09 Oct 2012

Teaching pt1: Alan continues with verses 104-105 of Ch. 9 of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. Since awareness cannot precede, co-occur, nor follow the object of awareness, awareness is not inherently real. Similarly, no phenomenon comes into (inherent) existence. Inherently existent phenomena cannot causally interact with anything. Only conventionally does awareness arise in dependence on an object. 

Alan talks about the entry point of the 5 paths and 10 bhumis as outlined in Asanga’s Abisamaya Alankara and summarized into the 4 yogas of Mahamudra in Karma Chagme’s Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
Shamatha is the first step on the yoga of single-pointedness. The 4 applications of mindfulness brings you from earth-like bodhicitta to gold-like bodhicitta. Shamatha is the on-ramp to the bodhisattvayana.
Meditation: Mindfulnes of the mind preceded by awareness of awareness. 

1) awareness of awareness. Settle the mind in the immediacy of the present moment. With every out breath, release awareness into space without an object. With every in breath, awareness converges on itself for an unelaborated experience of being aware. There is nothing to think about. Just taste it continually.

2) mindfulness of the mind. While you may have the sense that mind is empty, how about awareness which seems really there? Does awareness have attributes? Is it static? Does it have the quality of knowing? Luminosity and clarity? Is awareness still? What is the nature of awareness with these attributes? What is the distinction between awareness and non-awareness? Awareness and appearances? Rest non-conceptually in knowing emptiness of awareness—emptiness by nature luminous, luminosity by nature empty.
Teaching pt2: Alan describes the development of ESP and other paranormal abilities. In the Theravada, paranormal abilities require realizing the dhyanas for each element. In the Mahayana, paranormal abilities appear in the first two paths through the union of shamatha and vipasyana on the nature of awareness.

meditation starts at: 55:00

Download (MP3 / 58 MB)


This afternoon we return to the Madhyamaka approach to the close application of mindfulness to the mind, continuing with verses 104-105 of Ch. 9 of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara.

Verse 104, chapter 9 Bodhicaryavatara: so this is investigating, this ontological probe into the very nature of the mind, he says:

104. If cognition is prior to the object of cognition, in dependence on what does it arise? If cognition is simultaneous with the object of cognition, in dependence on what does it arise?

“Cognition” here is just flat out awareness, the awareness that is being present with something.

“If cognition is prior to the object of cognition.” So whatever that maybe for example visual perception: I am aware of Daniel’s shirt, so if my awareness of Daniel’s shirt, if that awareness of Daniel’s shirt actually precedes the shirt - or the shirt is arising moment by moment so everything being in a state of flux - if the awareness actually precedes that which is aware of, it becomes clairvoyance, kind of weird. So he is suggesting, so he’s going to write that one off quickly. “If cognition is prior to the object of cognition”, which means you already having pre-cognition at all times, “in dependence on what does it arise?” If think it is transparent that it does not work but he is going through a process of elimination here. So that does not make any sense: that first you are aware and then the object comes afterwards, that would be a very strange universe.

“If cognition is simultaneous with the object of cognition”. So your awareness and the object of awareness, if they are occurring exactly in the same moment, perfectly simultaneous.

“In dependence on what does it arise?”

(3:12) And then how could there be any connection if they are actually simultaneous, how would they meet? And so that really doesn’t make much sense either. And then if it, that is awareness, arises after the object of cognition, so in dependence upon it, there is a lapse there, cause and effect, then from what would cognition arise?

(3:29) Once again what he is doing here is exactly along the same lines of inquiry that the Buddha set forth in his Maha Satipatthana Sutra, the great discourse on the four applications of mindfulness: “examine closely the factors of origination”. But rather than looking at it simply in terms of impermanence, dukkha, sukkha, and then self and not-self, he (Shantideva) is going: is it really there from its own side? And so if it is the case, now of course he is not challenging the whole of Buddhist psychology that says: “in dependence upon the object then awareness of it arises and that object acts as cooperative condition”. So he is not challenging that, but again as usual - and you really have to bear this in mind firmly - what he is critiquing here is not whether awareness, perception and so forth arise in dependence upon the objects that they are apprehending, which Buddhism never, you know by and large does not question that. But whether if we assume that everything is inherently existent which is really pretty much everybody’s working mode, working hypothesis from almost all the world is: it’s a real world out there and I am really here and then how do we get together? So if you have an inherently existent object out there and then in dependence upon that some real inherently existent cognition arises, then what does it come from? What does it arise from?

(4:39) So clearly it does not really make any sense that it actually emerges from or arises from the object, there is no evidence that it actually arises from the brain, I would love to see such evidence so many people believe it, I’d love to see their evidence, but so far none. And so then we can say, but no I’ve studied this already, right you know, where does it come from? It arises from the preceding moment of cognition if it is your first moment of visual perception when you wake up. So let’s imagine you are in a deep dreamless sleep, all the sensory modes have gone dormant and then while you are deep asleep someone comes and shakes you – “get up quickly there is ice cream in the kitchen” – you should know that you are dreaming. But if you suddenly wake up out of a deep sleep and say, “what, what?” and then suddenly your visual awareness of course is flooded with visual imagery: where does that first moment of visual perception, what is it arising from? Or is it magic that arises out of nothing whatsoever? Well the Buddhist view is it’s not arising from neurons, from the brain, from anything physical because physical phenomenon really just frankly do not have that capacity, there is just nothing in the whole physic and chemistry that suggest that mental events will arise from them. All kind of physical processes, yes. Mental? It is magical chemistry and magical physic - you will not find any course on magical physics and chemistry in any university that I know of, you get the magic only when you’re in another field like psychology.

(5:53) And so in any case not from there [brain or any other physical phenomenon]; so from what does it arise? Well if you study Buddhist psychology say, I know, I know, it arises from the previous moment of mental cognition. But now bear in mind he is not challenging that, right? And this is kind pretty much straight Buddhist psychology as well, but he is not challenging that, he is a very savvy scholar but he is saying consider. Consider that mental consciousness is inherently real; if that is the case mental consciousness will continue to be mental consciousness. An inherently real atom will continue to be that same inherently real atom right through and will not turn into something else because then it would lose its identity. How would it lose its identity when it is inherently bearing its own identity? So he is has just demolished the very notion that an inherently real cognition or awareness arises at all, right? It does not arise prior to its object, simultaneous with the object or after its object; it does not arise from anything so therefore awareness in terms of true origination, inherently existent origination, well, it never happens.

105. If it arises after the object of cognition, from what would cognition arise? In this way it is ascertained that no phenomenon comes into existence.

(7:28) So if it arises after the object of cognition, which Buddhist psychology says is conventionally true, from what would cognition arise? Inherently, from nothing, that is it would not arise at all. Conventionally, ok: preceding moment of cognition.

The final line here: In this way it is ascertained that no phenomenon comes into existence.

That is really a very tight, high density koan because he is not backing it up from any reasoning at all, he just says: “in this way it is ascertained”. It sounds like more like if you are following this line of inquiry this is what you will discover, so either follow the line of inquiry or don’t but if you do this is what you’ll discover, if you don’t well, that is your problem. But he is not backing it with any kind of reasoning at this point but the reasoning is there, it is ascertained that no phenomenon comes into existence.

(8:09) Back to that triad again, the object, the transfer of information or flow of appearances, and that which is aware of the appearances: if there is no inherently existent subject or awareness, consciousness, mind, then there is nothing to receive any inherently existent flow of information or appearances, and then there will be, again, no inherently existent object out there.

So the problem of causality, this is what he is getting at all along here, is that as long as one is reifying anything, as soon as you reify anything: yourself, mind, atoms, space, time, consciousness, anything - as soon as you reify it, assume that it has its own inherent nature, then you’ve isolated it from, conceptually in your mind, in your delusional mind, you’ve isolated it from any kind of fabric or network of causality.

(8:52) You’ve had it kind of implode in upon itself like an ontological sow bug. A sow bug is a little bug that creeps along and if you bump it, it rolls into a ball; it was a little bug and now it’s just a bug ball and it looks like it’s totally sealed on the outside. So all of reality would be consisting of little sow bugs that have rolled into a ball and they are would all be holding their own inherent existent but they couldn’t causally interact with anything which is exactly what the sow bug would like to do, not causally interact with anything, especially that which wants to eat it. So it is the reification is kind of sow bug approach to reality.

(9:22) And so in terms of the whole mind-body problem, it continues to be a problem, it’s been a problem for centuries in western philosophy, it is a problem now, and so many kind of attempts to solve it so that people can stop thinking about it I think because it is so irritating.

So one group called ‘eliminative materialists’, they say do not worry, subjective experience, the mind, it’s an illusion so therefore no problem, all that really exists, inherently exists, is the mind so there’s one way. If you do not understand something, just say it doesn’t exist. I like that. If you do not understand something say it is an illusion, it is not really there. Oh, that was easy. Any other problem you would me like me to solve? Cancer, Alzheimer, it is just an illusion. It does not really exist. So there is one approach.

(10:21) Another approach is, if you don’t understand it equate it to something you do understand or at least you understand better, so just say it’s the mind, the brain, actually have techniques for studying the brain and getting consensual knowledge about the brain, that is a real science, brain science, outstanding science; that they understand , they don’t understand the mind, so if you want to solve the mind-body problem just take that which you do not understand and just say, Oh, doggone it, it is the same as what we do understand, let’s get to work and give us more money to study what we like to study. So that is another cheap solution.

(10:54) But the problem lies in reifying anything at all. If you reify the brain, which is absolutely standard modality in all of neuroscience - there may be an exception here and there - but that it is an inherently existent, really there, incredible complex configurations of neurons, synapses and so forth, inherently really there waiting to be explored - then the notion that this chunk of mass-energy would somehow causally interact with some inherently real consciousness which is absolutely immaterial, absolutely non-physical, just calls for magical thinking, because it is just hard to imagine how that could possibly occur. So this is the “conundrum” that Descartes setup for us, he reified the mind and reified the body and then he said: Oh gee, how do they interact? (11:33)

(11:48) But the problem is not Descartes, the problem is not the eliminative materialists, the problem is not the materialists that just want to say: ok, it is just brain, or the dualist; the problem is the reification because as soon as you reify anything causality becomes horrendously difficult, I think frankly insolubly difficult.

(12:01) But if you cease reification then you can see: all right this means there is no inherent difference, intrinsically existent difference, between mind and matter, you do not have inherently existent matter or inherently existent mind, one with physical properties and the other not, so therefore you do not have them at all, then causality on a convention level - which we know to be true, nobody can doubt causality, not if you keep your eyes open and just watch hey, there is something that makes sense here - if it is on a conventional level it can’t be doubted and then you can say: Ah ha! maybe that’s all there is to it, the causality, the flow of events, how they interact with each other is all taking place on a conventional level but with nothing there being inherently existent or reified.

(12:43) So final note on that and then we want to go to retreat [meditation] is: if we go back to Sauntrantika saying, there are things that really exist and that means they are inherently there, they are absolutely there and those are the things you directly perceive and of course it’s not just material phenomena, that is ridiculous, mental phenomenon of course, anybody who’s not brain-washed in materialism knows that mental phenomena have causal efficacy, all you have to do is look, I mean look for five seconds and it gets pretty obvious. But the Sautrantika says here, alright, real phenomenon, physical, mental and then other types that are neither physical and non-mental, they all have causal efficacy, they are inherently there, they lend themselves to direct measurement or observation, that is, they are perceptible.

(13:27) But then there is the whole class like the ownership of this pair of glasses and that is not perceptible, it is not real, has no causal efficacy, because it is just because we agree again I can say: Miles do you want these glasses and he says sure, and they no longer belong to me. Something merely conceptually designated, according to Sautrantika, has no causal efficacy at all. Why? Because it is not really there, it is just something we agree on - it’s that light. Do you want it? Sure, why not. Ok, then they are yours. Ok. But we see nothing really happened except for the ownership shifted just because we say so. It’s purely convention.

(14:35) So the Sauntrantika says there cannot possible be any casual interaction between something that is real and something that is merely conceptually imputed or designated, agreed upon convention, is how is that, you know the fact this is mine, the ownership of this pair of glasses and the pair of glasses or the computer, the glasses and the computer, sure they causally interact like that (tapping the two pieces together), but the ownership of these two, they’re going to casually interact with anything? Kind of doesn’t make any sense does, not it? That is a good metaphysical realist stance, that anything that is conceptually designated, it is just a way of speaking but there is nothing there, nothing that has any causal efficacy that could transform into in an effect as a substantial cause that can contribute to, really contribute to the real emergence of something else - mere convention - forget about it, it is just words.

(15:25) And the Madhyamaka turns it right on its head, right on its head. The only way that causality can possibly occur is if none of the things involved in a causal interaction are inherent real. If anything is inherently real it’s sealed off from any kind of causal interrelationships. It is only because things are conceptually designated that they can have causal efficacy. So this is the king of reasoning, pratityasamutpada (dependent origination) according to Nagarjuna, the royal path to realizing emptiness is to just follow straight down that track of attending - and in a way it’s very scientific in the sense that scientists since Galileo, and certainly before, have been so carefully observing phenomena, taking them seriously, observing the nature of phenomena and then of course looking for patterns, regularities, which we call laws of nature and these tend to be casual, ok, talk [?] casual.

(16:15) So science is very much about causality within the physical world and then struggling to find, you know to understand, but not struggling too hard right now because they don’t have a handle on how to pursuit it, but the causality between mind and brain, the placebo effect, how does it work. I think there is not much research there because I don’t think they have a clue, how do you proceed? What exactly should we study to understand how the placebo… It is look like magic. So they say well never mind let’s exclude it from all the trials and then we can find out what’s really working and that is the chemicals.

