02 May 2016

Before the meditation, Alan comments on the uniqueness of the contemplative practice. He refers again to Kurt Danziger’s article (link available in Retreat Notes), explaining why introspection was largely abandoned by 20th century psychology. According to Alan, eliminating introspection is comparable to astronomers no longer wanting to look at the sky. One of the reasons introspection was considered a failure was the so called “leading the witness” bias. It was due to the fact that researchers did not perform introspection themselves but left it to untrained subjects who were prone to be influenced in their reports by what the researchers wanted to hear. Alan points out that in vipashyana meditation we often know what the “right” answer is. We are given the object of negation and then seek to see if it really exists. It may be considered “leading the witness”. However, just knowing the answer does not liberate the mind. Contemplative practice does. Here Alan speaks of his mission to promote contemplative inquiry and his hope to see the first revolution of the mind sciences. Also: a revival of contemplative inquiry in other traditions, in Christianity, Taoism etc. Next, Alan remarks that there is no parallel to this kind of investigation in the West. He shows that contemplative inquiry is neither like religion nor like science. It does not fit into either category, although contains elements of both. In Christianity faith is crucial. One is given a set of truths to believe in and it is only in the afterlife that one may expect to ascertain them. In education (science) one is also presented with right answers. If students perform tests it is just to confirm what is already known. Only in cutting-edge research scientists look for hitherto unknown evidence. They have working hypotheses but their investigation needs to be objective and unbiased. But does this knowledge transform the knower? Does it liberate and purify the mind? - asks Alan. In this, contemplative inquiry is unique. It shifts the nature of the observer. All this information, all this transmission that we receive here is like a finger pointing to the moon, aiming at transforming the observer, leading him or her well beyond that finger. These teachings may be seen as “leading the witness” because they are helping us to see what others have seen in the past but their aim is to transform us, purify, awaken and liberate us. For this, faith is needed, but it should be faith balanced with intelligence. Next, Alan gives us a “sneak preview” of the meditation. It is a guided meditation in which instructions are given by Samanthabhadra manifesting as Lake Born Vajra Padmasambhava (based on “The Enlightened View of Samanthabhadra” by Dudjom Lingpa). First, Padmasambhava invites us to identify the agent. We all carry a conate false sense of identity. This is why the place to start is to examine “how do I exist?”. Who is the person I conceive of as “me”? Who fell asleep last night and who woke up this morning? Was it the same person? That being - where did it come from, where is it now and where will it cease? Such investigation, such knowing transforms, awakens and liberates the knower - says Alan.

The meditation is on the emptiness of the mind.

After the meditation Alan comments briefly on the custom of greeting one another with folded hands and a bow. It comes from the Zen tradition and is very meaningful, because it signifies acknowledging the buddha nature of the other person or any sentient being. In the Indo-Tibetan tradition there is pure vision in which, similarly, one sees through the outer appearances to the inner purity of another being. Alan remarks that this is the way His Holiness the Dalai Lama views everybody and in this way is able to draw the best out of them. Next, Alan continues reading the essay from the collection he translated recently (to be published in the near future by Wisdom Publications) in which the author seeks to make the practice methods from Nyingma Dzogchen and Kagyu Mahamudra compatible with and accessible to the Gelug school. One of the main points to which Alan draws our particular attention is the strategy to realise emptiness of all phenomena through realising the emptiness of the mind. First one needs to establish the mind as primary (the all-creating monarch), then see it as immaterial, and then realise it has no origin, no location and no destination. For a person of sharp faculties this may be enough to realise the emptiness of all phenomena. It is like the vulnerable spot of the Death Star - says Alan (who, as we may have guessed by now, is a Star Wars fan) - it may be enough to hit it with a dart… In conclusion of today’s session, Alan reflects on the often encountered phrase “person with superior faculties”. He recalls how he has always waited for the instructions for “persons with dull faculties”. But we may often feel we do not possess even the “dullest” faculties. So what shall we do? To encourage us, Alan quotes Dudjom Lingpa’s “Vajra Essence” where it is said that only those who have accumulated sufficient merit will encounter the sublime teachings of Dzogchen. So if you are listening to these teachings and they resonate with you and you feel drawn to them, it is not by accident. It means that you already have a lot of momentum. Dudjom Lingpa lists six prerequisites for the practice: belief in Dharma and your guru, trust in the path, awareness of death & renunciation, contentment, insatiability for Dharma and integration of life and Dharma, without complaining. If you have these and you have strong faith and belief - you can realise rigpa in this lifetime. Enough with the afflictive uncertainty - says Alan - it is time to practice!

The meditation starts at 25:15


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