Minding the Mind [Audio]
Let’s look at the pithy instructions for meditation in the Tibetan tradition. In this talk we look at the mind in movement, at rest, in relation to itself and outer / inner phenomena.
Today we are going to be talking about minding the mind. This is Tibetan Vipassana, or Insight meditation. We are InsightLA. Vipassana means Insight: insight into wisdom and the mind. There are different methods to attaining this Insight. Many of you have gone on retreats—maybe in the Theraveda style—and have looked into what in Tibetan we call the basic space of phenomenon; the naturally arising, lucid mind. Looking into the mind and just sitting with it. In the Tibetan tradition, which itself is very vast, there are many different ways to come upon these insights. We are going to be talking today through a teaching that is of the Dzogchen or Mahamudra lineage. There are four major schools in Tibetan buddhism, the Nyingma, the Kagyu, the Sakya, the Gelug or Gelugpa. We all know the Dalai Lama, who is the head of the Gelugpa school. This is the newest school of Tibetan buddhism and it’s also the intellectual school. There is a lot of emphasis of the intellectual understanding of the teachings. The saying is that even if you can’t describe it, the Gelugpas will try anyways. They will go to great lengths to explain emptiness.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Nyingmas. They are the non-dual school, the oldest school brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. It’s the first school in Tibet. In this school, their philosophy is that you’re already enlightened, you just forgot. Really, there is not much that we need to do to realize this. Even the best meditation is non-meditation. Even meditation can stand in your way. The meditator especially stands in the way. Do not meditate, but do not be distracted. This is of the Nyingma school. This is more a Dzogchen teaching.
In the Kagyu lineage, they are more the meditation school. They are very close to the Nyingma school. They say, yes, that’s true, but you better meditate a little first so you can realize this. The Sakya school is more of a family lineage; there are not a lot of distinct characteristics of that school. The fifth school is the Rimé school–this is all the schools put together. You will meet Rimé lamas who incorporate all the different elements.
This exact text, this very sacred text that we will be barely tasting today, is called Pointing Out the Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya: kayas are different levels of awareness. There are three main kayas—kayas are different levels of awareness. Dharma means truth. This is the truth kaya: Pointing out the Dharmakaya. This is the unlimited, infinite space. We have Sambkogakaya which is like a spirit body, nirmanakaya is the flesh body. This is Pointing Out the Dharmakaya.
In the Nyingma tradition, you get insight by spending time with your teacher—preferably many, many years—and you do your preliminary practices called Ngöndro. For preliminary practice, you might’ve heard of people doing prostrations, which is very big in Tibetan buddhism. It’s one of the Ngöndro practices. Vajrasattva is like this purification practice. Mandala offering is when you offer everything to all beings and your gurus. And in Guru Yoga you make a real sincere connection with your guru, and you usually practice a hundred thousand prostrations.
Lama Tsongkhapa, who was the originator of the Gelugpa school, did so many prostrations that he literally wore in the stone in his cave. You can still see to this day where he did his millions of prostrations. It makes us feel lazy, yeah? It’s really incredible because, if you’ve ever done a lot of prostrations, they hurt—it hurts your elbows, your knees, and your hands. If you see people doing their prostrations you know it hurts–their one hundred thousands. It’s kind of funny these days because they use cardboard on their hands so they slide really easily, and they put all these cushions down. When I did mine it was this cool thing with all these pillows. We’re really lazy these days. He did it right on the stone which is obviously incredible.
So you sit with your teacher, and they point out, through very specific questions, your true nature. They will ask you certain questions for you to look into your own mind in a certain way. They call it pointing out instructions. This text here, Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, was in Tibet at the time the Dharma was flourishing. Many many people practiced it. But very few teachers and masters were able to give these Pointing Out instructions. One of the most profound lamas in the Kagyu tradition created three separate texts: one was long in length, one was medium, and one was short. The final one was very, very pithy, very to the point, very succinct. He called that one Pointing Out the Dharmakaya—that’s this one. It’s very, very profound.
The teachings themselves are pretty simple because we’re just looking into our own mind. The difficult part is the devotion and the sincerity. This is the hard part, especially, I’ll speak for myself as a lazy westerner. So lazy that we’re in Long Beach and we hear amazing teachers coming to LA and we’re like, “ugh, the traffic, I don’t know if I can make it. This guy is fully realized. This woman is fully realized, and ugh, I don’t know, can you imagine the 405? What time is it? They’re teaching at 5:00? No we’re not going to be there.” Yet how do these teachings get to Tibet? Buddha was from India, how did they get there? How did it happen?
So Tilopa, Naropa, then Marpa. Marpa walked from Tibet, six times, into Nepal and India to bring back these teachings. The last trip that he took, he was old. Brutal! Can you imagine? I forget, but maybe it was in the 10th century. There wasn’t Gortex, fur boots and sunglasses for the snow, sunblock, all that stuff. But we’re like, “ooooh, traffic.”
It’s really important to see that the teachings don’t really matter if we don’t have devotion, sincerity of practice, the groundwork. It really doesn’t matter. We can keep coming to teachings forever and ever and it’s never going to matter because we’re never going to do them or push through those obstacles. It doesn’t really matter. We have to cultivate the foundation and we have to do it in 2017 in Long Beach, or in Southern California working full time, doing what we do, day in and day out, with all of our busy schedules. We have to do it now. We have to do it like that and we can! Its a matter of the heart, it really is.
I want to read a couple quotes to bring that home. There’s a text that’s translated by Trungpa Rinpoche. He has a book, “Pointing out the Dharma Kaya”, they have a new edition that has a new cover to it. Trungpa Rinpoche is one of the most profound living lamas in the Karmakagyu tradition. He’s the actual scholarly teacher to the Karmapa, the 17th Karma who is the head of the Kagyu school. He’s known for breaking down these profound teachings in a very digestible way.
“The relationship of devotion to the rest of meditation is very much like the relationship between your head and the rest of your body. The most important thing that makes meditation work and fruitful is your devotion and your commitment.
What we must direct our devotion and commitment toward is the dharma. In this context when we say “dharma”, we mean mahamudra [this is the actual practice that we’re talking about.] Devotion and commitment mean having the feeling: “I must meditate on this. If I meditate on this, there will be benefit. These are the actual methods and they will lead to the goal I wish to achieve.
In short, it is the confidence in the validity and efficacy of the mahamudra teachings and practices. It is a trust that, through correctly implementing the instructions, we have received from the root guru through the lineage gurus, the attainment of the goal will actually come about. The reason this is so important is that, if we have this commitment based on confidence, then we will naturally be diligent, and if we are diligent, then we will get results.”
It’s fantastic that we have all these teachings. It’s incredible that all the teachers come to us. And yet being that it’s so easy, they’re not as valued. Now if you’re Marpa and you’re traveling hundreds or thousands of miles on foot to go to India to bring the teachings back, they’re going to have significance. Yet, if they’re just freely delivered so easily, then maybe that significance is lost a bit. This is something that we need to meditate on and really cultivate within ourselves. This is so profound! This could lead to liberation! This has been leading to liberation in Tibet, like an assembly line, for hundred of years! Like an assembly line Tibet and Buddhism, and many other things too, not just Buddhism. There are certain things that have been working for literally thousands of years. But you see that these beings that have benefited put in incredible work. Incredible devotion to the path.
Here’s Papaji speaking on this:
“When there is no object, you will enter into a space which you can’t mention, this is called transcendence.
Now, you must fall in love with this state, or you will love something else. This is the only thing that will give you constant, eternal love. Such few people want this though. Everybody wants physical or emotional enjoyments. If you transcend these things, you will fall in love with It and It will fall in love with you! You will have a very intimate relationship. It is very easy. You just have to fully desire this. You will see that it has always been here, but you have always wanted something else.”
So beautiful: “now you must fall in love with this state, or you will fall in love with something else. Such few people want it enough.” Like Yogananda was saying: you must want this like somebody drowning wants air. This is how badly. How badly do we want liberation? That’s why suffering is so beautiful. That’s why it’s so profound for Buddha to point to suffering because when we’re suffering, we want to feel better. So badly.
It’s like when we hurt our finger, we’re like “wow, it’s so amazing having a healthy finger!” –something that doesn’t hurt in our body. You realize how grateful we are. Then, to realize that we’re suffering even when we’re not. I know that sounds bad but, if we’re not suffering at this moment, then that just means we’re at the top. But we’ll always feel like this until we free ourselves.
Here’s a funny story: I was sitting with a teacher and he was with Alan Wallace. They were all together, sitting with a Lama. The Lama was telling a story of a water buffalo stuck in the mud. There was a group of students looking at the water buffalo, praying. The teacher came up and said, “what the hell are you doing?” They said, “we’re praying for the water buffalo!” He said, “get in there and get the water buffalo out!” He was talking about compassion and action. You can’t pray for something, you have to get the water buffalo out. So, Alan Wallace said to the Lama, “Well, which one are we? Our Sangha? Where do we play the role in that? Are we just praying? Are we compassion in action?” He said, “you’re the water buffalo!” We forget. We have not freed ourselves yet. Only when we free ourselves can we help others. It’s with a passion that we want this.
This teaching is a public teaching. It’s safe to teach this teaching. Many times teachings like this are somewhat secret teachings, or they’re given in a very intimate setting. We are going to look at the mind in this way. First, we must create the foundation within our own mind. We do this by practicing some loving kindness. Let’s first start off with a loving kindness practice.
First, we must create the foundation within our own mind. We do this by practicing some lovingkindness. Let’s first start off with a lovingkindness practice. I like to use a ratio 50-50, if you’re going to look into the mind very deeply. Let’s say you have a ten minute meditation; five minutes is turning into your heart first. Tuning into your devotion. This devotion ultimately is to your true self.In Tibetan tradition ill just say some names and even though they may not be familiar to you these teachings come from a great lineage. Great sacrifices were made.
[Go to 20:00 to hear the meditation.]