Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
Nyingma Summer Seminar, Talk 16
July 21, 2013
Puntsok Choling, Ward, Colorado
Good morning to you all. As Elizabeth said, this is the “grand finale” of nine days of the Nyingma Summer Seminar. This morning, I want to simply thank everybody for your enthusiasm toward the study and practice of the Dharma and also for coming from all over the world. We have people here from Japan, Holland, Australia, Canada,Finland, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, France, and from the great country of theUnited States of America. It’s really the Dharma that brings you here, not me, or anything else. I welcome you and really appreciate your interest in the Dharma and your pursuit of meaning through the practice of the Dharma.
Since we are stil lin the Vajrayana section, I thought I would speak a little about the notion of crazy wisdom—woo! The notion of crazy wisdom is really dancing, just like we did last night. This is in the Guhasamaja or Guhyagarbha, or any of the tantras that you read—the so-called tülshuk kyi chöpa. First of all, there is the view, the meditation, and the conduct. Crazy wisdom is more in relation to the conduct. And in the conduct, the name for crazy wisdom—though I don’t know where this term came from—is probably tülshuk kyi chöpa, which means dancing.
Of course, there are many kinds of dancing, including waltzing and other popular types of dancing that are organized all over the world. But rock-and-roll dancing, or the dancing that people do now, is more or less just free-style dancing, which at best is spontaneously moving your body without any inhibitions, restraint, or self-consciousness. When we are able to dance in that way, there’s a sense that we enjoy dancing more because of the freedom we feel as we dance. It’s also a way to express the nature in the moment, which enhances the bliss that is in the nature through the movements of dance. By not being caught in restraint, self-consciousness, or by forms and the organization of forms—no good or bad, just what it is—such dancing is more or less just to express oneself, on-the-spot, with a sense of joy in one’s movements.
Of course, as a yogin, there is the physical movement of the body, the movement in the mind, and the movement of the energy of the mind and body flowing in one’s own channels, in one’s life, and in the moment. The dancer might be a yogin. There could be a yogin who is also a dancer, or there could be a yogin who is not a dancer. There could be a dancer but not a yogin, and then there could be someone who is not a dancer or a yogin. With these, we could understand the four categories, or mu zhi. In this case, we are talking about someone who is a yogin as well as a dancer.
Many lama dances are very organized and have great rhythm, and a lot of training goes into performing them. But they’re probably not crazy wisdom because tülshuk kyi chöpa has no rhythm or organization and no sense of good or bad. A trained ballerina has a strong sense of discipline and is able to move through that discipline with the grace that such discipline provides. Then the discipline becomes the ballerina, and the ballerina becomes the discipline. The grace, which was not natural, becomes natural. Of course, no one is born with the skills of a ballet dancer; it takes many years of rigorous training to achieve that discipline.
But in the case of free-form rock-and-roll dancing, the grace has to come from not being self-conscious, not being caught up in ideas of good and bad or in the organization of one’s body and mind, and not being caught up in the precision of executing what one wants to look like in the eyes of others. It’s just a free expression of oneself in the moment of one’s own awareness, embodying movement and expression. Of course, there’s an element of joy and bliss that is enhanced. Perhaps we can see why more people are doing rock-and-roll dancing in the world than more disciplined dancing.
When you watch others perform more disciplined dancing, you can admire them, like seeing really great dancers at the opera. Or in Paris, at the Moulin Rouge, you can really admire how dancers can imitate a swan. I never knew swans were so graceful until I saw dancers imitate them, and from that perspective, I came to have a greater appreciation for the gracefulness of swans! You can tremendously appreciate those dancers’ movements, but they’re not being spontaneously present. You would definitely see yourself as separate from them and incapable of moving as they do. And even if you were capable, you would think, “Oh! To do that, first I would need to be young and very fit, and I’d need to train for many years.” So, most of the time in this kind of case, it will be a one-way street:viewing and admiring.
But in the case of free-style dancing, one can express oneself freely without any hindrances, without any self-consciousness or restrictions, without ideas of good and bad, without organization, without forms—just moving, like a child. For example, when you leave a child in a crib, the child moves with two hands and two feet, with tremendous joy and a sparkle in their eyes. Tülshuk kyi chöpa or crazy wisdom should be something like this.
Taking tülshuk kyichöpa in that way has its own place, similar to the way dancing has its own place. You might dance in your living room, on a dance floor, or in any other appropriate situation when music and other conditions come together, and your intention is to express yourself by dancing. But if you try dancing in a train station in New York or someplace like that, then it might not be appropriate or helpful. Instead of being seen as sanely expressing yourself, you might actually be taken to be insane. Though the yogin, tülshuk kyi chöpa or not, may not care what others think and simply wants to dance, unless the yogin has completely transcended all forms of concepts, all forms of barriers, all forms with no hindrance or self-consciousness at any level, whether living in a society or not, then the yogin forcing the dancing in that way might be artificial. It would not necessarily be a great practice.
In a way, tülshukkyi chöpa is an abstract expression, with the body, speech, and mind just being in the moment, which enhances the freedom, bliss, joy, and sense of naturalness all together at once as one, whole, yogin’s expression. Of course, if there is intrinsic awareness, it makes everything much different and more of a genuine gar, which means graceful movements. Even if one’s entire expression is not completely based on non-conceptual intrinsic awareness, nonetheless, if therei s a sense of being free and unrestrained, unself-conscious—and if any level of wakefulness and awareness is there—I think it could be a great enhancement of the practice itself.
There are many different levels of tülshuk kyi chöpa. There is the tülshuk kyi chöpa that Saraha, the great arrow maker, conducted on the banks of the Ganges, and also thatGuru Padmasambhava conducted in different sacred places of India and Tibet. Also, there is the tülshuk kyi chöpa that many other great mahasiddhas conducted, such as Tilopa and Naropa and all the great repas of the Kagyu tradition, from Milarepa onward. Someone like Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, a great reincarnation of Jigme Lingpa himself, conducted himself in ways that are beyond our abilities—at least beyond my own ability now. Sepa so nowa, being able to revive someone who was killed, is beyond my ability. Causing the Ganges to flow upward is also beyond my ability, as are many of the siddhas’ great miracle powers they exhibited.
Nevertheless, the phenomenal world is seen not to be outside of one’s mind but is held as an expression of one’s mind, and thus one’s own realization is able to overpower phenomena rather than phenomena overpowering one’s own mind. One lives in the freedom of one’s own mind rather than being restricted by phenomena and not being able to see that freedom. These are the kinds of things to transcend in the whole process of the view of crazy wisdom, or tülshuk kyi chöpa. Therefore, tülshuk kyi chöpa is not to be taken out of context, without the view, or without some purpose of enhancing one’s whole path of the Vajrayana.
It’s All about Going beyond Duality
With this context and the view, and with the path in mind, though we cannot actually have or do the tülshuk kyi chöpa—like sepa so nowa, the dead revived by your power, and trying to emulate the great masters of the past, like Padmasambhava, Naropa, or Tilopa—nonetheless, there’s a place for tülshuk kyi chöpa in all of our lives. Perhaps dancing is the appropriate tülshuk kyi chöpa for us. I would like to encourage everybody to dance, if one feels inspired to have a bit of crazy wisdom. Do the free-form dancing that is just being in the moment and enjoying it, seizing the moment with no self-consciousness or concepts of good or bad, and simply expressing and enhancing the joy of free expression. In this way, I think that whatever meditation we do—whether it’s the upayakarma or sampanakarma, the generation, or the accomplishment practice of the Vajrayana—can be a benefit. It can make oneself become a little looser, more relaxed, and better able to go beyond duality. In the Vajrayana, it’s all about going beyond duality.
There’s a story of two Zen priests who were traveling together. They came to a river crossing where a beautiful woman in a kimono stood perplexed and distressed, wondering how she would be able to cross the river. One Zen monk, a novice, said, “I’ll help you!” He just picked her up, took her to the other side, set her down, and then moved on. The other priest couldn’t believe what his friend had done, and for a couple of hours, he kept thinking about how inappropriate it was. Finally, he said to his friend, “I can’t believe you just picked up that lady and took her to the shore. That’s not how our vows are supposed to be. Our vows suggest that we shouldn't touch ladies.”
Then his friend replied,“Are you still carrying her? I left her a long time ago!”
With this attitude, crazy wisdom or tülshuk kyi chöpa has a great benefit for all of us and a place in all of us. This might not correspond with what you’ve read about crazy wisdom, what attracted you to it, or even what you’d like to emulate. If so, I apologize, because there are many things written on the subject of tülshuk kyi chöpa or crazy wisdom, and a lot of people really get into it and want to manifest themselves in that way—or at least they have a secret wish that they could manifest like that. Many times, instead of being a practice, I think it can lead to inappropriate actions and become destructive. But by introducing tülshuk kyi chöpa as dancing, I don't think it will become self-destructive or outrageously out of order in any way, especially here in the West.
Now, if somebody danced like we did last night in India or Tibet—though it may be different these days because of modernization, but in the old days, in the Tibetan or other traditional culture—people would think you had gone crazy. In the old days, they would have considered such dancing and shaking the head and different parts of the body to be totally bizarre and inappropriate. But now, because disco has become so popular, everywhere you go in Asia or in the western world, this kind of dancing with music isn’t seen as inappropriate or dangerous in anyway.
Dancing and Art Enhance the View
If you want to have crazy wisdom and tülshuk kyi chöpa as part of your path, I also suggest that you use art as another form to express yourself freely—particularly abstract art—to enhance your meditation practice or the view and to not be so strained. The view definitely needs conduct, and for that, there is also general meditation.The general conduct that we know and are introduced to is the discipline of the conduct of the Hinayana and the Mahayana. But in the Vajrayana, I think the most appropriate conduct is, from time to time, dancing itself. In the Vajrayana, I cannot see any more appropriate conduct to enhance the view than dancing.
So, I very much appreciate that we had the chance to dance last night. Even in the tsoks, it is said that dancing is the most appropriate offering and enjoyment. So, with the permission of the vajra master—not out of context—to assume dancing in the ganachakra time is the greatest aspect of the ganachakra, as stated in the Guhyusamaja tantra.I saw many great dancers last night, so I was inspired this morning to encourage people—old and young—to dance with some sense of tülshuk kyi chöpa or crazy wisdom.
If I translate tülshuk kyi chöpa as crazy wisdom, it’s not “crazy” in the sense that we usually understand the term, as insane. That would be inappropriate and self-destructive to one’s own and others’ well-being. That would be crazy, and from that point of view, if it is crazy, it wouldn’t be wisdom; it would just be crazy. As I understand it, in this case, crazy must be understood to mean “nonconceptual, free of ideas of good and bad, free of restraint, free of being bound by one’s own self-consciousness, free from being caught up in one’s thoughts rather than being present in the moment.” It would be crazy only in a certain context, but not crazy in this way of looking. For example, it would be crazy only in the context of, let’s say, you’re in a lama dance, and then you start rock-and-rolling. In that context, it would be strange, and one might wonder whether you’re crazy because you’re free-style dancing during lama dancing. In that case, one might think there is something wrong with this person, and oftentimes there is something wrong with that person.
From the conceptual point of view, we are restrained most of the time and unable to express ourselves freely—because of ideas of good and bad, being self-conscious and bound to that self-consciousness, feeling quite shy, inhibited, inwardly-turned, and awkward. Since this behavior is the norm of the culture and the general sense of how human behavior is supposed to be carried out, I’m not suggesting it’s not good. It’s good. This is how human society forms order.
From that point of view, it might seem crazy to be non-conceptual and to express yourself freely in the moment, unrestrained by ideas of good and bad, not bound by self-consciousness.Being withdrawn and feeling awkward, giving this up as a practice—simply being in the moment, seizing the moment, enjoying and expressing yourself, and just being loose—might seem crazy, especially in certain contexts, but it’s not. It has wisdom, which is to enhance the non-conceptual view. The wisdom here is when the conduct and the view become one, rather than separate. The wisdom is in enhancing the bliss and the sense of freedom that are there with the view. One can enhance the sense of free expression that doesn’t choke the view’s freedom or the bliss that needs to naturally flow. In that way, wisdom is eminent.
Tülshuk kyi chöpa or crazy wisdom has a very appropriate place in all of us in doing things. In our own sacred world and the secret mandala that we create, it’s very appropriate to engage in crazy wisdom. But for someone who doesn’t know what that might be, maybe a little dancing is what I’m encouraging—in one’s living room or kitchen, not in Penn Station or in the mall. And from time to time, dance at asocial gathering like this, which could be a good container for this assembly to experience a little crazy wisdom. But if dancing were mixed with drinking alcohol, it’s not certain what it might become. Jennifer and I talked about how wonderful the dancing was yesterday because it wasn’t mixed with alcohol—there was awareness in the movements, and everybody was awake instead of being under the influence of alcohol. If mixed in with alcohol, it could also be fine, but there would be the question of whether one was dancing with the view or just feeling high and doing it from the influence of alcohol. So please, dance on!
We have gone over the ground, path, and fruition. This particular aspect is called the pongdün, which enhances the ground, path, and fruition—particularly the path aspect, to bring it to fruition. In the path, there is the view, meditation, and conduct. And then the pong dün is separate and enhances the view, meditation, and conduct. So pong dün here means—if you’re an artist, it may be art; if you’re a musician, it may be music. And if you’re not an artist or musician, maybe a little dancing would be helpful.