Confusion Arising as Wisdom, Shambhala Mountain Center, CO, April 19-21, 2013

Length: 8 hr; Format: Audio; Recording Quality: Excellent.

Rinpoche gave a teaching on Gampopa’s Heart Advice on the Path of Mahamudra, based on the first several chapters of his commentary on the text, Confusion Arises as Wisdom (available in the bookshop). A summary of the teachings follows the audio recordings (below).

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Shambhala Mountain Center

This is an excellent introduction to Gampopa’s mahamudra instructions.

Friday Evening, Introduction

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Ringu Tulku, Shambhala Mountain Center


TALK 1, Friday Evening, “Introduction”


  • life story of loss of family, meeting Milarepa, Milarepa’s last teaching (showing him his calloused buttocks).
  • combined 2 lineages of Mahamudra and 6 yogas, and Kadampa
  • he was the founder of the Kagyu lineage

Mahamudra: quintessence of teachings

  • Maha: great, Mudra: seal
  • Includes all the teachings
  • if you understand this one thing (nature of mind), you understand it all

Two ways of looking at things

  1. Materialistic view that matter exists on its own
  2. Anything we experience is experienced through our mind – therefore mind is our main focus, of prime importance.  How we react comes from our mind. We need to understand our mind.  If we see things negatively we suffer, if we see things positively, we are happy.

View arises as right way of seeing in meditation.  Transformation of how we react and that can lead to liberation.

Samsara is nothing more than misunderstanding. Nirvana is clearing this misunderstanding.  Easy to say, hard to do!  Buddha said to get enlightened could take 3 countless eons.

  1. Question:  What is the difference between Dzogchen and Mahamudra?

Answer: Dzogchen uses rigpa, wisdom mind without concept – hard to do. Mahamudra: uses our own mind. conceptual consciousness

  1. Question: Is it important to examine materialistic phenomena before looking at mind?

Answer: Madyamika examines material phenomena and see its nonexistence.  Then you see the futility of clinging.  But you can also go directly to the direct experience of your mind, which is Mahamudra.

Someone asked the Buddha: “I want to be happy.  How?”  Buddha answered: delete “I”, then delete “want” and you have happiness! That’s Mahamudra.  With duality you can never free yourself from clinging.  Meditation is not about getting a great experience, because that comes and goes and sets up more clinging.  Purpose of meditation is that you can deal with any experience. Let things come and go, let things flow, let things appear and dissolve within the mind.  Equanimity is not disturbed no matter good or bad situations.  You learn how to be ok all the time.

  1. Question about different styles of pointing out instruction.

Answer: Depends on student’s style of understanding and readiness.

4 reasons we don’t get it – ordinary mind is nothing special

  1. too simple
  2. too near
  3. too good
  4. too deep

TALK 2, Saturday AM,  Bodhicitta Talk Summary

Six questions asked of Chenrezig

  1. What is the essence of all dharma practice Answer: Bodhicitta is sanskrit  Bodhi = wisdom, freedom from confusion.  Citta = mind.  Therefore, “mind of enlightenment”.  Samsara is wrong perception; ignorance, has no beginning vs. Nirvana which is enlightenment, absence of wrong perception; wisdom has a beginning: it is when you clear confusion.  Once ignorance is cleared, it can never come back.
  • confused perception is the problem, consciousness itself is not the problem, whether you are in samsara or nirvana.  In every consciousness there is clarity, joy and wisdom.
  • Ring Tulku talks about grasping as the problem, how to keep what you are grasping is another problem, or if you lose what you want is another problem, and on and on – always dissatisfaction, always running towards or away from something in our mind.
  • Everyone has the right  to be free of suffering and everyone wishes to have happiness.   We try to solve problems, but there are always more problems.  Best motivation: to help free others from such suffering and bring lasting peace.  Not just meditation, but how we can help in work, service, family.  We need to be clear about our motivation and understand Bodhicitta.
  • We need to accumulate and develop wisdom and merit (right view, conduct and actions).  Generating compassion is merit.
  • opposite of confusion = wisdom; opposite of compassion are klesas, negative emotions, like hatred, jealousy, pride and clinging.  Benevolence not malevolence.
  • We have to change how we react, be guided by bodhicitta.  We’ll be more peaceful and happy as a result of how we react positively.  External situations are not the cause of true happiness, but it is our reactions that determine happiness!

Question and Answer

  1. Question: Sometimes I have clarity, peaceful, but then I feel confused again.

Answer: Sign that we are on the path.  Ignorance does have an end, but only when we become enlightened.

  1. Question:  I don’t see many people who have gotten enlightened.  Are there other tools to clarify what the other shore is like?

Answer:  Yes, there is a shortage of wise leaders. Selfish, self-centered attitude is destroying the world.  Emphasize compassion.  Change has to come from within.

If we focus on one problem (like not getting WIFI) we’ll always be unhappy, because we’ll always have problems and not be grateful for the positive things we have, like our health, enough to eat, etc.

Talk 3, Saturday AM 2, Obstacles and Karma

(Continuing with the next 2 of 6 questions answered by Avalokitesvara:)

  1. What causes karma?

View: everything is dependent arising, interdependence.  Nothing is existing independently.  The word for interdependence in Sanskrit is: Pratītyasamutpāda. The word for interdependence in Tibetan is

den-jing = depending; del-war= relatively; jung-wa=arising.

Dependently means there are many causes and conditions.  Everything is a bit like a dream, mirage.

My karmic body is created by many  causes and conditions. Our more recent karma has more impact.  We can’t do anything about past karma.

Emotions are the strongest thing that creates karma.  If we develop negative karma we have negative experience.  We should not neglect relative truth!  We should be careful about our reactions, even little ones, if we want to change our way of experiencing.  We can avoid feeling pain, anger, etc. by reminding ourselves that we don’t have to succumb to negativity.  Start with small problems and then work up to big challenges.  That’s what we call “true practice of dharma”.   Prayers, mantras, etc. that do not include working on ourselves is not real dharma practice.

  1. What should we emphasize in practice?

The real practice is as above: it all depends on how we react.  We have a choice: be angry and miserable, which creates negative environment OR,  take steps to improve external situation for yourself and others, as well as improving your own state of mind.  This brings happiness.

Ex. of old nun with no teeth living in a hovel, but she was very happy.


“Can I change a karmic tendency to express anger?”


“It depends on your motivation.  Bodhisattvas aren’t always “nice”, they can be wrathful.  You can also apologize if you’re wrong.  Your impressions about yourself are more important than the effects you have on others.”

Question: “Could you say something about the power of confession?”

Answer: Recognizing that you have done a negative thing and confessing it is a purification.  If you do something positive to counteract that, then you have purified everything.  Negative deeds have one good aspect: they can be purified.

Question:  “What exactly is being purified?”

Answer:  You stop the chain reaction of negative action.  If you see something negative as truly harmful to yourself and to others, why not let it go?  It will go anyway!  Our emotions are very subtle and impermanent if you don’t solidify them.  Letting go without hesitation comes from discipline.  You don’t have to second-guess.  You are clear about what to cultivate and what to refrain from, so life is a lot more simple.

Question: “How do you purify collective karma, not just individual karma?”

Answer:  You have to start with yourself.  If you smile and speak nicely, others will respond positively.  It will have a ripple effect.

Talk 4: PM 1, Eight Fold Path and Six Paramitas

4th question asked of Chenrezig:

  1. What is the right view?

Answer: There are two right views:

  1. Understanding causes and effects, karma
  2. Understanding ultimate nature, seeing emptiness

Discussion about “right view” vs. wrong views

  •   if you believe in reincarnation, how can you be selfless?  Wouldn’t “selfless” (or “empty in nature”) imply not being affected by karma, therefore, no reincarnation?
  •   from Buddhist point of view, this is not contradictory, because  on a relative level, we are still affected by causes and effects.  There is no independent entity because, if it were truly independent, it would be unaffected by change.
  • wrong view: “my practice, view is the best” is not right view and is a downfall.
  • blind faith in Buddha, teacher, book is also not right view, because it’s not based on your own analysis or true understanding.
  • People who are not born Buddhist are more likely to ask questions and investigate.  First get clear intellectually, then experientially.  When you have assimilated the right view into your being, then it becomes realization.  That takes time, energy and practice.
  1. How many consciousness are there?

Answer:  There are 6 consciousnesses (Madyamika school), 8 consciousnesses (Cittamatra) or 1 consciousness.

Different schools say different things.

Consciousness is like a monkey in a house with many windows.

