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… has the ability to convert everything to its own use, even spirituality…

For example, if you learned of a particular beneficial meditation technique of spiritual practice, then ego’s attitude is, first, to regard it as an object of fascination and, second, to examine it. Finally, since ego is seemingly solid and cannot really absorb anything, it can only mimic.

Thus, #ego tries to examine and imitate the practice of meditation and the meditative way of life.

If we become successful at maintaining our self consciousness, through spiritual techniques, then genuine spiritual development is highly unlikely.

Our mental habits become so strong as to be hard to penetrate. We may even go as far as to achieve the totally demonic state of complete egohood.

The Essential #Chogyam Trungpa


It’s not through ‘luck’ that we met our Root Guru His Eminence Tsem Tulku Rinpoche but through some ‘auspicious’ circumstance that we did.

We are forever indebted to our Guru for he brought dharma into our lives and made living meaningful.

We are educated in the western way and in many ways, we seek for proof of mysticism in dharma.

But how can we who are so deluded in our minds to accept the words of the wise one if we do not let go the “baggage” on our backs…the baggage we have been carrying since this earthly birth.

If we do not or cannot accept that the Lord Buddha and his highly attained disciples have taught and spoke about the 6 realms, karma, etc.

We must ask ourselves what we want in this life.

We will definitely die and on death where do we go?

If we do not believe in mysticism, then what lie ahead of death?

If there is no life after this life, then why are we so perturbed with our own circumstances?

If we do believe in life after this life, does that belief akin to belief in mysticism.

There is a danger of developing a nihilistic view here.

But whatever clouded delusions we have for the moment, at least we are all on a path, whether it’s guided or not, it’s still the path – let’s all practice compassion, politeness as these are the essence of a spiritual aspirant.

If we live to control others, to have one up on others…we are on a wrong path.

As the saying goes – “let the buyer beware”.

We are very fortunate because of His Eminence Tsem Tulku Rinpoche who is an erudite Buddhist Master guiding us.

We pay utmost reverence to our Guru, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha community.

Significance of a Monk’s Robes

Disrobing or having robes has nothing to do with a person’s status, who he is or his attainments.

We take vows, we do not “take” our attainments.

So if a monk removes his vows, it just means his work will manifest in another way.

For example, Chogyam #Trungpa Rinpoche gave up his robes back in #England. It did not affect his work at all in America and it continues to grow very big.

His Eminence #Gehlek Rinpoche gave his vows back many years ago and took a consort. It did not affect his teachings or his abilities at all; nor does it affect his relationship with his Guru at all.

#Kyabje #Tsem Rinpoche
Gurus for Hire #Enlightenment for Sale

Dorje Shudgen Five Families


Protector Dorje #Shugden is the wrathful emanation of the #Buddha of #Wisdom, #Manjushri. Fierce yet compassionate, he manifests in five different forms, each representing a different type of enlightened activity (pacification, increase, control, wrath and wisdom).This exclusive set of five brass statues features a gold finish and full iconographic detail according to traditional scriptural sources. It is an excellent focal point and meditation aid for your daily practice, and bestows the benefits of healing, abundance, control, protection and wisdom.Dorje Shugden (Main Form)The principal emanation, also known as #Duldzin Dorje Shugden, grants powerful protection from negative energies and black magic, swiftly helps overcome life’s obstacles, and attracts the positive energies of wealth, peace and wisdom. Learn more about the Dorje Shugden statueShize (#Vairocana Shugden)This “pacifying” form of Dorje Shugden is revered by many for his ability to purify negative karma, pacify natural disasters and calamities, and is especially efficacious for overcoming illness and disease.Learn more about the Shize statue#Gyenze (Ratna Shugden)This “increasing” form of Dorje Shugden is revered by many for his ability to increase lifespan, material resources, merit, spiritual realisations, and all that is good.Learn more about the Gyenze statue#Wangze (Pema Shugden)This “controlling” form of Dorje Shugden is revered by many for his ability to bring about peace and stability of mind and help tame very negative minds, people and situations for virtuous reasons.Learn more about the Wangze statue#Trakze (Karma Shugden)This most wrathful and fiercest form of Dorje Shugden is revered by many for his ability to bestow protection from harm, spirits and black magic, and to overcome the most difficult obstacles and powerful delusions.…

Starting on Vajrayogini Now!


Transcript for Starting on Vajrayogini Now!

Kechara Care members and volunteers and friends in the Ladrang and there’s of course our sincere practitioners that are in KH1 right now who’s been doing the blog teachings.

So I want to speak to you guys just for a few moments and it is like this. I am really really really here in Malaysia to bring Dharma to people who are ready and to people who will be ready soon and people who will be ready in the future. I really don’t have any other purpose to stay in Malaysia. I don’t really have any purpose to hang out anywhere not just in Malaysia. I really have left America to stay in the monastery, and I am very happy in the monastery and I love the monastery, and the monastery has everything that I would want for my life. And when I was sent out of the monastery to go teach, it was very sad for me but at the same time, it was the command of my teachers. Because it was the command of my teachers and the instructions of my teachers, I listened and I followed.

So, in any case, being sad would mean that I am being very selfish. Because if I have true faith and I have true confidence in my spiritual teachers, then I would have a lot, a lot of happiness in whatever instructions they give me. So if my teachers give me instructions and I feel happy, that means I am lessening my selfish mind. Why? Because I trust my teachers’ wisdom more than my own. So therefore when I say I am sad, I don’t mean it in a negative way. I don’t mean it in a negative way but I mean it in a way that I miss the monastery very much. Anyway, I have been blogging a lot of information and the information hits different facets of life. It hits different types of backgrounds and different interests and different likes.

So the latest post that I have put up is on Vajrayogini. The reason I put up on Vajrayogini is because a few of our members and a few of the people connected to our members have passed away, and a few of our members connect to people who will be passing away in the very near future. And the teachings that I gave a few months back, I have already mentioned that this year there will be some close people who will be passing away. So at the time of death, whatever we think is important right now, however righteous we are or however strong or weak or sad or happy we are, it doesn’t matter because if we were to die tonight, if we were to pass away tonight, if tonight was the last night we will ever breathe again or ever see or move again, would we act, would we behave, would we move around and would we sad or happy at the things we are experiencing? Of course not. If we were to die today, if we were to die tonight, of course we wouldn’t be happy or sad at the things that we are happy or sad about today because it wouldn’t matter at the time of death.

So therefore to me, what I figure is this, that in life it goes by very fast. The timing for life goes by very very fast. If you look back at your life and you look at yourself and you examine yourself carefully, you ask, “Where did all the years go by?” When you look at your face and you look at your hair and you look at your body, at the size and the shape, you have to ask yourself, “Where did all the time pass? Where am I now? And then is it going to get better in the next years coming? Am I going to get younger? Am I going to get better? Am I going to get healthier? Am I going to get stronger or is it going to get worse?” So when we look at ourselves clearly in the mirror and we face the truth, things do not get better. Things will deteriorate because that’s the nature of existence.

Hence when we meditate on what I am explaining to you, when you think about what I am explaining to you, when you are focusing on what I am explaining to you, those are all points for transformation. Because when you focus and meditate on what I am explaining to you, your mind will transform.

So it is very very important that we do Vajrayogini’s practice today. It is very important that we adopt Vajrayogini as our Yidam today. It is very very important for us to do Vajrayogini’s practice today. It is very important that we start immediately and we should never make excuses. We should never make fifty excuses why we can’t do Dharma today. We should never make fifty excuses. Why? In fact, even when we receive the Dharma, we should be very respectful. We should be very still. We should not be moving or fidgeting around. We should not think this or that. We should not disturb other people. We should not disturb our own mind. We should be very respectful, and very still and very calm to listen to the Dharma. Why? Because Dharma is something we should respect. Why? Because Dharma can change our life, change our son, change our daughter, change our future. Do you know how many mothers I have who come to me now and they say, “I wish I had listened to you to do what I was supposed to do before, so that my children would have been okay now? My having problems with my children now, I am having difficulties with my children now because I wish I had done what I hadn’t done before.”

So my point is what is? When we had the chance now to do Dharma we should do Dharma. And what kind of Dharma that I would like you guys to do? A few days ago I put up a posting on Vajrayogini. It is short, it is sweet, it is easy and it is especially tailored for our modern, so-called busy, distracted people. So if you look at my blog site where I have the latest post on Vajrayogini, there is something there for mothers, there is something there for fathers, there is something there for single people, older people, younger people. There is something there for people who are busy. There is something there for people who are not busy. There is something there for serious practitioners. There is something there for people who are new in Dharma. So if you look at my latest Vajrayogini post and you read it carefully, I gave a talk on it to the liaisons about four, five days ago. And I have asked Paris and David to write a little commentary on the teachings that I gave and it is on the Vajrayogini post in the comments section. And what I would like all of you to do is to read the Vajrayogini post carefully. At least once a week, read it carefully because it is not long, and read the comments section by Paris and by David because they further explain what I explained in that post.

So if you start doing that practice now, it will benefit you, it will benefit your parents, it will benefit your grandparents, it will benefit your children. Why? Let me explain and you listen very carefully. Because if we have a barrel or we have a bucket and we put water inside and the water overflows, it will make everything around the bucket wet also. That means the water affects everything around it – not just inside the bucket – it will affect everything around the bucket.

So therefore, if we have our family members around us, if we have our children and we have people around us that we really love and we really care, then giving them food and money and a house is great but that will not be enough. Why will that not be enough? It wasn’t enough for you. Look at yourself – your parents gave you food and house and education. They gave you your body, they gave you morals but that wasn’t enough to be happy in life. It wasn’t enough to survive. It wasn’t enough to do what you needed to do. Were they at fault? No. They weren’t at fault. That is the nature of samsara. So if you look at yourself, was it enough just to get food and love and care and education? No, it wasn’t. So if you are doing the same thing for your children or your friends or your partner, it will not be enough for them too. What you need to top off everything – Dharma. You need to give your children Dharma. But you can’t give your children Dharma if you don’t practise Dharma because when your children have difficulties and problems and sufferings in the future and they will, like you did… when you were children, everything is fine and when you grow up, then all the problems come. How did you solve it? You made a lot of mistakes and a lot of problems for yourself, not because you are bad; you didn’t have any other way, you didn’t know how.

So therefore if we practise Dharma we will inspire others, people around us, our relatives, our children, our friends, our wives, our husbands, our partners; we will inspire people around us. If we speak Dharma to others, the only way other people will listen is if we do it. For example, if I don’t do Dharma practice, if I don’t keep my commitments, if I am not sincere, none of you would be here. There would not be thirteen departments in Kechara House. There would not be more and more people coming to Kechara House. Why? If I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing and I am not sincere, how will I influence you? So how will you influence other people if you yourself don’t do Dharma? This is not criticism. This is not a scolding. This is food for thought, food for thought.

So therefore I put on the Vajrayogini post…Vajrayogini because our centre’s yidam is Vajrayogini and Tsongkhapa, and if you read my post carefully, Tsongkhapa and Vajrayogini are one being, they just manifest differently but their body and the symbols on their body represents the complete path to enlightenment. So if you look at the blog carefully, and you read the blog carefully, and you go over carefully and you study more and more, you will see how intensely profound and how deep that blog post really is and how easy to share.

Everyone should have a Vajrayogini image. Everyone should have a Vajrayogini altar. Everyone should have a Vajrayogini shrine – big, small, bigger the better but big is subjective according to our budgets, and to do it well and to dedicate it to our loved ones and to dedicate to the people that have been kind to us and to start Vajrayogini’s practice as I have written on the blog. If you start as I have written on the blog then it is the same as if you have received Her empowerment. Then in the future…

We are now building our 700-capacity prayer hall in SunwayMas. The next project, we’ll be building Menara Kechara. The next project…the concurrent project will be KWPC. And when those all come up, especially KWPC, maybe even in Menara Kechara, I will be giving select groups of people Vajrayogini’s practice. I will be giving select groups of people her commentary and her meditation, and passing the lineage down to people. And then we will have secret intense retreats on Vajrayogini because I really want to create practitioners. Some people say, “Well, can I start now?” You can’t do her mantra, you can’t do her meditation, you cannot do her practice because her practice requires a high level of practitioners or people who are highly ready. So how do you get ready? You don’t do Vajrayogini’s practice when you get it. You have to start doing Vajrayogini’s practice now. You need to prepare yourself now, in order that you can get the practice. You see you don’t go to the Olympics, then start running. Before you go to the Olympics, you have to train your body for five to ten years to get it in shape, to get it ready and win contests. You have to win local contests, you know, state contests, national contests, international contests before you can get to the Olympics. You don’t just start running and practising when you get to the Olympics.

Well, Vajrayogini is like the Olympics. You have to start now. You have to start training now. So everything I have posted on the Vajrayogini blog, do not pick what you like and ignore what you cannot, what you don’t like. You have to do one by one by one by one by one. That will be very very beneficial for you. You might think, “But it is so hard, it is so difficult.” Yes it is. It is difficult, it is hard. Do you know why? Because our lazy selfish mind tells us it is hard. Because for many people it is not hard. For many practitioners it is not hard. It is just dependent on your priority. So it is very important to take a look. Remember, remember my favourite thing is within sixty years everybody in the room will be dead. Every single person in your room that you are sitting in, within sixty years will be dead. Some ten years, some five years, some fifteen years, some twenty years, some thirty years; everybody sitting in that room that you know, your relatives and loved ones, your children, your friends, most likely within sixty years, or close to it, will be dead.

Meditate on that. Think about that. So all the things you are happy about, all the things you are unhappy about makes no difference anymore when your mind leaves your body and your body starts to decompose. It doesn’t matter anymore. Only the Dharma practice you have done will save you, will help you, will lead you, will guide you. Nothing else is left. And if you find this uncomfortable, it is very good. It means your mind can perceive and your mind can think. Your mind can have some logic. If you don’t find it uncomfortable you should meditate until you become uncomfortable. So it forces you to do more Dharma practice. That’s very important.

So therefore I want all my students who are listening and I want all of you to please share with other people. It is out of my great concern, it is out of my great care and it is out of my great planning for all of our future that I have posted Vajrayogini’s teachings, in short, on the blog and if all of you look at it and you practise it, you will be practising Vajrayogini right now. You see you can recite The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. You can recite the 50 Verses of Guru Devotion. You can recite the Three Principle Paths. You can recite and learn the teachings on the Eight Thought Transformations and it can all be directed to Vajrayogini because you don’t have to do her mantra and prayers to be praying to her. You can use The Wheel of Sharp Weapons to pray to Vajrayogini. You can use the 50 Verses to pray to Vajrayogini and request her to bless you, request her to give you her wisdom so you may understand and penetrate. So when you are doing that, you are focusing on Vajrayogini.

