16 Oct 2012

Meditation: Settling the mind preceded by settling body, speech, and mind. 

1) settling body, speech, and mind. Let your awareness come to rest in its own place. There may be knowing of knowing. Let your unmoving awareness illuminate the space of the body and the objective/subjective experiences. Observe them like an out-of-body experience.

2) settling the mind. Let your eyes be open, gaze vacant. Direct mindfulness single-pointedly to the space of the mind and its contents. Begin with mental images and discursive thoughts. Awareness in stillness illuminates the movements of the mind without distraction, without grasping. Monitor with introspection. If distracted, relax, release, and return. If spaced out, refresh, refocus, and retain. Let mindfulness include subjective impulses like feelings and desires. Take special note of the intervals between thoughts. Can the space of the mind be ascertained? The space where appearances of the mind arise from, remain, and dissolve into. With the mentally perceived, let there be just the mentally perceived.
Teaching: Alan speaks about how to make the teachings on emptiness practical. These teachings are designed to cut the root of mental afflictions by critiquing our views of reality. According to the Prasangika Madhyamaka, all the phenomena we experience arise in dependence on conceptual designations. We can see this process happening in our experience. Mindfulness of breathing cleans the lab. In settling the mind, awareness stops being jerked around, and with discernment, comes to view mental events as mere empty appearances in both meditation and post-meditation. You come to non-conceptual certainty that nothing in your mind can harm you, whether or not thoughts have ceased. Upon achieving shamatha, the power of samadhi flows right into sleep. The dream yoga practice of emanation and transformation strengthens the conviction that there is nothing here from its own side, just a world of possibility waiting to be designated. Sentient beings reify everything they experience. In practicing the 4 applications, ask yourself, “Do I reify anything?” When you experience craving or hostility (arising from delusion rooted in reification), identify the referent and probe its existence.

Meditation starts at: 1:00

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Transcript

Teachings:

So if there was ever a time in recent history, or maybe even recorded history when the world was in greater need, of people really taping into the deepest potentials of consciousness, achieving spiritual awakening, manifesting spiritual awakening, I doubt there was ever a time more urgent than now, what do you think? There was an ever greater need than now? We are facing so many challenges, really unprecedented in the worlds history and they are all coming from exploitation of environment, of a greed, of delusion, the same old same old, but now our orders of magnitude - greater than we have ever seen before. So lots of power on that side and lots of manifestation of that side, you know really in your face. So I think really we need people of good great depth now, right? So with that motivation, bodhichitta, ever so swiftly, ever so swiftly, achieve awakening starting from wherever you are. That’s it, it’s good enough, good enough, isn’t? It’s good enough then we proceed on.

Let’s go right to the meditation.

Meditation:

With this aspiration and commitment to bodhichitta, let’s settle the body, speech and mind in its natural state.

Let your awareness come to rest in its own place, holding its own ground, in its own stillness, clarity, cognizance; and from that ground of knowing of knowing, the awareness of awareness and without moving from that ground let your awareness illuminate for a little while the space of the body and whatever events, sensations, feelings arise within that domain both the objective appearances and your subjective ways of experiencing those appearances be they pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Observe them as if you are having an out-of-body experience, your awareness resting unmoving from its own place.

Let your eyes be at least partially open and rest your gaze vacantly in the space in front of you, keeping your eyes soft and relaxed, unfocused. As you now direct your mindfulness single-pointedly to the space of the mind and to its contents, attending first of all to those that are easiest to discern. For many people these would be the appearances of mental images and of discursive thoughts. Simply observe their nature without seeking to modify them in any way, observe them without preference, without hope and fear. Sustain the flow of mindfulness without distraction, without grasping, letting your awareness rest in stillness as you witness the movements of the mind.

Monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection and as soon as you see that your attention is being carried away either to some sensory field or by some thought, relax, release, and return.

And if in times you notice that your mind has become spaced out, vague or dull, refresh your interest, refocus your attention, and retain the flow of mindfulness.

Then move on and let your mindfulness also include the subjective impulses, the feelings, the emotions the desires that arise and instead of following the habitual route of cognitively fusing with them, once again let your awareness remain still and observe these upsurges from the flow of awareness, observe how they arise, how they are present and how they pass away, all the while maintaining the stillness of your own awareness, free of distractions, free of grasping.

Then take special note as you attend to the space of the mind and its contents, take special note of the intervals between thoughts, the space time intervals, space in the sense of you are attending to the space of the mind, time - these are the intervals, temporal intervals between one distinct mental event, thought, image and so on, and the next; attend closely the space in between and see for yourself whether it’s simply nothing or whether that space can be ascertained, you can discern qualities of it, observe closely the space of the mind which is most evident unmasked, unveiled when the mind is quiet.

You may breathe through the nostrils or through the mouth which ever gives you the sense of unimpeded of respiration, keep your body lucid, relax, the respiration flowing in its natural rhythm.

Focus your attention primarily now on the space of the mind, space from which thoughts and images emerge in which all of mental events take place and into which all the appearances of the mind eventually dissolve, attend closely to the space of the mind and note its characteristics.

As you sustain that flow of awareness of the space of the mind observe how thoughts and others events emerge from that space, how they are present, and how they dissolve back into space. In the mentally perceived, let be just the mentally perceived.

Teachings:

(26:49) I’ve got a couple questions here about emptiness, I may read them later, right now I want to see if we can possibly make those teachings practical. We can be rather intimidated or daunted perhaps by the fact that in a traditional Geshe training you spend four years just studying that, and then you may say what are we messing around with here, you know four weeks, four years, you know why are we even venturing into that, if it’s so deep, so difficult to fathom? But having said that I mean there are people, plenty of people, students of Buddhist studies who’ve written dissertations on emptiness, lots and lots, many, many books by scholars, many Tibetan scholars study, study, study and I think quite frequently the arrows never even get near the target because those teachings are designed to actually cut the root of mental afflictions. So it’s very easy to approach the teachings intellectually and think – well there’s a good problem to be solved - and then ok, how do we solve this, how do we make sense? Or it doesn’t make any sense. So it is kind of like taking Chandrakirti’s view or Nagarjuna’s view or Shantideva’s view and subjecting it to critique. You know, how are you doing Shantideva? I’ll see how you’re doing. So if you want to write a dissertation that’s a way of doing it. Life is awfully short and we are suffering every single day from our mental afflictions, they don’t wait, right? So how can this become practical? Because I wouldn’t have spent four weeks teaching, introducing really from this purely experiential approach, vipashyana approach, I wouldn’t have spent those four weeks, we could have spent the whole time on the Pali canon, there’s tons of material there very, very rich and isn’t such a brain twister, impermanence - we got it, nature of sukha dukkha - not that difficult, non-self that it’s not inherent mine - it kind of makes sense, neuroscientists would agree with that, psychologists would agree with that, so what’s the problem, why don’t we just immerse ourselves in that?

(29:02) But we did spend four weeks, I have no regrets. How can we make it practical? Well this practice, this right here would be a good start; actually the mindfulness of breathing would be a good start. First of all if the central theme here is that if all the phenomena that we experience, and I am choosing my words very carefully, all the phenomena that we experience are arising in dependence upon conceptual designation and do not exist independently of conceptual designation – there in essence, that’s it - core theme of Madhyamaka Prasangika, Madhyamaka view, right? Well if that’s the case, if our minds are just a rooter router in reverse , of conceptualization, you know like we’re just drowning in a pool of conceptual elaborations all over the place, conceptualization gone amok, gone just crazy, bla, bla, bla. How can we see through all the haze to see anything that is or is not conceptually designated, when we are just kind of like having garbage thrown in our face all day long, you know? So it’s not a very good platform, it’s not a clean lab, it’s not a clean lab, right? So to have a clean lab so that we can actually see - this is conceptual designation and this is when it’s pausing, turn it off, turn it on, off and on, and then we can start running experiments , but it’s just spewing junk all over the place, that’s not a clean lab.

(30:06) So therefore rooted in ethics we seek to move into a realm that is clear and knowing but not inundated with involuntary obsessive compulsive delusion or ideation. So mindfulness of breathing first of all, just to clean up the lab, it’s like getting a bloom and sweeping out, having a little bit of peace and quiet here, a little bit of sanity, that would be a good start. So a bit of a grounding of relaxation, stability and clarity and then turning that, at our leisure to this domain of the mind, space of the mind.

And now I’ll just cite Lerab Lingpa because I have being drawing very heavily this one page complete teaching on this practice which is actually quite enough to achieve shamatha by way of settling the mind in its natural state and he says: when you really become familiar with , adept in this practice, then, and this is almost a verbatim quote, he said - then you’ll come to a non-conceptual certainty, ascertainment that nothing , nothing that arises in your mind can harm you, whether or not thoughts have ceased. (30:24) So it’s a very interesting statement, ok. And I am going to elaborate just a little bit further on that: a non-conceptual awareness that nothing there in the domain of mind can harm you whether or not thoughts have ceased, in other words, thoughts may continue going on and you’re maintaining a non-conceptual awareness of them. So I think you, that’s clear, yes? I hope everybody is clear on that because if you don’t, if you’re not clear on that you have not gotten this practice yet.

(31:55) And that is just as I am looking over there, Frank, and I am non conceptual aware of the light shining off of his forehead, the color of his beard and hair and so forth, his head hair, as I am aware of that I can equally be aware of thoughts or a mental image of Frank arising in the space of my mind, or the sound - Frank, or Frank is a man, Frank is married to Cathy, those thoughts occur, and I non conceptual aware, I’m simply witnessing - there they are arising in the space of the mind. So his point then is - as you really learn how to maintain that flow of mindfulness without distraction, without grasping, holding your own ground, then he says, you will see that whatever arises there cannot possible harm you; because your awareness is free of grasping at least relatively, free of grasping, then you’re not reifying, because reifying is always by way of conceptualization always by way of grasping, right?

(32:45) So you’re just seeing images coming up and thoughts coming up, you’re discerning them, you’re intelligent, you’re aware of them but you are not using them to think about something else, you’re not going off to the referent of the thought, you’re simply witnessing with discerning intelligence and mindfulness the events that are arising and as they are arising then you see, not by being really clever and intellectual, analytical and so forth, you simply see - nothing there arising in the space of the mind in terms of all those images, memories, thoughts and so forth, nothing here can possible harm me, as if you are watching television, watching a movie, whether is a movie about alligators, poisonous snakes, muggers, terrorists, nuclear weapons, explosions and so forth, if you are recognizing the television as the television, the movie screen as a movie screen, then you are seeing – yes those are very horrific images, those are very terrifying images but I am not terrified, those are images. And so in that way you’re seeing the emptiness in that little microcosm, you’re seeing these are mere empty appearances and there is nothing there that can harm you. Thoughts of low self-steam harm us only because we identify with them. Unpleasant memories, traumatic memories harm us only because we identify with them and reify them. Exactly so there it is, get your feet wet, get accustomed to seeing that during the waking state as you’re attending single pointedly, and this is something cultivated and developed, doesn’t come overnight, but as you are seeing these are all empty appearances and you actually see - now I see what they said I should do from the beginning, I can see, I really can do, and that is without preference, without hope, without fear, without desire or aversion, I just can sit there watching TV, I don’t have to getting into it , I can just observe quietly, resting in my own awareness and observe infomercials and terrible movies and magnificent movies, naked ladies and ugly men and all kinds of stuff, they are just images, really are just images. So there it is, you see that , and if you are in the course of this, you are actually developing some senses of wellbeing, a sense of inner serenity, of calm, of stillness, of composure and it feels good then you see, oh but I see I don’t need these for entertainment value because I am getting nurtured at home, my own awareness is quite content in this clarity, this luminosity, this stillness, this serenity of not being yanked and jerked every which way by all the activities of the mind. I can sit peacefully, quietly, happily and observe whatever’s coming up, therefore I don’t have to invest myself in pursuing this type of thought and blocking that type of thought ,so you’re really getting - this is not years and years of practice this is maybe weeks and weeks of practice, maybe you’ve already have this sense at least on occasion. We see, these are empty appearances, that’s it, I see that, right?

(35:56) And then he points out that as you become more and more adept in the practice, especially if you are going full time - this is what you do - you know eight, ten, twelve hours a day, then when you step off the cushion, now this is just straight true, this is not debatable this is something that happens to an awful lot of people had has been going on more than a thousand years so you don’t have to believe but I am just telling you it’s true, and that is you become very adept in this practice and you are immersing yourself in this practice and for this moment, ten hours a day, what you are attending to is reality when you step off the cushion and you attend to the world around you with all of its sensory fields, the visual coming in, the auditory, the tactile and so forth, you actually see them as empty appearances, that’s his term, that is Lerab Lingpa, you see them as empty appearances, right?

And that doesn’t mean you don’t step out of the way when you see an empty appearances of a Mac truck coming towards you, because the empty appearances of the tactile sensations will be very short and painful and then you will be in the bardo, and that will be consisting of a lot of other empty appearances but you will nevertheless be dead, right? And so cause and effect, this is the crucial thing, cause and effect, rain drops dropping on your head, etc, causality is still there even though they are all empty, alright. So this doesn’t mean that just by settling the mind in natural state you’ve realize the emptiness of all phenomena and therefore you are an arya-bodhisattva or something, but this is what happens and it kind of makes sense even before you’ve experienced it. That as you are getting the flow of not reifying for ten hours a day, let’s just say ten hours a day, good solid day, not exceptional but not messing around, a good days work you know. If you’ve been spending ten hours a day getting pretty good at not grasping onto and reifying the appearances of your mind, observing them, discerningly, intelligently but not reifying them, that becomes a habit, and then when you turn to - oh, but actually all these visual appearances in auditory those also arising in the space of my mind, and that is in the larger six cinema Cineplex, these are really the appearances themselves they are still simply appearances and this is not something you’re getting by logic, this is actually just simply how they appear because the tendency of reifying, grasping onto, is slipping over into the post meditate state, and there you are.

(38:19) So that’s how things are appearing, now could you still be believing, convinced and grasping onto the real existence of molecules, atoms, mac trucks and so forth? Definitely, definitely yes, that’s not quite how they appear but nevertheless when you pick up something like a cell phone and you bang your head with it, yeah that’s firm, that’s firm, I see they are empty appearances but there certainly does seem to be a real cell phone here called by whatever name - a dense aggregation of molecules for which the density tapers off very quickly on the borders and so the strong earth element here, a lot of air element here, and that does seem to be nevertheless inherently real, so you’ve not, how do we say, you’ve not come to the summit of mount vipashyana yet, but you certainly soften things up a bit through your own experience, right?

(39:13) Now let’s just imagine and just for fun, just imagine you push it all the way through, you achieve shamatha, why not? Unless you have something better to do. You carry on, finish the job, let your mind settle in its natural state, then everything I’ve just said will be all the more true. You’ve achieved shamatha now, let’s say by way of settling the mind, and then all the more so in between sessions you really do have this kind of illusory sense of reality around you when you are walking along the road, you see the road rising up to meet you and it’s just a whole bunch of empty images, as if you are in a great big three D high definition Cineplex, all the appearances arising and yet no real movement because all the appearances just arising, arising, arising, but they’re not moving anywhere, they are just arising and there’s tactile sensations arising, but it’s all empty and you’re actually not going anywhere at all, just the appearances have changed, and that’s just from shamatha. Well one of the benefits in terms of post meditative experience of achieving shamatha, is a number of all kinds, but I’ll just mention a couple:

(40:22) One is the stability of your attention carries on to a very high degree in between sessions, the clarity, the vividness, a high acuity, high definition of your awareness is so high, Tsongkapa says when you look at a pillar for example, you feel like you could count the individual molecules or atoms making up the pillar, you can’t actually, but that’s the kind of resolution you have as you’re bringing your shamatha clarity to your sensory domains, right? So there is one interesting point.

But now what’s very germane here he says is that the power of your samadhi flows right into your sleep, so that sense of clarity flows right into sleep, into dreamless sleep, into dream sleep. Your mindfulness of course which means of course also recollection is extremely well honed. So once you’ve achieved shamatha and you just have this natural clarity flowing right into your sleep state, then frankly with hardly any coaching at all, lucid dreams should be just kind of delivered to your door, lucidity. Your mind is already so clear. So imagine you just make smooth segue, with a lit bit of coaching, a little bit of training, a bit of help from Steven La Berge, Padmasambhava, whatever , and then after a while your dreams are normally lucid, like, ah wasn’t that weird when this wasn’t the case? Because you know I used to be deluded every time I’d have a dream, thanks goodness that’s over. And normally of course in all those non-lucid dreams I reified everything and that’s why I suffered so much in all my dreams, in all my life. I suffered in my dreams only because I reified and now that I am not reifying, you see well, this is like settling the mind in its natural state while I am asleep and it’s really good samadhi too.

(41:19) There it is, my mind single pointedly focusing on the domain of the mind, whatever arises within it and I am lucid therefore I know now because I’m lucid that whatever arises in the nature in the dream scape, since you’re lucid then you know already with no reasoning, no Madhyamaka, no Nagarjuna at all, you know nothing here exists from its own side, including your persona, how you are manifesting the dream, you are not there, you are not here, nobody is over there and nothing’s out there. You know that because you are lucid and again there is no reasoning there it’s like - I am lucid, I mean, what part of this is not clear? Of course nothing here exists from its own side. But to hammer that in, to really to make a deep impression, then you go through the steps of dream yoga, and that’s again once you’ve really stabilized it, there which will be a piece of cake once you achieved shamatha, be a lucid dreamer should be like maybe a week and you’re really into it, and then you move into that first major phase of dream yoga and that’s emanation and transformation, where you, just like a baker getting your hands in the dough, working the dough, shaping it in any way you like, or a potter shaping clay, you just shape your dream, start running experiments. Okay, yep you can fly, well that’s a piece of cake, Okay walk through the wall, okay try it again, got it okay good now, back and forth through the wall, up, up, up, okay good, got that down, okay, burst into flame, like to see you turn into a torch, thank you very much, okay now walk on water, okay, now swim under the water with no gills just breathe the water don’t worry about it, you don’t have lungs anyway so you don’t need air, and there is no air in a dream anyway so there shouldn’t be a problem.

(43:05) So then transform yourself into a cup cake, so sweet. And so you know from your own experience, it’s now perfectly clear there is nothing here subjectively or objectively that exists from its own side, you knew it because you were lucid but now you know it because you’ve actually experienced it all the way through, that it’s all, oh, I remember, it is all simply a world of possibility, waiting to be designated and since you know there is nothing inherently there any way, it’s just waiting to be designated, and since you know there is nothing inherently there anyway, it’s just waiting to be designated anyway you like, because it’s your world, and you designated it and then it rises up according to your conceptual designation. So let’ imagine you have that kind of realization and then you come out of the meditative state, which is to say you wake up in the morning in your bed with your shamatha and deep realization of dream yoga and the emptiness of that whole dream reality because you’ve really explored it sufficiently, you know it for yourself. And then with the power of your insight, having moved from reifying everything to reifying nothing, from a non-lucid dream to lucid dream and having the might of your practice of shamatha, now here’s the way to approach it that doesn’t just get you caught in head trip which is very easy, because I’ve done it , I’ve done it, as soon as I was introduced to Madhyamaka I was asking the kind of questions Steph did , and they are perfectly good questions, the kind of questions that Sandra has, perfectly good questions, especially for a person trained in philosophy, and I’ve studied philosophy somewhat. But rather than going there, here’s a way to make this really empirical and that is, of course we can do this now, let alone having achieved shamatha and dream yoga, and that is right now, today, rise up to the challenge or simply the simply the assertion of the Madhyamaka view that we ordinary beings, we’re not aryas, are essentially reifying everything we experience. We reify everything, grasp onto everything as if it has its own inherent intrinsic existence - and that’s me, my mind, my illnesses and my mental afflictions and everything else, everything is coagulated, everything is frozen into these little chunks of reality, the smallest chunks being (45:58) molecules, atoms and down to elementary particles and it’s just chunkified from elementary particles up to galaxies in the whole universe, everything is chunkified, everything is real, mental things are real, physical things are real, and so there’s the assertion where we are reifying everything and that tendency is fundamentally deluded.

(46:42) And so if that’s the case, there is the assertion, that is the case, that is the Madhyamaka view, but rather than, and this is where the fork on the road comes , then the tendency is - okay I want to learn more about Chandrakirti’s view, let’s study Chandrakirti and Aryadeva, oh, and Buddhapalita, and Nagarjuna, let’s study about those prajna paramitas, oh and don’t forget the sub commentary in Tsongkhapa and about the sub, sub commentary, let’s really, let’s just spend a lifetime studying other people’s views. But I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. All those teachings are encouraging us to challenge our own view, not to critique somebody else’s because we are not suffering because of Chandrakirti, we are suffering because we already have misapprehend reality, without knowing anything about Buddhism. So it’s not so much that we are suffering because we don’t know Buddhism, it’s suffering because we already are misapprehending reality and then the question - is that true or false. And so with this backdrop of a mind that’s really serviceable, a mind that’s already explored and fathomed, the nature of dream reality, seen nothing there is inherently existent then coming here and saying alright, now am I myself? Now it’s time for the four applications of mindfulness like Shantideva was teaching , and that is that I myself, am I prone, do I ever enter into reification? Do I ever reify anything? Gee, let’s sit here for a little while and see. And as soon as any craving or hostility arises you’ve now got your specimen, there it is, any craving, hostility by definition is arising, here’s the hypothesis again, but not something just to believe and start frustrating, but is it true or not? Every single time any mental affliction arises and there are the two big henchmen, craving and hostility, every time they arise they are always arising from the root of delusion and the delusion is reification. And what does that do? It isolates, it decontextualizes, so I am attached to one person, Booom, this person makes me happy. I just now gotten scissors and I’ve cut into the paper of reality and cut right around to have a little, ah, there! You’re the one that makes me happy, or could make me happy or you are pleasurable, there it is, I’ve just cut you out, and that’s not the person next to you, and I don’t know what your causes are, they’re irrelevant, no just you, you make me happy, I want you, I need you, ah, want some candy? Anything you need, I want to keep you. And you just piss me off! You are just disagreeable, you piss me off, I don’t like you, you stand by yourself, you could be in outer space all by yourself and you’d still be disgusting because you are just intrinsically, I can see, I can read you like a book, it’s a nasty book. I really don’t like you at all, you should disappear, somebody should put you in a cannon.

(49:43) Reified, decontextualized, inherently there, you just make me unhappy, you know, so see whether that ever comes up, and if so then there is your mode of apprehension , not something you have learned from Chandrakirti, this is something you brought to the table. Do you ever reify anything and if you do, okay I’ll say Jack and Jill because they don’t refer to anybody at all, I am a enamored by Jill but Jack is kind of hitting on Jill and I don’t like that. And so Jack kind of pisses me off he is a competition here. So aversion to Jack and craving for Jill, and so there I have, there is my object of aversion there is my object of attraction, boom, craving hostility, gotcha! Then holding that in mind when I think Jill, oh, she is the one I am enamored with, attached to, boy I’d love to have her as a life companion, and Jack, I’d like him on another planet with a little grave mark - rest in peace, that’s’ the best thing for you. So as I am grasping onto Jill, she makes me so happy or at least she could, if she put her mind to it. What comes to mind? Who is the Jill that I am so infatuated with it? What is it? Is it here head, her neck, other body parts, her personality, the nose, the teeth? Exactly what is it? What’s the object, where is this Jill who is really a fountain of potential happiness for me? So check out. And so here’s the point – is the Jill that I am infatuated with and that is reifying, does she really exist at all? Or I am just sitting here in my own little fish tank of delusion conjuring up people that don’t even exist and saying, I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you. And it’s all just in a fish bowl because that which I love doesn’t exist and that which I hate doesn’t exist at all. So we have not gone into heavy duty philosophy here, we’ve gone into psychotherapy to get over these tendencies that are fundamentally rooted in delusion and to see whether any reified object actually does exist in and of itself, ok? And then you move on. So that’s the way to make this practical without asking the very deep questions, and they are worthy questions, do atoms exist by their own inherent nature, aren’t they really out there? Because from one perspective the evidence is overwhelming that there is a real world absolutely out there waiting to be discovered and again two great big slam-dunk reasons to support it, one is the consensuality of our inter subjective experience, and that is we all look around, and I say - please describe this room and lo and behold we’re describing something very, very similar. How could we give such similar descriptions if it’s not really there, right?

(52:55) There is one point, and the other one – rain drops fall on your head whether or not you are aware of them and grass grows when nobody is looking, so causality, causality in the natural world when nobody is looking, nobody is thinking about it, right? So those look likes slam-dunk, I mean you‘d have to be crazy not to believe in such an inherently existent real world out there. So we have these intimations from some, but not all, brilliant contemporary physicists, those from the latter half of the 20th century, but that’s not probably going to be enough, I don’t think it’s enough to change their own minds even a person of the brilliance of Steven Hawking, and he doesn’t need any defense here, and with his incredible theorizing that even the past is not inherent existent, that we even choose our past, that the past exists in superimposition state as a range of possibilities that arise to meet in response to a system of measurement, but there’s no absolutely true past, I mean it makes your jaw drop, but then when he was asked by Time Magazine just about one year ago or so, and I have the direct quote: Professor Hawking what do you think of the nature of consciousness? He said oh, I think the brain’s like a computer and consciousness is like the software”. And I, oh, how could you be so deep there and so utterly mindboggling trivial here? And that’s because he’s not trained to study consciousness, he’s trained extremely well with a brilliant mind in mathematics and theory of modern physics; comes to consciousness that is the speculation of a dumb high school kids, I mean really, how much imagination do you need for that? I mean really that is just so primitive and I am not criticizing him as a person, I am criticizing in that statement. That is just dumb, un-reflected, un-insightful, like…, did you get that out of a cereal box, where exactly did you come up with that notion? It’s so un-reflected, so quite disappointing when he got so far there, of the fundamental role of consciousness in the universe at large and then he says, oh yeah, it’s like the software of the brain, okay whatever, it just shows that doing the physics alone is not likely to shift your whole world view, it’s likely, more likely to remain at a conceptual level that never touches your mental afflictions and probably doesn’t have any impact on the way you view your wife, your husband, your children or the world around you, in another words it’s isolated off by itself.

So make it practical (55:35) the question was raised about feelings and I think I’ll end on that note. Feelings, Sandra mentioned in her note that when we closely apply mindfulness (it is a very important point, these questions are perfectly fine, there is no criticism of them at all, nothing to criticize) but when we closely apply mindfulness to mental feelings in this way that Shantideva is suggesting or maybe even in an early way according to the Pali Canon, that that sheer scrutiny itself may actually make the feeling, the mental feeling evaporate even without understanding of Madhiamaka, right, in a way this is not that dissimilar from the bashful maiden metaphor analogy, of just attending to thoughts and finding they vanish as soon as we look at them, like the young man who likes ladies and he scrutinizes them and the young bashful maiden scoots off, you know, vanishes as soon as she is under his scrutiny, so there’s that, but when it comes to physical pain, we may attend to it, we may attend to it as impermanent, as not mine, but man it’s looming large on my horizon. We may try to engage in some anthological probe applying Madhyamaka investigation into it, but it seems to rise up, doesn’t it, powerfully? Something that doesn’t evaporate on scrutiny, difficult, physical pain, physical injury, serious illness, it doesn’t seem to evaporate, and even the notion that it’s not mine seems to be something more nominal than anything else, and it may not be mine but it is certainly parked in my front yard, right? So there it is. So in this regard as much as we can, investigate, probe into, seek out the nature of those things that are not utterly overwhelming, because we don’t want to make a habit of frustration, a habit of feeling I just can’t do this, because then we will give up, it’s just natural, it’s human, we give up, we try, try, try, totally fail, say okay this isn’t working or maybe they’re just wrong, maybe feelings like physical pain which really catches the attention, maybe Madhyamaka is wrong because I am looking at the physical pain when arising intensely and it just seems to be about as inherently real as anything impossibly could, right? You say conceptual designation, I’m sorry it was already pain before I designated it as such. I don’t see any role of conceptual designation, this just hurts. So what to do then?

(58:02) So for the time being, it’s too strong a challenge for that particular method, for the time being, not always, but for the time being that’s too much. So as much as we can attenuate the pain, it’s too large a challenge at that time, for the time being, we’ll get stronger, we will get stronger, so that’s a battle to be fought another day, right? In the meantime when physical pain arises first of all see if you can attenuate it, calm, protect yourself, heal it from its source, do everything you can, and secondly when it’s there and there’s just nothing you can do about it, in terms of its sheer presence, turn it into renunciation, turn it into compassion, turn it into bodhichitta, make it meaningful. If pain happens it’s a ripening of karma, what can we say? It’s ripening of karma. What ripens to us we can’t choose, how we experience it - we can, transmute it into compassion with the wish that may all beings be free of pain. May this experience of pain enable me to liberate others from pain, and we all be free of suffering. So choose your battles well, choose your battles well. And in terms of the Madhyamaka it’s not too early to start, otherwise I wouldn’t have spent four weeks here. Start where you can, the space of your mind, not too hard, because those really are empty appearances and then small pains. Elizabeth has found, others people are found a twinge here, a discomfort here, and so forth, probe into that, oh, how interesting, how cool, they evaporate. So why then with the pain that is really strong then why doesn’t it evaporate? Well that’s because the pain is stronger than your mind for the time being. Take on the pipsqueak, be the school yard bully, pick on the little kids, the little pains, the little discomforts, the little annoyances, mental and physical, pick on and beat them up. Do take this out of the context, it would be really great, and put this on my website. You noticed that I’m never ever going to run for political office because the ammunition would be enough to blow me off the planet, you know. You wouldn’t believe these things Alan Wallace has said, clearly psychotic. I have no defense. So take on the little battles, when there is a little one, take that one and then we end - there is nothing that doesn’t become easier with familiarization. Take on the little ones. Don’t make a habit of being defeated it’s not good for the spirit. As much as you can don’t make a habit of being defeated. Oh yeah, enjoy your day!

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Cheri Langston.

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon

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