Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reflections on Naropa - The Summary of Mahamudra

Homage to the state of great bliss!
Concerning what is called Mahamudra
All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept;
Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.

This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.
All things, like space, are equal.

When speaking of 'Mahamudra'
It is not an entity that can be shown.
There the mind's suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.

It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,
But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,
The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.

Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,
This unimagined Dharmakaya,
Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training.
But to meditate while seeking is deluded mind.

Just as with space and a magical display,
While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!
This is a yogi's understanding.

All good deeds and harmful actions
Dissolve by simply knowing this nature.
The emotions are the great wisdom.
Like a jungle fire, they are the yogi's helpers.

How can there be staying or going?
What meditation is there by fleeing to a hermitage?
Without understanding this, all possible means
Never bring more than temporary liberation.

When understanding this nature, what is there to bind you?
While being undistracted from its continuity,
There is neither a composed nor an uncomposed state
To be cultivated or corrected with a remedy.

It is not made out of anything
Experience self-liberated is dharmadhatu.
Thinking self-liberated is great wisdom,
Non-dual equality is dharmakaya.

Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,
This is the eternal awakened state,
The great bliss, leaving no place for samsara.

All things are empty of their own identities.
This concept fixed on emptiness has dissolved in itself.
Free of concept, holding nothing in mind,
Is in itself the path of the Buddhas.

For the most fortunate ones,
I have made these concise words of heartfelt advice.
Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.

This was given orally by the great pandita Naropa to Marpa at Pullahari.
(Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang.
Published in Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on Songs of Realization, by Thrangu Rinpoche (Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1997).

Homage to the state of great bliss!
Concerning what is called Mahamudra
All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept;
Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.

What is our life? What does it consist of?

Thoughts, feelings and sensations. That's it. All of what we think of as life, our relationships, our work, our practice, our hopes and fears, our body, our sense of self, our children, our car, our iPod, etc - it's thoughts - stories that pass through experience - it's feelings - it's what going on emotionally, and it's sensations - it's sensory sensations of hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching ... that is our life. Life is experience. Life is mind. There isn't any world out there we can touch directly.

NaropaYet we constantly project the display of mind into solid stuff that is actually out there. When we look, when we know .... we see that life has no more substance than a dream. As each appearance is examined ... we see that it is empty of substance .. where is it, we cannot say. What is it, we cannot say. Where did it come from, we cannot say. It's mysterious. It's undefinable. It's like a mirage, like a dream, without substance.

It's all mind. It's all experience.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of perception.

This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.
All things, like space, are equal.

When we turn attention to what is aware of all this experience ... what knows experience? What do we find? Nothing.

Though we have this sense that 'something' is aware of all these appearances which seem to arise and fall .... when we ask "what is aware?" .. and rest in the gap that follows this .... we do not see anything .. our knowing reveals .. nothing. Nothing - no-thing.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of awareness.

When speaking of 'Mahamudra'
It is not an entity that can be shown.
There the mind's suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.

When we rest in knowing, it's clear that there seems to be arisings, yet nothing can be found. These are both equally there, and yet not there. Nothing, and seemingly something. At one and the same time, we can know the inseparability of appearance and emptiness ... luminous emptiness.

There's nothing we can really say ... it's just like this ... empty, and yet at once apparent... suchness.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of union.

These three were the view - the view of Mahamudra.

It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,
But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,
The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.

Unlike in so many approaches to mediation, to practice, or to the spiritual path, mahamudra emphasises one of self-liberation .. where nothing needs to be done. We don't need to correct what we find. We don't need to strive after some special state. We don't need to be good, to be better, to be enlightened.

Just being aware, just resting in attention, with whatever is present, right now, just as it is. This resting in what is present, resting in knowing what is present, resting in knowing the nature of what is present right here and know. This takes care of the whole thing :-)

Do nothing, rest in awareness.

How things are is Dharmakaya. How things are is emptiness. How things are is unfindable, ungraspable, groundless, nameless, unborn ... this doesn't change with practice. It is simply how experience is. How mind is. Now, when you are awakened, when you are unawakened. It is the ground.

There is no experience that isn't this way. Nothing in samsara or nirvana.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of the basic state.

Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,
This unimagined Dharmakaya,
Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training.
But to meditate while seeking is deluded mind.

The path of Mahamudra consists of letting it be. Of letting go. Of simply being aware of what is, right now. In its nature. And resting there.

No effort. No effort to being aware, no effort to doing anything with what we are aware of. No correcting. No fabricating. No seeking to get away from, to have any other experience. No trying to attain, or to develop, or change.

Seeking takes you away from what is, here, right now. Only with what is, right here, can the nature of mind, of experience be known.

We don't need to conjure up this emptiness, this Dharmakaya. We don't need to be still, to have no thoughts or emotions, or only perfect ones. We just allow what is present to be .. to rest in awareness, rest in knowing ... and know.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of realization.

Just as with space and a magical display,
While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!
This is a yogi's understanding.

Am I separate from this display, these appearances, this awareness, this experience, this mind?

I'm not looking literally *at* experience. As if there is an 'I' over here, and 'experience' over there. I simply rest in knowing. If a sense of 'me' arises, it arises as an experience. One more experience. Subjectivity arises as an experience. If a sense of something 'out there' arises, it arises as an experience. One more experience. Sometimes there's this flicker of 'I-ness' which seems to be there .... knowing cannot find it. Only when we project a world out there, only when we project a me in here, only with this imaginary life of things, of inner me, of division ... only then is there a seeming separation. But with awareness, with knowing of thoughts, feelings and sensations .. no sense of separation is ever found. There's no me, you, things, inner, outer .... it's just ... mind, experience, call it what you will.

Just a magical display which appears in emptiness ... empty yet seemingly appearing at one and the same time. No separation can be found between this seeming dream, nor the nothingness of the dream.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of indivisibility.

These three are meditation - the Mahamudra of meditation.

Clarifying the view and clarifying mediation, Naropa now clarifies conduct.

All good deeds and harmful actions
Dissolve by simply knowing this nature.
The emotions are the great wisdom.
Like a jungle fire, they are the yogi's helpers.

We don't need to change who we are, strive to be good, to be a better person, to be enlightened. Our nature is what it is, empty, unborn, regardless of whether clouds appear to obscure the sun or not. Action is what it is ... seeming appearances arising. Past action ... past deeds, karma ... dissolves like snow on hot stones in the knowing of knowing. In emptiness, in knowing emptiness, nothing disturbs us, however 'violent' the emotions, however 'difficult' the stuff that arises. It simply is what it is, it seems to arise, and in knowing, in resting in knowing, it seems to pass though and pass away. Yet what arose, what went? And where? Like a dream, these actions.

True enough, the stronger the emotion, the more energy is available for attention, *if* we can rest in it. Can we just rest in it, this raging sea? If we can, then awareness gains in energy, and knowing penetrates ever deeper. If we can't, we are blown off course, and start reacting to the emotion, to pushing and pulling.

Just know what is .... this mass of knotted emotion ... don't push it away, don't try to transform it, don't try to get past it, or through it, or even try to understand it. Just rest in the knowing .... and emotion will fuel the knowing like a raging fire.

If we have sufficient capacity to rest in awareness, then the more emotion, the greater the awareness, the greater the knowing .. it's all good :-)

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of self-liberation.

How can there be staying or going?
What meditation is there by fleeing to a hermitage?
Without understanding this, all possible means
Never bring more than temporary liberation.

You don't need to be in 'ideal conditions' to meditate or practice. You don't have to have a certain lifestyle. You don't have to be a monk or nun, single, on retreat, or any particular place in life to practice mahamudra.

You just need to be right were you are .... now .... right here .... and rest in the knowing of what is present. That's it. And ever time you realise you are not right there, then you open awareness out, and rest in it. And know mind, know experience right here, right now.

Otherwise you build dependency and attachment. Attachment to conditions, attachment to a way of life, attachment to being Buddhist.

Attachment brings suffering in its wake, not liberation.

You don't need to go anywhere to experience liberation. All dharmas self-liberate. Right here and now, just as it is, rest in knowing, in wakefulness, and know things as they are.

Bringing all of life to the path, all of life to practice ... wherever you are, whatever is there, resting in the knowing ...

Then you'll see that all experiences have the same taste .... the taste of emptiness, the taste of seeming appearances, the taste of inseparable appearance and emptiness. You don't have to go anywhere to know this. All experience is like this ... all possible experience is like this.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of equal taste.

When understanding this nature, what is there to bind you?
While being undistracted from its continuity,
There is neither a composed nor an uncomposed state
To be cultivated or corrected with a remedy.

When I rest in this knowing, it's as if all the dreams of suffering are a mirage .. how could they possibly arise, how could I ever get lost in all this, imagining it's all real, in here and out there?

