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The purpose of this meditation is to contemplate the whole Lamrim cycle of meditations in the light of equanimity.
I began by doing breathing meditation until my body and mind were nicely relaxed, and my attention was not wandering.
I then thought about what the Lamrim is. The Lamrim is a set of 21 meditations which are like a toolkit for fixing my mental continuum. At the moment my mind is diseased – it suffers from delusions which are like harmful diseases which come and go in my mind. When they arise they cause me pain and suffering. The Lamrim meditations allow me to identify negative thoughts, and to oppose them when they arise in my mind. Slowly I will drive out my delusions and heal my mental continuum.
I thought about equanimity. This meditation is specifically about how I relate to other living beings. When I meet a friend I feel pleased, when I meet someone I don’t like I feel displeased, and then I meet someone I neither like nor dislike, I develop ignorance.
These feelings arise in dependence upon others, but my view is often different from the view of others. If I find someone to be irritating and someone else finds them to be entertaining, which of us is right? It is clear that we are both relating to different projections we are making onto the same person. These projections come from our side, not the side of the other person.
Therefore it makes as much sense to become unhappy in the presence of an ‘irritating’ person as it does to become happy in the presence of an ‘irritating’ person.
Therefore we need to find a more logical way of relating to others, which is more rooted in reality. My kind teacher, Geshe Kelsang, has shared with me (in his book The New Meditation Handbook) the wisdom of all the previous Gurus who all agree that the best way to relate to others is with a universally warm and friendly attitude. This warm and friendly feeling is equanimity. It is a smooth and stable feeling which stabilises our mind and stops it being knocked off balance by the people we meet.
I thought about this and about what the Lamrim as a whole means in the light of equanimity. It seemed to me that while equanimity produces stability of mind with respect to other living beings, the Lamrim in general produces an overarching stability of mind with respect to all phenomena.
I thought about the feeling of equanimity and how by engaging in the Lamrim sincerely I will be able to develop a completely stable and even mind, capable of encountering any circumstances without becoming unbalanced.
It struck me that this is complete freedom. What do we mean when we say ‘freedom’? We imply that there is an absence, a separation, a disconnection from something that was previously present or had an effect. So to have a mind which is completely free from the effects of appearing phenomena is freedom.
By practising the Lamrim, we will have complete equanimity and complete freedom from suffering.
I let my mind rest on this idea of being completely free with a calm stable mind and felt a very deep sense of being mixed with a universal equanimity. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop equanimity and become completely free from suffering, for the sake of all living beings.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remain aware of the projection-like nature of all appearances, and maintain a mind of stable equanimity.
The purpose of this meditation is to make firm the decision to finally abandon self-cherishing and to cherish only others, and then to meditate on this decision in the light of renunciation – the wish to be personally free from all the sufferings of samsara.
I began the meditation by settling my mind and establishing a very calm and peaceful feeling centred around my heart.
In his brilliant explanation, Geshe Kelsang says that NOW is the time when we should FINALLY realise that self-cherishing does not work, and that it has failed to deliver the true lasting happiness that we all want and long for. He says that now is the time we should switch our obsessive self interest for the pure mind of cherishing others.
I thought about these simple points, and the last couple of meditations (on the advantages of cherishing others and the disadvantages of self-cherishing) also came to mind, and crystallised into a very simple point:
Self-cherishing causes all my problems. Cherishing others solves all my problems.
I let these statements roll around in my mind, seeing them as two sides of the same concept.
I made the very firm decision that from now on I will only cherish others because this will solve all my problems, and I will avoid self-cherishing because it is the cause of all my problems.
I felt a very clear and joyous feeling of having, in that moment, solved all my problems.
I then brought this feeling into my previous calmness in the centre of my heart, and the feeling of meaning increased exponentially. It was all encompassing and blissful. I have solved all my problems! I stayed with this feeling for a while.
I then decided it was time to think about what this means in the light of renunciation.
Being free from the sufferings of samsara is the definition of solving all my personal problems, so in that way renunciation is a component of exchanging self with others. It seems to me that this is the case because to wish to attain personal liberation is wishing for my personal problems to be resolved. But this excludes the problem that others are not free from suffering, and this is also a problem for me – I want everyone to be happy. Exchanging self with others is a method for achieving the ability to actually free others from their suffering, and is a path to a greater achievement.
Exchanging self with others will also reduce my self-cherishing, and lead to its elimination, with supports my training in higher wisdom.
I settled on the feeling that renunciation and exchanging self with others were mutually supportive wishes, moving in the same direction and completely non-contradictory. I brought back the peaceful, free and placid feeling in my heart, the feeling of cherishing only others and solving all my problems, and centred on it for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings eliminate the cause of all their problems, cultivate the solution to all their problems, and thereby follow the path to its ultimate conclusion, the state of perfect enlightenment.
Practice in the Meditation Break
As I write, it seems to me that it has never been clearer that self-cherishing is the cause of all my problems, and cherishing others is the solution to all my problems. Therefore I will constantly request the blessings of my Holy Spiritual Guide to enable me to achieve the yoga of exchanging self with others.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a strong feeling of being equally concerned for the freedom and happiness of others just as much as our concern for our own freedom and happiness. We then meditate on this feeling in the light of actions and their effects.
He says that there are three main points to contemplate:
- that all living beings have been exceptionally kind to us
- that like us, all living beings are experiencing suffering, and
- that compared to the suffering of all living beings, our own suffering is insignificant.
I slowly contemplated these points. It is true that all living beings have been kind to me – when they were my mother they held me in their arms and looked at me as if I were a precious jewel. They dedicated themselves to my welfare.
When I look at living beings now, I can see that they are all searching – searching for happiness and trying to avoid suffering. They seek it, but it is a fruitless search because they are looking in the wrong place.
Although I have sufferings, they are completely insignificant compared to the sufferings of other living beings. When I read in the papers about what is happening in Syria at this moment, it makes anything I am experiencing seem utterly trivial.
I thought about these points again and again, and after a while I felt a feeling of becoming more interested in alleviating the sufferings of others. My own problems seemed very minor, and my kind mothers experience such suffering. I felt a wish to help them – that their happiness and freedom were my responsibility and that I should work just as much for their freedom as for my own. I dwelt on this feeling and let my mind mix with it.
After some time I decided to think about what this means in the light of actions and their effects. It was immediately clear to me that it is completely helpful to develop this attitude of cherishing myself and others equally. It reduces my suffering and it reduces the suffering of others. It is the path to enlightenment and the ultimate freedom of myself and others. It is and example of virtuous actions leading to virtuous effects. I drew confidence from this thought and returned to a short contemplation of the three points before re-establishing the feeling of cherishing myself and others equally.
May all living beings equalise their cherishing wishes and quickly become enlightened beings for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to watch out for self-cherishing thoughts, and when they arise remember the countless beings experiencing similar but more intense suffering, and try to maintain a feeling of being equally concerned for everyone’s freedom and happiness.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate a strong feeling of compassion for all living beings, and then to consider this feeling in the light of our refuge practice.
I began by thinking about how all living beings are suffering constantly. I recently saw a little video on Facebook where captions appeared by people when you looked at them through a special pair of glasses. People who seemed happy enough were hiding personal stories of suffering. This was similar to a meditation practice I do where I look a people and imagine the sufferings they are experiencing. They range from ‘has been told cancer treatment was unsuccessful’, and ‘has been raped and cannot tell anyone’, to ‘has lost his job’, ‘can’t form relationships’ and ‘feels ignored’.
I thought about how every single person holds pain and suffering in their hearts – it’s no wonder they get angry and cause problems – they are thrashing around in pain. How inappropriate it is to blame them and develop anger ourselves.
Then I thought about how all these people have been so kind to me in the past, and how I love them.
It felt like a huge ocean current of their suffering was flowing one way, and my love for them was flowing in the opposite direction, and in the middle arose a vortex of my compassion. It arose without any effort, purely on the basis of my contemplating their suffering and remembering their kindness and my cherishing love for them. My compassion grew and grew until it filled my mind. ‘They have been so kind and I cherish them, but they suffer – I wish these people could be free from their suffering!’
What does compassion mean in the context of refuge practice? To go for refuge means to seek protection from suffering by turning towards Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Three Jewels are pervaded by compassion. Buddhas are born out of compassion, Dharma is given out of compassion and Sangha take compassion as a fundamental practice. Therefore to go for refuge is to take compassion as a fundamental part of the path to enlightenment – and upon attaining enlightenment it is the principal motivation for the actions of a Buddha. It offers protection from our own suffering throughout the path to enlightenment.
In the words of Lama Tayang:
Compassion is the mother of all Buddhas,
Compassion is the most precious treasure of Bodhisattvas,
Compassion is the unseen friend of migrators;
May I be protected by Great Compassion
I thought about what compassion can make us do. It makes us work for the sake of others.
I thought about what Geshe Kelsang has done. Coming to the West empty handed, but with great compassion in his heart, he created the NKT from nothing. The NKT is a manifestation of nothing else but the great compassion of one person. How wonderful! I decided to share Geshe Kelsang’s feeling of great compassion.
I felt my cherishing love, and I felt the suffering of all living beings, and there arose a strong feeling of wishing freedom from suffering for all living beings. It felt massive – all pervading and unstoppable. This is my wish from now until all living beings are free! I stayed focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings be protected by Great Compassion, and become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will hold compassion in my heart and always be aware of the hidden sufferings of others, recognising that their harmful actions are driven by delusions and the only suitable attitude to hold is compassion.
The purpose of this meditation is to reach a firm determination to put great effort into purifying negativities and accumulating virtuous potentialities in our minds, and then to contemplate this wish in the context of the sufferings of the lower realms.
I began the meditation by thinking about how the law of karma is the underlying mechanism of everything. Samsara operates following the rules of cause and effect, but karma extends beyond samsara: even Buddhas who are free from uncontrolled rebirth still exist in accordance with the law of karma.
My Spiritual Guide has revealed karma to me, and has explained that my future experiences are caused by my actions. I thought of the many future lives I have in store for me, pervaded by suffering. They already exist as potentialities in my mind. But if I perform purification practices, I can destroy these potentialities before they become manifest! I can do this by following simple practices explained by me kind Teacher! I can also accumulate vast positive potentialities by engaging in other simple practices. How wonderful!
I focused on a strong wish to engage in virtuous actions and to purify my negativities. I felt light and joyous, knowing that these actions will lead to me avoiding lower rebirths. I focused on this light and joyous feeling for a while.
I then thought about the sufferings of the lower realms, and in particular the experience of my recent meditation where I imagined I was a caged animal enduring immense suffering. I thought about all the future lives where this will be my fate, unless I purify those potentialities right now, while I have the chance.
I returned to my feeling of lightness and joy, believing that every time I engage in an act of purification I will destroy the potentiality for a life in a cage. Each time I do this is a cause for great joy. Therefore I made the very firm promise to remain mindful of my need to purify negativities, and destroy negative karma constantly throughout the day. I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation and experienced great lightness and joy.
May all living beings understand the law of karma, find joy in virtue, and become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break.
My kind Teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso gives a practice in which he advises us each morning to make a firm commitment to perform certain virtuous actions during that day. Then in the evening we should review our day and see if our we have been successful in our actions. If we have been successful we should joyously dedicate our merit to the freedom of all living beings. If we have not been successful we should strengthen our determination to carry our our wishes tomorrow. I will be doing this today.
Every time I perform a virtuous action I will dedicate the merit to the purification of my negativities and the freedom of all living beings. I will then generate joy! This is truly a Joyful Path!
The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong wish to become an enlightened being for the benefit of all, and then to meditate on this wish in the light of death and impermanence.
I began the meditation by remembering my wish to take all the sufferings of living beings, and to give them all the happiness they wish for. I thought about how this could become a reality. Only an enlightened being can provide faultless guidance to living beings, and only a Buddha can bestow blessings upon living beings to enable them to complete the path to nirvana. It was clear to me that I need to become such a being to fulfil my wishes and commitment to all living beings.
I felt a deep wish to become enlightened. I developed the wish to practice the ways of becoming a Buddha, the practices of the six perfections: giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. I will practice all these virtues and become an enlightened being. I thought about this wish again and again, and developed a strong feeling of wanting to do this with all my heart. I dwelt on this wish for a while.
I then thought about death and impermanence. Death will bring this process to an end. I don’t know when I will die – I may die today! How on earth am I going to do this? I need to go on long retreats. I need to read and study and meditate on the entire path. Simply to read all of Geshe-la’s books one after the other will take a year at least – and that’s just reading – not understanding, and let alone practising! I need to attain tranquil abiding and then go on a three year retreat with all the appropriate conditions! How can I possibly do this with a job, a wife and three children??
I must admit – I felt some despair. I can’t see how I can fulfil my deepest wish. It seems impossible.
Then I though – Geshe-la would not have found me and given me this opportunity if I could not do it. Therefore all I need to do is trust him and work hard. He will provide the opportunities I need. I can’t see from here how it will happen, but I trust Geshe-la. It trust him completely.
Geshe-la, please help me become a Buddha for the Benefit of all. I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation, and felt great confidence that I will become an enlightened being before I die.
May all living beings quickly come into the Guru’s special care, and by so doing become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will remember my wish to become an enlightened being, and the need to practice the six perfections – and I will try to do this throughout today.