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The purpose of this meditation is to generate a strong feeling of great compassion.
I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation and recalled the sufferings that all living beings have to endure. All these very kind and precious living beings try so hard to be happy, but endure such suffering. Even when they experience happiness, it is short lived and unsatisfying. Fundamentally, because of our grasping at the true existence of all things, we generate delusions which create the causes of future suffering.
Living beings have to experience the suffering of birth. This painful and frightening experience must be undergone alone and without understanding. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
Living beings have to experience the suffering of sickness. They feel pain and discomfort, and mental suffering from the knowledge that they cannot do what they want to do, or perhaps that the sickness will only get worse until it eventually kills them. There may be no prospect of ever being well again. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
Living beings have to experience the suffering of aging. We all suffer when we realise that we are losing our looks, our fitness or our mental faculties. Looking in the mirror every morning reminds us of our aging, and our lost youth. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
Living beings have to experience the suffering of death. Our lives will be torn from our bodies in the end – there is no prospect of escaping this denouement. When it comes, many people experience intense suffering at being separated from their possessions and family – such intense suffering! I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
Living beings have to experience separation from what they love – so many people have families, but spend weeks, months or years away from them at work. Our lives are so short! We should not have to spend so much of them separated from what we love! I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
Living beings have to experience contact with what they do not like. Every day we experience the misery of commuting, of people we dislike, situations we dislike, jobs we dislike, chores we dislike, obligations we dislike, weather we dislike, food we dislike. We should not have to experience so much we dislike! I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
Living beings constantly have their dreams frustrated. We all have our ‘maybe someday’ dreams. Will we realise them one day, or will we reach an age when it suddenly dawns on us that we will never achieve our life long dream. We will be crushed, and know our life has not achieved what we always clung to as our aim. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.
I thought of all these sufferings, and wished wholeheartedly that all living beings could be freed from these sufferings. They are so precious, so kind. They work so hard to be happy, yet they do not understand the causes of their suffering, and instead of creating the causes of happiness, they destroy it.
I wished that all living beings could be free from their suffering. I focused on this wish and kept my attention on it for the rest of the meditation. I felt a deep sense of wishing them to be free – to be able to enjoy every moment of their days. It was very peaceful and meaningful.
May all living beings be free from their sufferings, and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will hold compassion in my heart and wish everyone I meet – be free from your suffering!
The purpose of this meditation is to see what kind of feeling is generated when we consider that we are definitely going to die.
I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then thought about how my life is everything. Ever since I can remember, I have been alive. There has never been a time that I can remember when I have not been alive. It is easy to think that this life will carry on forever. But, I reminded myself, everyone dies. No-one escapes death – everyone, including me, will definitely die.
I focused on this and it felt like I had fallen face down into the ground. I could see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing. Every single aspect of my life had gone. Everything had gone. I focused on the feeling of everything having gone for a while.
After a little time, I realised that all the things I currently call ‘mine’ are deceptive, because when I die, I will lose them. I never really ‘had’ them at all.
With this thought, I felt supremely free. I felt like all my ties and grasping had fallen away, and I was completely liberated from possessions. I wasn’t expecting this feeling, but it was a good strong conclusion: realising that I will die, and that everything I think of as mine will disappear, I should not regard them as mine now. I felt completely free, and I settled my mind on this for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings realise that their possessions are deceptive, and find freedom in the realisation that no matter how much they cling to them as theirs, everything must go.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will remind myself that everything must go, and feel free.
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 develop the sincere wish to abandon samsara and all its sufferings, and then to meditate on this wish in the light of the fact that all living beings are my mother.
I began by doing breathing meditation to settle my mind. I counted my breaths from one to eighteen, trying to keep my attention on my breathing. I cycled through several times, and slowly I felt my mind becoming steadily more and more settled and tranquil. After a while I found I could leave off the counting of breaths, and simply abide in the peace and calm of my settled mind.
After a while of enjoying this state, I moved on to the main Lamrim object of meditation, which was to generate a sincere wish to abandon samsara’s sufferings forever.
For this meditation, I focused on the sufferings of ageing. I am 45 years old. When I was a younger adult, say from the ages of 16 to 38, I did not have any long term ill health issues. I was physically healthy and I engaged in whatever activities I chose. I played football, climbed mountains, jogged, studied martial arts and did anything else that came along.
From about the age of 38 I noticed a subtle change in my body and my abilities. My knees and wrists hurt. I am not supple and can feel a perceived frailty descending over me. When I was younger I would not be concerned with knocks and bumps because I would always simply recover. But now these knocks and bumps take longer to overcome, and some are not improving at all. I feel like I will have wrist and knee pain for the rest of my life.
As I look forward, I can see that my experience in this respect will be to engage in fewer adventurous activities and to be more cautious with my body. I will become more and more concerned to protect it in case it is injured. I will become more scared of injury, and more reluctant to take risks. In short, I will become more and more concerned with myself while at the same time resenting this self for stopping me doing what I would like to do.
As I get steadily older, I can see no hope of improvement, and just a continuing descent into unhappiness due to ageing.
I thought about these points from my own personal experience, and a deep wish to be free of this suffering arose in my heart. I did not wish to avoid ageing, because this is impossible, but I really wished that I could avoid the suffering that ageing could bring. I thought again and again about these points and focused on this wish to be free from the suffering of ageing, and the suffering of samsara in general.
I felt a very deep clarity and purpose – I must free myself from suffering by becoming liberated from samsara! I focused on this wish for a long while. It filled me.
When the time came, I withdrew my attention out of this wish, and thought about what this wish means in the light of the fact that all living beings are our mothers.
To attain liberation from samsara is like escaping a prison of torment. But all other sentient beings – my kind mothers – are still trapped. To attain liberation while failing to remember our kind mother beings is like leaving the prison with the keys in our hand, and failing to unlock the doors to their cells as I walk past. How callous it would be to leave them trapped in suffering!
To attain liberation for ourself is wonderful, but its true meaning is in our subsequent ability to free all living beings.
I focused on the wish to be free from samsara’s sufferings while at the same time rejoicing in the fact that it will allow me to develop into a state where I can free all living beings. Once again I felt a very deep wish to be free and to free all my kind mothers. It was very focused and peaceful, yet full of purpose.
I thought of the triple realisation I get in the Migtsema prayer. Je Tsongkhapa is the manifestation of all the compassion, wisdom and spiritual power of all the Buddhas. His compassion lets him see the suffering of others and wish to alleviate it. His wisdom means he knows exactly what to do to release others from their suffering. His spiritual power gives him the power to release others from their suffering. These three qualities mean that his is perfect for the task of freeing all living beings from suffering. I have Je Tsongkhapa at my heart, and my mind is mixed with his mind. His qualities are my qualities (in my imagination, that is) and I can do what he can do.
I brought this understanding into my main meditation object, and it gathered more power and intensity. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the precious time I had available for my meditation.
May the virtues I have generated through meditating on the stages of the path, and the merit I have generated today be the direct cause for all living beings to be freed from suffering. In particular, may my Aunt Amy in New Zealand be freed from all her samsaric sufferings, and quickly take rebirth in a pure land, free from all her pain, loneliness and suffering.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will focus on freeing everyone I meet from their distress, unhappiness and dissatisfaction, and remember that through them, I will be able to eventually free all living beings from suffering, forever.
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 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 the strong wish to be free from samsaric suffering altogether, and then to view this wish in the light of actions and their effects.
I began the meditation by thinking about how all my suffering arises from being born into this human body and into this environment. My aches and pains, my heartaches and my frustrations – they all come from my samsaric situation.
I focused straight away on my need to break free of samsara altogether, so that I can be free from suffering permanently.
I brought to mind that I should try to identify with the body and mind of an enlightened being rather than this failing body and weak pathetic mind. Enlightened beings do not feel suffering because they want some chocolate, or because they cannot afford to go on holiday! Enlightened beings are constantly and blissfully happy because they abide in the perfection of wisdom – the perfect understanding of emptiness. I need to attain this special wisdom so I too can abide in blissful happiness.
I focused on this wish to attain liberation from samsara and being in a state of blissful happiness.
I then wondered how this looks in the light of actions and their effects. It is clear that the wish to attain liberation from samsara is a mental action with a specific effect. If I can hold this wish in my mind throughout the day, then all my actions will be suffused with renunciation. This special wish will protect me from rebirth in samsara – how wonderful!
May all living beings develop the wish to be free from samsara, and hold this wish firm in their minds until they attain liberation and enlightenment for the sake of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to identify with the body of an enlightened being rather than a middle aged man, and let my actions follow accordingly so that I might float free from samsara.
The purpose of this meditation is to recognise the disadvantages of self-cherishing and reach a determination to overcome this mind, and then to meditate on this determination in the light of our refuge practice.
I began the meditation by remembering the thrust of the contemplation given in The New Meditation Handbook. In it Geshe Kelsang says that self-cherishing is a view that holds our ‘self’ to be supremely important. With this attitude constantly present in our mind, we perform selfish actions which harm others and cause them suffering.
I thought about my previous meditation where I reached the conclusion that I needed to equalise my cherishing of myself and others, and I immediately saw that this view and the view of self-cherishing are pulling in opposite directions. Self-cherishing causes me mental suffering when I encounter situations in which this view is challenged. For example self-cherishing tells me that I am always right and that my view is the right view. When I come across a situation where it is shown that I am not right, I experience mental pain. Why? Because the evidence contradicts my self-cherishing view. This view is stupid! If I am full of pride, how can I ever be happy? I will either be constantly experiencing the dissonance of the evidence against my perfection, or angrily blaming others for their lack of understanding of how I am actually right, despite all the evidence.
I ran through the reasons for equalising self and others once again, and reached the conclusion that I need to overcome and eliminate self-cherishing from my mind because it causes myself and others so much suffering. I decided to imagine that I had completely removed self-cherishing from my mind. I imagined what this would feel like.
It would feel like I was pure. I would be unshakeable, because my view would be untainted by self-cherishing. I felt free and open, safe and humble. I decided that this is how I DO feel now, and I took that feeling as mine. I mixed my mind with the feeling and remembered that this is due to my elimination of the demon of self-cherishing.
I stayed with this feeling for a while.
I then decided to find out what this meant in the light of my refuge practice. In going for refuge to the Three Jewels, I turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for help and protection. I did not know about self-cherishing before I found Dharma. Through the Dharma, Buddha has revealed to me the faults of self-cherishing, and in so doing he has given me the wish to eliminate it. I felt that I needed to go for refuge all the more strongly so that I can understand more and more, and become increasingly free from self-cherishing, until I am completely free.
I felt a stronger wish to be free from self-cherishing through my refuge practice, and a return to the feeling of freedom and protection from suffering, which I stayed with for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings recognise the faults of self-cherishing, and by abandoning this mind, become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to eliminate self-cherishing from my mind, and remember the feeling of being free from it.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate the motivation of Bodhichitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for the sake of all living beings.
I began by remembering my wish to attain liberation from samsara – my renunciation. I then went on to think about how all living beings will still be trapped in samsara even though I have escaped. I cannot possibly leave my kind mothers trapped in samsara. They have been so kind to me in life after life. They are constantly tormented by sufferings, and constantly frustrated in their wish to find true happiness.
I thought about my compassion for them, and my wish that they be free from their suffering, and I thought about my practice of taking and giving, where I mentally take away their suffering, and give them all the happiness they wish for.
I felt a deep wish to be able to do this for real. I want them to be free. I stayed with this wish for them to be free for a while, and then I turned my attention to what this wish means in the context of my precious human life. My precious human life allows me to generate the most virtuous intention of all. Of all the minds I can generate, Bodhichitta is the most sublime. To have the opportunity to generate this mind is so very, very rare it is almost unimaginable.
Once again I felt a deep appreciation of the opportunity I have to practice the Great Scope meditations of Lamrim, and to try to generate a pure mind of Bodhichitta. I focused on this wish, recognising its rarity and preciousness.
Towards the end of the meditation I found myself say the words ‘may we all be free’, and with the word ‘free’ it felt like my mind and the minds of all living beings had become enlightened all at the same time, and I felt a rising, cleansed and completely pure feeling of being free from samsara. It was like my mind had gone into a completely new gear, and I stayed in this rapture for a while until it settled into a beautiful clear and pure feeling. I remained in that feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop the supreme mind of Bodhichitta, and fulfil this wish for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to maintain this virtuous intention my constantly asking myself if the actions I am engaging in are bringing me closer or taking me further away from my goal.
The purpose of this meditation is to take on others’ suffering in meditation.
In Geshe Kelsang Gyatso‘s recent book, Modern Buddhism, my kind teacher gives instructions on how to practice the taking in conjunction with the six perfections. He also makes it clear that the act of taking on others’ suffering in meditation is a method for destroying our own ignorance of self-grasping and self-cherishing.
I began the meditation by recalling my strong feeling of finding the suffering of others unbearable. I let my mind rest on this feeling for a while, and then I moved on. I decided that I needed to do something about all this suffering. I imagined a vast plain in front of me, filled with all the living beings trapped in samsara. I saw them all standing there, millions and millions of them.
I made the firm decision to take all their suffering from them. Thinking this was the cause of their suffering rising out of each and every one of them in the aspect of black smoke. I saw it leaving a few beings first, then more and more smoke rising into the air above them.
As the smoke left them, they became free from their suffering. They became free from ageing. No matter how old they were, they became young again, with youthful bodies in the prime of life. They became free from sickness. No matter how ill they were, their sickness left them and they became healthy. Their future sufferings also left their bodies. They were free from all their suffering, and would never experience suffering again. They were filled with joy, and I felt that joy in my heart. I stayed with that joy for a few minutes.
Then I focused on the black smoke. I caused it to roll across the plain towards me, gathering it into a funneling cloud. I made the smoke get more and more concentrated as it gathered in the space just in front of my chest. I imagined it folding in on itself, getting smaller and smaller until it was the size of a pea. I then brought it into my heart and it dissolved into my self-grasping ignorance and my self-cherishing. I felt my self grasping melt away. I realised that without self grasping there was no I to apprehend. I felt that all I was was mere name. Name cannot suffer. I felt completely free from suffering. I felt completely free and empty, profoundly joyous and open.
I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings practice taking on the sufferings of others, and through this become fully enlightened beings.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will mount taking on the breath, and practice it in conjunction with the six perfections.