(16:41) So but the scientific way is really looking closely at the phenomena with as much sophistication as possible, examining very closely the causal interrelationships among them and then lo and behold by the most mature of all the sciences, physics, within physics the most cutting-edge physics, which is in quantum mechanics and quantum cosmology, then coming there by way of studying phenomena and by way of studying pratityasamutpada in the natural world, then coming to conclusion that without the observer participant time is frozen and there is no change, which means there is no causality. Introduce the observer participant who says, ‘now’ and now relative to now there is past and future and then let the games begin and then evolution of the universe rolls and now you’re talking about causality but you’ve got to have the observer participant. It is really quite amazing. So that is a brief introduction and tomorrow we go on to the Ṣikśasamuccaya, his other great text, and the close application of mindfulness to the mind in that text. (17:55)

(17:55) But right now what I’d like to do is go somewhere else entirely – I’m going to surprise you. A little bit of history first, but I think I’ve mentioned it so I’ll be very concise. But it was just about exactly forty years ago when I was studying in the library with this wonderful lama, Geshe Nawang Dhargyey), after having gone through the entire lam rim, beautiful presentation, and then he went through all the entire Bodhicaryāvatāra – “Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”, did a marvelous job, of course he’s a fantastic lama. Then he went on the Abhisamayalankara, one of the five works of Maitreya, “Ornament for Clear Realization” delivered by Asanga, so very much as Dudjom Lingpa delivered a lot of mind treasures on Dzogchen, well so did Asanga deliver these five treatisies of Maitreya, the five works of Maitreya, and this Abhisamayalankara was one of them and a very central and all-abiding theme throughout the whole text is laying out, systematically step-by-step, the entire path to enlightenment. That is, what are the stages of spiritual evolution that you transform that you go through as you achieve, say focusing on Mahayana, the Mahayana path of accumulation, and then preparation, the path of meditation, the path of seeing, the path of meditation, and then the path of no more training. Any you come to the culmination of that fifth path – and that’s Buddhahood. So this is the most detailed, systematic, precise exposition, and then the commentaries and sub-commentaries go on for thousands and thousands of pages. So Geshe Nawang Dhargyey introduced us to this text and so that was my first introduction to the five paths, the ten bhumis, the ten arya bodhisattva grounds. But it was, when he described just the first one, the Mahayana path of accumulation, and then within the Mahayana path of accumulation, the first of the five, and they’re sequential of course, then it breaks down to small, medium, and great. So then you go to the small stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation. And when you achieve this, when having cultivated the four immeasurables, cultivated bodhichitta – when your bodhichitta, the mind of a bodhisattva – when it arises spontaneously, effortlessly, triggered by anything, when it’s uncontrived, effortless, then you’re a bodhisattva.

And when you become a bodhisattva, that’s when you step over the threshold and you are now, you have just entered the great highway, ‘lambo che’, the great highway to enlightenment. Stage one, it’s called ‘earth-like bodhichitta’, because it’s the foundation for all the developments, and refinement, and maturation of bodhichitta from that point on. And so as soon as I heard about that, I must say I was really enamored by that, I was quite thrilled and inspired, I thought Woe! There it is, there’s the target, that’s the onramp, that’s the entrance to the freeway, right there, that small state, I just want to focus there. So he introduced us to that and I got very inspired and I want to, okay: spontaneous bodhichitta, okay, good, good, good, and oh by the way, you need shamatha, okay, whatever. And so shortly after that, just about that time I was fluent enough in Tibetan that with the encouragement of His Holiness who was at that time my lama, primary lama, he encouraged me to enter the Buddhist School of Dialectics. So I was no longer going to the library so about the time that Patrice showed up I was already vanished into this freshly established monastery with just thirty monks. And after studying all the basics of logic, Sautrantika view, Buddhist psychology, laying a foundation, kind of getting it, and learning how to debate. That took about fourteen months of very intense study, very intense training: five hours a day of meditation, memorizing hundreds of pages of material – so we all did it.

And once we’d finished all that, I finished all that, then the very next day after I finished all that preliminary training, the very next day, then we were to begin six years of study, single pointedly six years of study on the Abhisamayalankara, with its commentaries, sub-commentaries, sub-sub-commentaries, and debating five hours a day on all of these five stages and 10 bhumis. And but I’m still looking at small stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation, and they’re talking about this! So what I felt like, I went off and did a Goenka course just before this six years was to begin, and there I was meditating, observing the sheer chaos, the garbage dump, and the cesspool of my mind for eleven hours a day for ten days just before I’m about to start studying the five paths and the ten bhumis.

When I came out of that ten days, even before the ten days was over, I had already asked for a personal audience with His Holiness, saying there’s no way I can study those five paths and ten bhumis, not when I’ve got a trash yard as my own mind – it’s impossible and I can’t do it. I didn’t even ask him, I just: I can’t do it. Because I’ve got this mess to deal with and I would like to just focus on the small stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation. And the rest of it – I’ll get to it later! But I really felt - and here’s the closest analogy – imagine you’re a beggar, a real beggar, maybe you’re a prince in disguise, that’s for you to find out, but as far as you know you’re a real beggar, and you’re there on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. You know they can’t tell you that you can’t walk on the sidewalk, even if you’re a beggar; I don’t think they can tell you, ‘You’re too poor to walk here.’ I don’t think they can say that. So even as a beggar, a homeless person, you can still walk down the sidewalk on one of the richest streets in the world, and some of the fanciest restaurants in the world, and you can look at the menu, even if you’re a beggar they can’t say, ‘Nope, your eyes cannot touch this menu.’ So imagine there you are as a beggar, you don’t have five cents in your pocket and you see, ah, there’s the hors d’oeuvres, fifty dollars for an hors d’oeuvre, wow! That must taste good. And there’s the main course, oh, three hundred dollars for the main course. And those are the side dishes, a hundred dollars a piece; the dessert itself is thirty dollars – wow! How about some drinks? Wow! Alcoholic drinks can be much more expensive than the entire meal. And so you’re seeing that some of them will be laid out in five courses, ten courses, and you see I can easily spend a thousand dollars here for one meal, and I don’t have five cents. Why don’t I study the menu for six years?

And meanwhile of course I’m going to starve to death. But man, will I know that menu! And if anybody stops by, they can say, ‘Do you know the menu? Have you studied the menu of this restaurant?’ And I say, ‘You bet ya! Would you like to spend six years with me, I can tell you about the menu, it’s a fantastic menu. Believe me! And I’ve smelled some of the food – because the smell came free – and it really smells good. So if you’d like to starve to death with me, sure, six years, three months, whatever you like. I can tell you about all of the five main courses, and then the ten desserts.’ And I just thought: no can do. I can’t do it.

And so I spoke with His Holiness and said, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. I’ve got to, what I want to do is just focus on the foundation and try to find the way to the path. And he said, ‘Good! Very good! Go do it.’ And one of his, Kushi Lati Rinpoche wonderful scholar, his consultant, doctrinal and all that, he said Kushi Lati Rinpoche, he’ll help you. So that’s what I did; just went off, and like that. And so this has been a source of inspiration for me ever since, that the earth-like bodhichitta, there you’ve actually gotten onto the freeway.

And then if you move beyond that – now the corresponding wisdom practice on that initial stage of Mahayana path of accumulation is – any guesses?

(26:15) What is the wisdom practice on the small stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation? You have bodhichitta of course, earth-like bodhichitta, but what’s the corresponding wisdom practice? It’s the Four Applications of Mindfulness. Out of the 37 wings, the 37 facets to enlightenment, the Four Applications of Mindfulness, right there on the small stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation. So that’s what I told His Holiness that I wanted to study and practice, I just want to focus on that. He said ‘good, very good - there’s the Kangyur, there’s the collection of Buddhist teachings, you can go to the main temple’, and they let me take down these great big volumes, I think I was maybe the only one, and started chowing down.

And so, what is the four applications of mindfulness? What is it that enables you to turn this earth-like bodhichitta into gold-like bodhichitta? Because if you achieve only the small stage, of Mahayana path of accumulation, you could conceivably lose it, and then fall off the path and then wander elsewhere. It could happen, by just encountering some atrocity, something that would so break your heart, shatter your spirit, demoralize you, that you just say - it’s too generate, I can’t deal with this and I’m just going to go out and achieve my own liberation; good luck everybody but that’s just one task I can’t take on because no can do - and then just follow your own path, it could happen. But if you seal, if you reinforce, that’s a nice word – if you reinforce that initial bodhichitta, that earth-like bodhichitta, with the four applications of mindfulness, then not only does your insight grow of course, but your compassion, your bodhichitta grows and it turns into gold-like bodhichitta, on the medium stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation.


When it’s gold-like bodhichitta that means it doesn’t matter what happens, nothing will ever happen that will cause you to lose your bodhichitta; in other words from now until you’re a Buddha, you will be a bodhisattva every single lifetime, you’ll always be on the path. So whether it’s 3 countless eons, 7 countless eons, 1 lifetime, 10 , whatever, you’re going to be a bodhisattva until you are a Buddha, there’ll be no deviations, you’ll be on the path until you’re a Buddha. That really, I must say, that really struck home to me. So that’s old history for me that goes back 40 years. 20 years ago Gyatrul Rinpoche taught a text by Karma Chagme Rinpoche – The Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen and as I translated it, translated his oral commentary we broke this into two volumes. The first one is Spacious Path to Freedom, the second one called Naked Awareness; but both are about the union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.

When we come right towards the end of the second volume, just a culmination of the entire volume, there’s a couple of chapters just before the concluding chapter, which are all about the five paths and the ten bhumis from a Mahamudra perspective. How do you move along those, practicing Mahamudra, and there’s a very detailed account there so anybody who has the book – you can read it at your leisure. But the basic structure of the path of Mahamudra is just four yogas. (Alan gives the Tibetan names for - ) 1. The Yoga of Single Pointedness; 2. Freedom from conceptual Elaboration; 3. The Yoga of One Taste; and finally, 4. The Yoga of No Meditation, and when you finish that, then you’re a Buddha.


So the whole path, the 5 paths the 10 bhumis are now all synthesized into four categories, just those for yogas.

So the first one is the Yoga of Single Pointedness – I always focus, just by my predilection, the other ones sound really good I’m sure; How do you get a table in that restaurant? How do you get a table and have enough money in your pocket that you can at least order a basket of bread, maybe a hors-d’oeuvre? But how do you get a table and not always be standing just outside the door? Picking up the fragrances and getting hungrier and hungrier. And so among these for yogas, the Yoga of Single-pointedness that covers Mahayana path of accumulation and preparation. The Yoga of the Freedom of Conceptual Elaboration – the path of seeing. The Yoga of One Taste – most of the path of meditation; the Yoga of No Meditation – culminating bhumis – arya-bodhisattva bhumis, and then buddhahood itself. That’s how they map out, so I hear that, sounds cool, a map upon a map, but now let’s just go back to the beginning because here we are, this is Rodeo Drive, here’s the restaurant, how can we get in and at least order some bread? Get in the door.

(31:57) And so Gyatrul Rinpoche re-inspired me all over again, it was really like my second wind, after 20 years primarily of Gelugpa, Theravada and some Shakya, then the last 20 years primarily Dzogchen, but with Gyatrul Rinpoche – big dose of the Mahamudra tradition from the Kharma Chagme from the Kagyu tradition. So I wanted to share this with you to provide context, and I think you’ll find it dovetails with everything we’re doing here, but very explicitly with- close application of mindfulness to the mind.

So I’m going to try to be concise here, if you’re even one tenth as inspired by this as I am, the time will be well spent.

So Karma Chagme Rinpoche is the author of the text, and he writes up and until single pointedness, and so as long as you are doing practices of all kinds, whatever you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, any kind of practice that you’re doing up and till but you’ve not yet achieved the Yoga of single pointedness, which means – okay how do you get in the door? The small stage, little stage, if you’ve not achieved that yet, up until single pointedness, primordial consciousness that realizes the path has not arisen. It means you’re not on the path, so that is not genuine, meditative equipoise. You do not have meditative equipoise until you’ve reached that yoga of single pointedness.


I recall, the Buddha said – the mind that rests in meditative equipoise comes to know reality as it is. Well you don’t. If you haven’t yet achieved the yoga of single pointedness, you’ve not achieved that yet and you’re not on any path. You may have been practicing for 40 years, you’re still not on any path you’ve just done a whole bunch of practice. This, that the other thing, all very well, all very virtuous, definitely a whole bunch of good imprints but you’re still not on the path and you’ve not achieved meditative equipoise.

Thus as subsequent appearances - so that is, in meditation you’ve not yet achieved meditative equipoise and then we have the post meditation state.


Thus as subsequent appearances do not arise as illusions- that is if when you come out of meditation you’re not having bone fide illusory like Samadhi between sessions, there is no genuine post meditative state. In other words without having achieved single pointedness, you don’t have meditative equipoise in meditation and you don’t have authentic post meditation experience either. You’re neither here nor there, you’re really nowhere at all. You’re wandering around samsara with a whole lot of good karmic, dharmic karmic imprints.
So Gyatrul Rinpoche in his oral commentary, he comments here, this is when my ears perk up. ‘The first stage, small stage, the first stage of single-pointedness occurs with the accomplishment of - shamatha’ - and I’m quoting. Otherwise, how do you say, I would never want to de-form his own statements, these are his words. The first stage of single-pointedness occurs with the accomplishment of shamatha, wherein one single-pointedly attends to one’s own awareness which is primordially unceasing and luminous.’ Unceasing and luminous, in other words the conventional nature of your own awareness.

