most unique aspect of Vajrayana, but particularly Dzogchen is Rigpa. So awake awareness, and build on emptiness from the Theravada to the Mahayana to the understanding of emptiness that reveals awake awareness or nature of mind, not just the absence of emptiness, which some people think.
And then to really touch on the emptiness that starts out as deconstructing and then shows the interdependence of all things interconnectedness, and then the awake consciousness that is who we are and where we can be aware from. And then the flowering of the heart or compassion, because I think those things, the carrying through of emptiness from its origin, through its fullness, through its interdependence, and then requires Rigpa, the awake awareness be recognized, but then not stopping at either the absence or just pure awareness, but coming into one taste and into ultimate Bodhicitta or ground of loving heart mind.
You put it perfectly. I don't know whether I have to say anything because what you said is just a perfect illumination of the heart of the Dzogchen. You're right as you pointed out that there's this whole process of a negation in the Buddhist tradition.
I think that's quite important because as human beings, we are very much attached to all these ideas, concepts about reality, and often our concepts about reality are quite erroneous, and therefore we are bound by this illusion or matrix that we created. The matrix, or the edifice, that illusionary edifice of the reality that we all are believing is really a trap, like a mental trap.
And therefore, in the process of negation, we begin to deconstruct all this mind manufactured reality, like even the self is an illusion. There's not really a self. We continue to inquire into the nature of self. Pretty much, I will say 90 or maybe even more percent of the reality that we are believing has turned out to be some kind of mind-manufactured reality is like we are watching [a] movie in our head.
Imagine that our head is a movie theater and we are the only person who is sitting there in the theater and we are watching a movie. It's called, in our mind, "reality", but it's just a movie. And the problem is that we forgot that it was a movie and we have no popcorn. So that's not [a] good combination.
Yes. So the negation is so important, as you say, and it's traditionally the preliminary practice of emptiness in most Buddhist traditions to see that we're identified, we have an ignorant view and then we deconstruct and see, oh, it's a movie.
It's just changing thoughts, feelings, and sensations. There's no solid self-emptiness. And then we can even see other emptiness. That the world is not solid. But then sometimes people stop there and they like, oh, now I see that nothing exists and it's empty of self. There's no self. But then we come to interdependence, which is, oh, wait a minute, there's no separate thing, but it's not nihilism
Anam: Absolutely, yeah. I think people can get lost in that negation. That's the problem. The process of negation has a role in our spiritual practice, especially in the beginning, but then we don't understand the rest of our life. Just the negation.
I think the whole purpose of negation in the spiritual path is it deconstructs the illusion that we created. But then I think once we are done with that work, then we should even go beyond it. Otherwise, we can get lost in negation. We can get lost in a wrong notion of emptiness or in a wrong notion of no self, which is a form of such nihilism.
And I think not only that, it can have a negative impact on our mind and heart in a way that we become maybe a little bit destroyed and not in a good way, or nothing is real, everything's an illusion. And we may even lose our ability to just appreciate, enjoy the delight, the magic of existence.
Yes. And therefore, the Buddhist teachings encourage us that eventually we have to almost outgrow that negation and then come to this realization that it's more than just empty. And then there's a life around us, which is extraordinary. But I think we can enjoy the life and the delights of life.
Not from the promoted ignorance, which is a very powerful, almost like perception that I'm separate from everything else, but will be able to experience the whole life. Just even this moment. When I say life, I'm not talking about whole life, but even this moment, like sound, taste, touch, whatever movement is happening from a more non-egoic mind, which is often called the Bodhicitta.
The Bodhicitta and Mahayana Buddhism is regarded as this automated Bodhicitta where there's relative Bodhicitta, but the ultimate Bodhicitta is like this awakened mind, non-dual mind. In the Dzogchen, like for example, [inaudible] used that term quite a lot, Bodhicitta, but then when he used it actually he is using the term - Bodhicitta - to describe this awakened consciousness.
And therefore readers might like to notice that sometimes the Bodhicitta and Mahayana writings and then the Bodhicitta word have a slightly different flavor. And basically when he said Bodhicitta in his writings, he's talking about this very awakened mind who's full of love and compassion, but also there's non-dual wisdom in that.
And I think that I'm glad that you mentioned the Rigpa. The word Rigpa, that is perhaps the most essential term. If anybody wants to pick up one word from Dzogchen, that would be Rigpa. And I think Dzogchen and Rigpa are totally indispensable. In accordance with the [ inaudible] the Dzogchen means great completion.
And the meaning of that is if we reside in that awakened demand, that non-ego mind then, it's not like suddenly everything becomes empty. We don't see, we don't feel anything or we lose any kind of appreciation for life because we are in this kind of nihilistic, stoic state of mind, but instead we feel that our heart is just opening wide and our consciousness is expanding.
And so we began to see that there are no separation between self and the rest of the world. But we also see that everything that one is experiencing is actually almost a display of one's own awakened mind . In other words. everything is complete within Rigpa which means that as you are residing in the Rigpa, then you experience that everything is a display of Rigpa, which is your own Buddha mind.
And so you are able to actually embrace everything, the whole expression of life in each and every moment. Rather than rejecting you are able to just enjoy everything . And even wider, now they teach that if we can reside in such a state of mind, we are able to see the sacredness in everything.
Loch: Yes, that's it.
Anam: Sacredness. and form, and sound, and taste, and touch.
Loch: Yes. When we go from the conditioned mind to the unconditioned, pure awareness, we're free of fear and we access that dimension that is unimpeded. But then I think some people also hang out, almost, not even in stoic, but almost in a detached, dissociated way in pure awareness as if non-dual awareness is the end.
I am in awareness. There's nobody here named Loch. There's no self. There's just awareness. There's no fear. And I'll just walk around like this. But it seems the next realization, the fullness is the one taste that the non-dual is not just pure awareness, but it is awareness and appearance. Awareness and phenomena are not two, like ocean and wave.
Anam: Yeah. As the heart to stress as a form is emptiness and also emptiness of the form. We all know that Buddhism has its very famous philosophical category that true truth is the ultimate truth and relative truth which is a wonderful category. But then also invite, this profound teaching invites us to realize eventually that the ultimate truth is not separate from the relative truth, nor the relative truth is separate from the emptiness.
I think in the end we have to learn how to integrate the non-dual awareness with our life experiences. Otherwise we can be lost in that, almost like some kind of state of mind, which is very wonderful.
Loch: Yeah. So the profound direct practice of Dzogchen, the premise that's so important and different than mind training, or developing meditative states, or even transformation in Mahayana, transforming negative into positive, that all is good and goes on. But the Dzogchen pointing out is that the awake consciousness is already here and it's already who you've always been, and it doesn't need to be created or manufactured, that you can either rest into it, or turn awareness around, have it look back.
But then the key is that what recognizes awareness or what recognizes unconditional mind is unconditional mind. It recognizes itself. It's empty, but it's also lucid, and it's arising as appearances. And because there's no fear, there's this unity or love. That feels like we're part of everything. And that's where the love that's not just the usual love of, loving even your dog or a baby, it's not even that love. It's even wider and deeper and the fabric of reality.
Anam: Yeah. You said perfectly, sometimes people can. Get really lost in some kind of non-dual mind or non-dual awareness. And if we are not very careful, it could be some kind of state of mind that is disassociated from reality and it can be very wonderful. Blissful, seems everything's perfect, there's a sense of even ease in one's body and the amazing relaxation in one's mind. And so this is whatever we like to call it, the Buddha mind or...
Loch: We have reached Nirvana
Anam: The Soul or the Nirvana, but then we do not know how to integrate that experience with all these situations or these nitty-gritty problems that happen in everyday lives, just like the noise in my neighborhood an hour ago.
So in the Dzogchen, therefore, they often talk about view, meditation and conduct. I think the conduct in my understanding is to really live that experience, not by running from the situations, but by embracing all situations, either wonderful situations like this one, this interview.
This dialogue is a wonderful situation. Truely, I'm enjoying it. Like talking with you is so wonderful. But then I know this will come to an end, then who knows? I may go out and see people are coming here and start cutting down trees. But that's a whole totally different story.
It would not be a very interesting one, it would be very terrible because I don't like to see people cutting down trees, and also it makes so much noise. So anyways, I think the conduct in Dzogchen is our practice to not just be in such a wonderful non-dual state of mind, but to bring that to engage with the world from that ground of consciousness.
Because, otherwise, I think we can almost lose ourselves in that state of mind and become a little bit disconnected with reality. And that is what they call the "pitfall" path, the mistakes on the path. I use this term often, the "spiritual blind spot". And it happens quite often, more than I think people want. It happens quite often.
And then let me come back to what you were saying beautifully about this whole experience of being in Rigpa, but being able to love everything, but their love is of course not ego-based love. Often, love that people experience based on ego. Like even love, love in your prayer is wonderful, but still there's little bit of attachment happening, which is totally okay.
We don't have to reject it. But I think the different loves - there's a transcendent love and it's more than just the emotional lava, but it's almost like where we don't have no more fear and we're not so lost in this mental trap of a separation between self and other. And also, we are no longer lost in the trap of this duality, between divine versus ordinary, sacred versus secular. Instead, we embrace everything in that non-dual recognition in which the sacred is actually secular. Secular is sacred. Light is darkness. So we are able to basically embrace everything. I love this story by a very well-known Tibetan master [inaudible]. Many centuries ago he said he failed with his spiritual practice, especially when it comes down to his aspirations.
