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Call and Response Ep. 52 Reincarnation, Sci-Fi Buddhism and Devotion
“He encouraged us to love everyone, serve everyone and remember God, which is to repeat the Names of God. Japa. Ram Nam. Yeah. I always wanted Him to tell me what to do, you know? Give me some like, practice, some mantra. Some “this” that I could do, you know? But He was never, He never encouraged us to do spiritual practice for the sake of our own spiritual benefit, so to speak. He said, “Think about others.” And really, to tell you the truth, I didn’t get it, you know? “What is He talking about? What do you mean, think about others? What about me?” It takes a while to get with the program. Really, it does.” – Krishna Das
Q: You said something about good health is…
KD: Hard to find?
Q: Yeah, that’s true. The joy of your, all of your cells living in harmony, something along those lines, I didn’t get it down right.
Bob: Yes, yes. That’s right.
Q: That’s it?
Bob: Yes, your life force, your health, is joy and bliss in your system.
Bob: It’s the nature of reality in your system, exerting itself in your system. This is the new orientation we’re cultivating is that reality is joy.
Bob: Love is joy. Because love means, the wish for the happiness of the Beloved is what “love” means in these traditions and how can it wish to have happiness for the Beloved if it doesn’t have happiness itself? Right? In other words, ok?
Q: Without making this, you know, a story rather than a question, this has been a lot, my husband has stage 4 lung cancer and he has gone past his expiration date. He’s supposed to be dead now. But he gets out there and he walks the dog every day and then he goes, he rides the exercise bike for 70 minutes and it makes him happy and he comes home happy, and the doctors are saying, “Well, it’s your physical health that’s keeping you alive.” And that one statement just kind of like, whoa, it’s not just that, it’s the attitude. And thank you all.
Q: Could you just say a few more sentences about what I asked you during the break? When we were talking about, you know, going through the transformation of this life to the next life and I know in Buddhism that you can come back as everybody’s mother, or you can come back as a flea or you can come back as a preta…
Q: And my thought is if you’re being reborn in the human realm, you’re here already having some compassion so it would appear to me that you would want to, people would naturally continue in a higher state. So how do people fall back so they’re in that cyclical of going down again?
Bob: Well, I think the traditional religious interpretations about that tend somewhat, Oh, that’s really interfering with your head. Ok, we have to get that a little bit away, that’s terrible. Ok. So, they tend to overemphasize the danger of deteriorating in one’s embodiment and, which connects to, which is, I think they overdo that, I think. And this connects to the fact that they so much appreciate the evolutionary achievement of becoming human because it’s really extraordinary in the way that… Buddhist biologists would see, for example, how you would move from being a tigress or a lioness towards some less violent embodiment, would be that lioness that was waiting, chasing the herd of antelopes and saw a really juicy slow-moving pregnant one, really juicy, and sort of all, like, puffed up from being pregnant, and then had a subliminal sense of identification because of having had pups herself and then decided to let it go and swerved and jumped on a stringy old disgusting hobbling old much less delicious one, but enough to feed herself and her family. So how many tigresses, lionesses would have such an impulse, such an empathetic impulse based on not having watched nature movies on PBS? And so that kind of thing, that then teaches, leads one to want to evolve into a more gentle level of Being that, actually as a lioness, you would think some weird hairless, furless, two-fangless, clawless animal like a human who can’t even go on all fours might be a bring-down for like, a wild predator, you know? So, they consider that to be, those transitions to be so difficult, to rise toward more gentleness an embodiment. They consider the human being very gentle. That they now want to emphasize the human, like, the danger of falling back and how hard it would be to get back. But I think they overdo it, because I think that the non-enlightened person who takes rebirth based on being driven by instinct, the human being, only the very rare one is going to fall in love with the female rhinocerous and want to enter her womb, I think. That would be an unusual one. Or to enter a beetle’s egg, they would have had to really identify with their Volkswagon in their life to feel attracted to a female beetle’s, a dung beetle’s egg sack or whatever it would be. So, I think they would tend to be attracted toward a human, you know? And, I think that’s more like it, you know? Even the one who’s still the victim and driven by lust, I think they’d lust for what they’re used to thinking is attractive. So, let’s hope that’s the case.
