The Nyingma Tradition

space and moving through the six realms

Ngak’chang Rinpoche
From a talk given in New York, on the 28th of March, 1993 re-edited in July 2004—with integrated sections from talks given in 1994, 1997, and 2002

There is space – and either I retract from that space and regenerate the same pattern or I simply rest in that space long enough to realise that there is something else. The space appears to have a different flavour, and that flavour is less intense – but more subtle. The subtlety of it is somehow refreshing.

The six realms. We could well explore this subject in terms of our own patterns – and in terms of our own projections. This may offend the more mytho-symbolically minded – but from whatever position we adopt—even from the point of view in which the six realms are hard-wired locations —it needs to be understood that the six realms are contained within each other. Even from the mediæval point of view there are six realms within each of the six realms and so on into infinity. This might be considered to be ‘the bad news’ – that is to say: ‘Merely being human does not make my rebirth a ‘precious human rebirth ’. It rather depends on whether I entrench myself in conditioning, or whether I allow my constructs to be challenged by the Lama.

Now ‘the good news ’. I do not have to die physically to be reborn and gain a precious human rebirth – I can become a ‘born again human being’.

This can be attained at any moment – simply by recognising our entrapment in webs of conditioning patterns; recognising that we are ambivalent about whether we want to retain that conditioning or not.

I do not believe that any of you have come here to learn how to see reality in terms of a mediæval Indian model – however colourful or exotic that might be. For the sake of completeness however – let us review the cosmologically stratified arrangement.

According to Indian cosmology, there is a paradisiacal venue which is called ‘the god realm’, and the opposite which is called ‘the hell realm’ – a scenario in which all kinds of horrific torture and unimaginable pain are taking place. These worlds, as distinct locations, may not be useful to those who have already been introduced to heaven and hell in childhood – by whatever means. Be that as it may – the realms as models of mind-states are actually extremely valuable.

Hell is here and now. You do not have to look far to find it. You only have to read newspapers to find hell. You only have to look at the advertisements to find the god realm – or at least the insinuation that it is possible to coax the god realm into existence. I would like to explore these six realms in terms of our current human experience – because they are completely real. They are totally alive in all of us as the various speed settings on the circular self-defeating mechanism of samsara.

Hell is a state where—in an attempt to avoid pain—we cause ourselves as much pain as we can. We can witness hell happening in the world. It is in the news and in the streets every day. It is taking place all the time. Hell, in the Buddhist sense, is subdivided, like a mall or a department store – we can select our torture in excruciating varieties. We get to use all our credit cards with impunity, because in hell – buying and paying back are instantaneous. We pay for pain with pain; and there is always more pain in the account to pay for as much pain as we want to buy.

There are different types of hell – but mainly they divide into the hot hells and the cold hells. The hot hell, being the worst type, is where we are in so much pain that we lash out at everything. In lashing out however, we only succeed in hurting ourselves further. The more we hurt ourselves, the more we lash out. It is as if we were being boiled alive … apart from the fact that we are not being boiled alive – it simply seems that way.

Then, as soon as we get used to being boiled, the bottom falls out of the cauldron and the next boiling cauldron is a hundred thousand percent hotter. This hell condition is one in which the experiential situation becomes so intense that the only response to it is to create further intensity. The intensity feeds on itself and becomes searing … then it becomes more searing… then it becomes more searing … and just when we think that it cannot become more searing… it becomes more searing. The more searingly intense it becomes, the more intense the response has to be. We are battling with our own intensity, but we do not realise it. We feel as if it is the outside world with which we are battling. We feel that the intensity is on the outside coming toward you, rather than that you are creating it. It is a situation of intense paranoia. It is a situation of intense fear. Hell exists when our reaction to intrinsic space becomes claustrophobic. Everything becomes a threat. Anger is projected onto the outside world and it reflects back. We react to our environment as if it were hostile, and immediately it becomes hostile. Then we attack the world. Then the world seems more hostile.

Q Can you get to this place through any of the five elements in terms of obscuration?

NR From one perspective, you could say that hell is the result of an intensification of the water element neurosis, the result of anger. Anger is the root of the hell realm, but all the elements manifest within it. You cannot split the six realms into locations according to the elements because the six realms all contain all the elements. One cannot separate from the kyil’khor of the elements. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche provides an insight into the six realms which displays the elemental bias of each realm – but that is not to say that the other four elements are not present within each realm so described.

Q So… the claustrophobia of hell is all this shit coming at you from all directions?

NR Indeed… to use a fæcal analogy. It is when it hits the fan – all of it, the consequence of every samsaric bowel movement one has ever had in all our past lives. How hard it hits depends on the speed at which the neurotic element patterns are cycling. With hell it is not just experienced as the tepidly evacuated fæces of day to day frustration; it is molten burning fæces – which might not actually be there at all. It is merely that we might perceive it as being there.

It may appear as if it is coming at us from all directions – but only because we are throwing it, or because we fired up the rectal Rotavator.

Q So everything we look at poses a threat, because we perceive the phenomena of our experience as threatening?

NR Yes. We react with aggression to protect ourselves, but our aggression simply creates more fear and more threat. We begin to treat everything as a threat; and whatever we treat as a threat, becomes a threat. The world begins to reciprocate our fear and aggression in more and more overt ways.

Q Can you give an example, Rinpoche?

NR Well … I think someone is going to do or say something to hurt me – so I act towards them in such a way that they start wanting to do something to hurt me. In this case the aggression might not have been there in the other person; I may have just created it out of my own paranoia. If I have a feeling that someone does not like me, and I start to act toward them in a surly manner… if I continually over-react to any slight jest with hostility – whoever it is, is probably going to start disliking me.

So – I have my own version of reality and I project that personal reality onto life. And then – life starts to reflect it back to me. Hell is when that process becomes a closed loop. Then the closed loop becomes a tourniquet.

We have all been there in one shape or form. It is when I trip over and hurt myself, and I feel as if life has done it to me on purpose, so I hit the wall with my fist or kick a hole in the back door and hurt myself further. Then I become distracted by the pain and bring my head up under the cupboard door. The sharp corner gashes my forehead and a trickle of blood runs down onto my clean white shirt – the only clean shirt I have left, and I am supposed to be going to a business meeting. I try to sponge off the blood but the dishcloth is full of coffee grounds and now I have a brown espresso stain. I rip my shirt off to wash it but I do so with such violence that I tear it. Then in utter frustration and incredible fury I smash my head through the window and end up having to go to casualty to get stitches. [General laughter apart from Ngak ’chang Rinpoche who does not smile]. This really happened; maybe not to me – but a man told me this story about himself.

