02 Sep 2012
Alan gives a brief introduction to the 4 immeasurables. Whereas shamatha and vipassana attend to reality that is already manifest, the 4 immeasurables concern the realm of possibility and aspiration.
Meditation: loving-kindness. Begin with the aspiration for yourself by asking, “What would make you truly happy?” Visualize your own awareness as a white orb at your heart chakra, and with every out breath, light fills your entire with the aspiration “May I find happiness and the causes of happiness.” Light flows outwards and repeat visualization, attending to 1) a loved one, 2) another person, and 3) all sentient beings.
Meditation starts at 4:02
O Laso! So, this morning we’ll shift a little bit. Thus far we’ve been focusing quite entirely on shamatha and vipashyana, and in both of these modes we are attending to what is already real, what is already actual or actualized, the sensations of your breath and so forth, sensory appearances, and so on, but what just already manifested, actualized. And I think on these Saturday’s as we come to the end of the week, what I like to do each Saturday morning is just take a little deep into the four immeasurables, and so this week we’ll go to the practice of loving kindness, meditative cultivation of loving kindness, and here we’re really venturing into the realm of possibility.
It’s very interesting in Buddhism that one of the terms that’s used, to kind of refer to this whole phenomenon world is “cipa”, and the word means possible, the realm of possibility, and so one can ask, I’m not going to do a big philosophical thing here although I enjoy that, but are possibilities real? Or do possibilities exist? Put it that way, do possibilities exist? Of course they do, if there were no possibilities, then nothing would ever happen that hasn’t already happened, because it would be impossible, because the possible would be impossible and therefore nonexistent.
So when we venture into the cultivation of loving kindness we are attending to the realm of the possible, the realm of possibilities, of aspirations, of that which is not ready already true, not already actual, but attending to it, aspiring for it, and inviting the possible into the realm of the actual.
And so in this way, we actually expand the realm of the actual, by attending to the possible. Ok? So, I mean it’s simple, it’s very simple, but as we anticipate, and we envision, and we aspire for a greater sense of well-being, of joy, of fulfillment, and meaning for ourselves and others. We’re attending to something that is not yet real, but which could be, and one way to transform it from a mere possibility into an actuality is by focusing on it, “for the moment what we attend to is reality”, ever heard that one before? Williams James!
So by attending to it, we draw it into our reality. There’s a great power in that. We find it all over the place. In the placebo effect, it’s one of the most innocuous, weirdest, most misleading, euphemism in English language, and so powerful, and that is simply by believing that some little tablet will bring about the desired effect in your body, lo and behold it very often does. You know? And yet there was nothing in that tablet that was going to make it happen. It was all by that fact of believing, aspiring, hoping, expecting, and lo and behold that is the great bane of the pharmaceutical industry, you know… because they can’t sell it. So, there we are. So, terrible misnomer, of course it is not a placebo effect, it’s the effect of your own mind, but you can’t sell that, so therefore it doesn’t even get called by its proper name.
So let’s venture into, and draw from the luminous quality of awareness. Awareness has two qualities, right? It’s cognizant, one of the defining characteristic of consciousness, it’s cognizant. By way of consciousness we know. But consciousness is not only a knower; it’s also luminous which is to say it’s creative. So let’s draw to the creative, the imaginative, the powerful quality of consciousness, and apply this to the cultivation of loving kindness, and let’s start now.
We begin the practice with an act of loving kindness, with the motivation to find greater happiness, and to cultivate the causes of genuine happiness within ourselves. We venture into the practice letting the awareness descend into the body, fill the space of the body. With this loving aspiration, settle your body in its natural state, your respiration in its natural rhythm, settle calm, suit your mind, by way of mindfulness of breathing for a few minutes.
(8:15) And now let’s venture into the realm of the possible. And in a classic method drawn from to the teachings of the Buddha himself, and elaborated by the Theravada tradition, we begin the cultivation of loving kindness by directing these aspirations to ourselves, and we begin by envisioning our own well-being. The type of vision quest, if you will, but pose to yourself the question: what do you imagine would make you truly happy, realize your heart’s desire, bringing the sense of fulfillment, of meaning and satisfaction?
(9:31) Seek out a vision of your own flourishing, and illuminate it, with the light of your own consciousness.
(10:41) Then if you will imagine symbolically, the natural purity and luminosity of your own awareness, as an orb of a radiant white light at your heart, could be as small as a pearl, in the center of your chest. And with every out breath imagine light from an inexhaustible source, radiant white light, emanating from this orb of light at your heart, filling your entire body, pervading your mind, your entire being. As with each out breath you arouse this aspiration: may I find happiness and the causes of happiness. Wish yourself well with every out breath.
(12:42) With every out breath imagine this light filling your entire being, dispelling all obscuration, all hindrances, all afflictions, all that impedes the realization of your heart’s desire.
(14:20) And imagine here and now realizing, that quality of well-being, of fulfillment, that you most deeply seek or aspire for, invite this possibility into the realm of actuality here and now.
(15:31) And imagine your entire being completely saturated by this light of loving kindness, of natural purity.
(17:20) And turn your attention outwards, as if this light permeating your being, has filled to the point of superabundance, flowing over in all directions, flowing out. Open your attention now outwards, either specifically inviting someone to the space of your mind, someone who is very dear to you, a loved one, a friend, a relative, attend very closely, not merely to a mental image, but to the person, represented by a way of that image. Focus on the person, him or herself.
And with the question: what is your heart’s desire? What is your wish, your aspiration? What happiness do you seek? And then with every out breath from this light at your heart, let this light flows out, embraced, suffused, permeate this individual as with every out breath you arouse the aspiration: may you like myself, be truly well and happy, and may you find genuine happiness and its causes.
May you find all the hedonic well-being that you need, and on that basis may you find genuine happiness, realize your heart’s desire, and cultivate its causes.
And with each out breath imagine this person finding his or her own joy; finding the happiness that this person seeks.
Allow the appearance of this person to fade back into the space of your mind, and then for the rest of this session, you may invite another person and another, specifically invite them into the space of your mind, so that you may practice as before, or you may let your awareness simply be open, and see who comes to mind, who comes knocking at your door, and as soon as they come to mind, invite them in, focus closely, and practice as before.
(26:37) Open your awareness in all directions, attending to all sentient beings, and practice as before.
(27:57) Release all appearances and aspirations, and let your awareness rest in its own natural luminosity and purity, rest in the awareness of awareness.
(29:14) Teachings/instructions after meditation:
In between sessions as you continue to breathe, and always maintain this peripheral awareness, just lightly touching it with your awareness of the in and out flow of the breath, and practice close applications of mindfulness of the body, but especially when somebody comes into your field of vision. Here in the mind center, you’re out for a walk, you go to the sport center, or you’re just walking and you see people coming by in their cars, their little motor scooters, and so forth. You can always do this, just breathe out, imagine engulfing them, embracing them in the light of loving kindness.
Enjoy your day.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Noa leshem
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti