11 Oct 2012
Teaching pt1: Alan completes his commentary on the section on mindfulness of the mind in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. The mind is not really seen anywhere—e.g., inside, outside, in the skandhas, in the elements, etc... From what does the mind arise? Does the mind arise from an object? If so, are they the same or other? Mind cannot see itself just as a blade cannot cut itself. Ordinary mind is never still, being conscious of one thing after another. A stable mind is still, single-pointed, not agitated, not scattered, single-pointedly quiescent, and free of distraction. One should dedicate oneself to purifying the mind which also purifies the body and the environment. One should always retain the ultimate reality of the mind—i.e., mind is like an illusion. Whenever you experience attachment or aversion, probe right into the referent, since klesas are rooted in reification of the object. Whenever your mind is tormenting you, look for it, and see that it is not there.
Meditation: Mindfulness of the mind preceded by mindfulness of breathing at the nostrils.
1) mindfulness of breathing. Let your awareness illuminate the space of the body, especially the sensations associated with the breath. Focus on the sensations of the breath at the nostrils. From there, give increasing attention to the space of the mind, until all your attention is focused on the impure mind.
2) mindfulness of the mind. Where is this impure mind? Do you see it? From what does it arise? Invert your awareness on the subject who is inquiring. Is the mind still or in motion? If the mind is in motion, where does it come from, and where is it going? Rest in the emptiness and luminosity of your own awareness free of concepts.
Teaching pt2: Atisha commented, “Achieve stability, and let the mystery be revealed.” Shamatha cultivates the unflickering flame of awareness that investigates its own nature.
Q1. Can the arts be a way to introduce buddhist teachings?
Q2. In settling the mind, are feelings mental states associated with physical sensations? I find myself attending to both feelings and physical sensations, since it’s easier to detect feelings via physical sensations.
Q3. Is it possible to recognize an emotion before it is manifest in the body? If so, is this a sign of clarity?
Meditation starts at 36:15
This afternoon wereturn to the close applications of mindfulness to the mind, we’ll look again at the presentation of this topic in [Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices].
It is helpful to remember once again that in the Pali Canon, of the Theravada tradition, basically the Buddha’s teachings, in the Pali Canon that one may achieve liberation, arhatship, by gaining insight into any one of the four applications of mindfulness.
(1:10) And now among the four we’re focusing on the close application of mindfulness of the mind and of course from this Madhyamaka perspective with one central theme, overwhelming theme, and that is to realize its emptiness of inherent nature. That’s liberation right there, if you gain insight into that, if you really get the fusion of shamatha vipashyana just on that one point, the emptiness of your mind then you’re free, it is like a free pass throughout all of samsara, that’s enough, that’s really enough, it’s kind of a big deal, the stakes are high, the benefits are enormous. So what does Shantideva have to say and not a whole lot I mean he is citing the sutras but what he has to say is very quintessential. He is cites once again here from the Ārya Ratnacūḍa Sūtra which states:
Note for the readers: when Alan is talking about the fusion of shamatha vipashyana that means they are one, so he does not use the word AND in-between the two words, they are no longer two separate things, that is why he sometimes refers to them as just shamatha vipashyana.
The Ārya Ratnacūḍa Sūtra also states, “By looking everywhere for the mind, one does not really see it inside or outside, nor does one really see it both inside and outside. It is not really seen among the psycho-physical aggregates, or among the elements, or the sense-bases. Since the mind is not really seen, asking, ‘From what does the mind arise?’ one looks everywhere for the continuum of the mind, and one considers, ‘Perhaps the mind arises from the presence of an object.’ Further, one ponders, ‘whatever object that might be, is it other than the mind? Or is that very object the mind? If the object were different from the mind, then the mind would be bifurcated. On the other hand, if that very object is the mind, then how could the mind see itself? It is implausible that the mind sees the mind. Just as the blade of a sword cannot cut itself, and a fingertip cannot touch itself, I think the mind is incapable of seeing itself…’
By looking everywhere for the mind:
It’s not like looking for something you haven’t found at all, just like with the banana, it is a silly example but it is very easy, very simply. And that is there is no way you can meditate on the emptiness of a banana, absence of inherent nature of a banana unless you can recognize a banana when you see it, you really kind of understanding the conventional nature of banana, right? And so banana and human being, and body, and galaxy and elementary particles, before you seek out its ultimate nature you must get that phenomena between the two slides to look in the microscope, get its conventional nature, and then probe to its ultimate. But you can’t skip the conventional, you can’t say - well never mind that I’ll just go for the ultimate, I don’t think that works with this strategy at all. So here it is, to gain insight, to understand, to recognize, just like recognizing someone’s face, Cassia’s face, I recognize her face, pick her out of a crowd, right. So the conventional nature so once you’ve found it, you say yes I recognize it among all faces, I can look at thousand faces I’d know Cassia’s face, I’d know Daniel’s face, I’d know Gabi’s face, once you know it, you know it, right? And then so once you’ve identified it, then you say - ok now we’re probing in, is it really there or not? So what does he say?
(4:12) By looking everywhere for the mind, one does not really see it inside or outside, nor does one really see it both inside and outside.
By looking everywhere for the mind, one does not really.
By looking everywhere for the mind, one does not really see it -So there it is emphasis on really, that is – are you apprehending it as it really is by its own inherent nature.
One does not really see it inside: for example inside of the body or outside, nor does one really see it both inside and outside.
In terms of seeking it trying to identify it within physical space = unfindable.
Instructions for one that is reading this transcript: sometimes we are writing Alan’s comments in the text between the signs […]. And as you may see below sometimes Alan read part of the text, introduce some comments and return to the beginning of the text and begin to read it again. And that is the way it is and we are doing the same here.
It is not really seen [again everything in that little adverb, really]. It is not really seen among the psycho-physical aggregates [the five skandhas], or among the elements [the eighteen dhatus], or the sense-bases [the twelve sense bases].
It is nowhere really to be found among any of these basic categories or classes of phenomena.
Since the mind is not really seen, asking, ‘From what does the mind arise?’ one looks everywhere for the continuum of the mind, and one considers, ‘Perhaps the mind arises from the presence of an object.
(5:18) So there it is, you’re looking for it, I mean you’re looking for it as something that is already present, right? And if you can’t find it anywhere, then you feel – okay I can’t find it but let’s see if we find its origins, it’s got to be here someplace. So if you can’t find it, itself, but at least find out where it’s coming from, maybe you know like Sherlock Holmes, you can trace it to source and ah, that is it.
