Meditations

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ABBREVIATED TSONGKHAPA GURU YOGA

KYABJE ZOPA RINPOCHE:

Even to hear what lamrim means is a sign of having great personal good fortune. Similarly, having an opportunity to hear and understand the three principal aspects of the path (renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness) means that we have the opportunity to accumulate much Dharma wisdom in this life. Relying on the explanations given by the geshes and lamas we accumulate extensive merit and come to understand what renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness mean as well. Moreover, we hear explanations of the two stages of tantric sādhanas—the generation and completion stages of Highest Yoga Tantra. It is due to Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy action that we even have access to the deity practices of Guhyasamāja, Yamāntaka and Heruka. The benefit of so many pure saṅgha and numberless disciples hearing the teachings is incomparable. It is certainly something to rejoice in.

You should therefore think, while reciting your prayers, how wonderful it is that you have the opportunity of receiving such teachings stemming from Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy action.

Think:

May I be able to benefit beings in all my future lives until I become enlightened, just as Lama Tsongkhapa did.

In this way you create the causes to have the same qualities that he had. While offering the maṇḍala, think:

May friends, family, enemies and all sentient beings actualize, without a delay of even one second, the ability to live in Lama Tsongkhapa’s pure morality. May I develop the brave attitude of doing extensive work, such as generating the two stages of Highest Yoga Tantra, the essence of which is the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness.

Offering Outer Mandala

Sa-zhi pö-kyi j’ug-shing me-tog tram
Ri-rab ling-zhi nyi-dä gyän-pa di
Sang-gyä zhing-d’u mig-te ül-war gyi
Dro-kün nam-d’ag zhing-la chö-par-shog

By the virtue of offering to you assembly of Buddhas
Visualised before me, this mandala built on a base
Resplendent with flowers, saffron water and incense,
Adorned with Mount Meru and the four continents
As well as the sun and the moon,
May all sentient beings share in its good effects.

Offering Inner Mandala

Dag-g’i ch’ag-dang mong-sum kye-päi yül
Dra-nyen b’ar-sum lü-d’ang long-chö chä
Pang-pa me-par bül-gy’i leg-zhe-nä
D’ug-sum rang-sar dr’öl-war j’in-gy’i lob

Please enjoy, and bless me and all sentient beings
To be released from the three poisonous minds,
For I am offering without attachment,
My body, enemies, friends and strangers,
And all possessions which are the objects
Of my greed, ignorance and hatred.

IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAMI
I send forth this jewelled mandala to you, Precious Gurus.

Then, at the conclusion of offering the maṇḍala, as you recite, Idaṃ guru ratna…, visualize that strong nectar beams emit from Lama Tsongkhapa’s heart and the hearts of his two disciples.These purify, in particular, all the obscurations interfering with the generation of bodhicitta and the wisdom realizing emptiness as well as the actualization of the clear light and illusory body.

Then a replica of Lama Tsongkhapa and his two disciples dissolves into you and purifies all sentient beings and removes all their obstacles and generates within them the whole path to enlightenment, including the profound and extensive paths, which lead, respectively, to the attainment of the two kāyas (dharmakāya and rūpakāya). In this way feel that everything is achieved.

Now make the request:

I am requesting for myself and all sentient beings to experience simultaneous great bliss and transcendental wisdom in order to eliminate the stains of hallucination—the concept of true existence—and to cut off all doubts (including the two mental extremes of existence and nonexistence) and to quickly become like you. I am requesting you to increase the wisdom of reflecting and meditating, explaining, debating and writing in order to gain sublime realizations.

Dedicate:

I dedicate whatever virtues I have ever collected,
For the benefit of the teachings and all sentient beings,
And in particular, for the essential teachings
Of Venerable Losang Dragpa to shine forever.

Lama Tsongkhapa said even having just a vague idea of emptiness or generating a general understanding generates sublime bliss within your mind. Also, in his Praise of Dependent Origination, in which he praises the Buddha for having found the realization of dependent arising, he explained how even if you are facing the mouth of the Lord of Death, you should feel fortunate, for even in the space of the life not yet stopped, opportunity still remains to reflect and meditate on emptiness.

 

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THE WAY IT IS APPEARING MEANS IT IS EMPTY

KYABJE ZOPA RINPOCHE:

Here is a powerful meditation.

Think:

There is a real I in the sense of an I existing from its own side. Or, on the I there is an I appearing from its own side. It is the same as when you look at the bright red and blue colors in the brocade around thangkas, red is appearing on the red and blue is appearing on the blue from their own side. So now think of the self appearing from its own side and focus your mind right on that. At the same time be aware that this is the object to be refuted. It is the object to be refuted and it is empty. In this method you put more effort into understanding what emptiness means: the way it is appearing means it is empty.

For detailed  discussion of this meditation in context see A Shadow Spider

 

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MEDITATION ON THE LETTER M

Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

To meditate on the emptiness of phenomena, just as we do with the selflessness of person, we need to familiarize ourselves with how the object of negation is a hallucination. Also, we must also learn to see [recognise] it as such.

To start gaining such familiarity, we need to understand how everything comes from the mind. Therefore you do your meditation on this, not just during retreat sessions, but during break times. In this way it becomes a foundation.

As you are walking around, eating or whatever, you meditate on that. In this way you are led toward the point of distinguishing what is the false view and what is the correct view and, in terms of your perceptions of phenomena, what is reality and what is not.[3] Whether you are a new or old student, this is an extremely important meditation. It helps us by first recognizing the false view and secondly, in dependence on this, realizing emptiness itself.

To help you do this I am going to ask you to go back to the time of your childhood. Recalling your past life and actions is not a matter of hypnosis! Go back to the time before you were taught the alphabet by the teacher, or your parents. At that time, you had no recognition of the alphabet such as A, B, C, D. Even if it was written there on the blackboard, you had no idea what the alphabet was, let alone what these individual letters were. This was because you had no knowledge of them.

Now the important question: at that time how did alphabet letters appear to you? There is a letter there and you see the designs, marks, in chalk on the blackboard or pencil on paper. Say it is on the blackboard. There is one line going like this, and another like that, and then another here [tracing the angulated form of the letter M in the air]. At that time, though this is a letter M, you did not see it. Or, you did not have an appearance of the letter A—even though it is a letter A. Why? The answer is that your mind is yet to label this letter “M” or “A”, and then believe in that. The reason for this, in turn, is that you haven’t yet been introduced to this letter. Consequently, you just see a line like this, OK? [again tracing M in space]. You haven’t yet had an appearance of (the letter) M.

So the sequence of acquiring this appearance is like this: first your teacher or parents introduce you to the idea that this is M. Because you have been told that this is M by seeing these lines, and because you are now seeing these lines, your own mind simply makes up the label that “this is M.”

In other words, our mind just thinks “M” and we believe in that. It is just the same when a Tibetan child is adopted as a child by a Western family and grows up in the West. After many years that child would not recognize its mother. When that child met its mother, and before they were introduced, the “mother” would not appear to them. They would just see a Tibetan woman. But if somebody explained to them that this was their mother, the child could also label “This is my mother” and believe in that label. Only then would the Tibetan woman appear to them as their mother. So it is very clear that this appearance comes from the mind. This is without relating appearance to karma.

When we see all the objects here we put labels: “This is a mug” and a mug then appears; “This is a flower” and a flower then appears. I have used the example of the table numberless times! I think it is because it is the nearest object! From morning until night, the mind is continuously producing the appearance of everything. Each time we put the label and then an appearance happens. This doesn’t mean that nothing appears at night time! I am not suggesting that! If there are no appearances then maybe we would get a good night’s sleep! All our lives we create our own world like this. So now it should be clear to you that only after you impute things do they appear to you (as that). If you don’t impute something, then it doesn’t appear.

WHERE DID “M” COME FROM?

Returning to the “M” now you can understand, though we don’t normally see it, how there is a whole evolution to the appearance of M. First you see the base. Then by seeing that particular base, then your mind makes up this label and believes in that. Only then do you have an appearance of M.

The question is now: Where does this M come from? The answer: M comes from the mind. This is because M is a projection of the mind. The proof of this is that if somebody did not introduce you to the label, and if your mind did not label and believe in that, you would not see this M. It would not appear to you. Or, even if you did label “M” but didn’t believe in that, still M would not appear to you. In any case, there is a difference between how an “M” appears to you before you are taught and after you are taught.

We are now in a better position to take the next step toward distinguishing between what is reality and what is false view. Why? Because we can begin to discuss the object that is to be refuted. In this case it is the M that is on the M! And the emptiness of that M on the M is the emptiness of M.

In the philosophical texts you frequently find the term gag cha: the gag cha of the table, the vase, of this or that. Then you also find reference to the emptiness on the vase, on the table, on the flower and so forth.

When you hear this you might think that this reference to “on” is wrong. Surely it should be “of”? But in fact this “on” has great meaning. If you are able to recognize its significance, you are able to recognize the hallucination.

Let’s take another step back. Just as M came from the mind, in exactly the same way did friend and enemy and all the holy objects you see here and all the forms that we see and all these other things. This means that when looking at form (the object of eye sense consciousness) it came from the mind by labeling and believing in that label, exactly as did M. It is an appearance of one’s own mind. Now, in the case of a buddha he does not have a perception of bad smell because his holy mind is completely purified, Likewise, that there is no bad taste to a buddha also proves that a bad taste comes from the mind. Due to having not even subtle defilements, a buddha’s senses are of the nature of the greatest bliss. Whatever contacts a buddha’s tongue is all nectar. Even what is kaka (faeces) for us is for them blissful in nature!

What we must understand is that when we look at form we are not looking at that which came from outside. When we hear a sound it is not existing outside, or by itself. We are hearing a sound that came from our own mind. When we smell, we smell what has been labelled by one’s own thought and in which we have believed. The smell is not coming from outside.

EXAMPLE OF PRETAS AND PUS

Let’s take another example. In one container there is liquid. When hungry ghosts (pretas), who don’t have the karma or merit to see water, encounter it they see only pus and blood. Because we have more merit we see water, whereas devas who have more merit than us, see nectar. Then, of course, the buddhas who have the most purified mind see only the purest uncontaminated nectar. It’s one phenomenon but appears (differently) according to the perceiver’s mental quality. That what appears depends on the relative purity or impurity of that mind proves that things are appearances of the mind. Whether the world appears as round or flat likewise depends on the mind. The Kālacakra tantra, for example, depicts it existing in a particular way. Or when a hundred people look at one object some will find it the most beautiful whereas others will find it just OK! It is the same for a place. For some it is beautiful and for others disgusting.

How things appear is dependent on the view of the mind. What might be attractive to us is for a preta or hungry ghost totally ugly and uninteresting. For a buddha with pure appearance it will appear as a maṇḍala. When the Thirteenth Dalai Lama went on pilgrimage, he was unable to go up one sacred mountain as he saw it all as a giant mound of dharma texts. Whether you see the holy places as ruined, or something amazing, depends on the purity of one’s mind. To understand how things appear in dependence on the mind it has been necessary to add here that how things appear is also dependent on karma. Impure appearances come from one’s own impure karma and pure from pure karma.

CONCLUDING OUR MEDITATION

The conclusion is that even though what we experience comes from our own mind, it appears to us in the opposite way: as that which never comes from our mind! It appears to come from outside. But just because it normally appears in that way does not mean it is true. From not only this morning, but from birth to death, from beginningless rebirth, one has this totally hallucinated view. Everything we have been experiencing both now and in the past has come from our own mind.

You should practice mindfulness on this point not just in meditation but when you go out. For example, be continuously mindful when you go out to dinner and experience form, sound, smell, taste and tangible objects. This meditation can cover everything.

For the original illustrated post of this meditation together with notes see Everything Comes From The Mind

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MEDITATION: DISSOLVING NEGATIVE ACTIONS BACK INTO THEIR CAUSE

KYABJE ZOPA RINPOCHE: 

Rather than giving in to the desire to harm others or ourselves we should think:

This is a projection. These things that look real from their own side are hallucinations. Then meditate strongly that they are empty.

If we don’t generate aversion to anger, we’ll be more easily disturbed when we encounter difficulties. Also, when we get angry we destroy our accumulated positive karma. We can destroy a vast amount of positive karma in just an instant, a second, a split-second. What we have to understand is that anger arises from the self-cherishing attitude. Its causes don’t come from outside but are inside, in our own mind. So what we must do when anger arises is to dissolve it back into the self-cherishing attitude from which it arises. All the obstacles are dissolved back into the self-cherishing attitude so that it disappears.

Think:

All the negative karma that ripens as anger and the other disturbing attitudes is dissolving back into its cause—the self-cherishing attitude—and is disappearing. Now it has completely disappeared.

At the same time also think:

All the objects held by the self-cherishing attitude as very important, as the most important, appear to exist from their own side. But they are empty of existing from their own side. They are empty of existing truly. Those obstacles ripened by the self-cherishing attitude are mere emptiness.

See them in this way. What you must do is think about emptiness at such times and meditate on that. Make it empty. In this way that obstacle will become a cause of happiness and peace for the mind. It is not just a matter of bodhicitta. In such moments we must recall the correct view of emptiness. Maybe it is like that.

Think:

I shall eliminate the self-cherishing attitude from the point of view of reality and strive for enlightenment. This is why I am doing this activity, this meditation.

For the meditation (complete with annotations, in its original context, see post Unwittingly Entrusting Ourselves to Ignorance

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TWO  PROFOUND MEDITATIONS ON EMPTINESS SUITABLE FOR EVERYDAY LIFE

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PITH INSTRUCTION FROM THE SEVENTH DALAI LAMA

KYABJE ZOPA RINPOCHE:

I now want to mention some very powerful advice from the Seventh Dalai Lama, which we should apply not only in our meditation but in our daily life as well, especially when it is busy.

He first refers to the fact that every single phenomenon of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa including enlightenment, is merely imputed by mind. He then says that our own superstitious thought of ignorance is the king of superstitions, because it is the root of saṃsāra. All hallucinated illusory appearances of truly existent phenomena are projected by our own ignorance and are thus created by our own superstitious mind. All phenomena, saṃsāra, nirvāṇa, everything, are covered by the illusion of existing from their own side. Even the path to liberation and enlightenment is decorated with this illusion of true and independent existence. Although phenomena exist as merely imputed by the mind, they appear as not merely mentally labeled. Decorated with this illusion of true existence, they appear truly existent and independent.

Ignorance entrusts your mind to this appearance by holding that things exist really in this way. It is in this way our mind cheats and deceives us. By projecting true existence and then holding—right there—that that is true, attachment and all the other deluded minds such as anger arise. If, on the contrary, you look at them as hallucinations, as empty of existing from their own side, then ignorance cannot cheat you. Suddenly there is no point for the negative emotional thoughts to arise. Generating delusions such as anger becomes totally nonsensical and childish. The wisdom of emptiness eliminates ignorance as well as the seed of delusion (the potential for the delusion to arise).This means it becomes impossible to create karma and thus experience the resulting sufferings. With the addition of bodhicitta, the development of wisdom will cease even the subtle negative imprints. In this way we may achieve enlightenment, through which numberless sentient beings may be liberated from the oceans of saṃsāric suffering and brought to full enlightenment.

All our day-to-day life problems come from holding onto phenomena as truly existent. All the depression, loneliness, low self-esteem and thoughts such as “my life is meaningless” arise from here. Returning to the Seventh Dalai Lama’s advice, don’t cling to the hallucinated appearance. Look at it as empty. While performing daily activities with mindfulness, use one part of your mind to examine how they do not exist as they appear.

Do this as explained in texts such Śāntideva’s Guide, where he instructs us to watch the mind at the same time as doing any activity. It is like spying. Śāntideva gives the example of walking with a container filled to the brim, trying not to spill a drop. If we are to avoid doing so, we need to watch carefully.

 

KYABJE ZOPA RINPPOHE CROPPED

 

MEDITATION: LIKE A MAN IN A DREAM

KYABJE ZOPA RINPOCHE:

There is a story that the whole of life is like a dream. A person fell asleep and in a dream got married and had children and the children died and the person lived on until his hair was white because he had so many worries. Then he awoke and heard his wife, who was still washing the same pot she had been washing when he went to sleep! Everything in the dream had seemed completely real. That is an excellent example of gag cha—the object to be refuted. In the same manner as the man who dreamt, we believe in the reality of these dream-like appearances. All the problems we experience in life are similar to the manner in which the man believed that everything he dreamt was real. We hold them as truly existent. We hold onto them as real problems and as a result suffer unbelievably. But, in reality, they are the illusory projections of ignorance. By holding onto them, we torture ourselves.That is why the bodhisattva Thogme Zangpo gave the meditational practice instruction that we should consider whatever we encounter, whatever is contrary to our wishes, to be a hallucination. The basic fault is that we label things that are against our wishes as “problems” and those that are not against our wishes as “non-problems.” All the illusory phenomena our ignorance believes to be true are seen by the Buddha’s omniscient mind as totally nonexistent—totally empty. Even arhats and exalted bodhisattva meditators who have achieved the exalted paths of right seeing or meditation (due to having perceived wisdom directly) still have an appearance of things existing from their own side. Nonetheless, through their exalted wisdom, they realize that such appearances are deceptive: all this reality—all that we hear, see, smell, taste, touch, everything, including what is the object of the mind—is totally nonexistent, totally empty.

For annotated versions of these meditations see post TWO SHORT PROFOUND MEDITATIONS ON EMPTINESS SUITABLE FOR EVERYDAY LIFE

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MEDITATING ON EMPTINESS IN DAILY LIFE: RECOGNIZING HALLUCINATIONS AS HALLUCINATIONS

KYABJE ZOPA RINPOCHE:

If one doesn’t change one’s attitude into a healthy, peaceful mind bringing only peace and happiness to oneself and others, one will not be able to replace or let go of the grasping dissatisfied mind. A positive, peaceful mind brings happiness right to this moment. It also brings happiness to this and future lives for both ourselves and others.

A mind of loving kindness and compassion that cherishes others with a good heart brings happiness right to the end of our lives. Because of having already let go of the painful mind even at death time we have no fears or worries and there is the prospect of having satisfaction and happiness in future lives. In this way, with love and compassion, we are able to achieve Enlightenment and thus benefit other sentient beings. So like that.

The healthy happy mind is the opposite of ignorance because it is unstained by the concept of true existence. This is why we meditate by looking at how the nature of phenomena is dependent arising, existing in mere name, merely imputed by mind, empty. In daily life, with mindfulness, we look at how I, action and object, though appearing as the real one existing from their side, are hallucinations and, as hallucinations, are empty.

So we practice mindfulness like that while driving a car or shopping in supermarkets, department stores or while buying materials. While busy with these activities which are so busily occupying our minds, at the same time we look at how they appear to you as not merely mentally labelled. They appear to exist from their own side.

Then you recognise them as hallucinations because they are hallucinations! Likewise, the circle of three – I, action and object are also empty because they are dependent arising and thus merely imputed by mind.

In this way, whichever way you meditate, observing everything leads to the point deep down in your heart that understands all these phenomena as empty. While you are talking to a person or having a meeting, at the same time, while you are discussing, your mind meditates how you appear, how action, object and person appear. You look at them as empty.

When walking on the road the same: you look at how I, action, walking, object and road are appearing. The mind meditates. Their appearing not merely labelled by mind, as something really existing, is Gak cha (the object to be refuted).[3] Look at it as hallucination. Likewise, when working in the kitchen, cutting vegetables. I guess you can do the same while playing golf or football!

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It is the same when looking at a flower. How does the flower appear to you right after your mind merely imputed it? It appears as something totally else. So, like that, it’s not there. Apply this to everything you are doing in daily life whether teaching in schools, working in hospitals, in the office, taking care of the baby at home, whatever it is – what has been merely imputed a second before in the next appears as something else – total hallucination.

Therefore, meditation on emptiness is just a question of being aware. It is a question of recognizing a dream as a dream. This is how to meditate on emptiness while we are busy. It is a question of being aware.

Just as when you are dreaming and remain constantly aware that it is a dream, you recognize the things you are constantly holding as real from their own side as empty. Look at them as hallucinations. So that’s it. Then your understanding is that they are empty.

This is how to meditate while your life is busy. If you do this, you are practising the heart of the Buddhadharma, the heart (sherab nyingbo) of the Buddha’s 84 thousand teachings – the Perfection of Wisdom. Often people think there is no connection between meditation on emptiness and daily life but that is a total misunderstanding. It is a sign that they have not recognized the hallucination as hallucination.

If you do look at hallucination as hallucination then you have a totally different world! No longer are you engaged in the old way of living our life which, from beginningless life, beginningless rebirth, has caused us to suffer, be reborn and again die – all because we have held onto phenomena as real and believed in them existing as true. Holding onto hallucinations as real is the cause of samsara.

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For an annotated version of this meditation see the post Meditating on Emptiness in Daily Life: Recognizing Hallucinations as Hallucinations

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