Trungpa Visits Allen’s Class – 1

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

AG: the poetry class.. [to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche] – does it make sense (you sitting), here?  [Allen points to location] – and there’s room for David (Rome) [Trungpa’s personal assistant], there. Welcome to my poetry class. This is Bobby Myers, my teaching assistant – and this [Allen continues with formal introductions] is Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Tibetan poet and meditation teacher -and David Rome here.

So.. We had been reading haiku today, both Japanese (and American), talking about space in haiku – “A wild sea/ and stretching across to the isle of Sado/the Milky Way” – also some haiku in (Jack) Kerouac – then we were reading some of (William) Blake, a long poem called Auguries of Innocence… in which he says – ”To be in a Passion you Good may Do/ But no Good if a Passion is in you” –  That make sense? –And we were comparing that to Jamgon Kongtrül’s Direct Path to Enlightenment.

CT: Oh my goodness!

AG: And I have been talking about Hinayana – sitting, and how that might lead to jumps of perception from one thought to another and spaces in-between

CT: Yeah

AG: (which are like haiku). So, we can take off from there – [to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche]  Do you have any thing on your mind?

CT: Well, it’s hard to say.. We’ve been talking about the construction of a threefold logic. Have you discussed that at all, in any sense?

AG: No, I haven’t, so that would be good to..

CT: So that might be interesting actually… Can you hear me?

Students: Louder!

Student: If you use the microphone…

CT: Is this.. oh yes, is this… Can you hear me now?

The notion of what’s called threefold logic – which applies to a general state of mind, how we experience our phenomenal world (and obviously poetry comes from an expression of one’s phenomenal world – in the written form – it could either be prose or poetry form). It’s not so much, from (the) Buddhist point of view, is that) (if) you write good poetry, particularly, but how your thought-patterns become elegant, that you see (the) phenomenal world as a process, stages, as a review, from a state of mind – That, first, we have what’s known as the ground (which we perceive is the general sense or idea of how things work – like a bright, and heavy, sense of brightness, and then you begin to have some idea that it is sunshine, and then, because there is a sense of brightness, then you experience the sense of sunshineand having experienced the second stage that way, then we have a conclusion,  which is “(it) dispels (the) darkness”. So those (three stages) are what is known as the threefold logic, which actually does apply very much to the haiku approach – that there is an idea, and then there is a complimentary remark with (the) idea, and then a final ending, (sometimes which is punctuated by humor, or sometimes punctuated by opinion, or (it) could be just an open ending). So that seems to be an interesting kind of training and it seems that’s how one thinks when you look at the real world and then just write that down. And then by doing so, a person’s approach begins to become very methodical and nothing is jumpy, and everything is somewhat organized in your mind, and therefore it creates a sort of chain-reaction, probably, to the reader of  (the) poetry as well, those who read your work, their thought-patterns begin to have some sort of systematic situation rather than just things jumbled together. And , in turn, the theory is that having such (an) approach, you develop a…you’re helping the world to destroy chaos and you create order in the universe

AG: Well, in your thought process, do you systematically check out what of previous thought was ground or was flash, what moment you made the transition to recognizing the conception of the flash (sun) and then what further development and comment is made? In other words, do you constantly examine your thought-forms that way? or is it that when you have a striking thought that you try to analyze it? (or you analyze it in that form, or find its structure in that form?)

CT: Well, it’s mostly.. The thought-patterns are free form thought-patterns which usually involves the threefold process.
And what you do is then, actually, analyze – it’s not so much analyzing…
AG: As recognizing?
CT: It’s just another after-thought of that whole thought process.
AG: Uh-hmm
particularly. It’s just .
AG: By analyzing it, I just mean checking (it) out..
CT: Yeah
AG further thought – “Oh yes, that was the thought, that was the flash, that was…
CT: That was it.  That was it. Yeah.

AG; Do you ever compose haiku consciously, using that as a method?
CT: You could, as training process – and then a starting person (can) begin to gain more confidence in themselves, and so they can actually flow.
AG: So it’d be like driving. First, you have to figure out the gears.
CT: Yes.

AG: Do you actually train yourself in checking out the triple.. the triad? Did you?

CT: In some sense, yes, I think you do. You can always do that. And also  connect it with Śūnyavāda like Madhyamaka – Buddhist philosophy , you have a case and then you have a reference coming out of that case and then you have a final conclusion. It’s always a threefold process

AG: Can you give an example of that ? – Case-Reference-and Conclusion

CT: Well, some things (like) what we were saying, like.. You could say that – the Mind is Empty – Free from Conceptions – (It is) Enlightenment.

AG: Okay -How would you make a haiku of that? In other words, what situation would give rise to something substantial rather than the abstraction?

CT: Haiku?

AG: Yeah

CT: Well, you could have…

AG: (Well),that would come automatically, but you (could have)…

CT: (What?) Which one?

AG: ….a situation where you recognize your mind was empty, free from distraction…

CT: Concepts.

AG:  Concepts, yeah. That’s enlightenment. See, that would be, say, the.. a… that would be the basic structure of almost all noticings.

CT: Uh-hmm – That’s what we’re trying to say…Yes, that’s how all things should work.There could be…some discipline (that) goes with that..

AG: (So) that would be…

CT: Training people.

AG Well, would that be.. would that involve simple samatha sitting, or a further application of it, or

CT: I think samatha sitting awareness is some sort of awareness – mindfulness in daily life. You know, that it brings things into a cohesive situation<

AG: What you’re describing is also a bi-product of samatha,isn’t it?

CT: Well, you could say that, yeah.

David Rome

(Trungpa turns to David Rome) What do you think? Do you have anything to say?

DR: About samatha?

CT: No, (about) the whole thing.

DR: Well, that kind of threefold process is not a gimmick. It’s a very basic pattern by which perception occurs and also (when there’s) creation occurs. So your finished poem might actually show those three levels – or it might not (all that specifically) but nevertheless the process that you went through (in order) to create the poem must… It does anyhow follow that kind of process but to the extent that you’re somewhat clear in following it will affect the elegance and accuracy of the poem . So you have some kind of first impulse to express something, and that impulse carries with it some sense of the texture of what you want to express. In some cases, it’s the texture of a certain emotion, in some cases, (particularly of poets I mentioned), it’s one detail that has struck you and you feel that there is something further that could be made of that, or presented from this – or even just trying to present that one detail involves some further process. So then you begin fleshing it out, so to speak, which is finding the further reference to that detail of that basic and that process contains openness as well as narrowness, which I think is what becomes very important about these three steps, They’re about (doing) something, without having it all figured out to begin with, but, on the other hand, not going off in every direction so that you end up purely with chaos, a jungle . So your middle stage is (feeling) that texture further (following) that detail up further, making new discoveries, but also beginning to focus it down towards some kind of single statement, single message, and that becomes the third level (which could be contained in the great last line, or it might even be contained in the space that’s left after the poem is over) – and there’s some unified event which has actually taken place.

AG: I wonder how that would apply to the last haiku? but we don’t have… we’re doing this in English translation and it may be reversing the order of the perceptions but it was

“A wild sea/and stretching across to the isle of Sado/the Milky Way”?

CT: I think that hangs together.. very much so
AG: In relation to that structure somewhat, actually. The “wild sea” is the first flash. (Well, actually, you’d have the sea and then the heaven…
CT: Yeah
AG: Reversed, maybe? is it?
CT: Well, you have a sense of the wilderness
AG: Yeah and the engulfing waters
CT: And then a sense of nostalgia – the island – a sort of dwelling-place, and then finally so what, you know? – Milky Way
AG: Well, it’s actually “and stretching across to the isle of Sado” – So you get that enormous space all of a sudden (whether all of Sado is visible we don’t know) – “and stretching.. to the isle of Sado/the Milky Way” – and then he recognizes it in a comment, or conception, with a name.

CT:  (…moved) on the water of the island.

AG: Do you know that book of haiku by R.H.Blyth at all?
CT: Very much so. Yes.
AG: Do you have any favorites from that?
CT: Well, a lot of them (in fact all of them!)
AG: We were (studying). I read about a hundred of them the other day, here…must have been.. there were a couple that I liked. There was a.. “Not a single stone/ to throw at the dog/ The wintry moon” – which was actually.. first flash there was anger, you know, wanting to grab a stone, a stone to throw at the dog, and the frustration at that because of the frozen ground. And then, recognizing the frozen situation, seeing the moon, which was irrelevant in a sense but related to the cold frozen-ness (the moon being a comment on his anger or a sudden opening-up…
CT: Yes, that’s what (it could be)
AG: ..or a distraction from it
CT: Yes Yes

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-four-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *