16 May 2016

Tonight we return again to the theme of the path and to the four applications of mindfulness discussed yesterday. This time, Alan gives a presentation of the four application of mindfulness in the context of Mahamudra. First, however, he points out that contrary to some views which present Buddhism as “selfish” - centred only on “me” and “mine”, as in “my body”, “my mind” - in the four applications of mindfulness the Buddha actually gave instructions to attend to the body, feelings, mind and phenomena internally and externally, and then both internally and externally. Thus, for example, one examines one’s mind subjected to mental afflictions and develops kindness towards oneself, and then attends to others and discovers similar mental afflictions and therefore is able to display empathy and kindness towards others as well. It has nothing to do with “selfishness” and self-centredness. Alan then explains why he chose the Buddha’s instructions from the Satipatthana Sutta, and specifically the close application of mindfulness to the mind, as the basis for our meditation yesterday. First, he notes that according to those teachings, to achieve nirvana it is sufficient to gain insight into one of those four applications of mindfulness (body, feelings, mind and phenomena) by realising the three marks of existence, i.e. impermanence, dukkha and non-self. With a few exceptions (see the story of king Milinda, Nagasena and the chariot), in the Pali canon there is no reference to the emptiness of phenomena. However, we are here to follow the Mahayana path. Therefore Alan presents the four applications of mindfulness in a different light, namely from the perspective of Madhyamika view. In the close application of mindfulness to the mind, this entails the assertion of the lack of inherent existence of the mind. To “front load” the meditation, Alan reads a passage from his translation of chapter 13 of Shantideva’s “Compendium of Practices on the Four Applications of Mindfulness” (this text was used at the Fall 2012 Retreat on Shamatha, Vipashyana and the Four Applications of Mindfulness, and will be made available to us via Retreat Notes).

The meditation is on the close application of mindfulness to the mind.

After the meditation, Alan returns to the theme of mapping the four yogas onto the five Mahayana paths - a topic he discussed briefly yesterday based on Panchen Lama’s text. For today’s teaching Alan chose a number of relevant passages from Karma Chagme’s “Naked Awareness”, chapter 10 on the four yogas. These excerpts, too, will be available in the Retreat Notes. In conclusion, Alan stresses the importance of having a clear vision of the path, a strong motivation to get to the very end of the path to enlightenment. This will propel us through future lifetimes and ensure the suitable conditions to finish what we started. Alan also contrasts the “slow” approach in which getting from the path of accumulation to the path of seeing takes one countless eon with the fast Mahamudra and Dzogchen way in which this may be shortened to just a number of years, i.e. one lifetime. What makes it possible is, of course, cutting through to rigpa. Rigpa is the Warp drive - concludes Alan.

The meditation starts at 35:00

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