People do act in this way – even people who have no critical need to be institutionalised. So, now the cold hell. In the hot hell, there is frantic and frenzied lashing out – but in the cold hell we become catatonic. We become completely and utterly frozen because the lashing out has reached terminal velocity and we have lost all sense of differentiation between what is lashing and what is being lashed. Exhaustion. We cannot fight any more. We just lie paralysed. Inert. Pain has become the norm, and, however terrible it may be, it has some quality of infinite duration that lets us know—clearly —that we have lost. There is no relief. At this point it becomes possible to slump to the ground, even though the ground itself is the ground of pain and fear. This is a lesser degree of psychological pain where we do not move. Any kind of movement is going to cause more pain, even the movement of paranoid mind-moments. Openness to any possibility of anything at all simply shuts down. We shut down from all possibilities because all possibilities contain pain. We cut off projections of pain by our default of non-movement. Hell projections remain – but we cease to interact on the basis of the projections. Pain appears to be ‘out there’ and we can either attempt to fight with it or not. So we choose not to fight – because fighting merely causes worse pain.

In the hot hells, pain encroaches without remission as a co-dependent function of our need to attack it – but in the cold hells, pain simply sits staring at us like a vast menacing beast of prey. It is just there – a gigantic brooding presence. It cannot be escaped. We can only contract into ourselves. Pain becomes a static landscape in which we are frozen and motionless. We are still in pain – but we are somehow aware that worse pain exists, and that it can be escaped by avoiding interaction. We are aware that better positions could be adopted, but we are never sure if these other positions just contain worse pain.

Q Is this the pain of isolation?

NR This is largely the pain of not being able to cope with anything. Because even coping causes pain.

Q Can that be physical as well?

NR Yes. But physical pain happens as a result of painful projections. Naturally if you are in a state where something really horrible is happening to you, and you get so completely frightened by it that you start lashing out at everyone, then that is eventually going to cause physical pain.

Or—if you are in physical pain—and you physically thrash out; you rip the skin off your hands. In an institutional setting you would have to be restrained. We lash out in order to ward off pain, but in the attempt to escape pain, we instigate more pain. Not only do we have the physical pain of whatever our condition happens to be – but, we also have bleeding knuckles where we have been pummelling the wall.

These realms are all either greater or lesser experiences of pain. They are the process of the dualistically distorted elements as self-defeating cycles. The cycles are either accelerating or decelerating. The most terrible hot hell is ‘instant karma’, and the god realms are ‘interminably deferred karma’. With the god realms the self-defeating cycles of the dualistically distorted elements are extravagantly slow. We do not experience repercussions in terms of how we are for a æons – or minutes and hours that seem like æons. In the lower realms we experience repercussions more rapidly as the realms descend. The six realms are six versions of the five cyclic elemental neuroses. They cycle faster or more slowly depending on the degree of intensity of commitment to proving that we are: solid; permanent; separate; continuous; and, defined.

In the god realm the elemental cycles are enormously protracted. In the hells the elemental cycles are practically instantaneous. In looking at the elements, it is crucial to understand how it is that they undermine themselves.

Q Can you give an example Rinpoche?

NR Well, say I see a very—very —nice thing in a shop. I lust after it, because it is the most fabulous whatever that I have ever seen. What makes it so delicious is that I cannot really quite afford it. So I have to think about it a great deal. I have to think about how much more perfect my life would be if I had this wonderful thing. The more I think about it, the more wonderful it seems, and the drabber my life seems without it. So I save up for it. I cut back on my expenditure in certain ways, or I decide to go wild with my credit card – and hang the consequences. I go and buy it. Then it’s mine … and … as soon as it’s mine … it’s not quite the same. I want it because I feel a fundamental isolation, and I need to unify with some focus of lasciviously prosaic proximity … I want to unify with this object of desire; but as soon as I have it – it disappears. It disappears because I own it.

Be cause I own it, it has entered my world. Because it has entered my world, it has become me, or become part of me. What made it so desirable was that it was not me; it was other. So as soon as I drew it into my world – vvvvvttt – it was gone. It did take a little while for it to disappear. At first it was a joyful thing – the leather jacket; the python Western boots; the Mercedes-Benz; the lover; the bagel; the leopard-skin pillbox hat; the personal Scottish island, the Buddhist book; the brace of Irish wolf-hounds; the Gieves and Hawk shooting coat; the Mississippi gambler’s vest; the Griswold and Gunnison percussion revolver, the beryllium copper cartridge firing LeMat, the .44 Colt Anaconda; the Nobel Peace Prize, or whatever it is. I am in blissful union with it, I am dancing jubilantly with it because I own it – but … after a while it just merges back into the grey … nondescript … fabric … of my dreary daily appearances. It lasts for a period of time, then it ‘disappears’ and I have to look elsewhere for another focus of orgiastically preternatural propinquity …

In the hell realm everything is instantly gone. As soon as we have anything at all, it’s gone – and, it bites savagely as it goes. It disappears immediately it is glimpsed and leaves emotional third-degree burns. The aching need for any thread of respite is a tortured craving, punished continuously in the cruellest possible manner. All hope disintegrates immediately in its arising. Every possibility of alleviation of pain is brutally crushed. With each of the elements functioning in the hell realm, the self-undermining process cycles at horrible speed. There is no option but endurance – and endurance is a continuous battle in an attempt to suffer less, even for a fraction of a second.

Q Is there a ‘why’, to why they speed up?

NR Certainly. Acceleration is caused by my struggle – Mein Kampf … I fight reality in order to suffer less, or in the attempt to return to some lost peace or pleasure. Deceleration is caused by relaxing – by giving up the fight with reality, by letting go of the need to regain anything. Struggling causes acceleration; relaxation causes deceleration. And that choice exists in the moment. When you have a situation, you can either react to it in terms of trying to manipulate it or control it, or you can dance with the situation. That was Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s phrase – dancing with the situation. Dancing is not the same as acceptance of resignation. Dancing means participation – but participation in an open-ended sense.

The way that we move between the realms is either through struggle – which means manipulating or trying to control; or through relaxing the struggle. Giving the situation space, or dancing with the situation, is what allows us to enter the human realm.

The desire to act immediately in reaction to what appears to be threatening is our habit – but maybe there is no threat. Or, maybe it is a threat – but the threat is not a problem. Maybe the threat is just there as part of the complete texture of existence. Maybe the person is asking me a question which sounds threatening – but maybe I can begin to answer it. As soon as there is a ‘maybe’, there is space. When the situation becomes too definite: ‘This is definitely an attack on me.’ I am just going to have to destroy this person. I am not going to answer this person. I’m going to humiliate the person in such a way that they will not ask me another awkward question.’

Q That sounds a little like spontaneity Rinpoche – what would be the difference?

NR There is some quality of spontaneity, yes. That quality of vvvvtttt. It is just there. That instantaneous response may be close to an aspect of realisation. You could say it is ‘like spontaneity’ – but it’s the opposite of spontaneity. It happens immediately but it’s not spontaneity, it’s merely claustrophobic catapultic habit. There is no space in which there could be any other possibility. Spontaneity arises from space and what we are discussing arises out of claustrophobic intensity. So we have an idea now of the hot hells and the cold hells. Then there is the hungry ghost realm, and we are now decelerating.

The hungry ghost state arises out of the cold hell. We eventually have to relax the position of being frozen, or of maintaining rigidity. We relax because we can no longer relate to our own modus operandi in terms of how we are maintaining rigidity. When we relaxed out of the hot hells we merely collapsed within the process of lashing out – and as soon as we desisted there was the vaguest sense of alleviation. In sensing that however, we freeze. We freeze because we dare not move. We dare not move lest we provoke the reinstitution of ever-escalating intensity. We do not venture into other fields of experience which present themselves, because they all resemble pain. We freeze in order to survive. We maintain the tension of that frozen state by refusing to move even if there is a possibility that another situation might be preferable.

We do not move into it because we have learnt that freezing is safe. Naturally however, there is an effort in remaining frozen – because opportunities are continually arising. The non-dual state is continually sparkling through—even in hell—and whenever this occurs one has the opportunity to respond. Whenever this occurs one has the opportunity to cooperate – to dance. When we relax in that sense of opportunity, something new opens itself – even if it seems a colossal risk.

When we first sense some opportunity which seems nurturing, we enter the hungry ghost realm. We accidentally taste something different, and become ravenous for positive phenomena. The problem is that it is a self-obsessed state in which we have no interest or respect in the independent nature of the positive phenomena. We merely want to devour. Because there is no basic respect for the positive phenomena one is devouring, there is no compassion in relationship with positive phenomena. When there is no compassion in your relationship with positive phenomena, whatever we devour poisons us. We are yidags. Yidags—or hungry ghosts—are traditionally depicted as beings with huge mouths and thin necks. We can cram a great deal into our mouths as yidags but we cannot swallow anything. Whatever we sees looks wonderful, so we try to consume it – but then it always turns out to be vile. It turns out to be vile because of the manner in which we cram into our mouths.

I might go to a superb restaurant where the food is wonderful – but I slather over the table cloth and snatch food from the waiter before it has been placed before me. Then I cram it into my mouth so indecently that I choke on it. I spit the contents of my mouth across the room and vomit on the carpet. Half-digested food lodges in my nostrils, and I have to be beaten on the back to prevent choking. No matter how delicious the food – it causes me pain because I am a malfunctioning human vacuum cleaner. I cannot swallow food as quickly as I feel I need to swallow it. There is so much in my mouth that I cannot swallow – but you cannot remove it, because I am starving. This is the quality of being a yidag. Many Buddhist intellectuals are yidags – they gorge themselves on information and then regurgitate it over each other.

Q Is that a little bit like the fire element would you say?

NR In one way yes. All the elements are contained within each of the realms – and like all the elements, the fire element eventually exhausts itself. When the hungry ghost state exhausts itself, you have the opportunity to remain or rest in that space of exhaustion.

One would remain in the state of exhaustion because it betokens the exhaustion of habit. Habit ceases for a moment – and in that moment one can either regenerate the habit or remain in the space of the absence of habit.

It is important to look at exhaustion in terms of opportunity. There are always opportunities for realisation – and these opportunities for realisation are built into the process of exhaustion and struggle. I struggle until I cannot struggle anymore. I struggle until I become exhausted – and then, there is a space. There is space – and either I retract from that space and regenerate the same pattern, or I simply rest in that space long enough to realise there is something else. The space appears to have a different flavour, and that flavour is less intense – but more subtle. The subtlety of it is somehow refreshing. The problem here—of course —is that it is difficult simply to remain with the spaciousness in which one discovered the new flavour of experience. One begins the process of addicting oneself to the new flavour and attempting to intensify that flavour in order that it serves as a reference point. I wish to consolidate the new flavour because it is preferable to where I was – in that other more painful realm. I needed the space to taste this new flavour of experience – but having seen it, I do not wish to lose it. Because I do not wish to lose it – I deny it space, I refuse to dance with it; but instead I try to concretise it. And that forces a new kind of distorted relationship on you, or you create it from your experience of what is preferable.

Q Rinpoche – I seem to have lost track of what the ‘it’ is – the ‘it’ that I want to concretise?

NR ‘It’ is the possibility of a new relationship with phenomena. The new flavour of experience which occurs when I rest with the sense of exhaustion and discover the spaciousness of that.

Q Can you give me an example?

NR In the hot hell ‘it’ is terrifying. ‘It’ is burning. Everything I touch burns me. Not only does it burn me but it is the sense in which I cannot stay away from the areas of fire. They seem to be coming toward me, and I feel as if I have no choice but to fight them – in order to fend them off. So ‘it’ is how I perceive myself in relation with the phenomenal world – in terms of my flickering existence and non-existence. ‘It’ is my relationship with my own personal reality. ‘It’ is not just the external world but also my personal version of reality. ‘It’ is how I relate with myself – or what appears to be ‘myself’. ‘It’ is how ‘I’ perceive ‘myself’ to be, in the context of my entire environment – but my environment is mainly my projection. This creates an excruciating feedback loop – but the feedback is not simply the sound of an electric guitar held in front of an amplifier. It is not simply sound – it incorporates all the sense fields and I am both the guitar and the amplifier. This is the ‘it’ and there are six different possibilities of how ‘it’ manifests.

Q So the thing that you get addicted to is the style of relationship of the realm that you’re going toward and that’s how you get stuck there?

NR Yes and no. It is either the one you are going toward or the one you have just left – but somehow you cannot really see either properly. One is made possible through relaxation, and the other you lose through struggle. Everything exhausts itself, and always—at the point of exhaustion—we can either relax or start to struggle again.

That may sound mysterious in some way – but you can find that moment every time you meditate. That is the nature of meditation.

Q What is exhausted in the god realm?

NR Pleasure. Pleasure exhausts itself. Pleasure exhausts itself in terms of its horribly—horribly—horribly even texture. That evenness of texture cannot last forever, because it can only experience itself as antithetical to any kind of roughness or disturbance. And if I enter into a struggle to regain that silky seamless-stocking sensation, I lose it by virtue of my struggle. The struggle to regain the silky seamless-stocking sensation is antithetical to the silky seamless-stocking sensation. Trying to regain it automatically puts me back into the jealous god realm. Trying to get there puts me somewhere else. That is important to understand. Going for pleasure—or for circumstances which provide the experience of pleasure—is fine, but these circumstances only last for a certain period of time. Then they exhaust themselves. If I attach to them when they are dissolving, then that state of mind automatically creates a lower realm of being, a more painful or accelerated aspect of experience.

When the hungry ghost realm—the yidag realm—exhausts itself, I have a moment in which I can say: Fine. I understand the deal. Whatever I eat gets stuck in my throat. Whatever I drink burns me. It is all the same. I am going to stop chasing and eat whatever comes along. The result of this is that I stop eating so ravenously. I just eat at a speed that will ensure that I get something into my empty stomach. This is the animal realm. It is pragmatic and sensible according to the narrowest criteria available. It is pedestrian, phlegmatic, and stoical in a stultified sense.

There is no sense of humour in the animal realm – just bland stolidity, and a certain sort of myopic expediency. We know that ‘this’ will not taste much different from ‘that’ – so we cannot easily be amused. There is no irony. We may be amused because another animal has just bitten into something particularly nauseating – but there is no irony.

There is no irony in the animal realm – there is only ‘banana-skin humour ’ concerning the misfortune of others. There is racist humour, sexist humour, and scatological humour. Generally anything that degrades the experience of being alive appeals to the animal realmers. They enjoy comedy based on the bestial aspects of living – and humour which cheapens existence. Animal realmers are not amused by difference, and only laugh at difference in order to deride it. They laugh at difference because difference is threatening. Difference is threatening, because the possibility of difference means that we might have to experience the pain of better and worse.

In the animal realm we slow down at the level of textural comparison – we do not want to know about our sense fields in terms of æsthetics. Those who dictate the fashion dictate our dress and we happily oblige them. The sense fields merely exist in terms of self preservation. Whatever enters the sense fields that does not pertain to food, is of little interest. We respond to the sense fields according to available volume. There is no space for mixed messages – only mixed grill. If we receive mixed messages they remind us of pain – and when we are reminded of pain we become frightened and have to attack. But we are not addicted to attack – we can also run. We are ‘fight or flight’ creatures. If nothing frightening appears, we do not feel any desire to attack. Situations are monochromatic.

The form of exhaustion typical of the animal realm is boredom. There is so little emerging from situations that exhaustion occurs purely because we are no longer informed by the pain of contrast. Everything tastes more-or-less the same – so the fear falls away from the concept that everything is going to turn into pain if we invest too much in discernment. It begins to become possible to allow a certain sense of distinguishing in terms of the contents of the trough. Certain things actually do taste better than others – and, if sampled slowly enough, we can decide what we will eat and what we will leave. We do not have to eat it whatever is there – merely because it is there. There are things that are preferable – and it is not necessarily a problem, to have a preference – or even for someone else to have a different preference. When certain things are seen as preferable, and when we can entertain hunger whilst passing a fast food emporium in order to find a decent restaurant – we have reached the entrance to the human realm. In the human realm we no longer require spectator sport to give us a sense of identity.

We do not need to identify with the career of a sport team or inflict injuries on the supporters of other teams. If—in spite of being human—we still enjoy sport, we find we can enjoy it without becoming belligerent, bellicose, or finding it necessary to engage in vandalism.

The human realm is characterised by choice, and by a certain freedom of choice. We can evolve a sense of exploration, and our senses discover an increasing variety of phenomena the further they are explored. With the human realm a sense of humour arises.

Q Rinpoche, what is the connection between distinguishing taste and sense of humour?

NR Sense of humour is basically the ability to juxtapose. Distinguishing that ‘this’ is green, and ‘that’ is blue ’ is slightly amusing. I see them together and there would appear to be a choice about which one I like better. That is actually funny; especially if I like green and someone else prefers blue – and we do not have to declare war on that basis.

Q So … when you see someone going for the one you do not like, that is immediately amusing in some way.

NR Certainly. Humour is slightly more complex than that – but that is basically what it is. When it is possible to eat lox and bagels and I see someone is eating porridge—and really relishing it—that is really rather funny, especially if they would not eat lox and bagels. Because I can see someone is going for what they experience as pleasure – but which I experience as unpleasant: that is funny. It is not funny because that which gives me pleasure is better. That would be animal realm humour.

Human realm humour arises from disparity – from intrinsic irony. Humour comes out of being able to discriminate. Not only am I discriminating – but everyone else is discriminating all around me, and I am aware that they all know that they can discriminate. That is hysterically funny.

Q So this is discriminating awareness…

NR Not discriminating awareness – simply discriminative sophistication. In the animal realm we do not really want to be bothered to create a philosophy out of our preferences – that is far too sophisticated. In the human realm however, it becomes possible to create philosophies of discrimination, which become the basis of relating to our world. Then we associate with those who share our philosophy. We communicate and miscommunicate at the same time; and this is where humour comes into play. The juxtaposition causes a shift in thought patterns – a momentary disorientation. That is why communication can be highly amusing an echt mensch – a human in the human realm. Humour is extremely useful because it creates a sense of space. The more human humour the greater the sense of space. With human humour, we can even laugh at ourselves. I can say: I just did something really stupid. I fried my cravat along with the tagliatelle. But I have to have space to see that as funny. It is also a relief. It is a relief because I do not have to pretend I never do things like that. It is a relief because I do not have to be concerned that other people will laugh about my error. Those who are laughing at my error are not mocking me – they are laughing because I have told them of my error and my error is not causing me a problem with respect to my sense of self worth. They are laughing with me, because they make or have made similar errors. If I were an animal-realmer however, I would have to fight those who laughed about my fried cravat.

The human realm is the place where we can begin to practise, and where we can realise the non-dual state. There is not too much pain, and not too much even-textured pleasure. If there is too much pleasure, and its silky pervasiveness becomes somehow idyllic – in an almost sickly sweet manner – there is no sense in which we can practise. There is no sharpness; no bitter-sweet; no astringent variation … there is no alternation; no pungent whiff of cordite; no visceral poetry… We need that in order to practise. Also … when there is too much pleasure, there is not enough humour. Humour disappears when things become too easy and uniform in their tranquil mellowness.

This is why a lot of humour comes out of unpleasant conditions – there is irony there. Humour is a natural part of establishing constructs. When we work with constructs, we get let down by them. Then we create more sophisticated constructs because we realise that the previous construct had flaws. The previous construct was too simple – it did not work particularly well. We have to make our constructs more sophisticated in order to get the pleasure we want. So I think: ‘Ah, it’s not as simple as just having a relationship with a man or woman; I have to be more specific than that.’ So I find someone without a bad temper but then discover that they are depressed. So I think: ‘Right… they’ve got to be both even-tempered and cheerful. That’s the answer.’

And then I find they have got some other problem. They are even-tempered and cheerful, but they do not like my tastes in music, furniture, and décor. So I think: ‘Right… ’ And so it goes on. We have to specify more and more exactly what it is that is going to give us pleasure. We create more and more sophisticated concepts for how to make life work. In the human realm we really feel that it is possible to make it work.

Q But the human realm also exhausts itself? How does that happen?

NR The exhaustion arises out of the sense of success that is gained from being able to survive with tremendous difficulty. We learn that we can live. We learn that simply living—and living simply—can be relatively free of pain. Circumstances are workable. Our situations can be improved. Enjoyment can be had. Lights can be turned on and off. Taps provide hot and cold water on demand, and when they do not – one simply calls the plumber. The plumber comes—fixes the taps—tenders the bill—we pay the bill—the plumber leaves. It is not too complicated. Even the problems of finding a plumber are workable and make for conversation with friends. Life does not have to be challenging unless we want it to be challenging, and then we grade the challenge according to what our concept of whether we could succeed or not. Exhaustion in terms of the human realm is the sense in which we exhaust the sphere of entertainment. We become aware that there are other realms in which ‘challenge’ seems to typify the nature of experience rather than being an occasional adventure which we carefully orchestrate. The space of exhaustion which occurs in the human realm is boredom.

Q And we need to remain with the boredom?

NR Yes.

Q In what sense Rinpoche?

NR In the sense conveyed by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche when he would raise his glass and offer a toast to Boredom. You see – boredom is a pivotal space. If we sink into the boredom and concretise it as a virtue and become stultified sublimated sedated denizens of suburbia – what has happened to the human realm?

Q It … reverts into the animal realm?

NR Exactly.

Q So … how do we avoid that?

NR By failing to sink. By not concretising the boredom. By not deifying boredom as a moral stance. The way to rest in the space of boredom is to allow it to be what it is. We need to allow the boredom to be space. We sit with it. Here—for the first time on the journey without journeying—we have the possibility of spiritual practice. We can simply sit.

Q So boredom is the pivotal point between the animal realm and spiritual practice?

NR Yes and no. Boredom is the point of exhaustion within the human realm which is the pivotal point between the animal realm and the jealous god realm. It is also the portal of spiritual practice. When boredom manifests there are three options: we can sink back into the animal realm; we can raise the stakes and become a jealous god; or, we can engage with spiritual practice.

Q Could you engage in spiritual practise from the perspective of any of the realms? I am wondering about this Rinpoche, because I have often heard teachings which speak of there being a Buddha in each of the realms.

NR Well yes. A Buddha could be cheerful in Auschwitz. Theoretically there is always an opportunity – but that opportunity is only practically accessible from within the human realm. The opportunities in the other realms become decidedly minute the further they move from the human realm. Much would depend on one’s connections with these Buddhas. If one had powerful connections which could be awoken then Buddhas could manifest as possibilities in realms other than the human realm.

But don’t count on it – the odds are worse than bucking the tiger. You know what Doc Holiday said about Faro? The odds are all on the house. It’s a hard way to gamble but an extremely easy way to lose.

Q So on one side there’s suburbia and on the other side ‘bright lights big city’?

NR That is one image. There are many we could discuss – but for our purposes we will look at spirituality as the jealous god realm. That for us is the major trap. This is an aspect of what Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche called ‘spiritual materialism’.

Q Is there is also spiritual bestiality?

NR Certainly. One could become a spiritual beast of burden—apashu—a tepid follower who takes refuge in literalism. One could become a spiritual beast of prey – a fundamentalist. One could become spiritual carrion, and be slowly devoured by the agency of institutionalism. I do not think anyone here needs fear that possibility too greatly. The main difficulty for those with some degree of chutzpah is ambition. We might want to convert the spiritual path into the main chance. ‘Enlightenment’ beckons. There is the promise of bliss or of non-dual bliss and emptiness. How do we avoid becoming jealous gods of a distorted Vajrayana? This is where our capacity for comparison—our discriminative ability—provides us with a distorted escape root form boredom. There is the moment in which the spiritual path opens itself and we have a pure response to it. Then there is the next moment in which it occurs to us that we could appropriate that moment. We need to be observant with regard to that devious moment.

So, in the human realm we discover that we can make life work reasonably well, and—barring the depredations of totalitarian regimes, warfare, violent crime, and natural disasters—the course of life can be an admixture of pleasantude and irritation, which we can iron out into something that looks tolerable. With luck, a following wind, and the forbearance of reptiles however – we could arrange things so, commodiously, agreeably, charmingly, delightfully, and excitingly – that the situation begins to beg an escalating direction. We become aware that there are possibilities of ever greater pleasure and success. Then we begin to get a little tricky. Having organised our experience so that we no longer have to work quite as hard, we begin to strategise and theorise about the long-term prospects of the truly impossible dream.

We have entered the jealous god realm. We become aware that there are people who have really moved to another plane of existence. They really must have calculated the percentages extremely well – but we cannot quite understand how they have managed it.

They must once have been members of the experiential proletariat like us – but then they made the right connections, dropped the right name, pulled the right strings, found themselves in the right place at the right time … and when we examine the situation, it would seem that they arrived in the god realm by relaxing. That seems utterly implausible – because when I try to give up – nothing happens. The god realm does not happen: the Cadillac does not pull up and take me off to my private jet; my bank account is not unlimited; the hair transplant, face-lift, and tummy-tuck, are out of my reach. So what do I do? I have to work out a policy of appearing to give up, whilst engaging in a lot of superbly covert and furtive manœuvring. I become incalculably devious. Sometimes through my trickery I meet gods and when that happens I attempt to ask nonchalant questions to ascertain the secret of their success. Strangely, the gods do not appear to object to my prying. They are so utterly self possessed that they are not threatened by my schemes to join their exclusive club. I ask the Gods about what it takes , and although they find it tasteless they answer me saying: Well … in order to be a god – just be yourself. That’s what I did. And I reply: Is that really what you did? You were just yourself and everybody loved you for it? They filled your bank account with money? They hyped your book and gave you a contract for a series? They bought the film rights? And all you did was be yourself? Then the god feels it is time to move off because I have displayed such gross un-god-like propensities that my presence has become nauseating. The god politely makes the appropriate excuses concerning a dinner date with another god who has sauntered by and strolls away from me in a leisurely manner. I catch the word ‘wannabe ’ whispered and I know I have blown the deal yet again. I blow it every time – and every time I alienate another god. Every goddamn god seems to pretending that I could become a god if I just stopped wheeling and dealing. If I just stopped my tedious self-promotion I could be a god – but I do not believe it. These gods must have self-promoted in some special way that is not obvious to me. Their way of keeping me out of the god realm is to tell me that there is no god realm. They tell me that all I need to do is be myself and I will be like them. Paranoia. The jealous god realm is paranoid, and the paranoia is caused by the refusal to believe the obvious. The gods are being completely honest with me – which is why I know they are lying.

I cannot see it any other way. I want their fame, and so it is obvious to me that they do not want me to have it. They say that there is plenty to go round and I know that this means that there is a limited supply. I am looking at the god realm from the parking lot. I have a view of the god realm – but I do not understand how the gods got there. This gives rise to a sense of very deep suspicion about everything. Something very—very—very subtle has to happen for me to move from ‘here’ to ‘there’. No matter how carefully I examine the situation, I can never get any closer. The god realm is always a thousandth of an inch beyond the dimension of all my constructs …

Q So we’d be suspicious about our pleasure too?

NR Yes. Because everyone’s telling me to relax: Hey… just relax, kid … it’ll be all right. And I think: ‘Damn. If I relax it’s going to be terrible – I’ll lose the little edge I have gained. But I do see that the gods are just so relaxed … How can I get to that relaxed place by relaxing? There must be some other way of doing it than by relaxing. Relaxing is the goal not the path! When I relax, I just miss opportunities. I cannot believe that relaxation works that way. There must be some very—very—very special trick to the god realm. So I spend my time furiously analysing everything in connection with the god realm – from the parking lot, where I am under suspicion from the parking attendant on the ground that I might be car thief. I look at the god realm from outside wondering how to get in.

Q It sounds exhausting.

NR Exactly. And exhaustion is merely realising that I cannot get in there. I am stuck in the parking lot. I can get close enough to smell the lobster being served. I can almost feel the coolness of the ice in the ice bucket where the champagne rest idly waiting to be poured and sipped. But I am stuck in the parking lot. I am stuck in the parking lot fearful that I am about to be evicted because the parking attendant is speaking on his mobile telephone, and I have the feeling that the police will be arriving within minutes to haul me off for vagrancy. Or maybe the gods have complained that I am lurking in a suspicious manner.

So I give up. I go away and get on with whatever interests me. It seems restful and pleasant to give up – and after all, I have whatever I really need.

I conclude that there is no purpose at all in trying to get into the god realm, because trying is eating me up. ‘Trying’ is eroding the pleasure I used to experience before I started ‘trying’. Then—as soon as I give up trying—my situation becomes spacious again. I become aware of the wonderful qualities of the sense fields. I realise that I can either rest there, and re-group for another assault of the god realm – or I can simply continue to rest. I can rest and I can enjoy the interface. I can explore the relationships that exist – but which do not require complicated efforts and Machiavellian machinations. I forget about the god realm and allow my efforts to devolve according to the natural reciprocity manifested within the dimension of own fascination with phenomena. Time passes perhaps. Then—to my surprise—there I am. I am there. Gods begin to acknowledge me on the street. I get invited to celestial soirées where there is no requirement to ingratiate myself. I have arrived. I am a god … and actually, it was pretty easy. Nothing at all really. You could, do it too. Just be as you are. Be yourself. Stop trying so hard.

Q But it’s still in the realm of duality.

NR Yes. Absolutely. The god realm is just the slowest point in the samsaric cycle of decelerating elemental patterns. The god realm is almost complete deceleration. This is why the god realm is so protracted – and actually so tedious. I just remain there with everyone agreeing with me … because I am so wonderfully wise, so wonderfully untouched by anything. Nothing I do seems to rebound in an unpleasant way. I have watched myself achieve ‘my enlightenment’. I am a great spiritual master. I have pashu followers. I have gaga devotees. I have gopis at my beck and call – pink and sumptuous in their adoration of my faintest gesture. They all know I am wonderful. They know I am wonderful because I know that I am wonderful. I know I am wonderful because everyone around me says: Hey, you’re wonderful. And I say: Gee thanks. Well… I always knew that – but charming of you to notice, I’m sure. I say wonderful things to people, and they say: That was wonderful – please say it again. And I say: Yes, of course – any time. And they ask, How did you become so wonderful? and I reply: By being wonderful – but you could be wonderful too, if you could see as I see. Everything is wonderful.

Of course they think that is very—very—very wonderful, and say: That’s really the most wonderful truth we’ve ever heard. And I reply: Yes, you’re right. The very wonder of everything is reflected in me because I see that I am no different from this wonderfulness.

Then they say… [Ngak’chang Rinpoche yawns in a deliberate manner.]

Q The danger of the god realm then is boredom?

NR No [yawns] because everything is so very—very—very wonderful.

Q There is a danger there though, isn’t there?

NR Oh yes [yawns] a very—very—very wonderful grammatical danger, because as you know, the word ‘very’ is a ‘vague qualifier’. You can remove the word ‘very’ from almost any text and the result would not be noticed. The word ‘very’, far from strengthening a statement – actually depletes it. Like the god realm, it exhausts itself because I get very—very—very intoxicated with how very wonderful I am. I am intoxicated with the very wonder of me—with how very wonderful everything is because of me.

