! ... The Lion's Roar ... !

From a talk given by Traktung Rinpoche


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There is an ancient saying that to the cubs of a lion, the roar of their mother 
brings joy and delight, but to a jackal, this great roar brings only fear. 

The lion's roar is the great and triumphant cry of enlightenment arising from 
the un-reasonable happiness of the fully awakened one. To those whose hearts 
have understood the fruitlessness of dualistic grasping and avoidance, whose 
hearts are turned towards the rising sun of radical spiritual awakening, this 
shout of liberation is a great source of profound delight. To those whose 
hearts are still bound by the allure of delusion, who cycle through the 
ceaseless rounds of hope and fear and the mediocrity of uninspected assumptions 
and cheap consolations, the great roar of liberation is at best the object of 
cynical confusion and at worst the source of primordial fear.

 The roar of the Dharma lion smashes the idols of false happiness and causes 
those who cling to notions of birth and death to tremble with fear. For those 
whose hearts long for spiritual realization, then come and drink from the 
fountain of this Buddha lion's happiness and taste the immediacy, primeval 
purity and spontaneous presence wed in the non-dual.  

The lion's roar is really very simple - we do not need to wait until we go to 
heaven, wait until we become beings of light, wait until this or that other 
excuse to be happy, to be free of suffering. We do not need to disembody and 
float off to the mothership. There is only one realm, the single body, 
svabhavakikaya; and the place of liberation is right where you stand! Feel this 
truth and shout for joy.  

There is no event, object, place, location in subtle or gross realms, no 
relationship, no cause or effect, no teaching, no lineage, no secret which is 
equivalent to true happiness - instead you must simply recognize what is always 
already there but hidden beneath the layers of delusion. There is nothing to 
gain, nothing to own, nothing to add in order to recognize the absolute 
intrinsic nature of bliss-mad spacious passion which is the reality matrix of 
being's appearance and disappearance. To recognize your own true face may 
require great effort, work. But when that recognition bursts through the layers 
of delusion like a thousand billion suns shining in space, then what you will 
see is the pristine non-dual essence, nature and energy of existence - as it 
is, as it has always been and as it will forever be. 

The lion's roar is the heart's shout, the communicative thrust of bliss, ragged 
joy welling up from the depths of mystery. The lion's roar is that form is 
emptiness; and emptiness is form; and nowhere is emptiness found except in 
form; and nowhere is form found except in emptiness. Emptiness is not other 
than form, and form is not other than emptiness.  

Because this is true, the entire merchant mentality of "worldly" and of 
"spiritual" life can simply be tossed aside as so much rubbish. The whole game 
of seeking "experiences" to gild the cage of dualistic distortion can be 
exposed for the sham it is. The sum total of marketplace salesmanship, new age 
fast food Dharma, weekend satori workshops and shopping mall shamanism can be 
left behind in the dustbin of fretful hope and fear.

 Because you have been, from the start, possessed of and by intrinsic 
Buddhahood, you need not ever buy the cosmetics of fame, status, power, co-
dependence or spiritual hierarchy again. Instead, you can claim your 
inheritance and act like the cub of a lion, not the child of a sheep. Instead, 
you can strip bare of conditioned view and dance naked in dharmakaya 
endlessness. It can be real hard work, but what else are you going to do?  

There is a story about a lion that was giving birth; and she died, leaving 
behind one cub. This cub wandered over to a herd of sheep who adopted it and 
raised it as one of there own. Well, we all tend to become what we are told we 
are. Peer pressure is very strong and so is childhood conditioning. Anyway, 
this lion truly believed he was a sheep. He felt different, but always assumed 
that that was his shortcoming. He tried hard to fit in, to be smaller, to bleat 
and bhaa. 

One day, an adult lion wandered by this herd of sheep and could not believe 
what he saw - a lion cub living with sheep, acting like sheep. Immediately he 
charged down the hill roaring. The sheep scattered and ran for their lives, 
including the lion sheep, but the adult lion was too fast. He caught the cub by 
the scruff of his mane. The cub was bleating and bhaaing for its life but the 
old lion just dragged him away. The old lion dragged him to a pond and forced 
him to look down. The cub looked into the water, and he saw the old lion's 
reflection and then his own. He paused for a long moment while the recognition 
sunk in, and suddenly he gave a beautiful and loud roar. In an instant, the cub 
recognized his true face.  

We live like sheep when we are in fact lions. We live in poverty of spirit and 
heart when we are in fact Buddhas, waiting to recognize, in the mirror of 
primordial awareness, our own reflection. The Master is the old lion, and being 
dragged is the path. Insight is recognition. Liberation is the lion's roar.  

Now it is one thing to say this and another to know it, to have realized or 
made it real in the form of your life. That which is necessary to realize the 
ecstatic bliss of enlightenment or awakening is found in the context of our 
lives. Everything needed for enlightenment, as the Buddha once said, is to be 
found between the top of your head and the bottom of your feet. Or, as the 
great Mahasiddha, Saraha, said, "I have seen the temples, stupas and wonders 
of the Dharma, but never have I found a wonder, a treasure trove, like my own 
body". However, because happiness as our intrinsic nature has been forgotten, 
we pattern our lives and our world on the error of dualistic unenlightenment 
and confused conceptuality.  

Based on the primal error of not recognizing duality as a mirage, we start to 
seek happiness, either in what we might call the things of the world - money, 
power, fame, security, good relationships - or we begin to seek happiness in 
the things of the so-called other world - in heavens, in visions (if only I 
could have the vision of the blue pearl, then I would be happy), in blisses, in 
temporary internal spiritual states and experiences, in the specialness of 
being spiritual. We're always looking for either of these options. The east has 
been characterized by the deluded search for happiness within, and the west has 
been characterized by the deluded search for happiness without, and both are 
chasing their own tails by failing to start with the recognition that duality, 
within and without, is illusion only. We're looking for the Buddha in the realm 
of confusion - and he doesn't live there. We are like fish in the sea crying 
out for thirst in an absurd position where we are asking for exactly that which 
is what we already are.  

What is needed then is an open-ended exploration of our human condition via an 
authentic path not based in hope and fear. We need a search based in the simple 
desire to understand things as they are without any hope. Spiritual life 
requires an intuition of the vastness of Truth, and absolute renunciation of 
the mediocrity of ordinary social dogma should burn within you like a comet 
falling to earth. It must be so intense, so radical, that everything is 
questioned. You must discover first hand for yourself what is true - the 
forgotten language of ecstasy.  

In that search, the Master and the path are a source of ever greater courage 
and a provocation never allowing you to rest too long in the multitude of 
consolations offered by deluded mind. Still, the essence of the path and search 
always depends on your own personal effort which can never be replaced by an 
other. How could it? For, in truth, there is no other. I do not want you to 
"believe" in me so that we can spout vapid platitudes and socially lubricate 
each other. I want to spark the fire of inquiry in you so that you and I are 
both burnt up in the crazy wisdom of awakening. Spiritual life requires an 
intense and playful examination, not imitation of some Christ, imitation of 
some Buddha. It's this examination which is both profound and intense, yet 
playful; like all real exploration, it allows us to discover the forgotten 
nature of our being. Enlightenment or spiritual awakening, as I mentioned 
before, is a life of radical happiness. To wake up to the truth of reality 
doesn't give you any kind of special status. It doesn't make you special or 
make you extraordinary; it does something much more profound than that. It does 
something much more magical and wondrous than that. It allows you to live in 
whatever form your ordinary life takes as a play. It allows you to smash this 
taboo against ecstatic life and live sublimed in the beauty and force of 
radical awareness.  

It's not a solution to our sense of meaninglessness. Instead, it's just the 
recognition of the great and primordial fullness and emptiness of our being. It 
is a recognition in which all our idiotic problems are resolved in much the 
same way that Job's were by the vision of God. Going nowhere, achieving 
nothing, always lost in the play of its own dance - that's the nature of both 
existence and our personal life. When you begin to grasp this, you'll see that 
life does not have meaning or purpose outside its own fullness. Meaning and 
purpose are intrinsic - they are inherent. They are not created or earned.  

When you, as you begin to wake up from the sleep of delusion, discover the 
natural feeling of living without illusions, you discover ease, presence and 
spontaneity - tremendous inherent value. Everybody, if you look at the world 
around you, if you look at your own life, you'll see that everybody is seeking, 
searching for meaning. Everybody is looking for happiness. The feeling of 
happiness walks hand in hand with a sense of meaning. Everyone is searching for 
this meaning, personal or universal, as if it were an object. People seek for 
enlightenment or they seek to have a vision which will set them free as 
objects. They seek for things. Even experiences are things - they are the 
things of consciousness. We seek for meaning in the same way but what by and 
large people fail to grasp, is that if our meaning is supplied from outside of 
us according to what we do, according to what we have, according to where we 
are on a social scale or where we are within the spiritual world, then meaning 
is still not inherent, it's not ours, it's something simply added, it's 
something temporary. Meaning, to be valid, has to be inherent. 
                  The good news is - meaning is inherent.  

