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The purpose of this meditation was to generate a perfect intention throughout all my actions.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then thought about all the suffering in the world. Every day on the internet and in my own life I see how people and animals are suffering. These are not disconnected entities – they Buddhaare my kind mothers, who have been so kind to me in the past and still facilitate my life today. I thought about how I wish them to be free from their suffering, and how I wish that they could find permanent happiness.

How can I achieve this? I can achieve this by becoming a Buddha with omniscient wisdom – a being that can know and help every single living being constantly. I willed myself to become such a being.

After a while I thought about what this means in my daily life. I need to mix all my actions with the six perfections. This will by my life from now until I attain enlightenment. I must maintain a perfect intention to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others throughout all my actions. I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings be freed from their suffering quickly and without delay.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will think about all my actions in terms of my motivation.

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.

34937_482026429656_272366049656_6321962_866469_nLiving 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.

Dedication

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 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 generate the wish to act in a virtuous manner because we recognise that it is our natural way.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then I called to mind the instructions on meditating on karma from Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

A particular phrase seemed to stand out for me this morning as I read through the section of the book. Geshe-la says that the relationship between our actions and their effects is ‘definite’. In my contemplation, I focused on this idea of the definite relationship between our actions and our experiences. If we perform virtuous actions, we will definitely experience positive results. If we perform negative actions, we will definitely experience suffering.

As I thought about this, I wondered why, given that no-one wants even the slightest suffering, that we don’t always act in virtuous ways. The answer, it seemed to me, was that the definite link between actions and their effects is not always clear to us, and our minds are clouded by delusions which distort our attitudes, and make us think that non-virtuous actions are beneficial in some way.

boilingkettle2When we pick up a kettle that has just boiled, we pick it up by the handle. Why? Because it is obvious that we would burn ourselves if we picked it up without using the handle. It seems very natural to pick up the kettle by the handle – we do it almost without any thinking at all. We understand the suffering we would experience if we did not use the handle at such a fundamental level that it is very natural to use the handle and avoid suffering.

I thought that if we had such an understanding of the definite relationship between our negative actions and suffering, that we would act in a virtuous way simply and naturally, because it was obviously the way to avoid suffering. It would not even occur to us to act in non-virtuous ways.

I focused on this idea of acting naturally and virtuously, and a feeling arose of all my actions naturally becoming virtuous, because I naturally and effortlessly wanted to avoid suffering!

I was filled with a feeling of lightness and purity – all my actions of body, speech and mind were pure and the cause of happiness. I focused on this for the rest of my short time in meditation.

Dedication

May all beings see the definite relationship between actions and their effects, and naturally act in virtuous ways in order to avoid suffering and attain enlightenment quickly for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remember that to act virtuously is to act in the most natural way possible.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate strong fear of the sufferings of hell.

It is very important to understand what we are doing with this meditation, or else it will become a problem for us.

In this meditation, we strongly believe that we are bound to experience severe mental and physical pain in our next life. We try to understand this with all our heart. The purpose is to develop fear. We need to really, really fear this suffering. In order to develop strong fear, we need to really believe that this suffering will be horrible and it will definitely come to us.

Why do we need to do this?

We need to do this because unless we have this strong fear, we will not develop a strong wish to abandon the causes of this suffering, and we will have to endure it for real. At the moment, we have the opportunity to purify the negative karma that will cause this suffering, but unless we are fearful of experiencing this suffering, we will waste our lives in meaningless activities, and never get around to purifying our karma.

When we do this meditation, we need to understand that there is a way to avoid this suffering, but that unless we do something, this suffering will definitely come.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation.

black stairsI then thought about stepping into my next life. It was a corridor of black stone, leading to a flight of black stairs descending into acid. There was nowhere else to go, and I was impelled to walk slowly down the stairs and enter the acid. I felt it burn my feet, then my legs and so on, until I was completely submerged. I tried to imagine my whole body on fire with pain. As I went beneath the surface, a grille was thrown over the acid, preventing me from surfacing to take a breath. As I choked, the acid entered my throat, lungs and stomach, burning me from the inside. It also entered my other orifices, and burned me within. I felt it eating away at my body as I drowned in it, and also became aware of the soft sludge beneath my feet. These were the remains of my previous bodies: this is not the first time I have experienced this suffering.

I kept my mind focused on this experience, and the conviction that this will definitely happen to me (with the thought in the back of my mind ‘unless I purify my negativities and stop committing negative actions).

It was a most uncomfortable experience, but I will be able to use it to great effect later.

Dedication

May all living beings see that unless they stop committing negative actions and purify their negativity, they will definitely experience the sufferings of the lower realms.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remain mindful of the inevitability of suffering in samsara, and keep Bodhichitta as my motivation in all my actions.

The purpose of this meditation is to develop strong compassion for hell beings, and to develop the strong wish never to be born in hell.

I began by making the appropriate preparations and then thought about the worst of the realms – the hell realms. Of the six realms of samsara, the hell realms contain what appears to the most negative and deluded minds. The hell realms are traditionally described as comprising scorching hot iron floors and walls of fire, and populated by horrific demons who sufferingtorture and kill those unfortunate enough to be born there. There are different specific tortures endured by hell beings, including being forced to fight and kill each other with weapons which spontaneously appear. As they are mutilated, their limbs fall to the ground and experience searing pain as they burn on the iron ground. Finally the hell beings expire, but then voices command them to revive, and fight again.

This presentation can be taken literally, in which case it is extremely powerful. For those who are not able to accept the existence of actual hells, the description can be seen as analogous to serious mental illness. The description fits someone whose paranoid view of the world and others leads them to experience pain and suffering constantly, and to see each interaction with others as a painful, wounding experience. Eventually it is bedtime, but their suffering begins once more in the morning.

I thought about what it must be like to find oneself in such a situation. There is constant pain. Everyone we encounter is hostile and wishes to harm us. Every contact leaves us wounded and in terrible pain. Finally it is too much, but instead of ending, the whole cycle begins anew. I thought again and again about how awful it would be to experience this, and I developed a deep compassion for those poor, poor beings experiencing such suffering. I also developed the sincere wish to avoid such suffering at all costs. I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all beings experiencing hell be released from their suffering quickly, and may they find they have purified the karma preventing them completing their spiritual path to enlightenment.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remember the suffering of hell beings, and maintain the wish to avoid becoming a hell being.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong wish to control our mind because an uncontrolled mind is the cause of experiencing hell.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation and then thinking about gaining the conviction that hell really does exist.

Hell is an unpopular concept in the West. Our ‘sophisticated understanding’ of the world has led to hell being viewed as an arcane and superstitious belief.

But we do say things like ‘Oh, it was hell’, or ‘I have been to hell and back’ when we talk about particularly difficult or unpleasant experiences. In this sense, we understand hell very well. Hell is particularly unpleasant experience. If we understand that our experiences come from our mind, then we can see that we have the potential to experience hell in our mind all the time.

The world we experience depends upon our karma – as our karma ripens, we perceive different forms and experiences. Negative karma manifests in very negative experiences, which, in their worst forms, we could call hell.

Sometimes in dreams we experience lands of flames and great fear, where no matter where we try to run or hide, there is no safety. If we never woke up, we would experience hell continuously.

If we have a particularly horrible experience as a waking human – perhaps we have our passport taken from us and we are trafficked to a foreign land where everyone talks a different language, and where we are made to have sex with many people or be beaten – then we experience hell.

But no matter how real these experiences seem, they are deceptive. They do not exist from their own side, but are appearances which cause us suffering because we assent to their reality.

They arise from an uncontrolled mind.

headacheIf we can control our mind, we can control our experience of the world, and transform it from a hell realm into a pure land. This may seem far fetched, but only because we have not yet realised the depth of the relationship between our mind and our world.

I focused on the idea that hell arises from an uncontrolled mind. I identified this as the cause of hell, and focused on that thought for a while.

I then asked myself what I am going to do about it.

If hell arises from an uncontrolled mind, then I need to be able to control my mind as quickly as possible, because while my mind is uncontrolled, it may well throw me into hell before I have the chance to become prepared.

I imagined having a completely controlled mind – where no thoughts arose except the ones which I wanted. It was like a massive pure motionless ocean, where there was no movement. Only the thoughts that I wanted arose, but did not disturb my ocean-like mind in the same way that uncontrolled thoughts would. It was completely calm and clear, settled and still. I focused on this thought, knowing that it will protect me from hell. I remained focused on this thought for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings be able to control their minds, and either deal with hell when it arises, or purify their minds to such an extent that it cannot appear to them at all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remember that all phenomena are mere appearances to mind, and that they come from my mine, which is the nature of emptiness.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong wish to practice Dharma all day, every day.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and then brought back the conclusions from my previous meditations on death. Firstly, that I will definitely die. I imagined everyone around me will die, and then I focused on the fact that I, too will die. Once again I remembered that all the trappings of this life will leave me, and that they were never really ‘mine’ in the first place. I felt liberated.

I then thought about the fact that I have no idea when I will die – could be tomorrow, could be today. People are dying from completely unexpected causes every day.

all dayThis brought me to my third point of contemplation – what happens after I die? Death is not obliteration. If the world and myself were inherently existent and separate entities (as they appear to be, superficially) then death would certainly be the complete end of everything. But the world and myself do not actually exist in this way. In fact, the world and myself are mere appearances to consciousness. All my experiences are like projections which I mistakenly believe are real and separate from my consciousness. Death is simply another appearance, and following death more appearances will follow.

What causes these appearances? Karmic potentialities within my mind which ripen moment by moment, cause these appearances. Positive karmic seeds cause pleasant appearances, and negative karmic seeds cause unpleasant experiences. When I die I will be at the mercy of these appearances.

I asked myself what I am going to do about this?

The answer is that I need to use my current opportunity to purify as much of my negative karma as possible, and I need to generate as much positive karma as possible. Ideally, I need to attain liberation and enlightenment before I die. To do all these things, I need to practice Dharma. I need to practice Dharma now, purely, and constantly. I need to practice Dharma all day, every day.

This was a good firm conclusion, and I focused on it for the rest of the meditation. When my mind became distracted, I brought my attention back to the object by quickly reviewing the contemplation, and once I had re-established the object, I focused on it once more. I felt at first like I would have an extra ‘layer’ of spiritual activity on top of my daily activities, but this slowly became and understanding that my spiritual activities and my worldly activities should not be thought of as being separate. The worldly activities should be transformed into spiritual activities by having the motivation of Bodhichitta and the appreciation of the emptiness of all phenomena.

Dedication

May all living beings use their lives to attain liberation and enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to sustain this wish to transform all my worldly activities into the spiritual path, all day, every day.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate a very strong feeling of abandoning samsara as a source of happiness, and then to consider what this means in light of Bodhichitta – the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit of all.

I settled down on my cushion and started by thinking about how there is no happiness to be found in samsara, and how only Dharma can free me. I made the promise to myself that I would meditate on renunciation with all my effort. With that, I began.

I brought my mind into my body, then into my heart, and found my Guru at the very centre of my heart. I mixed my mind with his, and and floated in this clear space for a while.

I then thought about this life we have. Our life is full of pain and dissatisfaction. We suffer as we are born. We suffer because we age. We suffer because we get ill. And we suffer because of our death. I mulled over these sufferings for a while. I also thought about the ways in which life is unsatisfactory. We cannot avoid meeting situations we would rather avoid. We are constantly trying to attain situations we desire, and we repeatedly fail to fulfil our wishes.

There is no happiness in this swamp of samsara – I shall stop looking. There is no true happiness to be found. I thought about all the faults of samsara, and made the determination that I will stop looking for happiness here – there is none to be found. I felt like I was completely changing my direction away from samsara and towards the spiritual path. I felt filled with this abandonment of samsara, and focused on it for a while.

After that thought about Bodhichitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all. Of course, the two are fundamental parts of the path. Renunciation leads to personal liberation from samsara, and Bodhichitta leads to Buddhahood so that we can benefit all other living beings. Like I have many times before, I saw the flow of the Lamrim, and how each stage leads to the next, until the final enlightenment is reached. With a feeling of wholeness, I returned to my intention to stop looking for happiness in Samsara.

Dedication

May all living beings develop renunciation for the swamp of samsara, and look to the firm ground of liberation and enlightenment.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will stop looking for happiness in samsara. There is none.

 

The purpose of this meditation is to develop a very strong wish to turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as the sources of protection and refuge from samsara’s sufferings, and then to see what this means in light of Bodhichitta.

I began by thinking about the meditation from yesterday, and all the other sufferings of samsara. I then quickly thought about where protection can be found – in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. I made the commitment to put great effort into this meditation today, so that it would take me closer to gaining the protection I need.

With that thought, I did some breathing meditation, relaxing my body and bringing my mind into my heart. I concentrated on a feeling of clarity, and that my mind was mixing with my Spiritual Guide’s clarity. It felt completely calm and clear, settled and still. I stayed with this stillness for a while.

I then moved on to the main meditation. I rekindled my meditation of yesterday, where I imagined a future life where I was similar to an animal being experimented on in some laboratory. I was experiencing great confusion, pain and fear. There was no help and no respite. Continual suffering. I looked at this for a while and developed sincere dread, because this will definitely happen to me.

I then mentally rewound time, like on a DVD, coming back to today, and this life. My actions now will decide if I end up in that laboratory. I know what I need to do – I need to turn to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for protection against such a future.

I looked to Buddha, and recognised that I am like a sick man, plagued with the disease of delusions. Buddha is the supreme physician, who knows my disease and knows exactly how to cure me. His Dharma is the medicine for my sickness, and if I turn to him, I can learn and take this medicine. The Sangha are the spiritual community who can help me understand the medicine, and give me practical help. I resolved to turn to the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to protect me from the suffering that will definitely happen.

I focused on these thoughts, and it felt like the waves of my faith were washing me into the arms of Buddha. My weak and pathetic body and mind were bourne into his arms, which supported me and protected me from the sufferings of the ocean of samsara. I concentrated on the feeling of being in the arms of Buddha, and being protected by his wisdom and compassion. I focused on this for a long while. It was humbling.

I then turned my thoughts to what this means in terms of Bodhichitta – the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit of all.

I turn to Buddha for protection. What am I doing while in his protection? I am learning to protect myself from suffering – this is the process of becoming a Buddha myself. I turn to Buddha for refuge, and my aim is to become an object of refuge myself. I thought about how wonderful this is, and then returned to the feeling of being protected from suffering by my strong faith and refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Dedication

May all living beings turn to the Three Jewels for protection from samsara’s suffering, and may they become objects of refuge quickly, for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will imagine myself in the protection of Buddha, constantly taking the medicine of Dharma, and being helped by my Sangha.

Modern Buddhism

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