01 May 2016
Alan reminds us the pointing instructions of Padmasambhava when he repeatedly said “observe your mind, observe your mind”. For some people that may be sufficient, for others perhaps just observing the mind is sufficient, but for most of us while we observe this ordinary consciousness of the present, that is what he is referring to, saying this is the same as the Buddha nature, rigpa, this is your ordinary consciousness of the present moment. At the same time it’s perfectly true that we can be aware of being conscious in the present moment and not have realized rigpa, our Buddha Nature. While our Buddha nature is hidden in plain sight, it’s right there where we are looking, because you do not have to look anywhere else, we don’t have to believe anything, we don’t have to add something to it, nevertheless it is hidden in plain sight and then we can ask “what is it that hides it, what is that veils it?” As Alan mentioned before there are cognitive obscurations. Last week Alan referred to cognitive obscurations as the acquired or speculative delusion or ignorance of thinking that only the things that scientists can measure exist, and that’s exactly what materialists believe: that the only things that exist are material phenomena and their emergent properties because that’s exactly what scientists can observe. But then beyond that there is of course conate ignorance, that which we were born with - grasping onto the true existence of everything that we see, everything that we experience, myself, my mind, my body, other people, the environment and everything else, because phenomena appear to us as if they were inherently existent, and then we trust these appearances. Why would reality lie, why wouldn’t it exist that way? Coming back to our own perception, why haven’t we yet realized our own rigpa, our own pristine awareness, really cut through to the ground pristine awareness?
First of all it’s by reifying ourselves. That I am the subject, I’m really in here, I am really someone and then I look outwards upon anything else and everything else, including my mental afflictions, other people, my own body, everything appears as if it’s truly existent and therefore we grasp onto that. We reify subject, we reify object and out of the reification of subject and object then the two appear and are grasped as being entirely separate, inherently separate, each one inherently existent. That’s conate ignorance and we cannot blame anyone for that, we were just simply born with that. And so, in the strategy suggested by Padmasambhava, he takes us through the very coarse, to medium, to subtle objects of meditation within shamatha culminating in shamatha without a sign, resting in awareness itself, inverting, enhancing awareness of awareness, releasing, enhancing, releasing, oscillating, and then we see that as we are controlling the attention, we are doing something, we are not just being, we are doing something, and that is this focusing, this inversion, accentuation of the attention in upon itself and then this release out into space and then seeing that “nobody is making me do this, I chose to do this, I’m continuing to choose to do this, I’m doing it again and again and again, and so I’m the agent, someone is doing that and it’s me.
I do have a sense that I’m doing it and I’m not a robot, and so since we have that, the practice is entirely phenomenological, is not ideology driven, not aimed at getting the right answer, and that is as you are oscillating your attention in that way just look carefully, as you invert, invert more deeply, and see just what is your experience of being that agent. Because that is what is reified, that is where the natural reification comes in, the conate reification comes in: I’m doing this. And this happens of course not only when you are sitting quietly in meditation but also when you are doing anything else. I did that! And what comes to mind when you say, “I did that?” “I did a wonderful job, thank you for congratulating me, I’m so proud. Whenever we say I, I, I, we are taking it very seriously and it is reification. But as long as we are operating within the context of reifying ourselves as the subject we will naturally reify everything else which means we will be always in dualistic grasping and that completely obscures rigpa, because rigpa completely transcends any type of reification, any type of dualistic grasping. There is only one subject that realizes rigpa and that’s rigpa. Nothing else can realize rigpa. Rigpa can realize rigpa but you cannot get it inferentially, or intellectually, you cannot see it with your eyeballs, rigpa only sees rigpa. But the very nature of rigpa transcends dualistic grasping, and so as long as we are enmeshed in dualistic grasping then rigpa cannot see itself from our perspective. Because our perspective is in the clouds and rigpa is in the sun. Following Padmasambhava’s instructions in Natural Liberation, Alan takes one step further in his teachings on shamatha without a sign and that is we are not always doing something, at least not deliberately or consciously, voluntarily, sometimes we are just “being there” we are just quietly observing. We can do that like in the lovely Dzogchen metaphor of “the shepherd watching his flock spread on the plain, seeing them from afar”, or the one in the Mahamudra tradition of “an old man watching other people’s children play”. There is no sense of possessiveness; it’s just a sense of pleasant, serene and totally relaxed presence of an old man watching and enjoying seeing other people’s children play. We are emulating that quality of awareness, of just being present, just observing, when we practice settling the mind in its natural state, but then when we are doing that and we are just quietly resting and watching what is coming up, not reacting, not judging, not modifying, not doing anything, do you then have a sense of being the one who is watching? Do you have the sense as if the thoughts were over yonder when you are watching them, as if from afar, as we are encouraged to do? Do you have the sense of being the one over here, the quiet observer? That’s where Alan will take us in the next session of guided meditation. And when we are just resting there, without doing anything, not even doing the oscillation of the attention, just when you invert your awareness in upon itself see what comes to mind. And the crucial point here is don’t look for what doesn’t come to mind, don’t think you are so clever and come out with the right answer “Oh I looked for myself, I didn’t find it! Was it right?” No, you were not right at all, because that was not the question. The question wasn’t “do you exist as an observer?” Of course you are an observer! As I’m talking, I’m listening, you are listening, and you are an observer. But Alan is not asking that question, is not asking if you are or not a person. Of course you are a person. We are assuming that you are an observer and that’s a meaningful statement, but now when you sense yourself, when you experience yourself as an observer, as you do that what comes to mind? What is your sense of being the observer?
In the guided meditation Alan invites us to Look for the Observer.
After meditation Alan reminds us that in between teaching sessions we have a rich array of practices to avail ourselves of, from the Four Immeasurables, to the Guru Yoga, Bodhicitta, we have an array of shamatha methods and he invites us also to introduce in our practice whatever understanding we have of emptiness, the illusory nature, the dream like nature of phenomena. Alan is like a music teacher and is giving us a broader and broader repertoire of pieces - sometimes jazz, sometimes classical, sometimes heavy metal if you are up to it, which is “cut them off”. Alan then explains a nice parallel between the shamatha methods and the four classical modes of a bodhisattva’s enlightened activities.
Meditation starts at 12:52
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