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The purpose of this meditation is to develop a very strong feeling of going for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as the solution to all our problems, and then to contemplate this feeling in the light of the fact that all living beings are our mother.
I began the meditation by doing a breathing meditation, and for once my mind found its balance quite quickly and I enjoyed quite a long period of having a very calm and peaceful mind – settled and still.
I continued through to the main meditation after a while.
I began by thinking about the two causes of going for sincere refuge – fear and faith.
In terms of fear, thought about how, when I die, I will pass through a process where everything will change. My basis for the imputation of my ‘I’ will change completely. All my ‘external’ circumstances will change, and I will probably lose my path. I thought about this ‘resetting’ of my life and I felt a very sincere wish to do as much as I can now, before my death comes. When my death comes, I will lose this precious human life and this precious opportunity.
Then I thought about my faith. It may sound odd, but I do not think of myself as a religious person. I don’t think of my faith as being a religious faith. My faith is a rational faith. I am a Buddhist because I think that the ideas that are presented in Buddhism are true. Therefore, for me, to be a Buddhist simply means to be someone who follows what is true. In all the time that I have studied and practised my path, I have not come across one single instruction which would cause myself or others harm. In all the books, in all the teachings I have attended, in all the conversations I have had with teachers, I have only encountered instructions which would cause happiness and release from suffering for myself or others if they were put into practice.
I have practised for more than 10 years, and I have never encountered harmful instruction. That’s pretty special. Special enough for me to know that I will devote my whole life to this path. What is this path, who revealed it and who can help me follow it? It is surely the Dharma, Buddha and the holy Sangha.
On the basis of my fear of losing my path and on my total faith in the Three Jewels, I felt a deep yearning to move to the Three Jewels for my protection and my salvation. I felt like I was moving towards the Three Jewels and becoming mixed with them. It struck me that the Three Jewels are not external objects, but (because of our shared emptiness) we are one and the same.
I remembered a phrase I heard recently ‘Be the change you want to see’. I want to be the Three Jewels – I want to see the change in myself and others that the Three Jewels can produce. I felt like I was turning to the Three Jewels, and mixing completely with them at the same time. It felt lovely and wonderful. I remained with this feeling for a while.
When the time came, I moved on to think about what this means in the light of the fact that all living beings are my mother.
Why am I going for refuge? It is so that I can become an Enlightened Being for the benefit of all my kind mothers. I and all my kind mothers will turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for our release from suffering and for our attainment of pure lasting happiness. It is the path for everyone – we will all be equal in the end, no matter what our different characteristics at the moment. It was a wonderful thought, and with this I returned to my feeling of being mixed with the Three Jewels for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for their refuge from suffering, and be released from Samsara’s prison for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will keep in mind my wish to turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and try to be the change I want to see.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a very real fear of rebirth in the lower realms, and then to meditate on this fear in the light of equanimity – a warm and friendly feeling towards all living beings.
I began the meditation by relaxing my body, one part at a time until my whole body felt relaxed and light as a cloud. I then focused on my breathing, and gradually focused my attention on more and more subtle aspects of the breath until my mind was very still, and I was experiencing a very beautiful and lucid feeling.
After a while I moved my mind to think about where I am in my spiritual journey, and what could happen if I lost my way. An image came to mind of me climbing a very smooth incline, where enlightenment was at the top and the sufferings of the lower realms were behind me far away at the bottom. I am almost at the top, although there is still a fair way to go. It was a sort of version of ‘Total Wipeout’, or ‘It’s A Knockout’ (depending on your generation).
I imagined the slope to be very smooth, and as I walked up it, I had the feeling that my feet were only just getting enough grip to avoid slipping. It was really close. At any time, I would lose my grip and my feet would go out from underneath me, and I would start to slide down, down, down.
I started to think about what this incline represents. The smoothness of the surface is affected by my actions. If I perform negative actions, the surface becomes smoother and I will surely slip. If I perform virtuous actions, the surface becomes more grippy. And if I can receive the blessings of the holy beings, the incline becomes less steep.
I thought about how I could lose all the ground I have gained if I develop a strong wrong view, and I could slid all the way down to the lower realms.
I strongly visualised my self, standing on the incline with my arms out for balance, testing each foothold before putting my weight on it, always conscious of the dreadful fate behind me, but looking ahead to the top of the slope and enlightenment as my goal. I thought about the lower realms behind me, and I developed a real fear of slipping and sliding back down into them. The fear gripped my heart, and I kept is there by constantly thinking about the moment I lose my footing, and slide down. It was very real.
After a while of this, I decided to think about what this means in the light of equanimity – the understanding that my normal attitudes to others are mistaken, and that the best way to relate to others is to develop a warm and friendly feeling towards them. I thought about it for a while and it seemed to me that equanimity supports my climb very well. If I constantly feel warm and friendly towards others, I will create virtue, shun non-virtue, and open myself to the blessings of the holy beings. With this understanding of how valuable equanimity is to me avoiding rebirth in the lower realms, I returned my attention to the fear of slipping, and kept it real for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings keep a realistic and positive fear of lower rebirth in their hearts, and use it to practice virtue, shun non-virtue and to receive the blessings of the holy beings, so that they may attain pure enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remember my fear of lower rebirth throughout the day and the night.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a strong wish to realise emptiness and then to meditate on this wish in the light of the suffering of the lower realms.
I thought about the example Geshe Kelsang gives in the book Heart of Wisdom. If someone puts a toy rubber snake in our room we may take if for a real snake when we first see it, and develop fear. Later when we realise that it is just a length of striped rubber rather than a real snake, our fear will vanish.
At the moment, my body appears to be an inherently existent object, existing truly, from its own side, completely independent from all other phenomena. The appearance of the inherently existent body is real, but the inherently existent body itself does not exist at all.
I spend so much time looking after my body – cleaning it, keeping it warm or cool, feeding it when it is hungry, protecting it from harm. It is full of aches and pains, gets headaches and diseases. It will eventually die. All these facts cause me physical and mental suffering. But if I really understand that this body I cherish is a non-existent, with no more inherent existence than the ‘real’ snake in my room, I will be free from the fears and suffering. If I can realise that all objects lack inherent existence, I will be free from the sufferings not only of my body, but of all objects. Free. Beyond suffering! I focused on this feeling of being beyond suffering, and felt a deep wish to realise emptiness. I focused on this wish for a while.
I then thought about what this means in the light of the sufferings of the lower realms. If I realise emptiness, nothing can harm me, because my body being tortured would be like space being tortured. I would be protected. Once again I focused on the wish to realise emptiness, and felt a very clear happy feeling, which I stayed with for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings realise emptiness, and become enlightened beings for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will maintain my wish to realise emptiness, and try to remember that all phenomena lack inherent existence.
The purpose of this meditation is to encourage us to find protection from lower rebirth.
I began by thinking about how my mind will move on to another body once this life comes to an end. The form of the new body will be dictated by the nature of the karma that ripens at my time of death. Negative actions are the cause of lower rebirth. I know I have committed far more negative actions than positive ones, so it is almost certain that I will take rebirth in the lower realms.
Once this happens, I will have lost my opportunity to attain enlightenment for many aeons.
I focused on this loss of opportunity, and settled on it as the object of my meditation. I felt very sad that my opportunity had slipped through my fingers, and fearful of the suffering that will have to be experienced. My mind felt still and peaceful, like an autumn day, when everything is still, and the colours indicate that the season of growth and health is over, and ahead lies cold and decay. It felt peaceful, but deeply sad and fearful.
May all living beings recognise the prospect of rebirth in the lower realms, and develop fear, and thereby turn to the Three Jewels for refuge. May they attain enlightenment.
Practice in the meditation break
Given the precious human life I have, and the inevitability of death, I will bear in mind the value of my opportunity, and how, once it is gone, my opportunity will be over.