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The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong feeling that we identify with the emptiness of our Buddhanature.
I began by making the appropriate preparations and then moved on to think about the ultimate supreme goal of human life.
At the moment I think of myself as a human with a fleshy body. I identify with it, and with my ordinary mind, full of delusions. I think ‘this is me’.
My precious human life gives me the opportunity to turn all this on its head. I can identify with my pure Buddhanature instead. I focused on the calm peaceful feeling at my heart that I established in my breathing meditation, and identified that as my Buddhanature – my pure potential. I tried to exist in that feeling, and keep my mind focused on it.
I then reminded myself that this Buddhanature is completely lacking in any inherent existence – it does not exist in any way except as its emptiness. The bottom seemed to drop out of the feeling, and it became completely all encompassing and nowhere at the same time. I tried to keep my mind mixed with that state for the rest of the meditation, and when I forgot the feeling, I re-established it by going through the thought process again.
May all living beings realise their full potential through their precious human lives.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to identify with my Buddhanature, and the emptiness of my Buddhanature, which are the same entity.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate a strong feeling of all living beings having been our mother, while remembering that myself, my mothers and my feelings towards them are empty of inherent existence.
I started by imagining all living beings around me, and all the Buddhas and holy beings in front of us. I imagined that we were all in a pure land, and in essence, composed of wisdom light. In this place, I made the determination to meditate well, for the sake of the freedom of all living beings.
I then did breathing meditation, breathing out my distractions and negative karma, and breathing in good concentration and wisdom. I focused on becoming purer and purer until I felt completely cleansed and pure. I then mixed my mind effortlessly with my Guru’s mind, and meditated for a while.
I then thought about how all my experiences are karmic arisings, and that in my karmic reservoir I have the experience of death related to this life. My karma for death was created at the start of this life – death is part and parcel of the ‘human life deal’. I thought of how, after my death, I will take another life. There are seven billion people on the planet – each one has been my mother in the past – each one will be my mother in the future. No-one enters this world without a mother. I thought of all the lives I have lived, each one with a kind mother to cling to. Not to mention lives as animals with my animal mothers.
I recognised that while only an appearance, my mother performs the function of a mother – to produce offspring, to love and be loved. The love is real, although ultimately only an appearance to mind. Yet it has a function to perform. My recognition of past and future lives, of all living beings being my mother, and their ultimate nature, will all function to set me free of samsara, and lead all living beings to that same state.
With all this in mind, I refocused on the recognition that all living beings are fundamentally my mother, and kept that awareness for the rest of the meditation.
May all my mothers find peace and tranquillity in the perfection of wisdom – the true nature of all phenomena.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will look upon others and remember ‘you are my mother’.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate an understanding of the pervasive nature of the appearance of inherent existence, and then to contemplate what this means in light of wishing love.
I began with some simple breathing meditation before moving on to the main meditation.
I started by thinking about a line in Heart of Wisdom, where Geshe-la says that if we perceive a body that is independent form its parts, then that it the inherently existent body, and it does not exist at all.
I thought about my I rather than my body, and how my I normally appears to me. It’s ME. Just me. It is perfectly clear and obviously ME. It goes without any question or consideration at all. I and me. Completely solid – the co-ordinator of my life, the centre, the main thing. It definitely appears to be independent from my body and mind.
Is my I my body? No. Is my I my mind? No. Is my I my body and mind together? No, because they are ‘mine’, and if they are mine they are not me. ME ME ME. Where is this ME? I felt quite frustrated, because it appears as so obvious normally, and all the way through this process, I could feel it, but I can’t pin it down.
I carried on trying to see it, and I wanted a sort of emptiness of the I to appear, but I have to say that I didn’t really get that at all. I knew I couldn’t find it, but it was still SO strongly there. I was surprised at how pervasive it felt, even though I knew I could not find it. I was satisfied with this feeling of my I appearing as massive and pervasive, and at the same time unfindable. I took this as something, even if it wasn’t what I was aiming for really.
After a while, I thought about wishing love and what emptiness means in terms of wishing love. Realising emptiness will allow me to put my wishing love into practice, because I will become liberated from samsara, and if I can then attain enlightenment, I can help all living beings perfectly. With this in mind, I looked again for my I, without much success.
May all living beings see the deceptive nature of phenomena, and become enlightened beings quickly.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to be aware of my I, and recognise it does not really exist, despite how pervasive it is.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate the understanding that everything which appears to our mind of self grasping is a non-existent and does not exist at all. Following this we meditate on what this means in light of the practice of exchanging self with others.
I began with breathing meditation and slowly, slowly, my thoughts became increasingly stilled until my mind felt like a perfectly smooth sheet of glass – completely smooth and flawless.
Once I had achieved this, I moved on to the meditation on the emptiness of phenomena.
I began by recalling that all phenomena are mere appearances to mind – mere appearances which lack any trace of inherent existence. Just as a rainbow appears in the sky, so phenomena appear to my sense consciousnesses. The rainbow appears to have a certain size and shape, and a physical location. In the same way, phenomena appear to have inherently existent characteristics such as size, shape and locations. The rainbow appears to be independent from other phenomena – floating in space, quite different and distinct from the ground, trees, clouds and sky. In the same way, phenomena appear to be quite independent from everything around them and not dependent on any causes.
I know a rainbow will fade. I have seen many rainbows and I know they fade, given a few minutes. I tried to take this understanding to other phenomena. All the phenomena I perceive are like a rainbow – an appearance dependent upon causes which lack inherent existence. I found my attitude to phenomena changing, and I felt a mental detachment take place. I began to stop grasping at phenomena (such as the room I was meditating in, the house I was in etc.) as being inherently existent. Instead I perceived them to be like rainbows. They will fade and disappear.
Finally, I thought of my body. This was more of a challenge. My body is also like a rainbow. It is a mere appearance. It will fade. I felt some alarm at first at the thought of my body deteriorating and dying, but I strengthened my view that it is a mere appearance. Of course it will fade – it is impermanent and lacks inherent existence. There is no inherently existent body – there is no inherently existent ‘I’. As I thought this through, I felt a balance, an equanimity fill my mind. I also felt a determination – ‘I will not cling to phenomena as being inherently existent – they exist as functioning things, but they are still mere appearances and completely lack the inherent existence I normally believe they possess’. I focused on this for a long time in meditation.
After this I decided to look at what this means in light of the practice of exchanging self with others. Neither my ‘self’ nor ‘others’ exist inherently. In this sense we are all equal. Despite being empty of inherent existence, my self and others are still functioning things. They function to experience the karma of previous actions and to create the causes of future experiences. Therefore, the best course of action I can take is to cherish others and to abandon self-cherishing while maintaining the recognition that neither my self nor others exist inherently. With this in mind, I returned to my meditation on all phenomena being mere appearance, and lacking any trace of inherent existence.
Through the virtues I have collected by contemplating and meditating on the lack of inherent existence of all phenomena, may I and all living beings realise emptiness directly, and by overcoming all obstructions, attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will regard all phenomena as being mere illusions, and although they function, remember that they are transient, dependent upon causes, and lacking in inherent existence.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate the realisation of emptiness of the I, and then to meditate on this in terms of the advantages of cherishing others.
I began by doing breathing meditation and bringing my attention into my heart. After a while my attention had dissolved into my heart and I had a very pleasant, stable feeling of tranquillity.
I then began thinking about how objects normally appear to me. In effect, they appear like balloons shaped like objects, with the appearance of the objects painted on the outside. They appear to be wholes – independent of my mind and everything else in the universe. But when I try to find these objects that appear so clearly, I find that I cannot. When I look at an object, all I can actually see are its parts. I see a part of a chair, or a part of a tent. When I look closely, I no longer see the chair or the tent.
I thought about my I. Like all objects that appear to my mind, my I does not exist in the way that it appears. Although I feel strong feelings and I say to myself ‘I am feeling hungry’, or ‘I am feeling tired’, when I look carefully I cannot find this I that feels these things. I cannot find the feelings either.
I felt my I begin to vanish, and also everything that I consider to be ‘mine’ also fading. Without an I, how can anything be said to be ‘mine’? The appearances of these things faded into emptiness and I let my mind fill with this feeling of emptiness. I kept my attention on this feeling for a long while.
After this, I wondered what this meant in terms of the advantages of cherishing others.