Recently, I saw a book on the spiritual teachings of Elvis from beyond the 
grave. Here's a man, I am sad to say, who died a fat, bloated and clearly 
stupid fellow, lost in deluded realms of suffering. A man whose life had become 
nothing more than a neurotic addiction. And suddenly, just by the fact that 
he's dead, he's become somehow spiritual. You can listen all the time - 
channeled beings talk about how they are beings of light without the need to 
come into embodied form, as if embodiment were somehow a fall. Cults kill 
themselves to go somewhere better. All them are just re-writing the original 
sin lullaby.  

This whole concept is nothing but the original sin rewritten for the new age. 
The idea that by the act of birth you have somehow failed, is a desperate and 
luckily extremely mistaken idea. Our realm, while indeed displaying a 
tremendous degree of confusion, also offers the most wonderful and paradoxical 
possibility - remembering the non-dual nature of form and emptiness. It offers 
the possibility of incarnating, of making flesh the great completeness of the 
mystery of the divine, of re-membering.  

Mistaken view often informs the nature of our spiritual practice. We approach 
our practice from the view that we have fallen, we have sinned, we have somehow 
made a mistake by being here. And rather than approaching spiritual life from 
the point of view of simply remembering your own forgotten nature as it is even 
now, we approach it from the point of view that we have to attain a higher 
state, some great goal which is always just over the horizon. So this mistaken 
view, the feeling of separation, the feeling of alienation, which, in essence, 
is nothing other than duality, is a distortion that affects every moment of our 
life; and this distortion is signaled most fundamentally by a sense of dis-ease 
- what Buddha called "dukkha". "Dukkha" has been translated sometimes as 
suffering or anguish, or perhaps just the constant nagging dissatisfaction that 
we encounter in life. We don't recognize our true nature and its inherent joy 
and that causes us suffering. We've forgotten this essence of ourselves and we 
try in all kinds of ways to cover up this existential ache that arises within 
us by filling our life with consolations. In a radical spiritual sense, even 
the consolations which are the hallmark of a healthy egoic life are only 
pitiful desperation. This is why many spiritual adepts have renounced the 
apparent normalcy of societal life and acted in ways which make no sense to one 
not yet sensitive to the fear based axioms of everyday human existence.  

By and large, humans spend their lives in a fretful search for balance based on 
grasping unstable realities of security, fame, name, money, etc. And when we 
attain those, even then, we can't be at ease because we enter into a great 
anxiety of losing them. Knowing that they have been built up and that, as with 
all things that are built, someday they will fall down, so we spend our lives 
trying to recreate a circumstance where we will feel this inherent meaning and 
joy that we intuit from our heart to be possible. Lives are passed in a kind of 
fretful search for security, the search for pleasure, the search for status. 
They are not, by and large, if we are lucky, characterized by extremes of 
suffering except in moments; but they are a bit like a long, hot, annoying 
company picnic. All of this we could sum up by saying that in our confusion, 
instead of being presently happy now (which would in fact be our true 
primordial state), sublimed in the condition, the form, the substance of 
reality, we seek to be made happy, right? We are going to be made happy by 
objects, made happy by circumstances, made happy by relationships. In each 
moment that we live in this "made happiness," we move farther and farther from 
the radical happiness and ease which is always present as the essence of our 

If you have lost the thread of meaning in your life, if you have lost the sense 
of spontaneous joy and freedom, then what you need is not to seek through more 
experience, through more objects, through possessions, through more visions, 
through more temporary solutions for some kind of ultimate and perfectly 
lasting consolation. What you need to do is hear this argument that your true 
nature is divine and begin to re-investigate your life. If you hear this 
argument, then a tremendous question will arise in you - Who Am I? What is the 
true nature of my world? What is the nature of my life? And what spiritual 
practice is in the technology with which we can explore these questions. 
Spiritual life is a science. There are those whose lives have been dedicated to 
realizing, uncovering, discovering the true nature, the divine nature of 
existence. And they've walked a path, they've forged a path. They've 
experimented in countless ways, and they've discovered the ways that work and 
the ways that don't work.  

Sometimes this process can be quite painful. I don't know if you've watched 
children playing on the playground. Sometimes the play takes tremendous effort, 
and sometimes a child might be running and playing, and they fall down and they 
hurt themselves, skin their knee, and they get up and play again. Clearly they 
have felt the pain, but they simply go on with the play, they often don't even 
stop, they simply stand up and brush themselves off and continue in the play. 
That's the way spiritual practice should be lived. So in your meditation, or in 
your devotion, or in your relationship with the teacher, the practice, and the 
community, sometimes anger comes up, or boredom, or fear, and usually at this 
point people start to feel either they're not good enough or the practice isn't 
good enough. There has to be some way out, rather than, at that moment, 
relaxing into it, making those feelings the meat and potatoes of practice. We 
find Truth by trying to uncover the Truth and having quite a bit of disregard 
for the vagaries of our momentary feelings. Spiritual life practiced in this 
way becomes the space in which transformation can take place. It creates an 
atmosphere of openness and investigation, and in that spaciousness, we discover 
the capacity to turn even the obstacles of our life into the path of 

There's just no way around the fact that you can't come to know your inner most 
being without courage, discipline and hard work. The catch is - and here is 
where Attainment Mind steps in again - we work hard, and we are so trained to 
be result oriented in our work that the Attainment Mind slips in the back door. 
I've been watching the last few months, watching my one year old daughter. She 
works from day to night, she works at standing, she works at talking, she works 
at understanding, she works at opening up the cabinets. All day long, she works 
and she works without any kind of ultimate goal. She is the ultimate Karma 
Yogini. She works for the sheer joy of exploration. I think to myself, "If only 
my students had this same joy of exploration." And the good news is - you do! 
It is inherent - it's born into us in the most simple form - just you must set 
aside this unnatural thing you have learned.  

When we wipe away the dust, we're not creating anything new. We are simply 
uncovering what was always already there which was the clarity of the mirror, 
the capacity for the mirror to reflect. It says in one of the sutras that 
Buddha was asked, "What have you attained?" He smiled and he said, "I haven't 
attained anything. I've gained nothing". Of course, the people who were asking 
him were a little confused, thinking, "Why should we follow this path if there 
is nothing to gain?" Buddha then said, "I have, however, lost something. I've 
lost the illusion that was ruling my life. I've lost the narrowness and the 
constriction of delusion. I've lost the rigidity of my sense of concrete self". 

Spiritual practice is a great fire, a tremendous fire of purification which 
burns away the illusions of our life, burns them away, leaving us clear and 
clean and naked in the present. It's a fire that burns away the very idea that 
we are somehow a separate little pocket of life floating in a universe full of 
objects and subjects. It burns away the illusion of alienation and separation 
and awakens us into a realm that's fluid and full of wonder and non-duality. It 
doesn't awaken us into a different place than where we are even right now, but 
it awakens us to the place where we are right now. It's just as if you and I 
are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and there's the most fantastic 
and beautiful sunset, and the view inspires awe and magnificence and the 
feeling of tremendous wonder. I am looking out and describing to you this 
magnificence. I am seeing and feeling as a result of this view, and you're 
standing there with your eyes closed saying, "I don't know, I just don't, I 
don't see what you're talking about. I don't see anything magnificent. Colors? 
What are you talking about?" It's not that the view is not there for you; it's 
just that you have to open your eyes.  

In forgetting our true nature, we start to actually believe the consolations 
that being "made happy" by things outside of us is the only hope for happiness. 
We become convinced by this life based in delusion. Waking up to our attachment 
to that delusion and waking up to our attachment in that delusion is what I 
call "conscious disillusionment".  There are times, the hard moments in the 
path, when we suddenly feel completely disillusioned. But if we stay with it, 
and hold on to our desire to discover the truth, that disillusionment opens the 
door to reality. So it's a process that takes real courage. I don't know if any 
of you study the roots and origins of words. The word "courage" means to have 
great heat. The practice that leads to discovering our intimacy with Truth and 
Consciousness and Bliss is one then of giving up attachment to the illusions 
which generate suffering. We believe they generate our consolations, but they 
generate suffering. Even in the midst of being made happy, we are suffering 
because somewhere deep down there is the anxiety: What's going to happen when 
this moment disappears? What's going to happen if this person who my sense of 
self-worth is dependent on leaves me, or dies? What's going to happen if I lose 
my money? It's never enough. We always have to be building up more and more.  

We all desperately fear the loss of our illusions - of being disillusioned. We 
fear giving up the limits on life and love that are so familiar to us. Right? 
Even when we start to, to see the suffering involved in the life of being made 
happy by the things around us, rather than our intrinsic nature, still we fear 
letting it go. And why do we fear letting it go? It's a gamble. You are giving 
up your consolations for a gamble, a hunch, an intuition. You thought you heard 
that lion roar, but maybe it was just a passing airplane. The spiritual path 
takes a kind of gutsy courage and self confidence which is unusual. It's easier 
to suffer a painful known than it is to face the unknown, and that holds people 
back. There's a certain unpleasant comfort in the known, and the comfort factor 
is very important. Our illusions give us form, they give us shape, they give us 
substance. Our suffering gives us occupation. At least we have something to do. 
All of these things protect us from clearly seeing the ecstatic spaciousness of 
life, because that ecstatic spaciousness of life seems threatening to us. It 
threatens the whole kind of crystallized, habitual pattern of our life. So 
oddly enough, our flight is from ecstasy.  

Our flight is from the infinite non-dual life into the apparent smallness of 
the ego. It takes its substance and its form through the habits of fear. 
Because we live as a separate self, the spaciousness of the absolute threatens 
our little pocket of life. But on the other hand, our sense of separation 
causes us discomfort, and we know that, so we are in this constant double bind. 
We suffer the constant doubt of life and love, and the infinity and bliss of 
the divine. But at the same time, we fear the unknown desperately. So we seek 
to be made special which is our effort to replace the lost sense of intrinsic 
value, inherent in true life, and we grasp after our consolations. And this 
attitude of grasping and defending our territory can be said to be the root of 
human suffering, the root of anguish, the root of dissatisfaction. In each 
moment and in each individual, the sense of dilemma or the sense of suffering 
inherent in that way of life manifests in its own unique display. Just as when 
you attain enlightenment, you won't be an imitation or carbon copy of Buddha, 
enlightenment will manifest in you in its own unique way. You will flower in a 
way that has never been seen before. You'll not be another Jesus or another 
Buddha, another Padmakara. We already had one of those, and life doesn't need 
another. You will flower in whatever unique way you flower. Who knows what it 
could be.  

In the same way, your sense of dilemma and suffering manifests in its own 
unique style. You can go down to the spiritual supermarket and buy some 
technique that will give you some spiritual status or quick hit or make you 
cosmically special. But all of this makes the spiritual path into a ponderous 
and painful affair rather than a freeing one.  

The practice which frees is to give up all attempts to fill the hole created by 
forgetfulness, to enter into the playful exploration of our life even when it 
is painful, and to allow our intrinsic nature to resurface. At first, it hurts 
a little more because we are exposing our wounds to the light of the day. And 
we do this by gently drawing ourselves into an intimate evaluation of our life. 
And as practice progresses and we begin to release these surface tensions, then 
this primal fear of spaciousness itself will come up. And to avoid this fear, 
again and again, we'll run back into the smallness of our life - what St. 
Francis called "selfish misery," choosing known discomfort to the challenging 
journey of the unknown. We barricade ourselves back in our prison and start 
crying, "Let me out, let me out!" And all the time, we are locking the door and 
hiding the key.  

All this happens in the moment when the lion cub looks into the pond, and every 
reference point he ever had is blown to smithereens. The beginning is not so 
much a struggle with suffering as it is with our subtle attachments to 
suffering, a struggle with recognizing our delusions and the purposes which 
they serve. It's to make the choice to work rather than to run and hide. And 
the primal fear - the loss of distorted view, or ego, as we call it, which is 
nothing other than the sum total of our illusions. When the primal fear is 
faced, the ego does indeed die. But this death is not some kind of sliding away 
to a nihilistic oblivion. It's an entering into a paradox so full of perfect 
infinity of eternal life, that it's beyond even the concepts of being and non-
being. Beyond life and death. Beyond any conception whatsoever. When, through 
deep spiritual practice, delusion dissolves, then compassion and celebration, 
love and joy well up within you and life in its essence is known to be nothing 
other than simple empty delight.  

Just in the same way, as a mirror is not bound by whatever is reflected in it, 
ugly or beautiful, our intrinsic awareness is never stained by any arising. I 
can't stress too often that enlightenment is not an achievement. It's a 
rediscovery of what is always already the case. It's to be so lost in life, so 
dissolved in the moment, that everything, even the most ordinary becomes divine 
- washing the dishes, going to the market, raising your child, chanting, 
singing. In its ordinariness, enlightenment is missed by almost everybody 
because they are more concerned with their goals and their ambitions, their 
desperate effort to be special, to notice the freedom, the intrinsic and 
inherent meaningfulness and value of life. Awareness, which is luminously clear 
and intrinsically full of value, is the source and the very substance of our 

So the last thing I'd like to say to you tonight is that to fulfill the promise 
of human birth is a great quest, and within that quest a trial by fire is 
necessary. You know, suffering is the truth of separate egoic existence, 
existence under distorted view. But there is a cause of suffering, and there is 
an end to suffering, and there is a path to that end, and it's gentle and 
direct and precise and joyful from the beginning. And what I would do is call 
you to this great and happy quest. You know? Join the dance. Break the taboo 
against ecstasy. Once a long time ago an old lion named Padmakara whispered in 
my ear and I saw my face in the mirror of His Mind. In this life, Yeshé Tsogyel 
came and whispered in my ear and woke me from long sleep. Now, I dance.