Machig s Story. Below is a brief overview of the life of Machig Labdrön and the influences that led to the - PDF

Machig s Story Right now you have the opportunity. Look for the essence of mind--this is meaningful. When you look at mind, there is nothing to be seen. In this very not seeing, you see the definitive

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Machig s Story Right now you have the opportunity. Look for the essence of mind--this is meaningful. When you look at mind, there is nothing to be seen. In this very not seeing, you see the definitive meaning.[1] Below is a brief overview of the life of Machig Labdrön and the influences that led to the development of her lineage. She was born in 1055C.E., at a time of great innovation, a kind of religious renaissance in Tibet. Machig's life began as a cherished and privileged protégé in the Buddhist hierarchy of her time, she gave up her privilege to become a wandering yogini and later a mother. This move away from monastic institutions and a life of celibacy contributed to her losing her previous social status. She continued to heed her deep calling to practice the dharma, and eventually she left her children with her husband for several years and returned to her teachers, reuniting with them. Eventually, Machig became her teachers teacher. Machig was never a hermit and she spent most of her life in service of her students.[2] Machig s life and her accomplishments were prophesied in both Sutra and Tantra traditions by the Buddha and also by Guru Padmasambhava, the embodiment of Prajña Paramita, goddess of wisdom, and of Tara, the female Buddha of compassion. Machig was the 107th human incarnation of Prajñaparamita and Tara. In the Do Tang Nyik Jaypa Sutra, the Buddha said: In the future when there is great need for human beings, the emanation of Mother Goddess of the Victorious Ones, in the North in a place called Lab a person whose name is Drönme will be born, and she will benefit numberless beings through the stages of visualization and completion (Sampannakrama and Utpattikrama). She will wander in towns and cemeteries. 1 In the Jampel Tsawai Gyud Tantra, the Buddha prophesied: When my teaching is thin like a tea leaf, the embodiment of the Great Mother, whose name is Labdrön will come and her activity will be far reaching. Anyone who is involved with her activity will be liberated. From Guru Padmasambhava, in a prophecy called Tenpa Cir Lung (The General Prophecy for Buddhism), it says: The Manifestation who will cut through all aspects of negative thoughts, who will make them rootless, cutting through them so finely they will never grow again, whose name is Labji Drönma, will come to a place called Zangri (Copper Mountain).[3] Machig had been an Indian yogi in her previous life. As a result of a series of visions, this yogi left his body in a cave in India and his consciousness traveled to Tibet. His consciousness entered the womb of a kind noblewoman, Bumcham. The night she conceived, Bumcham, her first daughter and a neighbor all had extraordinary dreams. When the baby was born, she had many special signs and was surrounded by luminosity, including a third eye shape in her forehead. Considering this a deformity her mother hid the baby behind a door, afraid of what her husband would say. The father had heard the baby had been born and insisted on seeing her. He saw a sacred letter AH written very finely in her third eye and saw that she had all the signs of a wisdom Dakini (feminine wisdom being). Machig grew rapidly and was extremely precocious, before she was three years old, she knew many mantras and she liked to do prostrations and make offerings. She learned to read easily by the time she was five by just being shown the letters. By the time she was eight, she could recite the Eight Thousand Line Prajña Paramita Sutra twice in one day. The governor of the district heard of her and tested her publicly. She was able to recite and explain the meaning of the sutra. While her mother was so shy that she could not speak, the young Machig spoke right up. The governor was impressed and gave her the name Labdrön, 2 Shining Light from Lab (the area she came from) declaring she was a wisdom dakini, and recommended that she be protected from the influences of negative people. Then returning home, Machig Lapdrön with her mother and sister and spent five years studying and reciting the extensive, medium and abbreviated form of the Prajña Paramita Sutra. This Sutra was considered the most sacred of the Buddha's teaching, such that touching it or viewing it could bring great blessings and healing. Having it recited was considered to be a great blessing, and it was the number of times it was recited, not so much understanding the words that was considered of value so a fast reader was very valuable in this occupation. When Machig was thirteen, her mother passed away, and she and her sister began to study with various teachers. When she was sixteen, Machig began to study with Lama Drapa, who taught her in great depth about the Prajña Paramita Sutra. He then asked