So from what does the mind arise? It’s a really a good question, a scientific question, people asking from what do galaxies arise? It’s a very good question. What do planets arise from? What does life arise from? There’s a big unsolved question, the origination of life in this planet. Where did it come from? Is really true that it came from inorganic, organic chemicals and something happened to them and they suddenly just became alive? Is that how it happened? Good, where is the evidence? Of course where does consciousness come from, where does the mind come from? So there it is, asking very deep, very important questions but again the questions are not rhetorical. The really great thing about this is that there are answers to be found and the finding of which will radically transform and purify your mind, so this is not simply a philosophically exercise, right?
And reading again: ‘From what does the mind arise?’ one looks everywhere for the continuum of the mind, and one considers, ‘Perhaps the mind arises from the presence of an object [Maybe that’s where it’s happening from].
Further, one ponders, ‘Whatever object that might be, if the mind is it other than the mind? Or is that very object the mind? If the object were different from the mind, then the mind would be bifurcated. On the other hand, if that very object is the mind, then how could the mind see itself? It is implausible that the mind sees the mind. Just as the blade of a sword cannot cut itself, and a fingertip cannot touch itself, I think the mind is incapable of seeing itself…’
(7:01) Further, one ponders, ‘Whatever object that might be: if mind is really appearing from some object whether it’s the brain, whether it’s some object outside of the body, some other internal organ maybe the heart, who knows. If it really does arise from some object?
(7:15) ‘Whatever object that might be, is it other than the mind?
So bring it to the 21st century - if the mind really arises from the brain, there’s so many people who believe that now, okay, that’s not a ridiculous idea, so take that as an example. Perhaps the mind arises from the presence of an object, a functioning human brain. Whatever the object that might be, is it other than the mind? Is the brain for example, you could say your kneecap or a football, or anything you like, but if really comes from an object, is it other than the mind? Taking the example of the brain, is the brain other than the mind? Are they two? Or is that very object, the mind, is the brain itself the mind? Brain equals mind - look the brain you’re looking at the mind, many people believe that. If the object were different from the mind, I mean why not take the example the brain - if the brain were different from the mind, then the mind would be bifurcated, that is it would be kind of split in two, and that is there’s the brain you can look at objectively, and here is the mind that you experience objectively and so then would be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - split personality or Janus Faced, according to one of the most prominent philosophers of mind in the United States, I’ll keep him anonymous because I’m not really picking on people and I’m not about to pick apart his position. Is it the neurons in the brain, the neurons actually are Janus Faced, that’s what you call Janus - like two faced, and that is looked at objectively - they’re chemicals just physical stuff but looked at subjectively lo and behold they have a split personality, the same things are actually also subjective experience, ok?
(9:02) There’s no evidence for that whatsoever, but people can believe in all kinds of things for which there is no evidence, and this philosopher is one of them. So is it bifurcated, is it bifurcated? This mind is actually the brain but of course the mind is also feelings and perceptions and dreams and love and anger and frustration and sorrow, the richness the whole tapestry of subjective experience, and by the way there are also neurons, maybe? But it’s really quite far- fetched, I mean one of the most prominent neuron scientists we have in the world, Christof Koch has his own laboratory with his name on it at CALTEC, very bright guy, met him and we spent eleven hours in conversation a couple of years ago, he and his colleagues and he’s looked at this and said - no, come on. And he is a pretty dedicated materialist, by process of elimination I don’t think he’s really encountered any other view that seems at all feasible, but he said you know look at the qualities of the mind and look at the qualities of the brain they are so different , where’s our justification for saying they are the same thing? And that’s a rhetoric question, so he leaves it opened, to his credit.
(10:09) So there it is - if the object were different from the mind, then the mind would be bifurcated, and on the other hand if that very object is the mind, that object the brain whatever you, then how could the mind see itself? Does a brain really see itself? Which part of the brain, the brain as a whole or a particular neuron or the frontal cortex? How’s that happening?
But coming back to experience he said it’s implausible that the mind sees the mind, the mind as one single entity, one reified real entity sees itself, and this is a position of another very prominent philosopher of the mind in United States, his name is John Searle, and he said: “the mind can’t see the mind”. And then he throws that introspection entirely because his notion of mind it seems is completely monolithic reified notion of one entity, and he says that one entity can’t see itself, he said introspection is not like visual perception, where, as I’m looking over at
Patrice, I’m seeing something other than my awareness, something other than my brain, something other than my mind. “I am seeing a person!” she is quite different, he said.
(11:15) But so introspection not like that, of seeing something quite different from itself. And if introspection is some faculty of one monolithic real entity of the mind perceiving itself, then he’s right. But of course this is all hinges on the delusional notion that the mind is one reified entity which Descartes seemed to believe in and even some contemporary philosophers, and that seems to be the primary justification for throwing out introspection, which is the most catastrophic move of modern philosophy of mind and cognitive science, is they don’t do what all branches of science do, social sciences as well as natural sciences, and that is if you want to understand something, of any kind whatsoever, your primary mode of investigation should be to observe it to the best of your ability, and that’s exactly what’s not done by philosophers of the mind and by cognitive scientists of all sorts. At the most they will glance at it casually, but no rigorous training. So I don’t think we have a science of consciousness and one could argue, if one wanted to be really quite stingy, we don’t have a science of mind either.
We don’t know what the nature of the phenomenon is, we can’t measure it and we have no rigorous ways of observing mental phenomena themselves. How can you say this is science when all the others sciences do have what I just said, and the sciences of the mind don’t? So why do you call yourself of a science, when you call yourself speculation about stuff we don’t understand? That would be more accurate.
(13:07) So it is implausible that the mind sees the mind, if we are assuming as we assume generally that if something exists, it inherently exists, it’s implausible that the mind sees the mind, just as the blade of a sword cannot cut itself and a fingertip cannot touch itself, I think the mind is incapable of seeing itself, right on, as long as you are reifying the mind, it’s true.
Son of good family, furthermore, that which moves swiftly, ever so swiftly, without remaining still, like a monkey, like the wind, like a waterfall, and like the flame of an oil-lamp, travels far away. It is incorporeal, craves objects, experiences the six sense bases, and is conscious of one thing after another. ‘A stable mind’ is said to be one that is still, single-pointed, not agitated, not scattered, single-pointedly quiescent, and free of distraction.”
