Week 6: Striving

(mental event 6:51, object-determining mental event 1:5)





འདུན་པ་ (‘dun pa)

striving: pursuing an intended object

In the encounter between the primary mind and a particular object, the five object-determining mental events come into play.

Striving is also translated as “aspiration” and “interest.” It is wanting to attain a particular object and pursuing that specific object, like when there is something (like the 51 mental events) that one wants to study. There are three types of striving.

  1. striving that wishes to meet something
  2. striving that wishes not to be separate from something
  3. striving of pursuing something

The examples given by Acharya Sherab Gyaltsen are as follows:

  1. Striving to accumulate virtue in order to meet with happiness is an example of the first type of striving.
  2. Wishing not to separate from that happiness (which was attained through virtuous actions) is an example of the second type of striving.
  3. Wishing to attain supreme enlightenment for the sake of others (as well as for the sake of oneself) is an aspiration that seeks something, an example of the third kind of striving.*

* Developing bodhichitta is defined in Maitreya’s Abhisamayalaṃkāra as the wish to attain complete enlightenment for the sake of others.

Week 5: Mental Engagement

(mental event 5:51, omnipresent mental event 5:5)

mental engagement




ཡིད་བྱེད་ (yid byed)

mental engagement: apprehending the particular object of focus o which the mind is directed again and again

Like impulse, mental engagement directs the mind. Impulse focuses and moves the mind towards its object in a general way, whereas mental engagement repeatedly directs the mind to its object.

  • Is impulse the mental event that causes distraction? (spoiler alert no. 1: “distraction” is the 46th mental event, one of the 20 secondary afflictions).
  • Are there antidotes to afflictive mental events? Is “mental engagement” the antidote for distraction? Is “mental engagement” the mental event that enables meditative concentration? (spoiler alert no.2: “meditative concentration” is the 9th mental event, the 4th of 5 Object-Determining Mental Events.

Week 4: Contact

(mental event 4:51, omnipresent mental event 4:5)





རེག་བྱ་ (reg pa)

contact: the full sensing of the change in the sense faculty in accordance with pleasant or painful feelings occurring due to the meeting of object, sense faculty, and mental engagement

Contact is defined as “the full sensing of the change in the sense faculty in accordance with pleasant or painful feelings occuring due to the meeting of object, sense faculty, and mental engagement.” The more words there are in the definition, the murky the meaning is to me. Acharya Sherab Gyaltsen’s teaching in Mind & Its World II states that this contact comes about through the meeting of the object, the sense faculty, and consciousness (ie: the “external” object, an apple, the eye sense faculty and its corresponding mind/consciousness). Contact is the basis for feeling to arise (feelings of happiness, suffering, or indifference).

Because contact is the result of the meeting of object, sense faculty, and consciousness, it can be classified into six categories, one for each sense faculty. The six categories of contact multiplied by the three types of feeling yields eighteen kinds of feeling that arise from contact.

Week 3: Impulse

(mental event 3:51, omnipresent mental event 3:5)





སེམས་པ་ (sems pa)

impulse: the expression of mental function in the phase when the mind moves towards an object

Third on the list of the five omnipresent mental events is impulse. Impulse is defined as the expression of mental function in the phase when the mind moves towards an object. Impulse is sometimes translated as intention; as such, it directs the mind. It is the most important of the mental events! Because of impulse/intention, a primary mind can move toward its designated object. Without impulse, a primary mind and its attending mental events would not engage an object. Impulse is like a magnet which automatically attracts iron filings. Impulse can be categorized according to its six supports, the six sense faculties (from the eye sense faculty to the mental sense faculty).


The fact that impulse/intention is the most important of the mental events explains why there is so much emphasis placed on making intentions and aspirations. This inspires me to try to remember to make aspirations in every circumstance, when beginning a practice, when starting a new endeavor, when falling asleep, etc.

Week 2: Discrimination

(mental event 2:51, omnipresent mental event 2:5)





འདུ་ཤེས་ (‘du shes)

discrimination: that which apprehends characteristics

The second of the five omnipresent mental events is discrimination. Discrimination is defined as that which apprehends characteristics. There are two types of discrimination, the discrimination of objects and the discrimination of conventional expressions.

The discrimination of objects refers to apprehending the characteristics of an object. This is the ability to apprehend each specifically characterized phenomenon (SCP) individually without mixing up its features.

The discrimination of conventional expression refers to apprehending the characteristics of what a conventional expression refers to. We are able to understand what expressions like “that’s a person” and “that’s a pillar” refer to.

There are two ways to divide discrimination can also be divided into six types: one is from the point of view of the support of discrimination (which of the six sense faculties is doing the discriminating) and one is from the point of view of the object.

  1. Concerning the discrimination of conventional expression, does this refer to going from conventional expression (GCP) to referent?

It seems that going from object to GCP would be something else. I am under the impression that being able to label an object with a word (from SCP to GCP) would involve a second moment of mind and therefore not be one of the five omnipresent mental events.

  1. Is this “discrimination” that is referred to in the Five Buddha Families presentation, “discriminating wisdom”? I always thought that ”discriminating wisdom” referred to knowing what to adopt and what to reject. Are these connected? If so, how?

Flicker Circle Initiation Retreat 2023

Hello Flickers. Here are some photos from the presentations (and a few from around Nine Muses). I am sorry that i didn’t pick up my camera until part way through the presentations and apologize to those whose presentations i wasn’t able to document. Much love to each and every one of you!


ps: If you want a hi-res version of something to print, please let me know.

51st Year + 51 Mental Events (Week 1: Feeling)

2023 marks my 51st year on this planet. As a way to structure the coming year, I have decided to review the 51 mental events throughout the year, 1 mental event per week. I was introduced to this material in a Nitartha Institute course, Mind & Its World II, and will be relying on this source material to help me review and really understand mind and mental events.

First, some definitions. In my review, unless otherwise indicated, all definitions come from the Lorik text by KTGR.

  • primary mind: that which is aware of the essential nature of an object.
  • mental event: that which is aware of the features of an object

There are six groups of mental events. The first group consists of five omnipresent mental events. They are called “omnipresent” because they accompany every primary mind. If any of the five omnipresent mental events is absent, then the experience of the object cannot be completed. The example given by Acharya Sherab Gyaltsen pertains to a sovereign not being able to go anywhere without their entourage.*


(mental event 1:51, omnipresent mental event 1:5)





ཚོར་བ་ (tshor ba)

feeling: that which is of the nature of experience

Every primary mind is accompanied by a feeling. Feelings can be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, experiences of happiness, suffering or indifference. Every primary mind. Every perception and every thought carries a positive, negative, or neutral charge.

The degree to which my virtuous, non virtuous, and neutral karma influences my experience is humbling to consider.


There is emphasis placed on the congruency of primary minds and mental events in the presentation by Acharya Sherab Gyaltsen in the Mind & Its World II text.

  1. Why do we care how primary minds and mental events are congruent? (Is this point made clear in a debate context?)

* bonus question: Wasn’t Buddha Shakyamuni a sovereign who managed to escape the palace without his retinue?

Flicker Circle Dream Retreat (November 2022)

Here are some images from our Dream Retreat. Please forgive me for being a distracted photographer; i was busy doing lots of things and didn’t manage to properly document the event!

The Lives of Saints

(click the information button on each image to view each portrait’s legend)

The Lives of Saints are portraits that aspire to revelation through illumination. Esoteric in conception, like a map, each portrait is accompanied by a legend. Etymologically, the word legend derives from the Latin legenda which means “things which ought to be read.” In medieval times most of the populace was illiterate; if something was worthy to be written down, it was legenda, “a legend, a story, especially the lives of saints,” to be read on certain days in church.

Photography is my way of writing down things that ought to be read. Through ‘light writing’ — the technology of photography and the juxtaposition of collage — a personal portrait emerges, highlighting dreams, healing, destiny, and choice.

These portraits are the result of a multi-step process, part photography, part conversation, and part divination (by stars or cards). Participants were requested to reflect on their intentions for their portraits (ie: as a reminder of a life dream, as a catalyst for healing, as an image to galvanize authenticity and alignment) and to come for a 2-3h session with an open heart/mind and a willingness to risk vulnerability.

I would like to express my profound gratitude to all participants. If you are interested in commissioning a portrait of your own, please contact me.

Merely a Magical Illusion

illusionary horseman (gift of racoco productions)

Earlier this week I had a moment of clarity. Due to the angle of sunlight streaming in through the window, I saw the emptiness of ‘the man on a horse ornament’ hanging from the window. It made me think of an example in the first chapter in the Saṃdhinirmocana Sutra that we studied this summer at Nitartha.

re: a magician and his magical illusions 


“Those who are not naive or confused but have wisdom perceive the grass, leaves, twigs, pebbles, or stones. They see and hear those magical tricks and understand that whatever appears does not exist—that these regiments of elephants, horses, chariots, and soldiers or collections of jewels, pearls, beryl, seashells, crystal, and coral, as well as this abundance of wealth and grain, treasuries and granaries, do not exist.”


— Saṃdhinirmocana Sutra (chapter 1, section 1.4, paragraph 3, p40)