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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 develop the strong wish to be released from samsara’s grip, and then to meditate on this wish in the light of our refuge practice.
I began the meditation my thinking about how I can obtain protection from the sufferings of the lower realms by going for refuge to the Three Jewels. I thought about how grateful I was for this protection, and I made mental offerings to the Three Jewels. I then thought about how this freedom from the sufferings of the lower realms is not enough. Buddha says that all six realms of samsara are pervaded by suffering. I decided to investigate the sufferings of the human realm.
I recalled the sufferings of birth, which I have largely forgotten. The fear of not understanding my context. My isolation from others. The physical pain of my limbs growing, like being stretched on a rack. The final excruciating ejection into a cold, loud and frightening world.
I recalled the suffering of sickness – my body can never be permanently free from sickness – at any time I may become ill – with a sickness that may or may not be curable. Sickness strikes down the strongest – even Olympic athletes are not protected from sickness, despite being the strongest, fittest people.
I recalled the suffering of ageing. To see your face slowly changing in the bathroom mirror, day by day. More wrinkles, less elasticity in the skin. More aches and pains. Less able to undertake the physical activities that used to be so easy. The sense of loss – we will never be young again!
I recalled the sufferings of death. Soon, my life will be ripped out of my body. Who knows the pain it will cause. And the worry about the next rebirth!
I recalled the suffering of encountering things we do not like. Again and again we meet unpleasant circumstances. I recalled the suffering of separation from what we like – as a father I want to be with my family, but there are many reasons why I must be separated from them. And soon my children will be grown and away – living their own lives and separate from my.
I recalled the sufferings of frustrated wishes. The houses with latest luxuries – the fast cars and good jobs. We can never fulfil our samsaric wishes because the more we have, the more we desire.
I mulled over these sufferings and reached a firm conclusion: I want to be free of these sufferings too. I want protection from these sufferings. My protection comes from abandoning any hope of true happiness being found in samsara.
I decided from now on I will not expect anything from samsara, and not look for happiness in samsara. All I want is my Spiritual Guide’s blessings, and everything I do will be in order to receive these blessings. I will practice moral discipline, concentration and wisdom. I will abandon the eight worldly concerns. I will interact with samsara with a completely virtuous intention to help others. Any good conditions or happiness I experience I will offer immediately to my Spiritual Guide. Any bad conditions – I will transform into the spiritual path.
In this way I will be in samsara, but separated from its sufferings. I felt the blessings of my Spiritual Guide rain down on me, and protect me from samsara’s sufferings. I focused on this protection while remembering that it arises from my abandonment of samsara.
I stayed with this clear, beautiful feeling for a while.
I then thought about my refuge practice and what this means for my wish to abandon samsara. My refuge practice is at the heart of my abandonment. Instead of looking to samsaric objects for happiness, I turn instead to the Three Jewels. I felt a stronger sense of separation from samsara and the blessings of the Buddhas, and stayed in this sublime feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings attain liberation from samsara’s sufferings, and become enlightened for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will constantly go for refuge to the Three Jewels, asking for their help to abandon samsara and to attain liberation from the wheel of life.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a strong wish to attain complete liberation from the sufferings of samsara, and then to contemplate this wish on the basis of death and impermanence.
I began by thinking about a Christmas shopping trip me and my children did yesterday to one of those massive shopping centres with hundreds of shops. As we picked our way through the crowds of people with their bags full of clothes etc. I noticed their faces. None of them were remotely happy. The centre portrays itself as the place to come for excitement, laughter and fun, but everyone there – shoppers and shop workers – looked hot, hassled and miserable!
I realised as we got our bits and pieces that there was not one single thing in the hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants, arcades and stalls that I actually wanted. All this stuff, and I did not feel remotely interested in any of it. In fact, it repulsed me. To think of all these bits of tat being bought, only to be discarded soon after Christmas, when there are so many people in the world literally starving. I found it obscene.
As I thought about this, I realised that this feeling of disillusion extends to everything material in this life. I am 44 years old. In my life I have been obsessed with bits of tech, watches and so on, but once I have obtained them, they have all failed to satisfy my long term needs. It has become so obvious that chasing satisfaction within these material things is like chasing a rainbow – a desperate and doomed waste of effort.
Knowing that there is no satisfaction to be had in samsara, it was easy to drop any interest in it, and instead develop a deep wish to attain something of true meaning – liberation. I focused on this feeling of moving towards liberation, and felt a light, free feeling, which I focused on for a while.
After a time, I considered what this means in the context of death and impermanence. It became clear immediately that all the material things we can become so obsessed with are impermanent phenomena. They will change in their state or significance, and in the end we will have to part with them. I felt the light, free feeling grow in intensity and I stayed with it for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop renunciation for samsara, and quickly attain liberation and enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will keep this light, free feeling – the knowledge that samsara is empty of satisfaction and that I am aiming for liberation.
The purpose of this meditation is to stoke up our fire of enthusiasm to attain liberation from samsara.
I began the meditation by thinking about a social gathering I attended on Friday. Many of the people there had known my parents for along time – some of them since school days, 70 years ago. I chatted to everyone I knew, and some people came and introduced themselves to me, explaining how they knew my Mum and Dad. They talked about their lives, and it did not take long for them to express sadness.
They were sorry about my Mum having Alzheimers. They were sorry about my Brother dying when he was 9. They were sorry about their own past. One dear friend of my Dad went on to muse about how his mother died when he was 6 months old, and how his father died when he was 10. How wondered out loud how his life would have been if they had lived longer. I saw his eyes wander the tables looking at parents and children sitting together, laughing, chatting. I looked into his eyes, and I saw his deep sadness.
There must be something about me, but people always seem ready to tell me their sadnesses.
I thought about how everyone has sadnesses, and as life goes on, they begin to take on more significance. As people realise there is less in front of them than behind them, the sadness settles.
So much suffering, so much silent pain. Everyone has such sadness in their hearts.
I felt the deep wish to leave this behind; the escape the sadness of humans. I want to find the way out – to become liberated. I wished with all my heart to be free from all of life’s sufferings – birth, sickness, ageing and death, contact with what I don’t like, separation from what I do like, and the failure to fulfil all my wishes. I gradually developed an extremely stable and peaceful state of mind, spacious and free, wishing to be free from samsara.
I stayed with this wish for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings practice the three higher trainings, and become liberated and enlightened for the benefit of all.
Practice in the meditation break
I will try to bring the higher trainings into my daily life – pure moral discipline, pure concentration, and pure wisdom realising emptiness.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate and meditate on the strong belief that the happiness and freedom of others is equally important to our own happiness and freedom. This is the first step in developing cherishing love.
“Learning to cherish others is the best solution to our daily problems and it is the source of all our future happiness and good fortune.”
With this statement giving me a strong motivation, I considered that all living beings have been very kind to me in this life and in previous lives. I am deeply in their debt.
I considered that I am just one person, whereas others are countless: their freedom and happiness is much more important than mine alone.
With all this in mind I considered what would be the most sensible course of action. I owe alot to others, they are the same as me, and there are so many more of them. I reached the conclusion that if I am working hard to liberate myself from suffering, I cannot possibly leave them to suffer. They have been very kind to me, to allow me this precious opportunity – how can I abandon them now? It is my obligation to cherish them as much as myself, and help them as much as I help myself.
I reached the conclusion that I need to work for the happiness and freedom of all living beings as hard as I work for my own. I should cherish all other living beings as dearly as I cherish myself – we are equally important. I stayed with this thought, and slowly a feeling of being equal with others arose in my mind. I was not above them, at the peak of some mountain, with all others well below me in significance: we were all at the same level – all equal. I felt a firm feeling of equality, and debt owed to them: I felt them to be as important as I am. I stayed with this belief for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings come to view others as being their equals in the sense that their freedom and happiness are as important as everyone else’s, and through this belief may they quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will maintain the view that other’s freedom and happiness are as important as my own.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop the strong wish to attain liberation from the sufferings of samsara.
I began the meditation by thinking about the suffering of sickness. Normally we are in reasonable health and we do not think about illness at all. But from time to time we have a cold, the flu or something more serious, and we immediately have to endure many sufferings. We feel sick – an unpleasant pervading feeling of suffering. We may be vomiting, have diarrhoea, or sores and ugly disfigurements. We may have to endure long periods in hospital, away friends and family. We may have to eat food we do not like, take medicines which taste awful and make us feel even worse. Even the strongest person is helpless when they are sick. There are many sufferings to endure.
Slowly we recover but it is only a matter of time before we fall ill again. This cycle is repeated many times during our life.
As I meditated on these facts, it seemed to me that my body was an unclean, disease infested thing. It was incubating suffering which it unleashed every so often. It became clear that this body will always be the cause of the suffering of sickness. I understood that something that I normally view as a source of pleasure is actually a cause of suffering.
I developed a sincere wish to be freed from this cause of suffering, and attain liberation from it. I had a deep wish to rise up out of my diseased body and attain the pure freedom of liberation. I focused on this feeling of becoming free from this diseased body, and becoming free. It felt like I was shrugging off a filthy overcoat and rising up and away from it, to experience peace and purity. I stayed with this wish to shrug off the overcoat for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop the strong wish to attain liberation from samsara, and attain complete enlightenment.
Practice in the meditation break
I will take note of the suffering of sickness around me, and my own bodily aches and pains and encourage myself to keep a strong wish to seek liberation from samsara.
The purpose of this meditation is to enable us to attain permanent liberation from lower rebirth.
I began the meditation by remembering that the good conditions I have at the moment are only a temporary respite from the suffering I normally experience. My experience will change and it will get far worse as I take rebirth in lower realms. I want to be free from those rebirths. I want to only take rebirth in fortunate realms, free from overwhelming suffering.
I remembered that the way to achieve this is sincerely to go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
I focused on the knowledge that the only way to be free from lower rebirth is to take refuge in the Three Jewels. I generated a humble mind which sincerely went for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. I slowly attained a very calm smooth feeling, as if I had moved into calm peaceful waters after being tossed about on stormy waves. It seemed that there was a clear smooth path all the way to liberation – a smooth straight calm stretch of water amidst a stormy ocean.
I stayed on this feeling of being on a smooth calm expanse of water and being able to move swiftly and easily to liberation in the lee of the Three Jewels.
May all living beings turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for refuge, and attain liberation from lower rebirth, and ultimately may they attain Full Enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Practice in the meditation break
I will practice the twelve commitments of refuge, as given in Appendix V of The New Meditation Handbook.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop the sincere and spontaneous wish to abandon samsara and attain permanent liberation from suffering.
I began the meditation by thinking about the various sufferings we face as humans. The sufferings involved in birth, ageing, sickness and death. Also the sufferings of being parted from what we like, having to encounter what we do not like, and the failure to satisfy our wishes.
I thought specifically about the sufferings of birth – the pain of our body growing inside the womb; the crushing feeling as we get bigger, and the discomfort and pain of being born. Then the pain of being outside our protective womb, the harshness of the outside world. And also the fear and confusion of not understanding what is happening.
I looked at this as an example of all the sufferings I experience, and realised that all these sufferings have one cause – my human rebirth in samsara. The only way these sufferings will end is if I can break out of samsara, and attain liberation.
I pictured myself stepping out of samsara, and rising up and away from the Wheel of Life, to stand by Buddha on his cloud. I was completely free from all suffering, and looked down on the six realms of samsara laid out before me. It felt very peaceful and tranquil. I focused on this feeling and the recognition that I need to attain renunciation for samsara before this can happen.
May all living beings recognise the true cause of their suffering and develop renunciation for samsara, and attain enlightenment for the sake of all living beings.
Practice in the meditation break
I will try to make a note of my sufferings today, from gross physical and mental pain to subtle aches and itches. I will try to remember that these are just examples of the unbearable sufferings in other parts of samsara, and develop sincere and continuous renunciation for samsara.