And he said he always made a prayer that he will be able to help people in hell. But then he said he came to this extraordinary welcoming, there's no hell. So he said, his prayers have failed. He said, all he see is everywhere is a Buddha reality, Buddha field. So the whole world, the whole universe is a sacred world. Like a Buddha paradise, or something like that. I think that's the love we are talking about here, transcendent love. We are able to, basically embrace everything, not as this or that good or bad or sacred, ordinary, but you are able to embrace everything as if they are an expression of the same source, the whatever we like call the ineffable or the Dharmakaya mind.
Loch: Yes. And one of the keys to that is our language gets in the way of that, and then you are able to embrace everything. But the you is not the you that was you.
Loch: So our language is tricky as we try to share this with others. I know you and I are both people who share equally and try to feel like we're just traveling along together with all our people who listen to us or read our books.
But the key is that when you shift into Dharmakaya, that is the way that Dharmakaya perceives and sees. So you're not even doing it. What you're doing is resting as awake consciousness, Bodhicitta, and then rest as Bodhicitta. And then as Bodhicitta, the view is everything is sacred and beautiful. And then, I think in your recent book, we have something similar when you deal with Chöd, which is, it's not only dealing with negative sounds in the neighborhood, but you even deal with all the negative things in society outside, the wars and things like that.
And then very importantly, it doesn't mean that you actually don't work with the negative demons inside or the parts of us that are angry or rageful or fearful or terrorized or, mean or have hatred that we recognize - 'Yes, that's part of conditioning. Here it comes.' So we're not trying to deny it.
Even if we cut through to recognize nature of mine, we come back to love it back into health. So it's that relationship, rather than splitting the world into negative emotions and then as if we've transcended them, that we actually have the capacity as the nature of mind to see and feel the thawing out of all that pain and suffering.
Anam: Yeah, the whole Vajrayana path is built up upon this " no rejection." It teaches us not to reject anything and it teaches that in the end that everything has the same flavor and therefore there's not so much heavy duality in many of those Eastern spirituals between light and darkness, and divine and ordinary. There might not be two in some religious traditions. It seems that some religious traditions have really very strong, very heavy idea of this fundamental duality, between light and darkness or the divine versus ordinary. But in many Eastern spiritual traditions such as vajrayana, the separation between light and darkness is not that strong actually, it almost teaches that they all come from the same source .
Loch: Yes. That's right.
Anam: I'm glad you mentioned the Chöd. In Chöd, the practice is all about cutting through the Mara. Mara is like the devil in Buddhism, except Mara is just an archetype. It's not really like some kind of evil, supernatural being like the Devil. It's just that Buddhism uses this very ancient idea of Mara (Devil) as an archetype to illuminate certain parts of our psyche, like greed, or hatred or self-centeredness. But in Chöd, they always say that Mara arises whenever you feel that you are lost in either greed or self-centeredness. And then this actually in the end, if you look inside, you'll find that Mara is actually not intrinsically bad. Mara is a discipline of the Dharmakaya mind. And therefore, the ultimate Chöd does not cut through anything, which is kind of paradoxical because Chöd is a cut. But ultimately you don't have to cut through anything. Just having that recognition that everything that you're experiencing in the end is part of the same source, the Dharmakaya mind or the consciousness. And they teach that with that recognition, sometimes we are able to experience whatever we are supposed to be experiencing in any given moment.
I think anger, sometimes, is very natural. We're able to experience all of them, feel all of them, not rejecting them, but same time we are able to experience our own anger not on the ground of ego, but on the ground of that recognition of the simplicity of everything or maybe we are able to experience anger and fear on that ground of pure awareness. Egolessness. I saw recently an interview, and this interview is about what is happening in many different parts of the world. And this person is in war and he said he has fear, but he's not afraid of or something like that. Fear but he's not afraid. I thought that's really good.
Maybe does he practice Dzogchen? It doesn't look like he's somebody who practices Dzogchen, he's a politician. But I guess we all have some kind of Dzogchen DNA that is awakened by itself when it is needed. I thought it was a really quite amazing statement. He said "I have a fear, but I'm not afraid."
Loch: That's right. Yeah.
Anam: So we can have fear, but we don't have to be lost in that.
Loch: We don't have to be the fearer, we don't have to identify. So it's very similar to the kind of psychological integration I do in a contemporary way with Buddhism. To recognize that there are these parts of us, these mind states that arise, angry part, this part wants to forgive, this part doesn't wanna forgive.
Somebody has trauma that makes them feel worthless. And then there's a protective part that says, I hate everybody, don't mess with me. And they're all natural inner deities, inner parts of us, that are just trying to find love and safety. And so when you realize that from the view of nature of mind and Bodhicitta, the open-hearted awareness, is what I sometimes call it.
Then I talk about sometimes "shake and bake", that you have a thawing out or the energy will start to release the anger and the fear, and then the love will just meet it and listen to it and allow it to be seen. And then it becomes part of the team. It becomes part of your whole body. It doesn't have to be isolated off. And we don't have to go into mindful witness and just observe it, or try to spiritually zap it away. Oh, there's anger. Oh anger is just empty. And then it goes away too quickly.
Anam: Yeah. I guess we have to feel what is happening in our body, in our stomach, in our chest, in our heart, in our mind too.
It's so important to fully embrace whatever is happening because all these are just part of life and there's a reason why there's these forces in each of us. Anger has its own place in our life. And I think the whole point is not to reject anger or fear, but to hold them on the ground of the Bodhicitta, that awakened awareness, and then without rejecting it, it will be processed by itself.
It takes some time, but also, I like what you said, that there's a way that we can just feel all these raw human emotions, but not to be lost in them. I think that's a skill that we all have to learn and to be able to feel everything but not to be lost in them, whereas, I suspect lots of spiritual people really afraid of these unholy human emotions, like anger or whatever, jealousy, they're afraid of them, which is totally understandable.
And so some people have just tried to separate all these very kind of raw, messy human emotions. It is like they divide all human experience into the wholesome basket and unwholesome basket, and they are really afraid of experiencing anything that is from that unwholesome basket. And here, the invitation, we are talking about it from a Dzogchen point of view or Vajrayana point of view is to not run from anything, which is just to welcome whoever is arising, just embrace all of them.
But on the ground of Bodhicitta, while we are totally residing in that non-dual awareness. And then I think all our experience becomes a process of healing. Then it's not like we have to do some separate ritual for healing, which we can do, but I think when we do that, the healing is already happening.
Loch: Yes, that's right. That's beautiful. So you have one of your chapters, I think it's Magic of Awareness. It says, “Enlightenment is ordinary human experience.” So I think that is one of the most beautiful invitations to everyone. To not make it something esoteric or only for Olympic athletes of meditation or something, or monastics or something.
But that just what you said, it almost requires us in this contemporary time that from our matrix, from the matrix, from the small ego mind and small mind, we can try to accept everything as it is and try to be more loving and we can make some progress. But it's only in stepping out of the Sem, small mind, to the Rigpa-based awake consciousness that has the view.
And it's only by experientially glimpsing that, even small moments. Small moments many times that then you come back and feel what was negative to the small ego. Small ego can't bear the fullness of negative emotions. We have to upgrade to Rigpa, awake consciousness, and then it can move and then there's love for it and there's more space.
Anam: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of the healing I'm referring to is more like psychological work. Lots of people are going through this whole process with healing by psychotherapy mixed with also Buddhist practices like mindfulness. And they all have so much merit. We all have to appreciate all these practices, and these practices are happening everywhere around us in today's world. But I think as long as we are engaging with the work, either healing or psychotherapy or spiritual practice while we are firmly believing the matrix of duality, and while we're really holding on to this idea that there's me, the self, I'm doing this healing, I'm doing this spiritual practice.
And if you don't really have the willingness to question that matrix, the matrix of duality or this illusion of self, I think we could go through some amazing transformation. But we are still doing everything. We're still having all this meaning, enlightenment, healing in the matrix of duality, or the ego.
So yes, I'm not saying that it has no benefit, it absolutely has lots of benefit. But it's not really the real liberation. If you're able to bring the non-dual Dharma into our healing, our therapy, or into mindfulness meditation, I think the impact, the positive impact will be just enormous. And so we have to keep this conversation alive, the conversation that we are having.
It's the narrative of non-duality. We have to keep that alive all the time.
Loch: Yeah. Beautiful. Yeah, let's talk a little about, because I think you and I both use non-dual in almost two ways. Like emptiness is used in two ways, but non-dual is used even within the tradition.
Sometimes people will say, or translations will say, we go from, condition mind to non-dual awareness or pure awareness. And some people will say, oh, pure awareness is non-dual awareness. But I like to use non-dual more as two truths, and non-dual awareness as pure awareness, Dharmakaya that has some Bodhikaya and Nirmanakaya that is one taste.
Non-dual means ultimate, pure awareness is arising as relative experience, and expressing as love. It's not two, it's no longer dualism. So that, I think, is what I think is a Buddhist non-dual, but it's still used both ways and some people get caught and think, oh, non-dual means just pure awareness rather than integration of pure awareness arising as phenomena, and human, and world.
Anam: Yeah. I totally agree with you. We are on the same page regarding that. The non-duality or whatever we like to call it, is of course very much a big part of the traditional Buddhist doctrine. And I think it often has to do with, not so much that we are setting the relative truth and ultimate truth as one, but more like we are transcending the duality between them.
Loch: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Anam: So it's not so much we're saying, oh, everything is a one. That seems to be another kind of idea, but what we are doing is we're transcending the separation between everything, relative truth versus ultimate truth, Nirvana versus Samsara, and the divine versus ordinary.
So it's about transcending the separation more than anything else. Even though, in the language, if we say, oh, all is one, and if we say nothing separate from each other, it sounds the same. But I think that's a very subtle philosophical indication, which there's two statements, so I believe that Buddhism is not so much we are saying that everything's one, but we are saying more there is no separation between anything. And at this point the word "non-dual Dharma" or non-dual teachings, the nature of mind become almost some kind of spiritual term, that describes a whole genre of spiritual teachings and practices, which are not so heavily dogmatic, and not so much taught with really heavy concepts.
The doctrine has timelessness. And not only that, it invites us to really go after the big liberation, not the small liberation, but go after the big liberation, which is to whatever you call it, shake or, deconstruct, the very foundation of human neurosis and misery. I think when we say non-dual Dharma, non-duality, we are using that as , in my understanding, a whole special genre.
Loch: Yes, that's right. And I think I'm pointing to that sometimes when we make that first liberation, like emptiness, if you go to negation, non-dual, oh, there's no separate self. We're beyond dualism, now we're in pure awareness. That can become a duality too. As if there's pure awareness.
And so it's the Flight of the Garuda, says that the non-duality is the awareness and appearance are not two.
Anam: Yeah, absolutely. I think if we really explain purely the non-duality in the Buddhist sense, then what you said is perfect. It is more like transcending the separation, between form and awareness, between everything pretty much, any buddhist duality or non-duality too. Between awareness and oneness.
Loch: And twoness and everything.
Anam: Yeah. Between awareness and unawareness. Just transcend all separations. Because I think the human mind is very good at creating separations. And sometimes we are not aware.
When I think I'm in the non-dual awareness, it's possible that I'm actually creating some kind of separation. Thinking, oh yeah, this is the non-dual zone and everything else beyond it is the zone of reality. So I should not go there. There's a subtle duality.
Loch: Yes. Like a meditation state. Yeah. I definitely feel that sometimes. Oh, I'm in the non-duality. And then I can either be a little too detached or a little too lovey-dovey, like hippie-happy. Oh, everything's a little too subtle. Little too much. Oh yes, it's beautiful, everything's beautiful and that's the real heart. So that's what I want to talk to you, because I think your an expression and you use that a lot, as you end up talking about Dzogchen and its expression is, you just said, it just has a lot of heart. We're just in our heart, we see from our heart. And that heart with a capital H, is not our biological heart.
What do you say when you have the heart-mind view or the sense of Dzogchen going all the way to heart?
Anam: Let's use this analogy, which is to imagine that our whole spiritual process, the whole part regardless of where we are, whether we feel we are at the very beginning, like spiritual kindergarten or we are all the way there, we are teetering on the brink of some great enlightenment, or we are halfway through, it doesn't really matter.
Loch: I think we are all halfway.
Anam: Yeah, wherever we're on the spiritual journey. But I think one thing that we like to keep in our mind is this analogy. We don't have to take this analogy literally, but this analogy of a bird with two wings.
Loch: Oh, yeah.
Anam: And that the bird , or Garuta, can symbolize the whole spiritual process, regardless of where we are.
But that bird cannot really fly easily without one of the wings. And she needs both wings, the right wing and left wing. And if she gets only one wing, she can't really get that far away. And similarly, I think spirituality, in general, has these two wings. One is the mind, or the wisdom, and another one is the heart.
Anam: And when there's an imbalance between heart and mind, then somehow, our spiritual journey has a limitation and doesn't really take us very far away from where we are. And therefore, I think all the practitioners should just check to make sure that the balance is there - that the balance between heart and mind is there. And mind is more like there's insight that can be brought about by an increase in discernment. For example, lots of the negation has to do with the mind, like the spiritual negations. Who am I? What is self? Is this real or not?
Is there separation between me and my computer, or there's no separation, et cetera. There's not even a form. It's all just molecules. There's not really molecules, et cetera, right?
Anam: They did this kind of analytical meditation in Buddhism. I think even the Greek philosophers have a very kind of similar [take], and it's very wonderful when we practice because eventually, our previous sense of reality begins to collapse. This whole separation between themselves and the other collapses. And not only that, our ideas of right, wrong, and many of them begin to collapse and it feels good, right? It can feel really good, it can feel very liberated. But that whole liberation can have a very strong limitation and it can be hijacked by ego, self-centeredness because I can feel good.
So if I feel good, then you know that's all I care about, right? I feel good because it seems now I'm feeling that I'm free from all this chance of my own concept. I guess life is much bigger, [more free], and more spacious than I thought. This is great, right? And then how about compassion? And how about love?
How about helping other people?
Loch: Yes, that's right.
Anam: And I think ego can hijack. The state of mind seems to be so much free from ego, but indeed it can be easily hijacked by ego, like selfishness. It's a form of a kind of divine selfishness, and therefore, heart needs to be there always. And therefore, I think in the two awarenesses, heart is already there because the two awarenesses transcends all separation between relative truth and ultimate truth. One image that I like to use right now is the Avalokiteshvara, and the whole form of Avalokiteshvara is a perfect archetype or presentation of Rigpa because our Avalokiteshvara is a Bodhisattva who is often depicted the, this form of a Bodhisattva who has all this eyes and hands. Also in Tibetan, Avalokiteshvara means "one who gives everything", "with eyes wide open." And not only her eyes or his eyes are guessing upon what is belief or the light, or the divinity, heaven. But his or her eyes are also gazing upon all this misery happening in the world. And it's gazing upon swamp, like messiness and garbage pile, landfills, not always upon the heavenly gardens. And so then in that eye, which is a metaphor in this case, can actually embrace everything simultaneously. So in that awakening, there's a love, there's a devotion, there's a joy, there's an amazing, enormous amount of I think fearlessness, compassion, and courage. And that heart, that non-dual awareness actually prompts us to take certain actions to help others.
Loch: Yeah. The conduct piece.
Anam: Yeah. Absolutely. Yes
Loch: Yeah. The realization of the wisdom and the heart lead to expression and conduct, like mini-Bodhisattvas. Like people don't have to be just a Buddha Bodhisattva, everyone can be a little Bodhisattva.
Loch: As soon as you live, as soon as you take action toward others from true, authentic heart. It's you and you have the capacity to be with suffering. I know one of the Buddhist sayings is that the human birth is perfect because it provides awakening, and is spurred on by suffering.
So it almost requires, like with Chöd, if we… had it too easy, we might not awaken. We might stay in the matrix, right? Like the movie.
Loch: Everyone just going along in everyday life. But because of the suffering, it's like fire. It's spurs us on, isn't there something else? We try to comfort ourselves, but we always have this low-level, sometimes the word for suffering, Dukkha, is translated as perpetual dissatisfaction. So just with that little existential background, no matter what you do, you have nice food, you're with friends, you make success. And then it's like, what's something's wrong still? What's that? Because we're out of touch with our true nature, which is available and is the only thing that gives us this relief. But the suffering is to be embraced, and important for the heart.
Anam: Absolutely. The idea of Nirvana is the end of suffering. And of course there could be different ways of understanding what that means exactly. The end of suffering, really, should we take that literally?[ inaudible] Periodically, like really just up to the end of suffering where there are different ways of interpreting the nirvana.
But it seems as far as humans are considered, I think we human beings are designed to be enlightened. That is our ultimate purpose in life. Then there are some people who may actually not bring that vocation into their life. I guess there are people in the world who… [are] maybe unaware of that aspect of life.
But I believe that human beings are designed to be enlightened. We are here to become enlightened. I feel that sometimes this human world is a kind of giant monastery, some kind of spiritual university. And we're all spiritual students. Either we can recognize that or not. And we're here to survive.
No doubt. We are here to enjoy life, good food and nice weather. But it's more than that. I think we are here also to become enlightened, at least as a vocation of life. And on the other hand, Dzogchen teaches that we already appear [inaudible].
But then, that said, at the same time, we are not enlightened. On the other hand, we're enlightened, but not enlightened. Our true nature is enlightened, but many people are not enlightened. We're not fully enlightened.
Anam: And therefore, now that's a process of becoming enlightened, because we are not enlightened.
If we're already enlightened, then there won't be any process. There won't be any spiritual path. Nobody will be suffering in the world. But that is totally utopian, because we can't really have to remind ourselves that we're here to become enlightened, which requires a whole process and a whole journey.
So it's a very interesting kind of cosmic paradox. But the way we become enlightened is often through Dukkha, through challenges, difficulties. And if there is no suffering, imagine that our life is totally just freed from anything that irritated us, or that discomforted us.
Imagine we're all born without any trauma. We are all born with just perfect body and perfect neurological makeup. We just are born in this beautiful garden, and everybody has access to some huge trust fund, and everyone is just happy like an angel. Then I don't think there's a need for spirituality, right?
Loch: No, that's right.
Anam: Although that's not true. We are who we are.
Loch: The world is like a monastery, but I think it's a tantric monastery with a lot of crazy yogis.
Loch: It's not a very restrictive monastery. Everyone's all over the place.
Anam: Yeah, exactly.
Loch: Yeah, I wanted to say that I always play with that paradox - that we're always awakeness and always unfolding. So we're already always awake and we're always unfolding. And Suzuki Roshi had a saying, he said, "you're perfect just the way you are, and you could use a little improvement."
Anam: Exactly, just like that. We are enlightened in some sense, but on the other end, we are not enlightened. We're both, right?
Loch: Yeah, that's right.
I guess I like that idea that we are always unfolding. Yeah, we are always unfolding. We are always moving towards awakening. Even though [inaudible] already enlightened.
Yeah. That's it. Yeah.
So, one last thing to say that... Just encouragement for those who are listening, that in your sharing with others, are you seeing and having hope that people, westerners, that come and you meet are starting to have glimpses of awakening? That you see some some potential and some actual, initial awakenings happening?
What is it that you see? What is it that seems to be helping?
Anam: Yeah. Yeah. I'm very hopeful in many ways for the world, for the humanity, which may sound really strange [inaudible] regarding what is happening right now in the world because it seems the world is really descending right now.
With all this catastrophe, war, climate change, but I'm very hopeful, and sometimes there's this almost like awakening of the collective. It comes in the middle of the most painful events that can happen. So I'm just praying that through all this pain, and just unbelievable suffering that so many people are going through in the world.
So many, millions of people are going through suffering right now. And also we are at this crossroad where lots of our old structures, like cultural values, the institutions, if they're not collapsing, they're challenged. Which is good, right? Some of these served humanity for quite a long time. But maybe now it's time for us to say goodbye to them, and to create a more enlightened structure that benefit everybody. And so I'm hopeful in the end. I want to see this as a dark path to the light. I want to see this as mud. We are in the mud, but this mud is preparing for a giant lotus blossom.
That's what I like to see. So I'm hopeful, but also perhaps what we really need in the western world is more of this narrative, this non-dual narrative. And I hope that people will have more access to the teachings such as Dzogchen, and in that I think not just few people, but at least a large portion of the population in the West would be interested in these teachings.
And I see that so many people in the West are experiencing very authentic awareness, whatever they call it, some kind of authentic awakening. When I say awakening, I do not mean like the Nirvana. I use the word awakening as some kind of spiritual opening in one's consciousness. I see, all the time, so many people in the West are having this authentic spiritual awakening.
But on the other hand, there's one problem in the West. And I don't know how we can even fix it. In the West, we are very individualistic, right? We just want to do what we want to do. And when spiritual teachers said that the neurosis of North Americans is a "yes, but", something like that.
Loch: That's good.
Yes, that's the mantra.
Anam: Individualists maybe like to hear teachings if it feels good, or if our ego agrees, but we tend to sometimes reject any kind of wisdom teachings if our ego doesn't like that. And yeah, it just could be my own mind too. Maybe there isn't any problem.
It just could be my own mind. I may change my mind by tomorrow morning. This is what I'm feeling. Emphasize devotion. We talked about devotion to the lineage, devotion to the Buddha. And when I look back, there's a lot of merit in that whole practice of devotion. Devotion is very intelligent, actually.
It's intelligent. It's because devotion has this wisdom that we don't have to, we should not buy into, our ego all the time. That to me is devotion.
Yes. I would love it because having heard you give a dharma talk, and a meditation, and a prayer, and a chant.
I think that you're chanting brings everything together. Just what you said about devotion, it has a quality of, like you're a light that opens up, and people can feel it. I could see it in the room when I was there with you, and I wonder if you might either say a prayer or a short chant as a way to finish our time together here.
Oh, thank you for the invitation to chant. You're right. Sometimes just chanting a sacred song, it just relaxes our body and quiets our mind, takes us to what you might call the “inner oasis.”
[ Anam chants]
Loch: Beautiful. So thank you so much. It's been such a joy. I'm so grateful to have met you and be able to talk like this, and jump right into a deep dharma dialogue.
Anam: Thank you so much for the invitation. Thank you for being my dharma friend. I'm so happy to see you right now here.
And thank you for all the work you're doing.
Loch: Thank you so much. Okay, bye now.
And now here's a short, mindful glimpse.
Let's do dropping from head to heart space, just because I think it's one of the core practices and it's for "inner-doorway" types of people. And it's a good way to show the reason why we're moving local awareness, because we're moving from head-mind to heart-mind to embodied consciousness, and then this boundless heart-space, which is safe and interconnected with everyone.
So let's try that.
And this is one of the main practices of a kind of a version of mindfulness. The first practice of mindfulness is often one point at attention, which reinforces the attender or the focuser. But then the second practice of mindfulness is mindfulness of the four foundations: thoughts, feelings, sensations.
So it establishes a step-back witness-consciousness. But what we're doing is we're really feeling, trying to get a feel for okay, while the small mind, while the focuser, while the thinker's focusing step back, while the manager's in charge just, can you be aware of that's where you've been looking from?
Like you have to step back a little bit or step up a little bit or feel where you're normally aware from, that is the subject. You gotta just find the felt sense and location of it as an object.
So you can feel it, feel that identification, that attachment, that natural tendency to go back.
When thoughts and sound comes to the thinker, and sights come to the thinker, and then thought goes to thought, and then awareness goes to thought, and then it creates this strangeloop of constellation of consciousness that feels like oh, this is me in here, in between my eyes and below me is this body that I'm moving around. But I'm here actually, and I'm seeing and I'm judging, so that self-awareness and those parts, different parts will sit in that seat that's in this location.
But when we de-center, we wanna know where we're going. The key, in this direct approach, is we're going to the solution as quickly as possible, then come back to deal with the problems . So rather than renouncing things in order to simplify, or healing everything psychologically, we're like upgrading or discovering the capacity that can bear what seems unbearable, that which has capacity of intelligence and love, and then come back to exactly how things are.
So let's try that.
All right, so find that feeling of being identified or attached to the thinker, the hearer, the understander. And then the key is the doer is not making awareness unhook. Awareness is actually moving itself. So you could ask permission, 'could you give me some space?' Which is relational.
But then awareness has to open. So feel the attached, identified, blended, meshed, and then feel as if awareness has intentionality and can simply unhook and step back. Be aware of space from space.
So feel the location change, the feeling change.
The content, the thought-oriented, and then the new quality of space. And then feel as if that awareness is both non-local. Could open up this way like we did, or while open, can focus, so the awareness can remain open and also drop to be aware of your smile and your jaw directly from within. Just feeling the sensation, vibration, curiosity, feeling without judging or analyzing anything, just effervescent aliveness, space and location of knowing and known. And then feel as if awareness, using its own intentionality somehow, which may not be clear that's what's happening, but just feel curiously that awareness is dropping itself, moving itself down to be aware of your throat from within your throat.
And just resting within, so there's direct perception. Just notice if there's a habit to look back up to the mind to see, am I doing it right? Or flip around and start looking down. Those two habits are the two normal habits, but just simply start again, unhook, drop, and know directly from within.
Just begin to feel your body from within your body, as if your whole body is a field of presence. And then feel this local globe of awareness drop below your neck, into your upper body, and just feel your whole body from within. Down your shoulders, arms, hands, back down your, guts, trunk, pelvis, down your legs, knees, shins, feet into the ground, just fully embodied, all at once.
As the local awareness inhabits and knows your body as mostly space, then energy, then water, then form, matter, different gravity, solid space. And then let that awareness again move to find a safe space in the middle of your body, this heart space. So that it's like a resting place, or a doorway or, a centerless center that finds that you can let your awareness feel like this is what you're aware of, and where you're aware from.
So just let the awareness go deep within this river of awareness of life, this space within the atoms to the subtlest dimension of consciousness, Bodhicitta heart, mind, awake consciousness, just letting go and letting be.
I'm just feeling this home in the heart space. When you feel subtle, hearts begin to feel safety or love or joy, and also the lack of limits or boundaries. So you may feel this openness to this boundless heart to this emptiness of individual thingness, which means interdependence or interconnectedness.
So the ultimate reality and the safety, the real place to find safety and freedom is in this subtlest dimension of interconnectedness.
Openhearted awareness. Resting, alert, awake. Aware of this heart space. Aware from this heart space as if you're aware of the awareness that has your back. It's arising as your body and looking through the eyes of your heart. So your eyes are receiving, coming to the field of awareness. Ears are receiving, coming to this field of awareness. Thinking is in the field, just like mental sensations with no interest in thoughts or sentences. Just feeling the alert, curiosity, trust, potential to know if you needed to know.
So taking a little deeper breath, letting a smile come to your face, letting your eyes smile. Your ears smile. What does that feel like if you're whole? Every cell in your body can receive and feel relieved of this rest and this natural aliveness.
It doesn't need to solve a problem or be afraid now of anything because you're connected to everything. There's no other just now on this level so that from here you can respond to any issues, or situations, or parts of you that need your care.
So from here, staying home, letting your phone number arise to your heart mind.
And letting it go to peace of mind to see what it's like to rest at home in your heart space, and let your office of your head be poured back into the field so it's available with this implicit memory as needed. Enjoy.
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