There are 5 sense consciousnesses (eye, ear, nose, mouth, touch), 6th consciousness is mind.   If you add 2 more consciousnesses, the 7th is dualistic, klesa mind, 8th cs. is alaya which is ground consciousness.  If

you posit only one consciousness as awareness, that goes back to analogy of monkey in a house looking out of windows.

  1. What causes the perfection of the accumulations?

Answer:  the accumulations are perfected by wisdom and merit.

8-fold path:  (wisdom) right view

(merit) thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, meditation

6 Paramitas: generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, transcendent awareness.

Definition of Paramita: para+ other side mita= going

What makes paramita transcendental?  Answer is: wisdom.

Without wisdom, there is no perfection.  Positive deeds become much stronger with compassion and wisdom.  Analogy of two wings of a bird: without 2 wings, the bird can’t fly.  Motivation and view are most important.

Secrecy of teachings is really  is about having the wisdom to teach Mahamudra without causing wrong view, such as Nihilism.  Unless you have clear understanding of karma, you shouldn’t teach Mahamudra.

Question:  Do we work with the Mahayana path first and then study Mahamudra?

Answer: That depends on the person.  You can go in sequence.  But the the teachings of the 4 reminders (which is all of shravakayana), refuge, Bodhicitta, 6 Paramitas, ngondro, Guru yoga are actually not separate from Mahamudra.  To authentically complete ngondro, you need wisdom.

Question:  Is devotion a way for us to engage with the path?

Devotion is 3 things:

  1. Inspiration: we become enthusiastic when we meet a realized being.
  2. Aspiration:  we wish to become like that person.
  3. Certainty:  Highest devotion is unshakeable conviction in what we realize.

Devotion is also to your teacher who showed you the way and devotion to practice.  If you really see your teacher as Buddha, that means that you have transformed yourself.  Guru Yoga is the real practice of Mahamudra.

Question: How does wisdom have a beginning, if it’s already part of our nature?

Answer: We are samsaric beings because of ignorance, which has no beginning. When ignorance ends, we have wisdom.

Question: How can I become primordial Buddha, Vajradhara, if there are so many other Buddhas before me?  It is explained that when I become enlightened, one feels: “I was always enlightened, why didn’t I realize it?”, not:  “Today I’m enlightened, yesterday I wasn’t – hip,hip hooray!”

We all have some compassion and wisdom, Buddha Nature, but it depends on our development.

Question: Is it that our confusion prevents us from seeing others as Buddha?

Answer:  We learn by being shown and by experience, not by being told.  We need to have experience of being loved, then we learn.  That’s why we visualize deities and do guru yoga.

We appoint our guru as most qualified candidate (4 aspects):

  1. see Guru as Buddha, who is the source of dharma
  2. see Guru as Vajradhara, primordial Buddha
  3. see Guru as lineage holder
  4. see Guru as my own teacher

When your mind is concentrated on perfect qualities, you are mixing your mind with the guru (it’s sometimes easier to do guru yoga with a dead guru, because then you can’t find faults!)

Question:  The three emptinesses of generosity (no giving, no giver, nothing given) seem too intellectual for me…

Answer:  The main point is that you want to help but the giving has no attachment because you see the illusory nature, life is like a dream.  I become more relaxed, joyful and generous.  Part of both wisdom and compassion.

Question:  Is Buddha Nature the one thing that never changes?

Answer:  Buddha Nature is not a thing.  It’s a description of how things are: emptiness, interdependence.  It’s beyond concept. Nothingness can’t change because there’s is no thing there.  Ditto, impermanence, which is a quality, beyond permanence or permanence.  The key point here is that Buddha Nature, impermanence and emptiness are not dependently arisen but dependently designated.

Talk 5, Saturday PM 2, Application of Coemergence

  • When we have a little experience of not clinging, then everything is ok. But the understanding that anything can happen, good or bad, teaches us how not to hold onto anything.
  • Without that view, I am anxious, worried and frightened.  We want to create illusion of security, but security simply doesn’t exist.

Coemergence: “born together”.  This is a Mahamudra teaching by Milarepa.

It needs to be carried onto the path with “2 armors”.

  1. Outer armor: the correct view: you do not commit any negative actions, even at the cost of your life.   You constantly act in positive ways.  When you say “nothing exists”, that doesn’t give you the right to do anything you want, because things do exist in a dreamlike way and your actions affect others.
  2. Inner armor: you don’t reject sickness, pain, suffering or ignore them.
  3. think “it could be worse” – helps you see the positive side.

focus on what we can improve in the present.

  1. getting to the root of problem through investigation seeing  impermanence, interdependence, emptiness.
  2.  ask: “Where did sickness, etc. come from, where does it abide and where does it go?”
  3. Make sickness part of the path:  “I will use this sickness as mind training, such as: “may everyone else’s pain be taken on by myself on top of this pain.”  So, even negative things can be part of the path and we can appreciate them in this way.
  4. You can also view your negative thoughts/emotions as path.  Don’t cultivate them, but see them as mind and see mind as unborn Dharmakaya.
  5. You can’t stop thoughts.  So, rejoice and marvel at them as your own mind.  You are not separate from your thoughts.  Therefore, we can relax with our thoughts because they are our mind, manifestation of radiance of Dharmakaya.

Question: Tell us a story of Trungpa Rinpoche as a young man,

Answer: I knew Trungpa Rinpoche from my childhood. Trungpa Rinpoche realized the nature of mind very young (11 or 12?).

Question:  What is the role of the sangha in choosing a guru?

Answer:  Usually, you get the guru because of the sangha (story).

Talk 6, Sunday AM 1, Obstacles as the Path

  • Don’t deliberately focus or cultivate thoughts or emotions.
  • Don’t let them linger.
  • Do not hold onto them or react negatively, but let them self-liberate.

The more I try to stop thoughts, the more tense I get because there’s a struggle.

Take things lightly; see thoughts as the natural radiance of our mind.

Emotions come and go; let them dissolve naturally by themselves.

Obstacles are where the practice starts.  See them as blessings of the lama and welcome the challenge as path.  “Turning obstacles into path”

Thoughts /emotions/perceptions are called “arising”, “namtok” in Tibetan.

All are also awareness and one’s own mind.  There’s no location of thoughts, therefore no residing of mind.  You can’t find it, but there is still the experience, “awareness and emptiness”, which is Dharmakaya.

“Unborn” – nothing exists on its own, everything is like a dream, like “virtual reality”, (a hologram) or a magic show.  Everything is just a display.  When there is wisdom that sees this truth, then there is no suffering of mind; because of merit, no suffering of body.

3 ways of dealing with emotions:

  1. abandoning by seeing how harmful and unnecessary they are.
  2. transforming negative thought with positive thought.
  3. cutting through by seeing emptiness of both good and bad as mind, as Dharmakaya.  Let go of both golden and iron chains, do not cling to this cutting as path, result, view, meditation or conduct.  “Appearances don’t bind you, clinging does.  Cut off the clinging.” Tilopa’s instruction to Naropa.

How to mix mind with emptiness, three analogies:

  1. “Dissolve upon contact” is like meeting an old friend.  Recognize the emptiness nature like recognizing an old friend.
  2. “Snow falling on a lake”, slowly dissolves – you remind yourself of emptiness  through having previously contemplated.
  3. “Fire and smoke”  when the fire (emotions) is small, wind will extinguish it, when the fire is big, wind spreads it. So,  catch your emotions soon.  But if you have wisdom, great emotion (big fire) will create great wisdom.

Talk 7, Sunday AM 2, Conclusion and Q&A

Our thoughts liberate themselves; they simply appear and disappear without leaving a trace.

Analogy:  they are like a snake uncoiling itself effortlessly.

Four points of how to apply Co-emergence

  1. Being able to reconstitute your understanding: by knowing one thought is the Dharmakaya, you know all thoughts are the Dharmakaya.  “Knowing one liberates all”.
  2. If you drink water in one part of the ocean, you know the taste of the whole ocean
  3. If you see one straw is hollow, you know all straws are hollow.
  4. If you know how roots grow on one kind of plant, then you know how roots grow on all plants of that kind.
  1. Ability to transform all conditions into support – the stronger the obstacle, the stronger your practice.

ex.: The wind that used to blow out the fire, now makes the fire stronger.

  1. No further cause for delusion because you understand the nature of your mind and phenomena.  Arisings become wisdom display of Dharmakaya, not something you have to chase after or flee from. Samsara is therefore transcende

ex.: It’s like weather – if you go above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

  1. Opening the door through wisdom

ex.: twirling a spear or lance in the sky: everything is in the state of equality.  It’s about freedom in the sense that there is no obstruction.

Question:  “Does cutting through” (“chod”) imply more effort than “self-liberation?”

Cutting through is not more active.  It comes from wisdom, discipline, and understanding.

Q.: Is that “looking directly’?

  1. “Yes.  With experiential understanding or view, you cut through to the basis of reality.  You realize the futility of running after what you desire and the nonexistence of the one running after, so you just relax.

Question: “Is there “just” karmic law?”

Answer:  People suffer due to hatred (cause of war), greed (war as well, atrocities), ignorance (prejudice, inequalities).

Karma means action, whether group or individual.  We need to create more positive emotions.  Karma doesn’t mean it’s already done; it’s what we do.  There are many causes and conditions.  Our karma has more to do with how we react.

Question: Is “I” a dependent designation?

Answer:  “I am” is like a river.  The framework of “river” is there, but the river is actually changing all the time. So, yes, “I” is a dependent designation.

Question:  Are we our just our thoughts or are we more than our thoughts?

Answer: First we look at our samsaric mind (which causes suffering) that we think is “I”.  Step by step, we tame our mind, then we eventually see there is nothing there to secure. That’s the best security, because there’s nothing to be afraid of or attached to, then we don’t have to react.  We’re content and our samsaric mind is changed to enlightened mind.

Question:  How do we work with death as a practice?

Answer:  Dalai Lama said, “You have to prepare for your death from childhood.”  It’s essential to understand impermanence and that everybody  dies.  This is easy to understand intellectually, but hard to understand emotionally.  It’s always a big shock.  There’s never any certainty about when death will happen.  If you accept that uncertainty, there’s less fear.  Every day is like  a lifetime: birth from sleep or unconsciousness, which is like death; each day is like a lifetime of consciousness, then you “die” into unconscious again.

There are those who believe in continuity of consciousness – so why be afraid?  This life is a great opportunity to do something meaningful.Those who don’t believe in life after death, it’s a nice rest!  So don’t be afraid of death!

Question:  Please comment on doing what you think is right when it can cause a lot of harm?

Answer:  Your motivation might be good but your confusion can cause harm in your actions.  Ego can justify actions, so motivation needs be checked over and over again. Development of wisdom and compassion together is essential.  Then act.  Don’t hold back for fear of making a mistake, because we can learn from our mistakes.

Summary by FM



Great Stupa, Shambhala Mountain Center (credit:

Great Stupa, Shambhala Mountain Center (credit:

Join Ringu Tulku Rinpoche at the Shambhala Mountain Center for a weekend teaching from his recent book Confusion Arises as Wisdom, a commentary on a pithy collection of teachings from the great Tibetan Buddhist master Gampopa,

Confusion Arises as Wisdom is Ringu Tulku Rinpoche’s most recent book, and also one of his most popular. He was recently asked about his upcoming teaching by Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC), Ringu Tulku on his Upcoming Retreat, Confusion Arising as Wisdom:

SMC: How has confusion arisen as wisdom in your own life?
RT: Well, I do not claim that confusion has arisen as wisdom in my life. I was just trying to explain the teachings of the great master Gampopa. These are a collection of his pith instructions that he gave to his disciples on many occasions. Therefore these are called his teachings to the assembly of his students. These teachings were recommended by the 16th Karmapa and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to be translated when the text will be found. I found the text and started to teach from them and found them to be very useful.

According to the Mahamudra view, confusion arises as wisdom when we realize that everything we experience is the radiance of the mind’s own nature. What is the nature of our mind? How do we come to recognize that? Gampopa shows his students – and now us – the path of deep understanding and meditation that leads to the realization of Mahamudra, the “Great Seal” of the true nature of reality.

SMC: What inspired you to write this book?
RT: Actually I taught this book because of the instruction by Karmapa and Trungpa Rinpoche and then I was asked to teach at several places. This particular book is, I think, a transcript of teachings that I gave in Spain.

Shambhala Mountain Center, Colorado (credit;

Shambhala Mountain Center, Colorado (credit;

SMC: And now, what is inspiring you to teach from this book?
RT: I find the instructions very clear, precise, and inclusive. I was also asked to teach it here.

SMC: Are there certain things you will focus on during this retreat?
RT: I am not sure yet whether I will start from the beginning or choose some sections. I will first meet the people who have come and then decide.

SMC: Is there anything I’m not asking you that you want to share with us about yourself, the retreat, or Shambhala Mountain Center?
RT: I am sure there are countless questions one can ask, but I think it does not really matter.