09 Oct 2012
Teaching pt1. Alan continues with the series on the 4 greats with great equanimity. There’s a similar liturgy beginning with 1) why couldn’t all sentient beings abide in great equanimity free from attachment to those who are close and aversion to those who are far? There are various levels of equanimity. In settling the mind, still awareness and a lack of preference for all arisings are crucial for the mind to settle in its natural state. If you respond with anything other than equanimity, you are not doing the practice. In vipasyana, subjective awareness itself is established as empty as are the appearances arising to the mind and their referents. In dzogchen, samsara and nirvana are not only equally empty but equally pure and equally expressions of rigpa.
Meditation. Great equanimity. Let your awareness illuminate the space of the body and the space of the mind. Your body is neither the space nor the sensations, either individually or collectively. Rest in the emptiness of your body. Your mind is neither the space nor the mental events, either individually or collectively. Rest in the emptiness of your mind. If your subjective mind is empty, so are all the sense objects out there. Rest in the emptiness of the environment. Release all grasping, and let your awareness come to rest in its ground state. Imagine pristine awareness as an orb of light at your heart chakra. Inquire 1) why couldn’t all sentient beings abide in great equanimity free from attachment to those who are close and aversion to those who are far? Arouse the aspiration 2) may we all abide in great equanimity. Arouse the intention 3) I shall do it. 4) May I receive blessings from all the enlightened ones to do so. With every in breath, blessings in the form of light come in from all directions. With every out breath, that light flows out in all directions.
Teaching pt2. Imperturbability, equanimity, and balance are signs that your practice is working.
Those in long-term shamatha retreat have a clear preference for a good environment. Equanimity is dharma practice, not just shamatha practice, and we should develop equanimity towards all appearances (mind, body, and environment). It’s about the quality of awareness we bring to reality, not the quality of the experience rising to meet us.
Meditation starts at: 11:55
Teachings pt 1:
This morning we return to “mahaupecha”, great equanimity. So I’ll first just recite the Tibetan phrases that are the guide for the meditation. So the first line reads:
Why couldn’t all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of attachment to those who are near and aversion to those who are far?
And the rest continues as you would expect. So clearly this is referring to attachment and hostility, primarily to our fellow sentient beings, to other human beings and so on. So we’ve cultivated this already but now of course here it turns into an “aspiration” that all sentient beings may indeed abide in such equanimity, the resolve to do so, and then the call for blessings. So quite straightforward; we could just immediately go into meditation, but you know I am not gone do that.
(1:35) Let’s follow a parallel here of this equanimity, “upecha”, “tanhon”, it is similar but it is not the same as another word “nhamshot”, which means meditative equipoise: “nham” means equal, placing equally, the mind that is settled in equipoise comes to know reality as it is. So this whole issue of equilibrium, of balance runs through all of Buddhadarma and one of the facsimiles of this is found in our practice of settling the mind in its natural state. It is really core and if one does not capture this core then you’ve missed the practice, you are not doing the practice, right? So as you settle your mind, doing your best to observe the mind like an unflickering candle flame and observing the comings and goings, the stillness of your awareness observing the comings and goings of the thoughts; so that is very good, you’ve opened the door to the practice. But now if you are going to continue on that path, and if the mind will truly settle in its natural state of its own accord in its own way, it is absolutely imperative that you maintain an equality, an equanimity, an impartiality, a lack of preference and therefore a lack of grasping to anything that comes up: that is, an image of your dearest loved one or perhaps a person who is an object of great attachment may come to mind. Similarly a person with whom you have tremendous difficulties, maybe very strong mental afflictions arise toward that person, or memories that are pleasant, memories that are unpleasant, fantasies, fears, hopes and so forth. You will certainly be dredging your psyche, you can count on that. If you go deeply into this practice you will dredge the psyche, your worst nightmare will come up, your fondest dream will come up, they will all come up in their own way.
(3:33) And in this practice if you respond with any type of preference, with anything other than equanimity, impartiality, evenness: then you’ve stopped the practice, then you’re just sitting there doing something else, probably attachment and hostility. So we see there is a strong facsimile of the practice right there, but that very quality of awareness that is still, that is alert and that is even: that is the key to healing that which you are attending to. Your awareness itself does not need to be healed because it is luminous and cognizant by nature so what is to be healed? But the mind which is heavily conditioned by samskara, by compositional factors, karma, mental afflictions; all of that needs to be purified and here is a natural purification of mind. But it takes that very specific quality of awareness, still, clear, luminous, discerning, and impartial, even. Now these are just to the appearances that arise, not the actual people, bear in mind of course there is a difference. But then we go deeper, yesterday in the afternoon we were going to vipashyana in the close applications of mindfulness to the mind, but now with the view to realizing the empty nature of the mind.