Nothing binds in this knowing, life flows, with great ease, actions take place spontaneously, we simply know what to do, and do it, at any moment, in any circumstance.

There is just this flow of ease ... and we simply do what needs to be done.

This is the nature of the Mahamudra of indivisibility.

And these three were conduct - the Mahamudra of conduct.

Goodness me ... what a lot of words!

Just rest in the knowing of what is here already.

:-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflections on Niguma - Vajra Verses of Self-Liberating Mahamudra - Reflections

The wisdom dakini known as Nigupta, illustrious Narotapa's sister, was a self-manifest yogini, a powerful lord bodhisattva on awakening's tenth stage, who received direct instruction from Conqueror Vajra Bearer. She sang these vajra verses of self-liberating Great Seal:

Nature of mind,
Wish-fulfilling jewel, to you I bow.

Wishing to attain perfect enlightenment,
Visualize your body clearly as the deity
To purify ordinary thoughts.
Develop a noble intention to help others
And pure devotion to your spiritual master.

Don't dwell on your spiritual master or the deity.
Don't bring anything to mind,
Be it real or imagined.
Rest uncontrived in the innate state.

Your own mind, uncontrived, is the body of ultimate enlightenment.
To remain undistracted within this is meditation's essential point.
Realize the great, boundless, expansive state.

Myriad thoughts of anger and desire
Propel you within the seas of existence.
Take the sharp sword of the unborn state
And cut through them to their lack of intrinsic nature.
When you cut a tree's root,
Its branches won't grow.

On a bright ocean,
Bubbles emerge then dissolve back into the water.
Likewise, thoughts are nothing but the nature of reality:
Don't regard them as faults. Relax.

When you have no clinging to what appears, what arises,
It frees itself within its own ground.

Appearances, sound, and phenomena are your own mind.
There are no phenomena apart from mind.
Mind is free from birth, cessation,
And formulation.

Those who know mind's nature
Enjoy the five senses' pleasures
But do not stray from the nature of reality.
On an island of gold,
You search in vain for earth and stones.

In the equanimity of the great absolute expanse,
There is no acceptance or rejection,
No states of meditation or postmeditation.

When you actualize that state,
It is spontaneously present,
Fulfilling beings' hopes
Like a wish-fulfilling jewel.

Persons of highest, middle and common levels of capability
Should learn this in stages suitable to their understanding.


----------------------------------------

Nigumafrom Timeless Rapture - Inspired verses of the Shangpa Masters.
compiled by Jamgon Kongtrul.
Translated by Ngawang Zangpo.

Selections from an alternative translation are here.

After preliminary instructions, of maintaining vajra pride, bodhicitta and guru devotion, Niguma's beautiful verses teach how to realise ordinary mind through mahamudra, through the non-meditation, and the self-liberation of all experiences.

Don't dwell on your spiritual master or the deity.
Don't bring anything to mind,
Be it real or imagined.
Rest contrived in the innate state.

There's no need to alter your mind in any way, to bring anything in particular or special to mind. You can recognise how mind or experience is, how it truly is, and how it appears, at any time, with any particular thought or appearance present, or none at all.

Your own mind, uncontrived, is the body of ultimate enlightenment.
To remain undistracted within this is meditation's essential point.
Realize the great, boundless, expansive state.

Experience, just as it is, at any time, *is* the Dharmakaya. It is empty, it cannot be found. When I'm aware and rest in that awareness in how experience is, it's clear it isn't anything. It isn't anywhere. It isn't anything that a concept can tie up or encapsulate. Knowing mind's nature, mind is ungraspable and indescribable. This groundlessness *is* what the notion of Dharmakaya points to.

It's relatively easy to know this, to experience this. But to rest in that knowing - *that* is much, much harder to do. To remain undistracted in this resting, without falling off into conceptual thought, or losing that groundlessness that one is resting in .... like balancing on the tip of a needle, for one of limited capacity as myself. It's also easy to get lost in 'understanding' this, rather than knowing it .... but what is the relation between understanding concepts and direct experience?

Just as it's impossible to say where experience is, where mind is, just so is it impossible to say that it's limited in any way. Experience appears to be boundless, without circumference, without limits. Empty, open and full is experience.

Myriad thoughts of anger and desire
Propel you within the seas of existence.
Take the sharp sword of the unborn state
And cut through them to their lack of intrinsic nature.
When you cut a tree's root,
Its branches won't grow.

The disturbing emotions create the six realms of existence for us. As they arise, so too does the corresponding realm, and so too do we appear to inhabit that realm, that aspect of samsaric conditioned existence, without either knowing or freedom.

As such as anger or desire arises, it's easy to lose knowing, to lose our resting in the knowing of the groundless, empty nature of experience, and to get sucked up into 'believing' in the solidity, the facticity, the reality of the emotion that arises. As we lose that knowing, then we get lost in a world of seemingly solidity that pushes and pulls away at us, driving us on and on, and giving rise to a sense of 'me' as well as 'other' or 'things'. These arise simultaneously with the loss of resting in knowing emptiness. As Niguma says, we are propelled on ... a lovely choice of word which describes so well how we are as if a runaway train, without little ability to either steer or stop our course.

Yet as we come to knowing, as we realise our error, and being groundlessness back into view, that simple recollection cuts all the roots of this delusion, and the six realms dissolve from whence they came .. like dreams they melt away in an instance. In meditation or postmeditation, when you rest in minds nature, it's almost impossible to imagine how disturbing emotions could ever arise again, or how you could ever ride the runaway train of samsaric realms again. (and yet you do, time and time again!).

On a bright ocean,
Bubbles emerge then dissolve back into the water.
Likewise, thoughts are nothing but the nature of reality:
Don't regard them as faults. Relax.

How strongly I tried to get away from thoughts in my early days of meditation, and attempt to quieten the mind through subduing this enemy! Myriad ways of working with thoughts, each more subtle than the last, but each with the same end in mind - to get rid of thoughts from my mind, and instill clarity, peacefulness and stillness.

It's funny that, how pushing a cork down into the water results in? ... results in the cork shooting up out of the waters surface ... reacting to the effort, and triggering a new cycle of activity.

Regarding thoughts as in any way problematic, or to be removed is counterproductive. Thoughts are just what they are, seeming arisings in mind, seeming appearances in experience. When aware of thoughts, what is known? They are empty in nature - you can't find a thought, you can't hold it, you can't pin it down. It comes from where? .. we can't say ... they go to where? we can't say. And whilst seeming there ... are they there? ... we can't say. Ungraspable and unfathomable are thoughts.

So thoughts reveal the nature of experience, when knowing is directed there. Just like anything else, their nature is the same. Not different from a still mind, not different from an 'enlightened' mind, not different from any other experience at all. Thoughts are empty. Know them, and you will not find them. Bizarre but true - the more clearly you know, the less that's there to actually know!

Why on earth would you want to get rid of them, when they are precisely what you are looking for?

One of the most direct ways I can know the nature of mind is to cause a thought to arise, and 'see' whether the nature of experience changes before, during or after the thought is there. Or to see where it comes from, abides at, and goes to. Etc. Resting in the response to those allows me to know that mind/experience doesn't change in nature whether thought is present or not. Empty, and groundless.

Of course, our habitual patterns tend toward grasping onto ideas. Many of us find them particularly alluring, and we buy into them as if they were 'fact', rather than thought. Then we get lost. But as we practice the entrancing quality of thoughts lessens, and we can more easily know them as just what they are, just another seeming appearance in mind.

As we come to know the nature of thoughts, we can ask "what is going on at the story level" ... and rest in the gap or response that arises. Knowing thoughts in this way, we see them as no other than mind's nature, as empty arisings.

As we because less fearful of thoughts through no longer seeing them as the enemy of meditation, we can relax, and rest in what is, whatever is, and know if for what it is.

When you have no clinging to what appears, what arises,
It frees itself within its own ground.

Without clinging to what arises, without pushing or pulling at it (with desire or ill-will), without attempting to apply any antidote to it, just allowing it to be, and resting in the knowing, thoughts naturally self-liberate, they are empty in nature, and mind remains empty throughout.

Appearances, sound, and phenomena are your own mind.
There are no phenomena apart from mind.
Mind is free from birth, cessation,
And formulation.

When an appearance arises, such as a sound, we can ask "where is this thought"? The knowing that arises in the resting after this question reveals the same answer as when we ask "where is mind"? Nowhere and yet everywhere.

I can't find a difference when knowing mind and knowing thought. I can't find a difference when knowing 'awareness' and knowing 'what it is that awareness holds'. When I ask "what is this"? ..... and direct knowing towards awareness itself ..... that is, when I know 'mind' in Niguma's teaching .... and also when I ask "what is known by awareness?" when I direct awareness towards whatever seems to be known or held by awareness ... I can't find anything that would allow me to say 'these are different.

There's different flavours to directing one's attention to awareness or to what seems to arise in awareness .... they seem to appeal to me at different times, and keep practice fresh. But when I know either .... inseparable is the only way I can describe what is revealed.

When I rest in experience, it's clear that experience is what there is. No phenomena are known to mind beyond itself. There's nothing out there, and there's nothing in here. There's nothing other than the endless unfolding of experience, nothing other than mind itself. It's not saying that nothing exists outside of 'my' mind. It's simply that I know nothing of anything other than experience. How could I? Nothing I know is untouched by awareness. Nothing is known 'before' it touches experience or awareness or mind. There is nothing beyond experience that can be known. The great completeness. Innocence

When "where do appearances (of sight, sound, pressure, etc) arise from"? And where do they go to? Where are they when they are arisen? Do these 'things' actually happen at all? Mind's nature remains the same, and untouched by all of this seeming display. Not a jot more, or less, better or worse is the nature of experience, regardless of whatever seems to arise.

Those who know mind's nature
Enjoy the five senses' pleasures
But do not stray from the nature of reality.
On an island of gold,
You search in vain for earth and stones.

No longer either caught up in pushing/pulling, in Samsara's game ... nor indeed caught up in trying to change things, trying to apply antidotes, trying to get somewhere in meditation, trying to make things better, in hopes or fears .... no longer caught up in all this .... one can simply abide in what is ... know if for what it is ... and enjoy the magician's display ... the dance of luminosity ... and smile :-)

Why try to change mind, when it is 'perfect' as it is? Why look for rocks and stones of ideas of perfection, when knowing reveals the great completeness/perfection, right here and now, wherever that is?

In the equanimity of the great absolute expanse,
There is no acceptance or rejection,
No states of meditation or postmeditation.

You don't need to do anything at all ... just relax and rest in mind's nature. You don't need to change anything, to get anywhere ... all goals are empty .... just rest .. and what needs to be done is revealed each moment ... and actions take place, effortlessly, without doing, without a doer.

When you actualize that state,
It is spontaneously present,
Fulfilling beings' hopes
Like a wish-fulfilling jewel.

Should I ever remain resting in wakefulness, rather than slipping off the resting, then no doubt activities will flow forth, as the teachings say .... and Enlightened activity will pervade the ten directions!

Persons of highest, middle and common levels of capability
Should learn this in stages suitable to their understanding.

Dimwits such as I .... build capacity to do nothing ... rest, slip away, come back, rest again ... slip away. Knowing is timeless, awareness is timeless ... coming back to it ... you've never been aware .. stringing a thread of beads, of beads that are not discrete or other than infinity ....

such as it is ... is how it is ... awareness opens .... and resting in this allows knowing to deepen.

What does it reveal ... nothing other than what was there all along.

The taste of grapes, the sight of mountains ... the discordant sound of car engines ... just what they are ... complete, and none other than empty, lucid, and unhindered ...

"May Niguma's heart words illuminate the hearts of all beings ... and the unborn awareness bring great peace to all"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nobody is running this show

One thing that's been coming into view lately in meditation is how my common sense notions that 'I' am somehow taking the decisions and choices and thereby the active agent of my life is not actually backed up by experience.

My conventional notion is that, for example, when I decide to switch my focus in meditation, say, to being aware of my physical sensations, rather than what is going on at the 'story' level, that it's somehow 'me' that is taking that decision, and that it's the result of some sort of continuity of purpose, which is what allows me to have a general aim to the meditation, and that somehow that carries through whatever is coming and going in appearances.

Knowing reveals something quite different.

I cannot find any 'me' that resides throughout the mediation, and which is making those decisions. Any sense of 'me' that does arise is momentary, and not continuous. So it's just another arising of appearances, like any other, rather than a glimpse into something deep and hidden, and lurking 'behind' everything else.

Moreover, when I allow the process of 'choice' to come into awareness, the actual moments of choice themselves, what do I 'see'?

Well, I see nothing, can't find anything that corresponds to that at all. Choice takes place, quite clearly, yet no location for choice is revealed to awareness, neither location in time, nor in place. It seems to happen, yet it's as if it's a living dream .... it's not happening at all when I turn knowing directly 'towards' it.

"where is this choice" .... I might ask ... and rest in the response - the opening that follows this question, not any answer, any rush to conceptualise or answer or fill that gap or opening with understanding, but just resting in the opening there .... resting in that opening and then taking a choice, doing, acting, creating karma through exercising will .... nothing is there, nothing is revealed, nothing whatsoever is findable .. and yet ... the action occurs.

So where is the agent in all these empty arisings, this luminous emptiness?

When awareness knows, it's clear that there isn't really any agent, no agency. These seeming actions occur, these appearances of action take place, yet nobody is really bringing them about. Similarly, when I don't act, when I decide to act, then stop that and don't follow through on that .... there isn't really an agent which doesn't act. The not acting takes place without 'me'. Not only is there no 'me' there with the doing and deciding not to do, but there's no action or non-action either. Nothing transpires, and nothing is guiding this action.

Woh! .... to my common sense view of myself, my ability to guide my life, to make choices, to direct my life in a way that seems valuable and meaningful is one of my most treasured abilities.

But actually, I'm not running this show at all!

Stuff seems to take place, and choices seem to be made, which attempt to guide my life in useful directions.

Yet knowing reveals nobody there, as well as nothing happening.

There's nobody home.

There's nobody in charge.

The lights are indeed on, yet nobody is home!

Mahamudra has indeed taken 'me' to a strange land, where everything I used to 'know' is no longer true, and what I now actually know is ... well .... nothing! .... but nothing which is truly known, rather than a whole bunch of something which I believed in and thought that I actually knew.

How do I actually take a decision, or act? Where does this take place? What makes it happen, at that time, that place?

Hard to see is this 'acting' (to paraphrase Yoda) - actually, not hard, but impossible thus far.

Actions seem as though they well up, from where? no-where. For what reason? It's hard to say. Most assuredly, it doesn't emanate from any 'me' or locus which is somehow directing this show.

Actorless and actionless.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn Haiku

Sitting in meditation today,
After the Autumn rain;
The smell of wet leaves lingers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My breath don't live here no more

I've been reflecting more on my experience of Mahamudra Shamatha ... resting with the breath.

Continuing from where I got to in my last post ... the breath isn't anywhere ... and it's not a thing. There is no breath as such, nor is it in a particular place. So how do I rest on it, if there isn't a locatable 'it', as it were.

One of the things I've been noticing in particular, is that there is no 'place' or dimension in my meditation. When I visualise Machig Labdron on a lotus above my head, I have a sense of that .... but actually, there isn't any above at all in experience, in mind. Whilst it's true that to a certain extent I can sense things as being spacially in relation to each other .... there's no absolute or real sense of up or down to be found, or any other dimension. Dimension doesn't apply.

Similarly with the breath ... where is the breath? Is it a sensation in the abdomen. Is it a sensation in the nostril. Is it a sense of movement in the chest. In a way, it's all of these and none.

The breath isn't there in the sense of perceiving it directly. All I can do it perceive various sensations in the body. And they give a clue that the breath was 'passing by' at that point. It was 'there' ... it was 'here'. And then what do I do? .. I string all those disparate sensations together, and call that 'the breath'. I say conceptually, that these are all 'breath' ... and other sensations aren't. So this is the 'breath'.

Ok .. you say .. but actually ... most of the time, those sensations are not there. Most of the time, whatever that is, when I'm resting on the breath in shamatha, there's no appearance or sensation arising. Most of the time I'm between breaths, or sensations. There's space, you could say. Or emptiness. Well, most of the time, I'm kinda hanging around in that space, and waiting for the breath to show up. I'm hanging around, perhaps where I suspect my next sensation around the nostril will be .. for sensations, which indicate that the breath is there.

But how do I hang around in the area of the nostril? Where is this? Spacially? There's no place, or dimension in mind, in experience, only that which I impute. So I'm hanging around .. my awareness is open, and resting .. some'where' .. but where? Somehow I'm hanging in awareness .. and somehow, I'm resting somewhere ... where I think that the breath will reappear, rather than somewhere else ...

and yet I'm not, because I'm just resting .....

and wherever the breath appears, that's where my awareness is, and rests.

However, then it's not resting on a particular sensation, or set of sensations, like 'nostril' ... but wherever the breath shows up ....

I suspect that's why I've got less shamatha and more vipassana in this nowadays, as I can't really switch off the knowing aspect, which knows things as they appear, and knows things as they really are ... or at least, knows these two to some degree.

Can't really just switch that off .... and somehow just rest on a particular object .... and become absorbed in that object .... as nothing is so solid anymore ....

Seems like the 'knowing' aspect is there, and doesn't wanna be turned off!

hmm ... random thoughts on where my breath went

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where did my breath go?

I've noticed a change in my meditation lately. After quite a period of formless mahamudra meditation, I've recently been practicing Shamatha with the breath as the focus.

But, funny thing, I can't really find the breath to focus on.

It's pretty much there when I start ... a sense of it popping up here and there, as my awareness begins to stabilise. I see it here, I see it there! .... and gradually the breath and awareness settle around each other, as it were.

Yet as my mind settles, the breath gradually goes out of view. As my mind settles, then I know more clearly, and the breath ceases to be a 'thing' which I can focus on. Instead of this 'thing' called the breath, which one might assume to be pretty continuous, and solid, a process with continuity, as it were ... there's .... well, what is there?

There are sensations, physical sensations, as the breath touches parts of the body - the lungs, the nose, etc, and leaves a sensation there. I pick these up. At other times there's a sense of energy, not clearly physical, which I am somehow 'associating' with the breath, though of that I can't be sure. It's just that they arise where the breath 'ought' to be, if you see what I mean?

At other times, what is there? There's a constellation of something, not sure what you'd call it .... maybe a vague cloud of vibrations, pulses, shimmerings, which again I'd collate all that together, and assume it to be breath.

Actually, there's no 'thing' there which is the 'breath'. There's shimmerings and appearances, and I have to somehow string that together, bunch it up and package it, and call that 'breath'. But that is not what I am aware of. I'm aware of a bunch of ever changing and ever varied stuff, which doesn't happen in a particular place, such as the nostrils, or the abdomen. It happens 'somewhere' ... well, nowhere really, it just happens, as a location? Nope. No location.

It's not at a particular place. It's not a particular 'thing', with continuity. It's actually a dance of appearances, which I have to almost cobble together and call it my breath.

So what's the issue with shamatha then?

Well, it's actually hard to settle the mind on this after a certain point, as there isn't really an 'object' to settle around at all. There's no one 'thing' which to keep the awareness resting on .... so this isn't a central point which to grasp onto, or focus down on, or keep hold off like I did in years gone by.

There's just this shimmering, and I can't really find it!

So what to do then? I'm kinda used to formless meditation at present, where there is no object of meditation, where I just rest in awareness, where there is resting, and bringing out of the knowing aspect, of clarity. But what that resting, knowing mind rests/knows is whatever appears, and whatever 'actually is' at that moment, which varies continuously.

Now, I'm trying to find an 'object' to rest the mind on, and I'm kinda struggling to find it.

So ... interesting to see how this plays out. How will this develop .... at present I've no idea, which is cool :-)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reflections on Li Po - The birds have vanished into the sky

The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

from Endless River: Li Po and Tu Fu: A Friendship in Poetry,
Translated by Sam Hami.

This is so evocative. A truly beautiful image, of Li Po sitting *with* the mountain, together, and in stillness, until only awareness of mountain remains.

It's interesting the sense of time here, as Li Po sits for some time, as the birds fly away, the clouds drain away. Quite some time must pass, and eventually, Li Po's sense of self fades away ....

All the transient appearances are symbolised here (birds and clouds which pass across the sky) as gradually dissolving, until how things actually are (symbolised by the mountain) is seen as it is.

Perhaps more than this metaphor for how things are, what strikes me is the sheer beauty of Li Po's evocation of the process and path, of seeing things as they are ... yet utterly opening to what appears to mind .... relative and ultimate, luminous emptiness ....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Money can't buy you everything

PorcheI was driving into work today, and suddenly run into a traffic jam. We inched forward, and eventually I could see cars signalling to pull across into the right hand land. Clearly there's a car ahead, probably an accident, I thought. When I got alongside it was a Porche, with the driver down on his hands and knees, wheel off, and looking under his car. The car was parked half across the lane, with cars trying to get around him and his stricken vehicle.

Through my mind passed the thought - "doesn't matter how much money you have, you can't buy 'luck' .... you can't ensure that everything will go smoothly in life, no suffering, nothing guaranteed to break down, etc, etc". All fair enough, you might think.

And yet, in the back of my mind, as it were, I felt a quiet sense of satisfaction, that someone with tons of money had been 'brought down' by life, and that somehow I felt better as a result of his suffering.

Not the most noble of thoughts, I'm sure you'll agree. Interesting finding that little gem lurking in the shadows, hidden pretty much from view by my more 'Dharmic' reflection on how none of the things people go after in life as 'refuges' would keep you away from impermanence or uncertainty.

Interesting ... and one which made me smile, in a way.

Why on earth would one get a sense of satisfaction out of another's sufferings?

What a strange thing. Hmm .... one to watch as it arises next time, to perhaps see a little more clearly how such a thing works ...?????

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reflections on Rumi - Silence

This silence, this moment, every moment, if it's genuinely inside you, brings what you need. There's nothing to believe. Only when I stopped believing in myself did I come into this beauty. Sit quietly, and listen for a voice that will say, 'Be more silent.' Die and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign that you've died. Your old life was a frantic running from silence. Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in silence.

RumiRumi

So Beautiful. Death and Silence.

Nothing whatsoever to add :-)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reflections on Milarepa - The Song of Distinguishing the Four Yogas

I bow down at the feet of the supreme lama!

It’s the mind fixated on objects that causes samsara.
If you recognize as spontaneous
The luminous self-awareness, free of fixation,
You’ll taste the fruit of the first yoga, one-pointedness.

Some talk and talk about union, yet their meditation is all conceptual,
They talk and talk about cause and effect, yet their actions are flawed,
Such petty, deluded meditations
Have no place in the yoga of one-pointedness.

Luminous mind itself, free of fixation,
Is naturally blissful, without constructs.
If you recognize your very essence to be as clear as space,
You’ll taste the fruit of the second yoga, simplicity.

Some talk and talk about “no elaboration,” but they elaborate plenty,
They talk and talk about the “inexpressible,” but they’ve got plenty of terminology.
Such self-obsessed meditations
Have no place in the yoga of simplicity.

In the dharma body, appearance and emptiness are not two,
Samsara and nirvana are experienced as one.
If you know the Buddha and sentient beings to have the same identity,
As many have said: that’s definitely the third yoga, one-taste.

Some talk and talk about “oneness,” but they still want to make a point.
Such hazy confusion
Has no place in the yoga of one-taste.

Conceptual thoughts are in nature great awareness;
Cause and effect are non-dual, spontaneous.
They’re the three bodies,
And knowing this is the fruit of the fourth yoga, non-meditation.

Some talk and talk about non-meditation, but how active their mind is!
They talk and talk about “clear light,” but how thick their meditation is!
Such platitudes
Have no place in the yoga of non-meditation.

“Oh, what wonderful advice!” exclaimed the yogi from Gutang.

MilarepaTranslated by Nicole Riggs.
from 'Milarepa: Songs on the Spot.'

"It’s the mind fixated on objects that causes samsara.
If you recognize as spontaneous
The luminous self-awareness, free of fixation,
You’ll taste the fruit of the first yoga, one-pointedness."
- It's so easy to mistake experience for fact. The difference is in some ways vast between 'seeing' the world as solid stuff 'out there' and us as solid and 'in here'. Or just recognising appearances as shimmering mirages, dream-like appearances, that dance and play, yet have no enduring existence of them own which is worth grasping onto and giving over our life to their control.

It's interesting how in days gone past I'd view Shamatha as primarily about honing down on an object - concentration, which somehow equated to a narrowing of focus. Now, I guess I see it more as a matter of opening out awareness, allowing some 'thing' to come into view, and allowing 'view' to open - whatever awareness illuminates - well, that is empty yet apparent .... so instead of narrowing down onto a semi-solid object, I'm now mixing awareness with appearances, and emptiness, which doesn't have the same sense of focussing down.

So you could say that my Shamatha has the flavour of Vipassana. Mixed. As the Dorje Chang Thung prayer stanza on Shamatha says:

As is taught, unwavering attention is the body of meditation;
whatever arises is the fresh nature of thought.
To the meditator who rests there in naturalness,
grant your blessing that meditation be free from intellectualization.

What's interesting there is that the meditator is urged to rest in 'naturalness', and what arises to minds eye, as it were, is 'the fresh nature of thought'. Well, that isn't a seemingly solid object being fixated upon, but more the seeing at one and the same time of things as they truly are, and as they appear - this as the basis of Shamatha.

This is the basis of the First Yoga, the Yoga of One-Pointedness.

"Luminous mind itself, free of fixation,
Is naturally blissful, without constructs.
If you recognize your very essence to be as clear as space,
You’ll taste the fruit of the second yoga, simplicity."
- I remember long ago on a retreat at Amaravati, the Theravadan monastery in the UK, being taught that we are really caught up in the content of our experience and little interested in the form of experience, and that this
change of inclination is what facilitates the arising of insight and thereby liberation.

Similarly from a Mahamudra approach, creating an interest in the nature of experience and not just attaching to what arises in experience is a profoundly useful change of orientation. Seeing that all appearances are empty, all thoughts are empty, and that that which seems to experience thoughts and appearances is also empty - this changes the way we experience, and lessens our grasping onto experience. As such, mind itself reveals itself as blissful in and of itself, and thereby again lessens are need to chase after pleasurable experiences. Though appearances seem to arise, they are no longer experienced as solid and objectively given, but reveal themselves to be dreamlike in essence - open, illusive and utterly groundless. As such, life becomes inherently simple, with no need to play the games of push and pull at experience, picking and choosing, endless conceptualising, and difficult to know what to do. The doer does what needs to be done, not-doing, just allowing action to arise from the resting, luminous mind.

This is the basis of the second Yoga, the Yoga of Simplicity.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reflections on Maitripa - Essential Mahamudra Verses

To innermost bliss, I pay homage!

Were I to explain Mahamudra, I would say—
All phenomena? Your own mind!
If you look outside for meaning, you'll get confused.
Phenomena are like a dream, empty of true nature,
And mind is merely the flux of awareness,
No self nature: just energy flow.
No true nature: just like the sky.
All phenomena are alike, sky-like.

That's Mahamudra, as we call it.
It doesn't have an identity to show;
For that reason, the nature of mind
Is itself the very state of Mahamudra
(Which is not made up, and does not change).
If you realize this basic reality
You recognize all that comes up, all that goes on,
as Mahamudra,
The all-pervading dharma-body.

Rest in the true nature, free of fabrication.
Meditate without searching for dharma-body—
It is devoid of thought.
If your mind searches, your meditation will be confused.

Because it's like space, or like a magical show,
There is neither meditation or non-meditation,
How could you be separate or inseparable?
That's how a yogi sees it!

Then, aware of all good and bad stuff as the basic reality,
You become liberated.
Neurotic emotions are great awareness,
They're to a yogi as trees are to a fire—FUEL!

What are notions of going or staying?
Or, for that matter, "meditating" in solitude?
If you don't get this,
You free yourself only on the surface.

But if you do get it, what can ever fetter you?
Abide in an undistracted state.
Trying to adjust body and mind won't produce meditation.
Trying to apply techniques won't produce meditation either.

See, nothing is ultimately established.
Know what appears to have no intrinsic nature.
Appearances perceived: reality's realm, self-liberated.
Thought that perceives: spacious awareness, self-liberated.
Non-duality, sameness [of perceiver and perceived]: the dharma-body.

Like a wide stream flowing non-stop,
Whatever the phase, it has meaning
And is forever the awakened state—
Great bliss without samsaric reference.

All phenomena are empty of intrinsic nature
And the mind that clings to emptiness dissolves in its own ground.
Freedom from conceptual activity
Is the path of all the Buddhas.

I've put together these lines
That they may last for aeons to come.
By this virtue, may all beings without exception
Abide in the great state of Mahamudra.

Maitripa
Colophon
--------

This was Maitripa's Essential Mahamudra Instruction (in Tibetan: Phyag rgya chen po tshig bsdus pa), received from Maitripa himself and translated by the Tibetan translator Marpa Chökyi Lodrö.

© Nicole Riggs 1999.
-------------------

I've long had this very soft spot for Maitripa. Seems like somehow how teachings resonate through me more readily than Naropa's, which more often feature in the lineage figures of the Karma Kagyu. Though several streams are acknowledged, the one that passes through Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa etc seems the one usually featured stage front. Yet Saraha and Maitripa are in the mix too ... and in some ways for me are especially potent as they have the emphasis on ease, on self-liberation, on essence, and on letting go which I see most readily in Tilopa amongst the more common lineage.

Maybe it's because my path has often been one marked by struggle that this ease appeals so deeply to me? Not that I'm just wishful thinking, and 'choosing' it somehow as it's how I would like things to be, in distinction to how I experience things to be.

No, it's more of the nature of recognising that there is this other route, one marked more by ease and letting go rather than conflict and heroic effort, and that this other route is opening out for me at this time in particular, as something seems ripe and ready.

"the mind that clings to emptiness dissolves in its own ground" is especially potent - the utter groundlessness of experience, nothing to cling onto, nothing to hold onto, nothing to stand on ... not even emptiness ... which is empty in and of itself. It's not as if we see through appearances, and then find something deeper, something behind them, something somehow more 'real' than them. Emptiness isn't a thing in itself, something we can attach to ... it's the utter groundlessness of all experience, which isn't exempt from groundlessness itself! .. you will not find this groundlessness anywhere, so don't try to cling to it. The abyss of emptiness, this was called once.

"I've put together these lines
That they may last for aeons to come."
- is there any possible way to convey how blessed I am, and any other being with interest in this, to have these precious teachings in the palms of my hands? There are no words adequate to express my gratitude.

How extraordinary that these teachings have not only survived the ages and reached 21st century 'me' ... but that they seem to retain the extraordinary potency which survives untouched .. as experience never differs, but mere appearances in their mirage-like display.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Reflections on Milarepa - Song of Six Essential Points

Mental projections way outnumber the dust motes you see in the sunlight;
A great yogi knows what appears for what it is.

At bottom, the nature of things isn’t a product of causes, nor of conditions
A great yogi cuts to the core of the issue.

Even a hundred men with spears couldn’t stop the thought-bubbles of consciousness;
A great yogi knows not to get hung up on them.

You can’t lock up the flow of mind in an iron box;
A great yogi knows mind to be intrinsically empty.

Wisdom gods and goddesses don’t say no to sensory pleasures;
A great yogi knows this full well.

The Buddha’s own hands couldn’t block the appearance of objects to the consciousness;
A great yogi knows there is no object behind the appearance.

MilarepaTranslated by Nicole Riggs.
from 'Milarepa: Songs on the Spot.'

"Mental projections way outnumber the dust motes you see in the sunlight;
A great yogi knows what appears for what it is."
How often do I not know appearances for what they are? How much easier it is to know them as mere appearances, the magical display of mind whilst meditating? How much harder to know this whilst in between meditations (post meditation)? Clearly I only have experience, not realisation, otherwise what is so very clear in meditation would persist more outside of it. There's certainly spaciousness there rather than solidity, but when anger arises on occasion, it all goes very solid in comparison.

Interestingly, I noted the other day that I couldn't remember how old I was. It took me nearly 5 minutes to work it out. It struck me that part of that is a very real loosening of conventions. I just don't seem to have quite such a strong hidden assumption around time and space as in yesteryear. Hmm .. that seems hard for others to understand, sometimes.

Funny thing about appearances - they are numberless, as Milarepa says. And conventionally we tend to want to understand them all, and follow them up, and arrange them just so. And yet, knowing the nature of one means you know the nature of them all, and fascination, no, entrancement by them all drops away ... little by little.

"At bottom, the nature of things isn’t a product of causes, nor of conditions
A great yogi cuts to the core of the issue."
I smile now at how I used to think my way round how causality relates to emptiness, how the unconditioned relates to the conditioned, how the so called mundane relates to the transcendental. How wonderful now to have some basis in experience to know these things. Not realisation, but some experience, so that thought no longer proliferates around these notions, and I can glimpse unfabricated experience as it appears, and how it truly is.

"Even a hundred men with spears couldn’t stop the thought-bubbles of consciousness;
A great yogi knows not to get hung up on them."
I used to try to push thoughts and emotions away. After that, I used to apply antidotes to them. Then I tried to transform them. Now, they just self-liberate, and I have to do .... nothing! How wonderful to let go. How wonderful the simplicity. How wonderful to let go, just a little, of trying to get somewhere, and to be, just a little right where I am, right here and now!

"You can’t lock up the flow of mind in an iron box;
A great yogi knows mind to be intrinsically empty."
Unobstructed are thoughts and appearances, which appear as they wish, and disappear again as they choose. Empty is the mind through which they appear to appear, yet nowhere can this mind be found, and nowhere can these appearances be found. You can't stop thoughts coming. In fact, letting go of trying allows them to subside all of themselves. The mind settles when no effort is made to calm it down. Just rest the mind in its own nature, and flow and stillness, just what they are ... are just what they are ...

"Wisdom gods and goddesses don’t say no to sensory pleasures;
A great yogi knows this full well."
Heheheheh .... I had to laugh at this. Why say 'no' to what self-liberates? Why push and pull at experience, when it's all same-taste? Well, because we are habituated to do so ... thinking it will bring us happiness. We think that happiness comes from sensory experience, from lining up an unending string of pleasurable experiences. Yet happiness comes from being at ease with however things are ... without the push and pull, allowing wisdom and compassion to flow forth!

"The Buddha’s own hands couldn’t block the appearance of objects to the consciousness;
A great yogi knows there is no object behind the appearance."
Block the appearances of objects to consciousness - you can't block them. But you can see appearances as what they are ... and know that there is no object behind or within them ... so empty illusions, magical projections, playing, flickering, touching us with their fragrance, yet nothing more than what they are .... so why get caught up with them ... why try to stop them ... why try to force them to not have what they didn't have in the first place?

Beautiful teaching ...

"may I come to know that which I only understand ... and may all beings be free from afflictions and struggle"

Working with Anxiety

I thought I'd once again share a comment I made on another blog I've enjoyed greatly of late - Sacred West. We'd had a brief dialogue about a post on Stong Back, Soft Front, after which Sacred West was relating an experience from that morning:

Sacred West : "I awoke and thought of a stressful event to deal with this day, and I became anxious, I felt the pain of anxiety come into my gut and my stomach.

Then, thinking in terms of front and back I thought: pain just doesn’t belong here. And still in bed I moved this energy back into my spine and away from my organs, and it became strength, my resolve to stand up to the events of this day.

So, I don’t know, but the metaphor has its uses :)

What do you think about that?"


Chodpa : "Thanks for sharing that ...

what do I think? ... :-) ... I think that it’s great that this metaphor works for you, and affords you the means to work with conflicting emotions like anxiety, and find a means to transform that emotion into strength :-)

We all use different methods, right, whatever works and is appropriate at that time for where we are at?

For myself, when something like anxiety arises, then I simply allow it fully into awareness, as much as I’m able. Not pushing it away, not seeking to transform it, not in any way trying to grasp or reject it, but allowing awareness and what arises to mix fully.

When I’m fully and deeply aware of this arisen emotion, I tend to see it for what it is ... simply appearance, mirage-like appearance, devoid of any solidity, location or attributes in any way. It’s there, yet it’s not there. A dance of illusion.

Seeing thus, what seems to have arisen simply self-liberates ... it’s runs its course and melts away, without struggle, without conflict, without grasping or rejecting ... just what is, without the hooks into the psyche.

With that ... ease is neither won nor lost ... different flavours play and flicker, but what actually changes?

Well, that’s the way I go ... (or sometimes, try to go ;-)

One thing I’ve found very useful, is when an emotion arises, to see what is going on physically, emotionally, and at the level of storyline (or thought). Not analysing any of them, just allowing it fully into awareness, and watching if you like at all three levels. Doing thus takes all the ‘bite’ out of the emotion, allows us to see the way we habitually react to that which we don’t want to experience, and allows those patterns to dissolve in the sun of awareness, weakened, and less able to hold us in their habitual grip.

many thanks for your sharing ... and very best wishes to you!"

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mahamudra Inspiration

One of the things that I really appreciate about Mahamudra is that there are instructions that seem to just 'hit the mark' for me. Sometimes I feel I need detailed instructions, and there are many of those.

There are primary texts such as those by Tilopa (The Six Words of Advice, The Ganges Mahamudra), Naropa (The View Concisely Put, A Summary of Mahamudra), Maitripa (Essential Mahamudra Verses), Milarepa, Saraha (A Song for the King), HH3 Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra), HH9 Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance), or Dagpo Tashi Namgyal (Clarifying the Natural State, Moonbeams of Mahamudra), for example.

Then there are commentaries or instructions, such as those by Thrangu Rinpoche, Daniel Brown or Peter Barth at one end of the scale, as it were - the traditional end, to those by Ken McLeod which attempt to teach without recourse to 'mythic' language.

Thrangu Rinpoche's commentaries point the way like none other for me, being quite direct and very systematic. Ken McLeod's teachings have been a revelation this year, once again opening out the path with clarity and great skillfulness.

Sometimes though, the simple pith instructions are what I need, such as the famous lines by Tilopa:
Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don't try to figure anything out.
Don't try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

Today, it was Dagpo Tashi Namgyal, whose texts leave me in awe, yet are entirely practical and directly realisable.

Elevate your experience and remain wide open like the sky.
Expand your mindfulness and remain pervasive like the earth.
Steady your attention and remain unshakable like a mountain.
Brighten your awareness and remain shining like a flame.
Clear your throughtfree wakefulness and remain lucid like a crystal.

Clarifying the Natural StateThe quote above comes from 'Clarifying the Natural State', and gives wonderful, poetic images with which to relax the mind into its natural state, and let go.

Without rigorous argument or great detail, these lines present images for the heart, which seduce it into letting go into simplicity. And yet, within those evocative lines are also contained precise instructions for Mahamudra meditation, just clothed in poetic colours, rather than colder, harder prose.




"May my mind always incline to realising Mahamudra.

May my mind learn to truly let go.

May my heart open to all beings' sufferings,

And may I find the path that leads all beings to liberation."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Starting from Experience and Starting from Thought

I've recently discovered a blog called if you see the dhamma ... written by Joseiem, which I've really enjoyed reading, and commenting on. I thought I'd just lift a set of replies I posted to Joseiem's comments. I've used the title of this post to highlight what I'm trying to point at, not to characterise Joseiem's replies:


Hi again Josesiem :-)

A some observations ...

Josesiem : Even within Buddhism, as I’ve written before, there are massive conflicts and differences.

Chodpa : It is true at the level of conceptual formulations of the teachings, and methodology that there are massive differences within various Dharma traditions, but is there a difference in terms of fundamentals, realisations. or the result of following these varying paths? I see none personally. I can only suggest trying to be clear about what is view, what is method, and what is result, and then seeing if there is conflict.

Josesiem : all paths lead to the same peak and all fingers point to the same moon.”

Chodpa : how could we know this, unless we’ve travelled each and every one of those paths? To assert or deny otherwise would be a matter of belief - starting with an a priori idea, and then fitting experience into that.

Josesiem : the problem with the anti-representationalist, anti-realist, and nondualist schools of thought is that they are just another school of thought.”

Chodpa : if by this you mean the actual practice of Dharma, then I’d say ‘no, this isn’t the case’. They aren’t *just* another school of thought. What they provide are view and method. View is the attempt to conceptualise what is found as a result of following their methods to the end. As such, it’s not a belief set, but an attempt to provide a rough pointer to experience. The rest is method, the vital tools with which to walk the path. Those methods and view provided are only skillful means … don’t mistake them for conceptual elaborations, or philosophical positions!!!!

Josesiem : we can pretend that “ontology is not important” but there is an implied ontology in these theories.”

Chodpa : so????? There is a lot that might be elaborated from both view and method, but what of it? The Buddha was very clear that he taught the means to go beyond suffering and struggle. It’s fine to go elsewhere, indeed, anywhere we want from the central point of the Dharma, but perhaps it is of use to bear in mind what that central point is, and not lose sight of it.

Josesiem : “Emptiness is itself empty.” Which leaves what? Nothing. No, not even nothing. Nothing is still a something. It’s a perceived lack of something. This is where you find yourself beyond language in some kind of space vacuum. And I’d argue this not-nothing, not-something, non-thingy thingy is still a something. Perhaps I’m just dense, but you have to posit a something. You can’t escape ontology no matter how hard you try.”

Chodpa : Is this what the teachings on Shunyata are ‘about’? My experience says that when I meditate according to the teachings, then I find that the view of Shunyata is about as close as you can get conceptually to describing the nature of experience. That experience most certainly isn’t accurately described as ‘nothing’. No-thing might be closer ;-) You can posit all you like, but that has little to do with meditating and following the path, doesn’t it? It might be ‘interesting’ and it might satisfy curiosity, but does it actually liberate? Emptiness (as it’s sometimes translated) is a description *after* the event, as it were. It’s an attempt to provide a means to describe something that is to be experienced, here and now! It’s not a belief from which one then thinks, or analyses, or elaborates. It is in itself a description of unelaborated mind or experience!!! Again, you can elaborate from there back into dualistic thought, a ’something’ or a ‘nothing’ … but hey …

Josesiem : So, the unavoidable and inevitable question for everyone is: where will you place your faith?”

Chodpa : I’m right behind this one. In distinction to ‘belief’ .. if you will … where we start with an idea, and then proceed to map all our experience to fit that …. Buddha taught the means of using faith to open out into experience, and thereby to see experience for what it is, and so on. With faith, we gain the openness to what is, without immediately attempting to manipulate it. Without that, one cannot see it for how it is, and thereby the doors to transformation are closed. One starts with confidence in the teachings as a result of whatever experience you’ve had, and that then develops through the three levels of faith that the Buddha describes until the final flowering of faith is wisdom itself. From the deepest perspective, what the Buddhist has faith in is the three jewels - we can see directly in our experience how mind is open, expansive and ungraspable. This is the Buddha. We can see how mind is clear and lucid nevertheless (even though this clarity cannot be found) - this is Dharma. And we can experience mind as entirely unobstructed - this is Sangha. The three jewels are directly available to experience, to open-heartedness (faith) and as such are not a matter of belief. All else is subject to change and decay, whether belief, or what appears to the mind. Only these three ‘aspects of mind’ - the three jewels provide ’something’ that we can truly have faith in, as they are true refuges - they are always present, and always reliable.

once again, many thanks for your stimulating thoughts :-)

(more ramblings which hope to be of some use somewhere)

Chodpa

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reflections on The Melody of Wisdom : A Supplication to the Wisdom Dakini Niguma

Vajra queen, mother of all buddhas,
Dark-brown woman wearing bone ornaments who flies through space,
You bestow supreme accomplishment on your fortunate disciples:
Noble Niguma, to you I pray.

You were born in the wonderful land of Kashmir,
In a sublime city
Known as Incomparable in the Land of Jambu,
Emanated through Madhyantika's blessing; to you I pray.

In the family circle
Of the pure Brahmin, Shantivarma,
Narotapa and you, the wisdom dakini, were brother and sister
Your karma ripened together like sun and moon; to you I pray.

You are the feminine form of true emptiness,
Sublime among all appearances, giving birth to all victorious buddhas.
Although you manifest in a worldly form,
You renounced any connection to existence through craving and grasping;
to you I pray.

During incalculable past lives, you reached the far shore
Of awakening's stages and paths.
Thus, in this life, you gained the inconceivable, perfect freedom of
self-manifest accomplishment.
Innate dakini, to you I pray.

You did not have to rely on exhausting training
When some advice from accomplished masters entered your ears,
You understood all teachings.
Great bliss of natural liberation, to you I pray.

Knowledge of one subject - the tantras' subtle, profound meaning led to your total liberation
And the flowering of your two forms of knowledge.
You saw directly and without obscuration the truth of the nature of reality.
Illustrious woman of accomplishment, to you I pray.

You bound your mind, eyes, and circulating energy within the expanse of
emptiness,
Permitting you to see in the central channel the [empty] forms created
by the spring vital essence.
Vajra illusory reflections, such as smoke, developed together.
You completed the branch of familiarization; to you I pray.

You used your breath to block the dark circulating energies and made
them descend to your belly.
You joined the vitality and descending energies equally at the six
energy centers,
Blocking the movement of the six elements' sun and moon.
You completed the branch of proximate accomplishment; to you I pray.

You transcended the three seals to reach incomparable Great Seal (Mahamudra).
The innate light of its unchanging, coemergent bliss
Created your ten-faceted illusory body, replete with all powers.
You completed the branch of accomplishment - to you I pray.

You blocked the twenty-one thousand six hundred circulating energies and
attained that many forms of changeless bliss.
At the crown of your head, the mind of awakening became stable,
And you traversed awakening's stages in an instant.
You completed the branch of great accomplishment; to you I pray.

Through engaging in conduct that is enlightenment's direct cause,
You enjoyed many pleasures and were nurtured spiritually by Buddha Vajra
Bearer.
Your fortune equaled his - your body of training's integral union
Works for beings whose numbers equal space; to you I pray.

You saw directly all phenomena without obscuration
And opened inconceivable millions of gates to meditative states.
You master the secret treasury of all victorious ones.
Consort of all buddhas, to you I pray.

Body of great bliss, emptiness and compassion inseparable,
Manifestation of blissful buddhas, sovereign of common and supreme
accomplishment,
Powerful bodhisattva on awakening's tenth stage, glorious guide for beings,
Wearer of Bone Ornaments, to you I pray.

Sentient beings, our venerable mothers, wander along the wheel of life
In endless and fathomless seas of suffering.
With your universal great compassion,
Lead them to a pure land of flourishing, uncontaminated bliss, I pray.

Nurture fortunate persons who have entered the path;
Pacify all adversity, hindrances, and obstacles;
Continually enhance our experience and realization;
And bless us with the completion of awakening's five paths and ten stages.

(A Garland of Udumvara Flowers, pp. 3a-4a, by Jamgon Kongtrul)

Excerpted from /Timeless Rapture/, by Ngawang Zangpo.

Niguma
A second prayer of supplication to a Shangpa Kagyu lineage holder (prayer of supplication to Sukhasiddhi, this prayer to Niguma once again stirs a deep resonance in my heart. Though couched in deeply mythic language, unlocking the symbolism points directly into minds nature, and illuminates what is, simply is.

The lines:
"You are the feminine form of true emptiness,
Sublime among all appearances, giving birth to all victorious buddhas."
speaks a lot to meditation experience. So much seems encapsulated there. So much summarised so pithily (is that a word? .. it is now!). So much that can't really be said, just pointed to, by allusion, fingers pointing to the moon.

Once again:
"You did not have to rely on exhausting trainingó
When some advice from accomplished masters entered your ears,
You understood all teachings.
Great bliss of natural liberation, to you I pray."
How wonderful to read these lines, the ease of natural liberation, how different from the hard won struggle so often portrayed. Not that I want it easy, not that I want to project a notion that it *should* be easy ... just enjoying hearing of ease-won liberation, alongside the natural ease of the Mahamudra path of resting mind. How blessed I am to have found this path of no-struggle. How simple the path of self-liberating dharmas. One sees how unnecessary this creation of suffering or struggle is. How wonderful to find the path itself which is without struggle. Seeing the 'problem' of struggle, finding a path beyond that which itself doesn't involve 'struggle'. No longer at war with myself, trying to be something other that what I appeared to be. No longer trying to be somewhere else, not at peace with things. How deeply I pray that all beings find this ease, and allow the illusory chains of suffering to disappear like dew drops in the sun of awareness.

An extraordinary peon to accomplishments ... beyond my imagination, yet so very near.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reflections on The Melody of Great Bliss : A Supplication to the Wisdom Dakini Sukhasiddhi

Bestower of uncontaminated, coemergent bliss;
Radiant with the full splendor of sixteen-year-old youth;
Leader of every assembly of dakinis in the three locations
Venerable Accomplishment of Bliss [Sukhasiddhi], to you I pray.

You manifested in a pauper's home in Kashmir
And trained in realization on the path.
Having completed the force of faith and great compassion,
You diligently gave gifts without attachment; to you I pray.

Millions of eons ago, you perfected the cultivation of merit and wisdom
And the result of your training manifested.
The awakening of your karmic connections
Made you renounce home life; to you I pray.

In the land of Oddiyana, source of great mysteries,
Men were spiritual warriors; women, female warriors.
Just by your reaching the center of that gathering,
The power of your enlightened potential awakened; to you I pray.

You demonstrated the skillful means of illusory conduct as a vendor of delicious alcohol.
You gave twice-strained rice alcohol to a female adept.
This created a connection through faith
With a tantric practitioner in the forest; to you I pray.

Noble Virupa accepted you as his disciple
And gave you the full four empowerments into secret practice.
Instantly, your ripened karmic body of sixty-one years
Became that of a sixteen-year-old maiden; to you I pray.

Taking the inner path, you truly traversed in a single moment
The major vajra stages of awakening,
And you appeared in an uncontaminated, vajra rainbow body.
Powerful one of the celestial realms, to you I pray.

You became the manifest form of coemergent wisdom, Buddha Selfless One,
To remain until the end of cyclic existence.
You watch over the three realms' beings during the six periods of day and night.
Honored female buddha, to you I pray.

You manifestly bless those who pray to you
And lovingly watch over your children who preserve your lineage, never parting from them.
You bestow common and supreme accomplishment in a matter of months or years.
Powerful one of great compassion, to you I pray.

Vajra Yogini, perfection of transcendent knowledge,
You appear to help beings in a body that has form.
The exquisite flower of your body, which one never tires of seeing,
Blooms with the marks and signs of physical perfection; to you I pray.

In the Teaching's infinite gates, which have the nature of emptiness,
You speak according to beings' dispositions.
Your speech, invincible sweet sound in every situation,
Flows imbued with the sixty tones of Brahma's voice; to you I pray.

Inseparable bliss and emptiness, the true vajra of space,
Pervades all animate and inanimate life.
Your sublime enlightened mind of luminous Great Seal
Is coemergent and uncontaminated; to you I pray.

Epitome of the qualities of freedom and maturity,
You have an inconceivable life.
Just hearing your voice inspires uncontaminated bliss.
Sublime wish-fulfilling jewel, to you I pray.

You unite in pleasure with all victors and bodhisattvas.
Your emanations reach the four elements' limits.
Like an excellent vase, a gem, or a wish-fulfilling tree,
Your enlightened activity is spontaneously present; to you I pray.

Your compassion knows no distance and embraces all equally.
You guide fortunate persons on the path to the celestial realms.
Your loving face wears the conscientious smile of compassion.
Friend to all beings, to you I pray.

To your child who preserves the lineage and who prays to you,
Show your loving face and joyfully grant me your supreme prophecy.
Bestow the empowerment of great vajra wisdom,
And bless me that I merge inseparably with you.


by Jamgon Kongtrul.

Excerpted from Timeless Rapture, by Ngawang Zangpo.

SukhasiddhiAs always with these devotional poems, there's so little to add of any substance. What always strikes me is the beauty of the devotion, the sheer beauty in the heart that lets go in supplication, which opens to that which is possible, even that which seems beyond or impossible from our limited perspective.

Sukhasiddhi's story is inspiring in itself, with her ease of realisation a particular source of gentle encouragement. Not all masters seems to have to take the rough roller coaster ride to liberation!

Her images always seem to open something out deep within me, speaking to me in a way that words cannot. It's strange how some images do this, yet others speak of nothing. So easy to understand why beings grasp at 'explanations' such as karma and past lives to explain this. Why does this need explaining? Why not remain in the not-knowing, and just sit in the wonderment and blessedness?

Jamgon Kongtrul speaks so eloquently of the qualities that cannot be spoken. How marvellous it is to read the words of one who has realised. How utterly different it is to read the words of those of us who 'understand', but do not 'know'.

Profound thanks for the teachings, the lineage, the blessings of Sukhasiddhi and Jamgon Kongtrul, which resonate beyond time and space, and envelop me in their gentle uplift.

For someone like me trained in intellect, how liberating the open heart which inclines to devotion.

And how interesting the whole area of prayer .... of what this is, in its various manifestations.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reflections on Ryokan - The Winds have Died

The winds have died, but flowers go on falling;
birds call, but silence penetrates each song.

The Mystery! Unknowable, unlearnable.
The virtue of Kannon.

Ryokan

These incomparable words express so eloquently the mystery of inseparable emptiness and appearances.

Poignant indeed :-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reflections on Seongcheol - Snowflakes melting on Fire

The great achievements of the world are but snowflakes melting on fire,
Accomplishments that move oceans are but dew disappearing in the glare of the sun,
Why live a dream in this ethereal life of dreams,
I forsake all to walk towards the great eternal truth.

Seongcheol
Korean Seon (Zen) Master - on becoming a monk.



I was just laughing to myself whilst meditating. I'd not get too much sleep last night from the pain, so was more 'vegetating' rather than meditating! Nevertheless, whilst working with the drowsiness and general dullness which advanced and retreated like waves, I suddenly remembered Seongcheol, and his example. He was well known for being able to not just keep awareness of minds nature throughout the day, continuously, but also throughout dreaming *and* deep sleep too.

And I can't maintain alertness for more than a few moments even in formal meditation posture!

I'm entirely in awe of this great master :-)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reflections on Chinul - Pointing to your Original Mind

Some reflections on a dialogue between Chinul (also known as Bojo, and Jinul), a 12th century Korean master and one of his students:


Question: In our case, what is this mind of void and calm, numinous awareness?

Chinul: What has just asked me this question is precisely your mind of void and calm, numinous awareness. Why not trace back its radiance rather than search for it outside? For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your mind and listen to my words.

From morning to evening, throughout the twelve periods of the day, during all your actions and activities ... ultimately who is it that is able to perform all these actions? Speak! ... You should know that what is capable of seeing, hearing, moving and acting has to be your original mind: it is not your physical body. Furthermore, the four elements which make up the physical body are by nature void; they are like images in a mirror, or the moon's reflection in water. How can they be clear and constantly aware, always bright and never obscured - and, upon activation, be able to put into operation sublime functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? For this reason it is said, 'Drawing water and carrying firewood are spiritual powers and sublime functions.'

There are many points at which to enter the noumenon. I will indicate one approach which will allow you to return to the source ... Do you hear the sounds of that crow cawing and that magpie calling?

Student: Yes.

Chinul: Trace them back and listen to your hearing-nature. Do you hear any sounds?

Student: At that place, sounds and discriminations do not obtain.

Chinul: Marvellous! Marvellous! This is Avalokiteshvara's method for entering the noumenon. Let me ask you again. You said that sound and discriminations do not obtain at that place. But since they do not obtain, isn't the hearing-nature just empty space at such a time?

Student: Originally it is not empty. It is always bright and never obscured.

Chinul: What is this essence which is not empty?

Student: As it has no form or shape, words cannot describe it.

The Collected Works of Chinul

I thought I'd share some words about the inexpressible ... foolish being that I am ;-)

I was really struck when I read this dialogue yesterday as to how similar the pointing out instructions by the Korean Zen master Chinul were to the pointing out instructions of Mahamudra.

When Chinul asks the student to trace back mind's radiance, rather than search for it outside (in concepts or answers from the Master),he proceeds to give the pointing out instructions in a very clear and precise way. First he asks him to clear his mind and listen. It's so easy for us to jump to conceptual answers when we hear a teaching, or are asked a question. In Mahamudra meditation we can ask a question such as 'who am I?' and then 'listen' for the answer. Before the conceptual mind steps in, there's a spacious opening, as the conceptual mind lets go, and awareness 'holds' the question.

For the beginner, these questions just 'zap' the mind, as we have no idea at all what or who we are. Then there's the rush of thoughts that seek to fill the not knowing.

When we've had more experience with these things .. we don't rush to fill the gap ... we can sit in the unknowing ... sit with the lack of answer .... and sit in the opening.

Depending on our experience, we can sit in that opening for longer, with the mind clearer .. allowing us to see more clearly ..... and actually know what we see ... and not just try to understand it in thoughts and concepts.

"ultimately who is it that is able to perform all these actions?" ... when we look we see no-thing, no-one who is there 'behind' our actions. Even the 'I', the 'self' the sense of being 'someone' arises as an 'object' to awareness. It comes and goes, and is no more real or substantial than any other arising to mind.

"You should know that what is capable of seeing, hearing, moving and acting has to be your original mind: it is not your physical body." The physical body isn't there to us, directly and unmediated. Any experience we have that we ascribe to 'body' is simply arisings of perceptions in the play of mind. We never actually experience body as such ... only our dreamlike experience, some of which we separate out into 'body' and grasp onto it as real.

"Furthermore, the four elements which make up the physical body are by nature void; they are like images in a mirror, or the moon's reflection in water. How can they be clear and constantly aware, always bright and never obscured - and, upon activation, be able to put into operation sublime functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? For this reason it is said, 'Drawing water and carrying firewood are spiritual powers and sublime functions." The endlessly fascinating interplay of emptiness and appearances, of the apparent, and the ultimately true. How wondrous indeed that no-thing actually exists, and yet everything seems to arise, and carry out its own function perfectly! Somehow we'd think that for something to function, it must be real. It must truly exist. And yet, these mirages flit and flicker, yet dance their very own dance of the world, painting all colours on our experience and the world. Truly mysterious, ungraspable and wondrous indeed!

"There are many points at which to enter the noumenon. I will indicate one approach which will allow you to return to the source." Chunul gives an approach to working with mind, to allow the student to move away from grasping at appearances as if they were inherently real, and opening instead to how things really are. Chunul asks the student to listen to the birds singing:

"Chinul: Trace them back and listen to your hearing-nature. Do you hear any sounds?

Student: At that place, sounds and discriminations do not obtain."

When we let go of the entrancement of believing in 'objects' and just open to what really is, we don't find the solid separate 'things' which we believe exist. Instead, we find a magical display of fleeting appearances, all without substance. None have names, none have definite characteristics, and none have anything that we can call 'this' or 'that', 'it's here' or 'it's there', or even 'this exists' or 'this doesn't exist'. We have no idea at all what something 'is' in this sense. Just empty arisings.

"Chinul: You said that sound and discriminations do not obtain at that place. But since they do not obtain, isn't the hearing-nature just empty space at such a time?

Student: Originally it is not empty. It is always bright and never obscured."

Chinul asks whether because no-thing can be found, whether there is nothing at all. The abyss of nihilism as I believe Nagarjuna called it. The student clearly sees that this emptiness is full, and describes the luminosity of mind. Though no-thing can be found, experience is vivid and clear, blazing in clarity, full in its magical display. Awareness shines, whether the clouds of our ignorance and thoughts obscure it or not. Wakefulness is always present - how could it be otherwise? How could it be possible for our mind to grow quiet and experience this expansive knowingness were it not eternally awake?

"Chinul: What is this essence which is not empty?

Student: As it has no form or shape, words cannot describe it."

Asked to describe this luminosity, the student refuses to go where words cannot (unlike myself!!!!) and merely states that nothing definite can be said of that which illuminates the void. (the void - horrible term, but fitting here). Though emptiness is not nothingness, that which is other than nothingness is not a thing, nothing that can be pointed to with words.

How clear this experience that is describes from centuries ago, between two beings I've never met!

How crazy these idle ramblings, trying to put the horns on a rabbit, trying to describe the indescribable!