11- Meditation Training
From a practice perspective, the comprehensive teaching of the Buddhist path can be summed up in three sections called གཞི། ལམ། འབྲས་བུ། - "Ground, Path, and Fruition". Further, the teaching of the Path is explained in a three-fold division called ལྟ།སྒོམ།སྤྱོད་པ། - "View, Meditation, and Conduct.
Basically, meditation is resting the mind. It essentially means to let the mind be. Let the mind embrace its own fundamental qualities. Doing so is addressing ‘The Ground’.
Mind is equal to space. Therefore, meditating or resting the mind implies to stop constricting your mind to egocentric reality, which is very limited in space and touches almost nobody.
This constrictive limitation is something that we impose to ourselves, it maintains us in a state of non-resting; not to say a state of complete neurosis. This means a narrow state of mind considered as functional mental disorder involving chronic distress.
It is a state in which, one surrenders to a weak nervous system, which is totally slaved by one’s emotions.
The consequences of neurosis are fourfold:
- Emotional imbalance such as anxiety, sadness,depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-esteem, etc.
- Behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, and so forth.
- Cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc.
- Interpersonal inadequacy such as dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors.
To avoid or reverse a neurosis can be uneasy, yet the method is quite simple: we just must stop limiting ourselves to the egocentric perception of ourselves. The mind knows it qualities; we ignore them. The quality of the mind is to be vast like space. The cause of neurotic behaviour is that we function totally against our Nature; we put ourselves in a very limited space where our body can barely breathe, so not to mention our mind suffers constriction: it cannot expand and interact naturally, peacefully, in acceptance of the experience and in harmony with its own nature.
Limiting our mind to the space accessible by our egocentric clinging, leads to evolve in the limited space that our body can interact with, i.e the space that we mentally create egocentrically for ourselves . But the mind can expand much further, it can encompass everything, be everywhere at once.
To realise the essential quality of the mind, its potential to equal space, you just need to rest.
Observe the limitation that you impose to yourself and stop constricting yourself to your neurosis, which is the habitual, very limited perception of yourself. Allow yourself to be as you exist, naturally.
As spiritual beings we tend to free ourselves from the bondage of samsara, yet we create this cyclic existence by functioning as if we were surrounded by all kind of fences. Due to ignorance, even our concept of space itself is contrived by our limited mental consciousness of it.
However, our conservation instinct invites us constantly to identify with our mind nature, which has no fence, no limit: this is obvious in states such as daydreaming. It is therefore necessary that we allow consciously our mind to encompass the entire space. Stop limiting yourself; exist in the universe: allow yourself to exist in harmony with everything.
The proof that our Nature is beyond this egocentric limited space, is that we constantly invent problems. That proves, first, that living in a constricted space does not work; secondly, that we are looking for something else. As we do realise this, we should not try to find a solution by inventing another limited constructed space. We need to let go of all boundaries, fearlessly. The Nature of being is good; the nature of the Universe is good, perfect as it is; so we should not be scared to embrace everything.
True Compassion comes from realising this perfection of everything. This perfection does apply to all phenomena within space and to its inhabitant. At any given moment who you embody and experience the results from whatever you have done, said or thought in the past.
We need to understand this perfection to be able to see it. If we do not understand it, we will not accept it.
It is through compassion that we can understand the perfection of everything as it is. Not by surrendering to a concept called "compassion” but connecting to the very nature of our mind.
We therefore need to establish the Correct View: understand that any sentient being that exists, does so in his own realm of existence because of previous karma. That karma was caused by his lack of realisation of Emptiness, or in other words, his lack of realisation of the complete interdependence of everything because our mind embraces everything.
Meanwhile we do not use our mind for what it is. We only use a limited brain into a dualistic concept of existence. Very often, not to say most of the time, we do not breathe with our mind; we do not interact with the entire Universe and all the beings that are in, to the point that we completely ignore their existence.
We need to adopt the concept of embracing the entire space and all beings within.
Also it is not about finding one hour here or there to practice Dharma in a life totally busy with mundane activities, but we rather must dedicate one's life to Dharma, finding some time here and there to provide the needs to survive in the worldly existence.
Similarly, it is not about making an effort to develop Compassion, to embrace the whole Universe and all beings in all the realms of existence. It is more about abandoning our limited, egocentric and ignorant view –as it separates us from the world and from others.
For this, we just must rest! Of course, starting with the mind, as when mind is calm, the speech will calm down and the body will be quiet, resting.
We can observe that, for example when one wants to go to rest with a mind full of worries, we can have the best of bedding, mattress, quiet environment…, we will be so worried, anxious, that we will be unable to rest.
So, it is essential to understand that if we do not face this topic, it is very stupid to pretend talking about meditation. Meditation is not humming some mantra, etc. A mantra starts to manifest the qualities of its respective deity, and not just a series of syllables, the moment it embodies non-conceptual clarity. This clarity or luminosity comes from resting our mind and identifying the deity as an aspect of our own Buddha nature.
All this is happening in the natural, spontaneous luminosity, a state of clarity that comes from resting; from the union between our mind and the mind of the deity, which is not neurotic, not limited in space, nor egocentric.
Therefore, we first need to rest. This resting, which is the absence of egocentric construction, allows us to discover and merge with, our nature, unlimited, clear and compassionate.
Resting being defined as previously: let yourself pervade the entire Universe like the scent of the wildflower. The scent pervades and does not stop at the boundary imposed by pour limited capacity to perceive it. up to there and stops. Of course, it becomes more and more subtle, but can we ever say it is inexistent?
As in homeopathy: the more dilution, the more power. It just becomes very subtle, gaining its natural essence; so subtle that we can smell with our gross nose, but it is the all-pervasive bounty of that smell, that is limitless because nature of mind is limitless.
It is our own egocentric grasping at the flower that makes us think it is only going some meters away. The same for the mind: the more it expands, the closer it gets to its essential nature.
So, the topic is not meant to just listen and forget, but to increase the depth of our understanding, and study of Dharma each time receiving a teaching. Such opportunity comes along in our daily experiences. Every life situation is a teaching should we be able to recognise it.
Analysing daily experience in this way, one comes to realise the perfection of every moment, in nowness, just as it is. No matter what our egocentric, dualistic & judgemental brain can tell us, not accepting our reality to be perfect, is being arrogant and in self-denial.
When we are subdued, overwhelmed by emotions, by egocentric motivation, we are not careful, lacking awareness and, walking on a slippery deck, we will slip and fall into the abyss of samsara.
Attending a teaching, there is the part that you process through your ear and your mental consciousnesses, that is what you hear and understand. However, there are also other elements that you absorb, often without consciously noticing: there is all that, which is expressed by gestures, or highlights through phonic accentuations but also what is meant by the teacher’s intent yet, what remains unsaid.
That part can be perceived through clear audience, if you rest in the motivation identical to that of the Teacher; that motivation is non-conceptual compassion, the wish to benefit every sentient being, to alleviate their suffering.
So, it is essential to adopt such motivation to receive the Teaching, which is a manifestation of Clarity. This clarity results from the realisation of Interdependence, or Shunyata, emptiness. This is གཞི།the basis or the Ground. The Basis is essential for meditation, as it is like the ground where you sit, so we need to develop it at the beginning, this is what we did so far.
Then there is the View, as it is essential to know where we are going, otherwise we might get lost or stuck somewhere. Here, the View is the Mahayana View to achieve Buddhahood to benefit all sentient beings.
Once the View is established, there is the Action or meditation itself, the action of training the mind, which will be done through our Dharma practice.
After adopting the Ground, the openness of a rested mind, we cultivate the openness of View: we want to achieve Buddhahood (not only learn some tricks related to the subject we are focusing on).
Once this is done, we engage in the initial steps of the action such as receiving and studying the teachings. We establish all our consciousnesses in a state of awareness so that we may receive the most precious Dharma, in a way that we might later understand and practice it on its most subtle levels. Then the main Action, the Meditation will be most efficient.
For instance, in Kye-Rim, as we visualise ourselves as the deity, we will learn to adopt a different way to perceive reality by every single one of our consciousness, For example, the clothing and very soft material, like Benares silk, refers to touch consciousness; all the implements refer to the visual consciousness; their symbolism to the mental consciousness and so forth.
To assist us to adopt the correct path, based on the view, we must establish clarity by understanding the Dharma that we are studying. To achieve this, it is useful to know clearly the contextual categories and topics taught by Lord Buddha.
Established in India at the time of Lord Buddha, the Dharma has been subdivided in three categories:
1) The Hinayana Dharma, referring to the first turning of the Wheel;
2) The Mahayana Dharma, referring to the second turning of the Wheel; and,
3) The Vajrayana Dharma, the third turning of the Wheel, which was revealed in Srilanka to the Bodhisattva Vajrapani by Lord Buddha Sakyamuni in his esoteric form of Buddha Vajradhara, three weeks after His Parinirvâna.
The Tibetan system of categorising the teachings counts nine subdivisions of Dharma. Its perspective corresponds to the view based on the clarity issued by the realisation of emptiness and the transmission of tantras. It corresponds and clarifies the Indian presentation of the Buddhadharma in three Yanas.
The three yanas correspond to Vehicles ཐེག་པ། - Thegpa, delivered in accordance with the capacities of disciples. The Tibetan system is therefore slightly more specifically organised as follows:
1) The first level of Hinayana Dharma: ཉན་ཐོས་ཀྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The Sravakayana, the Vehicle of the Auditors.
2) The second level of Hinayana: རང་རྒྱལ་གྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The PratyekaBuddhayana, the Vehicle of individual Buddhas.
3) The exoteric Mahayana or "Vehicle of Defining Characteristics": བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་པའི་ཐེགཔ། - The Bodhisattvayana, or the exoteric Teachings intended for Bodhisattvas, who have opened their mind to the broad motivation addressing all beings in all realms of existence.
4) The first lesser outer Tantras: བྱ་བའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The Vehicle of the Kriyā Tantra -་the Tantra of Action. For instance, the practice of Nyung-Nay belongs to this category, with the actions of fasting and mantra recitation.
5) The second lesser outer Tantra: སྤྱོད་པའི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The Carya Tantra, the Tantra of Conduct.
6) The third lesser outer Tantra: རྣལ་འབྱོར་གྱི་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The Vehicle of Yoga or Union.
As we are one with everything, due to interdependence, the only union possible is between your consciousness and the experience of that consciousness; that means a state of oneness with the experience, a state of great clarity; you are in control of your experience. That is the Vajrayana point of view. There is no dual experience or understanding of that but being aware of that, is the "Yoga". Whatever you experience, do not be overwhelmed by it, especially at the moment of death.
Then come the higher Vehicles of the Anuttara Tantra
7) རྣལ་འབྱོར་ཆེན་པོའི་ཐེག་པ། - The Vehicle of the Mahayoga;
8) རྗེས་སུ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་གྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The Vehicle of the Anuyoga; and,
9) ཤིན་ཏུ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་གྱི་ཐེག་པ། - The Vehicle of the Atiyoga;
In the Sarma traditions, such as the Kagyüd tradition, the tantras are classified as "Mother Tantra", "Father Tantra", and "Non-Dual Tantra".
Coming back to our previous subject: having realised the basis of meditation, i.e. the progressive realisation of Emptiness and interdependence, we need to modify our behaviour with the understanding that reality is not what we impose to ourselves in our egocentric vision. Reality is what unfolds to us from moment to moment and that reality, is made of the multiple interactions that we have with all beings existing around us.
When intervening on a gross level of reality, it is essential to recognize this. We must accept reality as-it-is rather than spending time and energy to create a virtuous lifestyle based on what we think will be nice, ignoring what does not entertain our limited vision. That is the whole understanding of being yourself rather than *trying to fit an image*. Your self is made of a succession of present moments and you must deal with them, one at the time. If you do not, you move into neurosis such as described above, impeding you to function with reality.
Whenever an emotion manifests, we need to deal with it on the spot, or at least, before it becomes conflicting. For that, we simply need to look at it and see it for what it is: simply an emotion. Emotions are emergency reactions that communicate us unattended experiences. They are nothing based on facts; step back, face it and recognise it. An emotion will develop if we do not recognise it and expect it will pass on its own. If you do not allow it upfront, it will build up in the back, which is even more pernicious. For example, you will develop aversion, for someone, out of a moment of anger that you did not recognise, not seeing that it was a teaching for you to recognise your tendency to anger, providing you a great opportunity to deal with it.
With this vision, called Bodhicitta, every moment is perfect. This is the real Dharma practice, to be in the present moment, facing whatever is so called "nice" or "not nice", seeing the perfection of its manifestation, in the sense that it shows you your attachment or your aversion or your fear, and so forth.
To recognize, we need to stay calm. That is why there are all these methods such as breathing technics, mental quiescence and so forth, teaching how not to get carried away by the emotion, but remain in control of our mind. It is not easy, but possible through what units the mind and the body: the breathing.
Next comes the practice of manifesting compassion; a compassion based on the Nature of Mind, a compassion that is effortless, non-conceptual; a compassion of every moment.
In his commentary on Madhyamaka from Nagarjuna, Aryadeva says: «There is not a single moment in the life of a Buddha that is not a gesture of Compassion; even breathing is for the benefit of all beings».
That is what we slowly learn to manifest. As the compassion is a manifestation of the Nature of Mind, so it is not something we have to invent or fabricate. We are just not aware of that capacity of having inconceivable, non-conceptual compassion. Therefore, we manifest a tendency for conceptual compassion. We do not have problem with that, with the opportunity of diminishing someone's suffering. It is something natural. But we still need a concept, a reference, of suffering to manifest that wish to heal or alleviate the suffering.
Through the practice of Chenrezig, we learn to manifest that non-conceptual Compassion, which is a part of ourselves, it is the Nature of our Mind. As we do so, we will come to manifest this Nature of Mind, which is nothing else than Buddhahood.
So far, we just think of it, talk about it, and eventually get a headache, as we are incapable of defining it, since it is not conceivable, not conceptual; out of our way of functioning, with our brain. That leads us to the tricky situation, where we conceive things in the brain and feel things in the heart –or mind- and we do not know how to make them correspond…
That harmony already exists within us, but we do not have access to it. You do not need to add something to yourself to possess Nature of Mind. You just must purify the veils and then learn to recognise it. There are methods for that, and all the practices we do, bring us closer to the capacity to recognise our Nature of Mind.