I would like very much in KH1, the Administrators there, the Education department there to explain the blog on Vajrayogini and the explanations that I have given to everyone in the Ipoh Study Group, and Malacca Study Group and JB Study Group, and Singapore Study Group. I would like very much for it to be given in KH1, in KH2, in all the classes that we have to more and more people in the future, this particular blog. And I would like in KH1, the Education people to also, at least twice a month, to have teachings from the blog which means you open up one of my blogs, and have a talk and explanation and have everybody post a comment. If there’s older people there, post the comment for them, read it to them and make sure they confirmed that’s what they said, and then you can put their names there, and you can post it so that their input is there.

It is very wonderful and exciting to read everybody’s input because it’s…everybody should share what they feel. And don’t just write simple inputs and comments like, “Oh it’s beautiful, it’s so nice, it’s so wonderful”. Write how it affects you. Write what you are going to do. Write specifically how you are going to go about this practice. Why? Because whatever you write can touch someone else’s life. Whatever you say can affect someone else’s life. So that’s why it is important whatever we write and say, we have to think about it carefully. We have to focus on it carefully. We don’t simply do and say and act because everything we say and do can affect someone adversely or positively.

For now, besides what I have posted on the blog, make it a point to get along with everyone. Make it a point to be kind to everyone. Do not fight, do not show a black face, do not show impatience, do not do that to anyone even if they have harmed you, do not. Do you know why? Because if you do that to them, then you become just like them and you are not any better and that is not spiritualism at all. Of course people have hurt you and damaged you. You should not let them hurt you and damage you, and you may be careful with them but it doesn’t mean you hold anger towards them. You need to forgive. Remember, ultimately all harm that comes to us, ultimately, originally came from the harm we gave to other people. So whatever harm we have received is harm we have given to other people that is coming ‘one sharp wheel of weapon’ around, back to us. So what is very important is whatever harm that we receive, we must be patient, we must be forgiving, we must tolerate because no harm came to us from no causes. And the cause of the harm that we have received, the cause came from our self. The cause came from what we did. The cause came from what we had done to others. So therefore it must come back. Otherwise where else does the harm come from? Where else will it come from? It cannot just come from nowhere. And some harm we receive from people, these people that give us harm, sometimes they give a lot of help to other people. How come the same people who give us harm, can give help to other people? That means that even these people that harm us are not permanent, are not fixtures that actually give harm. It is from our own karma.

So what is important right now is to do our work conscientiously, well, to do our work completely. To never ever do our work ‘half past six’ or not completely, not well and to leave it to others. Or to be lazy or to be slow or to do our work in such a way that we burden others. Why? If we believe in Buddha and we believe in karma and we trust our teachers and we believe in the teachings of the Buddha, then we will not do our work in such a way that we don’t do it well, that other people have to make it up for us. Do you know why? Because if you don’t do your work well, you leave it for someone else to do for you. How can you eat, sleep late, enjoy, do what you like? Everybody else would like to do what you are doing. Everybody else would like to have good things. Everybody would like to sleep late. Everybody likes to relax. Everybody likes to have freedom of time, everybody. How come you can do it and then someone else must cover for you, and you yourself can relax and enjoy, and then you pray and do mantras and then you read Dharma, and you go to Dharma centers, then you go meet your guru…that’s not correct. Why? Because behind everyone’s back, you are putting your work on other people and you are using them to enjoy yourself, or you are using them not to do your responsibility. If you do like that, I am not saying you are like that, I am saying if you do like that, then that’s not spiritual practice.

People think spiritual practice is recite ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, meditate, make offerings to the Buddha. Those are supportive spiritual practices. Those are not the actual spiritual practice. The actual spiritual practice is to take the burden onto yourself. The more difficult road you take, the more easy a road you give to other people. If you are selfish, you are not spiritual. If you are selfish, you will create more negative karma to harm yourself and others. If you are selfish, you will have to suffer a lot in the future. Selfishness is your enemy. People are not your enemy. Selfishness is the thing that brings harm to you. No one bring harm on you except your own selfishness. So if we find doing more for others is difficult, it is not that doing more is difficult for others. Why? Because we are selfish and we are not used to it. Solution? We must fight it. Solution? We must do it. Solution? We must do it until it becomes easy. We have to do it…when it becomes easier to do and we don’t have…we don’t see it as a burden, we don’t see it as a problem, it becomes easier. And it does become easier. I promise you. Helping people, being kind, taking on their burdens and doing more for others definitely, one hundred percent becomes easier. Why? It is just a matter of habituation. Once we habituate ourselves to take more responsibility, to be more kind and to be more considerate to others and not to put our burdens on other people, once we get used to it, it becomes beautiful and easy. Do you know why? Because when people like you, when people have tears in their eyes, and they say “thank you” to you, and when people want to be near you and when people want to be your friend and when people appreciate you, you will know that that is the right path.

Never mind Buddha, karma and next life. When people appreciate you and like you and want to be around you and you don’t need to avoid them, you don’t need to run away from them, you don’t need to be insecure, that when they like you, it means you are doing a good job. It means that people can feel your kindness and your love. And when people feel that and they are happy to be around you, that is Dharma.

So everybody wants to wake up late, everybody wants to have easy life, eat good food, relax and have their own timing and control of their timing. Everybody wants that. But everybody cannot have that so we must share the burden. We should not put our responsibility onto other people. Do you know why? Because one day that karma will come back to us. It will come back to us, one way or another. That’s for sure. The Buddha cannot be wrong. Secondly if we put our burden on others, we don’t do our work well, it means that we are still a very selfish person. If we are still a very selfish person, how do we become spiritual? A spiritual person is a person who is not selfish. A person on the spiritual path is a person who lessens their selfishness. Please let me repeat. A person who is lessening their selfishness is on the spiritual path. The spiritual path is equated to lessening your selfishness. How many mantras you do, how big your altar, how many Dharma pendants you wear, how beautiful your mala is, is not spirituality. Those are only different methods to help you get to spirituality. So if your selfishness lessens, if your selfishness becomes less, then you are on the spiritual path and you are becoming spiritual. And when you become spiritual, you will like yourself and other people will like you. When you become spiritual, you will like yourself and other people will like you, and your children will respect you, and your partners and your family will observe the change in you and will respect you, and you can even bring them to the Dharma. Why? Because of how much you have changed and that’s very important.

Do your work well. Never burden others. Don’t force other people to remind you over and over and over what your responsibility is. When you make other people remind you, it means you are selfish. When you are selfish you have to expect more sufferings and difficulties to come. You have to expect problems to come. Don’t push your work onto others. Take your work and do it well, and take some of other people’s work and their burdens quietly and gently and do it for them, and with a smile. Make people happy. Take people’s burden away. Take people’s problems away. Give them good advice. Give them good character. Give them good personality and give them good energy. Whenever you walk into the room, you should be like a shining light. When people see you, they respect, they like you, they love you and they say you are a good person, you are a good person. And when you become that person, then you are spiritual and when you are spiritual, you can bring spirituality to so many people who need it, so many people who have no direction, no purpose, sad, depressed. Even I meet so many people who want to kill themselves. The only way to help them is if we can show them a different path and a different way.

So therefore today I just wanted to…I am very happy to see many people in the Ladrang department volunteering and working. I am very happy to see people in KH1 having classes, and I would like the KH1 Administrators to give Dharma from the blogs and invite Paris and David to give an explanation because they attend most of my talks. They will be able to remember and explain, and to talk about it to the class and explain. And I would like all the departments to look through Vajrayogini blog, and explain and talk and tell them what it is all about, especially read the comment section. Because why? It will help everyone to bring Dharma to other people. The more knowledge, you have the more powerful become.

So a summary:

  1. I would like everybody to do the Vajrayogini practice and how you should you do it, I have written on my blog very clearly
  2. A short summary of that, again is to take your work and do it all the way and never let your work burden other people. Never let your work spill onto other people. Do your work and do extra. Why? Because you are kind, because you are caring, because you are spiritual, because you don’t want other people to suffer
  3. Develop yourself to become someone that people like, people respect, people follow, people listen to and people find happiness to see you. Develop into that person no matter how you were in the past

And the last thing is, if you follow my blog post and you look at the Vajrayogini post and you read it carefully in the comment section, you can start your Vajrayogini practice today. Remember everything we have will be gone, everything we are going to get will be gone, everything we are keeping now will be gone. The only thing we can take with us is our mind. So that’s very very very very important okay?

I wish everybody well. I wish everybody a good night and I wish everybody a good rest. I am going to do a quick dedication and then I am going to say goodbye.

Practise Vajrayogini, practise Tsongkhapa who are one. Take the burdens of others onto yourself. Do your work well, conscientiously, and make your presence and who you are a pleasure for other people to see and think about. Even when people think about you, they feel happy to think about you. When you make other people happy, that is Dharma. Never make people remind you of what you need to do. Be responsible because you care. Spirituality is being a person whose selfishness is lessening and lessening and lessening. A truly spiritual person is a person who has no selfishness or very little. That’s spirituality okay?

Thank you very much and good night to everybody. Bye bye.

Do animals reincarnate back as humans?

Dear friends around the world,

Reincarnation is a theory central to the religious practice or spiritual beliefs of millions around the world. It’s an interesting topic, so I am always looking out for articles to share with all of you, and this one is interesting indeed. We often hear stories of people remembering their past lives, but usually they tell of previous lives as humans. In some cases however, there are instances in which a person remembers stories of their past life as animal.

In the article below, the story is told of a young boy who remarkably remembers his past life which was a snake. Whereas such stories are rare, it goes to show that reincarnation does exist. Please take a read, and open your mind to the theory of reincarnation. When we realise that we have been born countless times, in various human and non-human forms we can begin to develop compassion within our minds and appreciate all forms of life to a greater degree. This leads to a harmonious relationship with various sentient beings, and the environment in which we all live.

Although, at the end of the article, after questioning a spirit guide who channelled through a medium, the conclusion was made that about the boy and his previous life as a snake. The explanation is interesting. But I will let you read and find out.

Animals can become human again and vice versa after death. We take repetitive rebirths due to karma, instinct, imprint and ego. When we hold on to a strong sense of ego, then we generate karma. Karma from actions of body, speech and mind propel us to endlessly take rebirth in myriads of places in order to continue to ‘satisfy’ the ego. The dichotomy is the ego can never be satisfied and continues creating karma to take rebirth in samsara. Many lifetimes can be with or without sufferings, it is just which karma we have triggered open. But for sure samsara is not a safe place to be. In fact, there are six realms we can reincarnate into within samsara and repetitively also. Samsara is not just planet earth, but planet earth is a speck within samsara. The sages of the past compassionately advised through spiritual means to remove the ego as we know it to end existence within samsara that is bound to sufferings repetitively. Nothing else can really explain suffering in our lives better if you think about it.

The second part of this article shares another interesting topic: animal telepathy and remote viewing. I hope you enjoy reading this article. I like studies of this nature tremendously. Thank you.

Tsem Rinpoche



Do We Reincarnate as Animals?

Interpretation of the Dalawong Case: A Thai Boy with a Snake Past Life

Animal Telepathy & Remote Viewing: A Medical Doctor’s Experience

Walter Semkiw, MD
In my work with Kevin Ryerson, Ahtun Re, a spirit guide channeled through Kevin Ryerson, has always stated that human beings do not reincarnate as animals. This subject is addressed in my book Origin of the Soul and the Purpose of Reincarnation, which consists of my dialogues with Ahtun Re.


Spirit Beings in Reincarnation Cases

Victoiran GhostReports of spirit being involvement in reincarnation cases are frequent, including in cases researched by Ian Stevenson, MD at the University of Virginia. I have had the opportunity to work directly with a very intelligent spirit being in Ahtun Re, who is channelled through world famous trance medium Kevin Ryerson, on a monthly basis since 2001. Though I was skeptical at first, I came to the conclusion that Ahtun Re truly is a discarnate spirit being separate from the consciousness of Kevin Ryerson, primarily due to Ahtun Re’s encyclopedic range of knowledge, which I consistently found to be accurate, and an ability to make what I have assessed to be accurate past life identifications. In contrast, Kevin Ryerson does not have an encyclopedic scope of knowledge and neither do I.

Ahtun Re’s personality, sense of humor, voice and accent are also different from Kevin’s, so much so that when Kevin channels Ahtun Re, it seems as if another person has taken Kevin’s place.

Let me now share insights on the idea of animal incarnation based on a reported case, a telepathic experience I had with a squirrel and comments on these matters from Ahtun Re.


Return to Life, Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives, by Jim Tucker, MD

DoWeReincarnate-2Jim Tucker, MD has taken over for the late Ian Stevenson, MD at the University of Virginia. Dr. Stevenson was a pioneer in research that provides objective evidence of reincarnation, whose work primarily involved children who had spontaneous past life memories that could be validated. Dr. Tucker had a book published in 2013 entitled Return to Life, which I recommend. In it, he includes an unusual case in which a child claimed to have memories of being a snake in a past lifetime. After reviewing this story, I revisited the issue of animal incarnation, which made me also reflect on an unusual telepathic experience I have had with a squirrel. Yes, I know, it sounds odd, but it is true.


Animal Reincarnation and Hinduism

I believe the observation that human beings can have telepathic connections and communications with animals can explain why some people and religions, such as the Hindu faith, proclaim that humans can reincarnate as animals. First let us review the snake incarnation case published in Dr. Tucker’s book.(1)


Dalawong: A Child Recalls a Past Life as a Cobra in Thailand

DoWeReincarnate-3This case was actually researched by the late Francis Story, a British citizen who was fascinated with Buddhism and spent many years in Asia. He was also very interested in the topic of reincarnation and assisted Dr. Stevenson in investigating a number of very important reincarnation cases in Burma and Sri Lanka. Francis interviewed the subject of this case, a Thai boy named Dalowong, along with his father, mother and sister. He also had access to a pamphlet that was previously published regarding the case, which was also summarized in an article in the Bangkok Times.

Dalawong actually claimed two past animal incarnations. He recalled a past lifetime as a deer, which he said was killed by a hunter. Subsequently, he stated he was reincarnated as a snake, more specifically, as a cobra.


Reported Past Life Memories: Mr. Hiew’s Dogs attack Dalawong, as a Snake, in a Cave

As the snake, Dalawong remembered that he was in a cave when two dogs entered and attacked him. A ferocious struggle ensued between the cobra and the dogs. The owner of the dogs then entered the cave and killed the snake. Apparently, the snake was able to bite the human invader on the shoulder, prior to succumbing to death.

The human took the cobra’s body back home, where the snake was cooked for a meal. This man shared the snake meat with an acquaintance, who would become Dalawong’s father in the near future. The man who killed the cobra had the name Mr. Hiew.


As a Spirit Being, Dalawong follows Mr. Hiew to his Home & Chooses his Future Human Parents

West Siberian Laika gnawing a young tree, isolated on black After being killed as a snake, according to Dalawong, he as a spirit being, followed his snake body and witnessed Mr. Hiew and his future father eating the snake meat. Apparently this meal took place at the residence of Mr. Hiew. Dalawong thought that Mr. Hiew’s friend was a sympathetic soul, followed him home and entered the womb of the man’s wife. He was subsequently born as a human being, Dalawong, who was conceived shortly after the snake incident.


Dalawong recognizes his Past Life Attacker, Mr. Hiew and Seeks Revenge

When Dalawong was 3 years old, Mr. Hiew came to a party that was taking place next door to the home of Dalawong’s family. Dalawong recognized Mr. Hiew as the man who killed him as a snake during the struggle in the cave with the dogs.

Dalawong became enraged and seeking retribution, tried to find a weapon to attack Mr. Hiew, which was observed by his mother. Dalawong explained to her that Mr. Heiw killed him when he was a snake and described the incident in the cave with the dogs. When this story was related to Mr. Hiew, he confirmed that such an incident did indeed occur just as Dalowong described.


Apparent Past Life Memory: Dalawong Knows of a Snake Bite on Mr. Hiew’s Shoulder

natural caves in thailandDalawong then touched Mr. Hiew’s left shoulder and said that Hiew had been bitten there by the snake. Mr. Hiew indeed did have a scar at that spot incurred from snakebite.

It was pointed out that neither Dalawong nor his mother had never previously met Mr. Hiew. His parents insisted that Dalawong could not have had knowledge of the incident of the snake being killed by Mr. Hiew in the cave by normal means.


Dalawong Meditates in his Snake Cave and becomes a Shaman with Ichthyosis-Snake Skin

Follow up of this case took place 20 years after this confrontation with Dr. Hiew through Jurgen Keil, another associate of Dr. Stevenson. It was found that as an adult, Dalawong would regularly visit the same cave where he claimed to have been killed as a snake, where he would meditate. Through meditation, he gleaned information on how to use herbs to heal the sick. He was recognized in local villages as a lay medical doctor or what would be called a shaman in various cultures. It was also noted that Dalawong developed a dermatologic condition called ichthyosis, which affected his legs, causing scale-like skin, somewhat like a snake’s skin. Ichthyosis is generally considered a genetic disorder.


Snake Skin-A Possible Variant of Birth Marks in Reincarnation Cases

DoWeReincarnate-6In his reincarnation research, Ian Stevenson found that in many cases in which an individual died of a traumatic wound, such as a knife or bullet wound, in the following incarnation a birth mark or scar would be found at the same location as the traumatic wound.

Dr. Stevenson hypothesized that in some way, the mind affected the body in the next incarnation to produce these scars or birthmarks. I like to use the concept that the soul projects an energy template into the developing fetus, which produces similar facial features from one incarnation to another, a phenomenon observed in many reincarnation cases, including Ian Stevenson reincarnation cases. It is possible that the energy template underlying the physical body can be affected by traumas, such as bullet or knife wounds, and this imprint on the energy body is reflected in the physical body in a future incarnation as birth marks or scars.

Dr. Tucker pointed out that Dalawong’s ichthyosis could be considered a variant of the birthmark phenomenon in reincarnation cases.


A Medical Doctor’s Telepathic Experiences Regarding a Past Lifetime

I do not consider myself psychic, but I have had definite psychic experiences involving information that was provided to be telepathically, from unknown sources, which proved to be accurate or meaningful. Most of this telepathic information had to do with the evolution a reincarnation case of my own. It was almost as if my own soul, or perhaps a spirit being, was guiding me in the discovery of past life information and past life personal connections. These telepathic experiences are most thoroughly documented in my book, Return of the Revolutionaries, but a number of these experiences are outlined in the section: Introducing Kevin Ryerson & Ahtun Re

Psychic or telepathic guidance and reincarnation cases is common, including in many cases researched by Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia.


Animal Telepathy: A Squirrel sends Walter a Plea for Help

Before I share this story, let me point out that I trained in psychiatry and understand very well the nature of hallucinations and delusions. Anyone who claims to get a message from a squirrel risks being labeled psychotic, but let me reassure you that throughout the years that I have received telepathic or intuitive messages, I’ve worked as a medical doctor and have functioned normally.

At the time of this incident, my wife’s father was still alive and the three of us lived together. He was a elderly widower and needed the support of my wife and I, as well extended family. I became quite fond of my father-in-law and we took many car rides together to be in nature, along the Pacific coast through the neighboring mountains. He is missed.


Squirrels in the Back Yard and on the Deck

Cute squirrel standing on the snow In the house where we live, there are many trees in the backyard. Adjacent to the bedroom where my wife and I sleep, there is a deck and next to it, there is a large cypress tree which has been the home of a squirrel. I have long had a fondness for squirrels and have fed them nuts, which I place on the deck just outside the sliding glass door of our bedroom.

The neighborhood squirrels have learned that when the sliding glass door opens, they can expect a treat. They scurry onto the railings of the deck and I often talk to them in a joking fashion, saying good morning and welcoming them to breakfast, much like pet owners talk to their dogs or cats as if they were little children. I enjoy watching the squirrels standing on their haunches, holding a nut in their front paws while they nibble on their food, almost like miniature people.


Squirrel Acrobats

Squirrel pausing at the Park Some of the squirrels have become quite tame. Please don’t tell my wife, but I have even coaxed one or two into the bedroom where I would make them find nuts hidden behind my hand. I wouldn’t advise feeding them directly by hand, though, as a squirrel in its haste to obtain food can accidentally bite it’s benefactor.

I am also entertained by their acrobatics as they jump from one tree limb to another. Sometimes they even act like trapeze artists using a redwood lattice that we have in the yard to partition space. Sometimes it seems that they do these acrobatics just to show off their athleticism, as if they are aware that I am watching. I share these details so the reader understands that my involvement with our back yard squirrels has not been fleeting, but substantial.


Animal Telepathy: While at Work, Walter has a Visual Impression of a 7 Foot Squirrel in Distress

In the spring of 2013, I was working in my medical office, which is about 3 or 4 miles from our home. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and I was doing paper work at my desk. Out of nowhere, I received a distinct visual image of a squirrel on our deck at the sliding glass door of our bedroom. What was bizarre is that the squirrel was standing up on his back legs like a human and was the size of the entire sliding glass door. In other words, this squirrel was 7 feet tall.

Though the squirrel did not speak verbally, I received a telepathic impression that it was in great distress, felt betrayed and it was communicating to me something to the effect of, “What’s going on?” It seemed to be upset and was questioning, “Why?”


Animal Telepathy: Walter Hears Himself Communicating with the Squirrel

Just after this receiving this vivid visual impression, I heard myself telepathically say to the squirrel, “Well at least she didn’t have her dogs.” I immediately knew that I was referring to my wife’s niece, who has 2 large Labrador Retrievers who can be unruly and though well meaning, due to excitement, they are aggressive in jumping on visitors.

This experience lasted only a few seconds. When it was over I thought to myself, “That was bizarre.” Though I have telepathic messages in the past, I never had a associated vivid visual image and I never expected such an experience with a squirrel. I had not been thinking of squirrels at all that day. Further, since my wife is afraid of large dogs, her niece never brings her canines to our home, so the experience seemed to make no sense at all.

I didn’t know what to make of this unusual experience, shrugged it off as a random strange incident and continued working at my desk.


Animal Telepathy: Meaning of the Squirrel Image & Experience

When I came home that evening, I discovered that my unusual telepathic visual impression of the squirrel actually had meaning. My wife’s niece had unexpectedly stopped by our home that afternoon to visit her grandfather, my wife’s father. It was a warm day and she opened the sliding glass door in our bedroom to allow air to flow through the house. She then left the bedroom to sit and converse with her grandfather in the living room.

At one point, she walked back into our bedroom and saw a squirrel at the open sliding glass door. She was unaware that I considered the squirrels pets of a sort and she did not know that I regularly fed them.


Animal Telepathy: Squirrel Attack Occurs at the Same Time Walter had the Visual Message

As she as alarmed that the squirrel was about to come into the house, my wife’s niece rapidly advanced towards the squirrel, yelling at it to chase it away. When she related these events to me and my wife, she was even proud that her repulsion of the squirrel was vigorous and aggressive, stating. “That squirrel will never come back here again.”

This attack on the squirrel happened at about 3:30, approximately the same time that I had the visual impression of the 7-foot squirrel standing at that same sliding glass door, expressing fear and betrayal.


Walter’s Animal Telepathic Message to the Squirrel & Soul Consciousness

Now I understood why during my telepathic visual experience of the squirrel, I heard myself saying to the 7-foot squirrel, “At least she doesn’t have her dogs.” As I mentioned, my niece has 2 large Labradors that can be aggressive.

What is most peculiar about this incident is that part of my consciousness was fully aware of what was going on to the extent that I could telepathically communicate back to the squirrel, “At least she doesn’t have her dogs.” Part of my consciousness was communicating back to the squirrel, which I overheard while sitting in my medical office, though in my medical office, I had no clue as to what was going on.

This demonstrates how the consciousness that we are used to on a day-to-day basis is a limited, compartmentalized awareness that is only a portion of the consciousness of the soul.


Soul Consciousness, Split Consciousness, Incarnation & Remote Viewing

DoWeReincarnate-9This experience can be used to understand what I call split incarnation, in which one soul animates more than one body at a time. Ian Stevenson termed this phenomenon reincarnation cases with “anomalous dates,” as a previous incarnation is observed to overlap with a subsequent lifetime. In my squirrel situation, my soul was aware of what was going on in our bedroom and deck, while I was 3 or 4 miles away. My consciousness, one could say, was at two physical locations at once. One could also term my experience as a spontaneous case of Remote Viewing.


Split Incarnation, Twin Flames, Twin Souls or Parallel Lives

Just as my consciousness apparently was in two physical locations at once, the soul can split its consciousness into two physical bodies. Let me share that I have a male friend who is a very successful, retired financial executive who has identified his split, who is an accomplished businesswoman.

This occurred unexpectedly when after meeting this woman for the first time, he started experiencing her thoughts in his mind and witnessing her dreams. When these incidents occurred, my friend would contact this woman to share what he had experienced and found that she indeed was having the same thoughts and same dreams.

My friend and the businesswoman have similar facial bone structure or appearance. After reading my books, my friend hypothesized that he and this businesswoman were splits, though he preferred to use the more common New Age terms twin souls, twin flames or parallel lives. I prefer splits as one can have more than two splits, at least according to my work with Ahtun Re.


Spirit Being Ahtun Re’s Interpretation of Walter’s Telepathic Experience with a Squirrel

3D rendered Illustration. Subsequently, in a session with Kevin Ryerson I asked Ahtun Re for his explanation of what happened to me. Ahtun Re related that all living things are indeed interconnected and through my affectionate dealings with my backyard squirrels over the years, telepathic connections have been made.

He stated that the squirrel felt shocked and betrayed when my wife’s niece chased the squirrel away from the sliding glass door. Ahtun Re added that the squirrel perceives me as a 6-foot squirrel, something along the lines of a big papa or mama squirrel. He also noted that the squirrel is very curious as to where I keep that big stash of nuts.


Walter’s Animal Telepathy Experience & Dalawong’s Past Life as a Shaman

The way my squirrel story fits in with the Dalawong case is that I wondered whether Dalawong had some type of psychic connection with snakes in a past incarnation, which made him think that he was a snake a past lifetime. I asked Ahtun Re about this case and my theory.

Ahtun Re stated that Dalawong was not a snake in a past incarnation, but that he did have a past lifetime as a shaman who used to meditate in the very cave where Mr. Hiew killed the cobra. In this past lifetime, Dalawong did have a strong affinity for snakes and developed telepathic connections with them, as well as with other animals. After the death of this shaman, his soul continued to visit the cave where he meditated while alive.


As a Sprit Being, Dalawong Observes Mr Hiew Killing the Snake

The shaman’s soul, in spirit form, was to be present in the cave when the altercation between the snake, Mr. Hire and his dogs occurred. Perhaps the shaman’s soul was drawn to the cave by the snake, just as the squirrel telepathically appealed to me.

Through a telepathic connection, the shaman experienced what the snake experienced when being killed. The soul of the shaman followed Mr. Hiew home and witnessed him sharing the snake meat meal with Dalawong’s future father. As he liked Dalawong’s father, he decided to reincarnate as this person’s child. Dalawong, as a child, accessed memories of Mr. Hiew killing the cobra, as witnessed by his own soul in spirit form.

An error was made in that Dalawong interpreted these memories as meaning that he was the snake in a past incarnation, rather than witnessing the killing of the snake as spirit being.


Jim B. Tucker’s Interpretation of the Dalawong Reincarnation Case

Jim Tucker, MD noted that he found it difficult to accept that Dalawong had a past life as a snake, rather, he writes: “What I can consider, however, is that a consciousness was associated with the snake while also apart from it.” (2)

The proposal that Dalawong was a spirit being who was telepathically in rapport with the snake Mr. Hiew killed is one way that Dr. Tucker’s hypothesis could have been fulfilled.


Soul Plans & Repetition of Behavior through Reincarnation

Reincarnation research, including Ian Stevenson’s work, does support that souls can choose their parents. To learn more, go to: Planning of Lifetimes

In addition, reincarnation research shows that we often repeat behaviors and express similar talents from one incarnation to another.

As reported by Jurgen Keil, Dalawong, as an adult, would meditate in the very cave where the snake was killed in my Mr. Hiew, before Dalawong was born. In this cave, Dalawong would access information on herbs with medicinal effects through psychic means and he became a local medicine man or shaman.

According to Ahtun Re, Dalawong lived a similar human past lifetime in which he essentially did the same thing, meditating in the same cave, developing psychic abilities and serving as a shaman for his community. Though this proposed past life, which can explain Dalawong’s memories, cannot be validated, this sort of consistency in behavior from one lifetime to another is supported by independently researched reincarnation cases, including those studied by Ian Stevenson, MD.


Animal Telepathy: An Explanation for Animal Incarnation in the Hindu Faith

In sum, the Dalawong case, my telepathic experience with the squirrel and input from Ahtun Re may give us insight on why some people believe they may have been animals in the past lifetime, and how it has be come part of the Hindu faith. Telepathic experiences with animals, and past life memories of such experiences, can be mistakenly interpreted as animal past lives.

Due to the interconnectedness of all living things, Ahtun Re does support the Hindu practice of maintaining a vegetarian diet. I have to admit that I have not disciplined myself in this regard, though my squirrel experience makes me reflect on the issue more.


Soul Evolution & Hindu Compassion for Animals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In conclusion, in my dialogues with Ahtun Re, the purpose of reincarnation is to evolve and grow, much like a child goes through grades of school in the process of becoming a self sufficient adult. Once a certain level of development is attained, reincarnation is no longer necessary and we, as souls, continue to evolve in the spirit realm.

Ahtun Re has pointed out that a soul who has evolved through human incarnations would have little benefit by incarnating as an animal, which is driven by instincts. Ahtun Re has stated that animals have an evolutionary line of their own and pets that have developed emotional attachments to humans can reincarnated with their owners. These topics are discussed in Origin of the Soul.

The interconnectedness of all living beings has been affirmed my Ahtun Re and in a humble way has been demonstrated by my telepathic experience with a squirrel. This interconnectedness supports the Hindu precept of compassion for all living things.
Note to Readers: Ian Stevenson. MD was a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia who wrote in a very academic style, as his target audience was fellow scientists. On the IISIS web site, his past life cases are presented as children reincarnation stories to make his academic work easier to understand. For those interested in appreciating the scientific rigor of his research, such as his use of multiple witnesses to establish corroborated testimony, please refer to the original reports written by Dr. Ian Stevenson.


  1. Tucker, Jim B., Return to Life, Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2013, pages 38-40
  2. Ibid, page 41


Emptiness with a Heart of Compassion


Dear friends around the world,

I have always been very attracted to Buddhism since young, although my parents forbade me to engage in it fully. I would always look for secret opportunities to do my sadhanas (daily prayers) and would be beaten severely if I were caught in the act. It was a very difficult period for me but if I were given a choice, I would happily and willingly go through all that again.

One of the core tenets of Buddhism is Emptiness. In modern times, the attainment of perfect and complete understanding of Emptiness is made more difficult by ever-present distractions such as the Internet, Facebook and modern conveniences. The culture of materialism, peer pressure, and constant advertising does not help at all either. Thus, in many ways, the concept and understanding of Emptiness has become much more crucial and relevant for the people of today.

In 2007 during a book club session at Kechara House, I gave a short teaching on Emptiness based on the book ‘Dragon Thunder’ by Diana Mukpo.

I also hope you enjoy this article on the Heart Sutra, perhaps the most famous teaching on Emptiness, and do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tsem Rinpoche



The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever

By Karl Brunnholzl on Wednesday December 28th, 2016



Finding Wisdom in the Emptiness

“Penetrate the true meaning of the Heart Sutra, says Karl Brunnhölzl, and nothing will be the same again. The secret is making it personal.

There is no doubt that the Heart Sutra is the most frequently used and recited text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition, which still flourishes in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, China, parts of India and Nepal, and, more recently, also in the Americas and Europe.


The Heart of Wisdom

Many people have said many different things about what the Heart Sutra is and what it is not, such as being the heart of wisdom, a statement of how things truly are, the key teaching of the Mahayana, a condensation of all the Prajnaparamita Sutras (the Buddha’s second turning of the wheel of dharma), or an explanation of emptiness in a nutshell. In order to understand the actual words of the Heart Sutra, it’s helpful to first explore its background within the Buddhist tradition as well as the meanings of “prajnaparamita” and “emptiness.”

When we read the Heart Sutra, it sounds nuts, but that is actually where the wisdom part comes in.

One thing we can safely say about the Heart Sutra is that it is completely crazy. If we read it, it does not make any sense. Well, maybe the beginning and end make sense, but everything in the middle sounds like a sophisticated form of nonsense, which can be said to be the basic feature of the Prajnaparamita Sutras in general. If we like the word “no,” we might like the sutra because that is the main word it uses—no this, no that, no everything. We could also say that it is a sutra about wisdom, but it is a sutra about crazy wisdom.


Everything is Taken Away

When we read it, it sounds nuts, but that is actually where the wisdom part comes in. What the Heart Sutra (like all Prajnaparamita Sutras) does is to cut through, deconstruct, and demolish all our usual conceptual frameworks, all our rigid ideas, all our belief systems, all our reference points, including any with regard to our spiritual path.

It does so on a very fundamental level, not just in terms of thinking and concepts, but also in terms of our perception, how we see the world, how we hear, how we smell, taste, touch, how we regard and emotionally react to ourselves and others, and so on.

This sutra pulls the rug out from underneath our feet and does not leave anything intact that we can think of, nor even a lot of things that we cannot think of. This is called “crazy wisdom.” I guess I should give you a warning here that this sutra is hazardous to your samsaric sanity. What Sangharakshita says about the Diamond Sutra equally applies to all Prajnaparamita Sutras, including the Heart Sutra:

“…if we insist that the requirements of the logical mind be satisfied, we are missing the point. What the Diamond Sutra is actually delivering is not a systematic treatise, but a series of sledgehammer blows, attacking from this side and that, to try and break through our fundamental delusion. It is not going to make things easy for the logical mind by putting things in a logical form. This sutra is going to be confusing, irritating, annoying, and unsatisfying—and perhaps we cannot ask for it to be otherwise. If it were all set forth neatly and clearly, leaving no loose ends, we might be in danger of thinking we had grasped the Perfection of Wisdom.
—Sangharakshita, Wisdom Beyond Words


A Manual for Contemplation

Another way to look at the Heart Sutra is that it represents a very condensed contemplation manual. It is not just something to be read or recited, but the intention is to contemplate its meaning in as detailed a way as possible. Since it is the Heart Sutra, it conveys the heart essence of what is called prajnaparamita, the “perfection of wisdom or insight.” In itself, it does not fuss around, or give us all the details.

It is more like a brief memo for contemplating all the elements of our psychophysical existence from the point of view of what we are now, what we become as we progress on the Buddhist path, and what we attain (or do not attain) at the end of that path. If we want to read all the details, we have to go to the longer Prajnaparamita Sutras, which make up about twenty-one thousand pages in the Tibetan Buddhist canon—twenty-one thousand pages of “no.” The longest sutra alone, in one hundred thousand lines, consists of twelve large books.

The Heart Sutra is on the lower end, so to speak, and the shortest sutra consists of just one letter, which is my personal favorite. It starts with the usual introduction, “Once the Buddha was dwelling in Rajagriha at Vulture Flock Mountain” and so on, and then he said, “A.” It ends with all the gods and so on rejoicing, and that’s it. It is said that there are people who actually realize the meaning of the Prajnaparamita Sutras through just hearing or reading “A.”


A Big Koan

Besides being a meditation manual, we could also say that the Heart Sutra is like a big koan. But it is not just one koan, it is like those Russian dolls: there is one big doll on the outside and then there is a smaller one inside that first one, and there are many more smaller ones in each following one. Likewise, all the “nos” in the big koan of the sutra are little koans. Every little phrase with a “no” is a different koan in terms of what the “no” relates to, such as “no eye,” “no ear,” and so on.

It is an invitation to contemplate what that means. “No eye,” “no ear” sounds very simple and very straightforward, but if we go into the details, it is not that straightforward at all. In other words, all those different “no” phrases give us different angles or facets of the main theme of the sutra, which is emptiness. Emptiness means that things do not exist as they seem, but are like illusions and like dreams.