Q What happens in the mytho-symbolic god realm analogies is that one day one would start to smell a bit ripe …

NR Yes – the other gods start looking at me and commenting on the fact that my celestial deodorant is wearing thin. They feel that if they associate with me, they might lose their divine fragrance. The other gods shun me. My devotees leave in droves, and suddenly—instantly—I am in the jealous god realm again. I struggle to get back, not realising that struggling is what characterises the jealous god realm.

Q What if a god had the realisation to say: So I smell – fine, that’s wonderful, this smell is great, everything has the same taste …

NR Then you would not be a god. You would be yogi—or yogini—rather than a beatific bliss kid whose time was running out. As a god I am not realised—in actuality—there is always the possibility that things might not be wonderful under their appearance of wonderfulness. The factor which keeps things wonderful is highly fragile – but I keep that fragility so well hidden that I forget it is there. The Cleopatra syndrome. I became the Queen of Denial.

Q So then, what is the smell Rinpoche? I mean – what is the perceptual equivalent of a good starting to smell. What happens there?

NR You see—as a god—I had been bathing in the very profoundly pale pink river of perfect possibility – the possibility of everything becoming more and more wonderful, and it had begun to seem as if I really had attained enlightenment – but then impermanence happened. I had not taken that into account, and as my wonder-world began to wobble – things seemed slightly less wonderful than they should be. They even start looking ever-so-slightly terrible. I had created a super scented air-conditioned velour cocoon from my hyper-inflated self-fellating narcissism. I took my own wisdom cookies seriously and it seemed that I deserved my godhood. I felt that I really was as very wonderfully wonderful as everyone said I was. I believed it. And because I believe it, I reflected it outwards and other people believed it too. They believed it because it allowed them to participate in wonderfulness. To participate in the wonderfulness of gods is to be closer to the god realm and so all the backing that is required to be a god was suddenly given to me. Then I start to look even more wonderful and wise because I accepted my own wonderfulness – ever more profoundly. And then, everything become so very—very—very nice and so very—very—very perfect and flowing, and nothing—ever—seemed rough or hard or spiky. I got Valentine cards from Ken Wilber, birthday cards from Divine Nobel Laureate, and Christmas cards from the Incarnation of Walt Disney – and it was all just so perfect; until: the Valentine cards stopped arriving. Did Ken forget this year? Did the birthday cards get lost in the mail? And why has my interview with Tricycle been postponed? Maybe I should ring? And in that ‘maybe’ there is the jealous god realm. Suddenly it is there and then there is no way out – but down. Every which way but win.

Q So in all the realms, there’s this energy that is subject to entropy, dissolution, like all of a sudden you’re a god and then there’s something where you begin to dissolve and there’s an odour that’s almost self-arising in itself…

NR Nothing else is possible. It is within every level of samsaric experience. Samsara is entirely based on projection, and all projection has a finite duration. You see, the feeling of being wonderful comes from the fact that I had projected it outward onto everything else.

Once I do that, it’s projected back to me, and I relate to it as if this ‘wonderfulness’ or seemingly perfect pleasure was the ground of being. So if Ken Wilber does not wish to endorse my latest book; if the Grand Panjandrum of Garam Masala looks askance at me; if …

I might start to feel some slight doubt about my wonderfulness – and that doubt smells bad to the gods. Gods smell the slightest hint of doubt and need to insulate themselves from it. I cease to be a god in their eyes because of this moment of doubt – and because of the manner in which I act on the basis of it.

Q So in the god realm there’s still karma?

NR It is a realm of samsara, so there is karma.

Q And chance?

NR Why not. There is always chance. Karma is form, and chance—or—chaos is emptiness. If there were no chance, there would be no emptiness. If there were no chance, then karma would be predestination. If karma were predestination then enlightenment would have to be the result of karma. If that were true then there would be no purpose in practice. So I can create a seemingly ideal situation and I can be seemingly ideal within that seemingly ideal situation but it cannot last forever. Nothing does. Only emptiness is forever—but then there is form—and if form is not emptiness, then the six realms start all over again.

Q What would happen if you took the attitude that you were going to play things as they came along rather than grasping?

NR Yes – but if you seem to succeed, life becomes better and you find yourself in the god realm – and then, you begin to take ‘yourself’ seriously.

Q So you couldn’t play with the god realm…

NR No. Gods do not play – not in the real sense. Real play involves some ‘rough and tumble’ and gods have no interest in ‘rough and tumble’. The only real play ground is the realised state.

You see, when we begin to relax… when we simply deal with everything as it comes along… the process of karmic deceleration simply follows from that. Then, as we move to higher realms, we gain some sort of very—very—very amorphous wisdom. We create fewer negative situations. But our ‘wisdom’ still exists in duality.

There is a concept of ‘who it is that has become enlightened’: ‘I’ have become ‘enlightened’. The god realm is defining myself according to the outside world, which temporarily reflects my sense of ‘enlightenment’. I become ‘God’ in the sense of ‘the creator of the universe’ – because everything is a reflection of ‘me’. When this takes place – instead of being responsive to everything (which means I am not central) ‘I’ become central. I am God – or I am not separate from God. Or I am ‘God realised’. Whatever. Wherever ‘I’ look it’s ‘me’ – and therefore everything is perfect – until it stops being perfect. It is the closest you can come to enlightenment without being enlightened. The god realm is when ‘I’ become ‘enlightened’. I say: I am now enlightened – and here I am observing my enlightenment. I am observing ‘myself’ in the entire universe. It becomes ‘my’ creation, because ‘my’ relationship with every aspect of it is ‘me’. However – it is not particularly interactive. Everything comes from ‘me’, and it come to ‘me’. Everything supplicates ‘me’. Everything worships ‘me’ from all angles [laughs]. That becomes a huge problem – because there is no sense of humour in that. It is almost like the animal realm in that sense. If one were suddenly stricken with a sense of humour in the god realm it would be too tedious to endure.

Q In what way is everything perfect Rinpoche, if it’s not perfect?

NR Because beings appear to experience suffering – and that is ever-so-slightly inconvenient. As a god, I see beings experiencing suffering and I just smile—a trifle wistfully—and say: Ah, the world of illusion… How perfect that whatever is happening – is simply happening.

Q What’s the difference between this attitude and: ‘Whatever happens – may it happen’, one of the Three Terrible Oaths that are spoken of in the Dzogchen tradition?

NR ‘Whatever happens – may it happen’. When a god says: Ah, the world of illusion… How perfect that whatever is happening – is simply happening – the god is actually saying: Whatever happens – may it happen – out there, where nothing effects me. That is a considerable difference.

