The Black Shirt Talk

Building a Bridge to Transcendence

Namgyal Rinpoche's Nature Course
Dharma Centre of Canada, July 3, 1996

David Berry

The class sat in silent meditation. We rose to our feet as one as we heard the sound of the Volkswagen on gravel as it approached the Temple from the Main House.

The car stopped at the foot of the hill and the Venerable Karma Tensin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche came up the wooden stairs. A student opened the screen door for him and he stepped in, slipped off his sandals and walked to his chair at the front of the room. A mug of hot tea and a flowering plant waited on the table beside him.

He began with the opening dedication three times, “Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa”, (Homage to the Blessed One, the Purified One, the Fully Enlightened One).

He took a sip of tea and we settled back down on our cushions.

Rinpoche then began his discourse.


“The trouble with you’se…, you see I start with verbal abuse. Westerners want to start with exotic inner planes in meditation and those planes are there and are magnificent but inevitably there are imbalances to be dealt with first.

You live in cities but the ancients lived in forests, in Nature. You whirl about in “motorcars” as in "Wind the in the Willows" and eat fast foods and hear sounds not of nature but of machines and heavy metal. I’m not sure you have a sufficient bridge to the outer.

You are not the Native people. In general, men were hunters; women were gatherers. Now we neither hunt nor gather. We don’t pay attention to our environment or surroundings. We attempt to do work on the inner without a balancing revelation of the outer. Ancient peoples hiked from place to place for nine months. Even in Tibet, people travelled vast miles on foot, trading, gathering salt, and making pilgrimages. The average Guatemalan Indian way of approach to Dharma is very different, more introverted, and pushing into sensational functions. Most people should not attempt to push hard in the inner until they do work on the outer.

As some classical Buddhist teachings begin, ‘Having gone to the forest or the foot of a tree.. ’ they established mindfulness of the breathing in front. Start with outer mandalas, building with hands, flowers, or minerals. On their alms round the monks would use everything they found: a piece of plastic, embryo of dog, enriching in each little moment. Those of you who are desirous of revelations on the inner plane should do more work with the outer. There are spiritual books that mention clouds within us. It would be better to learn ten types of real clouds: cirrus, stratus, cumulus..

Eyes are designed to look out, to see the patterns. If I could have my way with you, I’d order you to take a safari or go immediately to the Antarctic. “Oh no! Not Scuba!” you say. You have the wish-fulfilling jewel. If the proper motivation is there, all will be granted unto you. Have faith.

The Grand Canyon will open the canyons within. The Antarctic, Arctic, and Amazon provide a mosaic of enlightenment through adventure. I’m not a Luddite ~ your work-places are fine, even work with computers is better with a sense of the outer patterns.

You have a distorted view of sexuality and the body. Have you even watched an animal mate or seen how mating pervades the universe from the birth of kittens to the eggs of a moth? You need a deeper changing view of all activity and patterns.

I’m getting nasty now.. you are a klutz. A French lady travelling all over Africa ordered two fried eggs every day for breakfast. Americans order bacon and eggs and steak in China. You live by rote, rote, rote and you wonder why your meditation is so gray.

You can practice different kinds of meditation:
1. Totality
2. Sunyata or emptiness
3. Mind Only

You can also dare to have something different to eat in the morning. What is your mind feeding on?

Even nuns in Bhutan haven’t had so many wongkurs or empowerments as you have like the Green Tara we will give this week. They would give their eye teeth for this and you pick your teeth with it. Aum Ah Ho: Welcome everyone to the feast, the festival. I wonder if in these lessons I am casting pearls before swine to trample underfoot.

Jehovah prepared a great banquet before Paul. Like “Thai food” would be for you. “Essensie sus kind - Please eat sweet child.” “No, it’s not kosher”. “Essensie sus kind, Essensie.” Again there was resistance. It’s doing a number, the way we divide it up: I do this but not that. I eat this but not that. “What God has called to be clean, call ye not unclean” and Paul ate. Like the monks on the alms round take what is given in life. Don’t say, “I don’t look at fungus, I don’t explore those smells, I don’t eat that food”. Experience!

Were it not for unclean things, life could not exist. Food is poop and poop is food for something else. The human stomach is strong; we can eat many things. But cats, for example, are picky eaters. So you are losing your humanity as the food allergies show up. I mean that literally. Humans eat eggs, milk, meat; we have a versatile stomach.

As you go into more restricted diets you limit your experience. One third of the humans in Ireland died when the potato crop failed. The natural instinct of humans is to go for variety. Variety is the mosaic feed to enlightenment. If you do not have the inner plane open you haven’t looked out.

We say, “As above, so below; as without, so within.” The ancient Greeks said, “Look within”. They had already searched the without. They would lie in a trough with water showers at the seven chakras, (a symbolic baptism), and participated in sports at the gymnasium for health of the mind and body.

In the Greek Mysteries candidates wore white robes and climbed a spiral staircase. They stopped at a cliff, then were lifted to the Elysian fields above, fields filled with flowers. They were lifted by a great red double-helix cord to that symbol of a higher plane. The spiral was used again: as an aspirant ascended, on the spiral they would pass niches or grottos. Their hood would be winked up for just an instant so they would see the figures of the archetypes or a vignette of a teaching. This is just like Tibetans who flash the card at you with an image of the deity during a wongkur. With the hood lifted, the tableau appears just for an instant and the image goes to the depth awareness. The spiral staircase is the secret staircase. Yes, DNA is life on Earth. It is not helpful to say “I read the book”. You need real experiences.

The other side of the portal looks outside. How can you experience the inner without the experience of Nature? Having received the gift of the senses, use them.

Your whole day is spent on business, salaries, and interpersonal affairs. Your eyes face forward. You spend your life ignoring ignorance. Eighty percent of human life is discursive fantasy. Not only is life but a dream, you’re making it a dream as you merrily row your boat, oblivious to the world around you. You could fill the world with a large computer that would not be equal to your brain. With that great inheritance, what data are you running through your brain? “Bacon & eggs, bacon & eggs, kibble & bits.” You are in Sunday school: a little Tibetan picture of self-arising yoga and front-arising yoga. You really think enlightened beings need to come to you in Tibetan form or some other specific form? I’ve got news for you: you don’t even get the news.


The NEWS is experience in all directions.

You are nit-picking nitwits. Pay attention to details. You look for the wind in the inner space and haven’t even seen the wind in the tree. Go to a mountain and feel the wind. Don’t you dare put an umbrella over me! I want to feel the rain, little warm drops or big splats. That’s how the teaching is delivered by the way, in drops or splats.

To get pure within, get pure food in so you can purify. Your problem is retention. You try to hold onto the memories rather than obtaining new experience. My beef with dharma practitioners is that you neither hunt nor gather. You turn dharma into a group of sickies and say, ‘Heal me, heal me.’ This is a Dharma Centre not a Drama Centre! Jesus said, ‘Arise. Take up your bed and walk.’

Get up and do what humans are supposed to do. Your behavior disgusts me. For progress on the path we have to work, to struggle. Stop this number of, ‘It’s all an illusion, you know’. The only thing that is an illusion is you.

You say, ‘My mother did this, my father did that.’ If someone really wanted to hear, you wouldn’t let him or her hear. ‘Arise. Take up your bed and walk.’

Look at Stephen Hawking. Look at the power there is through all those handicaps to keep probing the universe. Give up the view that the life of Dharma is the life of therapy. Stop this defeated thing of alcohol. Yes, I know you are still drinking! This is a conceit. This is the last place you should be. Remember the Fifth Precept about training yourself to avoid liquor and drugs that cloud the mind. Get out of all this! Society is full of drugs. Take up thy bed and walk!

But you say, ‘We’re abused, we’re the victim.’ That’s tough! There are only two choices: Victim of life or Victor of life. We are hurled from the womb and hurled to the tomb. You can lie down and wait or you can get on with it! That’s life and you have to get engaged.

If you don’t change your diet, you will end up with Norwegian food. Recipe: put fish in water, put fire under; if you are feeling wild, add salt. If you are feeling really wild, add pepper.

Awakening is not fixing sickness or therapy. Within this fathom-long body there is a universe arising. If you are in the Dharma, you are not dependent on praise or criticism; not going from doctor to doctor. This is not just an act of desperation; it is an act of silliness. It is ignoring experience. How silly to run from pillar to post!

If what I am saying is offensive, forgive but don’t forget ~ use it. The minutes are going by; everything you find on the path even a pebble is an advance. Get a big appetite. All things live by nutriment. All things, all experiences sustain your life. If you reduce the diet of humans, the species will go extinct.

So much energy goes into the maintenance of the false self. If you can hear me, just go out and start looking at the patterns. I’m tired of teaching today. On one course we had eight students and seven different diets. That is self- indulgence; it would never happen in a monastery. However, I must have hope. The seed of the flower can growth through concrete. Watch for the dreadful Thump! ~ the thunderbolt that annihilates the rock.

You’re not worthy to be addressed and given an exercise. I should not come here. I should leave the dead to bury the dead. Jesus said the barren fig tree is cursed.

Look at nature, look at the patterns."


Rinpoche gave a closing blessing, “Idam te punna-kamman asawakaya wayham hotu.” By the merit of this strengthening activity, may there be cessation of all defilements.

He looked down and said, “It must be the black shirt I wore today!”

I rose, applauded and shouted, “BRAVO!”

Rinpoche held up his arms as if he were ducking tomatoes, walked to the front door of the temple, slipped on his sandals and left.

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