Alan is reading the text above in parts and adding comments:
Son of good family, furthermore, that which moves swiftly, ever so swiftly, without remaining still, like a monkey, like the wind, like a waterfall, and like the flame of an oil-lamp, travels far away.
Doesn’t it feel like that? It feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it, when you are really totally carried away by thought. Oh where were you? Oh, I was thinking about - in a land far away – in a time that has never existed. So we get carried away and we speak of people losing their mind. So the mind travels far away,
It is incorporeal,
So it’s interesting this mind, it really is, isn’t it? It is really a ghost, it is incorporeal. It craves objects, like a ghost.
experiences the six sense bases, and is conscious of one thing after another.
He has just described the undisciplined mind, the ordinary mind, the turbulent, dysfunctional mind. But then in the very sentence he says:
A stable mind is said to be one that is still, single-pointed, not agitated, not scattered, single-pointedly quiescent, and free of distraction.
A stable mind
That which is called a stable mind
is said to be one that is still, single-pointed, not agitated, not scattered, single-pointedly quiescent, and free of distraction.
I’d like one of those, in fact I’d would like two just in case the first one breaks, I got a spare.
And then finally:
The Ārya Akśayamati Sūtra states, “One resolves, ‘I shall strive to achieve this, and I shall not lose sight of this ultimate reality of the mind.’ What is the ultimate reality of the mind, and what is achievement? The mind is like an illusion. Devoting everything to that is called the ultimate reality of the mind. Renouncing all one’s possessions and totally dedicating oneself to the purification of all the Buddha-fields is called ‘achievement’…”
The Ārya Akśayamati Sūtra states, “One resolves, ‘I shall strive to achieve this, and I shall not lose sight of this ultimate reality of the mind. So quite a strong resolve.
I think if one were to ask - if you could only understand one thing in the whole of reality, what would be the most important thing you could possible fathom? I can’t think of anything more important - the mind. And then the conventional nature of the mind, no if there is something beyond the conventional nature, give me the real core, give me the essence, what is it like really, the nature of your own mind? So that’s what he says.
I shall strive to achieve the mind and shall not lose sight of this ultimate reality of the mind.
What is the ultimate reality of the mind, and what is achievement? The mind is like an illusion. Devoting everything to that is called the ultimate reality of the mind.
To strive to achieve this and I shall not lose sight of the ultimate reality of the mind. What is the ultimate reality of the mind what is achievement? So these are two things, I shall strive to achieve this and I shall not lose sight of this ultimate reality of mind. What is the ultimate reality of the mind? And what is achievement? The mind is like an illusion
Devoting everything to that is called the ultimate reality of the mind.
I checked, it’s an unusual statement, devoting everything to that is called the ultimate reality of mind. I just checked, the word is Jinba, which means to offer, offering everything, giving everything to that, that’s the ultimate reality of the mind and it just triggered, my mind is something of a network, so if you ring a little bell over here, little bells ring over there – Shantideva, first chapter, pretty sure, first chapter Bodhisattvacharya -
(17:00: “giving up everything all at once.” That is, if you give up, if you renounce, if you release grasping onto everything all at once. What’s that? Liberation, exactly right. That’s giving. I think the verb there is “tan ua” which means to release, to send. All at once, everything, that’s not only renunciation, that’s liberation. And here he says devoting, and that is a similar word, Jinba means to give, giving it all, I give myself wholly to this endeavor, completely, totally to this endeavor, that’s the ultimate reality of the mind.
Renouncing all one’s possessions [which means of course giving up, all the attachment to all possessions] and totally dedicating oneself to the purification of all the Buddha-fields is called ‘achievement’…”
So these Buddha fields, purification of the Buddha fields, and he really ends on a strong statement.
(18:00) And of course the theme here runs through all of Mahayana Buddhism, very explicitly in Vajrayana, Dzogchen and that is if you sense that you’re not living in a Buddha field, something less - then something less is not due to what is arising objectively by its own nature, but it’s all tied into observer participant. That if we’re seeing anything less than a Buddha field, then it’s from what we are bringing to the experience and not what’s just being thrust upon us.
(18:34) And so the purification of the Buddha fields is simply nothing more or less than purifying one’s own perception, purifying one’s own awareness, removing all the veils of mental afflictions of obscurations and then seeing what’s left. What’s left, and when we simply take away all the configurations, the distortions, the conditioning of our mental afflictions, of our karma of our conceptualization, what’s left when all of those veils are removed? And what’s left is Buddha field, and then there you are in Sukhavati, Akanista, Tushita [purelands]. So that’s it, that’s achievement. That’s transforming your entire environment, the world you live in by transforming one thing. There is a wonderful complimentary here, that is if we compare, I am kind of content for the time being with the distinction between hedonic science and eudaimonic science because I think you all know that I am speaking of both of them respect, not like one is for stupid people, not at all, modern medicine, communication, agriculture so many aspects of science are so valuable, valuable for everyone, it was never designed to veil eudaimonia so we should never criticize it for what was never designed to do. And Buddhadharma really wasn’t designed to build better tractors, airplanes, telephones, cell phones and so forth so we shouldn’t really blame Buddhadharma, hey, where’s your technology , it was never designed to do that, it was really all about eudiamonia, finding liberation, finding awakening, but then happily we don’t need to make a choice.
(20:15) So in terms of the hedonic approach, it’s been going on for four hundred years go back to Francis Bacon one of the great minds in English I think he was a lawyer, attorney, but he was one of the great architects of this new vision of reality, this new vision of how shall we understand the nature of the world, and it was a vision of science of natural philosophy, and a very core theme was - let’s understand nature so we are not beaten up by it, mauled by it, tormented by it, tortured by it, by disease, by all of the threats, all of the adversities, the natural world of hurricanes, of droughts, famines, pestilence, contamination - all kinds of things, so science rose up, and there is really an altruistic strain on it, not just manipulation, domination something big ego, big ego business, that might have been there too, but it was really for the benefit of humanity, for the benefit of the humanity let us now develop this natural philosophy so that we can understand the natural world around us, and then frankly protect ourselves from it and get benefit from it.
