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