Although myself and others are mere appearances, nevertheless they are still functioning things, and my interactions with them create karma. With this in mind, I understood that the realisation of emptiness is fundamental to my creating good actions, because I will understand that there is no point in cherishing my self, as it does not exist in the way it normally appears. But there is a point in cherishing others because of the karma it creates, despite them also not existing in the way they normally appear. With this in mind, I returned to the feeling of my I being empty of inherent existence, and remained in this very tranquil state for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings come to realise the emptiness of the I and of others, and with this realisation, quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remember that I am empty of inherent existence, despite all appearances, and cherish others as much as I can.
The purpose of this mediation is to develop a lovely feeling of understanding how all things are empty of inherent existence, and then to contemplate what this means in light of equalising self and others.
I began with a session of breathing meditation to calm my mind and developed a very pleasant feeling of focusing on my breath, and then focusing on the absence of thought.
After a while of this, I moved on to the main topic – emptiness. Initially we need to use sound reasons to gain a feeling of emptiness because we are not able to perceive emptiness directly.
I began by contemplating my body. Where exactly is my body? The body I normally see seems to be a solid, single object and that is how I relate to it, but where exactly is it? I looked but all I could perceive were the parts of my body, and then their parts. I reached the conclusion that although I clearly perceive my body, it is just an appearance with no firmness or solidity to it at all. I felt my body have emptiness rather than inherent existence. I also considered the other objects I knew to be in the room – my son’s chair (I meditated in my son’s room today – I checked that it was ok with him first), the chest of drawers and so on. Each object I looked at became empty as I thought about how it exists and appears.
By extension, I perceived everything as empty and I realised that if I could always see things in this way, they would have no power to generate feelings of anger, attraction or indifference. They would simply be appearances and I would be able to maintain a peaceful equanimity towards everyone and everything. I felt like I could see ‘through’ everything – I could see the appearance and also it’s emptiness. It felt extremely peaceful and balanced. I stayed with this feeling for a while.
I then (somewhat reluctantly) moved on to thinking about what this means in light of equalising self and others.
If I can see myself and others as lacking inherent existence, I would regard my own ‘self’ and others as being equal in emptiness – there would be no difference between them and I – we would be truly equal.
I returned to my meditation on the emptiness of phenomena and came back to that beautiful feeling of peace and balance. I remained there until the end of my session.
May all living beings experience the ultimate nature of phenomena, and become liberated and enlightened for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remember all things lack inherent existence, and see them as powerless to cause delusions to arise in my mind.
The purpose of this meditation is to move closer to a realisation of emptiness, and then to meditate on this realisation in light of the fact that all living beings are our mother.
I began with breathing meditation until my mind was still and then moved on to the meditation itself.
I was talking to someone recently and the subject of reality came up. I said that I was very interested in the nature of reality, and what it means to say something is real. If something is real, or true, then it exists in the way that it appears. Most things do exist in the way they appear – to a certain extent. If I see a chair, I can sit on it and it performs the function of a chair. Conventionally, the chair is ‘true’ or ‘real’.
Other objects seem to have more far reaching effect on me. Some people or objects seem to be able to make me experience feelings. A really good cup of coffee seems to be able to generate pleasant feelings within me, and it seems to have this power from its own side.
I thought about how objects seem to have the power to make me feel certain ways – happy or sad, angry or patient.
The fact of the matter is that everything I perceive completely LACKS any power to make me experience feelings. I know this because if it were true then I would always experience the same feelings whenever I drank a medium skinny latte from Costa Coffee. But I don’t always experience the same feelings. Sometimes the coffee seems fantastic and I am filled with pleasant feelings. Sometimes if seems very ordinary and I don’t feel much at all. If ‘a good cup of coffee’ really did have the power to make me feel pleasant feelings, it would do so consistently. And big ones would create 30% more pleasant feelings, – but they don’t!
So where do these feelings come from if not from the objects I perceive?
The feelings I experience and the objects that appear to cause them all arise from my karma. They arise from within my own mind.
Objects completely lack any separate existence from my mind. Every characteristic and quality an object seems to possess is a mere illusion. The only thing about any particular object that is true is its complete lack of inherent existence.
I thought about these points and I realised that if I can keep this realisation, I can be free. I can see that all external phenomena are powerless to generate pleasant or unpleasant feelings in my mind.
What causes these feelings, if not external objects? My karma imbues the objects I perceive with the appearance of being pleasant or unpleasant. But they still do not have the power to make me feel these feelings. If I understand how these objects really exist, I can control how they make me feel. Something which appears unpleasant does not have the intrinsic power to create unpleasant feelings in my mind, and something which appears to be pleasant does not have the intrinsic power to create pleasant feelings in my mind.
I have the power to create the feelings I experience.
I thought about the lack of inherent existence of phenomena, and how my karma and my choice of mind are the real causes of pleasant and unpleasant feelings. I felt very free – freed from the shoves and pushes of external phenomena. I am free to create my feelings independently of my appearances. I am free.
I stayed with this feeling of freedom as my object of meditation – the feeling of freedom with the knowledge that this freedom comes from a realisation of the emptiness of all phenomena. I remained with this feeling for a while.
I then thought about what this means in light of the fact that all living beings are my mother.
Well, I thought, to free all living beings from samsara, I need to gain a complete realisation of emptiness. I want to free all living beings from their prison of samsara more than anything else, so by definition I want to realise emptiness more than anything else. I returned to my contemplation of the nature of reality, and the feeling of freedom based on the correct view of emptiness.
May all living beings understand the true nature of reality, and through this realisation may they attain the supreme state of enlightenment, for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to retain this freeing realisation, that phenomena (including my self and my thoughts) all lack inherent existence, and instead of chasing objects of desire, try to generate a calm peaceful mind – the true cause of happiness f0r myself and all my mothers.
The purpose of this meditation is to contemplate the way that all phenomena are dependent related depending on a basis of imputation, and then to think about this in the light of equanimity.
I began the session by engaging in breathing meditation for a while until my mind was smooth and undisturbed.
I then began thinking about the way in which phenomena exist in the sense that they are dependent related phenomena dependent upon a suitable basis of imputation. When we see a table, we actually see the parts of the table. We impute the table upon the parts of the table, so the parts of the table act as the basis of imputation. The table depends upon this basis of imputation, and if the basis of imputation is absent, we cannot perceive the phenomena. If we cannot perceive any parts of the table with any of our senses, then for us the table cannot be perceived.
Given that the table exists as a dependent related phenomena dependent upon a suitable basis of imputation, it cannot be inherently existent. If it were inherently existent it would exist independently from all other phenomena. It would not need a basis of imputation to exist. However it does, and therefore it cannot be inherently existent.
I thought of cars, and how I normally see cars as being solid, inherently existent objects. Some seem attractive while some seem ugly, and I relate to them with desirous attachment or aversion, as if these qualities were real and fixed forever. Then I thought about how I never actually see an object I can really call ‘car’. All I see are parts of the car, not the car itself. I create the car I see by imputing it upon the parts of the car, which are the basis of imputation.
I thought about how phenomena need a suitable basis of imputation, and that they cannot be inherently existent. I tried to reach a conclusion about this and develop a feeling based upon it, but I must admit to struggling with this one. It was quite clear to me that the objects I normally see are empty of the inherent existence I normally ascribe to them, but I ran out of time before I really got into the consequences.
The time came for me to move on to my next aspect, which was to look at this emptiness in the light of equanimity. It seemed to me that the reason equanimity works is that we employ an argument based on emptiness. To generate equanimity we say that our normal perceptions of other people are not accurate, and are in fact merely our own projections. We say that the ‘people’ we normally see are not inherently existent, their good and bad qualities are likewise not inherently existent, and our attitudes (based on these appearances) are mistaken. To generate equanimity we decide that rather than believing these appearances, we develop a warm and friendly feeling towards all living beings. Therefore we are really saying that instead of being a suitable basis of imputation for feelings of attachment or aversion, others are really a suitable basis of imputation for warm and friendly feelings.
I rather enjoyed the relationship between the objects, and I focused on it for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings realise that all phenomena are dependent related depending upon a suitable basis of imputation, and by so doing, attain freedom from samsara and the supreme mind of union.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to think about how objects appear to me normally, and how they actually depend upon a basis of imputation.