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The purpose of this meditation is to develop a beautiful sense of everyone being equal in terms of their predicament.

twinsI began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then started the meditation by contemplating all beings in samsara. They all want the same thing – to be free from suffering and to enjoy uninterrupted and permanent happiness. They work so hard to achieve this, but because of their ignorance, they do not see the true cause of their suffering, or the route to happiness.

They spend so much time and effort trying to control samsara (like my engineers of yesterday’s meditation) when they should be trying to control their own minds.

I thought of how much we all want to be happy and free from suffering. We are all just suffering beings, trapped in the prison of samsara, looking for a way out.

I focused on the idea that we are all the same, and all wanting to be free from our suffering. I was filled with a feeling of being one with others, and connected with them in the sense that we all in the same predicament, and all wish for the same thing.

Dedication

May all living beings feel their connection with others, and understand that we are all the same.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to maintain the understanding that all beings in samsara want the same thing – to be free from suffering, and to find true lasting happiness.

 

The purpose of this meditation is to decide on what action to take if we are going to stop asking samsara to provide us with what we want.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then I revisited my conclusions from yesterday.

What is it that we all want, deep down? We all want permanent, perfect happiness and to never experience even the slightest suffering. Samsara, our normal world, cannot provide this. If we understand this, be can let go of the expectation and become free of its tyranny.

I thought about what to do if we abandon samsara – what should be our view?

TransformerI asked myself this question for a while, and slowly an idea formed that I should transform samsara into a pure land. I cannot alter the appearances around me, but I can transform them into causes of bliss. The first step is to stop grasping at appearances as being the external cause of happiness or suffering – they are more like triggers rather than the cause itself. If I view freezing temperatures as not being an inherent cause of suffering, but instead a sign of my past negative actions then instead of feeling discomfort, I can develop the bliss of patient acceptance.

If I experience pleasure in a cup of tea, I can see it is the trigger for the ripening of positive karma. This reminds me to always create positive actions, and gives me the opportunity to experience the bliss of offering nectar to all the Buddhas.

In short, my conclusion was that I need to always transform samsara into a pure land, develop pure minds towards all living beings, and abide in bliss. I focused on this thought, and I felt simultaneously the wish to abandon samsara and the wish to transform it into a pure land. I experienced a very focused mind, filled with freedom and beauty. It was lovely.

Dedication

May all living beings learn how to transform their conditions into bliss, and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will transform, transform, transform.

 

The purpose of this meditation is to contemplate the shortcomings of samsara in terms of how our lives can never give us complete and continuous satisfaction.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then thought about the three ways in which samsara frustrates our wishes.

We can never be separated from the things we find unpleasant. Even with the best conditions in samsara, we would still find things that cause us to be unhappy – it would be too hot, too sunny, too humid, too dark, too soft etc. Samsara can never give complete happiness.

We can never be with what we desire all the time.  We may always want to be in the company of our dearest family, but samsara cannot allow for this. We may always wish to be in a particular location, but even if we remain there, it changes around us and soon we feel out of place and long for the location of our past.

Finally we can never fulfil our samsaric wishes. When we are young we have dreams we never fulfil, and if we do, we naturally develop more dreams to fulfil. If we spend our lives fulfilling our dreams, we will still die feeling that there was ‘just one more’ that needed to be done in order for us to be satisfied.

Ranulf FiennesI thought of Sir Ranulph Fiennes who is famous for undertaking punishing adventures across arctic wastes. His career has involved ever more extreme expeditions. If we look with wisdom, we can see that although his exploits are staggering in terms of the effort they require, I feel that he will never be able to fulfil all his wishes.

Given how samsara cannot fulfil our wishes, I concluded that rather than be cross or disappointed, I should simply stop asking samsara for happiness. I focused on this simple thought, and kept it as my object of meditation for the rest of the session. I felt free, knowing that from its own side, samsara is powerless – it is only my constant grasping for the happiness it cannot give that makes it unsatisfactory.

Dedication

May all living beings realise that samsara cannot give them what they are looking for, and instead turn to the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for permanent inner peace.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to stop grasping at happiness from samsara, because no matter how hard it tries, it cannot give me what I ask.

The purpose of this meditation is to recognise the unsatisfactoriness of samsara and develop the wish to become liberated.

I started with making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then settled into thinking about distractions. During my meditations and when I am making my prayers, I am often bothered by distracting thoughts.  I wondered how come I have so many distractions, and it occurred to me that it may be due to familiarity with the habit of allowing myself to be distracted in the past in order to relieve the uncomfortable feelings caused by focusing on my ordinary life.

Setting sunWhy do we indulge in distracting thoughts? Could it be because they seem more interesting that what is in front of us at the moment? What is in front of us at the moment? Usually it is just the same old stuff. Work, commuting, cooking, cleaning etc. And even when we look at what we normally consider to be interesting, such as going to the pub, watching sport, reading novels or going on holiday, if we look with wisdom these things are really just changing suffering – another form of suffering.

No wonder we welcome distractions! It is our relief from the truth – the mundanity of our life.

To look samsara in the eye and see it for what it is leads to two possible actions: to develop the wish to end it all now, or to find a way out. Most people do not realise there is a way out, and so the only logical action for those who really understand the nature of samsara is suicide. From Wikipedia:

Philosophical thinking in the 19th and 20th century has led, in some cases, beyond thinking in terms of pro-choice, to the point that suicide is no longer a last resort, or even something that one must justify, but something that one must justify not doing. Many forms of existentialist thinking essentially begin with the premise that life is objectively meaningless, and proceed to the question of why one should not just kill oneself; they then answer this question by suggesting that the individual has the power to give personal meaning to life

The individual DOES have the power to give personal meaning to life, and according to Dharma, has the power and obligation to do this for the benefit of all living beings.

I thought about these points, and settled on the thought that I want to give meaning to my life, to overcome the distractions that hide the truth, and to become liberated from Samsara. I focused on this for the rest of the meditation and found a clear, peaceful space where I let the wish for liberation fill my mind.

Dedication

May all living beings search for, and find, liberation.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to keep a wish to overcome my mind’s distractions, and see Samsara for what it is, and on the basis of this clear view, keep the wish to attain complete liberation from suffering.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate renunciation – the wish to abandon samsara.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation in order to settle my mind and open it up to the blessings of the Buddhas.

fountain-of-lightI then started by thinking of how humans are present in one realm of samsara, and all other sentient beings are in one of the other five realms. At death, they take rebirth in any of the six realms, and live out another life full of suffering, one way or another. I contemplated something like the diagram of the Wheel of Life, with the living beings moving constantly from realm to realm. As I thought about it, I felt the restlessness of it all, the constant churning and anxiety of it all. I let my attention rest on this for a while and really felt the unsatisfactoriness of this mode of existence.

After a while, I let myself be filled with the desire for this to stop. To find ‘supreme inner peace’. To have the cycle of birth, death and rebirth finally come to an end forever, and to abide in perfect stillness and contentment. I developed the thought of how good it would be to experience continual peace and stillness, and I focused on this for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings find peace and stillness.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will watch my mind – movement and change bring anxiety – stillness and peace bring deep happiness. I will try to keep my mind still and peaceful.

The purpose of this meditation is to get an understanding that our time in the fortunate realm of humans is like a short holiday from the sufferings of the lower realms.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then thought about a phrase in The New Meditation Handbook where Geshe-la says that our current human life is like a short holiday away from the inconceivably long periods of time we spend in the lower realms.

on the beachI thought about how our holidays last only a very short time. After our holidays are over, we return to the day to day drudgery of our everyday lives.

I have always thought this was bizarre way to life our lives. We should try to make every day joyful and happy, rather than assenting to the view that it is during our holiday when we can be happy. If we do this, then by definition, we are assenting to being unhappy for 50 weeks out of 52! That’s not how I want to spend my life!!

I thought more deeply about how this life is like a short holiday. A practitioner of initial scope is like someone who plans to not go home, but to stay on holiday for ever. A practitioner of the intermediate scope sees that even on holiday, things are still not perfect. Such a practitioner plans to leave even the holiday resort for somewhere completely free from all suffering.

I focused on the idea of being on a short holiday, with a certain return to suffering in a short time, and I got the feeling of being in a very short window of time. My life in this fortunate realm will soon come to an end, and instead of returning to the lower realms, I really should be trying to get to the land of liberation. I focused on this thought as my object of meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings find the opportunity to see how their life is like a short holiday, and plot complete escape, rather than assent to the inevitability of return to suffering.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to see how my life is like a brief holiday, and focus my efforts into developing renunciation for samsara so that I can develop the wisdom realising emptiness, and free myself completely from the cycle of suffering.

The purpose of this meditation is to develop a deep familiarity with the understanding that we now have a precious human life.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation.

After settling my mind, I moved on to consider my current circumstances. All my conditions are right for Dharma practice. My body, my family, my house, my job, my teachers, the NKT, my Dharma friends, this blog… everything is right. Some of these things may normally be perceived as problems, but for me they are perfect for Dharma practice.

To use a favourite image of Kadampa Ryan, all these conditions are like waves on an ocean of emptiness. At the moment, certain waves have risen out of the ocean of my root mind, and are appearing conventionally as perfect conditions for Dharma practice. I am very fortunate because I can ‘see’ these conditions directly with my sense awarenesses. If they were not manifest in this way, they would be hidden, and I would have no opportunity to practice Dharma.

Golden LadderIt seemed to me that all these condtions were like a golden ladder, with each one of them being a rung – a rung that I can use to climb out of samsara. I imagined a golden ladder in front of me, and understood that each rung was really one of my perfect conditions for Dharma practice. But the ladder won’t climb itself! I need to use each rung to climb up.

I focused for a while on my precious human life being like a golden ladder, with all my conditions being like the rungs, and generated a real appreciation for my current good fortune.

After a while I decided to focus more on what I want to do – what conclusion do I reach?

At the moment I have this ladder within reach. I need to interact with each rung in order to climb out of samsara. In my normal life, I need to interact with each person, each situation in such a way that my virtues and realisations increase. I need to climb the virtuous ladder out of my samsara!

I settled on this wish to use all my daily experiences as methods to climb out of samsara, and tried to keep my mind from wandering away from it for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings see the preciousness of their human life, and use every opportunity to climb out of samsara

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will offer every drink, dedicate every action and keep my commitments so I can climb the ladder of good fortune as quickly as possible.

The purpose of this meditation is to make the decision to regard all living beings as my mother, and then to think about what this means in terms of reliance upon our Spiritual Guide.

Mother and babyI began by making the usual preparations for meditation, and then started by thinking about how when living beings are born into the human or animal realms, they are initiated by a mother. I thought about the sheer number of living beings just on this planet, and thought about how Buddha said that all living beings have been the mother of all the rest. I was struck by just how many past lives I have had, wandering though samsara’s sufferings.

I now have a precious human life and my mother of this life brought me to it. I let my mind dwell on this relationship for a while, and it became clear to me how precious and special this relationship was. I then extended this feeling of the special relationship to all the humans and animals in this world – and then to all the living beings in samsara. I felt close to them, and felt the loving relationship that would be there between all living beings, if only we could remember our past lives. I focused on this recognition for a while.

I then thought about what this means in terms of reliance upon my Spiritual Guide.

At this moment in time, I cannot establish the truth of all living beings being my mother. It is a hidden fact. I have to rely upon my Spiritual Guide – he says that this is the case, and I have to trust him. I need to examine the pros and cons of believing him. I need to decide if it is a good thing to believe him.

I have already been through all the pros and cons of deciding to regard all living beings as my mother, and my conclusion is that it is such a beneficial attitude, so devoid of disadvantage for myself and others, that I will always try to keep this in mind.

I decided to keep this view for the rest of my life, and focused on this determination for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings see all the rest as their mother, and reap the benefits of this view to propel them to perfect enlightenment.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remember my determination to regard all living beings as my mother.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate a heartfelt wish to be free of the torment of samsara, and then to consider what this means in terms of reliance upon a Spiritual Guide.

I began by making the preparations for meditation, and then started by thinking about how samsara’s pleasures give no contentment, only torment.

We grumble to ourselves about how it would be so much better if our partner was different in some way, or our job was different in some way, or our car, house, neighbours, country etc. etc. was different. We feel that if these things were different, as we wish, we would be happy. But if these changes did come about, we would find that we are just as discontent. Before long we would want something else from our partner – perhaps even wanting the ‘old’ one back!

If we fulfilled all our samsaric wishes, we would still experience torment.

cloud likeI thought about how we are like people who gaze at the sky, and grasp at clouds, thinking that they can satisfy their needs. Such a thought is crazy, but we are the same, thinking that samaric pleasures can satisfy our needs. They only lead to torment.

I thought about these points, and developed a very tranquil mind that felt like all my normal objects of desire were like clouds – insubstantial and incapable of providing the satisfaction I wish for in my heart of hearts. After a while I saw clearly that they could not give me happiness, because they were cloud-like, and I felt a lovely tranquil feeling of wishing to abandon them in favour of the contentment of a tanquil mind. I saw samsara’s inability to satisfy me, and abandoned it. I focused on this feeling for a while.

I then thought about what this means in terms of reliance upon a Spiritual Guide. The fact of the matter is that I would never have identified objects of desire as cloud-like without the help of my Spiritual Guide. Without him, I would have struggled throughout my life to attain more and more objects or experiences in the belief that ‘the next one’ will be the one which gives me satisfaction. But with his wisdom to guide me, I can turn away from samsara, and find true contentment.

I combined this feeling of reliance upon by Spiritual Guide and the tranquillity of abandoning samsara into one feeling, which was beautifully peaceful, tranquil and meaningful. I remained in the truly wonderful feeling for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings come to see that samsara’s pleasures are like clouds, and abandon them as sources of contentment, as any sensible person does not rely on mere clouds for happiness.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to maintain the view that samsaric things are cloud-like, and remember that my tranquillity of mind is the actual source of happiness.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate joy and a sense of deep appreciation for the opportunity our precious human life affords us, and then to consider what this opportunity means in light of the practice of giving.

I began by dissolving my Guru into my heart and relaxing both my body and mind by focusing on his meditative equipoise, his stillness and his stability. I imagined these qualities filling my own mind, and experienced something of what it might feel like. It was wonderfully tranquil, and I remained there for a while.

I then moved on to consider my precious human life. I considered the different realms of samsara, and the conditions of the beings that inhabit those realms. The gods are so separate from suffering that they feel no need to escape from samsara. The demigods are so consumed with jealously that they cannot think of anything else but the acquisition of more resources and possessions. Most humans are distracted by worldly activities. Animals are burdened with great confusion and lack of control over their lives. Hungry ghosts and hell beings are so tortured with constant suffering that they cannot think of anything except their own plight.

As I toured the six realms, I grew to appreciate my own circumstances. I have no major external circumstances which separate me from Dharma. I have no internal obstacles which prevent me from developing faith in Dharma. I have experienced enough contact with Dharma to believe that no matter what happens in the future, I will not lose this faith. I thought about these circumstances and I developed a deep sense of joy that I have somehow managed to find such a fortunate and meaningful life, with such potential. I focused on this feeling of joy, and let it fill me. It was wonderful and inspiring.

After a while, I wondered what this meant in light of giving.

My human life is the platform for my practice of giving. My human life is the platform for all my activities, Dharma and non-Dharma alike. But with wisdom, I can transform all my activities into Dharma activities by mixing them with the six perfections, including giving. Giving love, fearlessness, material help and Dharma are only possible through the vehicle of my human life.

I thought about these points and developed a sort of ‘double joy’ – firstly that I have a human life with its freedoms and endowments, and secondly that I can use it to give so much benefit to others. I focused on this enhanced sense of joy, and stayed within it for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings trapped in the prison of samsara quickly attain a precious human life, and through this engage in Dharma practice to quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will remain mindful of my precious human life and practice giving both mentally and physically where appropriate.

How to Understand the Mind

All my meditations come from this book - click the image to learn more

Modern Buddhism

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