BBnB Monday October 3, 2005 - Reality & Mirrors-Meditation and the Natural State
Namo Buddhaya Namo Dharmaya Namo Sanghaya
Monday Night Buddhist Discussion
Buddhism Basics and Beyond
We'll meet at 10 PM on Monday, October 3rd in the
Buddhist Discussion Room <---This is a Clickable Link to the room
Buddhism Basics and Beyond <---This is our Website
* * * * *
Our Topic Tonight is
Reality and Mirrors
Meditation and the Natural State
* * *Introduction to Tonight's Topic
Tonight we have an well-written text which is easy to follow - but one with profound implications for our practice. Lama Surya Das is a highly trained western Lama who teaches in the Dzogchen Tradition (The Great Perfection). His Teaching below is one that plants questions in our minds so that we can build up our context for receiving the multi-storied answers that Buddhism provides.
Reading a text like this serves as both a review of our past 34 weeks of teachings and at the same time, testing how skillful we are at recalling the many teachings that we have been exposed to.
In the Discussion of Monday, October 3, 2005, we will take a look at the many salient points in this article and speak of how we can explore them in meditation.
A Note on Continuing Meditation
At the risk of repeating myself, Nothing is more important at this point in your learning Buddhism than to incorporate Meditation into our daily lives. Using the One Breath Meditation as a gateway to the Mantra Meditation of 'Om Mani Peme Hum' for 20 minutes twice a day is a significant step. If you can't find that much time, do a shorter meditation - but AT LEAST Do the One Breath Meditation once a day. Remember, it only take about 20 seconds - or a little longer if thoughts don't come back for a few more seconds.
In the near future, we will be considering teachings that require an investigative form of meditation. To prepare for this (and it is a simple method), one must first be able to attain at least a brief meditative state.
A Cautionary Note on Some of
The Teachings Referenced in Lama Surya Das' Article
* * * * *
In the following text, Lama Surya Das refers to a number of tantric practices. These include Dream Yoga, Guru Yoga, Visualizations, the Six Yogas of Naropa, and Intensive Breathing in the context of Meditation. I cannot stress enough - as Lama Surya Das also emphasizes below - that these practices are DANGEROUS in many ways. Attempting to learn these practices without sound and thorough instruction from a person who has mastered them can result in bad mental and physical health and even Death.
As the old saying goes, 'Don't try this at home.'
Namaste and Shanti,
Dharma Talk by Lama Surya Das
The talk below was given on 31 October 1994 at the regular
Monday night Dzogchen sitting group in Cambridge, MA.
(((GhanaBhuti's Comments are red and contained in triple parentheses-gb)))
(((trek chod or 'cutting through the hard' - gb))), we want to be very sharp and alert and present in the moment, moment after moment; with total presence of mind, not absent-minded. Then we shout, even if our ear drums pop, so in that sharp pain we might experience a moment's wakefulness directly for ourselves -- not for our invisible parents on our shoulder, and not just what we think we should experience when we meditate -- but we experience something fresh, naked, and unimaginable, stripped of all preconceptions and ideation.
Happy Halloween, everybody. You can take off your masks now. We're not what we think we are, are we? It says in the Surangama Sutra (sutras are scriptures, spoken by the Buddha himself) that things are not what they seem to be, nor are they otherwise. I don't know if that's a trick or a treat -- maybe it's both. You tell me!
We are not who we think we are; but who are we? Has anyone ever wondered? Of course, we have all wondered in different ways. We are not what we think we are. We are not just what we think we are; also, we are not just what we think. Why are we so identified with thought? There is so much more to us than just what we think; what we think is just a part of ourselves, but what about the rest? The rest is often overlooked as we look at life through the conning tower up here in the brainpan, above the eyebrows, the view from the penthouse. What about feeling things through the heart or the hara (naval center)?
Who or what are we, anyway? Who is experiencing one's own experience? Who or what, I should say, since it is transpersonal, and not really personal.
Who or what is experiencing one's experience? My Korean Zen master used to say: "What the hell is it?" His main koan was called a huado, or main word. It looks nice there, boldly calligraphed in Korean as a scroll on the wall. We don't always know what it says, but what it says is: "What is it?" That's his whole teaching. This gets to the bottom of our basic question: What is it? What the hell is going on? What is this? Who is this? That's what the translation of the huado implies. It is a fundamental existential question, turning our exploration inwards.
Who or what is the experiencer? Who or what is trying to meditate, is trying to control thoughts, is feeling distracted, or however we feel? Who is feeling dissatisfied; or, for that matter, who is feeling blissed out, or wonderful, or even awake? Sometimes I think we should start learning to look as enlightened as we can, just to see how that would be. Would that be different than we are? Really? Would we be sitting like this, smiling idiotically all the time, like Alfred E. Newman meditating? Trungpa Rinpoche once said, in one of his most famous, oft-repeated dictums, that enlightenment is the greatest disappointment of all. So prepare to be disappointed. Of course, it's funny when you're there, but when you're not there it is a little more disturbing. It was his intent to disturb us, to provoke us, all the way there. And Trunpa Rinpoche is still disturbing us. He died six or seven years ago, but his books are still coming out, his Bodhisattva activities, a new book every year. I recommend them highly.
Who or what is experiencing our experience? Is it our thoughts? But what is thinking? Is it our mind, our body, our soul, our spirit? Is it our parents, as if one is on each shoulder living through us? There must be more to life than that. Of course that is a small part of us; you can't deny it.
When practicing this cutting-through meditation in Dzogchen
We sometime say to ourselves, secretly, "I should be enlightened," "I should be blissful," "I should this, I should that." So many shoulds. We should on ourselves, like shitting on ourselves. But all there is to do is to experience things as they are and ourselves as we are. That's the whole import or intention of the Dharma teachings. You can call it by fancy names, like Buddha-nature or the natural state (as we say in Dzogchen or Mahamudra), original nature, or freedom for that matter; but it all comes back to things just as they are. (((Note - 'Things as they are' is NOT a valadation of the neurotic or psychotic vision any one individual has of reality. 'Things as they are' refers to the Natural Great Perfection that sees all phenomena and persons as both their conventional identity which is completly and entirely insseprable from Emptines. - gb)))
Let's directly experience things within and without ourselves, as they are, as we are; in the present moment, which is the only place we can ever be. Even if we're fantasizing about the future or remembering the past, that's a present activity. Don't overlook the present awareness component of that remembering or planning. Come home, again and again, to the present. We may momentarily feel fragmented, distracted, lost; but we are always present. So keep showing up, again and again; don't cop out.
In life, we may keep looking for the right answer, but there is no right answer. That's the answer! You keep on going deeper and deeper, peeling off layers of the onion until you find the nut at the center of the onion, called sunyata in Sanskrit or mu in Chinese. It's a hard nut to crack. We keep peeling and peeling ourselves, unmasking and unmasking our persona, our ego -- first the body, then the mind. Then deeper, the psyche, the spirit, whatever we call it; our inner, subtle energies, seeing through our meditative states, continuously letting go and unmasking and unmasking. Halloween after Halloween, every day. Ultimately arriving at our original, unprocessed natural state, our genuine being. That is Buddha-nature, our true nature.
I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but we practice this in the dream yoga, the six yogas of Naropa.(((Dream Yoga and The Six Yogas of Naropa are Highly Advanced Practices. You can do the 'Thought Experiiment of the Mirrors Below, but please don't seek out the Advanced Meditaions without Long Teaching and Preparation - gb))) First you start with a mirror. (You can go a long way with mirrors; everything is a mirror, actually. Wherever we go we see ourselves.) Then you get another mirror and put it here behind yourself, and then you start to get two or four of you. If you angle it and go into the corners, you can get four or sixteen or sixty-four of you; a lot of images of your face. Suddenly, you seem to become a multi-headed, multi-eyed deity. Move your own eyebrows now, and you might think it's not much movement; but in those mirrors you'll see sixty four or one hundred and eight eyebrows fluttering. It can blow your mind. This experience can help break up some of one's fixed mental formations. Then you start to gradually come out of it. From one hundred and eight to sixty. Now getting back to four, to two, to just one of you. Of course, if you're schizophrenic you get lost in there, but if you have a stable healthy ego you'll find it very interesting, very helpful.
Which reflection is the real, original "me"? The fourth or eighth eyebrow moving there, what's the difference?* Who are we, anyway? Are we many, are we one, or are we none? Do I exist at all? And if so, in which precise place or form? Just talking about it doesn't make it, I assure you; try doing it, and I think you'll have an interesting experience. You can also heighten that experience with various tricks, whether by intensive breathing, psychedelic experiences, or otherwise. You can start talking to all those other beings. First you start by praising them and see how they feel about being praised by others. That is part of the dream yoga practice, recognizing that praise is like a dream. Then you start criticizing and berating them, and see how they feel being criticized and berated by others. Then you see that praise and blame are just like a dream. Pleasure and pain, loss and gain, fame and shame, praise and blame; these worldly winds are like echoes, mirages, and dreams. We need not mistake them as being real.
You might feel upset in your body. Who are these others doing the criticizing and blaming? You're just doing it yourself looking in the mirror (and you can go deeper and deeper in this, how beautiful you are, how ugly you are, how you're going to die). Yet notice the reactions that you can provoke when you hear these empty hollow echoes. It's a very good costume party, a masquerade party, like a Halloween ball. This is part of deity yoga when we, in tantric sadhanas, visualize ourselves in these ways.
... (snip). But please be careful when playing with such powerful practices; they can be dangerous.
The mind is an excellent mirror, actually. You hardly needd an external mirror. In your own mind, try to conjure up that you're talking to yourself -- visualize, imagine, conjure it up -- and see the effects. Explore for yourself how empty and meaningless are your habitual reactions to illusory feedback, such as praise and blame. Through such investigation, the whole notion, the solid notion of others and oneself, might become more diaphanous, perforated, transparent, and you arrive at a more spacious and easy place with yourself. This is where tantric visualizations lead. They are powerful ways of loosening and retooling your self-concept.
Then we have to take this into life, by applying it in life. Let's start to see through some of the echoes we hear around us. As it is said in the Diamond Sutra, "See everything like a dream, like an echo, like a phantom or mirage." This is a way we can practice applying it, so we get used to it. We can in this way learn to have a little more space to choose before just blindly reacting. We can be aware of how much of that echo we need to take in and how much we don't. Through enhanced awareness, you get to vote also, not just being bossed around by habitual propensities. There is no need to continuously be caught up in the stale, old patterns of thinking and relating; thinking you're good enough or not, beautiful or not, worthy or unworthy, young, old, whatever. Usually, we just react and feel caught in situations, in the reactivity of stimulus and instant response. With this practice you become more proactive, more free, and can consciously play with waking, daytime dreams as well as night-time dreams. You can also provoke feedback from the universe that can liberate your own sense of being bound by circumstances. As Tilopa said, "It's not outer circumstances or conditions that entangle us, Naropa, it's internal clinging and fixations that entangle us." This is quite profound.
In Tantra we find ourselves celebrating, appreciating everything as part of the path, and intentionally play with reality. To genuinely celebrate implies to be grateful for and appreciative of everything just as it is. We don't necessarily need to withdraw from the surface of appearances and everyday things to find something deeper. We can just enter freely through everything, knowing everything as transparent, everything as clear light, everything as luminous. Marpa, Milarepa's guru, said, "Yes, it's true that my klesas (negative emotions) are as if engraved in stone." (Don't we all feel it's hard to change our habits?) So Father Marpa said, "It feels like my kleshas, my negative emotions and hang-ups, are engraved in stone. But even stone won't be there forever; it is clear light. They are luminously transparent, even now."
This is the higher teaching. You do not have to sandpaper the stone for the next three eons. The freedom to transform the evil stone into a prayer stone is right here, right now. We can turn all our worries, our neuroses into a prayer, into an affirmation, into clear light, which is their true nature, anyway, from the first. Just like the children are going around trick or treating tonight, dressed up in bizarre costumes, we too can enjoy our own foibles, weaknesses, and peculiarities, in the light of self-knowledge.
My partner, Kate Wheeler, is at home right now enjoying it. She's just waiting for the kids; she loves when they come to the door. She runs downstairs with candy in one hand, wearing a mask and my Tibetan capes, hoping to scare them. And sometimes, they scare her, although she knows it is just a game. So I ask you to ponder this: Is the fear real, or unreal?
How fearful we are of life. We are afraid of the shadow side, afraid of our anger, afraid of our kleshas, the conflicting emotions within us all. We are not just seeing them as prayer stones, as mantras, as like characters on-stage; rather, we hold them as barbed wire entangling our hearts and minds. Actually the mind itself is clear light and barbed wire can't harm it at all. Yet we feel so identified with these habits and hang-ups that we too often feel we can't get rid of them.
There is an old Hassidic saying: "Love your bonds (not your mutual bonds!) -- love the things that bind you, love your chains and be free." Love means to accept unconditionally; it doesn't mean you have to like them. But we don't have to get rid of them also, for that preference is just one more chain. That's why the Third Chinese Zen Patriarch's poem begins with: "The way is not difficult for those who have few preferences." But don't just leap simplistically towards preferring to have no preferences, since that's just another preference. Love your preferences, cradle them like your own children, and be free. The Third Patriarch goes even further: "Do not seek for truth. Merely cease to cherish opinions." (((Note* - This is a Teaching but not a Definitive One. It is meant only for those who are too bound to mentation. Eventually, after they are cured, they can return to the study of the Three Wisdoms of the Buddha. Insisting that 'having no opinions is the only thing that is needed is a great error. - gb)))
I don't know if you know any people who you believe are enlightened. I have known a few, and they all have their own preferences, their own individual, person style. They like Tibetan food, or one kind of sweet and not another. This tells us that enlightenment, freedom, Buddha-nature, lives and expresses itself through each personality. Each of us is different, thank God; not uniformly bland like nirvanic cream cheese. It is much richer than that, more like blue cheese: smelly, rich, varied, marvelous, inconceivable. It even expresses itself through our personalities -- yes, even yours and mine -- as contorted as they might seem momentarily to be. Human nature is Buddha-nature.
When we look into who or what is experiencing, let's not stop short and accept some facile answer. Maybe we've read some Buddhist books, so we know about the teaching of anatta, "no self"; that nobody's home. "The lights are on but nobody's home." That's a good joke, and a meaningful one, an example of enlightened humor. The awareness light is on, but nobody particular is home.
Let's go deeper. Who is thinking that? Who is thinking that witty remark? We might find we don't know very much, and that not-knowing can be quite liberating. Not-knowing is a good balance to all our knowing. How about a little not-knowing and mystery to leave some room for wonder and experience of what's beyond the rational mind? We think so much, yet we know so little... Less than one percent of nothing.
Once someone asked me what I had learned in twenty years of Buddhist practice and I spontaneously said, "I'm not what I think I am." Perhaps that sums up the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha. We are so identified with who we think we are, that it limits how we can be, determines how we live, and conditions how we react. We limit ourselves totally. So I'd like you to consider bringing into your practice this kind of question. It's part of the preliminary practice for Dzogchen itself; it's part of the rushen practice. It's called separating the finite mind from the infinite Buddha-nature, or distinguishing between sems (mind) and rigpa (innate awareness) by seeing who or what is experiencing. Is it just me experiencing me? We usually conjure up or visualize ourselves -- such as me, an American male, or whatever. Then we feel that "I can do this, and I can't do that. I'm an American. I'm male. I'm like this; I'm like that." But we're not just that, are we? There is a lot more to our story.
Did you ever experience yourself as something else? I'm sure you have, in some moments of your life or perhaps in a dream. So why do we identify so much with this one particular imagination, this visualization? This one identity is just another self-concept; we could easily enlarge upon it, or vary it, or dispel it totally even, if we so choose. That's why it's fun to put on a costume, put on masks, go to costume parties, act in theater plays, and so on. It lends a different perspective upon ourselves and who we habitually think we are and must be. If you alter your consciousness, you see that you don't have to spend your whole life wearing the clothes your mother bought you, figuratively speaking, and can become any number of possible things.
We are not what we think we are, most certainly not what we think. Don't be so identified with thoughts, for thoughts are a good servant but a poor master. The problem is that we are too much in their thrall.
That's all I'm going to say tonight. It's Halloween. We should get home before our houses are destroyed. Someone already trashed our pumpkin before Halloween even, which was sitting on our front porch smiling benignly and minding his own business.
A Small Note
We Dedicate any Merit this Group and
*Note - This reminds me of a StarTrek DS-9 Episode where O'Brien, the station engineer is caught in a parallel and time-shifted location - with another O'Brian. They figure out what to do but the solution will transport One O'Brien back to the Normal Time Sequence of his life, while the 'Other O'Brian' will be destroyed.
One O'Brian asks 'which one of use will do it.' and the Other one says. 'It doesn't matter and pushes the button. As he pushes the button, he is destroyed as his doppleganger is transported back to normal space time and the love of his family.
These Discussions Accumulate to the Benefit
Of all Beings and thus to Highest Enlightenment
* * * * *
If you do not wish to receive these mailings,
simply reply to this email and change the subject to 'Remove.'
I have no desire to darken anyone's email without their permission. - gb