So it’s shamatha without a sign, sooner or later you have to get there, if you are going to embark on these four yogas that are the Mahamudra, the Mahamudra route, then sooner or later you’ll be coming to shamatha without a sign. Awareness of awareness. Come by any means, Buddha image, mindfulness of breathing, whatever, but sooner or later you have to come there otherwise you’ve not achieved the first stage of single-pointedness, you’ve not achieved the path.


Now here I found it especially interesting, this is from Randjung Dorje and he’s the 3rd Karmapa. He lived back in the 14th century as I recall, in a text called the( sounds like Techen) or The Great Instructions, he comes back to this same point, just what Gyatrul Rinpoche referred to – you gain access to that small stage with shamatha on the mind, on awareness itself. Now Randjung Dorje, one of the again most formidable voices, greatest authorities of the whole Kagyu tradition, and he lived from 1284 to 1339, he says, and now I quote again, he says – “ at the stage of small single-pointedness (that’s the small stage, the first stage) there are four applications of mindfulness” – I bet you’ve never heard of that, I’ve never seen it anywhere else. We’ve looked at the four applications of mindfulness from the Pali cannon – Theravada, then we’ve looked it by way of Madhyamika, by way of Shantideva, now we are returning to the four applications of mindfulness via Mahamudra. What’s distinct? It’s very cool isn’t it? Very cool! So here’s what he says – “There are four applications of mindfulness, the application of mindfulness of non-compositeness, free of any thought of the body as being either clean or unclean.”

So you see now, where’s your vantage point? Where’s your lighthouse? On what island is your lighthouse by which you’re illuminating your body? Your lighthouse is resting in awareness of awareness; it’s the substrate consciousness. And then you’re turning the light of that pure luminous awareness and illuminating your body, but it’s a non-conceptual awareness, so the very notion of clean and unclean, which is it?

Full of fill and feces and organs and all that kind of stuff, all has its conventional reality, but not from your perspective; the very categories of clean and unclean do not arise. The very category of is the body composite or non-composite does not arise, you’re viewing it from a deeper perspective, just pure awareness. So there’s the first one, there’s your close application of mindfulness of the body, which from this perspective, the category of composite, non-composite doesn’t arise. The categories of clean and not clean don’t arise. Quite interesting, quite unique, I’ve not seen it anywhere else.

Let’s continue, how about feelings? The application of mindfulness, of taintless bliss, without regarding feelings as being either suffering or joy; so you’re just dwelling in this genuine flow of happiness, of wellbeing, of sukkha arising, but then without superimposing upon them, any category of suffering or joy. In other words do not reify feelings that arises, it’s taintless bliss, free of the superimposition of reification; because you can assume this is resting on Madhyamika. It’s not just leaping Madhyamika and coming from the Pali cannon to this. This is just as Shantideva is rising in dependence upon, built upon, the teachings in the Pali cannon. Likewise here, moving into mahamudra, this is resting upon, the Madhyamika, the middle way view that Shantideva describes. Because all of these now are imbued with some understanding, some taste of emptiness, gained by way of this close application of mindfulness, exactly as Shantideva was describing; so it’s an utterly smooth continuum.


We move to the third, the application of mindfulness to the mind, free of conceptual elaborations concerning the mind being either permanent or impermanent. So those categories too are not being superimposed on your own mind. And then finally the application of mindfulness of phenomena. Cutting off superimpositions considering the reality of Nirvana without thinking of phenomena as either having or not having an identity; an identity of their own, even that is left out. In other words it’s a non - conceptual view that is - not slipping into any of these conceptual constructs, but viewing them from outside those boxes. So that’s for starters. If you have the patience for it, let’s read a little bit more.


So single-pointedness in these phases of small, medium and great, these are comprised in the path of accumulation and preparation, and the freedom from conceptual elaboration comprises the path of seeing. Gyatrul Rinpoche comments here in his oral commentary –

“The defining characteristic of the first yoga – single pointedness, is recognizing the nature of your own mind. Further you realize that appearances are none other than the nature of your own mind, and that nature is space- like emptiness.”

So this is the wisdom characteristic that’s moving right through the path of accumulation, the path of preparation; all on this straight track of Mahamudra. If we go back to the primary words of the Great Instructions, I think this probably also by Randjung Dorje.

“Abide in the reality of single pointed, indivisible, Shamatha and Vipashyana” – so you enter into it with shamatha but then your first task on the wisdom side is – start developing Vipashyana, and (Beirgud??) was right, it is emptiness all the way through. But now, by this close application of mindfulness ala Shantideva – but now moving into the Mahamudra mode, that union of Shamatha Vipashyana, attending to the body, feelings, mind and phenomena, and the union of these two, indivisible Shamatha Vipashyana. The meaning is that single pointedness entails abiding in the space-like reality of emptiness and luminosity.


Emptiness and luminosity, this persists all the way through; it’s that non-duality of emptiness and luminosity, emptiness and appearances. At that time your realize the essential nature of meditation as space like emptiness and luminosity; but the vipashyana of ‘certain knowledge’ has not arisen from that space-like emptiness and luminosity, in other words you’ve gained some glimmerings, some insight, but it’s not yet got a lock, it’s not this ‘certain knowledge’; that’s with single-pointedness, because you don’t have that full non-conceptual, un-mediated realization; you pointlessly wander around in darkness, relative to the later states. At that time your subsequent post meditative consciousness reifies phenomena, by grasping onto them as ordinary and real. So when you’re in meditation, luminosity and emptiness, emptiness and luminosity, but then you come back and say – ‘oh, hi Miles, hi Tracy, what’s up?’ And you slip right back, it’s like what so many of you are dreading – going back to the mundane world, where everybody around you reifies everything, and they think they’re sane, how can you handle it! When you step out of this abode, where everything seems reified – you’re back to what they call ‘the real world’. Which is of course the delusional world, because that’s where everybody reifies everything, okay.


But here it’s something similar, when you’re off the cushion, the old habits come surging in again, you get on the cushion, you have these wonderful phases of sanity, but you get off the cushion and then the old delusions come in again. Hence, even though you attain empty luminosity during meditative equipoise, your subsequent consciousness in between sessions becomes confused concerning ordinary things. So there is the stain of grasping onto them as if real, and the stains of karma are not purified. So in between sessions if you’re not mindful, you disengage from meditation, so all of this actually, even though this is a bit further from where we are right now – very relevant to leaving this retreat. Very relevant you know, microcosm, macrocosm all over the place. If you’re not mindful you disengage from meditation, which brings about separation. And even if you are mindful- the essential nature is not seen during the post meditative state, so there’s no attainment; you keep flipping in and out. It’s almost like a person who is insane and has moments of sanity, then insane again, so you haven’t stabilized yet. “You’ve not dispensed with superimpositions upon experience and you still have the sense of an object, an agent of meditation. So this is a time of meditation in which the ultimate reality of the mind is reified.

The form aggregate and the five avenues of consciousness are purified, they’re cognized as naturally empty, ungrounded in any, in an essential nature. Since you are inevitably subject to grasping you’re experiential realizations are stained by that, the old propensities of reification. In terms of the appearances to your limpid awareness, you precisely discern subtle and gross causality, but because this is grasped as being real, causality is reified. When you are undistracted you are in meditative equipoise and when you are distracted you’re in the post meditative state. At this time you disengage from characteristics and you chiefly cultivate shamatha, in a state that is free of the intellect.


You know your own essential nature of empty luminosity.”

It’s a little bit more, so there’s the entry stage, quite clear I think, where you are going just in a seamless fashion, slipping right into the substrate consciousness, realizing the cognizance, the luminosity of your own awareness, and then plunging right on through to the emptiness of your own awareness, wherein the luminosity is still present. Because your awareness of emptiness is luminous, so you are simultaneously experiencing the luminosity of your own awareness and the emptiness of your own awareness, simultaneously the two. Let’s just take a sneak preview.

I will not be going into the three higher yogas, that’s again reading the menu too far. But in the medium stage of single-pointedness, and I think this is interesting, I mean it’s all interesting, ‘you occasionally enter into Samadhi even when you’re not meditating’. So now you see that divide between meditative state and post meditate starting to get blurry. The meditative state is kind of melding over into post meditative.


So you occasionally enter into samadhi even when you’re not meditating, and stability comes when you are meditating. In the limpidity of the training and the Samadhi of bliss, clarity and non-conceptuality; the quality of the substrate, here’s so interesting, in the limpidity, which means transparent and luminous, in the limpidity of the training and the Samadhi of bliss, luminosity and non-conceptuality, you can display numerous kinds of tainted, extrasensory perception and paranormal abilities. This is the medium stage, path of accumulation. Tainted why, because there is still some element of reification going on. But extrasensory perception, paranormal abilities are coming right in there on this medium stage, where there’s that gold-like bodhichitta. In that state, ideation or rumination arises less than before and whatever, and of course that’s in between sessions; and whatever arises, proceeds in its own limpidity. Just a sheer display of luminosity. Afterwards, whenever you are mindful of spacious appearances that are imbued with a sense of empty luminosity, at times this arises as meditation, and at times it arises more substantially.

So again you’re wavering in and out, empty luminosity, and then again the old habit of reification comes in, then it loosens us, empty luminosity again. Dreams occur less frequently than before. At times you have such an experience, and at times you do not, and you become fascinated with this meditation.

Shall I read a little bit more? I’m enjoying it, if you’re not you can always settle your mind in its natural state, don’t mind me, I’m going to read more.


The middling stage of single-pointedness in which the facsimile of empty luminosity is maintained with mindfulness, facsimile in the sense - this is not yet an unmediated, direct realization of emptiness, but it is something similar. In this middling stage of single-pointedness, although there may be occasional distraction, during which it is not maintained continually, it is called the warmth and pinnacle stages of the path of preparation. So this middling stage is equivalent to the first two of the Four Stages of the Path of Preparation. Warmth, and pinnacle. Once the experience has become stable, if that empty luminosity is maintained with mindfulness, it will become constant, even if at times it is not intentionally maintained. So you just get that flow going.

This is also called warmth and the pinnacle. That is the teaching of Gotsama, one of the great mahamudra masters. So what he’s just locked onto the middling stage, is these first two stages of path of preparation. So the small stage of single-pointedness, is small, medium, and great stage of Mahayana path of accumulation. Go to the middling stage, great stage then you’re in the first and second, third and fourth stages of preparation.

Just a little bit more – Karma Chagme says – by cultivating that meditation for a long while your mind will turn away from the eight mundane concerns, you’ll be freed from outer and inner parasites, much better than antibiotics, and you’ll be able to display paranormal abilities such as meditative manipulation and domination of the elements and so forth.

So mind over matter, big time. When that happens the qualities of single-pointedness have arisen. You’ve really nailed the first yoga. If the mind is not serviceable, if the essence and draws of meditation are not differentiated, due to a lack of mental peace, and if you are incapable of bringing forth the common signs of warmth, that’s the first stage of path of preparation, those qualities have not arisen.

Final one, it’s short.


Karma Chagme again – The difference between single-pointedness and freedom from conceptual elaboration, that’s the one that corresponds to the path of seeing, the next yoga; is in the former, rumination, ideation does not arise; so thoughts, rumination and so forth, in the former one – single pointedness, path of accumulation and preparation; when thoughts arise, they do not arise as the Dharmakaya. They do not display themselves, you do not see that these are actually nothing other than the effulgence, the play, the display of creative expressions of rigpa. You don’t see that, you see they’re empty but that’s all you see, they’re empty, okay, cool; but when you achieve by way of this Mahamudra, and this path right now is the same path as Dzogchen, they don’t differentiate until much later on, this is Threkcho phase, you’ve not yet realized rigpa, you’ve realized emptiness. But thoughts appear simply as empty, but when you move into the Mahayana path, let’s say the Mahamudra path of seeing, then you see not only the emptiness of all thoughts and so forth that arise, but you actually see them, you don’t visualize them, you see them as simply displays of rigpa, dharmakaya. Well from what perspective could you possibly see all appearances, thoughts and so forth as displays of rigpa? From what perspective could you see them? Rigpa. So that’s when you become a Vidjradhara , a holder of Vidja, a holder of Rigpa. You are now an accomplished Mahamudra practitioner.

Or if you’re following Dzogchen, this is all the same as Dzogchen right now it’s all the same there’s no difference. Terminology, that’s it, no other difference than that. So that’s when you become a Vidjadhara, the four levels of being Vidjadhara, I won’t go into those now.

So there it is. So that’s the entering of the path, the great path, how to get in the door, how to get a table at the Mahayana restaurant. That’s the path. It goes from the small stage, to the medium stage, to the great stage. And then the onramp, if you’ve ever been in a big city, I’m sure you all have, in Los Angeles we have this incredible maze of freeways all over, because we have so many cars and eight million people all jumbled in the same place. So I have been there many times, I used to live there, and it can be very frustrating at times when you are downtown, and you see the freeway you want to get on, and you say yep, that’s the way home, that’s the direction, that’s the freeway, and it’s about fifty feet above where you are, and you say, I wish I were a helicopter, how do I get my car up there? And you drive and it’s still up there, and you drive and it’s still up there, and then you get a one way street and go off in another direction, oh oh, I can’t see the path anymore, and then finally you do a lot of one-ways and finally you get back and – oh there it is but it’s still fifty feet above me.

You’d give anything, it’s the end of the day and you’re driving in Los Angeles traffic for hours, you’d give anything, oh lord bless me with an onramp! My kingdom for an onramp! Please, it’s just painful, to see the freeway I want to be on and see those cars going woom, woom, woom, and I’m sitting behind a red light, oh where’s the on ramp, please somebody show me the onramp?

Any guesses what the name of the onramp is?

Shamatha onramp. If you don’t have shamatha you don’t have an onramp. The onramp is not the freeway. If you just get on the onramp you know you’re not on the freeway yet, it’s called an onramp, right. You could be ticketed right there, towed away, so close, or you could just be so happy, you know a lot of onramps in Los Angeles have a little light that goes red – green, red – green, and you can’t get onto the freeway until it gives you green. But if there’s really heavy traffic you might be stuck with red for a while, and then you might fall asleep, in which case all you’ve gotten is the onramp; you could die there, you know, one of the many casualties on the onramp, then you never make it onto the freeway, you got that close, but if you didn’t have that final surge to actually get into the flow of traffic on the freeway, then you’re just on the onramp. Which just really means it doesn’t matter. You did get on the onramp or you didn’t, it didn’t matter because all you did was the onramp, you didn’t get onto the freeway, and that was the whole point of the onramp. You might just love the flowers next to the onramp, you might all kinds of things, so there it is, same thing. Shamatha is the onramp, it’s that which makes the mind so serviceable, that you can transform the contrived, the effortful, developed bodhichitta into something that just flows, spontaneously, effortlessly. And then with that Shamatha, especially that shamatha right on the nature of awareness, then you’re just perfectly primed to apply that right into the Four Applications of Mindfulness, thereby sealing your bodhichitta, getting it irreversible, and then it’s – get into the fast lane. Cool?
Good, let’s meditate, try to find that onramp.


(55:40) So lay your mind down to rest, the mind that is so energetic, turbulent, active restlessness, lay it down to rest in this non-conceptual space of your body, let your awareness come to the ground, settle your body, relaxed, still and vigilant; utterly surrender all control over the breath, simply observe the body breathing.

(59:26) Settle your mind in the immediacy of the present moment, free of grasping let your awareness be still. As if you are stretching before setting out on a marathon run, warming up, spend just a couple of minutes releasing your awareness into space with no object, utter sense of relaxation, of letting go; with your eyes open but your gaze vacant, utterly releasing all conceptualization, rumination as you breathe out, with no object but as the breath effortlessly flows in, let your awareness withdraw from all appearances and converge in upon itself into a radiant clear, unmediated experience of awareness itself, luminous and cognizant; and as the breath flows out release out into space with no object and as the breath flows in - concentrate, inverting your awareness right in upon itself, a simple unelaborated experience of being aware.

(1:02:16) As you arouse, invert and concentrate your awareness right in upon itself, this naturally serve to dispel all laxity, and as you utterly release, especially releasing any thoughts that may have arisen, releasing your awareness into space with no object, this is the natural remedy for excitation, so balance your awareness in this way.

(1:04:13) And while you may have some sense of the emptiness of your mind, this construct, this label that we superimpose upon a myriad of mental events, none of which are the mind, but that we superimpose upon the space of the mind which is an attribute of mind but not the mind itself, you may have some sense, some intuition, perhaps even some experience of the emptiness of inherent nature of your mind. What about awareness, that transparent, luminous, perpetual flow of cognizance, doesn’t that seem inherently real, absolutely real - independent of any conceptualization? Isn’t this one thing you can count on that’s really there? Closely apply mindfulness to awareness itself.

(1:06:34) So try to place awareness itself between the glasses plates that you place beneath the lens of your microscope, stabilize it, clearly illuminate it, this awareness of awareness; so that you sustain that flow of knowing of knowing, knowing of being aware with continuity and clarity. There is nothing to think about here, just as if you’re drinking a glass of cool pure water, there’s nothing to think about, just taste it and taste it continually, this flow of awareness of awareness, know it immediately.

(1:09:45)And now shift it into vipashyana mode of enquiry with the simply question - This awareness that you’ve been attending to so closely, does it have attributes or is it devoid of attributes? What are its attributes? These are identified by way of shamatha. Attend closely.

Is it static or is it arising in a series of staccato moments of awareness? Does it have a quality of knowing? Does it have a quality of luminosity and clarity? Is it created? Do the thoughts, memories and images emerge from it?

Is your awareness sometimes still, sometimes emotional, sometimes relatively free of grasping, sometimes carried away by grasping? Is it restlessness or calm, clear or dull, agitated or still? And examine very closely - what is the nature of this awareness that has these many attributes? If it is true, if awareness takes on one or more of these qualities and has some of these qualities perhaps all the time, then examine very closely, what is the nature of this awareness, that has these many attributes? Can you find that awareness among the attributes, any one of them individually, among all of them collectively or can you identify awareness as something separate from all of them while awareness possesses all of them? See if you can identify awareness itself, that has these multiple qualities.

(1:14:50) There is awareness and there is everything else that is not-awareness, which means that must be a distinction between awareness and not-awareness, there must be boundaries. So examine closely what are the boundaries of your own awareness? Where is it, how far does it extend and where does it stop? Where do you meet the border beyond which – not-awareness? The border between awareness and appearances that are illuminated by awareness, where’s the border? They’re not the same. Where’s the border? If upon thoroughly looking for this real awareness that is inherently real independent of all conceptual designation, if upon thoroughly looking for it right where it should be, if you cannot find it, rest in that knowing of the absence of awareness, the emptiness of awareness, and rest non-conceptually in that awareness of emptiness which by nature is luminous; and luminosity which by nature is empty.

Teaching pt2:


Just as a footnote, I find it quite interesting that in this Mahamudra account of the path of accumulation, and then specifically the small stage of this yoga of single-pointedness that there is already this emergence of paranormal abilities, and extrasensory perception, but with no reference to achieving the actual state of the first jnana , the second, third, fourth, there’s no reference to it all, there’s just shamatha and specifically shamatha focused on awareness, that’s it, but there’s no more elaboration about the jnanas. If you go back to Buddhaghosa, the path of purification the Visuddhimagga, he’s got a whole chapter, it’s quite fascinating actually, a whole chapter like a cookbook, like a chemistry test book, it’s so prosaic, so mundane, and that kind of makes it more appealing to me, there’s nothing mystical, or spooky or weird about it; that you achieve the first jnana, second, third, fourth jnana so you achieve all of those jnanas, but then you achieve the jnanas multiple times, with respect to if you’d really like to develop a full spread of paranormal abilities and extrasensory perceptions, there’s a whole chapter about it. And how you do that is by gaining mastery over the counter-part signs, or these archetypes so to speak, from the form realm, of earth, water, fire, air, that’ll be a good start, you can do the other ones as well, the primary colors, but you gain mastery of them and you gain mastery of them in the first jnana, the second jnana, the third jnana, the fourth jnana, in multiple ones, so it’s really working out in the jnana gymnasium, you know, because you are working through all of these one by one, each of the four elements but in the four jnanas so it sounds like a lot of work! It could be a lot of fun.


People like to work out in the gym, you know, this is working out in the jnana gym. And then once you’ve mastered all of them, with these multiple states of jnana, then you move, oh gosh, I haven’t memorized it, but it’s like okay now that you’ve learned the finger exercises – more advanced finger exercises. Go into the first jnana in the earth element; into the fourth jnana in the fire element, now come back to the water and now come back to the first in air, ready? Okay and now we’re going to go, it’s kind of – da-da-da-da-da; da-da-da-da-da – you’re really working out! And so you just gain this complete, kind of suppleness of being able to lock onto these different nimittas, these different archetypes of all the elements, in different jnanas, so you just completely master them, and then once you’ve mastered them, then the fun begins, because then for example, you go into one of the jnanas, let’s say the fourth jnana, let’s say in earth element, you get a total lock on it, like you own it, right, so there you are, you’ve captured it, and then you come back, but like holding some like peripheral awareness, you hold that, but then you come back to the desire realm, the physical environment and you find for example a body of water, right, so you get your target, it’s like you’re a bomber, you’re about to do a bombing run, so I’m going to bomb this lake, so it’s a lake, right, so you find your target in the desire realm with your eyes open, you’re seeing something with your eyes, okay there’s my target. Then you go right back up to the fourth jnana, and you get a lock, once again you reaffirm your lock on the form realm archetype of earth element, and then like dragging something across a screen with a mouse, you drag the nimitta, the counterpart sign of the earth element, you drag it from there and you superimpose it with the power of your Samadhi, on the lake, and then you walk on it. As long as you hold the Samadhi. And if you’re feeling generous, you say – Miles, or Thomas, whoever happens to be your companion at the moment, who may doubt very much your abilities, come and walk with me. And if Thomas gets into your flow then Thomas can walk with you. You’re holding the whole scene with your Samadhi. As soon as you release the Samadhi, and let that archetype from the form real just whoosh, like a yo-yo, flip right back into the form realm, then your water goes whoop and Thomas or Miles takes a bath.


That sounds like a lot of work, really interesting work, and if you have a thousand years to live that might be a good way to spend fifty of them. It would be fascinating, really, I mean if this is true, man everything’s different! But then you find no reference to any of that, here it is, I mean here in these two chapters in Naked Awareness he lays out all the five paths and the ten bhumis, but puts on the grid of these four yogas. But there it is, right in the medium stage of Mahayana Path of Accumulation, you’re already getting these powers, they’re arising spontaneously, and no reference to jnanas, so how are you getting it?

Again it’s not by magic, there’s no magic, there’s no woolly anything like that. Magic is simply a technology that’s not sufficiently understood. Or a miracle, simply an event that takes place, that stems from a dimension of reality you haven’t yet comprehended. So what would be the best interpretation, how would you make sense of this? And of course if you don’t want to take it seriously that’s your business, I don’t care. I take it seriously as you can tell. If these paranormal abilities, extrasensory perception, if this is arising right out there, out of the medium stage of the Mahayana path, the path of accumulation, how are you getting that without doing all of this enormous gymnastics of the higher jnanas and so forth? Well it’s transparent. By the one thing you are developing and that is the union of Shamatha Vipashyana right on the nature of the mind.

By realizing that, by gaining insight into the empty luminous nature of your own awareness, and by the power of that, the empty and luminous nature of all appearances, ah, you are becoming quasi-lucid.


Quasi-lucid. So the metaphor, my all-time favorite metaphor. Being non lucid, so you’re kind of lucid when you’re meditating but as soon as you get off the meditation cushion you slip right back into non-lucidity, within your dream, meditative state, post meditative state, right, that’s when you’re right there at the beginning. But then you start getting into the flow of it, but imagine there you are, in a non-lucid dream, but you’re coming into such a deep insight; number one you have this sublimely stable, clear, luminous mind, but you’re really probing into the very nature of awareness itself, and seeing that your own awareness within the dream; imagine practicing vipashyana within a dream, and that’s definitely possible, definitely possible; but imagine you’re doing this in a non-lucid dream, and you’re starting to not only rest in awareness of awareness but probe into, vipashyana wise, into the empty nature of your own awareness and gaining some realization, and holding that realization, to some extent you come out of, in this post meditative state, sustaining the awareness of the empty, luminous nature of your own awareness, and lo and behold, you’re getting these strong glimmerings, from insight, experience, a taste of the empty and luminous nature of everything you’re experiencing. And when you know that, when you know there’s really nothing there from its own side, it’s empty and luminous, then, all you have to do is start conceptually designating differently. If you see there’s nothing there, that has already designated itself, labeled itself, demarcated itself, solidified all by itself, when you see there is nothing out there, what you’re looking at is a world of potentiality, an ocean of possibility, waiting to be designated, right. And simply appearing as empty appearances, but nothing really there. So when you see it’s empty, it’s luminous, and you’re not going into the jnanas and capturing the form realm and all of that; right from that desire realm, within the dream, you could then start to shift the reality you’re experiencing. As long as you’re sustaining that flow of insight supported with shamatha, you can then start modifying that which you’re seeing – mind over matter. All of the elements in the dream, you can start changing them at will, and you’re still not lucid. But as you continue on that trajectory, and maintaining more and more of a continuity, a depth, a certainty of the emptiness of all phenomena within the dream; as you are moving into the path of preparation – the warmth, the pinnacle, the patience, and then supreme dharma, the four stages of Mahayana path of preparation, which now you’re coming to the end of the first yoga, first out of four yogas. When you’re coming to the culmination of that and you’ve really have realized Sharvashunya - the emptiness of everything you’re experiencing – yourself, your own awareness, your mind, other people, phenomena, appearances, everything! When you’ve now thoroughly, you’ve now comprehended – there’s nothing here that exists from its own side, and you’re maintaining a continuity of knowing that while you’re in formal meditation, and in between sessions. When you’re there, then you are about as perfectly ripe, for pointing out instructions, it’s possible. Because in between sessions you’re seeing everything as dream-like. It’s no syllogism, it’s not logic, it’s no inference, you’re seeing things, everything is dreamlike; yourself, your mind and all of phenomena and all you perceive. So then how far away are you from some Dzogchen master coming to you and saying – you’re very close, but you’re wrong on only one point – this isn’t dream- like, this is a dream. And with that the bottom falls out of your perspective. Because conventionally speaking, as an illusory being, you’ve still located yourself within the dream. Conventionally. You know it’s convention but that’s where you are, that’s your perspective, still there. And then the master says – or you can read a text, whatever it is- this is not like a dream, this is a dream. And then you break through your locus, where you feel you’re located, you break through awareness itself, that conventional, relative awareness, you break through that; and you break through to the ground from which the entire dreamscape appears. And now you’re viewing that same dreamscape from the perspective of rigpa. And you see – aha, that’s not dream-like at all, that really is a dream, and now I see - all the appearances and all the thoughts are really nothing other than, displays, creative expressions of rigpa. And now you’re a Vidjadhara.

Enjoy your dinner.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti, Erik Koeppe and Cheri Langston

Revised by Erik Koeppe and Cheri Langston

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti


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