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When you come across something you enjoy,
Though beautiful to experience, like a summer rainbow,
Donít take it as real.
Let go of attachment ó this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

~ v. 23, 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

Do I have to give up my music?  My sport?  Other interests?

Those who have taken vows to abstain from worldly things, are permitted to partake in some (such as seeing a video) if they are an occasion for learning. ~ Lama Phuntsok

Music

"Many years ago a friend of mine was living at Sherab Ling, Tai Situpa's monastery in northern India.  He was at the time a keen guitar player and very new to the Dharma. He told HE Tai Situ Rinpoche, himself an accomplished artist and poet, that he could not see himself going very far with any kind of formal practice if he had to abandon music.  Situ Rinpoche told him that playing music was in fact Dharma if one understand the "true nature of sound" and that should become his practice.  He also wrote a few songs that my friend set to music.

At another time he said that anything done properly, even cooking rice, can lead us to enlightenment.  

I also think that playing music can be a real act of generosity.  This is the Mahayana after all, and Dharma can really give a new dimension to all aspects of our lives, even politics.  My teacher Bokar Rinpoche once said, "Politics in the Dharma can be very destructive, but Dharma into politics is a very good thing."

~ edited from N's message at The Kagyu Mailing List

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More about music:

In Tibetan rituals   "Droning chants alternate with the groaning of the long horns, the clanging of cymbals, the scream of shrill bone trumpets, the steady bass thump of the hanging drum. The object is not to produce a melody -- indeed, the "music" is distinctly cacophonous -- but to accompany the chanting of texts and prayers. The deep, roaring din creates an ocean of sound that is said to be an exaggerated rendition of the sounds the human body would be heard to make if all external sounds were blocked. "The sound of the mind at work," one Western scholar called it, pointing out that the purpose is not to soothe the listener, but to wake him or her up."

~ Kerry Moran.  Nepal. Moon Travel Handbooks

Dec 2002 Issue of Living Now Magazine (# 47)   
An excerpt from "The Gyuto Monks of Tibet" by Inna and Paul Segal:

The Abbot [of the Gyuto monks, currently touring Australia] tells us that "Buddhism does not distinguish between the spirit and the flesh nor does it differentiate between sensuality and spirituality. Music is something that moves our heart. Therefore, employing the harmonic chanting can quiet, excite and charm our minds - - then one can contemplate and reflect on the meaning and the content of the chanting, which are the teachings of Buddha."

The type of harmonics the Gyuto Monks employs is unique to them. "It is linked to the moving of the energy of the body and the mind and can be highly intoxicating, removing impurities in a physical and psychological sense, paving the path to finding enlightenment, which is within all of us." 

The Abbot continues, "This links with the practice of the mandala, which is a symbol of something that is perfect already - - right here, now, within us. The highest form of teaching that the Gyuto Monks practise states, 'All suffering has a feeling of realness because one fails, through an ignorant mind, to see the beauty that exists within us already.'  Therefore, mandalas, chanting, meditation, breathing, mantras and visualising can become a metaphor, a tool that encourages us to go inside and discover our innate beauty -- here, right now. "

The mandala of Yamantaka jigsaw puzzle

The Gyuto Monks use the mandala as a symbol of a perfect world, in which you as an individual are already perfect. "Mandalas become highly spiritual, psychological objects because, when you begin to believe that you are perfect, kind and wholesome, it shapes your outlook about yourself into something good and positive. Then you can begin to relate and perceive everything else as an extension of that positive, sacred outlook. You will treat and relate to others more positively, kindly and compassionately and in return they will do the same to you. Therefore, you find the definable purpose of life - happiness," the Abbot concludes.

The Gyuto Monks have recently helped to produce an authentic 500-piece mandala jigsaw. They are intrigued with this Western interpretation of their ancient tantric practice and can also see that it will enable many people to gain benefit while enjoying playing the game of happiness. The monks think the jigsaw is a good example of mandala creation in that it is a symbol for finding perfect order within the puzzle of life and death. They point out that the healing benefits of creating a mandala can be received by the act of mindfully completing the jigsaw. This unique game can be played as a meditation to calm the mind and relax the body, to help one experience inner peace, or as a positive mental exercise for all ages.

This is the monks' approach to life: "A sense of humour is very important at the beginning when you are pursuing enlightenment. It is even more important while you are in the process of finding enlightenment and especially important when you become fully enlightened. Once you become fully enlightened you have to deal with others' countless sufferings; so if you don't have a sense of humour you would become unenlightened and go mad," the Abbot laughs.

I Just Want to Be Happy

"What meaning is there in that kind of happiness? It is like a dream that just stops in the middle when you wake up. Those who, as the result of some slight positive action, seem to be happy and comfortable at the moment, will not be able to hold on to that state for an instant longer once the effect of that action runs out. The  kings of the gods, seated high on their thrones of precious jewels spread with divine silks, enjoy all the pleasures of the five senses. But, once their lifespan is exhausted, in the twinkling of an eye they are plunged into suffering and fall headlong down to the scorching metal ground of hell. Even the gods of the sun and moon, who light up the four continents, can end up being reborn somewhere  between those very continents, in darkness so deep that they cannot see whether their own limbs are stretched out or bent in. So do not put your trust in the apparent joys of samsara." 

~ Patrul Rinpoche in Words of My Perfect Teacher.

Longchenpa's Advice

Longchenpa (1308-1363), who founded many Dzogchen lineages, says:

You would like to stay with family and loved ones 
Forever, but you are certain to leave them.
 
 You would like to keep your beautiful home
 Forever, but you are certain to leave it behind.
 
 You would like to enjoy happiness, wealth and comfort
 Forever, but you are certain to lose them.
 
 You would like to keep this excellent human life with its freedoms & advantages
 Forever, but you are certain to die.
 
 You would like study Dharma with your wonderful teacher
 Forever, but you are certain to part.
 
 You would like to be with good spiritual friends
 Forever, but you are certain to separate.
 
 O my friends who feel deep disillusionment with samsara,
 I, the Dharma-less beggar, exhort you:
 From today put on the armor of effort, for the time has come
 To cross to the Land of Great Bliss whence there is no separation.

~ Commentary on "The Great Chariot" by Longchenpa courtesy Khenpo Chokey Gyaltsen of Pullahari (Jamgon Kontrul Monastery, Nepal)

 

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