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The purpose of this meditation is to remember the dangers of lower rebirth and to develop a sincere dread of experiencing them, and then to contemplate what this means in light of great compassion.
I began by mixing my mind with my Guru’s mind, and imagining that I shared his experience of the world. I concentrated on experiencing love, compassion, bodhichitta and the correct view of emptiness. It slowly came together and when I had a good feeling, I focused on it for a time…
I then thought about how everything I experience is an appearance to my mind arising from my past actions. The lower realms are appearances as seemingly real as the room I am sitting in right now. At the moment the appearances are good, but this could change at any moment. My circumstances could change and in the next 24 hours my seemingly stable world could be torn apart. I recently saw a Facebook post from a relative of mine who said ‘I wish things could go back to the way they were’. Soon I could be wishing the same thing.
Appearances are deceptive and only change is certain. When I die, all bets are off and I could be reborn in dreadful circumstances. I like to think my death is a long way away, but it could happen in the next 24 hours.
I stayed with the thought that I am very close to a dramatic change in my circumstances and I will definitely experience the lower realms. It was a disturbing experience, and I focused on this feeling for a long while…
After that I wondered what this meant in light of great compassion.
I realised that one implication is that even if I am reborn in the lower realms, if I have the realisation of great compassion, I will be protected from suffering. With great compassion, I will be able to practice taking perfectly, and this will protect me from suffering, despite my circumstances. With this in mind, I determined to attain the realisation of great compassion because it will protect me from the disturbing suffering of the lower realms. I remained with this notion for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings understand the nature of appearances and the nature of the lower realms, and generate such dread that they easily propel themselves to enlightenment, for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will look for others suffering in resembling hells, and, out of compassion, practice taking their suffering upon myself, and giving them my current fortunate circumstances.
The purpose of this meditation is to gain actual protection from lower rebirth and then to meditate on this protection in the light of renunciation – the wish to abandon samara completely.
I began the meditation by recalling the essential points that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso makes about this meditation in his book The New Meditation Handbook. In it he says that Buddha is like a supreme doctor who diagnoses our illness of a deluded mind and prescribes our treatment. The Dharma is the supreme medicine that Buddha prescribes and the Sangha are our pure spiritual friends who are like supreme nurses who will help us get better.
As I thought about it I wondered how relying on these Three Jewels could be the actual protection from lower rebirth. I thought about this for a while and it occurred to me that if I rely completely on the Three Jewels at the time of my death it will cause positive karma to ripen which will propel me to a higher rebirth or even to a pure land. Furthermore if I rely on the Three Jewels sincerely throughout my life I will generate much positive karma, little negative karma and I will purify huge amounts of the negative karma I have already accumulated. The Three Jewels are pure and virtuous by their nature, and if I keep them in my mind constantly, then my mind will have purity too, through their power. I came to see how strong reliance upon the Three Jewels was indeed the actual protection from lower rebirth.
I focused on this understanding, I let my mind settle on the feeling of the Three Jewels being a guiding light in a dark place. I felt like they were shining pure light on me as I trod a narrow path. I felt the need to head straight for the light of the Three Jewels, not deviating or looking to the left or the right, but moving straight ahead. I felt the kind of feeling I experience when I listen to majestic stirring music – the kind of music that conjures up images of vast landscapes and the monumental forces of nature. I let these feelings fill my mind as I imagined moving directly towards the Three Jewels on the path of protection. I stayed with this for a while.
Later I decided it was time to think about what this means in the light of renunciation – the wish to abandon samsara completely. Refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is an essential component of renunciation. Without refuge in the Three Jewels there is no protection from lower or higher rebirth – there is no protection from any of the sufferings of samsara. With this understanding I put my refuge practice in context – the very foundation for all spiritual progress and the root of all spiritual paths.
I returned to feeling of moving forwards on the path of protection, directly towards the light of the Three Jewels. I promised Buddha that I would stay on this path until I reached the end and met him directly, and became inseparable from him. I stayed with this for the rest of the meditation.
I sincerely wish that all living beings shall find refuge in the Three Supreme Jewels, and follow the path of protection directly to enlightenment.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will practice the Refuge Vows and try to keep my mind of refuge alive in my mind.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop the strong wish to rely on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as our ultimate source of refuge, and then to think about what this means in the context of the dangers of lower rebirth.
I began the meditation by remembering that this human life is not a permanent state: it is only a temporary release from the sufferings of the lower realms. Like a prisoner who is released for a short time before being forced to continue his sentence, I am definitely going to return to the lower realms unless I take action while I have the chance.
I have met Buddha who is like a doctor who has shown me I have the mental diseases of the delusions. I have met the Dharma, Buddha’s pure cure for my diseases. And I have met the Sangha, the kind and inspiring nurses who will help me heal my mental continuum. I know that the Three Jewels can protect me – I have faith in them.
If I do nothing, it is certain I will take rebirth in the lower realms, but if I rely completely on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, I can avoid this fate.
I remembered the cage experience from my previous meditation. I felt the fear in my stomach. I felt like someone was showing me this and saying ‘This is where you are heading, unless you take some action now’. The feeling of dread immediately made me want to take the action necessary to avoid being sealed in that cage again. I would do anything, because anything would be better than that.
Then I considered what the actions are. I would be prepared to climb mountains, clear forests, work hard doing anything to avoid the lower realms. But it turns out that the actions I need to take are all mostly internal, and frankly, easy by comparison.
The foundation of these actions is going for refuge to the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. I developed the sincere wish to rely upon the Three Jewels with all my being – I will do exactly what they say, and avoid the lower realms!
I felt joy! Like I was protected and lifted at the same time. I felt refuge flow through me, and the certainty that I will always go for Refuge, even at the cost of my life.
I then thought about what this means in the context of the sufferings of the lower realms. This was already firmly in my mind, and I tried to combine not only the feeling of being protected, but also the feeling of what I am protected from. Fear is one of the two causes of going for refuge, faith being the other. I tried to keep these two in my awareness, feeding my feeling of refuge. I stayed with this for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop fear and faith, and progress to the state beyond sorrow for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will put the 12 refuge vows into practice throughout the day and night.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a strong wish to gain protection from samsara’s sufferings by going for refuge to the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and then to meditate on this wish within the context of death and impermanence.
I began the meditation by recognising that the only sources of true protection are the Three Jewels. There is no other religion, science or philosophy which explains correctly how we suffer and how we can end suffering. True protection cannot be found elsewhere – it is a unique characteristic of the Three Jewels.
I imagined the Three Jewels as a protective circle around me, showing me the way things really are and providing protection for me. I immediately felt joy and relief at being protected from the dread of suffering. I focused on this idea and I developed a strong feeling that the Three Jewels were becoming part of my heart, infusing my whole body and mind with protection.
After a while of enjoying this feeling, I turned my thoughts to what this means in the context of death and impermanence. When I die, this protection will be the only thing that has a lasting effect. After my death, the world that appears to me now will vanish completely and I will experience a totally different world. I won’t recognise anyone or anything. I realised that I want my protective circle to remain with me, so I started to strongly wish that my refuge will continue into all my future lives.
I thought that I must have done this in the past, to have found the Three Jewels now in this life. And as you are reading this now, you must – in a past life – have prayed to also never be parted from Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. I wished with all my heart that I never be parted from the Three Jewels because it will give me protection from suffering and the opportunity to become a Buddha, and then lead every living being without exception to that ground.
I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation, and I developed a lovely calm, peaceful and meaningful feeling which was beautiful because it felt good, but also embodied the meaning of my contemplations.
May all living beings never be parted from peaceful and wrathful Manjushri, but always come under their care until they become enlightened beings.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will maintain a strong with to go for refuge to the Three Jewels and dedicate the merit of the practice so that all living beings may have the protection of the Three Jewels too.
The purpose of this meditation is to become very familiar with the advantages of thinking others are important, and their happiness and freedom are important – the most important things in the world.
The precious mind that cherishes all living beings protects both myself and others from suffering, brings pure and everlasting happiness, and fulfils the wishes of both myself and others. Therefore I must always cherish other living beings without exception.
I thought about this: by cherishing others I will protect both myself and others from suffering. At first I thought about having a suit of armour made of cherishing others, but after a while I realised that this is not quite the protection we are talking about. A suit of armour will protect use by separating us from the cause of harm – but it also separates us from others. We are protected, but we are isolated.
It occurred to me that a better analogue would be inoculation from suffering. By cherishing others we can effortlessly mix with the things that previously would have caused us harm in the knowledge that we are protected.
I thought of the famous quote by Princess Diana when she gave a speech about people with HIV/AIDS. At that time people with HIV/AIDS were shunned as highly infectious because the way in which it spread was not well understood among the general population. She said ‘HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hand and give them a hug: heaven knows they need it’. This was a groundbreaking statement to make at a time when, if you knew a person had HIV/AIDS, you would probably leave the room and consider burning your clothes just in case…
I felt that with cherishing others constantly a part of my mind, I would be inoculated from all fear and suffering: I would be able to hug everyone and not be afraid of being hurt. Far from separating me from people, cherishing others will only allow me to become closer and closer to everyone.
I focused on this feeling of protection and being able to fearlessly become close to everyone for the rest of the meditation. It was a beautiful calm and free feeling, confident and loving.
May all living beings realise that cherishing others is the actual way to fulfil their deepest wishes, and in so doing attain Great Enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will need no further encouragement to cherish others all day – either directly by my actions, or indirectly through good wishes directed towards others. What a meaningful way to spend the day. Join me.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop the deep wish to cherish others.
I began the meditation by considering the benefits of cherishing others. Firstly, it immediately protects me from the suffering of delusions such as anger, jealousy and pride. These thoughts are painful and fill my mind with unrest. If I can develop a mind which cherishes others, I will not generate these minds.
Secondly, it will protect me from future suffering. By cherishing others, I will naturally avoid actions which harm others, such as speaking harshly to them, and harming them. I will also act in ways which benefit others.
I recognised the link between the mind that cherishes others and the realisation of cause and effect.
I thought about Luna Kadampa’s recent blog post about dealing with criticism, and the idea of cherishing others by walking in their shoes. I thought about how my children must see the world. Full of giants making up rules and stopping them doing what they want. No wonder they shout and scream from time to time. I thought about trying to see things from their point of view. I thought about asking them how they see things.
I thought of viewing others as supreme and treating them as a servant would. Normally this would be rejected by my deluded mind of pride, but at that moment it seemed to make perfect sense. This approach will protect me from suffering and lead to happiness for others.
As I thought about it, the ideas of seeing things the way others see them, and that cherishing others protects me from suffering came together and I felt a sense of peace and calm – of being protected. Also a feeling of being engrossed in others, and forgetting myself. I focused on this feeling and its meaning for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings come to cherish others, and develop pure love and bodhichitta. May they all attain enlightenment.
Practice in the meditation break.
I will treat everyone as a servant would, and ask them how they see things.
I began the meditation by thinking about my previous meditation, and revisiting my fear of being reborn in the lower realms. I remembered the feeling of fear, and I let it sit in my mind for a while, feeling fear.
Than I turned my mind to the protection available. The only protection from this fear is my practice of Dharma. The Dharma Jewel is the actual protection from rebirth in the lower realms, so I go for refuge to Dharma. How come Dharma is in this world for me to follow? Because of the great kindness of Buddha. How can I make swift progress in my Dharma practice? By receiving the blessings of Buddha, so I go for refuge to Buddha. I cannot see Buddha directly now, so who can I turn to right now? Who believes what I believe? Whose example can I follow, and who can inspire me and help me right now? My Sangha friends – supreme friends. I go for refuge to Sangha.
I repeated these contemplations over and over again, with the underlying thought of my sliding down a horrible slide to the lower realms. As my refuge became stronger, I felt myself lifting off the slide and being protected from the fear and sensation of falling. I thought about my refuge in Dharma, and recognised that it is not some abstract thing – Dharma.
Dharma is Lamrim! I saw all of the Lamrim and recognised it as being my refuge. I practice my refuge every day by doing my Lamrim practice. I felt great joy knowing that my wish to go for refuge to Dharma is being implemented, formally every day.
I felt calm, peaceful, protected, and secure. It felt virtuous and full of purpose. It was wonderful. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and in so doing attain freedom from lower rebirth, and ultimately attain for state of enlightenment.
Practice in the meditation break
In the meditation break I will be trying to be mindful of my refuge in the three Jewels, and keeping that feeling of protection.
I began the meditation by focusing on a small part of the contemplation given in the New Meditation Handbook. I limited my contemplation to the thought that when I was a baby, my mother saved my life many times each day.
I imagined how my mother must have saved me from many dangers when I was a baby. I remembered how my wife cared for our children when they were little. She looked at them with soft love in her eyes. She held them tenderly and talked to them, smiling and nodding to them. She wrapped them in her arms and hugged them gently and gave them her love completely.
I thought that this was how my mother must have treated me when I was a baby. I stayed with this thought, and I began to feel like I was held in a protective circle of her love. I knew that she would do anything to protect me from any danger.
Then I expanded this with the recognition that all living beings have treated me like this. All living beings have protected me while I was most defenceless. I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved by all living beings. I felt like I was held in all their hands all at the same time – hands of love. I felt safe, loved, humble and grateful.
I stayed with this feeling of being universally loved, because it was simply blissful.
Although this was a very moving meditation, my object was not quite correct. The object should have been a feeling of affectionate love for all living beings in dependence on their kindness, but I was absorbed in the feeling of being loved and I decided to stay with it. I think it is ok every now and then to do this, but it is important to make sure that most of the time we are arriving at the correct object of meditation, otherwise our Lamrim practice is not correct, and we will not achieve our final goal. But this object wasn’t far off – at least I wasn’t thinking about football .
I began this meditation by looking at how other people appear to me. Some of them appear attractive, whereas others appear unattractive, and most appear somewhere in between. Then I thought about how my mind reacts when I come into contact with these people. For attractive people, or people who do nice things for me, my mind leaps around, doing somersaults of excitement. For unattractive people, or people who give me problems, I develop unhappy, unwelcoming attitudes of dislike.
I considered that the appearance these people normally have for me is deceptive, and causes my mind to swing from happy to unhappy – out of my control. I realised that if I want to develop minds of universal compassion and love for all living beings, I am going to have to bring my mind under control and not be swayed by these appearances.
Some odd imagery came to mind: Instead of my mind being like a ball, bouncing around being hit this way and that by the appearances of others, it should be like a massive sponge, which maintains a stable inner core, and the appearances of others can crash against the outer surface, but they are quickly absorbed and don’t disturb the inner peace inside. It was not literally a sponge, but the feeling of that quality of a sponge, that was in my mind.
I realised that I can come into contact with people who I find attractive and unattractive, and maintain a warm and friendly attitude to them all, regardless of what they are doing or saying. I felt a warm friendly feeling to all living beings – that they were all equal in this attitude. I felt like warm sunshine was shining on my heart, and this warmth flowed out to all living beings equally.
I stayed on this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
During this meditation I realised that there is a difference between disagreeing with someone and disliking them. I realised that normally if we disagree with someone, the feeling of dislike and aversion arises immediately and seems to be the same entity. But in fact we do not have to dislike someone just because we disagree with them. The two are quite separate.
Through this meditation I realised that if someone is acting in a way we disagree with, it is quite easy to maintain a warm friendly feeing to that person without any hint of dislike. In this way our mind is protected from delusions and their effects. And when the person changes their actions (or we change our view) there is no ‘dislike’ to work through before we can start liking them.
Another image came to mind in the meditation. I realised my mind had the nature of a clear openness, and in that spacelike emptiness, the appearances of others simply passed through it, without coming into contact with it at all. (Instead of ‘bumping’ into it like the sponge). This worked in terms of the idea of stability, but I lost the sense of warmth and friendliness. Bearing in mind that the feeling of warmth and friendliness is the object of this meditation, I decided that this line of thought was not good for this meditation, and I returned to the idea of the sponge, to get the feeing of contact back.
It was lovely to spend an hour mixing my mind with my spiritual Father today, on Father’s Day in the UK. Thank you Geshe-la, for everything you have done for me. I will try my best to put your instructions into practice every moment of every day.