About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

Facebook Twitter Google+

Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

Articles by same author

CAREFREE DIGNITY
CAREFREE DIGNITY
A real practitioner is at ease in any situation, no matter where. Along with being at ease, there is some sense of being happy, but sad at the same time, kind of tender, in the sense of being weary of or disenchanted with samsara. Even if samsara has been left behind, there is still weariness with the entirety of samsara. This tenderness embodies devotion and compassion. This tenderness is what causes one to not turn one’s back to even a single sentient being.
EVERYTHING CONDITIONED IS IMPERMANENT
EVERYTHING CONDITIONED IS IMPERMANENT
Most people never question their day-to-day experiences. They accept whatever is felt and perceived as real. Without examining anything we will never penetrate beyond this illusion to see the actual state of affairs. Instead, we will regard everything that is impermanent as being permanent, what is unreal as being real. What an unfortunate, superficial and mistaken way of perceiving things!
CALLING THE GURU FROM AFAR
CALLING THE GURU FROM AFAR
There is one meditation song in particular that opens up your mind. Practitioners sing it to call upon inspiration in times of need, to understand the hindrances for love and kindness, which are selfishness and basic unknowing, and to see the difference between being open or distracted during meditation. In that opening, we can experience how the awakened state is in actuality. Here is a version with soundtrack and lyrics, so you can sing along.
LONGCHENPA’S BARDO ASPIRATION
LONGCHENPA’S BARDO ASPIRATION
The culture we live in is dominated by these ideas, that we are just this human body, and when it ends we are no more. There is however an entirely different perspective, presented by the buddhas in the tantric texts: This present mind that knows and feels lives in the body, but is not of the body. It is unlike any other thing we know in life, because mind is neither something nor nothing. Think about it!
PADMASAMBHAVA’S FOUR TEACHINGS TO THE DAKINI
PADMASAMBHAVA’S FOUR TEACHINGS TO THE DAKINI
The single vehicle is the understanding that all teachings are personal advice on how to soften rigid mind-habits, letting go of pointless aims, and then settling into a gentle presence that is both calm and kind. Our attention simply remains for a while in this way, at ease in itself with nothing that needs to be held or cast away. This aware steadiness is often called shamatha, being calm, and it is the basis for all higher or deeper states of authentic insight.
HOW TO GROW A BIGGER HEART
HOW TO GROW A BIGGER HEART
There is such a need for bigger hearts, vast minds, for more tolerance, kindness and attitudes that includes everyone. We have enough racism and so many other way to exclude each other. We all know how painful it is to be the left out, to be the excluded or even the suppressed minority. Sometimes for absolutely no reason.
LOTUS OCEAN
LOTUS OCEAN
He is not a man one can ignore: beautiful with a face like Padmasambhava, a fine little mustache and eyes rolling like a half-wrathful half-passionate god, look into endless inner skies. When he sits on the vajra throne most people feel as if a buddha is sitting in their presence. His serenity and authority are complete.
ART WITHOUT FRAMES
ART WITHOUT FRAMES
This art is my personal passion, the place where I can loose myself in the space where there never was a person, the ownerless and groundless dimension of life in each single moment. There is no entrance fee and no ticket to the art exhibition in daily life. There is no frame around each picture of this exquisite display.
MEDITATION & THOUGHTS
MEDITATION & THOUGHTS
The whole meditation set-up is built on unfounded assumptions, but hey, so is everything else, nothing new there. Here is the difference: In the meditation state you can find out, what is real and not, because you are not occupied with something else.
MIXING FIRE AND WATER – AN INTERVIEW WITH TULKU URGYEN RINPOCHE
MIXING FIRE AND WATER – AN INTERVIEW WITH TULKU URGYEN RINPOCHE
An interview with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche from 1985, about the nature of Dzogchen and recognizing the naked state of knowing. When asked, his reply was, "What is the use of the tiny light of a firefly when the sun has already risen in the sky?" referring to Trungpa Rinpoche's presence in the West.
THE EQUAL NATURE OF ALL THINGS
THE EQUAL NATURE OF ALL THINGS
How authentically human am I? What is the best way to be and live life to its fullest? Are there a few points to check if I am right or wrong in a situation? Whether politician or carpenter, single or in a family. Everyone needs a spiritual guideline and a code to live by. Here is one with four straightforward and deep words.
THE PERFECT MIRROR
THE PERFECT MIRROR
Nyoshul Khenpo's message was to set mind free through being awareness, mindful of whatever happens and not caught up in anything. In this way, the techniques taught in mindfulness on being attentive of body, sensations, mind and reality, become the setting for being free, placing yourself at the mercy of what simply is.
MEDITATION IS A DECLARATION OF FREEDOM
MEDITATION IS A DECLARATION OF FREEDOM
The starting point is that I want to be better at being myself, the more free and easy me. Freedom is possible, but what happens down the line may be something else entirely and therefore we need to go about it the right way.
FUNDAMENTALISM IS NOT PEOPLE, IT’S AN ATTITUDE
FUNDAMENTALISM IS NOT PEOPLE, IT’S AN ATTITUDE
There is no copyright on the tendency to be close-minded, shutting off reason and empathy. It can unfold within the mind of anyone. The resulting arrogance, and the aggressive and abusive behavior that the fundamentalist attitude breeds, can be changed by opening our hearts with kindness and freeing our minds through insight.
SUBLIME SOURCE OF GRACE
SUBLIME SOURCE OF GRACE
The background for Tara practice in the Triple Excellence program, written down from the words of recent masters in the Tara lineage and original sources. It is important to know the source to fully trust that the teaching is authentic so one can practice with deeper confidence.
THE INVISIBLE STRINGS OF KARMA
THE INVISIBLE STRINGS OF KARMA
Every single moment this stream of being is bombarded with uncountable impressions through the senses, through memories and the echoes of present thoughts. Is it personal? Yes, it is. Is it created by the present you? No it isn't. Is it created by someone else? Absolutely not.
MILAREPA’S SONG TO SHAKYA GUNA
MILAREPA’S SONG TO SHAKYA GUNA
If these perceptions and samsara do not exist, then there seem to be no need for practice. If the mind does not exist, then there seems to be no doer. If there is no master, then one does not know how to practice. Please clarify these and also give me the pointing-out instruction to the nature of mind. In response, Jetsün Milarepa sang this song.
BUDDHAFIELD OF AWAKENED MIND
BUDDHAFIELD OF AWAKENED MIND
When people with a Western critical-minded education hear that the Lotus-Born master of Uddiyana not only appeared from within a lotus ...
MILAREPA’S SONG TO THE GIRL PALDARBUM
MILAREPA’S SONG TO THE GIRL PALDARBUM
Milarepa explains how to deal with thoughts during the meditation state, rather than obsessing with a state without thoughts to his student, Paldarbum, and sings this song of how to go beyond and progress.
LONGCHENPA’S FINAL INSTRUCTION
LONGCHENPA’S FINAL INSTRUCTION
Listen here, you fortunate yogis. At present we have achieved the perfect human body of freedoms and riches. We have met the precious teachings of the greater vehicle. We now have the independence to genuinely apply the sacred dharma, so do not squander your life on pointless things.
THE SUNLIT SKY OF TULKU URGYEN RINPOCHE
THE SUNLIT SKY OF TULKU URGYEN RINPOCHE
What is the difference between an enlightenment experience and enlightenment? When after intensive meditation, or unexpectedly, you experience a totally naked state of mind, how do you proceed? What is real progress and what is its main catalyst? You will find the answers to all these questions in the following teachings by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.
HOW TO DIE –  A TEACHING FROM THE LOTUS-BORN
HOW TO DIE – A TEACHING FROM THE LOTUS-BORN
How is death experienced on a personal level? What can we do? Is there a set of methods we can familiarize with to such an extent that we are unafraid, confident or at least, without regrets? How do we handle losing everything we know? How can we deal with the intense and vast unfolding of the primal energies of consciousness?
SUBLIME BALANCE
SUBLIME BALANCE
To soar effortlessly, the mighty eagle needs two wings. One is just not enough. My teacher Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche often said this to illustrate, that a sublime balance of mind is needed when facing challenges, both from outside and from inside oneself. In good times and bad times, a much coveted secret is how to maintain an even keel, no matter what happens.
THE TWENTY-FIVE TANTRIC VIEWS
THE TWENTY-FIVE TANTRIC VIEWS
The meditator can take the inner journey of experience through Vajrayana's twenty-five levels of understanding reality. All twenty-five share the same essence of oneness, the awakened mind of all buddhas.
A GIFT FROM THE LADY IN THE BRILLIANT EXPANSE
A GIFT FROM THE LADY IN THE BRILLIANT EXPANSE
Her precious words have been echoing through millions of eons since that time thanks to the twelve Dzogchen buddhas of which the last four where human beings, and in our time thanks to the Indian master Padmasambhava.
A CHARIOT FOR KNOWLEDGE-HOLDERS
A CHARIOT FOR KNOWLEDGE-HOLDERS
The voice belongs to a yogi. He has for some reason felt compelled to give me a small stack of single sheets of script in Tibetan writing or print. He disappears right away into the mist. I sit in a little cave above the Lotus Lake in Himachal Pradesh and happily open up the cloth-wrapped stack of pages.
SETTLING EVENLY IN A QUIET PLACE
SETTLING EVENLY IN A QUIET PLACE
Rather than being caught up in the turmoil of life and overpowered by emotions, losing our own seat and sane judgement, we can always stop and settle our heart and attention in a even state of mind.
THE INSIDERS
THE INSIDERS
The Tibetan translators a millennium ago chose nangpa as the word for Buddhist and it simply means insider, to accept that mind is responsible for everything. To be a true insider means to change the causes, rather than blaming the effects.
SINGABLE 21 PRAISES TO ARYA TARA
SINGABLE 21 PRAISES TO ARYA TARA
Tara made the promise that whoever sings her praise with her name mantra, will be touched by the light ray of love and compassion and ultimately be at one with her level of realization, true freedom and enlightenment.
THE MAGICAL NET
THE MAGICAL NET
"Inside each atom in this world there are as many universes as there are atoms in the world." — Buddha Shakyamuni.
I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY BESIDES THIS
I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY BESIDES THIS
With a satisfied nod, he turns to me and says, “Dzogchen practice is mostly done without a roof. After the lecture, tell everyone to walk off alone on the mountainside, sit down and work with the questions I'm going to give them. Just hearing is no use. Buddha must be discovered from within.”
6 THINGS TO AVOID IN MEDITATION
6 THINGS TO AVOID IN MEDITATION
Inventing a personal version of how our spiritual nature is, reality, oneness, non-duality, like making a wedding cake, being so proud of my enlightened ideas. It’s a trip, it’s absurd, and it’s ultimately wasted efforts.
PADMASAMBHAVA’S PILGRIMAGE CHANT
PADMASAMBHAVA’S PILGRIMAGE CHANT
There is a way to seal inspiration in our minds, to multiply its effect, to deepen the insight we feel and to make sure that its benefit will be manifested in our thoughts, words and actions. The Indian master Padmasambhava sang it so that we, the people in future generations, will be able to put words to our innermost.
TRANSFORMATION OF SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
TRANSFORMATION OF SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
Unless and until our experience of nondual awakened mind is for real, there is every reason in the world to pursue teachings on, to understand and train in the most eminent kind of dualistic mind.
THE FINAL WORDS OF PADMASAMBHAVA
THE FINAL WORDS OF PADMASAMBHAVA
You may wonder, is mind nothing? It still shimmers and flashes forth, like haze in the heat of the sun. You may wonder, is it something? It has no color or shape to identify it but is utterly empty and completely awake. That is the nature of your mind. - Padmasambhava.
THE DANCE OF THE FIVE DAKINIS
THE DANCE OF THE FIVE DAKINIS
Poetry about the tantric view of the five elements that make up our natural landscape—earth, water, air, fire, and space—as divine in their pure nature. These elements combine on multiple levels to form the endless displays we call life.
RAIN OF PROSPERITY
RAIN OF PROSPERITY
A song to raise positive conditions. Among all the beliefs people may have about why some prosper and some don't, the Indian master Padmasambhava taught that we can create prosperity. It starts in our minds, in our ability to imagine combined with boundless kindness.
PEACE & LOVE FOR EVERYONE
PEACE & LOVE FOR EVERYONE
Here is a song I wrote for everyone who is a rainbow child at heart and longs for more peace, love and understanding.
MIRROR & MIND
MIRROR & MIND
Throughout human civilization there have been attempts to formulate that conscious ability in response to the question, what are we really, of what is experience made, where does perception takes place, what is it that feels emotions, and the big question, can consciousness, meaning us, know what it is, directly, by itself and without the use of technological instruments?
HOW TO BEGIN MEDITATION
HOW TO BEGIN MEDITATION
Imitate that and your body is now in meditation posture. But you are not the body. You are in a body. It is not the body that meditates; it’s the mind. Meditation takes place in the realm of consciousness: that in you which is aware and thinks, feels and experiences.
EMPOWER A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
EMPOWER A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
“I will try my best to respect, protect and nurture this life I now have and this mind I am. I will also respect, protect and nurture the lives and minds of others.”
BARDO SONG OF REMINDING ONESELF
BARDO SONG OF REMINDING ONESELF
For centuries meditators have been using songs to remind themselves of very important key points. This song is about life and death. It’s especially about how to use every situation and every experience to improve and liberate our minds.
CONFIRMATION OF THE VIDYADHARAS
CONFIRMATION OF THE VIDYADHARAS
From the magical net of the knowledges-holders the guru vidyadharas, here are two profound verses, declarations of ultimate confidence, the self-confirmation of our timeless divine nature.
GROUNDLESS VULNERABILITY
GROUNDLESS VULNERABILITY
The shieldless naked heart is the amour of the true warrior. The very moment we take a step back from what we call ourselves and allow room enough in the field of experience, this inner spaciousness is the most wonderful medicine against fear, claustrophobia and the timidity of dualistic mind.
RESTORING A SANCTUARY
RESTORING A SANCTUARY
A documentary on the impact of the recent earthquakes on Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery and Nagi Gompa in Nepal. These monasteries have served thousands of local and international students of all types over many decades.
THE LOTUS LAKE IN NORTHERN INDIA
THE LOTUS LAKE IN NORTHERN INDIA
In the old Tibetan manuscript from the 12th century, we find this story about Tso Pema, the Lotus Lake, and why the tantric master Padmasambhava allowed himself to be burned alive and then transformed the blazing fire into a lake.
PADMASAMBHAVA’S LIBERATING CHANT
PADMASAMBHAVA’S LIBERATING CHANT
When chanting Padmasambhava’s sacred invocation, it is said that at first dualistic mind needs to approach the awakened state with the graceful bow of inner surrender. In this way the chant is a tool for awakening through song.
SLAPPING IS A SMALL KILLING
SLAPPING IS A SMALL KILLING
Holy anger is a mixture of taking pride in being violent, a distorted version of the brave heart, which intoxicate and entices us to feel: my wrath is just, I’m rightfully allowed, I just have to put things straight, by blowing up, losing my temper, and telling the awful truth, about how wrong you are.
FRIENDLY EARS
FRIENDLY EARS
Listen to your favorite piece of music. It is not your ears that hear, but your consciousness. Usually we think that we hear better by concentrating and focusing, but it is only apparently true. We hear much better by staying unoccupied.
ONE HUNDRED EIGHT
ONE HUNDRED EIGHT
Today we celebrate article number 108 from LEVEKUNST art of life with a reminder of the symbolic meaning of the mala with its 108 beads.
THE BUDDHA IN OUR MIND
THE BUDDHA IN OUR MIND
Today, on a very special day, I want to share for the first time in English, some words from a real saint and true of master of freedom. Just thinking of him brings tears to my eyes and my heart aches to realize the awakened state completely. His name was Adeu Rinpoche.
UNCOVERING HUMANITY
UNCOVERING HUMANITY
Spiritual means more open-minded, sensitive and intelligent. It means combining heart and mind by being willing to allow natural intelligence to coexist with sincerity and honesty. Being this way, we appreciate people's noble heart and good qualities.
PEACE OF MIND
PEACE OF MIND
We can test this out at our own pace, that lowering defenses opens up to acknowledging the deeper and more basic strength of this insight: that spaciousness cannot be hurt.
SURRENDERING PERSONAL TERRITORY
SURRENDERING PERSONAL TERRITORY
There is a point in meditation training, after having developed a sense of calm and being able to remain consciously present, where the need of yielding personal territory is unavoidable, inescapable.
SACRED TEXTS AS A SPIRITUAL TEACHER
SACRED TEXTS AS A SPIRITUAL TEACHER
It's pure magic how ink on paper can touch you deeply and resonate with a sound so clear and true that the realization of its meaning comes alive and is part of your own being. This is possible because we all share the same nature of mind.
SPACE
SPACE
Space is the most powerful metaphor for consciousness, it’s the fifth elements that accommodates everything. All there ever was and will be is thanks to space. Nothing can move without space, nothing exists outside of space. Within space all worlds and events arise and cease.
FREEING LIVES
FREEING LIVES
A person with a open mind and noble heart respects everyone, animals too. Not only by refraining from causing harm but rescuing those in danger and saving their lives, setting them free. Such person is universal hero.
THE DIAMOND THRONE OF INDIA
THE DIAMOND THRONE OF INDIA
This is also the place where you cannot avoid meeting a Buddhist teacher or a master, one after the other. Some masters with famous names and easy to recognize, some are hidden yogis and some simple meditators on the verge of realization, perhaps looking like a poor beggar.
HOW TO MEET DEATH WITH FREEDOM
HOW TO MEET DEATH WITH FREEDOM
Awareness, that ephemeral conscious entity which everybody feels but rarely grasps, is not something that ceases when the body dies. A clear mind, based on knowledge and insight, makes us fearless and reduces the anxiety.
A GENTLE OPEN MIND
A GENTLE OPEN MIND
Sometimes, that’s all it takes: A gentle open mind, so simple. To disarm resistance and even ill-will, to thaw this heart of mine.
SONG FROM GUHYAGARBHA TANTRA
SONG FROM GUHYAGARBHA TANTRA
The voice is the voice of the awakened state and by singing it you grow closer to being what you fundamentally are. Herein lies a tremendous inspiration and blessing. This is the religion for our times, which transcends cultural limitations.
BOUDHANATH THE HERMITAGE OF AWAKENING
BOUDHANATH THE HERMITAGE OF AWAKENING
It is from here as well that the Buddha’s teachings flow to the rest of the planet, the wonderful teachings on respecting all living beings, on uncovering our humanity and finding the deepest insight possible, the awakened state that is the nature of our minds.
RETREAT IN DARKNESS
RETREAT IN DARKNESS
Darkness retreat is for the yogi who come to a point in life of readiness to go beyond the normal pattern of experience that is shaped by habitual concepts of the known. The darkness is merciless, the open sphere of experience is the playground for confusion or liberation.
THE POWER IS YOUR LIFE
THE POWER IS YOUR LIFE
Stop and appreciate your open heart. Just a few seconds. A breeze touches your skin, tones of music, a bite to eat, witness it. Recognize the uniqueness of the moment.
FINDING YOUR OWN SEAT
FINDING YOUR OWN SEAT
Remain for a little while in naturalness. According to you, this could a simple form of quietude, a gentle kindness, a relaxed and curious intelligence, or an awake and yet unattached open state of awareness.
THE TANTRA OF EVERYTHING
THE TANTRA OF EVERYTHING
Tantra means the indestructible continuity that lies as the very basis for every moment of consciousness. Tantra is the basis ...
CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM
CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM
A turning point for spirituality in the West occurred with the publication of a book with radical new perspective. The principle of true spirituality presented as demasking the ego, was in many ways groundbreaking and opened up for authentic meditation training for young people all over.
PURASATI’S SONG OF REALIZATION
PURASATI’S SONG OF REALIZATION
Purasati the Courtesan, in order to realize that all phenomena exist within the profound continuum of the bhaga of the Mother, had a strong yearning to know the essential nature. She requested the meaning of the realized state from Bhashita the Rishi who then bestowed it in full and condensed the meaning for her.
A QUICK BALANCE CHECK
A QUICK BALANCE CHECK
It's often a dilemma to find a balance in what we do and in our attitude to life. Too much structure and fixed behavior can make life really boring, and too much flexibility can make us unstable and in doubt.
SONG OF CHOKGYUR LINGPA – WHEN IN NATURAL KNOWING
SONG OF CHOKGYUR LINGPA – WHEN IN NATURAL KNOWING
The Buddhist master Chokgyur Lingpa from 19th century Tibet wrote very few personal scriptures. Mostly his writings were revealed to him in a particular style of divine inspiration known as terma treasure. Tantric poetry by the visionary mystic Chokgyur Lingpa. "When in Natural Knowing", in English translation with music.
SONG OF FLAWLESS AMBROSIA
SONG OF FLAWLESS AMBROSIA
One of Vimalamitra’s specialties was alchemy, so it is apt that this excerpt of his beautiful and profound song covers the view of transforming the five poisons, using the alchemy of self-existing awareness.
JIGME PHUNTSOK RINPOCHE BESTOWING EMPOWERMENT
JIGME PHUNTSOK RINPOCHE BESTOWING EMPOWERMENT
A wonderful master shares the transmission of blessings for Manjushri, the buddha of transcendental knowledge, the embodiment of wisdom. I meet him in Bodh Gaya under the tree of enlightenment where he placed his hand on my head with his rosary.

Share this Post