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15180Re: [Meditation Society of America] Re: Meditation Advice

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  • Marc Moss
    Jan 24, 2007

      Dear Dan,
      Thank you for the link. I caution practitioners that will read something like the descriptions listed within this link to be very careful in understanding the implication that "nothing exists". This contradicts the teachings of Lord Buddha, Je Tsongkhapa, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti and other masters that instruct the fine line between eternalism and nihilism.
      True, things do not exist in an ultimate sense. There is no findable lasting essence to phenomena. BUT, that doesn't change the fact that suffering is still experienced, that false views still bring about results from causes that made them seemingly manifest. It's not that things do NOT exist, but that they do not exist INHERENTLY; from their own side, coming AT us, independently from a perceiving consciousness.
      This is where words fail so much to give the correct rendering of the situation. Even when one becomes an Arya on the Path of Seeing, they do not cease to see the deceptive side of reality. They can still get hit by a bus on the corner, they can still feel pain when they stub they're toe...after coming down out of the direct perception of emptiness. In that moment, which is the Path of Seeing, there is no conceptualization of an "I", a "self", an object or expressions of the sense faculties. After that experience on the first level of the form realm, they come out of that meditation and are now on the path of familarization, or sGom pa'i lam, some call the path of meditation. This latter interpretation of the tibetan term is confusing for many, for when is it a path of meditation? Isn't every meditation practice I do the "path of meditation?" No, meditations on the path of preparation are dealing with certain points of the Lam pa'i Rim pa, the graduated steps of the path to enlightenment. The Path of "meditation" should be translated as the path of familiarity, since the term sGom means familiarity, which is what meditation is giving us with our object.
      With what are we becoming more familiar? We are familiarizing ourselves with the knowledge in postmeditation from the path of seeing. In the path of seeing, we see emptiness directly; we are looking into the dharmakaya itself. we are seeing the mind of a Buddha. There is no difference between the dharmakaya of a buddha and the dharmakaya of ourselves...both are empty of any inherently existent quality.
      Inherent existence is another tough term. The sad thing about the translations that are coming to the West from the authentic lineages is that they have become the folly of philosophers who typically like language that distances their intellectual expressions from those of the common man. Yet, in the Buddha's own Sangha, there was a monk that couldn't remember the simplest of phrases, the simplest of prayers. But the Buddha, with omniscience, saw into the monk's mind and new that there was a simple practice that he COULD remember...he asked the monk to be responsible for sweeping out the gompa everyday and as he did to repeat Duru pang, Drima pang...clear the dust, clear the defilements. And that monk gained enlightenment.
      Thoughts are the most subtle form of all phenomena. A thought becomes a seed that gets planted into the consciousness and manifests as it grows from all the ripening conditions necessary become available to it. Speech is first found in thought, action is first found in thought. And as things have NO inherently existent nature, they manifest in their various forms in our consciousness. It is the most difficult part of our practice to understand that that terrible thing that is appearing before us IS dharmakaya expression, working precisely the way the mechanism should work. You thought it, it became manifest. You have a low self-esteem and things seem to be bringing you down, why are you upset?? That's what you've asked for!
      Remember that of the Two Truths, we are almost always experiencing kun rdzob ldenpa, samvritisattya. This has been translated as 'conventional truth', which is again another wonderful rendering from our philosophical giants that seem only intent on helping the highest of intellects, forgetting that we must help all beings...the greatest common denominator would be to put it into simplest language that all can comprehend in words. The base of these two words (kun rdzob, and samvriti in snskt) mean "fake" or "artificial". Fake truth?? What does that mean? It can't be a truth, can it? When weighed against the Ultimate Truth, it must mean that fake truth isn't the final truth. There can only really be ONE truth. You can't be a man AND a woman at the same time. You cannot be two contradictory things at the same time, they would cancel each other out. An electron and an antielectron cannot coexist. So, can we really have TWO Truths?
      Here, the convention of language is giving us an indication for investigation. We look at this computer screen and can agree that it isn't permanent, it is a changing thing. Therefore, we can see on the surface that the computer is not emerging as an Ultimate thing...it willl cease. The forces that have brought these molecules together have made them appear at this moment as a computer. BUT, that would be to assume that those things are all happening OUT THERE...coming at me and that's the only way they can be.
      Now, the Ultimate nature of the computer is emptiness, which is the NEGATIVE of form. The Heart Sutra says: gzugs stong pao, stongpanyid gzugs so. Form is empty, emptiness is form. There have been translations that say "form is emptiness..." This is incorrect. sTong pa means empty. Nyid means "ness" or "hood". Form is not emptiness, that is a characteristic of phenomena. Emptiness is the characteristic and form is not THAT characteristic, but HAS that characteristic. That's why the next part of the Heart Sutra says sTong pa Nyid gZugs so...Emptiness is form. For that characteristic to exist, there must be 'form", or matter or some "thing" being perceived. So, as we look at the computer, we can recognize that because it is a changing, dependent, and non-self-standing thing, it must be empty, a characteristic, of inherent existence.
      See, if this computer had any essence to it that was permanent, our typing on it could do nothing to change it. It has no flexibility without emptiness. If it is independent, we could have no contact with it. If it were self-standing, it wouldn't need to be plugged into the wall to work. It would work independent of a power source that couldn't really effect it's permanent nature anyway. So, you can see the viewpoint of emptiness at work from the Lower Buddhist Philosophical venues at work here. But, that still hasn't changed our suffering nature. As long as we thing about that non-inherently existent "computer" out there, we're still dealing with a "thing" infront of us, not appearingly so, but materially so.
      This does not deny that that computer is there, emptiness is HOW it is there. It appears to be infront of you because your eye is experiencing a form, your touch is sensing something solid, your ear is hearing the typing of your fingers or some pretty song you have in another window (hopefully a mantra recitation), your nose can smell the coffee or tea next to your mouse, etc. These are all working to organize the data that your mind has conditioned to experience...to make "real". And for all intents and purposes, it is real. It functions and it will do what you want it to do as long as the karmic seeds for that to happen continue to ripen for you. When those seeds run out, you have either turned off the computer, walked into the other room, had a power outage, or died. That's it. Your perceptions at this moment are aligned to this experience but if they were better (from better karmic seeds) you could have a secretary reading this letter to you, or be a tantric angel enjoying a paradise. But, you are having karmic seeds ripen as a human. You are having karmic seeds ripen to see all the things you see as seemingly real...as seeming to exist from their own side, but they do not. This is the only meaning of "not exist" as explained in the weblink that you gave.
      If you can understand that, the reading of the information in the Mahamudra link will be more helpful. You would be much better to receive teachings on the Mahamudra directly from a qualified lama, spiritual teacher. There is so much more power in the organic process of receiving the teachings from the lama directly. I know this intuitively; many more blessings have come to my practice and journey since I took vows from my Holy Lama, and he then led me to the beautiful and precious teacher that gave me my Bodhisattva Vows. To them both I am endebted eternally.
      Now, I'm going to try to use an analogy to make this point a bit stronger...and I do apologize if it fails, but it is my own and no one else's so I'll take full responsibility for any misinformation or mistakes from it...but I think it's pretty damned close. This is ONLY an analogy based upon Pranagika-Madhyamikan ideals, so keep in mind it's got a little ways to go before it's spot-on, but it will help those that struggle with emptiness get to here, I hope:
      Let us think of our consciousness as a radio, receiving and transmitting signals. As you know, in America we use hertz below two hundred, but in europe they don't use anything below 1,000 (I might be off on this one, but I know they are a lot more cognizant to infrasound than Americans). Your consciousness is currently tuned into receive other "human" transmissions, and can also pick up faint traces of animal transmissions. You can see them, you can hear them, you can sort of understand them (animals, and not always the case with humans) , taste them (if you're into licking total strangers), anything involved with the sense data that your own little radio consciousness can detect. Now, there are these other beings around you, angels (dakinis) or spirits, or "gods"...or buddhas. We haven't done anything to change the wiring in our "radios" to receive that information. We don't believe those "signals" exist because we don't pick them up on our radios, so we deny them. We believe that we can refine and retune our radios and might work on that in yoga classes, meditation or study. But, we only see the picture getting a bit more clear for our fellow human and even animal signals. We haven't changed or shifted our "channels" to tune-in to higher frequencies...and that's what our spiritual practice is about.
      The problem with our misunderstanding emptiness is that, from the analogy above, all of the experiences we have are "signals". They are coming at us and disappear the next instant. Much like listening to a real radio, if you missed what the DJ said, you can't really rewind him, you just missed what he said and that's that. So it is with all of our signals. As long as our perceptions, or receptors aren't shifting to receive higher "frequencies", we're gonna lose a great opportunity. We will die and be cast wherever karmic winds through us. Our minds are scattered now, why wouldn't they be scattered at death?
      The problem with the above analogy is simply this (Lower Madhyamika): we're still seeing the data "out there", and not simultaneously expressed in the consciousness- the same karmic seed is producing all the things that you are now and all the things that you experience now. There is no separate substance. You're organizing that data into what you make of it now, only to dodge or embrace it. But, even the data is without inherent existence...it is all Dharmakaya expression.
      I hope that this may help. May this and the link help you on your path and may all your precious lamas, all your protectors, and the wisdom of the Holy Dharmakaya itself leave enough "popcorn" to keep leading you out of the "woods of samsara".
      Sonam Tsering

      As long as space remains, as long as living beings remain, until then - may I too remain to dispel the sufferings of the world. - Master Shantideva

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