her to stay with him for four years as his official reader. She agreed and became the reader for his monastery, traveling to the homes of lay people and reciting this Sutra. In this way, she immersed herself in these teachings while serving her teacher. Around this time her sister entered retreat and subsequently passed away. Prajña Paramita Machig's close identification with the Prajña Paramita teachings from her childhood extended throughout her life. It is important to understand Prajña Paramita because Machig's teachings are based on it in important ways. First, the whole practice of Chöd is founded on Prajña Paramita. The aim of the Chöd practice is to overcome the ego s self-clinging so we can perceive the true condition of self and phenomena, empty of our preconceptions, where there is 3 no self and no other. In addition, Machig s understanding of the nature of demons came in part from rereading and studying the Sutra. The Prajña Paramita, is a profound philosophical doctrine focusing on the awakened state. In later times, Prajña Paramita was personified as female Buddha. The underlying philosophical principle had its origins in Indic South Asia and began to emerge around the time of Christ. In this emerging Mahayana Buddhism, Prajña Paramita was called the Great Mother, the matrix from which all awakening occurs. Therefore, she was the mother of all the Buddhas as the source of all enlightenment; this became one of her most common epithets. This is the first time we see a primal feminine principle in Buddhist thought. Prajña Paramita has several meanings: first it refers to the non-dual gnosis of the awakened ones. Secondly, it is the path leading to the non-dual, or the knowledge or particular intelligence leading to awakening. Third, it refers to the texts themselves which reveal this knowledge. And finally, it refers to the embodiment of this wisdom as the first Buddhist goddess. In all cases Prajña Paramita was referred to as feminine but at first as a feminine principle and then later as an actual goddess. The term prajña is usually translated as transcendental wisdom, meaning the wisdom that transcends ordinary reality and perceives actuality. There are many kinds of prajña, or wisdom, but only Prajña Paramita is perfect wisdom, or wisdom that goes beyond ordinary perceptions and knowledge, and sees right into the heart of everything. The word paramita means perfection or that which goes beyond. There are six paramitas typically taught as the activities to be cultivated to reaches the perfection of awakened mind (also called bodhicitta), the paramitas are: generosity, patience, discipline (or ethical conduct), joyful diligence, meditation and finally prajña. 4 The Prajña Paramita Sutra is the most important text of Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasizes the doctrines of emptiness and compassion. This text formed a foundational doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism which then spread to China, Tibet, Japan, and Korea. The text remains a core part of the Mahayana traditions throughout Asia. The roots of Prajña Paramita can be traced to a visionary scholar, Nagarjuna, who lived in approximately 100 C.E. in the area of Andra Pradesh in southwestern India whose people were descendants of the ancient matrifocal Dravidian people. This might have influenced the understanding of Prajña Paramita as a female embodiment of wisdom. Nagarjuna received numerous Mahayana texts including the Prajña Paramita Sutra from snake-like water spirits, nagas, who had hidden them under the water in the lake near where he meditated. The nagas invited him under the water where he received this treasure of wisdom that launched the new wave of Buddhism called Mahayana (aka the Great Vehicle). Edward Conze a scholar who spent his scholarly life focusing on the Prajña Paramita literature drew some remarkable parallels and possible connections between Prajña Paramita and the western embodiment of transcendental wisdom, Sophia. He saw that both Sophia and Prajña Paramita are feminine embodiments of wisdom that emerged and were popularized at the same time. According to Conze, therefore there is a feminine wisdom principle at the root of western culture as well as forming the base of Mahayana Buddhism. This is a significant connection because it is through this feminine wisdom goddess that Machig's life and teachings are linked to our own western cultural roots. Conze suggests both that this could be a synchronistic simultaneous emergence from the human collective unconscious (in the Jungian sense) and he went on to explore historical connections. For example, Conze describes a Buddhist stupa in Amaravati, Andra Pradesh, India, 5 where the great scholar Nagarjuna had lived and where he had discovered the Prajña Paramita Sutras. This stupa combines Dravidian architectural style with Greek elements[4], from this, Conze proposed a possible historical link between Greek and Buddhist thought. Of Amaravati, he wrote: In this area both Dravidian and Greek influences made themselves felt, and Grousset has rightly called the Stupa of Amaravati a 'Dravido-Alexandrian synthesis'. In view of the close analogies which exist between the Prajña Paramita and the Mediterranean literature on Sophia, this seems to me significant and the matriarchal traditions of the Dravidians may well have something to do with the introduction of worship of the 'Mother of the Buddhas' into Buddhism.[5] Although this architectural confluence suggests a connection between East and West at a time when Sophia was a prominent presence in the western theology, it is not yet clear whether historically there was a direct interface between early Mahayana Buddhists and the tradition of Sophia. In any case, there was a remarkable similarity in the philosophical understanding represented by these important female embodiments of absolute wisdom occurring at the same time in the East and the West. This form of the divine feminine emerged during the Neolithic era where the goddess was the image of totality; life came from her and returned to her, and she embodied the door or gateway to a hidden dimension of being that was her womb, the eternal source and regenerator of life. [6] Sophia, like Prajña Paramita, was depicted on a lion throne, as were all goddesses before her. This notion of the great mother was also present in the ancient matriarchal Dravidian culture evincing even more possible layers of interrelatedness. Statues of Prajña Paramita as a Buddhist Goddess were first observed in India by the Chinese pilgrim Fa-shien in 400 C.E. In Tibetan, she is later known as Yum Chenmo. Sophia, the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, was the inspiration for the divine marriage, reunion of dualities. And Prajña Paramita became the female aspect of wisdom that unites with skillful 6 means, upaya, to create the sacred marriage of non-duality in Tantric Buddhist imagery of Yab Yum, the masculine and feminine in sexual union. The association with prajña is so strong that the female Buddhas represented in these unions are called the prajñas to make this link explicit. Another connection between Sophia as the embodiment of gnosis and Prajña Paramita is epistemological. The word prajña in Sanskrit and gnosis in Greek have the same root. The word gnosis derives from the root gno-, to know, cognize, discern . This Greek verb-root matches the Sanskrit jña-, which carries the same meaning. In Buddhism, prajña is the profound knowing which indicates a direct insight into the true nature of reality, or wisdom. The text of the Prajña Paramita Sutra, its doctrine, and virtues were later represented by a goddess known as Yum Chenmo, the Mother of All the Buddhas. So Machig would have known her in this form as well as the more abstract earlier teachings on wisdom. Prajña Paramita was a highly developed form of the mother goddess who had been with humanity from its inception, and later, in the Indic context, she became representative of direct insight into the ground of being. This insight, accomplished through meditation and which is beyond words, comes from turning the mind to look at itself. The process turning and perceiving an ineffable luminous awareness is Prajña Paramita. The stabilization of this indescribable awareness is what gives birth to enlightenment, and thus she was described as the mother or womb of all the Buddhas. Paramita: Here is the most well known quote from the Heart Sutra, an essential discourse on Prajna Form is emptiness, Emptiness is form, Form is not other than emptiness, Emptiness is not other than form. 7 The Prajña Paramita teaches that, once we let go of conceptual thought, emptiness is revealed as fullness, not a dead nothingness, but a vibrant womb of awareness. The teaching on offering one's own body as nectar (as in the Chöd) shows us this is not mere self-sacrifice leading to depletion (as many women experience), but an open-hearted generosity based on an understanding of the essential impermanence and lack of a discrete self in oneself or any other form. It was from this state that Machig was able to offer her body as food to the army of demons during one of her early empowerments and which then formed the basis for her Chöd practice. In her study of the Prajña Paramita, Machig was not only accessing a fundamental Buddhist teachings but also linking to the divine feminine with which she later more consciously identify herself.. During the time that Machig was receiving these in-depth Prajña Paramita teachings, a great Indian yogi named Dampa Sangye came from India because he d had a vision of her previous incarnation being reborn in Tibet as a woman. The night before they met, Machig also had a dream about him. In the early morning she went out into the courtyard of her dwelling and ran into him. She began to prostrate to him but he stopped her and touched foreheads with her, a sign of equal status and deep connection. She asked him how she could help others and he replied: 8 Confess all your hidden faults. Approach that which you find repulsive. Whoever you think you cannot help - help them. Anything you are attached to let go of it. Go to places like cemeteries that scare you. Sentient beings are limitless as the sky. Be aware. Find the Buddha inside yourself. In this teaching we find essential instructions that were later articulated in her Chöd teachings. Dampa became an important teacher for Machig, and she received extensive initiations and oral transmissions from him. According to many scholars, the philosophical lineage of Chöd came from Dampa and was then transmitted to Machig who made the practice her own. Shortly after this meeting, a great yogi named Lama Sonam Drapa learned of Machig. He had been a famous teacher, but had become disillusioned by the lack of genuine students. As a result, he had become a wandering yogi, walking through the mountains and to the sacred places of Tibet. He decided to come to test her. When he arrived he said to her: You are very learned in Prajña Paramita, the perfection of profound knowing, but do you understand the real meaning of it? She replied, Yes, I do. He said: Then explain it to me. So she explained everything she had studied and understood through meditation in great detail. Then he said: You are obviously very intelligent, but you don't seem to have made the teachings part of you. Everything you said was correct, but the most important thing to realize is this: If you do not grasp with your mind, you will find a fresh state of being. If you let go of clinging, a state beyond all conceptions will be born. Then the fire of great prajña will grow. 9 Dark self-clinging ignorance will be conquered. The root of the teachings is to examine the movement of your own mind very carefully. Do this! [7] Machig went back to the Prajña Paramita Sutra, and reread it in light of what Lama Sonam had said. She came across a section about the nature of demons and was so profoundly affected by it that she reached a profound understanding of the nature of reality. This was a turning point in her life, and it was also the moment when she understood the nature of demons. Most simply she defined demons this way: Attachment to any phenomenon whatsoever, From coarse form to omniscience, Should be understood as the play of a demon.[8] Maras and Demons: Obstacles to Enlightenment In Buddhism, the idea of a negative presence accompanying those seeking enlightenment goes back to the Buddha, who was followed throughout his whole life by a shadowy figure called Mara. Mara is the energy of resistance, laziness, sensual desire, craving, anger, hope, fear, and the longing for praise and honor that arises and sidetracks us from the goal of awakening. The Buddha had a relationship with Mara as a personified being and he actually addressed Mara as a person and Mara responded. Mara always knew the Buddha s weak points and approached him at the most difficult moments. The night Gotama, the future Buddha, decided to leave his princely life, abandon his wife and newly born son, and renounce all claims to worldly power, Mara made his first appearance. While everyone in the palace was asleep, Prince Gotama called his charioteer, Karnataka, asking him to wrap his horses hooves in cloth to muffle their sound and to accompany him on foot. They managed to escape the palace undetected, and as they were 10 leaving climbed a hill that gave the future Buddha his final look at the moonlit palace with oil lamps glittering in the windows. At that moment Mara appeared in the air in front of him. Do not go, he said. In seven days you will achieve universal sovereignty. Notice that Mara wasn't offering this tremendous gift right then, on the spot, but in seven days; close enough to seem immediate, but just out of Gautama s grasp. Mara was playing on Gautama s temptation to pursue the happiness and success that lay just around the corner, in just a few more days. We all can identify with this form of Mara and may even have ideas like when we make a certain amount of money, or get a certain job there will be a big payoff, and we will attain the ultimate power we always wanted. And, that this payoff might be just days away. In addition, Mara also offered the young Gotama the ultimate in worldly status, but the Prince recognized the trap. Gotama said, Mara I know you. Rulership of this world is not what I seek, but to become a Buddha. This statement Mara I know you, is key in understanding how Mara works and how to deal with him. He works on us even though we may not recognize distractions and obstacles as Mara. Then first most important moment is when we recognize what is happening and we can say, Ah, Mara I know you. Mara appeared at several other times during the Gautama s life, including several times after his enlightenment. Mara is in all of our fear and clinging. Mara is the one who limits us, or blocks us from awakening to our true nature. By Machig's lifetime, about 1500 years after the Buddha, the notion of Mara as a personified generalized demon had been broken down into four types of maras, or categories of obstacles to enlightenment. These begin with the mara of our psychophy
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