As a god, I would say: Whatever appears to be happening – may it continue to appear to happen, because illusory suffering and illusory bliss are all the dream of Brahma.

Q So in the god realm there’s little space for compassion because there’s very little space… or there’s too much space?

NR Both. There is space, because there is always space. But in the god realm, space is not really experienced as space – but as an expanded sense of the extensiveness of me. The neurotic claustrophobia of samsara has become vastly attenuated … There is a great deal of ‘spaciness’ in which one can become some sort of cosmic ‘space-case’. This is not creative space; rather, it is the space of self-orientation. It is the space of relaxed yet almost unbounded self-obsession.

Q In what way can that be space? It sounds like some sort of enclosure.

NR Quite correct. It is an enclosure. It is just a very—very—very amazingly extensive enclosure. The enclosure has become so large that it feels infinite. I simply cannot see the horizons. You can travel around in my spacious prison almost endlessly. I view everything within it in a supremely leisurely manner.

Q So … where is the problem?

NR Well—as a god—I am always coming from the central headquarters of ‘my own realisation’ of being a god – but I eventually realise that I cannot control space. It just takes a very—very —very long time for that to become apparent. As a god I cannot relate to space outside the concept of it being ‘my’ realisation – or ‘my’ enlightenment. Being ‘God-realised’ is referred to as being the subtlest of all delusions. If I become ‘God-realised’ then everything becomes ‘God’, and then of course… everything becomes me. Until … I realise it isn’t me. And later… I realise that I am not even me. Then I begin to worry … [laughs]

Q How do the six realms relate to the elements? Trungpa Rinpoche identifies the realms with the elements, but there are five elements and six realms… How does that work out?

NR The realms do have qualities of the elements but they do not divide exactly into the elements. There are realms where certain elements predominate, but each realm contains all five elements. The five elements perform their cyclic patterns in each realm. The difference between the realms is more a question of the speed at which the elemental patterns cycle. When I talk about the cyclic pattern of the fire element – there is an object of desire. I go after it. I grab at it. I pull it towards me … And then it disappears because ‘I’ own it – it has becomes ‘me’ through becoming ‘mine’. That obviously does not happen immediately. It takes a period of time, and that period of time differs according to the realm. For the psychologically average individual – if you see something you like, you go out and buy it. Then you enjoy it for a while. Then gradually the novelty wears off. But in the hungry ghost realm I see it; I go for it, and —vvvvvvp—immediately it changes into a source of pain and disappointment. The cycle speeds up. That is a quality of the fire element operating in the human realm and in the hungry ghost realm. Then there is the hell realm, which manifests more water element anger.

Q How does anger manifest in the human realm as opposed to the hell realm?

NR In the human realm anger manifests in this kind of way: Someone does something or says something which makes me fearful, so I generate anger as a defence. I might eventually start a fight as a result. The fight might escalate to the point where I inflict grievous bodily harm. In the human realm the police might not apprehend me immediately. It might take some weeks for the due process of law to assert itself. In the hell realm however, I lash out and hurt myself immediately. Then I lash out again as a way of getting over the pain – and in doing so hurt myself even further. With the hell realm the pain escalates until the only reality I know is intensity. So I create greater, and greater, and greater intensity – in order to overcome the intensity.

Q And in the god realm?

NR In the god realm anger is infinitesimally passive aggressive. As a god I merely fail to connect – and that is my aggression. The god realm is incredibly diffused. As a god I never laugh. I never cry. I merely grin; very—very—softly. There is New Age music playing … But let us get back to hell. Anywhere to get away from the New Age music [laughs].

In terms of hell there is ‘the hell of the locked ward’, where I sit staring at the padded wall in my strait-jacket which is designed to prevent me from damaging myself. But that is obviously an extreme state, and maybe most people will not be able to relate to that personally. In terms of hell it might be better to consider ‘the hell a person having an argument with somebody they love’ – a scenario where people cause more and more pain through trying to avoid pain. The hell of couples where each hurts the other in their attempts to create causes of happiness. We are however, not locked into hell states all the time. We pass through them. They exhaust themselves, and maybe we get some sense of space. Then we are happy again because we have been distracted from the claustrophobic intensity of our patterning. We pass through the six realms minute by minute – hour by hour – day by day. We continually cycle through the processes of relaxation and struggle. If we recognise these patterns as they arise, we can begin to develop some degree of suspicion about them. If we can entertain the discomfort of this suspicion – there is immediately some sense of space.

Q Rinpoche – how does the god realm exhaust itself? I know that doubt arises – but that does not sound like exhaustion? Is there something that I have missed?

NR No. Not at all. It is a useful question, but the answer is somewhat attenuated—somewhat rarefied. It might not be easy to comprehend the answer. However, the exhaustion of the god realm is ennui – an elongated languor. It is a protracted self-dissipating state – and one which marginally welcomes the doubt when it arises.

Q Could that doubt then have the quality of space and could one rest there?

NR I apologise. I was wrong. It sounds as if you understand quite easily. So yes—certainly—that doubt is the space of the exhausted god realm. It is wisdom of the space element: ubiquitous intelligence in all encompassing space. It is the moment of unstructured intelligence. It is the sense of having a question – and one can remain with that unformed question. However – that is by no means easy. It is simple – but it is extremely hard. The god realm is the most glorious prison – yet it is a prison still. To wish to escape that prison comes to a god as the merest velleity. A god would merely toy with that idea as a trifling philosophical abstraction – in the way the nouveau riche Irish father in ‘Juno and the Peacock’ enjoys asking rhetorically: What is the stars?

Q Rinpoche, how can we stay in the human realm and avoid either falling into the intensity of lower realms or floating into the sort of blissed-out disconnection of the god realm?

NR We have to recognise that it is a tightrope walk – and because it is a tightrope walk, we need a balancing pole. Then we must balance either pole of the pole. We stay in the human realm by allowing ourselves to be touched by the pain of others – but without the pain of the world becoming a cause of fear which leads to self-protection. We stay in the human realm by avoiding the trap of becoming ‘very unique’ – yet maintaining the capacity for personality in relation to the Lama. We stay in the human realm by avoiding spiritual materialism – but without gravitating toward Puritanism. We stay in the human realm by developing honesty, integrity, courage, and seriousness of intent – yet without losing the ability to laugh. It could also be said that wherever we are on the escalator of emptiness it is the hot blood of kindness that opens the portal to this precious human rebirth.