06 May 2016

We continue to follow the strategy presented by Panchen Rinpoche, examining carefully the way we abide, in contrast to the mode of appearances. As we all know, we appear in very different ways, ever changing - even from day to day, we don’t look the same. But in contrast, when we think of our childhood, we think ‘that was me when I was a child’. Or when someone says something about us when we were adolescents, we feel ‘it’s referring to me’. There is something that abides. What is it that bears that continuity? We’ve already examined that but it’s worth coming back to it. It’s very helpful not to be locked into this appearance or that appearance, but to have a sense that there is something that continues over time, in this lifetime, and in a bigger picture, from lifetime to lifetime. Alan recalled that once the Dalai Lama was asked by someone in the audience to talk about his actual realization as a way of inspiring people, and he said ‘I can remember being with the Buddha’. So, even the Dalai Lama has this sense of continuity. We die every night and we’re born every morning - what is this person that abides and appears, and how do we apprehend this person? Padmasambhava, right after he’s finished settling the mind in its natural state and he says ‘do this until you’re finished’, he goes to the vipashyana chapter and the first stage is ‘engaging in the search for the mind’. When you’re stripped down to the substrate consciousness, to the flow of self-illuminating awareness, you can’t remove the luminosity nor the cognisance, the same way you can’t take out the heat of the fire. And then we go to the next meditation, we search for the mind and then he points out rigpa. We can’t find the mind and then we identify what’s left, pristine awareness. We identify what abides

The meditation is on vipashyana.

Alan returns to the text of Panchen Rinpoche, reading the verses of Shantideva on which our last meditation was based: “an individual is not earth, is not water, not fire, not air, not space, is not consciousness, is not all of them. Where then apart from these is the individual?” And then Shantideva suggests, as Padmasambhava and the Buddha also suggested, that we examine empirically each one of the aggregates, searching for the I. We examine even the self that we hold in our memory, which is not a fiction at all. There is an essential nature of the mind and you identify that when you achieve shamatha; there is an essential nature of fire - it’s hot and burning. And there is someone who does abide overtime: Can you find yourself? It’s not an absence, it’s a presence. Phenomenologically, you first identify it, and then, ontologically, you search for it. Is there anybody there to be found or is it all just appearances? A person has multiple basis of designation but these basis are never equal to the person. Panchen Rinpoche explains why it is not possible to equate a person with each one of the aggregates, individually or collectively, and also why a person cannot exist separate from the aggregates. And then, Alan comments that when we rest in the substrate consciousness and engage in the search for the meditator, we do not find - that was the last possibility of existing outside the manifold of appearances. Not to be found! When we first gain a realization, enabled by an idea - not to be found - this will be a conceptual insight; then we should stop further cogitation and rest in single-pointed equipoise. From within equipoise, examining as before, we maintain the mind in the space-like equipoise. When we come to the point of unfinding and seeing the unfindability, then there is just this openness, spaciousness, suddenly there is emptiness and that is called space-like meditative equipoise. If you’re not familiar with the view, fear will arise; if you are, joy will arise. That’s why one of the mahayana precepts is ‘don’t teach emptiness to those who are not ready’. Fear of annihilation can arise even with shamatha practice. Alan ends by saying that by the power of seeing the emptiness of yourself, you see how you and the sentient beings arise in mutual interdependence. And that very insight into emptiness will enhance your compassion. The grasping to an independent self undermines empathy, compassion, bodhicitta - all other beings are on the other side of the fence. And this is very lonely. Ironically, by realizing the emptiness of yourself, manifesting in a myriad of ways, all interrelated with all beings - we’re all intertwined, our very existence, our very being is one of interdependence - how can we not care for the other? Finally he cited Shantideva: “Do I really have to take on my shoulders the burden of the world?” He posed the question to himself and the answer was: “Yes, you do!” The question comes back: “Why?” And the answer is “because suffering has no owner”.

Meditation starts at 13:03

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