They do not have a nature or a findable core of their own. Each one of those phrases makes us look at that very same message. The message or the looking are not really different, but we look at it in relation to different things. What does it mean that the eye is empty? What does it mean that visible form is empty? What does it mean that even wisdom, buddhahood, and nirvana are empty?


Forget Everything

From an ordinary Buddhist point of view, we could even say that the Heart Sutra is not only crazy, but it is iconoclastic or even heretical. Many people have complained about the Prajnaparamita Sutras because they also trash all the hallmarks of Buddhism itself, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Buddhist path, and nirvana. These sutras not only say that our ordinary thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are invalid and that they do not really exist as they seem to, but that the same goes for all the concepts and frameworks of philosophical schools—non- Buddhist schools, Buddhist schools, and even the Mahayana, the tradition to which the Prajnaparamita Sutras belong.

Is there any other spiritual tradition that says, “Everything that we teach, just forget about it”? It is somewhat similar to the boss of Microsoft recently having publicly recommended that PC users should not buy Windows Vista any more, but instead go straight from Windows XP to Windows 7. Basically, he was advertising against his own product. The Heart Sutra is similar to that, except that it tells us only what not to buy, but not what to buy instead.


No, No, No

In brief, if we have never seen the Heart Sutra and we read it, it sounds crazy because it just keeps saying “no, no, no.” If we are trained in Buddhism, it also sounds crazy (maybe even more so) because it negates everything that we have learned and try to cultivate.

How does our mind feel when we are not grasping at anything, when we are not trying to entertain ourselves, and when our mind is not going outside (or not going anywhere at all), when there is no place left to go?

The Heart Sutra and the other Prajnaparamita Sutras talk about a lot of things, but their most fundamental theme is the basic groundlessness of our experience. They say that no matter what we do, no matter what we say, and no matter what we feel, we need not believe any of it. There is nothing whatsoever to hold on to, and even that is not sure. So these sutras pull the rug out from under us all the time and take away all our favorite toys.


Finding New Mental Toys

Usually when someone takes away one of our mental toys we just find new toys. That is one of the reasons why many of the Prajnaparamita Sutras are so long—they list all the toys we can think of and even more, but our mind still keeps grasping at new ones. The basic point is to get to a place where we actually stop searching for and grasping at the next toy.

“Then we need to see how that state of mind feels. How does our mind feel when we are not grasping at anything, when we are not trying to entertain ourselves, and when our mind is not going outside (or not going anywhere at all), when there is no place left to go?

Usually we think that if a given phenomenon is not something, it must be nothing, and if it is not nothing, it must be something. But emptiness is just a word for pointing out the fact that no matter what we say or think about something, it does not really correctly characterize that something because our dualistic mind just gets stuck in one extreme or the other. Thus, we could say that emptiness is like thinking outside of the box, that is, the box of black-and-white thinking or dualistic thinking.

As long as we stay within the ballpark of dualistic thinking, there is always existence, nonexistence, permanence, extinction, good, and bad. Within that frame of reference, we will never get beyond it, no matter if we are religious, a scientist, a Buddhist, an agnostic, or whatever. Emptiness tells us that we have to step out of that ballpark altogether. Emptiness points to the most radical transformation of our entire outlook with regard to ourselves and the world. Emptiness not only means the end of the world as we know it, but that this world never really existed in the first place.

Without developing a soft heart and compassion, which like water softens our mental rigidity, there is a danger that the teachings on emptiness can make our hearts even harder.


The Epitome of Compassion

Why is it called the “Heart Sutra”? It has that name because it teaches the heart of the Mahayana, primarily in terms of the view. However, the basic motivation of the Mahayana is also implicitly contained in this sutra in the form of Avalokiteshvara, the great bodhisattva who is the embodiment of the loving-kindness and compassion of all buddhas. It is actually the only Prajnaparamita Sutra in which Avalokiteshvara appears at all, and in it he is even the main speaker. Thus, the Heart Sutra teaches emptiness through the epitome of compassion.

It is often said that, in a sense, emptiness is the heart of the Mahayana, but the heart of emptiness is compassion. The scriptures even use the phrase “emptiness with a heart of compassion.” It is crucial to never forget that. The main reason for Avalokitesvara’s presence here is to symbolize the aspect of compassion and to emphasize that we should not miss out on it. If we just read all the “nos” and then get hooked on the “no path” of “no self” and “no attainment,” it gets a little dreary or depressing and we may wonder, “Why are we doing this?” or “Why are we not doing this?” In fact, the heart essence of the Prajnaparamita teachings and the Mahayana is the union of emptiness and compassion.


Reading with a Soft Heart

If we look at the larger Prajnaparamita Sutras, we see that they teach both aspects extensively. In addition to teaching about emptiness, they also speak about the path in great detail, such as how to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion, how to do certain meditations, and how to progress through the paths. They do not always say “no,” but also sometimes present things in a more positive light. Even the Heart Sutra, toward the end, comes up with a few phrases without “no.”

Without developing a soft heart and compassion, which like water softens our mental rigidity, there is a danger that the teachings on emptiness can make our hearts even harder. If we think we understand emptiness, but our compassion does not increase, or even lessens, we are on the wrong track. Therefore, for those of us who are Buddhists, it is good and necessary to give rise to compassion and bodhichitta before we study, recite, and contemplate this sutra. All others may connect with any spot of compassion that they can find in their hearts.


Let Go and Relax

In yet another way, we could say that the Heart Sutra is an invitation to just let go and relax. We can replace all the words in this sutra that go with “no,” such as “no eye,” “no ear,” with all our problems, such as “no depression,” “no fear,” “no unemployment,” “no war,” and so on. That might sound simplistic, but if we do that and actually make it into a contemplation on what all those things such as depression, fear, war, and economic crisis actually are, it can become very powerful, maybe even more powerful than the original words in the sutra.

Usually we are not that interested in, for example, our ears and whether they really exist or not, so with regard to contemplating what emptiness means, one of the basic principles of the Prajnaparamita Sutras is to make the examination as personal as possible. It is not about reciting some stereotypical formula or the Heart Sutra without ever getting to the core of our own clinging to real existence with regard to those phenomena to which we obviously do cling, or our own egoclinging.

For example, the Heart Sutra does not say “no self,” “no home,” “no partner,” “no job,” “no money,” which are the things we usually care about. Therefore, in order to make it more relevant to our life, we have to fill those in. The Heart Sutra gives us a basic template of how to contemplate emptiness, but the larger Prajnaparamita Sutras fill in a lot of stuff, not only saying “no eye,” “no ear,” and so on. They go through endless lists of all kinds of phenomena, so we are welcome to come up with our own personal lists of phenomena that map out our personal universe and then apply the approach of the Heart Sutra to those lists.


The Heart Attack Sutra

There are accounts in several of the larger Prajnaparamita Sutras about people being present in the audience who had already attained certain advanced levels of spiritual development or insight that liberated them from samsaric existence and suffering. These people, who are called “arhats” in Buddhism, were listening to the Buddha speaking about emptiness and then had different reactions. Some thought, “This is crazy, let’s go” and left. Others stayed, but some of them had heart attacks, vomited blood, and died.

It seems they didn’t leave in time. These arhats were so shocked by what they were hearing that they died on the spot. That’s why somebody suggested to me that we could call the Heart Sutra the Heart Attack Sutra. Another meaning of that could be that this sutra goes right for the heart of the matter, while mercilessly attacking all ego trips that prevent us from waking up to our true heart. In any case, so far nobody has had a heart attack here, which is good news. But the bad news is that probably nobody understood it either.