B. Alan Wallace, 08 Oct 2012
Teaching pt1. Alan continues with the series on the 4 greats with great empathetic joy. Unlike empathetic joy in the Pali canon, great empathetic joy is an aspiration. There’s a similar liturgy. 1) Why couldn’t all sentient beings never be parted from happiness free of suffering? This doesn’t refer to hedonic pleasure but eudaimonia. It also refers to freedom from all three kinds of suffering. 2) May we all never be parted from happiness free of suffering. 3) I shall do it. 4) May I receive blessings from all the enlightened ones to do so.
Meditation. Great empathetic joy. Let your awareness illuminate the space of the body and the space of the mind. The human body is imputed upon the appearances within the space of the body, and the human mind upon the appearances within the space of the mind. Yet these appearances are empty of body and mind. Imagine pristine awareness as an orb of light at your heart chakra. Withdraw all appearances into this orb, and reimagine your human form as transparent, radiant light with the nature of Avalokiteshvara. Inquire 1) Why couldn’t all sentient beings never be parted from happiness free of suffering? What would be needed to bring this about? Arouse the aspiration 2) may we all never be parted from happiness free of suffering. Arouse the intention from your pristine awareness 3) I shall do it. 4) May I receive blessings from all the enlightened ones to do so. With every in breath, blessings in the form of light come in from all directions and fill your body. With every out breath, light flows out in all directions, bringing sentient beings to happiness without suffering.
Teaching pt2. Try to achieve a smooth transition between meditation sessions and post-meditation sessions. In between sessions, act as an illusory being. This instruction helps withdraw reification of body and mind.
Meditation starts at 8:15
Teachings pt 1:
This morning we turn to the third of the four greats, “mahamudita”, or great empathetic joy. You will note that in the Theravada approach the empathetic joy truly is an emotion, it is taking delight, a sense of satisfaction, appreciation, rejoicing, whereas now as we move into the Mahayana mode, this great mudita (empathetic joy) is like the other three, is an aspiration, the format is the same and we are already familiar with the great compassion and great loving kindness but now the phrasing is, I give the whole thing in Tibetan. [Alan recited the first line in Tibetan as the translation below].
So the first line, four lines is usual, the first line is:
Instructions for one that is reading the transcript: we are using the paragraphs 1 to 4 below as titles of the themes.
So the first line, four lines as usual, the first line is: Why could not - and again, not meant as a rhetorical question, but really a real question to investigate – why could not all sentient beings (or we all) never be parted from happiness, free of suffering? Devoid of suffering. Why couldn’t?
Well, I have being teaching for a long time and a lot of people come up with interesting questions and that is the very notion of being free of suffering and experiencing only happiness. I remember years ago somebody, it has happened multiple time since then, somebody saying, you know this is a kind of logic impossibility, it is like saying may there only be left but no right, may there only be up and no down, only light but no darkness, and the whole Buddhist ideal does not really make much sense, that you can have only one and not the other, what is suffering, what does happiness even mean without suffering?
(2:25) If one approaches this practice in a superficial way, namely thinking only of hedonic wellbeing, then it really is silly and it makes no sense and is probably impossible and that is; may we all only encounter good fortune every day, happy day, never anything bad happening - in other words may we all be born in a deva realm and stay there for eternity, because deva realm is pretty much all nice, right? But then many of you have good solid background in Buddhism, and you know that being born in a deva realm while very pleasant while you are there - in the big picture it actually is not very advantageous because you have no inspiration from the inside, from that domain of experience. So in that realm of existence you really have no inspiration, no motivation, no reason to really want to apply yourself to achieve liberation, samsara is swell, you know - if that is all there were to it - just hanging out in a deva realm, which would be awfully nice. But because it is awfully nice, and homogonously nice until you come right towards the end of it, let’s say in a deva realm of the desire realm, then again there is no inspiration for practicing dharma, no renunciation, no renunciation there is no great compassion, no great compassion there is no bodhichitta, no bodhichitta there is no progress on the path, so, many of you are very familiar with this. But clearly this is not a foolish aspiration and so I think it is quite obvious, I think all of you have already guessed it if you did not already know it.
(4:05) When speaking of happiness devoid of suffering, of course he is not referring to hedonic pleasure, he is referring to genuine happiness, eudaimonia, the deepest level will be the joy that arises from wisdom itself, from knowing reality as it is.
So if we consider an analogy and that is - would it not be wonderful if all types of sickness could be banished, just sickness altogether? That we could just be healthy all the time? And would there be something wrong with that, that is, physical illness is that really part of rich life, to be physically ill, mentally or physically? Or would you really be very happy by just having one healthy day after another and with that platform deal with whatever life presents to you? My sense is thumbs up on good healthy; I just do not see any intrinsic benefit in being ill, mentally or physically and so there is no logical inconsistency there, anymore than now that certain types of diseases like smallpox have been wiped out, polio I think pretty much and a number of other diseases you know really very much under control too, thanks for the wonderful research, applications of modern biomedicine. And so if we consider in that regard that, sure, good health makes sense only if relative to illness, but illness could be something only in the past just like smallpox I think now just existing in a few vials here and there under intense guard I hope. My understanding is there is no small pocks on the planet, nobody is suffering from smallpox, they are keeping the virus alive just for research purposes so does that somehow impoverish or diminish human existence because “gosh, we don’t have that to deal with it anymore” and I don’t think so, I think it is just fine. And likewise HIV, imagine HIV simply vanished, that there is no more of that.
(6:04) So when we consider or we aspire:
How might that come about: genuine happiness, eudaimonia? And then I will not fill in the blanks for that, I leave you that for the meditation. And then, why couldn’t [we] come up with an answer?
May it be so!
Clearly, the Buddhist tradition says it is possible and it is moreover a worthy, a noble aspiration.
(6:47) Ok, good luck with that, and that is if you have not found and not even tasted, do not even have a hint of such wellbeing yourself, a sense of wellbeing that is free not only from blatant suffering, we all experience that, sometimes we just feel good, but also: free from the suffering of change - and that can happen only by freedom from attachment, but also: the suffering, the existential suffering, the deepest suffering coming from reification, coming from delusion. So clearly, never being parted from happiness, free of suffering, would be all three levels.
So how can we take on the resolve, how can we commit ourselves to freeing, to enabling all sentient beings never to be parted from such a quality of wellbeing, free of all three dimensions of suffering, unless if at the very least we have a taste of such wellbeing ourselves?
(7:40) So then we have a strategy, we have a plan, we know what to do, right? But if you do not even have a taste then it is kind of an empty resolve. So I think then, if we can bring as much wisdom into this aspiration as possible, to envision it and then call on the blessings of all the enlightened ones (as below and the forth liturgy) to enable us to follow that path so that we can be leading others to the path of their own happiness, devoid of suffering. And bear in mind, if one person like a Buddha, like Buddha Shakyamuni, achieves perfect bliss, immutable bliss, it still means something, because sentient beings are still in suffering. That is, within the continuum of Buddha he or she does not have to continue on going back and forth, oh yeah happiness is there because I have had really bad days. The bliss of a Buddha, the immutable bliss of dharmakaya (mind of Buddha) is there and it still means something because there is still suffering in samsara.
Alan has not mentioned it but see below the fourth line:
Find a comfortable position, please.
(9:00) Happily let your awareness descend into the body, filling the space, settling the body, speech and mind in their natural state.
(10:56) Let your awareness illuminate the space of the body and all the appearances that arise within that space as well as the space of the mind, and whatever appearances arise therein.
And according to your ability, recognize that though we may fashion, using our power of concepts, a human body imputed upon these appearances and a human mind imputed upon these appearances. Although the conceptual mind may fashion a body and mind based upon these appearances, these appearances are empty of body and they are also empty of mind, they are nowhere to be found anywhere among these empty appearances arising in space.
Symbolically imagining your own pristine awareness as a radiant orb of light at your heart, let your imagination play and imagine dissolving or withdrawing all the appearances of your body and your mind into this pearl of light at your heart, empty and luminous. Then like projecting a holographic image, imagine your form emanating out of this orb of light at your heart, your human form, your familiar form, but imagine it purely of light. Radiant white light, empty luminous, transparent but in your own form, but of the nature of Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment, the personification of the compassion of all the Buddhas.
Moving deeply into this realm of possibility, an aspect of reality, arouse then the question:
When you see the possibility that there is actually a strategy, a means for bringing about such lasting wellbeing, then arouse the aspiration:
And then from the depths of your awareness, from pristine awareness itself, arouse if you will, the resolve, the commitment, the intention:
4) May I receive blessings from all the enlightened ones to do so. With every in breath, blessings in the form of light come in from all directions and fill your body. With every out breath, light flows out in all directions, bringing sentient beings to happiness without suffering. [Subscriber’s note for the readers: this paragraph is not included in the podcast but as you may see it is included in the summary and it is part of the liturgy of this meditation so we are including it here]
And then if you will call upon the blessing of the guru and all the awakened ones to enable you to carry through with this resolve and with each in breath imagine light, the light of blessing converging in from all sides, in upon your body, filling the body and converging upon the heart and with each out breath imagine this light of blessing flowing in all directions, realizing this aspiration and resolve, and breath by breath, individual by individual, imagine each sentient beings, all sentient beings, realizing such wellbeing free of suffering.
And then release all appearances and aspirations, and let your awareness rest in its own nature, still and luminous.
Let’s try to make as much continuity as we can between the formal sessions, whether the supine, sitting or however you may do that and in between sessions. So that when you are coming out, you do not feel like you are really coming out of meditation, you are just going into another mode of meditation, and when you are coming into meditation you do not feel like an abrupt discontinuity, like “oh, now I have to stop ruminating”. Try to make it as smooth as you can and you might recall now also the closing line from Atisha’s Seven Point Mind Training (written down by Chekawa but I was tracing it back to Atisha): the closing line in his section on wisdom, on insight, and he says: “in between sessions act as an illusory being”. Act as if yourself, your physical presence here, even your mental presence here, were just kind of an array, like an holographic image, moving through the mind center and going for walks, swimming - whatever you are doing, but as if you are here in the sense of like in a lucid dream, you are present someplace, but not really, not substantially, more as if you are a bardo being, hanging out, but not very tangible. So, as much as you can see if you can pull the plug, withdraw the reification of body and mind in between sessions, a much lighter mode of being. Enjoy your day!
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Joakim Gavazzeni
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon