B. Alan Wallace, 12 Sep 2012
In these practices focusing on the mind, it is useful to stabilise them with a reference point: 1) awareness resting in its own place as a subjective reference point or 2) space of the mind as an objective reference point. These practices counter the common belief that we think thoughts rather than thoughts just happen.
Meditation: mindfulness of the mind. Release into the body, and release the body. Release into the breath, and release the breath. Release into the mind, and release the mind. As Shantideva said, “Release everything in an instant. That is nirvana.” 1) Release appearances, and let your awareness fold back onto itself, hold its own ground, rest in its own space. 2) With your eyes open, let the light of awareness illuminate the space of the mind. 3) Illuminate the entire system of your awareness and the space of the mind. Know when and where javana emerge, remain, and dissolve.
Q1. In settling the mind, when I realise that I’m viewing the referent rather than the thought, I intervene with statements which redirect me to the thought. I find it helpful, but is this appropriate?
Q2. In settling the mind, why do we practice with out eyes open?
Q3. Is the space of the mind a vacuity in our heads or in our head/body?
Q4. Within the 5 obscurations, you mentioned excitation/anxiety. I feel anxiety when lucid in a dream, so are the remedies the same?
Q5. I’m not sure about the experiential difference between awareness of awareness viewing the space of the mind and just space of the mind. I find it much easier to engage with the space of the mind coming from awareness of awareness than mindfulness of breathing.
Q6. You mentioned the 5 elements and assigned elements to each of the shamatha practices. Should we take these into account when balancing the 5 elements in our daily lives and our practice?
Q7. In nature of mind practice, how do we remedy laxity and excitation?
Meditation starts at 17:05
Today we will be very explicitly attending to the javana; the activities, the emergences in the space of the mind. Tomorrow and for the rest of the week we will be looking more to that from which all of these events, these javana, emerge. So to stabilize in the practice, to feel you’re kind of grounded, there in space where there is no earth element, then it’s good to have a baseline, a home, a reference point, a place to come back to; a kind of home. And we’ll say there are two homes and they are interconnected, they both are very experiential.
(1:40) The first of these is really seeing what the taste is of your awareness. Just coming to rest, in its own place, which means not inverting inwards, not extending outwards, not looking here, not looking there, not doing anything at all just being what is already is and that is just being aware in its own place. So let’s do right now, you do not need to move, don’t need to move, just let your awareness be right where it is, illuminating and knowing itself, just for seconds.
(2:29) Develop the Samadhi; to be able to remain there, and you can withdraw at will from the pain that arises in the mind as well as in the body. Withdrawal is not a solution, it is not a healing, but it can certainly be a nice respite, to know that that’s an option, and it takes work. Anybody can open the mouth and swallow and take a drug to suppress symptoms of this and that, but here is a very deliberate withdrawal, very much like in a military campaign, when you see that maybe the enemy just has the better ground, just in terms of sheer placement of yours and the other army; that the other army are just going to beat you, because they have just got you in the ground where you cannot win. What do you do? You don’t just stay there and get beaten to death and you don’t try to advance up to them because they’ll just mow you down. What is the smart, wise and courageous thing to do? It is smart, wise and courageous to get the hell out of there. Just withdraw. Make a strategic withdrawal so you can re-group and find a better ground to wage the good battle.
(3:50) And so here it is. There are times when the mind becomes overwhelming, times when the body is overwhelming. To have a place to retreat to, is to have a sanctuary, a refuge. You need to cultivate it. It is not given to you. That is, it is given to you in the sense that is already there, but you need to develop the ability to be able to retreat there and stay there at will. And there it is. It’s ever so simple; in that sheer luminosity, in that sheer cognizance of awareness, that is all there is to it. It is simple, unadorned, unelaborated. It is luminous and it is cognizant. Staying there, it is conventionally within conventional reality that is the ultimate retreat. Beyond that of course there is the transcendent (emptiness, rigpa and all of that) but just for the time being this is the place to retreat to, to develop that skill. As the Buddha said: develop and cultivate it.
Cultivate the ability to make a strategic retreat. So your awareness just comes to rest in stillness, without grasping, without identifying with anything, resting in its own nature. There’s your baseline. That’s your primary mind. That is your mental consciousness. When it’s unveiled, when is unconfigured, then it will reveal itself nakedly as substrate consciousness. But you can access already, this is not something for later. And so, we call that sen, chitta, mind, mental consciousness.
(5:32) Then as you are resting there, there’s your baseline, you know what is like. You’ve got to know what it’s like. If I am just talking and you’re just hearing concepts then the arrow is not striking the target. But if the words lead you to the experience, and then you know it for yourself just like tasting chocolate, and you say, “ok that is the taste of chocolate” – good; this is the taste of awareness just resting in its own place. Good, there’s your baseline. Now, as you are resting there, then, since you have a platform, you have a base, a base camp, a baseline (call it whatever you like), then when things emerge from that then you can notice it. You can notice by contrast, just like the earlier point of recognizing stillness and the distinction between stillness and motion, you recognize the stillness of your awareness and then the things that emerge from that flow of mental consciousness. And that is exactly what they’re called in Tibetan sen dzung, “that which emerges from the mind” or, as we translate it, I do not know any better translation, “mental factors”? “mental process”? But it doesn’t quite have that feeling of sen dzung. Dzung means to emerge but can we really say in English “it is a mental emergence”? It’s not that great English, but that is what it is.
(6:48) So you recognize what is it, what is that from which the emotions and the thoughts, and the perceptions, and the memories, the imaginations and the dreams, what is it, what is it from which all these subjective impulses emerge and then dissolve back into the latent state? You see the ground, you see the source, that simple mental awareness and then the things that flow from it, emerge from it. Attend to them. Watch how they emerge and watch how they dissolve. But as you’re attending to the mind, as you’re closely applying mindfulness to the mind, you are not attending exclusively to the subjective impulses but of course you are attending to the domain right? So conventionally, dharmadatu, the domain of the mind. And what appears there? Is all these appearances, all the dreams scape while you are sleeping, all that appears to you in a dream all that is appearing in dharmadatu, OK? The domain of the mind. In the waking state, all the images that arise, the memories that arise, the chitchat, the dialogue, all that appears to you. So once again to attend those and how they arise and how they dissolve, once again you want a baseline and the baseline is space of mind.
(8:00) But when you are just attending to the space and when you do not see anything coming up, like for the time being it just seems vacant, fine. Now there is your challenge. When you are vacant do not just space out. Don’t wait. Don’t think, “ok, when something comes up then I will notice it”. There is already something coming up; it’s called the space of the mind. And so there, there is your subtle challenge. When all that remains is space of the mind, then know the space of the mind, engage, come and shake hands with it, engage with it, know that it’s not simply nothing, that it’s not a mere absence of anything at all. It is a domain, it is a space, and you can attend to it and you can know it, you can ask questions about it. Is it black, is it purple, is it flat, is it three dimensional, is it round, does it have a shape, how big is it? Those are not nonsensical questions, those are vipashyana questions actually, about nature of the mind.
(9:15) And so, here is our challenge; to establish a baseline, subjectively, awareness resting in its own place; and then, as you attend to the space of the mind, having that as your baseline, even when there is nothing much happening, there is an interval (or what have you), there is still something to attend to and to know; to maintain a flow of knowing, and that is that sheer vacuity, that domain, from which the events emerge and into which they dissolve. So when you get your baseline, subjectively, it is just a flow of awareness holding its own ground; and you get your baseline objectively in terms of the space of the mind, just that space. Then you can really follow the teachings of the Buddha when he said: “contemplate”; which is to say, closely examine with understanding the factors of origination. How do those appearances arise in the space of the mind? How do these mental emergences, these eruptions, these movements, emotions and so forth, how do they come forth? How does that take place?
(10:27) A quite natural response to that, when we are not paying close attention, is… when we are thinking whatever thoughts comes up, thinking, “I did that and I did that and I did that, I did that and I have this mind, I did that, I did that”, whatever is coming up, taking responsibility for everything. Whatever comes up to mind, it is your mind. Do you think that anybody else did it? Nobody else did, so you must have done it. Bad you, how could you think such thing? You rascal you! You should not think thoughts like that, stop doing that, shame, shame. And this guy especially… as if there is a super natural agent there, you know, the real Nicola, the real Jochen that nobody knows about, the real Jochen, the mastermind that is creating all those things, standing apart from the mind and doing things to it.
(11:28) And then we project that on the universe and we say well after all since there is some supernatural guy in here, or woman in here…but it was men that wrote the bible so guess who He is? You know? I mean really… if all the women had been prophets, what gender do you think God would have? Speculation, but I’ve got to guess…. But if we get into this habitual mode of thinking there really is some kind of a supernatural agent in here, that is responsible for, that is creating, that is producing, spewing out all the stuff that is manifesting in the mind, including both the subjective impulses as well as: “I dream that, I thought that”… if you thought that, if you thought “all that rumination, why don’t you just stop?” I mean if you started it then you can stop it, right? So if you think you are ruminating, good, stop now. And then if you can’t then that kind of indicates that maybe you weren’t doing it in the first place. It just happens. But if we are quite habituated, uncritically habituated, to the notion that whatever is happening objectively and subjectively in the mind that: “I did it, I did it, I am a little micro God here and I did it”, then when we look around at the big scene then is quite natural to think “Oh a hurricane just struck the Gulf Coast, right at the time of the Republican convention. What message was God trying to send them?” Because it was right at that time. And do you think that was an accident? And now, “really what did God have in mind?” Did you think there might have been some Gays there at the Republican convention and that He wanted to send them a message? You know? I mean these kinds of questions come up by Evangelicals who really think God throws tornados and things at people who have been misbehaving. But whatever it is, tornedos, sunamis, illness, plagues, earthquakes, and so forth, thinking that “well there must be somebody who did it and there must be a message in all of that”, some supernatural, superego out there who is doing this to us. We are trying to figure out “what message are you sending so we can get you to stop doing that?” Or if you do it, at least do it to somebody else, you know, the other side, because after all God is in our side. God’s got to be on our side.
(14:03) So if we reify a super-agent microcosmically we are just bound to reify a super-agent cosmically and then wonder “why or why did you do that?” So it is not that we don’t exist and I am not here to provide logical reasonings to refute the existence of God; that is not my agenda at all. I do not refute the existence of God. First of all we’d have to define it and now is not the time for that. So, am I refuting the existence of God? No, I am not. Am I refuting the existence of Miles, of me, of Daniel, of Haspeta and so forth? Of course not. I am not refuting the existence of people, of selves, of persons, I am not refuting my existence, I am not refuting God’s existence, that’s for everybody to figure out for themselves but the notion that there is a supernatural self, that stands outside of the system and is spewing things into it, that is independent, that I would refute for lack of evidence..
(15:45) And similarly, so, I’m Buddhist, so I express Buddhist view, similarly refute there is some super natural entity outside of nature that’s throwing in thunderbolts and bouquets of flowers and doing this and tidal waves and good crops and bad crops and, you know, zapping it to us, punishing and rewarding from some super natural platform; you know, like that’s all he’s got to do, just punish and reward people. From the Buddhist perspective there is no evidence for that; we’re not going to get hung up there. So no supernatural super-ego, no supernatural micro-ego. Does that refute God? No it doesn’t. Does that refute my existence? No, it does not. But is suggesting quite clearly a very naturalistic view, a naturalistic view, that do I make decisions and am I responsible from my decisions? That is a really good question. The answer is yes. I make decisions, I act intentionally, I am responsible for my actions and lo and behold I get the fruits of my actions. It does not require me to be an independent agent for that to happen. I am an agent, but I am embedded in the system; and embedded in the system, then I make decisions, I am responsible from my decisions.
(16:24) So, enough of this. Let’s go back and establish a baseline, I’d like to make sure we have plenty of time for discussion today. Back to the baseline, I am going to give very little instructions for the session. You are pretty familiar with it by now, the three marks of existence, process of origination, dissolution, but now in this session see if you can establish the baseline that taste of letting your awareness rest in its own place, the ultimate retreat, a haven, a refuge, a sanctuary. And when you are attending the space of the mind, also then, ascertain, know that baseline of just the vacuity itself and then from that baseline, then you can see the fluctuations above it, that which emerges from it; thoughts, images and so forth, ok, let’s practice.
(18:10) Release into the body and release the body.
Release all concepts about the body; all formations pertaining to the body.
Release into the breath and release the breath.
Release into the mind and then release the mind.
Shantideva says: “releasing everything all, at once in an instant, that is nirvana”. So find your best approximation here and now.
Release it all and gently attend to the flow of the breath, relaxing more and more deeply, releasing more and more fully with every out breath.
(21:17) Then with a complete sense of release, of letting go of all appearances, even the appearances of the space of your mind, like a spring that released its own shape with no extension, let your awareness unfold back into itself, utterly soft, relaxed, without grasping.
And let your awareness hold in its own ground, resting in its own place.
(23:18) And then now with your eyes at least partially open, even open just a little bit, let the light in but now let the light of your awareness illuminate the space of the mind, as you direct your attention to that domain.
And if it is empty let it be empty and clearly note, pay attention to that vacuity, that domain, that space of experience which thoughts and images arise and into which they disappear.
There is not much to it but there is a little bit more than nothing.
(25:20) And now let your awareness illuminate this subject – object continuum, this system of experience, in which you are clearly aware of the space of the mind and whatever arises within it and without adding anything to that note that you are already aware of being aware.
(25:36) So the system’s awareness, not polarizing itself entirely on the subjective side or the objective side, but illuminates the whole continuum.
On the baseline of awareness, noting the emergence of javana, the activities of the subjective impulses of the mind, and within this continuum also noting the emergence of appearances, of thoughts and images arising in the space of the mind.
Very simply, very gently, softly, but clearly, note how the subjective and the objective events emerge and that from which they emerge; how they are present and that in which they are present and how they dissolve and that into which they dissolve.
Keep it simple and let’s continue practising now in silence.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Corinne Dobinson
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Final edition by Alma Ayon