Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Mirror: Advice on the Presence of Awareness

Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

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, color, 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 practice 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.

This short text by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was originally written in Tibetan in 1977. It was then translated into Italian by Adriano Clemente and into English by John Shane, and was published as a small pamphlet on the occasion of the first International Conference on Tibetan Medicine, held in Venice and Arcidosso, Italy, 1983. It has since been published (in different translation) as a booklet by Barrytown Limited, and was included in several additions of the book The Crystal and the Way of Light, an excellent collection of Norbu Rinpoche's teachings. You can find a plain text version HERE.


Anonymous said...
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Lupercalia said...

"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."

What a beautiful analogy.