(21:22) So there it is, it was really something of a vision of trying to create pure land from the outside in, better agriculture, tame nature so that it doesn’t eat us up, and that is, you know if you have a river that continually floods villages, wipes out crops, kills people, might be nice to have some channels, so when there is a big flood it stays within the channels and everybody can live happily near it. I don’t see any downside to that. So that kind of thing, science has being doing that for four hundred years and in many ways very successfully and nature is awful awesome, so often we can’t control it obviously, but it’s certainly made our lives a lot more comfortable and better in many, many ways from the outside in, and was never designed to purify from the inside out, so again we shouldn’t criticize it. But there it is, seeking hedonically to create a Buddha fields, a pure land, a benevolent field of experience around us from the outside, and then if we rise up from the inside, to transform our environment by purifying our mind, get the best of both worlds, why not? So that’s called achievement. Where you transform not only your mind, your body, but you transform the entire environment and every one in it by purifying one thing and that’s your mind.
That concludes his presentation on the close application of mindfulness to the mind.
(23:18) One final point before we jump into meditation. There is a very clever, very smart method that Stephen LaBerge and his colleagues have developed, and teach very effectively, in terms of developing the ability to become lucid in dreams. And these are, developing your dream recall. Where you just make a point of really trying to remember your dreams by writing down dreams, keeping a dream journal, and then getting a bigger and bigger data base, and then going back and doing a meta - analysis, going back over your various dreams and seeing if you can find these dream signs. You may know what you dream sign is? A dream sign is very interesting, a dream sign is some person, a place, an advent, a situation, an emotion, an activity, that you see crops up time and again in your dreams, again, it could be a place, it could be a person, it could be an activity, a situation, and it could also be a state of mind, like an emotion, like anxiety, or happiness or fear, anger, what have you. But you see – oh, that keeps on cropping up in my dreams, not once or twice but oh, that is something of a pattern, not in every dream but you see that – oh, it’s time and again, there must be something there. And so that is a dream sign. And so, in this very nice systematic step by step, little steps of venturing towards really developing the ability to dream lucidly, while one chronicles a lot of dreams, teases out of them ones dream signs, memorizes them, and then throughout the course of the day you take as an example, as an exercise in prospective memory, this is remembering something in the future okay, and that is for example, traveling but things going all haywire, all cockeyed, things going bad, losing my luggage, losing my passport, forgetting my ticket, completely lost, don’t even know what city I’m in any longer, missing the train, whatever it is, that’s something going amiss while traveling. Probably traces back to the fact that I started traveling on my own at a very young age, in very, very alien countries and with hardly any money. And so, for whatever reason, past life too, I don’t know, but there it is, there’s a dream sign. You are traveling, you are anxious because things are going wrong, so then throughout the course of the day, see if that dream sign comes up. Well, not here because I’m not traveling, but then I do travel a lot, so when I am traveling, and often traveling is very smooth, no problems, everything is fine, I get to my destination, no big deal, but once in a while something goes bad, you miss your plane, whatever, and so maybe some anxiety comes up, or some disturbance in the mind, that would be a dream sign for me. So following Stephen LaBerge’s advice here, knowing this is a dream sign, and it’s not just traveling, it’s when things are going screwy, then as soon as I see that – ah I am traveling and things are really going amok, what do I do? I do a state check. I do something that will clearly indicate –am I dreaming or not? So there I am in the middle of the airport, and suddenly I look like a jumping bean, and if you are dreaming, the chances are extremely high that if you jump up you will not come crashing down like you do in the waking state. You’ll most likely float, or hover down - just gradually come down like a feather, or you might just kind of drift off. The last time I tried it, I just went up and then I hovered there and then I just thought okay, I am going to go into a little fetal position here, but that was a pretty clear indication that you’re not awake. Unless you’ve developed siddhis when you weren’t aware of it. And so that’s it, but if you come crashing down the chances are pretty strong that you are in fact in the waking state, whereas if you remain hovering, that’s pretty much a 100% guarantee that you’re dreaming. Or, another one – the time, if you have a digital watch you can look at it twice, any printed matter, read it then take it out of your field of vision and look again, the chances are about 85% that it will have changed. Do it twice then it pops up to about 92%, do it three times you are getting incrementally closer and closer to 100% certainty that if it doesn’t change you are not dreaming, but if it does change then that’s pretty well guaranteed you are dreaming. My favorite one I heard about only recently, it’s really cute and it works – is pulling your nose. If you are dreaming and you pull your nose you will find that you’ve turned into Pinocchio, and your nose gets longer, it really does, it feels like silly putty, then you know that you are dreaming. So there are various other tests but those are some that you can do, and the whole point there, and now I am going to come back to the main point, is that you look for the dream signs, and when you see one of your dream signs then, and here it would be better to find something else, maybe it’s a person that you know who happens to be here, maybe it’s a situation that is more common place, so it might actually occur here, but the idea that as soon as you see a dream sign, do a state check and make a habit of that. So you are anticipating, before they happen – maybe today I will see one of my dream signs, you probably have more than one, and as soon as you see any of them, then do a state check. Make that a habit so that just every time ( snaps fingers) it happens you do a state check, you jump, you pull your nose, you do something, and then, by making that habit in the waking state, it’s going to carry over to the dream state. And you’ll be cruising along in your dream, non-lucidly, and since it’s a dream sign, the chances are pretty good it will occur in your dream state, and then not believing you are dreaming, saying oh, this is one of my dream signs I should probably do a state check, then you’ll jump and you’ll have a big happy surprise because you’ll find you’re floating. Wow. You’ve just had maybe your first lucid dream. You’ve developed the habit in the waking state, it carries over into the dream state, dream sign shows you actually are dreaming, you become lucid, congratulations! So now, where is all this going? On the one hand that was just a little introduction to dream yoga, to lucid dreaming which is the entrance to dream yoga which is a very profound practice, but my point, why I am bringing this back to this – close application of mindfulness to the mind is to awaken in the waking state.
To come out of the non-lucid dream of reifying everything we engage with. If you want to find a dream sign, consider any time that you experience the mental affliction of craving or attachment. Not simply desire, if you are thirsty or want water, that is not craving, it doesn’t have to be. But I think you know now, the mental affliction of craving – attachment. Or the mental affliction of anger, hatred, hostility, mental afflictions, either of those, consider those are dream signs and whenever you experience either craving or hostility and you know it’s a mental affliction then take that as a dream sign and do a state check.
And the state check is – don’t bother me, pulling your nose, that will not help. But rather take that as an indication, I am angry with that person, I’m craving that person or that thing, that place, what have you, when you see the mental afflictions coming out then turn your attention fully to that object and see if you can find it, because that object, the point here is that mental afflictions are always rooted in the reification of their own object.
The mental afflictions of craving and attachment will not arise unless you first reify that which you crave or attached to. The mental afflictions of hostility, anger, aggression, hatred, will not arise unless you reify the object of your anger or hatred. Therefore as soon as you’re angry or full of craving say – wow, what an opportunity! This means the object of refutation shouldn’t be too hard to find, because it’s what I’m attending to. And then see if you can find what is it that is your object of craving or hostility, see if you can find it. Probe right into it. See if you can find your object and when you can’t, because Madhyamaka guarantees you will not find it, that thing that’s really there, that you are really angry about or that you really, really want, because it will make you so happy, or if you lose it, it will make you so unhappy. You see – ah, it’s a complete concoction of my own mind - it’s nothing more than an illusion, a fantasy, a fiction. It has no existence whatsoever, I’m sitting here craving something that doesn’t exist, how odd, isn’t that called insanity? Or I’m so upset, vengeful, angry, pissed off at something that doesn’t exist. Isn’t that called insanity? I mean at least be angry about something that’s real. But if there’s nothing that’s real by its own inherent nature, then every time you fall into a mental affliction you really have become insane. And similarly, bringing this a bit closer to home, does your mind ever upset you? A little bit? A little bit bothersome once in a while, like gnat that comes at your tea, oops, where’s the teaspoon? I want to fix it. Some people are luckier than me, some people are more like me, and that is just get mugged on a regular basis, big Godzilla of Alan’s mind saying – where’s that little wimp, I want to beat him up!
If your mind ever torments you, look for it. Where is that mind that’s upsetting me so much, that’s keeping me awake if you have insomnia, where is this mind? Who’s doing that, upsetting me making me so emotionally imbalanced? Agitating me, making me unhappy. Mind is doing it. Okay, mind, show up! You’ve been creating a lot of problems for me, where are you? Find it. It would be quite a relief to see that it’s not there, just an illusion, and then you can relax. When you see the emptiness of your own mind, then you’re seeing the freedom that’s inborn. Natural liberation, the emptiness of your own mind, because if your mind can’t torment you then you aren’t tormented, if your mind can’t afflict you, you are free of afflictions and one who is free of afflictions is called Arhat. So it’s Arhat in a palm of your hand. Let’s practice.
To find balance is to find healing, allow your body to begin healing by resting it in a state of posture at ease, of stillness, vigilance, body in equipoise, loose and relaxed. To find balance in the respiration just release anything that would inhibit the breath either in or out and anything that would force the breath in or out and allow the respiration to flow naturally, effortlessly. Thereby allowing your whole prana system, energy system of the body, to find its own balance in its own way, and settle your mind in equipoise, releasing the imbalancing tendencies of fixating on the past or the future, release it all, all at once and release it to what’s left over, the present moment and rest there in stillness, naturally clear and naturally still, natural shamatha.
Let your awareness illuminate the space of the body, relaxing deeply releasing in every way with every out breath. Phase one mindfulness of breathing - relax more and more deeply with every out breath and the balancing factor is to relax without losing the clarity with which you began; happily releasing thoughts with every out breath and then narrowly focusing the attention on the sensations of the rise and fall of the abdomen with in and out breath relaxing with every out breath, arousing and gently focusing your attention with each in breath, attending to the whole course of respiration.
Seeking continual engagement, without ever falling away from the breath or being distracted elsewhere explicitly seeking to enhance the stability of attention without losing the sense of ease and relaxation. Then elevate and more narrowly focus your attention on the sensations of the passage of the breath at the aperture of the nostrils, keeping your eyes soft and unfocused, your whole face relaxed, open, focus just your mental awareness on these tactile sensations, arousing with each in breath, relaxing with each out breath. While sustaining the flow of mindfulness of the breath, monitor the flow of mindfulness, recognizing as quickly as possible the occurrence of either laxity or excitation, applying the antidotes as needed, introspectively taking note of thoughts, of mental images that arise in the space of the mind.
Give a little more attention to the space of the mind and the thoughts and images that arise within it, going back and forth between the mental space and the tactile field where there’re sensations of the breath.
And give a bit more attention to the space to the mind, maintaining just the peripheral awareness of the flow of the breath. Closely observe whatever arises within this mental space. Watching it come and go. Now give your whole attention, your undivided attention, single-pointedly to the space of the mind and whatever arises within it, take your impure mind now as your path as you settle your mind in its natural state.
This is called shamatha focused on the mind. And among the various types of mind, a bodhisattva’s mind, a Buddha’s mind, the mind of an ordinary person, you can attend to the only mind that’s presenting itself which we call the impure mind, conditioned by mental afflictions, veiled by obscurations, samsaric mind. Now look more closely, more penetratingly, if you have an impure mind it could be taken as the path, a mind that could be taken as the object of shamatha, show it to me, show it to yourself. Where is it? When do you ever see it, this truly existent, real mind that troubles you so, and in so many ways? Now show your face, this thought, this image, that desire, that emotion, this space, where is the mind, show yourself. What do know more intimately than your own mind, experiencing it constantly throughout the day? So now identify this ever so familiar mind. Where is it and from what does it arise? But you may ask how can the mind find the mind, how can a fingertip touch itself, how can the blade of a sword cut itself?
So invert your awareness right in upon that which is seeking. Who and what is it that’s asking the questions? Show yourself. Is there a real subject here, the one who seeks? Where is the subjective awareness that illuminates the space of the mind and its contents? Is it inside the mind or outside the mind, inside of your head or below or outside the body? Where is this awareness? Is the awareness still or is in motion? If it’s still you should be able to get a good look at it and tell me what is its nature, what is it that has these qualities of luminosity and cognizance? Or is your mind in motion, is your awareness in motion and if so, where is it moving from, and where is it going?
Rest in the emptiness and the luminosity of your own awareness, free of concepts.
In Atisha’s Seven Point Mind Training, there’s a verse right towards the beginning, it seems to have gotten lost, it seems to have vanished in the later versions. But I have a very, very old copy, the earliest commentary, going way back, almost a thousand years, and in either the first line or right at the beginning - “Having achieved stability, stillness, let the mystery, the secret be revealed.” In other words it’s no longer a mystery, it is revealed then it is clear, and what can that possible mean beside shamatha?
Why does the introspection failed as a method of inquiry in modern science since 1875 when they first started using it? I mean they tried, they gave it a good shot, these are intelligent people, but it failed and they gave up on it about a hundred years ago. Why did they fail? Intrinsically is it just a crappy way to observe the mind? Since it is the only way to observe the mind then you are out of luck. I will suggest that there actually is a simply reason, they had no means whatsoever for stabilizing the attention. They had no techniques, so it’s left at a completely amateur level of course they never got any really good data because they were all amateurs, who according to William James couldn’t sustain their attention for more than three seconds, it’s hard to make a science. Imagine poor Galileo getting his telescope out – oh there is Jupiter, oops, where did it go? There’s Jupiter, oh I lost it again, ah crap I think I just want some Lasagna, at least it stays on the plate! If you couldn’t focus on anything more than three seconds I think I would get frustrated, right?
So there it is, that was the key to success which they didn’t have, so they had the key to failure and that is why introspection to this day is not a rigorous mode of enquiry in any branch of modern science. Thank goodness that’s not the only civilization on earth.
(1:04:03) So stabilize your mind just as he said there, I won’t read it again, but he said - stable mind, still, single-pointed, not scattered, not dispersed and so forth, ok, now you’ve got a tool, now you’ve got something, an un-flickering flame of awareness so you can actually sustain your observation, closely apply your mindfulness and then hold that mind in mind, and then examine closely.
(1:04:27) And so Atisha goes from there and then it’s quite interesting because it’s just the opposite of Lamrim. Lamrim starts with renunciation, bodhichitta, first four perfections and then gets to shamatha and then finally, finally vipashyana, perfection of wisdom, very skillful means, so it is taking relative bodhichitta first which again Geshe so strongly emphasized and for good reason, and then once you’ve really developed that then develop the ultimate one, the realization of emptiness, right?
Atisha just did the opposite. Atisha who invented the first Lamrim set the format set the templet for Gampopa and all the traditions that had Lamrim, and they all do. It was Atisha who set the templet. There is one method and actually it’s for people of dull faculties, and then for people of sharp faculties, which in fact he did not have as a public teaching for quite a long time, seven point mind training for people of sharp faculties. Ultimate bodhichitta first, relative bodhichitta second, quite interesting, and that’s exactly what he does - read the text, there it is. It’s first teaching on emptiness, when he is finished that, the final line when he finished all of the teachings on meditative equipoise, what do you do when you are in formal meditation, then ok then you have to come out of meditation, in between sessions, what? In between sessions acting as an illusory being, right? But before that, when he’s coming toward the end of his investigation to understand the nature of emptiness, of course he finds primarily focusing on the nature of the mind, and then I remember one phrase, I haven’t memorized the whole text but one that really caught my attention (text in Tibetan) Gnyen-po is the antidote, the remedy. Nigyan, even the remedy itself, rangsar- dhur, is liberated right where it is - which is to say it’s already liberated. In another words you don’t need to bring another antidote to it to liberate it. It’s liberated right where it is.
(1:06:19) What is, if delusion is that to be vanquished, if ignorance is that to be vanquished then that which is the remedy for delusion and ignorance is wisdom. Wisdom is implemented by means of closely applying mindfulness, awareness, intelligence, investigating in. And so what are we investigating with? Awareness. That is what we are closely applying to the mind with discerning intelligence, probing into its nature, but the gnyen-po, the antidote is this awareness, luminous and cognizant by nature. Investigating the mind, is it inherently existent or not, but there is that gnyen-po the antidote, and then he is saying - that which you are using to investigate the nature of reality to investigate the nature of the mind it itself is liberated right where it is, it’s empty of inherent nature, liberated, non- intrinsically bound, non- intrinsically afflicted. It’s very encouraging, that’s a little taste of Atisha. Ola so.
Alan answers a question about Buddhism and the arts.
Q: Does Buddhism contemplate arts as a tool to implicit knowing?
A : I must say my heart soars when I even think of it. It’s the education I always wanted when I was living in the West and that I couldn’t find anywhere and that is an education that actually had a center a periphery that was meaningful and not just a whole bunch of disciplines like throwing mud at the wall, you know, how about some history, how about some literature, how about some chemistry, how about some math, how about some music, okay, here is your BA. So that is why I left Western Academia, I didn’t see didn’t see any center, I just saw a whole bunch of pieces but there was no center, there was no point, except for okay I could get a job, get old and die, you know, get old, sick and die. Mazel tov - you succeeded, you’re dead. You’ve made it to the end of the road. It just wasn’t a satisfactory for me, and so when I first learned about the Nalanda tradition, which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is so strongly promoting, I must say I was thrilled, I really was thrilled. And the core of this is, there is a structure. I may have mentioned this earlier, but there is a core to this education, a pinnacle, I think it’s probably the pinnacle of higher education in Asia, in let’s say the 7th 8th 9th 10th century, around there, it lasted for some centuries, Nalanda, Vikramshila, these incredible monastic universities that drew students from all over Asia, even from as far away as China. And what it is, is there is a core, it’s called (sounds like - na rigpa), inner knowledge , that was the core, appropriately named. And what’s that? It’s the knowledge of the mind, the nature of the mind, the source of suffering, the source of happiness, the way to liberation and awakening - that was the center of the whole education. If they had it laid out as a quad, that would be the central building, all the classes would be held there. Everybody knows, it’s all for this, all education is for this, right, yes you need to make a living, but it’s really all about this. Why make a living, so you can get old and die? No, make a living so you can practice dharma. And so there it was in the center, but then, if you look at this like a Mandala, there were four, also primary fields of knowledge, that’s one of them of course, right in the center, but I’ll come in on your question, and that is that there’s knowledge of healing. So medicine, it’s one of the primary ones, there are five primary fields of knowledge, that’s one of them. Anybody who is sick knows that should be primary, because if you’re sick it’s hard to do anything well. So a really good one, that includes everything related to healing, the various types of herbs, other medicines and so forth, treatment, diagnosis, physiology, everything you need to know for healing, that goes in there. So it’s a big and enormously important topic. The second one is – ( sounds like - densig rigpa) and that’s the knowledge of clear thinking, rational thinking, drawing inferences, how do you think clearly, investigate, analyze? It’s a central theme of liberal arts, thinking clearly, problem solving, so that’s the second one, Logic and epistemology all come in after that, so now we have three. A mysterious one, that’s in a way one of the most intriguing, is Sapta Vidya in Sanskrit, knowledge of sound. So that’s where you learn about mantras, you learn about music, you learn about language, you learn about Sanskrit grammar very centrally Sanskrit, sounds and it’s multiple facets including mystic, the whole notion for example that in classic Indian culture, Hindu and Buddhist, that when you’re performing illusions, creating illusions, not with technology but with the power of samadhi, the external basis and mantra. It’s not fee- fi- fo- fum- fiddly dee, you know it’s not just any old sound that comes to mind, it’s a science and in fact in medicine itself, I have a book at home, a big fat book and it has dozens and dozens of mantras that are specifically, that is used one mantra per illness. There’s a mantra for hemorrhoids. Of course it won’t work if you don’t have samadhi. But so a wide variety of physical imbalances and so forth, and if the physician is a physician and a yogi, has strong samadhi, then will fuse his or her medical knowledge with the power of samadhi, using mantra and come in and there’s some very, very high tech healing. Almost no medical doctors in the Tibetan tradition are trained in that way anymore. But in the good old days, that was it, you would kind of have like lower division and then upper division, upper division okay now it’s time for a yogi. But I have left the best for last, that is the best with respect to your question, and it’s simply called ( Sanskrit word sounds like - svork) - knowledge of creating things. So that goes from bridge building, all of technology, but it goes to making statues and prayer wheels, and visual arts like paintings, and drawings and sculpture, art all together. And of course music was already taken care of in the knowledge of sound. So the point here, and I have just contextualized your question, and that is the idea here is that all of these four, knowledge of clear reasoning, I would put mathematics in there, that’s quantitative reasoning, powerful, powerful tool, together with qualitative reasoning that’s logic and epistemology, that can be an avenue into the center. Just read the works of Dharmakirti and Dignaga, two of the greatest, probably the greatest epistemologist and logicians in all of Buddhist India. What are they doing that for? To achieve liberation and enlightenment. The greatest physicians, Youthok, one of the greatest Tibetan doctors in all of history, great yogi, and Nagarjuna was a healer as well, and so they are using medicine, not just to heal the imbalances of the body, but they’ll trace imbalances of wind, bile and phlegm, to attachment, hostility and delusion. So if you really want to heal you don’t just heal the symptoms, the imbalances in the body, you go right to the root, and that means purifying the mind of all mental afflictions. So you are only healed when you are at least an Arhat or better. So then medicine leads you into the center. ( Shakta Vidya) The use of music, of sound, mantra and so forth, of language itself, can be an instrument, a vehicle, an avenue into the center. And then finally, and the answer is yes, definitely and unequivocally and undebatable, yes, it can be used as an instrument, a vehicle for coming into the center. And that’s why in all of Tibet, frankly until very recently, I mean just the influence of modernity, I can’t say that I have ever seen any secular art in all of Tibet. Secular music, sure, folk songs, but art, where it’s really a discipline, and it’s a very highly developed discipline, it’s all for the sake of liberation and awakening, all of it. Whether you are drawing the wheel of samsara, of a deity, of mandalas, of anything, it’s all for the sake of liberation. And it is never more clear than when the monks are doing sand mandala, if they are not just a technician, if they are serious practitioners, that creation of the sand mandala, the use of the sand mandala, and then the destruction of the sand mandala, it’s all dharma. All dharma. Then we have performing arts, Chum, performing arts, dramatic arts, performance, that’s part of dharma. And then the dance of the hands and the mudras and so forth, the very kind of liturgies and all of the aspects of the very well presented ritual. One can say that’s a kind of creative art. All for the sake of liberation. So all four of these peripheral, or surrounding, I don’t want to say peripheral like they don’t matter, but surrounding fields of knowledge, they are all designed to bring you into the center. At the same time as one goes into the center then lo and behold that fountain bursts forth and enriches, waters, nourishes all the other four. So you find people like Tsongkhapa, profound realization and out of his realization it flows out into epistemology, or some of the great Lamas were superb artists, others were great healers, great magicians, and then one who I heard just recently was the incarnation of my own lama Gyatrul Rinpoche, Chok Sampa, the one who created something like 50 iron bridges all over Tibet. He was a civil engineer, great lama, 56, 57 iron bridges all over Tibet where they have got these chasms that if you don’t have a bridge you have to walk another 50kms, until you find some way to get across the river. He created bridges all over Tibet as part of his display of his profound realization. Now there’s a civil engineer par excellence. So from the inside then flowing to the out, to enrich, to deepen, so that the healing is seen, aha, this is really coming from a deeper place, it’s not just healing a physical illness, this is to heal you all the way through. And likewise use of logic, likewise the creative arts, music, all of these, all flowing into the center, all for one, and one for all. And now that’s where you get your education, Nalanda, Vikramshila and so forth, and then once you’ve gotten your education, after you have stream entered the center, and sat some years there, then you stream out and you go out into the world, whether it’s out to a yogi cave or out to engage in Bodhisattva activity of any sort, as a doctor, as a logician, as a philosopher, as an artist, as a musician, all flowing. So how’s that for a bigger answer, yes! So let’s bring back the good old days, that’s when they had an education that was really meaningful. So you could spend your life, and I know people, Yeshi Dhonden, boy from the age of 6, his parents decided he would become a doctor, and he did, he was trained from 6, he’s now well into his 80’s, he’s spent his whole life in medicine, that’s his life. And other ones in art and so forth, but it’s always rooted in Dharma. So, there’s a meaningful education.
Q – During settling the mind practice, I’m attending to appearances in my mind and my question relates to noticing experience of feelings, emotion arising.
Feelings are a mental state associated with physical sensation.
In many, many cases, that is when you are having a feeling, let’s broaden that, a feeling in Buddhism, pleasant unpleasant, neutral, or feeling as emotion means excited, agitated, depressed, surprised, afraid and so forth, much broader array, are these mental states? Yes they are mental states, they are mental emergences qualities to emerge forth from consciousness, and in terms of the feelings, is there, very often if not inevitably, at least during the waking state, a somatic cord, you are really experiencing something in the body that is clearly associated with the emotion, the feeling that you are experiencing in the present moment? And the answer is yes, and the reason, for that from a Buddhist first person physiology is – prana. Whatever mental state you are experiencing there is a corresponding state of prana. And the prana will be experienced and it will be experienced as somatic sensations. When attending to a feeling we are aware of body, so if you are attending to a physical or somatic feeling we’re aware of the body, physiological change at the same time. If you had to micro analyze this you would find that your attention is flicking back and forth, between the mental domain and the physical domain. But very, very fast, so it feels, just like we did earlier – okay now attend to your breath, but also attend to the mind, it feels pretty simultaneous, and only when you do a micro analysis do you see that it’s a really, really fast oscillation back and forth. So it gives a sense of doing it in the same moment, and if you say, during a quarter of a second, are you attending to both the mind and the body, the answer is yes. How about 20 milliseconds? Then you would say no, you are probably in one or the other, but you are zipping back and forth, so quickly that it seems simultaneous.
Q - So, more or less at the same time, this is often how I notice a feeling, through change in my body.
Very true, you pick it up, it is a bit easier to detect in the somatic field, and then you say – oh anything mentally happening and you see oh, yeah.
Q - But I want to check if this is compatible with settling the mind practice which is only focused on the mind.
Sure. That is when you are engaging in the shamatha practice of settling the mind in its natural state you want to be as single pointed as you can. So this means that sounds are bound to impinge upon your auditory consciousness. Your eyes are open, hasn’t probably gone blank, probably have some visual sensations coming in, tactile sensations, so they are rising to meet you but you deliberately don’t give any attention to them, even if they are somatic experiences correlated with mental feelings. They are there, but you don’t deliberately give any attention because the idea is to focus single pointedly on the space of the mind, so that eventually, almost like you have to put a magnet there, all the iron filings of your awareness that’s slipping off into other sensory fields, are all drawn into the magnet in the space of the mind, your senses implode and you’re totally in the mental space, which means your coarse mind dissolves into substrate consciousness. That’s the idea, and that’s why you don’t deliberately give attention to somatic sensations while doing this practice. Now if you are practicing close application of mindfulness to the feelings knowing that feelings arise in the somatic field as well as the mental, then sure. Attend to both of them, examine their factors of origination and so forth, and do the practice.
Q- So when noticing that agitation and anger are rising in my mind now, I’m noticing my body is tense, can these two be separated so the appearance of feeling emotion in the mind is purely mental? Yep, but it takes some work, and that’s what samadhi is all about, it’s the unification, single-pointedness of attention. So when you choose to focus on the mind, that’s all you’re attending to. But that’ll take a while. Until then, the body, and somatic sensations are bound to be calling out to you, and in that particular practice you don’t deliberately give them any attention. But then you can say, okay I want to give them some attention now, then you go into vipashyana, and then you attend to them there, but with the mode of inquiry of trying to understand.
Q - One more question: Is it possible to recognize emotions before they manifest as sensations in the body?
Yes. And for example, when you’re dreaming. Have you ever recognized an emotion when you’re dreaming? When you are dreaming are by enlarge you are oblivious of your body lying horizontally in bed. You may be, of course, experiencing your body walking around upright in your dream, but that body is completely in, your experience of it, is completely in the space of your mind. Which means to attend to that is attending to the space of the mind and the events arising within it, including your bodily sensations within the dream, but they’re not bodily sensations, they’re mental sensations because that’s where you are experiencing them. That’s quite interesting.
Q - So should I ignore the emotions as long as I only recognize them by way of the body, because then it is no appearance of the mind, although I know that there must be something colourating?
Yes that’s the answer. There was a lot of overlap with the question. Once again to summarize, the simple but important point, and that is in settling the mind in its natural state as much as possible, making it very clear, this is not open presence. Right? It’s not just equally aware of anything that comes up, say oh well everything is in the space of the mind, yes everything is within the six domains of experience but among those six, in settling the mind, we’re attending to only one. Space of the mind. And so we are seeking to single pointedly focus there as we earlier tried to single pointedly focus on the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, but might you be experiencing simultaneously the sensations of the rise and fall of the abdomen? Yeah, probably. That just means your mind is moving, going back and forth. But we try to stabilize it, really try to stabilize it, so single pointedly. And likewise, in settling the mind single pointedly on the space of the mind, as you get better and better at it, then the other sense fields, they do eventually fade out and then all of the juice, all of the luminosity is all coming into the domain of the mind. Which means that – prepare yourself for this – as you get better and better at this, this means that anything that is in the mind is going to come quite powerfully, because it’s getting heavily illuminated. So emotions will come very strongly, and imagery will really be strong, memories very, very vivid, fantasies, fears, angers, joys, faith and so forth. You’re turning up the aptitude, because all the energy, all the luminosity, the flow of mindfulness is all going into that one domain. So that means the experiences will be more intense. But, in the meantime before you’re way up there, you’ll have all this competition coming from all the sensory fields, they arise, don’t give them any attention. Again it’s like that conversion in the Italian restaurant focus on this conversation, the other ones – not interested. Having said that though, bear in mind that shamatha is really primarily for the sake of vipashyana, of course Bodhichitta, but right now we say vipashyana, which means we are developing the stability and clarity so that we can then take that finely honed serviceable mind and apply it to, and really understanding – how do feelings arise, what are the factors of origination, how do they dissolve, do they have an owner, are they permanent, impermanent? And then in terms of factors of origination, am I having a certain mental feeling, an emotion that’s been catalyzed by a somatic experience, something happening in my body? It’s somatic but can that trigger a mental emotion? Absolutely yes. But then we can ask, a mental emotion, or how do belief, trust, faith, placebo effect, purely mental. Could this be influencing physiological states in the body as well as somatic experience in the body? Absolutely yes. So now, understanding placebo effect is really vipashyana applied to the mind body relationship. To looking to - how do they interface with each other as co-operative conditions? Because the mind doesn’t turn into the body, into molecules, and molecules, cells and so forth, they don’t turn into mental states that’s silly, you know, it would be magical, it just doesn’t happen. And so how do they influence each other as cooperative conditions? Influencing but without actually transforming into? So cells conform into other configurations of mass energy, a cell dies, it doesn’t just go poof! It transforms into something else physical. And mental states also, they don’t go poof either, not at death or at any other time, they also always transform into some other configuration of awareness. Quite spectacular.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Cheri Langston
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon