3 – His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: Amitabha Buddha and the Pureland of Dewachen.
Question: “Are there opportunities, once you have obtained birth in the Pureland, to return to this world to help sentient beings attain enlightenment?”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “The purpose of attaining rebirth in the Pureland of Great Bliss is to attain Buddhahood. Therefore, the meaning of the Pureland of Great Bliss is that you have attained all the conditions that are auspicious and are militate towards the gaining of complete and perfect enlightenment. When you become completely enlightened, it is not one-sided enlightenment that rests in Nirvana. It is the Mahayana enlightenment which, grounded in emptiness, realizes that nirvana and samsara are something not to attach to. The keynote of all Mahayana practice is Great Compassion. The Pureland, itself, was established through the power of the Great Compassion of Amitabha Buddha. If you realize emptiness, then, compassion automatically manifests. That emptiness and compassion, together, which constitute Buddhahood, also constitute complete and perfect freedom. That is, finally, the meaning of freedom. When you become that free, you are not restricted to the Pureland of Great Bliss. You can to any pureland you want. You can enact any other mode of manifestation you desire. You manifest ceaselessly in an infinite variety of ways for the welfare of all living beings.”
Question: “On the one hand it sounds very simple to achieve rebirth in Dewachen. On the other hand, in order to have that true bliss at that moment one would have to have to establish oneself, truly wishing to achieve bodhicitta in one’s being. So that it seems to be the great challenge of being here is to establish the wish to help other beings and not just oneself. So perhaps it is not so easy.”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “The taking of rebirth in Dewachen is only difficult if you committed one of the Five Inexpiable Sins of Great Retribution. If you have not committed one of them, then is quite easy, because all you need to do is to depend upon the power of the forming of powerful aspirations to have rebirth in Dewachen. What that does is to unite you with the antidote to all your other obscurations and non-virtue. That is the power of the vow of Amitabha Buddha. The other element kicks in when you formulate the aspiration to connect with this practice and to be reborn the Pureland. Another reason why it is quite easy to attain rebirth is that the moment of death is every moment. The Dharma teaches that all things are in a state of flux. All things are impermanent and tending towards death all the time, therefore in every moment, something dies and something takes rebirth. How your mind is directed is how your experience will be. Your present thought will lead to your subsequent experience. If you establish a continuity of aspiration from moment to moment, understanding that any moment could be the moment of death, at every moment you yearn to be reborn in Dewachen, you establish that continuity of aspiration. That will be your experience. The cause in that moment will create the effect in the next moment. Everything is mental transformation (His Holiness speaking in English).”
Question: “Rinpoche, can you tell us more about the light in closed lotus? How does that light them?”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “The light bathes all and everything in the Land of Great Bliss. Like everything else, in and about the Land of Great Bliss, it is an emanation of Amitabha Buddha. It is all part of Amitabha Buddha. Everything that is perceivable in Dewachen is an extension of Amitabha Buddha. The light is the Light of Compassion. It is Light of Compassion that ripens sentient beings.”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “The formulation of the prayer to take rebirth in Dewachen is an individual matter. You cannot develop an aspiration on someone else’s behalf. However, you can help someone else by repeating to them the name of Amitabha and acquainting them with the existence of Amitabha in the Pureland. It is said that even hearing the name Amitabha is very beneficial. Another thing you can do to help others is at the moment of another’s death that you can do Amitabha practice of various kinds. For example, at the moment of death you can do Ph’owa, and that is a practice of transferring that person’s consciousness from their dying body. Other rituals and pujas are done at that time. There is one called Shitje. It is ritual done at the moment of death. Many things can be done even if the person has already died. Their consciousness principle is addressed and instructed in various ways.”
Question: Unintelligible question from the audience.
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “We have to talk a little about emptiness. The teachings of emptiness in no way claim that what we perceive does not exist absolutely. We are not saying that things made of atoms and molecules and have material reality literally do not exist, and in that sense, illusory. We are saying that they have no self-nature. They have no inherent existence. They have no solid, substantial, reality that corresponds to their mode of appearance. They seem to be inherently existent, yet they are not. This is the teaching of the great Middle Way School, Madhyamika. There a couple of different schools of thought here, the Mind-Only School (Cittimatra) says that everything is mind. The only thing that truly exists is the mind itself and everything else is a projection of the mind. Mahamudra teachings say that the actual nature of reality is such that it transcends postulation of either existence or non-existence, or both, or neither. This is called the ‘Four Extremes’. The Mahamudra view transcends them. From our relative level of truth in Tibetan they say ‘Kun-Zop Dempa’ which is a fascinating phrase . ‘Dempa’ means truth. ‘Kun-Zop’ means completely false. Therefore the ‘completely false truth’, the relative truth is a result of our mistaken perception. We perceive things to have inherent existence when they really do not. Our minds grasp at what we perceive as solid and real. Because of that mental grasping, we reify that which is in fact empty. That is a mistake. That is an error. All appearances are our experience. They are experienced by and in our own minds. Other than that, there is no possibility of experience. All external appearance is a mental projection in the sense that it is experienced by the mind. It has no solid inherent existence from its own side. That is a mistake in perception.”
Question: “Is there any way in which one can be in the Pureland, aside from literally at the end of existence. On the other hand, is this something that can be reached in this present existence? Can the Pureland be accessed in this life?”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “Yes, when the last breath has been exhaled, before the next breath is inhaled. At that moment, there is a death and a rebirth. You can experience the Pureland there in the interval between breaths.”
Question: “Rinpoche, you say that you can experience the Pureland in that interval, in that case, what is the Pureland?”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “What is the Pureland really? The Pureland is one’s own stainless primordial awareness. If, from moment to moment, you regain and retain your own primordial enlightened nature: that is the Pureland. Everything comes from your own mind. Understand that, remain there: that is the Pureland.”
Question: “If interdependent origination arises in emptiness. Then, how can this be if there is no elaboration in emptiness?”
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche: “Emptiness and interdependent origination are non-dual. They are one. Even to say non-dual is to miss the mark, because that implies that there might have been a duality that was overcome. From the beginningless beginning, they have always been one. There is no difference between them. It is not like there are two divisions. When you see emptiness and interdependent origination dualistically, it is the extrapolation of samsara, cyclic existence. Overcome duality and you see cause and effect at the same time. Then everything arises together. That is complete, non-dual emptiness and interdependent origination. In the text, many examples are used to illustrate this truth of the non-dual union of emptiness and interdependent origination. Nevertheless, let us take, for example, this cup. As a relative manifestation or appearance that be experienced by our perceptual mechanisms, the cup is something that is composite. It is made of smaller particles. Is it not? It is made of atoms and molecules that become particular substances: earth, air, fire, and water. All of those things are combined in such a way as to produce what we call a cup. Then it is decorated, painted, and carved. That is something that is made in Tibetan we say ‘Dütshe’: composite, something that has been created. Causes and conditions have been brought together in such a way to create a relatively existent manifestation that we can use and interact with and perceive as what we call a cup. However, from its own side, independent of causes and conditions, there is no ‘cupness’. There is nothing arising as the ‘cup’ in and of itself apart from that entire process of causes and conditions coming together. It has no essence. Its essence is empty. In the ‘Prajña Paramita Hydraya’ Sutra, the ‘Heart Sutra’, it says “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. Other than emptiness there is no form, other than form there is no emptiness.” All phenomena have that exact same nature. Whatever is experienced within either cyclic existence, or its transcendence, has that exact same nature. Its essence is empty and it is experienced as a result of interdependent origination. To perceive things as alternate visions of emptiness and interdependent origination is to remain an ordinary sentient being. To overcome the dualistic vision, to perceive things simultaneously as emptiness and interdependent origination, is to be Buddha. The great Arya Nagarjuna said: “Cyclic existence and its transcendence (samsara and nirvana) are not two. Understanding the nature of cyclic existence in itself is transcendence.”