29 Sep 2014
Alan starts the session recalling Gautama’s experience when he endured extreme hardships, which made him lose his samadhi. Alan emphasizes the importance of mindfulness of breathing in order to repair the damage that has been done by neglecting the body. For this reason, it is crucial to master the shavasana posture, to breath effortlessly while relinquishing any control in order to meditate well.
The meditation on balancing earth and wind combines mindfulness of breathing with taking the mind as the path. Also in this practice we have been introduced to the world of emanation and transformation of mental appearances.
After meditation, Alan uses an analogy to describe the feeling of lucidity as opposed to a wandering mind. Then, we move on to the next section of the book: the world of emanation and transformation. Alan gives advice on how not to lose stability in the dream after becoming lucid. In dream yoga practices we train to transform our dream body into our own personal deity. In this way, one develops pure vision.
When dreaming we are in deep samadhi. On the other hand, daytime awareness is very diffuse since we are also attending the sensory field. Taking advantage of this vividness of samadhi, one can transform everything in the dream into manifestations of enlightened beings. Here, one is deepening insight into emptiness through active engagement with transformation practices.
These practices prepare oneself for becoming lucid in the transitional phase of the bardo. It is especially important in order to subdue demonic apparitions and upheavals. For this reason, we practice taking the mind as the path during the night time. Alan gives advice on how to take the worst nightmares as the path. At the beginning one doesn’t dare due to clinging to self-grasping. However, with familiarity and a good realization of emptiness, one realizes that whatever comes up, nothing whatsoever can harm you. Therefore, there is no reason to escape and to avoid the situation.
The critical point of all this is training in the illusory body and the dreamlike nature of daytime appearances. This enables one to powerfully anticipate the dream state.
Meditation starts at 29:38
O laso! So we go back to the Buddha’s life. After achieving samadhi, the highest levels of samadhi within the three realms. Finding that they were not bringing about any radical or irreversible transformation. I mean, he must have been quite brilliant because so many people, I mean generations upon generations before him were very happy campers (American phrase) they got these high states of samadhi, (thinking) this is moksha. But he was very sharp, and recognize that there was not a path, it’s not a path. It was a nice excursion , a sublime excursion but not a path. And then those six years, really what can one call it except for experimentation, research, that’s what it was. Trying everything, all of the available technology for mind over matter, mastering, and so forth and so on. And doing major damage to his body in the process, he really harmed his body. At one point he said he went to touch his navel and he touched his backbone. His Holiness when he refers to that he almost weeps for reverence, of that incredible dedication. Even though, he was obviously as we say now retrospectively, out of balance. Nevertheless the intensity, the dedication, the self sacrifice, really willing to sacrifice everything including his health, his life itself for the pursuit of liberation was quite extraordinary.
[01:47] But then finding after those six years which many of you found over the last five weeks that your mind doesn’t work very well. You want to do a simple task like with a dog: “sit, ok roll over, stay”. I mean your dog is better than your mind, and then not nearly as smart. There is something really off about this you know, that you can train your dog but you can’t train your mind. So he found, after he had so severely damaged his body, weakened his body, that his mind just couldn’t work. And those wonderful states of samadhi that he had, he lost them, he lost them completely. And so thanks to the intervention of a young woman, then he restored his health, regained his balance, his vitality. And then as you recall from the story I told weeks ago, it seems like ancient history, as he wondered “what now?”. Because all he had done, I mean in a way one can imagine, I don’t know how he actually felt, how could I possibly know, but if it were me I think I’d feel intense frustration. Because he’s just spent six years to hell and back, and now he has got health like he had six years ago, and nothing else to show for it. Samadhi, came and went, all the other stuff now a bad memory. Health was terrible now he’s got it back, but karamba! (Latin American phrase) he had good health when he left the palace, so like back to square one. I would feel a bit frustrated or at least I’d be looking for something new.
[03:43] So he posed that question, “ah, welcome back, welcome back our dear dharma brother, good to see you, sitting upright, so good”. “One of our memories was he was a bit ill, and he is back, it makes me very happy”. But that simple question, recalling back to his youth, recalling just spontaneously slipping into the first Jhana, remembering that the balance of it, the joy, the bliss, the sense of well being, but also the mind being so malleable, really crucially malleable. If he wanted to investigate either on a coarse or subtle level, he could do it. The mind was supple, it was clear, single pointed, and he just slipped into it, remember? And then he remembered this now at the age of 35, going back, who knows maybe 20 year earlier, and posing that question to himself, boy I mean he would recall also much more sublime states, abstracted states, transcendent states within samsara, that he had experienced shortly after leaving the palace. But he was going way back, he cut right through that, way back to that just that first Jhana, where you have all of the five Jhanas factors at your fingertips. But you don’t as you go higher into the Jhanas, you don’t have those, all of those five Jhanas factors, like coarse and subtle investigations, you can’t do, the mind is too subtle. But then you remember. It is good to remember.
[05:04] He remembered the first Jhana, and then at the age of 35, the question arose in his mind: “might that be the way to enlightenment? That be the way to liberation?”. And then just the echo came back “yes”, good intuition, you know. But he had to achieve it all over again. He had to go from scratch, because he damaged his body so much, his body could not support the samadhi he had achieved earlier, He lost it. So he was back, who knows, out of 9 stages of shamatha maybe he was back at 2. Really, Gautama! He had to achieve it all over again! And he did, and it wasn’t all that easy. I read one account -he had to really work at it. And then having achieved shamatha then it was a very quick work. Then it was very, very fast. Who knows, days, weeks, but a very short time before he had that confidence of sitting down there, beneath the bodhi tree, and having this resolve- I won’t move until I’ve found what I’m seeking. And then of course he found it.
[6:06]So this whole notion though, I’m focusing on something very specific, that’s enormously relevant to all of us, whether here in Phuket or listening by podcast, and that is he first restored his health. He didn’t go directly from having total emaciation, depletion; loss of energy, his body almost totaled. And then while still having that “then let’s go achieve shamatha, then I will achieve the four noble truths, then I’ll become…”(Alan is sarcastic). Actually it was mundane stuff, he actually restored his health first. That was first, proper diet, things like that, and then on he went.
So, I doubt that any of us, I mean I went through some austerities but nothing like that! I don’t think any of us have been through that kind of austerities. But we’ve been through other kind of austerity. All of us here, whether you’re from Singapore or Australia, Brazil, America, Europe. The austerity we’ve been through is called modernity. I’m not against modernity, I like my cell phone as much as other people like their cell phone, it’s a good tool. I like air-conditioning; I don’t do well in really hot humid climates, you know, etcetera, etcetera. I’m not against modernity, but one of the things that modernity, and it really is global, it’s not east or west. One of the things that modernity does to us, it fries our nervous system.
[7:29] If you live in any city, in any country nowadays including Ulaanbaatar Mongolia and so forth, Delhi, oh my goodness, and so forth, the pace of life, the intensity of it, the driveness of it, the multitasking of it, the information coming in, everything! It’s everywhere, I’ve been to cities now all over the world, and they’re pretty much the same. Ulaanbaatar is no slower paced than Chicago, really. And the traffic is probably worse. And so we need to repair damage that’s been done, all of us.
And so among the Eastern sages that I trained with over the quite a few years, among the ones I knew personally. The one that I suspect, now it’s a subjective evaluation but I’ll just tell you what I feel, my sense is among all of them, Tibetans, people trained in Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, my sense was the person that I’ve trained with who really had the clearest understanding of modern bodies, not just western bodies, but modern bodies, bodies conditioned by modernity, was a teacher I had trained with briefly, two and a half months but quite intensely, because I was in a yoga ashram for five hours a day practicing yoga, and that was B. K. S. Iyengar.
Brilliant, he was worldwide renowned, it was well earned; he was utterly brilliant, incredible subtlety. He understood the body, but of course he mastered all of the asanas that he taught, and some of them were incredibly formidable. But he taught people on all levels, I was of course a beginner. He taught me, he gave me some personal attention, just because I had strange things with my body I guess. But he made, I’m repeating myself but it may be worth repeating, he told me and it wasn’t anything special to me, he was just saying what he says, is that before you are really ready for meditation you have to master the shavasana. Before you’re ready for meditation you have to master shavasana.
[9:40] And shavasana is not nap time with milk and cookies. Anybody can lay down like a corpse, even corpses can, it takes no skill. But can you lay down in a corps position and be in a meditative state? Be in a yogic posture? Yogic posture means that it’s a total integration of mind body, it’s always meant that, right It’s not go into this really cool posture and have your mind spinning around all over the place, and that spacing out and getting dull. That’s just a charade, it’s an outer shell. Yoga has always been integrated from the beginning, middle and end. All traditions, otherwise what are you doing? It’s ridiculous.
And so shavasana, he again, just the posture itself, he taught with such precision. But of course, can you remain in that shavasana and be in a mind state that is relaxed, that’s still, that’s clear, that’s very present, fully present with your body and deeply relaxed at the same time, and the breath just flowing unimpededly. I say that without going to the details of the actual posture itself. I would say that’s doing the shavasana. That it’s a complete integration of body and mind, both in a state of profound relaxation, but both in the state of equipoise, neither one falling asleep.
So, anybody who knew B. K. S. Iyengar, and I knew him 33/34 years ago, anybody who knew B.K.S. Iyengar would say that the last word that was to come to your mind when you looked at him, and engaged with him, would be - a wimp. He was tough, he was really tough, tough like my Khamba lamas, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, Geshe Rabten, they’re good, they’re benevolent, they’re companionate, but they’re tough, and B. K. S. Iyengar he was tough, Really tough. Always motivated by helping people, I never saw anything grungy or selfish, or petty, I never saw that. But boy, when he dedicates himself to his students, know that he’s not going to hold any punches, including slapping people.
[11:52] And so this emphasis on shavasana is not kind of some California dreamer, bla, bla, bla kind of thing. it’s Iyengar. That’s where I got it from, Iyengar. And he is brilliant.
So I just come back to that, because I know people in various traditions, sometimes Tibetan people train it, Tibetans that have absolutely not. I know one teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, he thinks it’s completely ridiculous,, he ridicules anybody that lays down in meditation, I hope he never get sick, gets ill or dies, because he may have to reassess that when the time comes. But people in Zen I think they are not very crazy about laying down in meditation, that’s completely wimping out, that’s when you just start beating people over the head multiple times (Alan is joking). Not over the head, over the shoulder, the soft part of the shoulder, I’ve have heard that. But if they actually lay down they might get who knows…(joking again)Those Rinzai. I mean those Soto people maybe not but those Rinzai people, look out, they’re all samurai stock right, I wouldn’t be so sure. In any case, joking aside.
But Theravada too not much, even though the Buddha taught right there, Buddhaghosa taught, the Arhat Upatissa taught the supine position, lying down is fine. Not much, sitting, walking, sitting, walking ok, laying down “what are you doing?”. But there it is from the yoga tradition. Where they have actually frankly generally speaking, much more sensitivity, much more awareness, much more care for the body than you’ll find in Buddhism, that’s the way it is, Theravada, Mahayana and so forth. They tend to just be much more conscious of how important the body is hence all the asanas, the pranayama, the diet and then of course Indian Ayurvedic medicine just completely integrated with all of that.
[13:42] so what I’m getting at here is that, if you’re not working on mastering the shavasana, I suggest you start. Now is a good time, we still have two and a half weeks. It’s something that will serve you well, I’ll just say that.
Kamil (Alan refers to one of the practitioners in the retreat) already knows that, take it from an expert. He’s only 32 years old. All 32 year olds are totally buff, strong, healthy, running marathons and so forth, right, until you’re not, and then suddenly the shavasana might be very useful. So any age is an age that we can get sick or injured. Any age at all, 1 year old, 10, etcetera, etcetera. So I’d really encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity, to learn how to meditate in any posture. And that’s a good, literally, fall back posture to master. And then standing, walking, sitting and so on. I’ve said it many times, but again.
I’ve had people come to these retreats, where in the 8th week, I remember somebody particularly in the 8th week somebody said “you’ve been saying this all along but only this week did I hear you, only this week did I learn how to breathe”. “Oh that business, oh you actually mean breathe effortlessly. Oh you mean effortlessly, is that what you were saying? Oh, oh I see - effortlessly! I didn’t kind of understand that part”. Can you breathe effortlessly, egolessly, no control, relinquishment, giving it all away, receiving what comes in without taking it in?
So as we look at the practice of mindfulness of breathing in the Pali Canon, breathing in long, one notes I breathe in long. Breathing out long, one notes I breathe out long. And then to short. What I really encourage is a suggestion, is that transition from the, I’m going to say this is true, which means I could be wrong, of course I can be wrong on anything, but I’ve never seen this written any place, I’ve never received this instruction from any teacher. Not Ananda Maitreya, not any of my other teachers. But here’s my interpretation. So that’s what it is, so one guy, 21st century, giving my interpretation. And that is, my interpretation is that when you’re doing this the Buddha taught so little, I mean four lines. That’s really skimpy when he taught so much, he could have given a book you know, on mindfulness of breathing, he gave four lines. So they must be super compact, four lines, that’s my sense of it, right And so here is my interpretation. I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it really clearly and shortly, then I may not repeat it again. And that is in this first phase when you’re just sitting down, you’re lying down, then you may find relatively speaking, that the in breath is relatively long, the out breath is relatively long, which means fairly normal. So maybe 7-5-6-7 breaths per minute, you know, 10 seconds for a full in breath and out breath, something like that, maybe a bit longer, a bit shorter, but that would be kind of an ordinary long breath. That you might have 7-8-9, something like that, cycles per minute, ordinary, like if you are just sitting waiting for a bus, and crowded everything going, your mind spinning, spinning. So that may be what it’s like. So that’s what it’s like when your system is basically agitated, and your mind is agitated, and the two are in sync. Agitated prana system, agitated mind system and they are both agitated.
[17:26] And then, you give it all a rest. At least you’re not stirring up the hornet’s nest of your mind. You’re not agitating it by further rumination, further grasping, hope, fear, desire, aversion, mental afflictions. You’re finally giving it a rest, you’re finally letting that wounded mind be cleansed, so that it’s not just continually getting infected, by more mental afflictions, more rumination and so forth. So you’re finally giving it a chance to heal, at least for a few minutes. And however long it takes, it just depends on how to put it really bluntly it depends on how damaged your prana system is, that’s what it really is about. How much you have thrown your system out of kilter, out of balance, by a whole lifestyle, mental attitude, modernity, everything that you already know about so that you don’t need any explanation from me, what’s the damage!
[18:19] And so, you have long in breath, long out breath, but then on occasion you have a really long out breath, and then a long pause, and then you may have some short breaths, and maybe a long in breath and a short out breath, and then maybe the opposite, and then maybe short, short, short but then it goes long again. And so as that’s happening, and you’re really relinquishing all control, then I would suggest this, my interpretation, your body is working it out, the body working out its kinks . If you put it into posture where you’re no way inhibiting the respiration, so if you’re sitting up right, and you’re very relaxed that’s fine, supine is really, really good, everything wide open, diaphragm open, chest open and belly soft open, and so there is no impediment there, either way, but let it work itself out.
[19:06] And as I have said before, when you’re in that phase where it’s either long, or it’s fluctuating all over the place, as I’ve just said, long out breath, maybe a pause maybe not, etcetera. And sometimes short then long again, during that phase just let your overall overwhelming emphasis be on relaxation. Don’t worry about stability, don’t get frustrated that your mind is bla bla bla, just keep on releasing, releasing, releasing every out breath. Just like if a mother has a young baby, like a three year old, two year old, one year old, like that, who for whatever reason just got really freaked out, maybe some loud noise, how about that, just a loud noise, maybe a car backfiring and the little baby is freaking out, you know how they get, just like freeking and the mama’s there, I’ve seen it, I’m sure I was that, so just imagine the mama just basically just holding and cooing, then rocking, and comforting and basically as long as it takes. It would be imagine the mother saying “ah screw it! [laughter]Work it out, I’m tired, it was just a car backfiring for crying out loud, what’s your problem?”[Joking]. The mother wouldn’t do that, right? They just -however long it takes until finally the baby is soothed. That’s what mothers do, otherwise human race would never have survived. Thank you mama. So for as long as it takes, that’s it, for as long as it takes. That’s it, for as long as it takes.
[20:38] And in that same gentle, loving attitude, not being impatient, not asking yourself am I progressing? Is this really worthwhile? Have I reached stage two yet? Give it a rest! The mama is not asking the baby "have you achieved stage two yet?"Like go faster maybe that will do it, put it in a vibrator, calm down, no. [laughter]. It’s just one of those things you can’t rush, you can’t rush to get the baby to calm down, not in any civilized way anyway. I’ve heard Whiskey has been tried on occasion. Doesn’t seem to be the optimal approach.
[21:32] So just be there and watch your body heal. Attend to it gently keep on releasing with every out breath. and then at some point, and this is an interpretation, because again there is not much said there, breathing in short one notes it’s short, breathing out short…I mean that’s what he said. But here is an interpretation, and that is on that coarse level, just like we have a coarse investigation and subtle analysis, on the coarse level reestablishing balance and composure, some equilibrium, right, and everything settling down because after all you are not exerting yourself physically or mentally, this is not exactly heavy lifting just watching the breath go in and out, and merely noting, I mean that’s your only job description. Is it short long, this is not calculus. It’s not trying even to balance your checkbook, it’s just like long, short, I think I can handle that. You don’t have to check your I.Q, you’re probably up to it.
[22:28] And so after some time, you may have passed through that initial, as a tiny bit of a surfer a long, long time ago, the initial break [surfing phrase]. We’re just getting beaten up, if you’ve ever tried to, on a board swam out through even 5 foot waves, you are really getting beaten up on the way out, let alone bigger. You know it when that wave hits you, you know it! It’s only 5 foot that’s a lot of water there. And so you’ve gone through out beyond the initial break, if you can get to the point where all those fluctuations - a long breath and all the variations, they kind of just settle down. They settle down, and your breathing goes into the shallow breathing. I’ll just put it that way, the Buddha said short, short-shallow, shallow-short. But its rhythmic, and it stays, it persists, continues on. You’ve come to kind of something, it’s sinusoidal it’s just cruising along and it’s shallow, but it’s nothing agitated about it, it’s not stressful. It doesn’t wire you or tighten you up, it’s just kind of flowing, but fairly rapidly. It’s a short breath so that means it rapid, relatively rapid.
[23:44] And until then, until that happens, I would suggest you linger there on mindfulness of breathing. Because for the soothing, healing, calming, balancing effect on your prana system, again just from a limited perspective, this is the best thing I’ve ever found. Better than pranayama, I’ve done it, no expert, but I have done it. India style, Tibet style, I just find the body has its own natural pranayama, and the body knows exactly what you need from moment to moment, from cycle to cycle the body knows exactly what it needs. No method you can learn from outside, will tell you “after 3 minutes and 20 seconds do this breath, three minutes and 30 seconds, do this breath”, I mean nobody is giving that kind of instruction, and if they did it would be good for only one person, because the person next to you is going to have a different array, different configuration.
[24:37] So that’s what I would suggest, and that is don’t disengage from the mindfulness of breathing too quickly. Work through that initial break, the turbulence, the ups and downs and so forth and so on. And just with infinite patience continue releasing, releasing, releasing, and try to undo the impact of modernity on your body. We have to start in remedial course; we are not Indian peasants living 1500 years ago or Tibetan nomads living 100 years ago, or anybody else living in a really traditional, slow paced , natural way of life that caricaturized human species for almost all of the last 200,000 years. The experiment we have done is been only for what, 100 - 150 years, something like that. It’s a very weird, and frankly if somebody were doing it to us I’d say cruel. But nobody is doing it to us, who you going to point to? Your dad? Your mama? There is nobody to point to, nobody! It happened.
[25:46] But there it is, it did happen and this is why so many people are so stressed out and ADHD [Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] is basically endemic. It’s not because our genes are bad or our parents are rotten, it’s in the air we breathe it’s a zeitgeist if you like. And so I think we need to take that very seriously. And we who are raised in modernity have the inside scoop. Tibetans who are raised in Tibet like most of my teachers, they know about this from the outside. I mean they may be clairvoyant which they know a lot, but if they don’t have clairvoyance, like this wonderful Khenpo when I told him that I really focused on my faults, he couldn’t, it just didn’t connect. He said - “no, that’s not true, people don’t do that, you know, normal people, like us, we don’t do that”. And you know if I’d continued the conversation, I’d said - “yeah but abnormal people like me, we do this all the time”, and then he would have a steep learning curve to see how what a case he had taken on in that monastery.
[26:52] So for the session we’re about to begin then, I’ll give a little bit of instruction, very little. Basically I have already given for the first half. What I’d like to recommend as your chef for this meal, is for the first half - mindfulness of breathing, big emphasis on relaxation. And see whether it happens, don’t try to force it, that’s just one thing that, it doesn’t work that way, but see if it happens over the course of roughly 12 minutes, that its first long, variable and so forth, and then after sometime as you really settle down, it’s from the inside out this core sense of release, of relaxation, sense of ease of body speech and mind. See! Just see, whether you do slip into, without forcing it, or trying to regulate it, make it happen, just see whether it naturally happens, that you slip into a shallow or softer, fine, fine breathing, subtle breathing that just undulates.
[27:49] See whether that happens, if so then that’s good, that’s what the Buddha was speaking of. And then of course from that point then you gently slip over to a second emphasis of relaxation and stability, but not stability at the cost of relaxation, right? Very familiar by now. So that will be the first 12 minutes, and the second one, this is going to be balancing earth and wind. So the second half will be then shifting right over to taking the mind as the path, and I’ll give instruction in that, that will be exactly parallel to and prime you for the next section of the text which is now moving more dynamically into the field of dream yoga of emanation and transformation. So we’ll do something comparable to that in the waking state, in taking the mind as the path. So this is going to be a very full 24 minutes, so get cracking and find a comfortable position.
[29:41] Meditation starts
[29:52] So settle your body, speech and mind in their natural state, and continue in the practice of mindfulness of breathing as already explained.
[41:41] Now let your eyes be at least partially open, your gaze vacantly resting in the space in front of you.
[41:53] You may breathe through the nostrils or the mouth, which ever gives you a greater sense or ease, of looseness.
[42:08] And single pointedly direct you attention into the space of the mind, and whatever arises in that domain.
[42:16] Sustaining the flow of your awareness without distraction and without grasping.
[42:28] What this means is to be lucid with respect to your mind, recognizing mental events as mental events. Rather than being carried away and lost, as you think you’re attending to the reference of the thoughts. As if you’re having a non lucid dream.
[42:48] Sustain the stillness of your awareness in the movements of thoughts, and recognize each mental event for what it is. Remain lucid without trying to modify or control anything that arises in the domain of the mind.
[43:54] And now deliberately generate a thought, do so premeditatively, slowly, almost ponderously. A sentence of any choice, any one of your choice, mentally articulating it syllable by syllable. As you allow this thought to arise, see if you can sustain the stillness of your awareness. As the syllables of the sentence rise and pass, and then dissolve away to the space of the mind.
[45:27] Generate another thought, not an interesting one, not one that will carry you off to the referent of the thought. Simply generate the thought and observe it syllable by syllable arising in the space of your mind.
[46:18] Now generate that thought again but this time transform it, change it in some way, modify the sentence.
[46:48] Now bring to mind a mental image, choose a type of fruit. Bring it to mind as vividly as you can, as large or small as you wish. Now make it much larger. Now miniaturize it. Now multiply it as many times you like, five, ten times, whatever you like. Make a lot of them. Now gather them all back into just one, the same piece of fruit with which you began. Now change it into another kind of fruit. And transform that into a vegetable. And transform that into an animal, of any kind you like. And transform that into a human being.
[49:30] And now transform that human being into one very attractive, for whom desire arises. Imagine a very attractive, desirable human being, focus on the desirable qualities and allow, enable desire to arise, and observe it.
[50:26] And now transform that human being into a very negative one, unappealing, unattractive. Quite repellant so that aversion arises. And observe the aversion that arises while letting you awareness remain still. Observing the play of the mind.
Think further on that person’s negative qualities real or imagined, really bad qualities, and see if you can arouse a sense of anger, disgust, resentment, contempt, and observe that emotion arising, as your awareness remains still.
[52:15] And now finally transform that person into someone who’s very pleasing, attractive, pleasant, delightful, smiling countenance, attractive, and observe the pleasure that arising from the stillness of your awareness.
[52:53] Then now simply relax, rest, let you awareness remain in its own nature.
Continuing with lecture
[54:53] So it kind of nice to be lucid isn’t it? Like hopping in your car and driving around going fast, doing the curves, going straight, slowing down, watching the scenery. It’s kind of nice I think a car isn’t it? Step on the accelerator it goes fast, or the break it goes slower, turn left it goes left. That kind of fun compared to being in the back sit, and the car is a drunk, completely stoned, and really likes driving fast. Welcome to the difference in the waking state between having lucidity and not having lucidity. Have you ever been tortured by your mind? While you’re awake? You’re in the back seat, somebody else is in the front seat, certainly not you, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing that. That’s called non lucidity, that’s called rumination, that’s called wandering mind, that’s why we practice shamatha, to actually get in the driver’s seat, so you can enjoy having a mind and not be tortured by it, and terrified by it.
[55:56] So welcome to the world of emanation and transformation, that’s what we’re just doing right? We are emanating thoughts, images, from a pumpkin to a strawberry to who knows what your fruits were. So there we are, and we go now to dream yoga, doing the same thing. Presumably there was no suffering in all of that, you were never tortured, never beaten up, never mugged, never dragged behind your mind, you’re playing with it, because you have decided what to do with your mind and you do it right? And none of those images, I think, tortured you, harmed you, if they did you just made them go away.
[56:38]So here we move on, page 155:
Training in dream emanation and transformation
You know what’s coming, it’s very straight forward, doesn’t need a whole lot of commentary. But it does begin with the phrase:
While apprehending the dream state
In other words it starts with lucidity, right? So one way or another. So to get to that point, then by all means make a liberal use of the wonderful techniques from Stephen Laberge, Paul Tholey and others working in this field of research, that help people who have never had a lucid dream, have them, or those who had only a few, have a lot more. They’re really good techniques, by a very well intentioned people, who are very clever, and genius and have come up with a lot of good techniques.
[57:18] But then now once you’ve become lucid, I mean, I’m going to say it just once again, because I’ve said it many times before, once you become lucid, just now remember your shamatha! Remember to be relaxed so that you don’t just wake yourself up. Remember to be lax, at ease, and then remember to maintain the continuity of your dream, keep it going, if it starts to fade, then reinvigorate it by rubbing your body, this is from lucid dreaming techniques, rubbing your body, that will reinstantiate you, almost like reifying you into the dream, except for you know you’re dreaming. You can rub yourself, you can spin around in a circle with your eyes open, but whatever you do, engage with the dream, and that will keep the dream going, so it doesn’t just fade out and have you slip back into the substrate. So maintain the continuity of the dream, keep it going, keep it going, you know like foot on the accelerator, keep it going, don’t let it stall, but then also don’t get lost in the dream like that poor prince, who was so enjoying the illusion that he was completely lost in it, then he lost his own identity, then became a wandering bagger.
[58:21] Don’t slip back into non lucidity, maintain the flow of cognizance, and then if you have that ongoing flow of relaxation and stability, also called continuity, then you can start attending more closely, bringing higher resolution, greater clarity, greater brightness and so forth to the dream, and then you’re ready for emanation and transformation. So that was all commentary on while apprehending the dream state.
consider, “since this is now a dream body, it can be transformed in any way”
Ok well there you are, as you just did, well you can, anyway the only limits are that of your imagination.
so whatever rises in the dream be they demonic apparitions
So the stuff of your nightmares,
monkeys, people, dogs and so on, meditatively transform them into your…
Well ok, now we’re going into dream yoga, this is no longer lucid dreaming
into your yidam
Tara, Padmasambhava, Avalokiteshvara, whoever it may be, just get it going and gear in dharma immediately. You’re starting to practice pure vision. Pure vision in stage of generation is you viewing all the sentient beings around you as manifestations of Nirmanakaya. All forms as Nirmanakaya. So the forms of everybody around you, you see all the men as viras, as enlighten male manifestation, all the females as dakinis, female manifestation of enlightened beings. So you’re practicing by the power of imagination, having realized emptiness or at least some insight into that, that you’re developing purevision all the way through, you go off to the cafeteria and it’s not just you know, grub, it’s the food of the gods! It’s food for dakinis and viras. So you imagine you are eating ambrosial nectar and food and so forth, and you as the eater are your own yidam.
[1:00:22] But transform everything, pure vision, will do it in the dream, but it will be a lot more fun, a lot more vivid because you’re already in deep samadhi, why? Because you’re dreaming! Because all of the awareness that would otherwise be flowing out to the five physical senses, isn’t, which means whatever you imagine is going to be probably really good, and a lot better than anything you can imagine doing the day time, when your awareness is so diffused. So this is what he is saying, he’s going right into core, core dharma practice. This is why this practice is embedded in Vajrayana practice. You can do dream yoga in a sutrayana context but then you’re not going to be doing the pure vision, and the divine pride and all of that, you still do it, but you do it somewhat modified. But this, we are already embedded in Vajrayana, embedded in Dzogchen, so why not.
[1:01:05] So transform everything into manifestation of Tara, Manjushri, whatever you like.
Practice multiplying them by emanation, and changing them into anything you like. That is the fifth session.
So you’re really, you’re deepening your insight, if you are a relative novice to lucid dreaming, dream yoga, you’re deepening insight through practice, through active engagement, deepening your insight into the emptiness of all that appears. If you can transform a little terrier or a poodle, into an emanation of Tara, well that will show that it was not inherently a poodle. That’s a pretty strong evidence, and for everything else as well. So that’s it in essence, right there.
[1:01:46] And of course you can do a lot more of them, you can and you should, walk through walls, walk on water, breathe underwater and so forth, and so on. Really expand you know, unfold your wings, take flight and really start exploring this world. But he gave quintessential instructions right there. That’s the fifth session, so now what’s the sixth session, moving right on:
while apprehending the dream state
In other words again maintain that continuity of relaxation, stability and vividness
by bringing forth a powerful yearning to go to Abhirati in the east, or the pure realm of Orgyen
That is Padmasambhava’s own pure realm,
in the west, you can go there and request dharma.
I mean, it’s just the power of your imagination, but if you’ve already been doing that, you recall the teachings given weeks ago, on remember like the arrow shot by a strong archer, and the central Buddha field, the akanishtha of samantabhadra or vairochana, and then all the others, and going out and going visiting each one, you remember? Circumambulating, making offerings and so forth, and so on. If you’ve done that a number of times in the waking state, as your phowa practice, your backup plan, the backup plan is in case you die tonight, I mean it would be really nice if you don’t, but if you do it would be good to have a backup plan, in case you have other plans, you know plans other than dying. If that doesn’t work out, then plan B is, practice phowa, it’s really good to have a backup plan and not just “oh! gosh, what do I do now?”. You should be able to do better than that.
[1:03:27] Because death comes unexpectedly, sometimes rather expectedly, but very often you never saw it coming . And then people when they see young man, young woman dying, they say: “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I must be dreaming, it can’t be they were so healthy just yesterday”. They are all surprised, it’s amazing, except for really seasoned Buddhists, and other people who are actually paying attention. [People are] so surprised “how could it be?”. It happens, it’s always been happening, it’s happened for as long as sentient beings have been alive.
[1:03:58] So there is a nice option, and his moving very quickly here, immediately into pure vision in the first paragraph, and now he is going right to, well why not? This is preparation of course for the bardo. And if you can do this in the dream, then you are making the perfect preparation for doing exactly the same thing in the bardo, and there is no way to estimate the value of that. If you consider how many lifetimes you’ve had thus far, and most likely had never been to a pure land, to be able to do something like this and gain entry, that’s another way of achieving path, get to a pure land, you’ll not come back unchanged.
[1:04:39] If you get to a pure land, Sukhavati or what have you, that’s the other way to get to path. It will be really nice to, I think, enormously important to discover a path to be a trailblazer, open up, make clear, make evident here is the path in this lifetime. This world desperately needs it. But we don’t know when we’re going to die, and so if you don’t reach the path in this lifetime, well the bardo is a really good opportunity. But to be able to make use of it, if and only if, you’ve been preparing for it.
[1:05:08]So yeah you can simply be, if you’re a very benevolent person like Gen Lamrimpa, and I asked him you know after he’d been meditating for 30 years or so in solitude, full time, and I asked him what are your plans for the future life, he said “well I’m just going to come wherever I can be of greatest benefit”, he made no reference to pure land at all. And there he is, he’s about ten years old now studying down at Sera [monastery], back to work, he’s a monk. So he came back, better man than I, I don’t want to come back, not to this world, not soon. You might notice I have a few rough edges when it comes to modernity and scientific materialism and so forth. To have to do this all over again, are you kidding me? Once was enough, for some of you once was way too much [Alan is sarcastic].
[1:06:07] So if you can visualize a pure land now this would be really, really, really good. That means you know, when you’re still awake learn about it, visualize it, do a bit of practice, so that you can become lucid - “ok what was it that I did before I went to sleep, oh yeah this”. You don’t have to be a superb visualizer, but one thing is guaranteed you’ll be doing better in the dream than you did in the waking state, that will be nice, Because everything is more vivid, and for the obvious reasons.
To subdue demonic apparitions and so forth
So if really yukky stuff comes up, as if you are going to a really rotten bardo, which can happen. All kinds of stuff happens in the bardo, some it can be really, really rotten, like a really, really bad nightmare. Well you might want to prepare, maybe some nightmare stuff will come in your bardo, very troubling, very frightening, scary, spooky and yet totally devoid of inherent nature. so should that happen:
practice emanating yourself as a garuda
Great mythic bird.
Some wrathful manifestation.
or the like, and transform them any way you wish
So - over power. This is while it’s still alive and all of that. It’s not such a bad idea in traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice to also be doing some dharma protector practice. Or some wrathful deity practice, Mahakala, Hayagriva, what have you, Vajrapani, because sometimes that’s the most effective way of dealing with the upheavals that come up.
[1:07:39] There’s a story from Milarepa, that he was out after he had been through all his training with Marpa, he was up in the cave, I think it was fairly early on, when he was up in solitude. Marpa just basically gave him the training and said: “ok, now scoot, you’re on your own, now do it!”. And he was ready, he didn’t have to be hand held. Marpa says:“ok, now go, do it”, And Milarepa is up there, again fairly early in his training I believe, and having these demons coming, demons coming, you know. I don’t remember the story, it’s like 30 years since I’ve heard it, but basically the gist I won’t get wrong. And so these really malevolent, threatening, demonic apparitions are coming, so he goes and meditates bodhichitta:“oh may you achieve enlightenment” and they’re [the demons] still going “haaaaa”. Nice try! And then he went to, ah! empty of inherent nature, devoid of intrinsic existence, and they’re still going “haaaaaaa”[scary sound]. Even if things are devoid of inherent existence they can still punch you in the jaw! A guy is holding a gun at you, it’s a non inherently existent gun, it still shoots you. The bullet will still, in a conventional reality strike you, and it won’t feel good.
[1:09:00] So he tried bodhichitta, they’re still there, just as malevolent, as menacing, as threatening as ever. He went into meditation on emptiness, and it still had no impact. Then he just manifested himself as a wrathful deity , and he scared the crap out of them, because he was bigger, you know. And that did it. It said of the Yamantaka for example, one of the wrathful manifestations, a wrathful manifestation of Manjushri, if you look at him, he doesn’t look like he’s very happy, you know, all the flames and the fangs. All the things he’s holding in his hands are not lotuses and rosaries. It’s like just a whole, it’s like Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone in one of the really, really violent ones, when they open the cabinet you think: “wow! How many kinds of machine guns do you need?” This is Yamantaka, when it’s like every single thing [in his hands] has some kind of [power], I wouldn’t like to bump into that in the dark. Really like a full arsenal. It’s said that when you look at the Thangka, it looks pretty terrifying, I mean it’s terrifying enough to scare the crap out of Yama the lord of death, I mean you have to be pretty heavy-duty for that. But I remember Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey telling us:“it looks pretty wrathful” - he said ”the real thing? -Way more wrathful than that!”, you can’t imagine how wrathful. And that’s what you generate yourself as. So whatever is coming up, you’re bigger, and meaner, and you scare the crap out of them, terrify them. They’re gone. So that’s the other way of doing, and that’s what he’s talking about here. Really crappy stuff comes up, good! Be bigger, meaner, fiercer, more hostile. They’re not sentient beings, they’re just empty apparitions. So no harm is done. [1:10:58]
In addition practice condensing many things into one, multiplying one thing into many. That is the sixth session.
So that should keep you busy for a while. That’s the sixth session. Then we move right on.
seeing through the dream:
Oh yeah this is good.
apprehend the dream state, and go to the bank of a great river.
Now, for us living in modernity like from California and so forth, bank of a big river, we’re just thinking where is my canoe? Or you know river, it’s recreation, water ski, canoe, kayaking, swimming. If you’re living in Tibet, the river is about five degrees, and Tibetans don’t know how to swim, virtually none of them know how to swim. Why on earth would you want to swim in that? It’s freezing! And so they look at rivers, and it’s a river of death. That’s a place to die. They don’t know how to swim. And even if you’re a good swimmer, if it’s five degrees, how long do you think you can swim, especially in a fast current, and these are mountains after all, it’s not the lower Mississippi, which I wouldn’t want to swim either frankly.
[1:12:22] So when I went to Tibet, one of the times, I’ve been there a number of times, on the way from Lhasa to Shigatse the road follows a big river. And we’re in four wheel drives, the good old land cruisers, and we stop for a little break and we looked down into the river and found corpses, human corpses the two of them. For poor people whose family can’t afford, because it cost something to ask somebody to come and take the body, and chop it all up, and you know it’s a lot of preparation to make the sky burial. Poor people just don’t have the money for that, and if you are in Tibet living at 12 thousand feet, that’s valuable firewood to try to cremate them. And it will take a lot of wood, this is not exactly dry tinder, a fresh dead corpse, is is going to take a lot of wood, to burn that up and really get rid of it. They have better ways of using their wood like cooking dinner, so wood was scarce, and they don’t have enough money for sky burial, and so poor people? Water burial. Just throw them in the river, send them to China, that’s what they’re doing. [Alan is joking].
[1:13:43] So rivers were a place of death. Not for fun, not for water skiing anything like that, place of death. And so, what he’s getting at is a big river, if somebody shoves you in a river in Tibet, like a 100 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, that’s kind of like a death sentence. And so what I think he is getting at, is your worst nightmare. Freezing cold water, rapid current, going down and you can’t swim. How much fun do you think that’s going to be.
[1:14:14] So he’s getting at a deeper point here, and a lot of you have encountered this in your daytime practice, they called upheavals, they called nyam. And I’ve heard so many times, you know this is the 8th of these 8 weeks retreats that I have led here. It’s so predictable, I heard one again just today, again, and I was not surprised, a person describing having a very good session, going to very deep state, very still, very deep, really going into having some real experience of the substrate. And then coming out, all hell breaking loose, emotions coming up, and heaviness, and vertigo, and somatic experiences, psychological experiences and going on for hours and hours afterwards, from a really good session, and authentic practice. There was nothing to correct, you weren’t pushing too hard, you weren’t being sluggish, you weren’t being dopey. You were doing it exactly right. And you had a really good session. And then that’s when the toilet flushes in reverse. Don’t be surprised, whatever is there is going to come out, and the deeper you go the deeper the stuff.
[1:15:32] It’s just the way it is, and if you don’t want it then stop practicing shamatha. And just be a little water skater , a skimmer like one of those little insects that just go on the surface of the water, and never go into it. Just let your life flit by, and never know it happened. Or just let life clobber you with stuff that happens anyway, and be totally unprepared every single time and then die bewildered, that’s a possibility. Or you can actually you know, invite it in, and see what’s there, and actually process it and become sane. That’s the third option. And that’s what it’s about.
[1:16:06] But the point is very simple, and that is if you’re doing a lot of shamatha practice of any kind, but the one that’s most in your face is taking the mind as a path. Because as you going deeper and deeper your eyes, kind of metaphorically but somewhat literally are wide open. And you’re seeing, you’re right there looking right at the domain of the mind, where all that creepy crawly stuff is going to come up. All the emotions, the imagery, desires, the memories, the fantasies, living daytime nightmares, that’s exactly what you’re attending to! So you’re going to get it right in the teeth, and you need to be prepared. You need to know what to do when that happens. And it’s because you’re dredging your psyche, if you don’t want to dredge your psyche then fine live on the surface. It’s your option, your free choice.
[1:17:03] But now the same thing is happening, you’re go into lucid dreaming, you’re start having lucid dreams, what are you doing? You’re taking the mind as a path during the nighttime! You’re doing exactly the same thing! And do it repeatedly, get good at it. And so in other words you’re practicing taking the mind as the path repeatedly while you’re sleeping. Oh! but there’s a difference - you’re in samadhi. Right? Everything is more intense, because again the same reason you’ve heard it so many times, your awareness is not being diffused out over six fields, it’s all in one. So whatever is coming up now it’s got the reality of pretty much waking state. And if it’s a nightmare, ohhhh it’s a real nightmare. Very vivid, very, very vivid, really terrifying. And so whatever your worst nightmare is, if you can try to imagine what would you most like not to encounter in a dream, what would be the last thing on your list that you would like to have to happen? That’s going to happen! If you can think of something worse well then that will happen to.
[1:18:05] That’s your psyche, that’s what getting dredged. You need to get all the way down to the substrate consciousness beyond all that. And you get through it by going through it and not just taking a detour and saying no thank you I just want to go to the end. One way or another, even if you’re practicing awareness of awareness, it may not get you while you’re on the cushion, but wait until you’re off the cushion.[laughter] When you’re thinking of other things then whaaam! Get your big nyam, when you’re off the cushion, when you didn’t see it coming.
[1:18:35] So what do you do with the nightmares? What do you do with the nightmares really intense, now you’re getting lucid nightmares, the worst kind, what do you do now? Because it’s going to come up, that’s part of the practice, it should come up. It’s not an accident, it’s not on a bad day, it what happens when the practice is going really, really well. It doesn’t happen much when you’re not having lucid dreams, or not having dreams, or when your meditation is really superficial, shallow, and just basically having chattering mind all the time. You’re not going to have deep nyam, just a lot of the ordinary haze. It’s when the practice goes well, that you hit the signs of progress, Padmasambhava calls these. [1:19:12]
So consider in the dream state, apprehend the dream state, go to the bank of a great river. consider, “since I am a mental-body in a dream, there is nothing for the river to carry away”
In other words it’s kind of like, in a dream, I mean for us going to rivers, like how sweet, you know, let’s go water skiing. For them that’s death right? So for us if we put this in the 21st century, ok, go to Syria, and find out where the nearest encampment of Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria aka DAESH) is. And say: “hi! I’m a Buddhist, can you give me some directions I’m looking for Bodhgaya”, see how it works out. I mean go to the most dangerous place you can imagine. Imagine going there, that would be pretty dangerous I think. And so go to a dangerous place.
[1:20:12] But then instead of, if they pull their guns out, or you see that big river there, that’s the river of death. Instead of backing up slowly, what do you do?
By jumping into the river, you will be carried away by a current of bliss and emptiness
So not drowning, not freezing, totally releasing into it. Well you know this is exactly the analog of the woman who saw the man menacingly coming towards her with a knife in her lucid dream, instead of flying away, instead of transforming into a cocker spaniel or anything else innocent and harmless. Instead she jumped into the river, and that is she took his hand with the knife and plunged it into her abdomen. And there was no pain.
[1:20:58] So this is rather deep into dream yoga practice. Where you know you can transform, you can transform the river into a desert if you like, transform it into a worm, anything you like. I mean it’s your dream right? But instead of transforming it you actually just jump right into it, and not again like westerners jump into a river for fun. Or anything dangerous, how about go to Florida where there’s lots of alligators, in fact you see them, and then jump into the river where the alligators are. That’s one of my favorite ones, turns my nightmares. A five meter long alligator and I’m in the water, and suddenly I’m totally slow motion, and the alligator isn’t. That one works for me. And I’m seeing his eyes just above the surface of the water, and thinking am I ready to just roll over and say:" meal time?"Or am I afraid? So that’s your practice.
at first, because of the clinging of self-grasping, you won’t dare,
[1:22:17] you won’t dare jump into the alligator infested swamp, you won’t dare to come towards the person who wants to stab you, and so on. You won’t dare.
But that won’t happen once you have grown accustomed to it.
So it’s again familiarity, just keeping doing it, doing it, doing it, until with your realization of emptiness; number one you’re fearless, totally fearless, in which case you know exactly as Lerab Lingpa said -when you become very adept at settling the mind in its natural state, you have a non conceptual certainty that whatever arises in the mind, whether or not thoughts persist, nothing can harm your mind. That’s what he said, and that directly from settling the mind in its natural state. Whatever comes up, alligators swiftly running fast, cold river, a person with an Uzi, whatever it is, if you’re settling the mind in its natural state, and these images are coming up, you know none of this is going to harm you.
[1:23:19] And likewise if you have that same lucidity in the dream then you know, nothing can harm you. So therefore there is no reason to change anything for your sake, no reason to run away, or transform, you’ve grown accustomed to it. So he says:
similarly, by seeing all such things as fire,
Like a raging bonfire, or a forest fire
Imagine how frightened you feel. Ever been right next to a precipice, and you’re looking over like that, and looking behind you making sure nobody is there that could push you. How frightening that is:“ohhhh there is death right there, I can take one step and I’d be dead”. See the self grasping that comes up. Not in real life you know, be safe! But in the dream you can try.
[1:24:08] So, fire, precipices, [and] carnivores animals,
Alligators, pythons. Just south of here, a couple of years ago I was at Klaus’s home and met with one fellow who is a naturalist and he said that a python down there, I think in Malaysia, that was 10 meters long. Python 10 meters long. But they found in a police stations there, the policeman kept on disappearing, the night watchman, one night after another disappeared! And they finally caught this python, they killed it, open it up and they didn’t find any policemen, they found their helmets. I heard about pythons when I was a kid, I remember our pastor in our church, Baptist church. I don’t know what the context was, but the pastor, and I was like ten, and the pastor gave this image of a python wrapping himself around you, and squeezing all the air out of you, and then just squeezing you to death. I don’t quite know what that had to do with the message of Jesus, but it left a very strong impression. And I know I didn’t want that. That really creeped me out. Not enough to keep me continue going to church, but it did creep me out.
[1:25:49] So carnivorous s animals, 10 foot long pythons, they’re carnivorous..
So by seeing through all such things as fire, precipices, carnivorous animals and so forth, all fears will arise as samadhi.
They will be transmuted into samadhi, you’ll be free.
The critical point for all of that is training in daytime appearances.
So we’re back to that. Whether or not you are having lucid dreams, or a lots of them, or few of them, or none of them, daytime appearances, daytime dream yoga you can do.
So the critical point for all of that is training in daytime appearances and the illusory body, and powerfully anticipating the dream-state.
That you can do.
when on the verge of sleep, it is important that you direct your attention to whatever you are apprehending at your throat, be it your lama, your yidam, a seed syllable or a bindu;
just a little orb of light. Whatever it is focus there on the throat chakra, I’ve already explained why,
and it is crucial that this not be interrupted by latent predispositions. That is the 7th session.
Latent predispositions basically just means wandering mind, bla-bla-bla of the mind. Just letting the same old grunge come up, then it defuses everything and kind of throws everything into entropy, instead of falling to sleep with your awareness kind of gently collected there at your throat chakra, drawing the pranas to the throat so that you have dreams, you have lucid ones, many of them, and that they are lucid.
[1:27:08] So that’s it. That’s emanation and transformation. And you can see, really it’s so obvious how enormously relevant that is to the bardo. Become lucid, master that, then there is really, you know, do it repeatedly, and then there’s no reason why, if you just remember that, when you’re in this dream like bardo, you shouldn’t be able to do the same thing. And the benefits of that I would say infinitely surpass the enjoyments of you know, just ordinary lucid dreams, you know I can walk through water, look I can walk through walls, isn’t this fantastic I can have dream sex, bla-bla-bla. Infinitely surpasses that, because that actually could change the destiny of all future rebirths. That’s why they practice dream yoga. So that’s that, enjoy your evening, sweet dreams, may you have many dreams, clear dreams, virtuous dreams and may they be lucid.
Transcribed by Noa Leshem
** Revised** by Cheri Langston
Final Edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti