One of the Best Teachings About Meditation
- MEDITATION BY HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA
Would you like to participate in an experiment
in meditation? First, look to your posture:
arrange the legs in the most comfortable position;
set the backbone straight as an arrow. Place
your hands in the position of meditative
equipoise, four finger widths below your navel,
with the left hand on the bottom, right hand
on top, and your thumbs touching to form a
triangle. This placement of the hands has
connection with the place inside the body
where inner heat is generated. Bending the
neck down slightly, allow the mouth and teeth
to be as usual, with the top of the tongue
touching the roof of the mouth near the top
teeth. Let the eyes gaze downwards loosely --
it is not necessary that they be directed to
the end of the nose; they can be pointed
toward the floor in front of you if that seems
more natural. Do not open the eyes too wide
nor forcefully close them; leave them open a
little. Sometimes they will close of their
own accord; that is all right. Even if your
eyes are open, when your mental consciousness
becomes steady upon its object, these appearances
to the eye consciousness will not disturb you.
For those of you who wear eye glasses, have you
noticed that when you take off your glasses,
because of the unclarity there is less danger
from the generation of excitement and more
danger of laxity? Do you find that there is
a difference between facing and not facing
the wall? When you face the wall, you may find
that there is less danger of excitement of
scattering. These kinds of things can be determined
through your own experience.
Within meditations that have an object of
observation, there can be two types of objects:
external or internal. Now, instead of meditating
on the mind itself, let us meditate on
an external object of observation -- for
instance, the body of a Buddha for those who
like to look at a Buddha or a cross for those
who like that, or whatever symbol is suitable
for you. Mentally visualize that the object
is about four feet in front of you, at the
same height as the eyebrows. The object should
be approximately two inches high and emanating
light. Try to conceive of it as being heavy,
for this will prevent excitement. Its brilliance
will prevent laxity. As you concentrate, you
must strive for two factors: first, to make the
object of observation clear, and second, to make it steady.
Has something appeared to your mind? Are the
sense objects in front of your eyes bothering
you? If that is the case, it is all right to
close them, but with the eyes closed, do you
see a reddish appearance? If you see red with
the eyes closed or if you are bothered by what
you see when your eyes are open, you are too
involved with the eye consciousness and thus
should try to withdraw attention from the eye
consciousness and put it with the mental consciousness.
That which interferes with the steadiness of
the object of observation and causes it to
fluctuate is excitement or, in a more general
way, scattering. To stop that, withdraw your
mind more strongly inside so that the intensity
of the mode of apprehension begins to lower.
To withdraw the mind, it helps to think about
something that makes you more sober, a little
sad. These thoughts can cause your heightened
mode of apprehension of the object, the mind's
being too tight, to lower or loosen somewhat whereby
you are better able to stay on the object of observation.
It is not sufficient just to have stability.
It is necessary also to have clarity. That which
prevents clarity is laxity, and what causes
laxity is an over-withdrawal, excessive declination,
of the mind. First of all, the mind becomes
lax; this can lead to lethargy in which, losing
the object of observation, you have as if fallen
into darkness. This can lead even to sleep.
When this occurs, it is necessary to raise or
heighten the mode of apprehension. As a technique
for that, think of something that you like,
something that makes you joyous, or go to a
high place or where there is a vast view. This
technique causes the deflated mind to heighten
in its mode of apprehension.
It is necessary within your own experience to
recognize when the mode of apprehension has
become too excited or too lax and determine the
best practice for lowering or heightening it.
The object of observation that you are visualizing
has to be held with mindfulness. Then, along
with this, you inspect, as if from a corner,
to see whether the object is clear and stable;
the faculty that engages in this inspection is
called introspection. When powerful steady
mindfulness is achieved, introspection is
generated, but the uncommon function of introspection
is to inspect from time to time to see whether
the mind has come under the influence of excitement
or laxity. When you develop mindfulness and
introspection well, you are able to catch laxity
and excitement just before they arise and prevent
Briefly, that is how to sustain meditation with
an external object of observation.
Another type of meditation involves looking at
the mind itself. Try to leave your mind vividly
in a natural state, without thinking of what
happened in the past or of what you are planning
for the future, without generating any conceptuality.
Where does it seem that your consciousness is?
Is it with the eyes or where is it? Most likely
you have a sense that it is associated with the
eyes since we derive most of our awareness of
the world through vision. This is due to having
relied too much on our sense consciousness.
However the existence of a separate mental
consciousness can be ascertained; for example,
when attention is diverted by sound, that which
appears to the eye consciousness is not noticed.
This indicates that a separate mental consciousness
is paying more attention to sound heard by the
ear consciousness than to the perceptions of the
With persistent practice, consciousness may
eventually be perceived or felt as an entity
of mere luminosity and knowing, to which anything
is capable of appearing and which, when appropriate
conditions arise, can be generated in the image
of whatsoever object. As long as the mind does
not encounter the external circumstance of
conceptuality, it will abide empty without
anything appearing in it, like clear water.
Its very entity is that of mere experience.
Let the mind flow of its own accord without
conceptual overlay. Let the mind rest in its
natural state, and observe it. In the beginning,
when you are not used to this practice, it is
quite difficult, but in time the mind appears
like clear water. Then, stay with the unfabricated
mind without allowing conceptions to be generated.
In realizing this nature of the mind, we have
for the first time located the object of observation
of this internal type of meditation.
The best time for practicing this form of
meditation is in the morning, in a quiet place,
when the mind is very clear and alert. It helps
not to have eaten to much the night before nor
to sleep too much; this makes the mind lighter
and sharper the next morning. Gradually the mind
will become more and more stable; mindfulness and
memory will become clearer.
See if this practice makes your mind more alert
throughout the day. As a temporary benefit your
thoughts will be tranquil. As your memory improves,
gradually you can develop a kind of special
perception and understanding, which is due to
an increase of mindfulness. As a long term benefit,
because your mind has become more alert and sharp,
you can utilize it in whatever field you want.
If you are able to do a little meditation daily,
withdrawing this scattered mind on one object
inside, it is very helpful. The conceptuality that
runs on thinking of good things, bad things, and
so forth and so on will get a rest. It provides a
little vacation just to set a bit in non- conceptuality
and have a rest.
There is yet another method of meditation which
enables on to discern the ultimate natural of
phenomena. This type of mediation involves analytical
introspection. Generally, phenomena are divided
into two types: the mental and physical aggregates
-- or phenomena that are used by the I -- and the
I that uses them. To determine the nature of this
I, let us use an example. When we say John is
coming, there is some person who is the one designated
by the name John. Is this name designated to his
body? It is not. Is it designated to his mind? If
it were designated to his mind, we could not speak
of John's mind. Mind and body are things used by
the person. It almost seems that there is an I
separate from mind and body. For instance, when
we think, "Oh, my lousy body!" or "My lousy mind!",
to our own innate mode of appearance the mind itself
is not the I, right? Now, what John is there who
is not his mind or body? You also should apply this
to yourself, to your own sense of I -- where is
this I in terms of mind and body?
When my body is sick, though my body is not I,
due to the body's being sick it can be posited
that I am sick. In fact, for the sake of the
well-being and pleasure of the I, it sometimes
even becomes necessary to cut off part of the
body. Although the body is not the I, there is
a relationship between the two: the pain of the
body can serve as the pain of the I. Similarly,
when the eye consciousness sees something it
appears to the mind that the I perceives it.
What is the nature of the I? How does it appear
to you? When you do not fabricate or create any
artificial concept in your mind, does it seem
that your I has an identity separate from your
mind and body? But if you search for it, can
you find it? For instances, someone accuses you,
"You stole this." or "You ruined such and such,"
and you feel, "I didn't do that." At that time,
how does the I appear? Does it appear as if
solid? Does some solid, steady, and strong thing
appear to your mind when you think or say,
"I didn't do that?"
This seemingly solid, concrete, independent,
self-instituting I under its own power that
appears at such a time actually does not exist
at all, and this specific non-existence is what
is meant by selflessness. In the absence of
analysis and investigation, a mere I as in,
"I want such and such," or "I am going to do
such and such," is asserted as valid, but the
non-existence of an independent or self-powered
I constitutes the selflessness of the person.
This selflessness is that is found when one
searches analytically to try to find the I.
Such non-inherent existence of the I is an
ultimate truth, a final truth. The I that appears
to a non-analytical conventional awareness is
the dependently arisen I that serves as the
basis of the conventions of action, agent and
so forth; it is a conventional truth. In
analyzing the mode of subsistence or that
status of the I, it is clear that although
it appears to exist inherently, it does not,
much like an illusion.
That is how the ultimate nature of the I --
emptiness -- is analyzed. Just as the I has
this nature, so all other phenomena that are
used by the I are empty of inherent existence.
When analyzed, they cannot be found at all, but
without analysis and investigation, they do exist.
Their nature is the same as the I.
The conventional existence of the I as well as
of pleasure and pain make it necessary to
generate compassion and altruism, and because
the ultimate nature of all phenomena is this
emptiness of inherent existence, it is also
necessary to cultivate wisdom. When these two
aspects -- compassion and wisdom -- are practiced
in union, wisdom grows more profound, and the
sense of duality diminishes. Due to the mind's
dwelling in the meaning of emptiness, dualistic
appearance becomes lighter, and at the same time
the mind itself becomes more subtle. As the mind
grows even more subtle, reaching the subtlest
level, it is eventually transformed into the most
basic mind, the fundamental innate mind of clear
light, which at once realizes and is of one taste
with emptiness in meditative equipoise without
any dualistic appearance at all, mixed with
emptiness. Within all having this one taste,
anything and everything can appear; this is
known as "All in one taste, one taste in all."
These are a few of the types of meditation practiced
in the Tibetan tradition. Of course there are
many other techniques such as mantra and so forth.
Perhaps now we could have some discussion.
Question: Why is it better to meditate in the morning?
DL: There are two main reasons. Physically,
in the early morning -- once you are used to
it -- all the nerve centers are fresh, and this
is beneficial. Also, there is a difference just
in terms of the time. Further, if you have slept
well, you are more fresh and alert in the morning;
this we can see in our own experience. At night
I reach a point where I cannot think properly;
however, after sleeping and the waking in the
early morning, that thing, which yesterday I
could not properly think through, automatically
appears more clearly. This shows that mental power
is much sharper in the morning.
Question: What is the most expedient means for
overcoming resistance to meditation?
DL: Five faults are explained as obstacles to
meditation. The first is laziness; second is
to forget the advice on the object, that is, to
forget the object; next are laxity and excitement;
then failure to apply an antidote when laxity
or excitement are present, and the last is to
continue applying the antidotes when laxity or
excitement have already been overcome. These
are called the five faults. Eight antidotes are
explained for them. The antidotes to laziness
are, first of all, the faith that intelligently
sees the value of meditative stabilization, the
prime value being that without it the higher
paths cannot be generated. In dependence upon
ascertaining the good qualities of meditative
stabilization, the aspiration which seeks to
attain those qualities is induced. By means of
that, exertion comes whereby you eventually
attain pliancy causing body and mind to be free
from unfavorable states and to be serviceable
in a virtuous direction such that whatever virtue
is done is powerful. These four are the antidotes
to the first fault, laziness.
It is helpful not to practice too long in the
beginning; do not over- extend yourself; the
maximum period is around fifteen minutes. The
important thing is not the length of the session
but the quality of it. If you meditate too long,
you can become sleepy, and then your meditation
will become a matter to becoming accustomed to
this state. This is not only a waste of time but
also a habit that is difficult to eliminate in
the future. In the beginning, start with many
short sessions -- even eight or sixteen sessions
in a day -- and then as you get used to the
process of meditation, the quality will improve,
and the session will naturally become longer.
A sign that your meditative stabilization is
progressing well is that even though your meditative
session may be long, it will feel as though only
a short time has passed. If it seems that you have
spent a long time in meditation even though you
have spent only a little, this is a sign that you
should shorted the length of the session. This can
be very important at the beginning.
Question: Could you say something about effort?
Isn't a great deal of effort necessary?
DL: Effort is crucial in the beginning for
generating a strong will. We all have the
Buddha nature and thus already have within
us the substances through which, when we meet
with the proper conditions, we can turn into a
fully enlightened being having all beneficial
attributes and devoid of all faults. The very
root of failure in our lives is to think, "Oh,
how useless and powerless I am!" It is important
to have a strong force of mind thinking, "I can
do it," this not being mixed with pride or any
other afflictive emotions.
Moderate effort over a long period of time is
important, no matter what you are trying to do.
One brings failure on oneself by working extremely
hard at the beginning, attempting to do too much
and then giving it all up after a short time. A
constant stream of moderate effort is needed.
Similarly, when meditating, you need to be skillful
by having frequent, short sessions; it is more
important that the session be good quality than
it be long.
When you have such effort, you have the necessary
"substances" for developing concentration. Concentration
is a matter channelizing this mind which is presently
distracted in a great many directions. A scattered
mind does not have much power. When channelized, no
matter what the object of observation is, the mind
is very powerful.
There is no external way to channelize the mind,
as by a surgical operation; it must be done by
withdrawing it inside. Withdrawal of the mind
also occurs in deep sleep in which the factor of
alertness has become unclear; therefore, here the
withdrawal of the mind is to be accompanied by
very strong clarity of alertness. In brief, the
mind must have stability staying firmly on its
object, great clarity of the object, and alert,
clear, sharp tautness.
Question: What is the relationship of the mind
and afflictive emotions?
DL: The very entity of the mind, its nature of
mere luminosity and knowing, is not polluted by
defilements; they do not abide in the entity of
the mind. Even when we generate afflictive emotions,
the very entity or nature of the mind is still
mere luminosity and knowing, and because of this
we are able to remove the afflictive emotions. If
you agitate the water in a pond, it becomes cloudy
with mud; yet the very nature of the water itself
is not dirty. When you allow it to become still
again, the mud will settle leaving the water pure.
How are the defilements removed? They are not
removed by outside action nor by leaving them as
they are; they are removed by the power of
antidotes, meditative antidotes. To understand
this, take the example of anger. All anger is
impelled and polluted by improper conceptuality.
Both the object of our anger and subject, oneself,
appear to exist concretely, as if established by
way of their own character. Both seem forcefully
to exist in their own right. But as I was saying
earlier, things to not actually exist in this
concrete way. As much as we are able to see an
absence of independent self-existence, that much
will our conception of over-reification and its
assistance to anger be lessened.
The sign that our perceptions are superimposing
a goodness or badness beyond what is actually
present is that while desirous or angry we feel
that the object is terrifically good or bad but
afterwards when we think about the experience,
it is laughable that we viewed the object that
way; we understand that our perception was not
true. These afflicted states do not have any
valid support. The mind which analytically
searches for the independent self-existence of
an object finds ascertainment of its lack of
independent self-nature through valid reasoning,
and thus this kind of understanding does have a
valid foundation. Like a debate in court, one
perception is based on reason and truth, while
the other one is not. When the evidence is
sufficient, in such a debate the true view eventually
overpowers the other because it can withstand analysis.
It is impossible for the mind simultaneously
to apprehend one object in contradictory ways.
With respect to one object, therefore, as you
get used to understanding its non-inherent nature,
not only is it impossible at that time to generate
a conception of inherent nature but also as
strong as the correct realization becomes, so
much, in general, does conception of its opposite
weaken in force.
To generate such wisdom we engage in meditation
because our minds, as they are now, are not very
powerful. Our mind is presently scattered; its
energies need to be channeled like the way water
in a hydroelectric plant is channeled to create
great force. We achieve this with the mind
through meditation, channeling it such that it
becomes very forceful, at which point it can be
utilized in the direction of wisdom. Since all
the substances for enlightenment exist within
ourselves, we should not look for Buddahood somewhere else.
Question: Does emptiness also mean fullness?
DL: It seems so. Usually, I explain emptiness
is like a zero. A zero itself is nothing, but
without a zero you cannot count anything; therefore,
a zero is something, yet zero.
Question: Would you please say something about
the nature of mandalas?
DL:Mandala, in general, means that which extracts
the essence. There are many usages of the term
mandala according to context. One type of mandala
is the offering of the entire world system, with
the major and minor continents mentally constructed,
to high beings. Also, there are painted
mandalas, mandalas of concentration, those
made out of colored sand, mandalas of the
conventional mind of enlightenment, mandalas
of the ultimate mind of enlightenment, and
so forth. Because one can extract a meaning
from each of these through practicing them,
they are called mandalas. Although we might
call these pictures and constructed depictions
mandalas, the main meaning is for oneself to
enter into the mandala and extract an essence
in the sense of receiving blessing. It is a
place of gaining magnificence. Because one is
gaining a blessing and thereupon developing
realizations it is called an extraction or
assumption of something essential.
Question: How does one choose a teacher of spiritual
subjects or know a teacher to be reliable?
DL: This should be done in accordance with
your interest and disposition, but you should
analyze well. You must investigate before
accepting a lama or teacher to see whether that
person is really qualified or not. It is said in
a scripture that just as fish that are hidden
under the water can be seen through the movement
of the ripples from above, so also a teacher's
inner qualities can, over time, be seen a little
through that person's behavior. We need to look
into the person's scholarship -- the ability to
explain topics -- and whether the person implements
those teachings in his or her conduct and experience.
TITLE OF WORK: "Meditation" (from Chapter 8 of "The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness")
FILENAME: HHDLMEDT.ZIP AUTHOR: His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Sidney Piburn, ed.
AUTHOR'S ADDRESS: N/A PUBLISHER'S ADDRESS: Snow Lion Publications P.O. Box 6483 Ithaca, NY 14851 USA
COPYRIGHT HOLDER: Sidney Piburn (1990, 1993 [Second Edition])
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 1993
RIGHTS AND RESTRICTIONS: See paragraph below.
DATE OF DHARMANET DISTRIBUTION: March 1995 ORIGIN SITE: The Bodhi Tree, Boise ID * (96:220/1)
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