Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Mirror - Advice on Presence and Awareness

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
I pay homage to my Master!

A practitioner of rDzogs-chen must have precise presence and awareness. Until one really and truly knows one’s own mind and can govern it with awareness, even if very many explanations of reality are given, they remain nothing more than ink on paper or matters for debate among intellectuals, without the possibility of the birth of any understanding of the real meaning.

In the Kun-byed rgyal-po, a tantra of rDzogs-chen, it is said that:

’The Mind is that which creates both Samsara and Nirvana, so one needs to know this King which creates everything!’ We say we transmigrate in the impure and illusory vision of Samsara, but in reality, it’s just our mind that is transmigrating. And then again, as far as pure Enlightenment is concerned, it’s only our own mind, purified, that realizes it.

Our mind is the basis of everything, and from our mind everything arises, Samsara and Nirvana, ordinary sentient beings and Enlightened Ones.

Consider the way beings transmigrate in the impure vision of Samsara: even though the Essence of the Mind, the true nature of our mind, is totally pure right from the beginning, nevertheless, because pure mind is temporarily obscured by the impurity of ignorance, there is no self-recognition of our own State. Through this lack of self-recognition arise illusory thoughts and actions created by the
passions. Thus various negative karmic causes are accumulated and since their maturation as effects is inevitable, one suffers bitterly, transmigrating in the six states of existence. Thus, not recognizing
one’s own State is the cause of transmigration, and through this cause one becomes the slave of
illusions and distractions. Conditioned by the mind, one becomes strongly habituated to illusory

And then it’s the same as far as pure Englightenment is concerned; beyond one’s own mind there is no dazzling light to come shining in from outside to wake one up. If one recognizes one’s own intrinsic State as pure from the beginning and only temporarily obscured by impurities, and if one maintains the presence of this recognition without becoming distracted, then all the impurities dissolve. This is the \essence of the Path.

Then the inherent quality of the great original purity of the Primordial State manifests, and one
recognizes it and becomes the master of it as a lived experience.

This experience of the real knowledge of the authentic original condition, or the true awareness of the State, is what is called Nirvana. So Enlightenment is nothing other than one’s own mind in its purified condition.

For this reason Padma Sambhava said: ’The mind is the creator of Samsara and of Nirvana. Outside the mind there exists neither Samsara nor Nirvana.’

Having thus established that the basis of Samsara and Nirvana is the mind, it follows that all that
seems concrete in the world, and all the seeming solidity of beings themselves, is nothing but an
illusory vision of one’s own mind. Just as a person who has a ’bile’ disease sees a shell as being
yellow even if one can see objectively that that is not its true colour, so in just the same way, as a
result of the particular karmic causes of sentient beings, the various illusory visions manifest.

Thus, if one were to meet a being of each of the six states of existence on the bank of the same river, they would not see that river in the same way, since they each would have different karmic causes. The beings of the hot hells would see the river as fire; those of the cold hells would see it as ice; beings of the hungry ghost realm would see the river as blood and pus; aquatic animals would see it as an environment to live in; human beings would see the river as water to drink; while the demi-gods would see it as weapons, and the gods as nectar.

This shows that in reality nothing exists as concrete and objective. Therefore, understanding that the root of Samsara is truly the mind, one should set out to pull up the root. Recognizing that the mind
itself is the essence of Enlightenment one attains liberation. Thus, being aware that the basis of
Samsara and Nirvana is only the mind, one takes the decision to practise. At this point, with
mindfulness and determination, it is necessary to maintain a continuous present awareness without
becoming distracted.

If, for example, one wants to stop a river from flowing, one must block it at its source, in such a way that its flow is definitively interrupted; whatever other point you may choose to block it at, you will
not obtain the same result. Similarly, if we want to cut the root of Samsara, we must cut the root of
the mind that has created it; otherwise there would be no way of becoming free of Samsara. If we want all the suffering and hindrances arising from our negative actions to dissolve, we must cut the root of the mind which produced them.

If we don’t do this, even if we carry out virtuous actions with our body and voice, there will be no
result beyond a momentary fleeting benefit. Besides, never having cut the root of negative actions, they can once again be newly accumulated, in just the same way that if one only lops off a few leaves and branches from a tree instead of cutting its main root, far from the tree shrivelling up, it will without doubt grow once again.

If the mind, the King which creates everything, is not left in its natural condition, even if one
practises the tantric methods of the ’Developing’ and ’Perfecting’ stages, and recites many mantras, one is not on the path to total liberation. If one wants to conquer a country, one must subjugate the King or the Lord of that country; just to subjugate a part of the population or some functionary won’t bring about the fulfilment of one’s aim.

If one does not maintain a continuous presence, and lets oneself be dominated by distractions, one will never liberate oneself from endless Samsara. On the other hand, if one doesn’t allow oneself to be dominated by neglectfulness and illusions, but has self-control, knowing how to continue in the true State with present awareness, then one unites in oneself the essence of all the Teachings, the root of all the Paths.

Because all the various factors of dualistic vision, such as Samsara and Nirvana, happiness and
suffering, good and bad etc., arise from the mind we can conclude that the mind is their fundamental
basis. This is why non-distraction is the root of the Paths and the fundamental principle of the

It was by following this supreme path of continuous presence that all the Buddhas of the past became enlightened, by following this same path the Buddhas of the future will become enlightened, and the Buddhas of the present, following this right path, are enlightened. Without following this Path, it is not possible to attain enlightenment.

Therefore, because the continuation in the presence of the true State is the essence of all the Paths,
the root of all meditations, the conclusion of all spiritual practices, the juice of all esoteric
methods, the heart of all ultimate teachings, it is necessary to seek to maintain a continuous presence
without becoming distracted. What this means is: don’t follow the past, don’t anticipate the future, and don’t follow illusory thoughts that arise in the present; but turning within oneself, one should observe one’s own true condition and maintain the awareness of it just as it is, beyond conceptual limitations of the ’three times’. One must remain in the uncorrected condition of one’s own natural state, free from the impurity of judgments between ’being and non-being’, ’having and not-having’, ’good and bad’, and so on. The original condition of the Great Perfection is truly beyond the limited conceptions of the ’three times’; but those who are just beginning the practice, at any rate, do not yet have this awareness and find it difficult to experience the recognition of their own State; it is therefore very important not to allow oneself to be distracted by the thoughts of the ’three times’. If, in order not to become distracted, one tries to eliminate all one’s thoughts, becoming fixated on the search for a state of calm or a sensation of pleasure, it is necessary to remember that this is an error, in that the very ’fixation’ one is engaged in is, in itself, nothing but another thought.

One should relax the mind, maintaining only the awakened presence of one’s own State, without allowing oneself to be dominated by any thought whatsoever. When one is truly relaxed, the mind finds itself in its natural condition.

If out of this natural condition thoughts arise, whether good or bad, rather than trying to judge
whether one is in the calm state or in the wave of thoughts, one should just acknowledge all thoughts
with the awakened presence of the State itself.

When thoughts are given just this bare attention of simple acknowledgment, they relax into their own true condition, and as long as this awareness of their relaxedness lasts one should not forget to keep the mind present. If one becomes distracted and does not simply acknowledge the thoughts, then it is necessary to give more attention to making one’s awareness truly present. If one finds that thoughts arise about finding oneself in a state of calm, without abandoning simple presence of mind, one should continue by observing the state of movement of the thought itself. In the same way, if no thoughts arise, one should continue with the presence of the simple acknowledgment that just gives bare attention to the state of calm. This means maintaining the presence of this natural state, without attempting to fix it within any conceptual framework or hoping for it to manifest in any particular form, colour, or light, but just relaxing into it, in a condition undisturbed by the characteristics of the ramifications of thought. Even if those who begin to practise this find it difficult to continue in this state for more than an instant, there is no need to worry about it. Without wishing for the state to continue for a long time and without fearing the lack of it altogether, all that is necessary is to maintain pure presence of mind, without falling into the dualistic situation of there being an observing subject perceiving an observed object.

If the mind, even though one maintains simple presence, does not remain in this calm state, but always tends to follow waves of thoughts about the past or future, or becomes distracted by the aggregates of the senses such as sight, hearing, etc., then one should try to understand that the wave of thought itself is as insubstantial as the wind. If one tries to catch the wind, one does not succeed; similarly if one tries to block the wave of thought, it cannot be cut off. So for this reason one should not try to block thought, much less try to renounce it as something considered negative. In reality, the calm state is the essential condition of mind, while the wave of thought is the mind’s natural clarity in function; just as there is no distinction whatever between the sun and its rays, or a stream and its
ripples, so there is no distinction between the mind and thought. If one considers the calm state as
something positive to be attained, and the wave of thought as something negative to be abandoned, and one remains thus caught up in the duality of accepting and rejecting, there is no way of overcoming the ordinary state of mind.

Therefore the essential principle is to acknowledge with bare attention, without letting oneself become distracted, whatever thought arises, be it good or bad, important or less important, and to continue to maintain presence in the state of the moving wave of thought itself.

  When a thought arises and one does not succeed in remaining calm with this presence, since other such thoughts may follow, it is necessary to be skilful in acknowledging it with non-distraction.
’Acknowledging’ does not mean seeing it with one’s eyes, or forming a concept about it. Rather it means giving bare attention, without distraction to whatever thought of the ’three times’, or whatever
perception of the senses may arise, and thus being fully conscious of this ’wave’ while continuing in
the presence of the pure awareness. It absolutely does not mean modifying the mind in some way, such as by trying to imprison thought or to block its flow. It is difficult for this acknowledgment with bare attention, without distraction, to last for a long time for someone who is beginning this practice, as a result of strong mental habits of distraction acquired through transmigration in the course of unlimited time. If we only take into consideration this present lifetime, from the moment of our birth right up until the present we have done nothing other than live distractedly, and there has never been an opportunity to train in the presence of awareness and non-distraction. For this reason, until we become no longer capable of entering into distraction, if, through lack of attention, we find ourselves
becoming dominated by neglectfulness and forgetfulness, we must try by every means to become aware of what is happening through relying on the presence of mind. There is no ’meditation’ that you can find beyond this continuing in one’s own true condition with the presence of the calm state, or with the moving wave of thought. Beyond recognition with bare attention and continuing in one’s own State, there is nothing to seek that is either very good or very dear.

If one hopes that something will manifest from outside oneself, instead of continuing in the presence of one’s own State, this is like the saying that tells about an evil spirit coming to the Eastern gate, and the ransom to buy him off being sent to the Western gate. In such a case, even if one believes one is
meditating perfectly, in reality, it’s just a way of tiring oneself out for nothing. So continuing in
the State which one finds within oneself is really the most important thing.

If one neglects that which one has within oneself and instead seeks something else, one becomes like the beggar who had a precious stone for a pillow, but not knowing it for what it was, had to go to such great pains to beg for alms for a living. Therefore, maintaining the presence of one’s own State and observing the wave of thought, without judging whether this presence is more or less clear, and without thinking of the calm state and the wave of thought in terms of the acceptance of the one and the rejection of the other, absolutely not conditioned by wanting to change anything whatsoever, one
continues without becoming distracted, and without forgetting to keep one~s awareness present; governing oneself in this way one gathers the essence of the practice.

Some people are disturbed when they hear noises made by other people walking, talking and so on, and they become irritated by this, or else becoming distracted by things external to themselves, they give birth to many illusions. This is the mistaken path known as ’the dangerous passageway in which external vision appears to one as an enemy’. What this means is that, even though one knows how to continue in the knowledge of the condition of both the state of calm and the wave of thought, one has not yet succeeded in integrating this state with one’s external vision.

If this should be the case, while still always maintaining present awareness, if one sees something, one should not be distracted, but, without judging what one sees as pleasant, one should relax and continue in the presence. If a thought arises judging experience as pleasant and unpleasant, one should just acknowledge it with bare attention and continue in present awareness without forgetting it. If one finds oneself in an annoying circumstance, such as surrounded by a terrible row, one should just acknowledge this disagreeable circumstance and continue in present awareness, without forgetting it.

If one does not know how to integrate the presence of awareness with all one’s daily actions, such as
eating, walking, sleeping, sitting, and so on, then it is not possible to make the state of
contemplation last beyond the limited duration of a session of sitting meditation. If this is so, not
having been able to establish true present awareness, one creates a separation between one’s sessions of sitting practice and one’s daily life. So it is very important to continue in present awareness without distraction, integrating it with all the actions of one’s daily life. The Buddha, in the Prajnaparamita Sutra said: ’Subhuti, in what way does a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, being aware that he has a body, practise perfect conduct? Subhuti, a Bodhissattva-Mahasattva, when walking, is fully mindful that he is walking; when he stands up is fully mindful of standing up; when sitting is fully mindful of sitting; when sleeping is fully mindful of sleeping; and if his body is well or ill, he is fully mindful of either condition!’ That’s just how it is! To understand how one can integrate present awareness with all the activities of one’s daily life, let’s take the example of walking. There’s no need to jump up immediately and walk in a distracted and agitated way, marching up and down and breaking everything one finds in front of one, as soon as the idea of walking arises. Rather, as one gets up, one can do so remembering ’now I am getting up, and while walking I do not want to become distracted’. In this way, without becoming distracted, step by step, one should govern oneself with the presence of awareness. In the same way, if one remains seated, one should not forget this awareness, and whether one is eating a tasty morsel, or having a drop to drink, or saying a couple of words, whatever action one undertakes, whether it is of greater or lesser importance, one should continue with present awareness of everything without becoming distracted. Since we are so strongly habituated to distraction it is difficult to give birth to this presence of awareness, and this is especially true for those who are just beginning to practise. But whenever there’s any new kind of work to be done, the first thing one has to do is to learn it. And even if at the first few attempts one is not very practised, with experience, little by little the work becomes easy. In the same way, in learning contemplation, at the beginning one needs commitment and a definite concern not to become distracted, following that one must maintain present awareness as much as possible, and finally, if one becomes. distracted, one must notice it. If one perseveres in one’s commitment to maintaining present awareness, it is possible to arrive at a point where one no longer ever becomes distracted. In general, in rDzogs-chen, the Teaching of spontaneous self-perfection, one speaks of the self-liberation of the way of seeing, of the way of meditating, of the way of behaving, and of the fruit,6 but this self-liberation must arise through the presence of awareness.

In particular, the self-liberation of the way of behaving absolutely cannot arise if it is not based on
the presence of awareness. So, if one does not succeed in making the self-liberation of one’s way of
behaving precise, one cannot overcome the distinction between sessions of sitting meditation and one’s daily life. When we speak of the self-liberation of one’s way of behaving as the fundamental principle of all the tantra, the agama, and the upadesa of rDzogschen, this pleases the young people of today a great deal. But some of them do not know that the real basis of self-liberation is the presence of awareness, and many of them, even if they understand this a little in theory, and know how to speak of it, nevertheless, just the same have the defect of not applying it. If a sick person knows perfectly well the properties and functions of a medicine and is also expert in giving explanations about it, but doesn’t ever take the medicine, he or she can never get well. In the same way, throughout limitless time we have been suffering from the serious illness of being subject to the dualistic condition, and the only remedy for this illness is real knowledge of the state of self-liberation without falling into limitations. When one is in contemplation, in the continuation of the awareness of the true State, then it is not necessary to consider one’s way of behaving as important, but, on the other hand, for someone who is beginning to practise, there is no way of entering into practice other than by alternating sessions of sitting meditation with one’s daily life. This is because we have such strong attachment, based on logical thinking, on regarding the objects of our senses as being concrete, and, even more so, based on our material body made of flesh and blood.

When we meditate on the ’absence of selfnature’, examining mentally our head and the limbs of our body, eliminating them one by one as ’without self’, we can finally arrive at establishing that there is no ’self or ’I’.

But this ’absence of self-nature’ remains nothing but a piece of knowledge arrived at through
intellectual analysis, and there is as yet no real knowledge of this ’absence of self-nature’. Because,
while we are cosily talking about this ’absence of self-nature’, if it should happen that we get a thorn
in our foot, there’s no doubt that we’ll right away be yelping ’ow! ow! ow!’ This shows that we are
still subject to the dualistic condition and that the ’absence of self-nature’ so loudly proclaimed with
our mouth has not become a real lived state for us. For this reason it is indispensable to regard as
extremely important the presence of awareness which is the basis of self-liberation in one’s daily

Since there have been different ways of regarding conduct as important, there have arisen various forms of rules established according to the external conditions prevailing at the time, such as religious rules and judicial laws. There is, however, a great deal of difference between observing rules through compulsion and observing them through awareness. Since, in general, everyone is conditioned by karma, by the passions, and by dualism, there are very few people who observe rules and laws through awareness. For this reason, even if they don’t want to do so, human beings have had obligatorily to remain subject to the power of various kinds of rules and laws.

We are already conditioned by karma, by the passions, and by dualism. If one then adds limitations
derived from having compulsorily to follow rules and laws, our burden becomes even heavier, and without doubt we get even further from the correct ’way of seeing’ and from the right ’way of behaving’. If one understands the term ’self-liberating’ as meaning that one can just do whatever one wants, this is not correct; this is absolutely not what the principle of self-liberation means, and to believe such a mistaken view would show that one has not truly understood what awareness means.

But then again we should not consider the principle of laws and rules as being just the same as the
principle of awareness. Laws and rules are in fact established on the basis of circumstances of time and place, and work by conditioning the individual with factors outside him or herself. Awareness, on the other hand, arises from a state of knowledge which the individual him or herself possesses. Because of this, laws and rules sometimes correspond to the inherent awareness of the individual, and sometimes do not. However, if one has awareness, it is possible to overcome the situation of being bound by compulsion to follow rules and laws. Not only is this so, but an individual who has awareness and keeps it stably present is also capable of living in peace under all the rules and laws there are in the world, without being in any way conditioned by them.

Many Masters have said: ’Urge on the horse of awareness with the whip of presence!’ And, in fact, if
awareness is not quickened by presence it cannot function.

Let’s examine an example of awareness: suppose that in front of a person in a normal condition there is a cup full of poison, and that person is aware of what it is. Adult and balanced persons, knowing the poison for what it is and aware of the consequences of taking it, do not need much clarification about it. But they have to warn those who don’t know about the poison being there, by saying something like: ’In this cup there is some poison, and it’s deadly if swallowed!’ Thus, by creating awareness in others, the danger can be avoided. This is what we mean by awareness.

But there are cases of persons who, although they know the danger of the poison, don’t give any
importance to it, or still have doubts as to whether it really is a dangerous poison, or who really lack
all awareness, and with these people it is simply not sufficient to just say: ’This is poison’. For them
one has to say: ’It is forbidden to drink this substance, on pain of punishment by the law’. And through this kind of threat the law protects the lives of these individuals. This is the principle on which laws are based, and even if it is very different from the principle of awareness, it is nevertheless indispensable as a means to save the lives of those who are unconscious and without awareness.

Now we can continue the metaphor of the poison to show what we mean by presence. If the person who has a cup of poison in front of them, even though they are aware and know very well what the consequences of taking the poison would be, does not have a continuous presence of attention to the fact that the cup contains poison, it may happen that they become distracted and swallow some of it. So if awareness is not continually accompanied by presence it is difficult for there to be the right results. This is what we mean by presence.

In the Mahayana, the principle to which maximum importance is given, and the essence itself of the
Mahayana doctrine, is the union of voidness and compassion. But, in truth, if one does not have
awareness inseparably linked to presence, there absolutely cannot arise a really genuine compassion. As long as one does not have the real experience of being moved by compassion for others, it is useless to pretend that one is so very full of compassion. There is a Tibetan proverb about this which says: ’Even f you’ve got eyes to see other people, you need a mirror to see yourself!’ As this proverb implies, if one really wants a genuine compassion for others to arise in oneself, it is necessary to observe one’s own defects, be aware of them, and mentally put yourself in other people’s places to really discover what those persons’ actual conditions might be. The only way to succeed in this is to have the presence of awareness. Otherwise, even if one pretends to have great compassion, a situation will sooner or later arise which shows that compassion has never really been born in us at all.

Until a pure compassion does arise, there is no way to overcome one’s limits and barriers. And it
happens that many practitioners, as they progress in the practice, just end up thinking of themselves as being a ’divinity’ and thinking of everyone else as being ’evil spirits’. Thus they are doing nothing
other than increasing their own limits, developing attachment towards themselves, and hatred towards others. Or, even if they talk a great deal about Mahamudra and rDzogs-chen, all they are really doing is becoming more expert and refined in the ways of behaving of the eight worldly dharma. This is a sure sign that a true compassion has not arisen in us, and the root of the matter is that there has never
really arisen the presence of awareness.

So, without chattering about it, or getting caught up in trying to hide behind an elegant facade, one
should try really and truly to cause the presence of awareness actually to arise in oneself, and then
carry it into practice. This is the most important point of the practice of rDzogs-chen.

This book is dedicated by the practitioner of rDzogs-chen, Namkhai Norbu, to his disciples of the 
rDzogs-chen Community.

Into the lion’s mouth! 

This short text by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was originally written in Tibetan. It was then translated intoItalian by Adriano Clemente and into English by John Shane, and was published as a small pamphlet on theoccasion of the first International Conference on Tibetan Medicine, held in Venice and Arcidosso, Italy,1983. It is included here as a precise and detailed instruction on the most essential aspect of Zogqen practice.

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Unborn

Zen Master Bankei (1622-1693)

Your unborn mind is the Buddha-mind itself, and it is unconcerned with either birth or death. As evidence that it is, when you look at things, you're able to see and distinguish them all at once. And as you are doing that, if a bird sings or a bell tolls, or other noises or sounds occur, you hear and recognize each of them too, even though you haven't given rise to a single thought to do so.

Everything in your life, from morning until night, proceeds in this same way, without your having to depend upon thought or reflection. But most people are unaware of that; they think everything is a result of their deliberation and discrimination. That's a great mistake.

The mind of the Buddhas and the minds of ordinary people are not two different minds. Those who strive earnestly in their practice because they want to attain satori, or to discover their self-mind, are likewise greatly mistaken.

Everyone who recites the Heart Sutra knows that "the mind is unborn and undying." But they haven't sounded the source of the Unborn. They still have the idea that they can find their way to the unborn mind and attain Buddhahood by using reason and discrimination. As soon as the notion to seek Buddhahood or to attain the Way enters your mind, you've gone astray from the Unborn—gone against what is unborn in you.

Anyone who tries to become enlightened thereby falls out of the Buddha-mind and into secondary matters. You are Buddhas to begin with. There's no way for you to become Buddhas now for the first time.

Within this original mind, there isn't even a trace of illusion. Nothing, I can assure you, ever arises from within it. When you clench your fists and run about, for example—that's the Unborn.

If you harbor the least notion to become better than you are or the slightest inclination to seek something, you turn your back on the Unborn. There's neither joy nor anger in the mind you were born with—only the Buddha-mind—with its marvelous illuminative wisdom that enlightens all things. Firmly believing in this and being free of all attachment whatsoever...that is known as the "believing mind."

Excerpted from The Unborn The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei translated by Normal Waddell 1984

From: DailyZen

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Threefold Question in Zen

D. T. Suzuki
The question, "What is Zen?" is at once easy and difficult to answer. It is easy because there is nothing that is not Zen. I lift my finger thus, and there is Zen. I sit in silence all day uttering no words, and there too is Zen.

Everything you do or say is Zen, and everything you do not do or say is also Zen. You see the flowers blooming in the garden, you hear birds singing in the woods, and you have Zen there. No words are needed to explain Zen, for you have it already before they are pronounced.

The question is asked simply because you did not know that you had Zen in you, with you, and around you; and therefore it is easy to answer.

But from another point of view the very fact that it is easy to answer makes it extremely difficult to give a satisfactory answer to the question, "What is Zen?" For when you already have a thing, and have it all the time, and yet do not know it, it is hard to convince you of the fact.

To have a thing and yet not to know it is the same as not to have it from the beginning. Where there is no experience, there is no firsthand knowledge

All you know is about it and not it itself. To make you realize that you have the very thing you are seeking, it will be necessary to get that thing detached from you so that you can see it before your eyes and even grasp it with your hands. But this is most difficult, for the thing which is always with you can by no means be taken away from you for inspection.

It is just like our not seeing our own eyes. We have to get a mirror to do that. But this is not really seeing the eye as it is, as it functions. What the eye sees in the mirror is its reflection, and not itself. According to Eckhart, "The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me." In this case, we must get God in order to see ourselves. This is where the difficulty lies. How do we get God?

But this much I think we can say, that Zen is a kind of self-consciousness. I see a table before me. I know that I am the one who sees it, and I am fully conscious of myself experiencing the event. But Zen is not here yet, something more must be added to it, or must be discovered in it, in order to make this event of seeing really Zen. The question is now: what is this something?

It is in all likelihood that which turns my eye inside out and sees itself, not as a reflection, but as a kind of super-self which is hidden behind the moral and psychological self. I call this discovery spiritual self-consciousness. It unfolds itself from the depths of consciousness. No hammering at the door from outside will open it—it opens by itself from within.

In spite of this fact, we must do some hammering from outside, although this may be of no avail as the direct and efficient cause of opening. Yet it must be somehow carried on, for without it there will be no opening. Perhaps the door remains wide open all the time, open to welcome us in, and it is we who hesitate before it; someone is needed to push us in.

The entering may not be due to the pushing, but when one sees somebody halting before the door, one feels like pushing him in.

D.T. Suzuki

Excerpted from The Awakening of Zen

From: DailyZen

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mahamudra Meditation

Kalu Rinpoche
We have heard a great deal spoken about mind in the past. But it is necessary for us to understand something of the situation, to understand something of the nature of mind.

We speak of mind as being empty, or being void. This means that mind has no form: it has no color, no shape, no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever. In this way we can say that mind is empty. But the mind is not simply void or simply empty.

There is another aspect which we can label the clarity or the lucidity or mind. This is not the same as brightness, or clarity in the sense of sunlight and moonlight or electric light which is bright but is rather the aspect, the potential capability of mind to know and to experience everything. This particular quality - that the mind can know or perceive anything which arises in the mind, any experience, any thought - is what we refer to as the lucidity or clarity of mind. For example, if one had a piece of fruit in front of one, the simple act of experiencing that piece of fruit, of being aware of that piece of fruit in front of one, is a result of this clarity of mind. If the mind did not have this lucidity, one would not be able to experience that piece of fruit. This is a result of the lucid aspect of mind.

There is a third basic quality of the nature of mind, and this is what is known as the non-obstructed quality of mind. For example, once one has become aware of the presence of this piece of fruit in front of one, there are further thoughts which develop in the mind, such as "This looks good, this looks good to eat, I want to eat this," etc., various thoughts which arise in the mind based upon this initial experience of the piece of fruit. All these thoughts come up in a completely unrestricted and uninhibited way. If one did not have this quality of mind, if this un-obstructedness were not a quality of mind, one would not be able to act on the basis of this experience of the fruit; one would not be able to recall or to think based upon this initial perception.This is what we have referred to as the third quality. the non-obstructedness of mind.

So, when one examines the nature of mind, we see it has these three aspects - the emptiness of mind, the lucid aspect of mind and the non-obstructed aspect of mind. All of these are not three separate things but three aspects of one basic nature, which is the nature of mind. This is very often referred to as the Tathagatagarba, or the seed or essence of Buddhahood.

If one is able to recognize, to realize and experience directly this nature of Buddha, this seed of Buddha which is the nature of mind, then one is enlightened. This is the state of Buddhahood.

If one is not, however, able to recognize this state of mind, this potential of mind, then it becomes the basis for all of the confusion and suffering in Samsara.

For this reason, the difference between a Buddha and a sentient being, between an enlightened being and a non-enlightened being, is simply the presence or absence of the recognition of this basic nature. And so it is necessary for us to recognize, to realize, this basic nature of mind, because it is based upon this realization that the experience of enlightenment takes place.

One can consider all practice of Dharma, every element and every technique in the practice of Dharma, as being a means toward this ultimate realization of the nature of mind. One can begin on a very practical, physical level.

It is said traditionally that if one employs the proper physical posture, then this can greatly benefit the realization, or the experiences which arise in the mind. So, the first element in the practice of meditation is the proper posture. The first element of this proper posture is to maintain the body in an upright, straight position.

Tibetans employ the posture of the Buddha Sakyamuni, who is depicted as being seated with the legs crossed in what is called Vajra posture. However, people in the West, because we have a little more material prosperity and a great deal of skillful means, have provided ourselves with chairs. And so we can use what is known as the posture of Maitreya, the Coming Buddha, who is depicted as seated in a chair.

Keep the physical posture straight, keep the body straight, but nevertheless relax. The body should be kept upright butrelaxed, and the mind, as well, relaxed. It was Gampopa who said that if water is not troubled or is not agitated or stirred up then it is clear. If the mind is not held tight or constrained then it is happy. This particular instruction regarding meditation indicates that when one is meditating, it is necessary to keep the mind relaxed and not to force or constrain the mind, not to hold the mind too tightly. In this way the mind will gradually come to rest in a state of happiness. When one is meditating in this relaxed state, one should not follow after thoughts of the past, after what has arisen in the mind before or what one has done in the past. Similarly, one should not anticipate or hope for the future, thinking, "I have to think about this; I have to do this in the future." 

One should simply let the mind rest in the present moment, completely relaxed, without concern for the past or the future, simply aware and precisely present in the present moment. It is not necessary for the mind to pay attention to or to focus on anything outside the body, anything in the external world. Neither is it necessary for the mind to concern itself with anything inside, with any internal experience. Simply let the mind rest in its natural state, just as it is, just as it happens in the present moment, without any contrivance,without any artificiality. When one is meditating, letting the mind rest in this state, which is called rang bap in Tibetan (which means simply, "the mind as it is or as it happens in the present moment without any contrivance"), one should not consider the mind as an object of inspection or meditation, or the state of emptiness, as an object of meditation. For the purposes of this meditation, the mind is not to be considered as something to be meditated upon or something to be regarded. One simply lets the mind rest as it is, in its natural state. In addition, it is not advisable, as part of this meditation, to suppress or to interrupt the stream of awareness, but simply to allow the natural intelligence or awareness of mind to continue with vigilance or precision.

If one meditates in this way, then the mind comes to be empty and transparent. One has this experience in which there is no consciousness of anything taking place in the mind. There is simply this transparent mind-essence.

On the level of the body, there is no consciousness of any particular sensation. There is simply the experience of this transparent mind essence.This is the experience of what we call the empty nature or the empty essence of mind. When one is experiencing this meditation of the transparency of mind, the mind should not fall therefore into obscurity or dullness. Also, it is not necessary or advisable to watch the emptiness of the mind or to be conscious of the emptiness or the lucidity of mind in any contrived manner.

There is a natural intelligence or natural awareness of mind, which is simply aware, simply the bare awareness of this experience, and this third aspect, this natural or basic intelligence of. mind, is what corresponds to the non-obstructedness of mind. And so we have an experience in which one experiences the essential emptiness of mind, this transparency of mind. One experiences, as well, the lucid nature of mind, and in addition there is this bare awareness or bare intelligence which perceives this situation, which perceives this mind-nature. And this is the third element, which is the nonobstructedness of mind. To rest in this state, with these three aspects of mind being experienced in this way, is what is called meditation.

 To speak of all this is just words. These are just the sounds of the words; and one can consider these words as the conjunction or coincidence of sound and emptiness. What remains to be done is to realize this basic emptiness or basic nature of mind. And so now we will all together meditate for some time on this basic mind-essence, letting the mind rest simply in its basic nature, without any contrivance. We rest with the body held gently but firmly erect, and the mind resting in a state of bare awareness, without any contrivance, without any artificiality in the mind, simply letting the mind rest in this transparent lucidity.

 Because we are beginning meditators, it is difficult for us to have a clear meditation at this point; but it is sufficient when one meditates simply to let the mind rest in this clear, transparent state, just barely aware of the state of mind, of the ultimate essence of mind. One simply has to remain alert. As long as there is this perception which allows the mind to remain alert, this is sufficient. Again because we are beginning meditators, it is impossible for us to meditate in this way for any length of time. There are always thoughts and emotions which arise and stir the mind, agitate the mind. But at the very least, when one is meditating in this way, one should not have to reject or repress these thoughts as they arise in the mind, nor to indulge in them when they arise, to follow them.

Better to remain vigilant, to remain precisely aware of the moment while one meditates, so that one knows or is aware of what arises in the mind, one experiences the thought as it arises in the mind without following it. In this way one lets the mind simply rest without repressing thoughts but without indulging in them or following after them. In this way thoughts come to be perceived like bubbles on the surface of water or a rainbow in the sky. Just as the bubbles are reabsorbed into the water and the rainbow dissolves into the sky, whatever arises in the mind is naturally liberated into the mind-essence.

 If one is able to let the mind rest in this way, in this state of transparency, lucidity and spaciousness, where there is the emptiness, transparency and lucidity of mind, and there is the bare, naked awareness of this experience, of the mind-essence -- if one can rest the mind in this state without distraction -- then one can say, after a fashion, that one is very close to the realization of Mahamudra.
We can think of the ignorance of sentient beings that exists in our minds now as like a room or a house in which all the doors and windows are closed shut, and even though the sun is brilliantly shining outside, no light can penetrate the obscurity of this house or room. Then when one begins to meditate and has just the slightest flash of this mind-nature -- the empty essence, the lucid nature and the non-obstructed manifestation of mind -- it is just as though one has made a tiny hole in the wall of this building, and a very tiny beam of sunlight is able to enter and just to begin to illuminate the room to the slightest possible degree. In this way we have just the slightest inkling of what the significance of Mahamudra is. If one can do this kind of meditation regularly -- daily, as often as one can and as much as one can, then gradually one will come to develop this meditation, one will come to a clear realization of the empty essence, the lucid nature and the non-obstructed manifestation of mind; and in this way, the mind will become clearer and clearer, and one's meditation will develop more and more. If one can meditate in this way, then all of the thoughts, all of the experiences which arise in one's mind are neither beneficial nor harmful, but simply like waves on the surface of water. They come from the water and they are absorbed back into the water.

Thoughts and emotions arise in the mind and are absorbed back into the mind. They arise from this emptiness and are absorbed or dissolved back into this emptiness. If one can meditate in this way, there is no difficulty presented by anything that arises in the mind. So, fundamentally speaking, the practice of Mahamudra is a very simple thing. There is nothing complicated or difficult about it at all. There is no visualization one has to perform, there is no exercise one has to do, there is no difficulty physically such as with prostrations, there is nothing basically to be done. One simply lets the mind rest in its natural state, just as it is, without any contrivance, without any force, without any tension in the mind. In this way, the practice of Mahamudra is very simple.

 In the minds of various sentient beings arise various emotions and passions, various feelings -- desire, hatred, jealousy, stupidity, etc. When one practices the meditation on Mahamudra, there is no need to abandon, reject or repress such thoughts which arise in the mind. There is also no need to indulge in these thoughts or to follow them. One simply lets the mind rest in bare awareness of the moment, just conscious or aware of what is arising in the mind without any repression or indulgence, just allowing the mind to rest in its natural state. At the present moment our minds are like a pot of water boiling on a fire: there is continual agitation, continual activity, bubbles continually rising to the surface. If one takes cold water and throws it into this boiling pot, immediately the water becomes lukewarm and the activity ceases. In the same way, if one can practice the meditation on Mahamudra, whatever passions, emotions and thoughts are troubling the mind -- all of this activity, all of this agitation and destruction -- are immediately appeased and pacified.

 The practice of Mahamudra can be condensed into three brief instructions: not to be distracted, not to meditate and not to contrive anything artificial in the mind. We will examine each of these in turn. First, to be distracted is understood as the condition that exists when the mind first begins to follow a sensory experience such as a form, a sound, an odor, a taste, a tangible experience, etc. The mind begins to follow and become seduced by this experience. This is one form of distraction. In addition, if the mind loses its clarity, its vigilance, its acuteness in meditation, this is another, a subtle, form of distraction. It is necessary for the mind to be free of these two forms of distraction. The second point is not to meditate, that is, not to make any effort to meditate. This means that when one is practicing Mahamudra there is nothing that needs to be produced. There is no state of meditation which needs to be forced, created or developed. Simply, one lets the mind rest undistracted, without any wavering, in this natural state. This is what is meant by "nonmeditation".

 The third point is that there should be nothing artificial, no contriving in the mind. This means that when one is meditating one does not have to do anything in order to make the mind any better, any worse, any different than it is. Mind in itself is essentially empty. This is the level of Dharmakaya, or the "void" aspect of Buddhahood. In addition, the nature of mind is clear or lucid. This is the Sambhogakaya, or the level or body of enjoyment or glory of Buddhahood. Then there is the third level, the nonobstructed manifestation of mind. This is the Nirmanakaya level or emanation of Buddhahood. The mind embodies these three aspects and is intrinsically pure, intrinsically the best thing possible. And so there is absolutely nothing that needs to be done in meditation in order to create or improve the situation.

 Having understood a little of this, it is necessary now for us to practice.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Nondual Level

By Ken Wilber 

In the previous causal level, you are so absorbed in the unmanifest dimension that you might not even notice the manifest world. You are discovering Emptiness, and so you ignore Form. But at the ultimate or nondual level, you integrate the two. You see that Emptiness appears or manifests itself as Form, and that Form has as its essence Emptiness.

In more concrete terms, what you are is all things that arise. All manifestation arises, moment by moment, as a play of Emptiness. If the causal was like a radiant moonlit night, this is like a radiant autumn day. What appear as hard or solid objects “out there” are really transparent and translucent manifestations of your own Being or Isness. They are not obstacles to God, only expressions of God. They are therefore empty in the sense of not being and obstruction or impediment. They are a free expression of the Divine. As the Mahamudra tradition succinctly puts it, “All is Mind. Mind is Empty. Empty is freely-manifesting. Freely-manifesting is self-liberating.” The freedom that you found at the causal level—the freedom of Fullness and Emptiness—that freedom is found to extend to all things, even to this “fallen” world of sin and samsara. Therefore, all things become self-liberated. And this extraordinary freedom, or absence of restriction, or total release—this clear bright autumn day—this is what you actually experience at this point. But then “experience” is the wrong word altogether. This realization is actually of the nonexperiential nature of Spirit. Experiences come and go. They all have a beginning in time, and an end in time. Even subtle experiences come and go. They are all wonderful, glorious, extraordinary. And they come, and they go. But this nondual “state” is not itself another experience. It is simply the opening or clearing in which all experiences arise and fall. It is the bright autumn sky through which the clouds come and go—it is not itself another cloud, another experience, another object, another manifestation.

This realization is actually of the utter fruitlessness of experience, the utter futility of trying to experience release or liberation. All experiences lose their taste entirely—these passing clouds. You are not the one who experiences liberation; you are the clearing, the opening, the emptiness, in which any experience comes and goes, like reflections on the mirror. And you are the mirror, the mirror mind, and not any experienced reflection. But you are not apart from the reflections, standing back and watching. You are everything that is arising moment to moment. You can swallow the whole cosmos in one gulp, it is so small, and you can taste the entire sky without moving an inch. This is why, in Zen, it is said that you cannot enter the Great Samadhi: it is actually the opening or clearing that is ever-present, and in which all experience—and all manifestation—arises moment to moment. It seems like you “enter” this state, except that once there, you realize there was never a time that this state wasn’t fully present and fully recognized—”the gateless gate”. And so you deeply understand that you never entered this state; nor did the Buddhas, past of future, ever enter this state.

In Dzogchen, this is the recognition of mind’s true nature. All things, in all worlds, are self-liberated as they arise. All things are like sunlight on the water of a pond. It all shimmers. It is all empty. It is all light. It is all full, and it is all fulfilled. And the world goes on its ordinary way, and nobody notices at all.