December 7, 2011

Buddhist Yoga: Joining with Naturalness, Part VII. ~ Ari Goldfield & Rose Taylor Goldfield

PART VII: Buddhist Yoga: Joining with Naturalness

About this series:

The tradition of Buddhist Yoga is vast and wonderful. It is profound in its insights that we can discover for our own and others’ benefit, and rich in its variety of skillful methods that we can use to put it into practice. This seven-part serialization aims to present the key points of Buddhist Yoga in a way that Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike will find helpful and applicable to their own practices of yoga and meditation.

We will begin by looking at what the phrase “Buddhist Yoga” means, so that as we proceed to explore the practice of Buddhist Yoga, we will be well-equipped with a clear understanding of what Buddhist Yoga is all about. In the subsequent three pieces, we will examine the three qualities of mental outlook that form Buddhist Yoga’s foundation: renunciation, compassionate bodhichitta, and the profound view of the true nature of reality.

In the fifth piece, we will be ready to learn how to apply the principles of Buddhist Yoga in physical exercise and dance. Then, we will see how we can practice Buddhist Yoga when our bodies are afflicted by illness, and learn why the great masters have taught that being sick is actually a more conducive condition for practice than being healthy. In the last piece, we will explore how to practice Buddhist Yoga in the activities of daily life, so that no matter where we are or what we are doing, we can live fully and joyously as yogis and yoginis.

~ Ari and Rose

See here for Part I. And here for Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart V, Part VI

Practice in Daily Life

In this final piece in a seven-part series on Buddhist Yoga, we will focus on practicing Buddhist Yoga in daily life.

Going, wandering, sleeping, resting—I look at mind

This is virtuous practice without sessions or breaks.[1]


Modern life can be so fast-paced, busy, and demanding that it is easy for us to feel like we do not have enough time to meditate. However, Buddhist Yoga is actually ideally suited to being practiced right within our daily activities. By briefly reflecting on renunciation, bodhichitta, and the profound view from time to time during the day, we blend practice and daily life together. We train in acting without attachment, with compassion and bodhichitta, and with certainty in the true nature of whatever is happening. This allows practice to flow continually, without being confined to meditation sessions and breaks.

The only obstacle to joining with the naturalness of the appearances of daily life is to fixate on them as being truly existent.  The more we fixate on something, the further we separate ourselves from its true nature, and the more narrow-minded and agitated we become.  To help us counteract that tendency, the Buddha taught the practice of the “illusion-like samadhi”[2] in verses like this one from The Sutra of the Noble Collection:

All the images conjured up by a magician,

The horses, elephants, and chariots in his illusion,

Whatever may appear there, know that none of it is real,

And it’s just like that with everything there is.[3]

Khenpo Rinpoche revised the first two lines to make them more applicable for modern practitioners:

All the images conjured up by a director,

The cities, cars, and airplanes, everything that’s in the movies,

Whatever may appear there, know that none of it is real,

And it’s just like that with everything there is.

Khenpo Rinpoche regularly sings verses like this one as he goes about his daily life, and frequently composes his own spontaneous verses as well, like this one that he sang while swimming in the ocean:

In this illusory ocean,

A dreamlike person,

Swims like a water-moon,

And crosses over into equality’s expanse.[4]

We can adapt this verse for all the different activities we undertake. For example,

In this illusory grocery store,

A dreamlike person,

Stands in line like in a movie,

And crosses over into equality’s expanse.

Equality’s expanse is the true nature of reality, non-dual luminous awareness, in which dualistic differences, distinctions, and contradictions do not truly exist. All such differences are equally dream-like and illusory—appearance-emptiness—and we cross over into equality’s expanse when we see this.

Even the activities that we consider spiritual and those we consider mundane are equality, and every moment of mind is an opportunity to remember equality and join again with naturalness. By doing so we are not creating an alternative version of reality or just making things up; rather we are dropping our conceptual habits that obscure naturalness. As the Tibetan master Chögyam Trungpa explains, “The universe is constantly trying to reach us to say something or teach something.”[5] We are always invited to reconnect with naturalness; we just need to accept the invitation.


In practicing Buddhist Yoga, we join with naturalness by relinquishing the burden of attachment; developing great compassion; and meditating in non-dual, luminous awareness, the true nature of reality. Through applying these methods in all phases of our activity, our experience becomes open, spacious, and relaxed. Initially, we have to apply more effort, but gradually we experience the benefit of this approach to life and practice becomes natural and joyful. When we do not fixate on situations as truly existent, all circumstances become workable. Fear and self-doubt fall away, and our ability to benefit ourselves and others grows.

[1] Song of Milarepa quoted in dpal sprul rin po che, kun bzang bla ma’i zhal lung, 538.

[2]Samadhi refers to a state in which one is concentrated and not distracted. Paradoxically, it seems, the samadhi that sees everything to be like an illusion is the meditation one practices in the midst of all the distractions of thoughts and the objects that appear to the senses.  When one remembers that all of these distractions are illusory, however, this constitutes the practice of this samadhi, and all the distractions are in fact friends of and enhancements to the meditation rather than hindrances or obstacles.”  (Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso, The Sun of Wisdom [Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2003], 53).

[3] Tib.: ‘phags pa yang dag par sdud pa’i mdo.  Quoted in Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation, lha rje bsod nams rin chen, dam chos yid bzhin gyi nor bu thar pa rin po che’i rgyan, (Electronic edition, Kathmandu: Pema Karpo Translation Committee, 179).  Verse translated by Ari Goldfield.

[4] Unpublished verse by Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, translated by Ari Goldfield.

[5] Chögyam Trungpa, The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Seven, (Boston: Shambhala Publications 2004), 47.


Ari Goldfield’s Harvard Law School training led him to a six-month unillustrious career in corporate law before he set off for Asia to study Tibetan and find his Buddhist teacher. He went on to travel the world for thirteen years with his teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, acting as Rinpoche’s translator and secretary. Rose Taylor Goldfield grew up in a Dharma household, where she learned meditation at a very young age, and progressed through the practice and study lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She received her masters from Naropa University in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies with Tibetan language. Ari and Rose translate and teach Buddhist philosophy, meditation, yogic exercise, and dance in their local San Francisco Bay Area and internationally. They are spiritual directors of the Wisdom Sun community. You can explore more about them and their offerings on their website.

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