What? We have to use our imagination, you know, to realize that we do life in a sci-fi world. We really do. In the Buddhist Sutras, when people would, when the Buddha would give teachings in the Mahayana Sutras, there was usually a parking problem because Beings would come from other Universes by mental projections in their subtle body forms and they would sometimes come in giant towers of Bodhi Sattvas in some of the more elaborate sutras. And then they’d have to park these towers around, you know, and then they would be attending.
KD: I was a parking attendant.
Bob: You were parking where?
KD: I was the parking attendant at one of those.
Bob: You might have been. And so that the idea of life on other planets, to us, you know, this is such a huge thing. Carl Sagan is out there. There’s big antennas down Chile sending out Beatles music and waiting to hear, like, back some Mozart, you know, someplace like Aldabra or something. It’s like the idea that we’re the only ones in this huge thing. We’re a tiny little peripheral little thing, you know. It the Vimalakirti Sutra, people get hungry at lunchtime, or before lunchtime, the free lunch people especially got hungry because in the afternoon they can’t eat. And He sent out for takeout at the incense Buddha’s Universe beyond as many other universes as grains of sand in 62 Ganges River Beds. He sends out an emanation Bodhi Sattva for takeout. And He comes back and brings back a bunch of incense rice and then he feeds thousands of people.
KD: Was it vegetarian?
Bob: It’s very very sci-fi. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Bob: It was organic. Hell yes. So, that’s the Indian imagination. It’s amazing, you know? Because they weren’t all being beaten up all the time, you know. They were allowed to have fantasies, you know. Ok.
KD: So, let’s order takeout now. This is our order. We’re putting in our order right now.
KD: We’re putting in our order.
Bob: Ok. Absolutely. With mantra. That’s the way you put in an order. Very good.
KD: Ok. So, ashtanga yoga, eight-limbed yoga, right? Maharajji used to say that the Westerners were only qualified for the five-limbed yoga, which is gup, ghoomne, khaana, pina, and sona. Gup is gossiping. Goomne is wandering around. Khaana is eating. Pina is drinking. Sona is sleeping. This is what we were qualified for. And He said, “You know, it’s better to love everybody than to try to figure it out.” So, that’s what I come back to, really. You know? And many times He would say to the Westerners, and to all of us, to all of His devotees, “Ram Nam Karna Se Sab Pura Ho Jata.” From repeating these Names of God, everything is accomplished. Everything is brought to fulness and completion. And the implication being that, through this practice, and also, Hanuman is a very unusual Being in many ways and there’s Sanskrit sloka that I don’t remember, but I remember the meaning and it said that, “Not only does Hanuman bestow liberation, but He makes it possible for us on the way to satisfy the desires that we need to satisfy in order to get along with our work.” It’s not a renunciate path in any way, shape or form, in terms of the traditional monkey-monk path. The monkey-monk path. And so, yeah.
He encouraged us to love everyone, serve everyone and remember God, which is to repeat the Names of God. Japa. Ram Nam. Yeah. I always wanted Him to tell me what to do, you know? Give me some like, practice, some mantra. Some “this” that I could do, you know? But He was never, He never encouraged us to do spiritual practice for the sake of our own spiritual benefit, so to speak. He said, “Think about others.” And really, to tell you the truth, I didn’t get it, you know? “What is He talking about? What do you mean, think about others? What about me?” It takes a while to get with the program. Really, it does. And the tradition that Bob is so steeped in, of compassion, the Bodhi Sattva path, it’s all about that. You know. There’s only one of us in the whole universe and until all of us are happy then, since the “we” are not fully happy on one level, on the other level, a true Bodhi Sattva has found that happiness and they stay here for our sake. Their only agenda is compassion. They don’t have any, there’s nothing they need any more other than our happiness. Yeah.
We talk about all these techniques. I remember Mr. Tiwari, who was one of Maharajji’s great devotees, he was a great yogi and he was incredible. And he was totally in the world. He was a school teacher and then he became the head master of a very prestigious school. I would go stay with their family for long periods of time and I would sleep in the same bed as he and Mrs. Tiwari would go sleep with the kids and Mr. Tiwari would get up at like 3:30 in the morning, he’d go pee, come back into the bed, sit up and he’d go… and that was it for like three or four hours until tea time. He’d be just… I would wake up at 3:30, go pee, get back into bed, go back to sleep. Not once in 30 years did he ever say to me, you know, “don’t you think you should meditate?” Not once. It was like, you know… I kick myself now. I could have said, “Baba, how do you do that?” You know? I remember, and I’ve told this story before, but I had heard part of a prayer once with the words, “Narayani Namostute” I bow to the Goddess. I bow to Narayani. I bow to you, Narayani. And, so I asked Him if He’d ever heard this prayer. “Oh yes.” I said, “Really?” “Oh, yes.” “Would you teach it to me.” “Ok.” So, we sat down and He started to recite the prayer and I was trying to write it down as he was, he was going slow and I was writing, and he just kind of started speeding up and his eyes were closed and it was, it went on for about 15 minutes. It was a long prayer and he knew it all by heart. And by the end, I mean, he was just, at the end he was just “Om Narayani! Om Narayani! Om!” (stops abruptly) He went into samahdi. He just left. And tears, he wasn’t breathing. You understand? Not breathing. And tears were streaming down his cheeks. It really pissed me off. I mean, I couldn’t get a taste of this to save my miserable life and he couldn’t stay out of it long enough to teach me one miserable prayer. So, then Mrs. Tiwari comes into the living room to get the tea cups. We were drinking tea, I think. And I said, “Ma, look. What… when’s he going to come back?” And then she picked up the tea cups, she just smiled at me and said, “Don’t know.” Went back into the kitchen, you know? Leaving me with this crying corpse. But he wasn’t, you understand, he was not trying, do you get that? He was just, he just got, he just, the love was so strong that he just disappeared into it, or appeared into it, depending on how you look at it. He wasn’t trying to go anywhere. He wasn’t trying to go into samahdi. And, of course, I can’t say, from his point of view, what his experience was but I definitely saw that, you know? The purity of that love, the intensity of that love just carried him so deep within. So, how do we, how does that happen, you know? For us? It’s a long way from Mickey Mouse to Ram. We grow up with that, you know, believing in nothing, basically, you know. It’s really interesting. We’re programmed right from day one that “me” is the only thing important and that there’s just essentially nothing really to find. Nothing’s possible. You know, we’ve got to scrounge out whatever little pleasure we can in life and then that’s it, boom, you’re dead. So, to transform all those programs, to pull the energy out of those programs so we can learn to feed our hearts is a big thing.
It was funny, when I was with Tsoknyi Rinpoche at His retreat and He had asked me to sing at this retreat where He was going to teach about devotion for the first time, He was talking about, He started to talk about His Guru. The minute He started to talk about His Guru, He started to cry. He couldn’t not cry. He couldn’t hold the tears back and He would say, you know, “I could never take my eyes off my Guru. I wanted to be with Him every…” and then He would look at the people and then He said, “But not you, not with me.” He said, “Don’t do that with me.”
Bob: Well, I think devotion comes from gratitude. From the Guru teaching, sharing His awareness in some way through words, imperfectly as words do, and then where, when one has a new vision of the world and one sees that exemplified in the Guru, then there’s a feeling of gratitude toward the Guru and then great devotion arises from that, I think, basically. I think that although there’s a whole thing called the “reliance on the Guru” and devotion, initially respect and service to the Guru are considered important, but the most important way of expressing devotion is to realize the teaching that the Guru gives and to embody it in your own life. The Guru, precisely what your Rinpoche there said, “Not to me, don’t do that” sort of thing, the idea that just sort of going gaga eyed at the Guru is going to get you there is not actually it. That’s just, even, the zen thing, you know, if you meet a Buddha in the road, kill Him. The idea meaning if you think that the Guru represents everything that you want to be and therefore solidified your sense of not being that, then the Guru, the relationship of the Guru is not helping you. And “kill him” just simply means, it doesn’t mean “harm some person you meet.” It means, don’t reify or deify the Guru, because what He wants you to do is to embody yourself as that same thing, you know? Like, actually, my original Guru, Geshe Wangyal, used to always say when He would teach me or He would scold me or whatever it was, He would always say, “this is not just for you, because you, I want you to be, through you to be helping many people. You are supposed to do something for many other people,” type of thing. He would constantly harp on that point. And then, if you do get some glimpse of the more beautiful world or the beauty of the world that is there that you somehow, when it’s that kind of beauty that you see and when you see it, you realize it was always there right in front of you but you didn’t notice it, you didn’t embrace it, you didn’t let go of whatever your idea was to really let it make it new and surprise you, you know, be a miraculous event to you. And when you did that and that would be so, you would feel so delighted and you would feel so grateful that someone had helped you open that door within yourself, that you would then of course be devoted to that person. Very, very much so. But again, even your devotion is most best expressed by your helping others in that same way, in some way, you know? Really.
Bob: And there’s one other thing that’s kind of interesting which is that thing about sort of a dance practice kind of thing. The Dalai Lama, when He does a big initiation, a grand initiation of some kind, He often says at some point, He has, there’s like a preliminary, you know prerequisite or preliminary teaching that He gives and then at different points, especially after He finishes that or even after finishing the whole thing He says, “Ha ha,” He says, “I tricked you. I tricked you all,” He said. Because you wouldn’t have come here for this preliminary teaching. You only came because of the initiation. But you might not even be able to use that. That might be too difficult for you. But what was really helpful to you was the preliminary. But you wouldn’t have come to study the preliminary. You only come because you want the big initiation. “I’m going to be like blah blah blah blah blah. I’m going to be like that, you know, like dancing Shiva or something.” Oh, yes, we all want to be Dancing Shiva. Oh, yes.
KD: Yeah, we used to, in the old days in India… in India in the old days, we would always try to go to those, the Wangs, the real, you know, the big teachings.
Bob: I know. They are very magical.
KD: They are.
Bob: They’re really, you really feel something is really happening. You get like a Boing.
KD: And then you go kick the dog.
Bob: No. What?
KD: And then you go kick the dog.
Bob: Well, yeah, people do. People do. Some people do.
KD: Some people.
Bob: But not necessarily. Not everyone. Anyway, that’s the thing. So, yes the Guru, you know, they say that the Guru, in Tantra especially… actually, in regular Buddhism, the Guru role is diminished on purpose by Buddha and the teacher is called Kalyana Mittra and “Mittra” means “friend” and “kalyana” means a “virtue” or “goodness”, you know, the “goodness friend” and so the idea is that the patriarchal father figure in the family, which is the model, a little bit in India, of the Guru as the authority father, and the word “guru” even meaning “the heavy”. This is actually a little bit discouraged, because they don’t want that kind of devotion of dependency like a child to a parent, necessarily. That’s not helpful to the person from the Buddhist point of view, where the person has to a little bit rebel about authority to bring out their own insight, actually. But then in tantra, it reconnects a little bit, because tantra is a very advanced and therefore at that point, the person, what is necessary is something to bridge the gap between one’s concept of one’s self as an ordinary person, which becomes an excuse at that point, like “I’m torn, I can’t do this or I can’t practice that or I can’t do the other,” and the gap is bridged in the person of the Guru. And so they say things like, well, “The ten thousand Buddhas of the Golden era are nothing to me compared to the Guru.” And there’s a famous story about Marpa, the teacher of Milarepa, when He, at one point He was looking for His Guru, Naropa, a Great Siddha, a Great Adept, Naropa. And He found Him, finally, on His second trip to India or something and He found Him somewhere in some jungle on some mountain and there was Naropa standing there, you know, in His loin cloth, you know, like a typical sadhu siddha guy and then next to Him was a giant Hevajra, male female dancing in a ring of fire. It looks a little bit like Shiva Nataraj but as a female connected around Him. Multiple heads and arms and things like that. Like, really, like wow.
KD: What do you mean, “next to him?” A murti or the real thing?
Bob: Right next to him. Standing there. A great Hevajra. So, then, and Naropa says to Marpa, “Well, who do you bow to? Me or the yidam? The Ishta Devata.
KD: The Ishta Devata
Bob: The chosen devata. He said, “I see you all the time, man. I’m going to bow to the dancing shiva here, whoa.” Great mistake. Big mistake. As He’s bowing, the form the Shiva withdraws back into a pore on the body of the siddha. You know, the Guru, everything is in the Guru, you know. And even there was once where Milarepa, my favorite one was Milarepa and Retchungma… and Milarepa was, met Retchungma, who’d been doing the, and He met lots of Gurus in India and He had some special books, you know, and He was coming back and He was like, and then when He saw Milarepa, who was always naked, He had a little white sheet, you know. Not Donald Trump’s followers, white sheet, but just a little white skirt He would occasionally wear and then He was looking at Him like “Oh my Tibetan Guru’s kind of funky,” like, “Geeze I was down in India and met some of the real guys,” you know, “and He was a little bit proud, you know. So, then Mila, He says, “oh great.” Mila realized He was a little proud. So then Mila and He are walking across a plain. He takes Him out where there’s no shelter and then Mila conjures a thunder storm, and the thunder storm soaks all His books and all of them. And soaks Him, Retchungma. Meanwhile, Milarepa’s quite dry and then He disappears when the storm comes, Milarepa does. And Retchungma goes “Mila Mila where are you? Guruji where did you go?” And then He hears this little voice. “I’m down here. Come on in. It’s dry here.” And then He looks down and then Milarepa has miniaturized Himself and He’s inside an old yak horn that’s lying in the ground. And He’s sitting in there all dry. “Come on in,” you know? “Oh, you can’t miniaturize yourself? Oh, no. They didn’t teach you that in India? That’s ok, we’ll dry you out.” So then the storm is over, then they go over and Milarepa makes a little fire with twigs and things, and He says, “Listen, you go get some water and we’ll make tea and meanwhile we’ll make a fire here and we’ll dry out your books and stuff.” So then He goes to get the water and then on the way he sees a herd of goats. At first, it’s just a couple. And then they, they mate and then they produce more goats and then they mate, produce more goats, and he has this vision of like, all these goats, like a huge herd, he becomes fascinated with this. It’s like a nature movie. Like goats multiplying instantly.
KD: Discovery Channel.
Bob: And so, He gets lost there and stays there for some time. And then He goes and gets the water and comes back. When He comes back, Mila is cheerfully burning the books. “What? You’ve burned my books?” He’s so mad, you know.
“Well, I didn’t mean to burn them, “ Milarepa said. “I was just drying them out.” And then, “You brought some weird books. Not very good. Polluting types. Some of them are ok. I looked at some. But those are no good so I’m just relieving you of those.” And He just became furious, you know. And then there’s a long sequence of things where Mila keeps performing these miracles and He says, “Oh, you had a book on this and that tantra? Well here, I have that tantra.” And then He goes like this and then He looks in and His chest becomes transparent and He sees the mandala of that deity in His heart chakra. And the deities are all in there in miniature and they’re playing music and they’re chanting Ram Ram or I don’t know what, Buddha Buddha or Mani Padme Hung, or something. And He sees it in His Guru’s heart and says “I don’t care. That’s a trick.” And finally he has like, He has mandalas in every chakra up and down his body and His body is transformed there. He still doesn’t reconcile himself. “You burned my books.” He’s really pissed off. So, finally, you know, Milarepa says, “Well, Ok, I’m sorry. “ You know, and He flies away and He turns Himself into a vulture and flies away. Milarepa does. “I don’t care you’re a vulture. Get out of here. You’ve burned my book.” And then He leaves and then suddenly, He has a change of heart. He repents and then He throws Himself off a cliff. He’s so upset. Reminds me of you in the stream. He’s so upset because He was mad at His guru, and then He flings Himself off the cliff and then He lands. There’s a little terrace right below, about one inch below. And clunk, He lands on the terrace. And then suddenly, Milarepa, there are five Milarepa’s right in front of Him, who produced this place to catch him and going “Nah nah you couldn’t even kill yourself.” He said, so finally, “Ok, ok, I’m sorry,” you know. It goes on like that, you know. That’s my favorite. It really is outstanding. Another time He said, “Oh, books? You don’t need books. Here.” And then He sticks out His tongue and a stream of Sanskrit and Tibetan letters come flowing out of His tongue and they form themselves into all texts all around. Like a huge dome filled with text. So he says, “You have all the books right in your heart.” “Oh, that’s a trick. You’re just… You’ve burned my books, you bastard.” Completely gets mad.