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Explanation of the Main Points of “The Kalachakra Presentation of the Four Creative-Energy Drops and the Winds of Karma"

Alexander Berzin
Paris, France, September 2012

Session Four: The Fourth-Occasion Creative-Energy Drop and Compassion

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:35 hours)

The Fourth-Occasion Drop

We have covered now the first three creative-energy drops, the drops of the occasions when we are awake, when we are dreaming, and we are asleep with no dreams, which are also known as the body, speech, and mind drops. Now we have left the fourth drop, which is often just referred to as the drop of the fourth occasion, and this is generating a bliss, a type of bliss. Here, on the basis level, we are referring to the bliss of an emission (like with orgasm). So this is the fourth occasion.

The first question of course is, what is this? Is this bliss that we’re referring to here an object of both body consciousness and mind consciousness? Or is it similar to what we had before with the other three drops, something that’s experienced only with mental consciousness? And maybe the main emphasis here is on the mental consciousness, and maybe it’s accompanied by body consciousness of a physical sensation. But if you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense that here with the fourth drop we’re talking about sense consciousness. If the others are talking about mental consciousness and it’s getting more and more subtle, it doesn’t make sense that all of a sudden for the fourth drop we’re back to sense consciousness. So the suspicion is that we’re talking about some sort of really subtle mental consciousness. So there’s indecisive wavering here, but we’re going more on the side of it being mental.

Now we need to analyze: What’s going on with the experience of the bliss of orgasm? And how does that fit into the rest of the Buddhist teachings?

If you analyze it, the bliss of emission is accompanied by a drawing in of the energy wind. Right? So there’s a drawing in of that energy, getting more and more subtle, but then it’s followed by an explosive release of the energy, the energy wind. It is very similar to what’s happening with our energy when we sneeze. In fact, analogies are drawn. When you sneeze, you go “aaaah” and then “chooo!” There’s a big release of the energy, but it’s preceded by drawing in the energy. And so on a much more subtle level, that’s what’s happening with orgasm.

Think about that in terms of your own experience. Whether male or female, it doesn’t matter. It’s this explosion of energy that is the real troublemaker in terms of this Kalachakra practice. You want to draw all the energies into the central channel and dissolve them. But if you have an orgasm, then there’s an explosion, and all the energies leave and go out. This is why they are saying – on another level, another aspect of the Kalachakra teachings – that the real cause of samsara on a deeper, deeper level is this bliss of emission. We’re not talking on a gross level.

When all the energies are dissolved in that central channel, when we have that very subtlest mind understanding voidness, we can get the true stopping of the obscurations. What is the danger? The danger there is that it’s too much, the bliss is too much, the whole thing is too much, and there’s this explosion to leave the clear-light state. That’s what you really have to avoid. That’s what’s going to bring you back into samsara, is that it’s too much. Because of attachment and a misconception that the bliss of orgasm is going to be better, this explosion, you leave the clear-light state and get back into the grosser levels that bring samsara. So actually that’s very profound and very subtle. And they correlate that with the root disturbing emotions:

  • Longing desire based on exaggerating how wonderful the bliss of orgasm is. But then it becomes too much. You have to actually reach that peak, which then destroys it because then there’s the release of energy and it’s finished.
  • And then there’s annoyance or anger that it’s finished.
  • And then because the energy has been released, you become dull.

So we have this explanation in Kalachakra. And of course we can understand that on the gross level, but I think it’s more significant on this deeper level of leaving clear-light mind.

It’s not that we were originally in clear-light mind and then, like leaving the Garden of Eden, we fall out of that. It’s not like that. We’re talking about if you actually are able to attain the clear-light state in meditation, then there are these real dangers of leaving it.

That’s why, not in Kalachakra but in other anuttarayoga tantra practices, when you have the visualization of the extraordinary or special protection wheel – you know what it looks like? It looks like a gyroscope in which you have eight spokes going out and then a cone on top and a cone on the bottom, the point on the top and the point on the bottom. Not in Kalachakra, but in other tantras. And you have protecting figures on the eight spokes and on the top and the bottom. Well, what is this? On the deepest level, this is referring to the heart chakra, with the eight channels going out and the central channel going up and below. The protectors are there on these channels to protect and keep the wind dissolved in the central channel and not let it out. So a similar type of aim but just a slightly different way of explaining, a different way of approaching it. It’s very profound actually, what’s going on with the energies on this deeper level.

Now I’m distracted. I’m going off on tangents. I’m sorry. This is my compulsion to explain. A bit neurotic, I’m sorry. But I must share with you because His Holiness was so incredibly profound and helpful in explaining the difference between analytical meditation (so a vipashyana type of thing) and shamatha (formal stabilizing meditation). What’s the difference between doing a shamatha meditation on compassion and a vipashyana meditation on compassion, between doing the analytical one and the stabilizing one? And the difference is in terms of the energy.

It’s very important to try to quiet down enough so that you are sensitive enough to your energy. We’re not talking about doing profound tantra meditation; we’re talking about just being quiet enough to be sensitive to your energy and how it’s flowing. When we are doing so-called analytical meditation, I prefer to call it discerning meditation (dpyad-sgom). It’s not that we’re analyzing something. We’re trying to perceive something in a certain way that we have analyzed before. Right?

So there’s the thinking process: for example, for compassion, we’ve gone through all the reasons and so on why you would develop compassion and all the steps of how you would develop compassion (everybody’s been your mother, etc.). And now we want to do this discerning meditation to discern others with compassion. So on a beginning level, we might have to go through all the steps in order to generate that compassion (“Everybody’s been my mother,” blah, blah, blah). And now we want to perceive everybody with this discernment of compassion, and so the energy is going out toward others with compassion (“May you be free of suffering and the causes of suffering”).

Then how do you do the stabilizing meditation (‘jog-sgom) after that on compassion? And now, His Holiness explains, the energy is coming in. The direction of the energy is going in rather than going out. So there’s still that feeling of compassion, but it’s not that the energy is going out to the objects of compassion. You are aware of the objects of compassion – it’s not that you lose awareness of them – but the energy is coming in and getting more subtle. If it becomes too weak, you have to alternate it by again having the energy go out with the discerning. That’s the process.

I’d never heard any explanation in my fifty years of studying the Dharma of what really was the difference between these two aspects of compassion meditation. His Holiness explained it very clearly.

So this sensitivity to our energy and how it is going is something that we can develop on the sutra level as well. And obviously in Kalachakra practice, this becomes very significant, to have that sensitivity. As I said, it really just requires quieting down and paying attention.

So as I said, we have this drawing in of the energy as well, but in a much stronger sense, with the orgasm and sneezing and then the explosion. But we also have a drawing in of the energy with yawning, falling asleep, fainting, and dying. Right? There’s a list you find, a standard list, in tantra texts. With all of these, you get an approximation of coming down to the subtlest level of clear-light mind. It’s not quite there. That’s why they say that this near attainment without mindfulness – well, you can include that in the general discussion of what’s clear light, but it’s not really clear light yet. It’s only really when you die that you actually get to the actual clear-light level.

So in the end, when you reach the conclusion of these different experiences – orgasm, sneezing, yawning, etc. – what you are left with is a very subtle conceptual mental cognition as the consciousness is approaching the clear-light level. That’s conceptual. It’s this very subtle conceptual mental cognition. The only difference [between that and] with orgasm and sneezing is that [in the latter two cases] it’s followed by an explosion, an explosion of the energy. So this suggests that what we’re talking about here with this deep-awareness drop, the fourth-occasion drop, is that the orgasmic bliss that’s being generated from this drop is experienced by a subtle conceptual mental cognition. We’re not talking about what you feel with the body’s consciousness or even our normal mental consciousness.

Now, remember this drop of the fourth occasion is at the navel and that the navel drop is both a body drop as well as this deep-awareness drop, just a different name. We have one drop at the navel, and one aspect of it serves as a body drop when we’re awake, and another aspect serves as this what’s called deep-awareness drop on this fourth occasion, so it’s both. This suggests that what we are experiencing here while we are awake is this subtle mental conceptual consciousness of the bliss of orgasm, not the actual explosion but that moment right before. The fact that that drop at the navel has two functions suggests that it’s something experienced when we’re awake. But remember the awake drop only was talking about mental cognition; it wasn’t talking about sense cognition. So the deep-awareness experience, the bliss-of-orgasm experience, needs to also be mental. So that’s another confirmation.

Okay, so now we explore deeper. We’re not satisfied yet. We’ve determined that it is mental consciousness and it’s conceptual and it’s very subtle. So then what is this bliss? Is it a mental factor of feeling blissful, a way of being aware of something while we’re awake?

Remember that one of the mental factors – in fact, it makes a whole aggregate by itself – is the aggregate of feeling. So that is feeling something somewhere on the whole spectrum from intensely miserably unhappy all the way to the most intense happiness. Every moment of our experience is accompanied by something on that scale, on that spectrum. It’s a mental factor accompanying how we are aware of something: are you happy about it, unhappy about it?

So is this bliss referring to a mental factor? Or is it a subtle form, a mental hologram? A hologram of what? Is it a hologram of a tactile sensation, like imagining what it feels like to be tickled or something like that? Are we talking about it like that, like a memory of a physical sensation, or is it a hologram of something else? Well, if it’s a hologram of a physical sensation, why is this something special from what we would experience with the first drop? Mind you, that would be a mental hologram in terms of mental cognition, not with the body. What’s so special about this?

So now we have to bring in another piece of the puzzle. In Kalachakra it speaks about how the human body has six – this is a very difficult term – elemental sources (khams-drug). It’s not very clear whether that’s referring to particles or something else. Right? The elemental sources. And these are earth, water, fire, wind, space, and deep awareness. In the Kalachakra mandalas, there are six colors, the six directions, and all of that, because of these six elemental sources, sources of the elements. I don’t think that they’re the actual particles, because in Guhyasamaja this is associated with its presentation of the winds, the subtle winds. So I don’t think it’s talking about particles here when it talks about elemental sources. But in any case, we have these elemental sources. And if the bliss of orgasm here is referring to a mental hologram, then I would guess that it is probably a mental hologram of the sixth type of elemental source, deep awareness. So a hologram of deep awareness. And this is suggested by the fact that the drop at the navel is called the drop of deep awareness.

So now we have yet another type of mental hologram that’s generated on the basis of these drops with the winds and that just appears to mental consciousness, they all appear to be truly existent, and they are accompanied by believing in that true existence (either in a manifest way or subliminally). And in terms of the four drops, these mental holograms seem to be getting more and more subtle:

  • The grossest level are these mental holograms of when we imagine or think of something or remember something (we’re talking about remembering what something looks like, what something tastes like).
  • And more subtle would be mental holograms of what appears in dreams and the sound of the internal voice that we have.
  • And then, even more subtle, that mental hologram of the darkness when we are deeply asleep with no dreams.
  • And then a mental hologram of this deep-awareness elemental source that appears just at that peak moment of orgasm, before the actual explosion. I’m not talking about what it looks like or what the sensation is. It’s something more subtle.

Now of course there’s the question about the bliss of orgasmic emission experienced in dreams, but that will require further analysis. Mind you, all of this is my guesses. We don’t find this in the texts. I’m just reporting to you the results of my analysis, which seems to make sense. The danger of a clever mind is that it can make sense of anything, so you really have to use logic and so on to confirm what you’re analyzing. Is it just something that the clever mind has made up, complete garbage?

Okay, so that’s the basis level.

What the Four Creative-Energy Drops Give Rise to on the Pathway and Resultant Levels

Very, very briefly, the path level is referring to advanced stages on the complete stage of Kalachakra. So this is when some of these winds, these subtle winds of karma, are temporarily not going through these drops. Right? And so the drops are not being so stained, not so strongly stained. Then these creative drops are the source giving rise to:

  • From the body drop, devoid forms (stong-gzugs).
  • The speech drop or the dream drop is giving rise to what’s called indestructible sound (gzhom-med-kyi sgra).
  • The mind drop is giving rise to nonconceptual deep awareness.
  • The fourth-occasion drop is giving rise to unchanging bliss.

So all of these are things that we experience in the advanced stages of the complete stage.

On the resultant stage, on the resultant level, if the winds of karma are stopped completely, then the creative facets of the four drops give rise to the four Buddha bodies and disappear in the process.

So it’s either when they are fully stained, partially stained, or not stained at all. It’s like the general way of presenting things in Uttaratantra (rGyud bla-ma, The Furthest Everlasting Stream). This text on Buddha-nature by Maitreya always explains things on these three levels. Basis is completely stained. Path level: half stained, half not stained (not half literally but part and part). And the resultant level completely stainless. So in some sort of way, that is the basis, path, and resultant level about what these four drops are doing.

That is enough for today. What we will continue with is now the analysis of the basis level. If somehow on the basis level, these drops and these winds are involved with the arising of these mental holograms, how does it work? For this we have to analyze exactly what’s going on here. Now, we know what’s involved, and there’s a lot of problems that arise because of this, but it would help us very much to know how it is happening so that we know how to get rid of it.

Questions and Answers

Let us, then, devote the rest of our time – we have twenty minutes – to some questions, if you have some questions, and perhaps some answers too.

The Difference between Our Energy Going in and Going out

Participant: I didn’t exactly understand what the Dalai Lama explained to you about this energy coming in and coming out. Can you please say a few more words on that?

Alex: Okay, can I explain a little bit more about what His Holiness explained in a general discourse to thousands of people – not to me privately – about the difference of the energy in terms of discerning meditation and stabilizing meditation? You have to be careful not to just identify it with vipashyana and shamatha, because in tantra, anuttarayoga tantra, it works slightly differently. Therefore it’s easier to describe it in terms of discerning meditation and stabilizing meditation.

I think the clearest example is with compassion. How do you meditate on compassion? As I said, to meditate on compassion, we have to build up to the emotion of compassion. It has to be, first of all, a Mahayana practice. So we’re thinking in terms of everybody, not just a few people. It’s a huge scope. And there are many different forms of compassion and many different ways of developing it. But just the most basic is that we think in terms of equanimity – not attracted to some, not repelled from others, not ignoring others.

Then on the basis of that, we can develop further in terms of everybody having been our mother in a previous life or equalizing our attitude about self and others. There are many ways to reach that emotion of compassion toward everybody, Mahayana compassion.

“Everybody’s been my mother in some life and shown me tremendous kindness.” At the minimum level, she didn’t have an abortion with me. No matter how horrible she was, she didn’t have an abortion.

And here’s one that often is often slightly misunderstood. It’s usually translated as “I want to repay the kindness of my mother.” It sounds as though you have a debt and you feel obligated: “It’s my duty to repay it; otherwise I’m a bad daughter or a bad son.” That way of translating it suggests that we should feel guilty if we don’t repay that kindness, and so you are kind to others out of a sense of guilt. That’s totally not what we are looking for here. Words are very strong with their connotations and can unconsciously suggest something to us that in our Buddhist practice leads us into not the proper way, a very neurotic way of practicing. So what is the emotion that is generated when we think of how kind others have been to us? It’s an emotion of gratitude. We are so grateful for what they did.

What follows from that is called heartwarming love – that just seeing them, our heart warms up and it opens because we are so grateful for how kind they have been. Automatically, it says, this emotion arises of this heartwarming love. It makes sense. If the step before heartwarming love is feeling guilty if I didn’t help them, then why would you be so delighted and just light up with a warm feeling when you see them? You would feel “Oh God, I have to help this person? Well, I’d better do it, because they were so kind to me.” But if we are so grateful for what they have done, then of course we are very happy to see the person, we light up, we’re completely open, and then love and compassion naturally arise. We see that they’re suffering, and this is horrible. “May you be free of suffering and the causes of suffering,” so compassion.

Actually the sequence is that when we have this heartwarming love, this “Oh, I really have such a warm feeling towards you,” then the first thing is love. “I really would love for you to be happy and have the causes for happiness.” But then we see “But you’re suffering. So may you be free of suffering.” That’s the sequence, the most standard sequence.

So the first level of discerning meditation, when we are still not super familiar with it, is that we have to build up to that emotion. When we’re really, really familiar with it, we don’t have to go through the steps; we’re able to just get it. It’s from complete familiarity, and you’re just able to go there to generate the feeling.

Now, actually focusing on compassion, I’m discerning, so I am imagining or looking at various beings. And as Tsongkhapa explains, basing his explanation on Asanga, an Indian master – this is in the context of generosity, but it applies here as well – that whoever we are focusing on is just a part of the larger picture. In other words, compassion here is Mahayana compassion, so it’s to everybody, and so the scope of our compassion is all beings, everybody. And now this person that I’m focusing my compassion on is just a little piece of the larger picture of everybody, and so we need to be aware of that and not lose sight of the larger picture. It’s very profound what Asanga and Tsongkhapa elaborate on this.

And the suffering that we are focusing on – “May they be free of this suffering and the cause of that suffering” – that is also just a little part of all the suffering, the all-pervasive suffering, everything. This is just one part of that when we are wishing may you be free of that. So you don’t lose the larger scope and have it just become a very limited, worldly type of compassion.

If we have generated compassion in the proper Mahayana way, then our energy – if you’re sensitive to your energy – is completely open to the whole universe. And now we’re focusing on this one little part here, like the telescope is open to one little portion of the sky, and this is a representative. There’s nothing special about this one, so no attachment or repulsion or indifference. They’re nothing special. That’s always there. And our energy is going out toward this person, you’re directing your energy – “May you be free of suffering and the causes of suffering” – within this much larger scope. So that’s the discerning style.

Then we want to stabilize that. And with the stabilizing meditation, it’s not so much that the energy goes out toward the person. This is very, very difficult, I must say. Very difficult. I usually describe it as just to have the energy sink in, but that’s much too vague. His Holiness explained that it’s the energy going in the inner direction – so moving in, not going out.

What does that mean? That’s a very interesting thing to examine in your own mediation. What could that possibly mean? And so the energy is sort of, in a sense, it’s becoming more subtle. It’s not that we are losing our grand scope. It’s still Mahayana. But the direction of the energy is not so much in terms of the object as it is in terms of just the emotion itself (but without losing sight of the object). So it’s a matter of the movement of the energy – well, obviously this is in your mind – is it moving toward the object, toward the mental hologram, or is it stabilizing, not really moving, so withdrawn from the hologram?

Now, this becomes very tricky, and it’s described in the meditation texts. How is it described? It’s described that when the stabilizing meditation becomes too weak, you have to alternate it with the discerning meditation. So when you are trying to stabilize that compassion, and the energy is, in a sense, going in, trying to stay a little more steady, not so actively… The difference is between active and passive. Those terms are also used. I said active and passive, but passive isn’t correct. Passive implies that something is happening to you. So active and not active. So when it’s not active, the energy isn’t moving so much. Then what happens is that the actual strength of that emotion tends to weaken. You don’t actually feel that emotion so strongly, because you’re not really applying it to an object. So when it starts to reach the point where you’re not really feeling anything, then you have to actively project it out toward the mental hologram. Well, this is the way that the actual discerning and stabilizing mediation of compassion is done.

Now, of course the compassion can be generated with an understanding of impermanence, an understanding of voidness. There are many different types of compassion described by Chandrakirti and others in the literature. I’m just speaking basic. Chandrakirti speaks of the three types of compassion.

Good. So I’m sorry that it’s my tendency to answer questions with a very extensive explanation, but I think this is very important.

Participant: Can we do this kind of meditation when we do mantra practice?

Alex: Can we do this type of meditation while reciting a mantra? No, not really. You can do the discerning meditation with a mantra, but the energy is moving too much with a mantra to do the stabilizing with a mantra. I mean, I’m not talking about advanced stages – the isolated-speech (ngag-dbyen) stage of the complete stage of anuttaryoga tantra, where you have joined the breath and the movement of the energies with the mantra OM AH HUM. I’m not talking about that level. I’m talking about basic reciting OM MANI PADME HUM while doing tonglen, for example. Isolated speech, where you make the breath and energy and mantra inseparable, that’s another whole level.

But look at tantra practice. In the generation stage, you’re reciting the mantra together with visualization – lights going out, and all this sort of stuff – so it’s very active. I mean, in generation stage, you get more this development of the sensitivity where you have things being generated and emanated (so energy going out) and things being reabsorbed (so energy coming in). I think perhaps with that practice, you gain that sensitivity of the direction of your energy, not just quieting down. I’d forgotten about that. If you’ve done enough of that type of practice, then you start to become sensitive to how your energy feels.

Mother and Child Clear-Light Mind

Participant: Where do we put the different clear-light minds, the mother clear-light mind and the child clear-light mind, within this process of approaching clear-light mind which we are on?

Alex: The question is about the presentation that we get in Guhyasamaja, basically, and mahamudra, of mother clear light (ma’i ’od-gsal) and child clear light (bu’i ’od-gsal). Actually in mother tantra, you get that more. How does that fit into what we’ve been explaining to getting down to the near-attainment level, the near-attainment mind? The mother clear light is speaking about the actual nature of the mind (so the natural state of the clear-light mind), and the child one is the one that’s attained through meditation (so derivative from that, which you attain through meditation).

Sorry, I have to bring in something more complicated in order to explain that.

In mahamudra we have the expression double purity (dag-pa gnyis-ldan), double purity of the mind:

  • The natural purity of the mind that’s never been stained by true existence.
  • The attained purity, which you get through getting rid of the obscurations and so on, and you get to the purity of the mind which was there all the time.

So mother clear light is talking about the natural purity. The child one is like the attained purity.

Tsongkhapa asserts that true stopping is equivalent to voidness – true stopping of the obscurations on the mind is equivalent to the voidness of the mind. The cessation of the obscurations from the mind (that’s like the attained purity) is equivalent to the natural voidness of the mind (that’s like the natural purity of the mind, the natural nature of the mind). So you get to the same thing. Explained in different ways, different approaches.

But these expressions mother clear light and child clear light, I’ve not seen that in the actual Kalachakra texts. In general, Kalachakra explains on a more subtle level than the other tantras.

Okay, so let’s end here with a dedication. We think whatever understanding, whatever positive force has come from this, may it go deeper and deeper and act as a cause for everybody to reach enlightenment for the benefit of us all.

Shantideva indicates (in the tenth chapter of Bodhisattvacharyavatara) that with this prayer, we don’t dedicate just for my enlightenment – “Me, me, me. I want to get enlightened” – but for the enlightenment of everybody, Mahayana.

Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.