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The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong belief that we have actually taken on the sufferings of all other living beings, that they are free from suffering and that we have completely destroyed our own self-cherishing. We then consider this belief in the light of the fact that all living beings are our mothers.
I began with breathing meditation and after a while my mind felt very absorbed and focused.
I then began the Lamrim meditation on Taking. I decided that I wanted to really get my teeth into this meditation, so I worked with some very strong imagery today. I imagined walking onto a railway station concourse, which was filled with people. They were all young women carrying babies. The concourse was enormous – in fact it was large enough to hold all living beings, who were in the aspect of these women.
I imagined that these women all had the same suffering – they were dying and they would not see their little baby grow up. I imagined that all the sufferings of all these living beings were represented by this one tragic suffering. I thought of how each of them would look at their baby and tell them how they wished they could stay with them and be with them as they grew. How they wished that they would be able to care for them and love them, and how sorry they were that they would have to leave them. I thought about how this must feel, and I felt it too. A heartbreaking sadness.
I then made the firm decision that through the power of my compassionate wish, I would take on their sufferings. Their sufferings only cause them pain, but they can give me great benefit. I caused all their heartache to rise out of them in the aspect of black smoke and come towards me, gathering at my heart. As the smoke left their bodies, the women understood that they were no longer dying, and that their wish had come true. They were free from their suffering.
The smoke gathered at my heart and dissolved into my self-cherishing, destroying it completely. I felt free. Completely free. I realised that whenever I do anything, I make my decisions based on some consideration of the implications the action has for me. Is it good for me or is it bad for me? But without self-cherishing, I am free to do whatever is most beneficial for others. I am not fettered by self-cherishing. I felt completely free from self cherishing – it was wonderful.
After a while I decided to see what this contemplation and meditation meant in light of the fact that all living beings are my mother. As I thought this, I understood that I was all the babies being held by these mothers – that all living beings are my suffering mothers. I went through the contemplation again with this understanding, and once again I felt very free at the end. I focused on this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings learn to take the sufferings of others, and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to alleviate the sufferings of others with a calm, patient mind. I will try to abandon my self-cherishing and fearlessly take on the sufferings of others.
The purpose of this meditation is to mentally take the suffering of all living beings and destroy my own self-cherishing, and then to meditate on this in the light of death and impermanence.
I began by remembering that all living beings have been my mother and have treated me with incredible kindness. They have cared for me more than they cared for themselves. They have sacrificed themselves for me many times, and wished only that I be happy. I felt very grateful towards them.
Then I remembered my compassionate wish for them to be free of the many sufferings which afflict them every moment of their lives. I decided that I would take their sufferings. I imagined all their suffering rising out of them in the aspect of black smoke, gathering in the space in front of me and condensing into my heart. As the smoke came towards me I recognised that all living beings are now free from suffering. I felt joy in my heart.
Then the smoke dissolved into my heart and destroyed my self-cherishing. All the pain and suffering caused by my self-cherishing came to an end instantly. I understood that both myself and others were completely free from suffering, and suffering will never again be experienced by any living being. I felt a joy arise again in my heart, and I stayed with this feeling for a while.
I then thought about what this means in the light of death and impermanence. Death destroys my opportunity to take the sufferings of others. Death will put an end to my spiritual practice. I decided I needed to practice Dharma purely, right now, and throughout my life. The joy I felt was flavoured with an urgency to practice hard before death comes. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop the superior intention to take on the sufferings of others, and through this action become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
With compassion, I will try to alleviate the sufferings of others, and make prayers for those who I cannot help directly.
The purpose of this meditation is to take on others’ suffering in meditation.
In Geshe Kelsang Gyatso‘s recent book, Modern Buddhism, my kind teacher gives instructions on how to practice the taking in conjunction with the six perfections. He also makes it clear that the act of taking on others’ suffering in meditation is a method for destroying our own ignorance of self-grasping and self-cherishing.
I began the meditation by recalling my strong feeling of finding the suffering of others unbearable. I let my mind rest on this feeling for a while, and then I moved on. I decided that I needed to do something about all this suffering. I imagined a vast plain in front of me, filled with all the living beings trapped in samsara. I saw them all standing there, millions and millions of them.
I made the firm decision to take all their suffering from them. Thinking this was the cause of their suffering rising out of each and every one of them in the aspect of black smoke. I saw it leaving a few beings first, then more and more smoke rising into the air above them.
As the smoke left them, they became free from their suffering. They became free from ageing. No matter how old they were, they became young again, with youthful bodies in the prime of life. They became free from sickness. No matter how ill they were, their sickness left them and they became healthy. Their future sufferings also left their bodies. They were free from all their suffering, and would never experience suffering again. They were filled with joy, and I felt that joy in my heart. I stayed with that joy for a few minutes.
Then I focused on the black smoke. I caused it to roll across the plain towards me, gathering it into a funneling cloud. I made the smoke get more and more concentrated as it gathered in the space just in front of my chest. I imagined it folding in on itself, getting smaller and smaller until it was the size of a pea. I then brought it into my heart and it dissolved into my self-grasping ignorance and my self-cherishing. I felt my self grasping melt away. I realised that without self grasping there was no I to apprehend. I felt that all I was was mere name. Name cannot suffer. I felt completely free from suffering. I felt completely free and empty, profoundly joyous and open.
I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings practice taking on the sufferings of others, and through this become fully enlightened beings.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will mount taking on the breath, and practice it in conjunction with the six perfections.
The purpose of this meditation is to purify our self-cherishing and negative actions, and to accumulate merit. In particular it will help us in our compassionate actions of helping others.
I began the meditation by quickly establishing a mind of Great Compassion: wishing that all living beings could be free from their suffering. I thought about a work colleague who has just had a miscarriage, and how she and her family must be suffering right now.
I took the decision that I will relieve their suffering. I imagined their suffering as clouds of black smoke, rising and swirling from their minds and coming to me. I imagined this smoke rising from all living beings trapped in the prison of samsara.
The smoke came into my heart and gathered there. Then, as it became more and more concentrated, it dissolved into my delusion of self-cherishing and destroyed it completely.
I focused on the following points:
- I have removed all the current suffering from all living beings
- I have removed all the causes for the future suffering of all living beings
- I have removed the cause of my current suffering; my self-cherishing mind
- Without self-cherishing I will not commit negative actions, so I have removed the cause of my future suffering
I considered these points and slowly a feeling of profound joy arose in my mind. It felt powerful and expansive, and completely joyous. I focused on this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop the superior intention of removing the suffering of all living beings, and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will imagine, on my in-breath, that the sufferings of all living beings come into my heart in the aspect of black smoke, and destroy my self-cherishing mind, freeing us all from suffering.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate the belief that we have taken on the suffering of others, that they are completely free from their suffering, and by taking their suffering, we ourselves have become free from self-cherishing which is the main cause of our own suffering.
I began the meditation by bringing to mind my previous meditation on compassion. I remembered all living beings trapped in the maelstrom of samsras’s suffering and my strong with that they be free.
I decided that this wish was not enough and I needed to take personal responsibility for freeing all living beings. I visualised all the suffering, problems and frustrations of all living beings rising out of them in the form of black smoke. This smoke rose up away from these living beings, and instantly they were actually free from their suffering. They experienced true freedom from all suffering for the first time since beginningless time.
The smoke rose up out of the whirlpool and came together and dissolved into my heart. I felt it enter my heart, and it become super concentrated, before it dissolved away. As it disappeared, it destroyed my self-cherishing. I too experienced complete freedom from suffering. I felt clean and pure. I felt open, stable and at peace.
I brought all the parts of the meditation together – my feeling of peace, the freedom from suffering of all living beings, and the act of taking which caused it to happen. I remained on the thought that this has definitely happened for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings perfect the activity of taking, and in so doing become enlightened.
Practice in the meditation break
I will look for opportunities to help others, and by experiencing inconvenience, become familiar with taking on the suffering of others.
I began the meditation by bringing to mind my previous meditation on Great Compassion, and the conclusion that I wanted all living beings, who are my kind mothers, to be free from all their suffering. I decided now was the time: that I would take personal responsibility for making this happen.
Immediately the image of the little girl crying came to mind – in fact it had not been far from my mind for most of yesterday and today.
I imagined all the suffering, pain and fear of all living beings manifesting in the form of black smoke, rising up from all the living beings in samsara and moving towards me in a thick black cloud. I imagined the cloud of black smoke come towards me and gather into my body, moving slowly to my heart where it became concentrated. Then I imagined that this essence of suffering dissolved into my self cherishing mind, and they both slowly vanished. I called to mind how I despise my self cherishing mind as the cause of all my suffering, and watched as it disappeared.
I spontaneously imagined the little girl stepping forward into a pool of golden light, and stopping crying, and smiling. She was free from her suffering, pain and fear. Every living being was free from their suffering, pain and fear. I felt a deep joy.
And I felt pure. I felt a very simple feeling of being clean, open, light, stable, content. I felt like I could do anything to help anyone who needed help. I felt like I could easily and without any hesitation help anyone I met from that moment on, whatever the cost to myself. There was no trace of any selfish self interest which could hold me back.
I settled on this feeling that I had destroyed my self-cherishing and that I had freed all living beings from their sufferings for the rest of the meditation.
The purpose of this meditation is to familiarise ourselves with the idea of taking action to alleviate the suffering of others. It also reduces our self cherishing.
There is no need to be fearful that we will actually physically acquire the sufferings of others by engaging in this meditation. This will not happen. By engaging in actions to help others, and by patiently accepting any suffering these actions bring, we are practising taking on the sufferings of others.
I meditated in Big Lad’s room (after a little tidying up) tonight. He is so kind to let me use his room.