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Buddhist teaching by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu #2

Teaching through Experience 

Later, many years ago in Italy, when I started to teach, I thought the best way to teach was through my experience. I knew that people who were interested were not really interested in learning only in a traditional way, but wanted to have knowledge and realization; some benefit for themselves. I knew how they could have benefit.

If we really know the essence of the teaching, then we can have benefit. We can also integrate in our existence. Of course, sometimes when I give some kinds of lectures, particularly like seminars of Buddhist philosophy at a university, for example, I do it in a more traditional way. Otherwise they believe I don't know Madhyamika; I don't know this or that thing. But when I am teaching people so they can have benefit, then I go very much with my experience.

For that reason I want to inform you a little about this and maybe you can have benefit. When we are following Dharma, any kind of Dharma - Sutra, Tantra - most important is that first of all we know our condition, not Dharma. We are following Dharma; Dharma is for us, we are not for Dharma. That is important. If Dharma is for us, we must understand our condition.

In our condition as a human being we have three existences, which in Tibetan are called "go sum." "Go" means "door", like a gate from which we enter and from where we go outside. "Sum" means three. Everybody has three gates or three doors. What are these three gates? Our body, speech and mind. Body means the physical body and is easy to understand. Speech or voice means more on the energy level; the physical body has energy. Then there is mind and mind is the main thing in individual existence. These three are what we call the three gates.

Why do we call them the three gates? If we want to go to visit something inside a place, for example, a museum or somewhere, we must go through a door or a gate. Sometimes we also need to buy tickets. Otherwise we couldn't go in. When we arrive inside, if we go regularly, we discover everything, which is inside. If we don't go through the door, we can't get inside. If we don't go inside we can't discover what is there. It is the same thing if we want knowledge and understanding of Dharma, what the essence Dharma is, or the teaching of Buddha, then we should go through our three gates. That means with our body, speech and mind.

If we are already in our existence then we know our three gates and if we want to go outside, for example, we are now in samsara and we want to get outside of samsara, maybe liberating from samsara, in which way can we have liberation? We should go through three gates. Learning the teaching, path, applying, with our energy, physical body, etc., we can then have realization. The three gates are indispensable. The three gates are not only learning and getting in the knowledge, but everything. The teaching, methods, all existence, if we observe well, everything is related with the three gates. There is nothing not related. In this case the three gates become a kind of key for the teaching and for the path.

Why do we call it speech instead of energy? Because when we say speech, speech is related with our breathing and with breathing we produce speech. Breathing is related with our energy, our vital energy. Prana. Breathing is our life. If we are alive it means we are inhaling and exhaling. If we interrupt inhaling or exhaling, there is no more life. Life is breathing. This is one reason. Another reason is that when we speak of our real condition, in the Sutra teaching, we say our real condition or nature is emptiness, shunyata.

Emptiness has infinite potentiality; energy manifestation. If there is no manifestation or energy, then shunyata, emptiness, has no sense. That is our real condition. How does everything manifest from emptiness? Through our energy. Something like the sky. When we say sky we know the sky is empty. There is nothing concrete in the sky. But in this emptiness everything manifests. In a very simple way, for example, sometimes we have very nice blue sky, a nice day, and then we observe clouds manifesting suddenly. They are not coming from anywhere, but they manifest and become bigger. That is an example.

From emptiness, there is manifestation. So the way of manifestation, particularly in a teaching like Dzogchen, is explained through the development of sound. Sound is the source of all manifestation. From emptiness manifests sound, from sound manifests lights, and then lights develop rays, the different colors of the five elements, and then all manifests, like pure and impure vision, which we speak of in Tantric teaching. When we speak of sound we must not think only of ordinary sound. We immediately have that idea. Sound.

But sound has different kinds of sounds. The teaching explains outer, inner, and secret sound. Outer sound is what we hear in the ear; good or bad, nice or ugly, for example, everything, which we hear. Inner sound we don't hear in the ear. We discover and feel it through vibrations. Secret sound can't be discovered through vibration. If we have such knowledge and understanding then we discover that; that potentiality, the root potentiality. For that reason, speech is sound. Voice is sound.

We are producing that sound through our breathing. That is one reason it has a much larger sense than if we only say energy. For example, in Tantric teaching, sometimes we say Vajrayana, the vehicle of Vajra, and sometimes we say Tantrayana, the vehicle of Tantra, but many times we say Mantrayana, which is a very general name.

Mantra means sound. Sound is related to the base of energy; this is the reason why we call it speech. These three - body, speech, and mind - are the three gates. When we say body it doesn't mean only our physical body, but everything related with the physical body, everything on the material level. Subject, object, everything is part of our body. If we think of a person, the condition of a person, number one is mind, then energy, and then the physical body. The physical body is related to the physical dimension in which we live; the subject, object, and everything. The teachings also go in that way.


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