(4:57) As one gains some glimmering, some insights, some taste of the emptiness of inherent nature of one’s own mind, bearing in mind again this mutual interdependence of the mind that is informed, the process of information, and that about which you are informed - take away one and the other two vanish, none of the three are inherently existent otherwise they would not vanish if you just took away one, right? And so then it stands to reason, doesn’t it? That if you gain insight, if that is true, that your own mind, the subjective awareness, the mind that is apprehending all of these appearances and so forth, if that is empty, it that’s empty, then all the appearances that arise to the mind must be empty. How could they not be? But if all the appearances are empty then that which they are referring to, that which is appearing, that which is out there. But Patrice is not an object of my mind, she does not exist in my substrate, clearly she is another person, right? But I access her by way of information, the appearances arising to me. But if the appearances themselves are empty then that which is the source of those appearances, the person or the place and so forth, must be equally empty.
(6:18) So here it is, if one realizes the emptiness of the mind then the contents of the mind must be equally empty and the referents of the mind must also be equally empty, which implies that subject and object are both empty of inherent nature which must imply that the distinction between subject and object must be equally empty of inherent nature, only conventional, only by the power of conceptual designation is there any distinction at all between subject and object; if the subject and object are inherently empty of inherent nature, existing only by the power of conceptual designation, of course the distinction between the two must be the same.
(6:55) So now we move into a deep realm of equanimity beyond the realm of shamatha into the realm of vipashyana. Now if this is true let’s keeping on moving here, let’s take one of the biggest dualities in all of Buddhism, samsara and nirvana, renunciation is all about definitely emerging from samsara and definitely emerging towards nirvana. So nen jun, nen definitely, jun emerge, emerging from this to that, right?
So it is a big transition. That’s one we should have our hair on fire about, right? A passionate all consuming yearning, aspiration, commitment, resolve to gain freedom from samsara and to gain the immutable bliss, the transcendence, ultimate reality of nirvana. Good, good, and of course bodhichitta stems from, and is an extension of, such renunciation. May I achieve enlightenment so that all beings may be liberated? Samsara and nirvana: if samsara is empty of inherent nature, and you can be certain from the Madhyamaka perspective of course it is, and it nirvana itself is empty of inherent nature, which Nagarjuna is very explicit about it, the emptiness of emptiness - if samsara is empty and nirvana is empty, the distinction between the two must exist only by the power of conceptual designation. The logic is tight, in which case another type of equanimity and evenness of mind with respect to samsara and nirvana, no attachment for nirvana and no aversion to samsara, a deeper equanimity.
(8:49) Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche, the late very, very great Dzogchen master, one of the Lamas of H. H. Dalai Lama, I think his principal Lama for Dzogchen, he wrote a marvelous book, his commentary to the seven point mind training; I believe it was his last teachings, his last teachings to western students and he offered his kind of final testimony, this is the keeper – you’ve received all kinds of teachings but this is one, this is the take home, really practice this, this will provide good food for you, and in this wonderful oral commentary then he makes this comment: when a bodhisattva comes to the end of the journey, he is almost about to achieve enlightenment, you are right there just about to slip over into perfect awakening, the final veils, veils of cognitive obscuration, when you are right there on the cusp of transcending samsara forever and achieving enlightenment, Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche says: at that point actually you have no preference, you have no preference for nirvana over samsara and then you just slip into non-abiding Buddhahood, the awakening that is non-abiding, non-abiding in samsara but also not abiding in, not absorbed in nirvana, seeing both simultaneously in a way that is simply inconceivable to the mind of a sentient being, no way to conceive, no way to imagine, but that strikes me I think as an extraordinary degree of equanimity, no attachment for nirvana, no aversion to samsara, completely even and then slipping right over into even, non-abiding enlightenment or awakening.
(10:57) Now we go one final step before going to meditation, in the Dzogchen, a Dzogchen view of samsara and nirvana: not only are they not inherently different, there are no inherent distinctions between the two, but from the Dzogchen perspective which is the perspective of viewing reality by way of rigpa, rigpa’s view, the view of dharmakaya that all of samsara and nirvana equally, equal purity, all of samsara and nirvana is of equal purity and all that appears in the phenomenal world and in nirvana
is equally an expression of rigpa, pristine awareness - from the most miserable states of existence to the pure lands, nirvana itself, all equally of one taste. And therefore one could say, I don’t know how, I cannot even imagine a deeper sense of equanimity than this - is not only seeing the ultimate nonduality of samsara and nirvana but seeing them as equally pure and equally expressions of one source, the effulgence, the play, the creative expression of rigpa . And then rigpa is the nature of your own awareness: amazing!
So I think many, many levels of equanimity. So let’s go in [meditation]…
Step by step settle your body, speech and mind in their natural states, relaxed, still and luminous, while allowing your breath to flow effortless, unimpededly.
Let your awareness rest in its own nature, in stillness, naturally luminous, illuminating the space of the body and the space of the mind. And as you attend to the space of the mind, be without preference, not even preferring stillness, emptiness of the mind over activities of the mind, and among the activities of the mind again, rest without preference, without grasping.
And in all the appearances that arise within the space of the body, note neither that space nor any of the individual appearances nor all of the appearances collectively actually are a body, they are empty of body, body is simply a name, a concept imputed upon bases of imputation that are in fact not a body. Attend to the emptiness of your own body.
And likewise the space of the mind, it is the space of the mind it is not the mind itself, and all the appearances and mental impulses that arise in that domain, none of them individually nor all of them collectively is the mind. And looking for the inherently existent referent of our concept, the mind, there is nothing to be found, your mind does not exist, not really. Rest in the emptiness of your mind. If your mind doesn’t really exist in here subjectively, then all the appearances to your mind, all the objects apprehended by your mind that appear to be out there must be equally empty of any inherent nature of their own. Rest in the emptiness of the entire environment and everything with it.
Releasing all grasping, even onto the notion of my awareness. Let your awareness come to rest in its ground state beyond duality, beyond individuality, and let that which is without form, manifest in form as a radiant incandescent orb of light at your heart and letting your awareness rest there arouse the question:
Why couldn’t all sentient beings dwell in equanimity free from attachment to those who are near and aversion to those who are far? Arouse the aspiration:
May we all abide in such equanimity, such equipoise. And if you will, arouse the resolve, the commitment, from this perspective of your own rigpa:
I shall make this so, I shall bring us all to such equanimity.
And then if you will, call on the blessings of your guru and all the Buddhas to enable you to carry through with this resolve.
With each in breath imagine drawing in, or accepting, the light of blessings from all directions, above and below, from all the awaked ones, empowering you, inspiring you, energizing you to carry through with this effectively.
And with each out breath, breathe out this light in all directions.
And whoever comes to mind, individually or collectively, embrace them with this light and with the aspiration that they may dwell in such equanimity, perfect balance.
Release all appearances and let your awareness rest in its own nature in stillness.
Alan talks about that in certain occasions the environment do not help you for practicing shamatha because it is too noisy.
(37:12) In Atisha’s Seven Point Mind Training, he said constantly remain in good cheer, a sense of wellbeing. Of course he is not referring to something superficial here, always putting on a happy smile - nothing like that, but abiding continually in a sense of genuine wellbeing, of flourishing, kind of your ground, your home. So one of the clear signs of a person whose practice is maturing, is really a true practitioner of dharma is that sense of groundedness, of imperturbability, of equanimity, of resilience, emotional balance. Whether one is so called Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, if one is practicing for months, years, and that’s not happening, there is something wrong with the practice; it doesn’t matter what you call yourself, Vajrayana practitioner, highest yoga tantra, Dzogchenpa, Mahamudra, Theravada, vipashyana, Zen, Chan - it is just one of the characteristics that your practice is maturing – that’s one of the signs, right? Balance.
(38:32) I’d like to just for a couple of minutes to address not only the people here but quite explicitly those listening by podcast and especially those who are in retreat - there are about thirty - that especially if one is focusing on the cultivation, and really determined to achieve, shamatha: this gives rise to very strong preference with respect to environment. As we all know there are conducive environments for shamatha and other environments that are just not conducive, and we do need that union of the outer mandala and the inner mandala - internal circumstances, qualities, outer, and then the union of those two in a sustained fashion and then you really have a real chance of moving along the nine stages of shamatha and fully realizing shamatha, but the environment is important, right?
(39:18) And then there is a problem: we are not practicing shamatha in a pure land – unless you already have pure vision you’re not - and so we’re practicing in this environment. I spent years in India and spent months and months in Sri Lanka, lot of time in North America also; one thing you discover when you are in retreat is you have very little control over your environment. And so what you would like? Oh, that is easy, I want my environment to be like this, my neighbor I want to be like this, I want the weather be like this, my meditation cabin to be like this, my food like this, my health like this, ok Santa Claus yes or no. It doesn’t always turn out that way and then one may become very frustrated. I am such a pure dharma’s practitioner, my motivation is so good, I have definite renunciation and reality is not rising up to meet me, reality is smacking me in the face with the dead fish. I don’t like it. Where are all the Buddhas when you need them? All I am getting is a big bucket full of samsara thrown in my face like dirty dish of water. So then it’s hard to maintain equanimity of course because if you have a strong motivation, strong aspiration to achieve shamatha and then the environment isn’t conducive, then you may think, ok where is the conducive environment and then you rise like a preta from your meditation place, where is the place? Where is the place? Big belly, a little tiny mouth, looking for the conducive shamatha place. It can be quite difficult. So it is still true that the conducive environment is very important, very, very important, because you need that quiet. One of the aphorisms from Tibetan Buddhism is noise is the thorn of Samadhi; even with ear plugs and noise canceling head phones it still comes in like an ice pick, RRRRR…(great noise) how about this RRR…(great noise)? In comes the noise and I know it well, I won’t tell this story but some of you may recall the famous and infamous Yorkshire terrier (a breed of dog) who managed to staccato beat himself into my meditation repeatedly.
So what to do when you are meditating, maybe you’re not in a big long shamatha retreat and maybe you’re just trying to get a little niche, one half hour, that’s all I’m asking samsara, just a half an hour, a little bit of peace and quiet in my own home where I can just do a little bit of shamatha, my little facsimile of nirvana. And then, does not happen, something comes up: traffic noise, family, whatever it is. Upecha, upecha is more important than that shamatha session. Upecha is more important than that month or two when your environment is really heavily inundated with noise. If you can change, and comes down to Shantideva’s simple, simple two liner: if there is something you can do about it why be unhappy and if there is nothing you can do about it why be unhappy. You may as well just come back to equanimity and show the world you are actually practicing dharma and not just trying to achieve shamatha because practicing dharma is more important than achieving shamatha, the larger includes, encompasses the smaller.
(43:15) So if in the practice of settling the mind in its natural state, if the ideal to be realized is to maintain that complete equanimity with regards to whatever appearances arise and that’s within that sub-space of the mind, right? Just the mental images and so forth, well then just expand and be aware that all visual impressions, auditory, tactile they’re all arising in the space of your awareness; and so then develop equanimity with respect to all appearances and not just those in your own private domain, the space of your mind - so develop equanimity all the way across. And if sometimes reality is not rising up to meet your shamatha practice, and sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s too noisy or whatever, then what to do? Recognize that the practice of dharma is not equivalent to the practice of shamatha and that is why in this so far seven weeks or so we have now really had the luxury I think all of us including me because I listen to the teachings too of having the good fortune to really be introduced to a very, very balance array of practices: the four immeasurable, now venturing the four greats, the four applications of mindfulness, Theravada, Pali canon style, Mahayana style – that’s really quite variety, that’s very, very balanced.
(44:30) So if on occasion in this retreat, people listening by podcast in retreat or living in the world that are more active, socially engaged world, if on occasion your environment is not arising up to meet you in your shamatha practice, be sure that it is rising up to meet you to respond with some other form of dharma which may be on that occasion more valuable to you than shamatha. So whatever comes up there is no occasion that one can say, oh, the four applications of mindfulness are not appropriate to this circumstance, that never happens, not when you are living, not when you are well, not when you are sick, not when you are dying and not when you are dead and not even when you are post-dead, practice the four applications of mindfulness in the bardo, it will be very good for you - empty appearances big time.
So there is no occasion in which the four applications of mindfulness cannot be practiced except maybe when you are sound asleep, or you are comatose, you fainted, ok, then you get a break. And likewise the four immeasurables and the four greats whether you are in solitude, whether you are with other people, there is no time, no time when they are not appropriate. So there we are – we really have quite a banquet here.
So, as your understanding of dharma becomes multifaceted, rich, textured, flexible, resilient then you will see because of the quality of awareness you are bringing to reality, you will find lo-and-behold reality is rising up to meet you every step of the path, every step of the path, always rising up to meet you, and the path opens before you and you do not have to wait, it’s right now. Enjoy your day.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Erik Koeppe
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon