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Presented by Jhampa Shaneman

These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.

APRIL 22, 1990
For this evening I would like to go back to the basics of your awareness, about what is trying to be cultivated within the spiritual practice. All of the various forms that you deal with in a spiritual practice, whether statues, ritual items, and such, all are symbols. If you were to talk about spirituality, how would you talk about it? It is something which is spiritual and therefore needs to be made into an observable form or something which can be worked with or else it is difficult to understand. Thus, when you do relate to the various statues, relate to them as being signs and symbols. Most importantly, they are a way to understand how to work with your mind, an avenue for your mind to express itself through. In that way when you have devotion, and pray and meditate and visualize the Buddha, or you have particular practices, whether practices on love and compassion or bodhicitta or renunciation, death and impermanence, whatever the technique you are utilizing, there are things which indicate or show that. In that way relate to the objects around you as being symbolic, a way to understand, an avenue for your spirituality to be expressed. If it is understood in that way, there is a good guarantee not to get caught up with the form and miss the actual meaning.
Also, when you are doing your practice, when you have various experiences either in meditation or dreams, it is not that you need to interpret them, but sometimes it is obvious what is happening in your dream. For example, maybe you meet with some spiritual Lama and receive teachings, or you participate in an initiation, or you get given holy water, all of that is symbolic for you having experiences and developing spiritually. That there is such a thing as holy water or not would be immaterial. Rather it is helpful for your mind to understand how your mind is moving and evolving. I think it is important to appreciate that the mind needs form to express itself and develop. And so when you do your practices, and as it develops, you can relate to those forms and then have some appreciation of what is happening.
Secondly, the most important thing is that in all of the forms, particularly for example in the tantras, when you get various deities, there is a direct relation of the deities image and an emotion or a realization in yourself. For example, open mindedness is always symbolized as nakedness in tantracism. There are different levels of tantra, but to say naked, is to be of an open nature, unafraid to show what or whom you are. Or the capacity to deal with situations. If your love and compassion are developed together with a fairly strong mind, an even keeled mind, a mind that has a meditative focus and such, then you have control and capacity to deal with negativity. So when you have negative things around you, like evil beings attacking you, there are two facets there. One is your kindness and compassion are one of the principle ways of overcoming it. Secondly, your awareness is a very important aspect.
So if you find yourself over whelmed with various negativity, or unable to control it or subdue negative images, it can have a couple of meanings. One is, that you lack awareness. And because of a lack of awareness, you allow yourself to get into a negative head space and allow anger, jealousy, or whatever emotion it is, to take a hold of you. That could manifest for example in a dream, as mixing with a group of negative people. And they are able to dictate what you have to do. I think in your practices, it is the way I have been teaching, so I think that you will find that your dreams will be able to interpreted that way because that is the way I have talked about them for the last four or five years.
Psychologists have a joke. When you get into Jungian analysis you will have Jungian dreams. When you get into Freudian analysis, you will have Freudian dreams. So you are into Buddhism so you will have Buddhist dreams!
Awareness, just be aware of what is happening with you. For example when you start to get angry, if suddenly you recognize "I am getting a little pissed off right now!, this situation is making me hostile:... if you have the awareness to catch it, maybe you might still ventilate a bit and actually act out some of your anger. If you are able to catch it and say I am getting a little angry right now, that is awareness. You are aware of what is happening to your emotions. If instead you start to get involved in a situation and act it out and then realize you are angry, that means you didn't have awareness. Proportionately that night you might dream of being tied to a horse and cart and being whipped down the road because you have no control. You are driven by your emotions and you are carrying a heavy load.
What is being touched on is, how ever you experience the experiences you have, they are related back to you and what is happening to you consciously. And that is what meditation is about. It is to try to develop conscious awareness. Secondly, there is the facet of your spirituality tied with a awareness which is the positive qualities you generate such as consideration, kindness and such.
So again, lets say you are getting involved with an angry situation that could bring on hostility, but in that you reflect upon that everyone deserves their own point of view. Rather than just being aware now, you are actually being able to generate some thoughts of kindness or compassion or consideration. Then let's say you are with someone and they are very unhappy and starting to get very hostile, you could move into a very compassionate mode just by thinking that they have a lot of suffering and allow them the opportunity to ventilate. And although they might be saying hurtful things to you, if you have a deeper appreciation of the emotions and the need of people to express such things when they are more immature, then you allow that to happen. So you understand. That is a higher or a deeper phase of your conscious experience. And that can then manifest in dreams as you being more capable of controlling negative characters.
Lets say the first one, a case of awareness, you might find that you can actually lock and shut all the door and windows in the house that you are and negativity cannot enter because you are aware enough to shut down the doors of your senses. Or you might find that something negative has got in the house and you don't like it. If your compassion is great enough, you might find that you can walk up to it, pick it up, and throw it out of the window.
All of those experiences relate to your consciousness and how it works with the situation you are involved with. Try to be more conscious of that. I am not sure how conscious you are in your dreams, for example, when you have dreams, I mean don't become totally engrossed in your dreams, but reflect on it. Ask how is my attitude?
Like I had a very unpleasant dream last night being around people I don't really like. Well then, think about your attitude the day before and try to adjust to your attitude. Not think of the negativity as external, but rather relate to it as an internal thing. As an internal experience you are having and you are not dealing with it well. You are not really generating the compassion that you would like to generate. You are not really generating the understanding or the awareness of what is happening to you emotionally in each moment.
In this way if you do this, you will find that your practice has a lot more life in it. It is an avenue or a way to get more life into your practice, to be more aware of what you with yourself. How is your day to day conscious attitude and such. And to have some indicators from your dreams is a nice easy way to do it because we dream every night. Every night we sleep, we all enjoy sleeping.
That is what I wanted to talk about this evening. It will tie in strongly with your tantric practice at a later date. And so it is always worthwhile to try to give you little keys to understand your practice better. So the principle key is really your mind is the whole focus of the practice. And you mind's awareness is one facet of it, and then you can say that your mind's compassion and consideration is the other major facet. Those two facets, the more you are conscious of developing them, and work with them, and developing them authentically. Compassion for example, feeling your own emotions of pain and frustration and whatever, and then when you are dealing with others and they are expressing difficulty, you have real compassion, it is not artificial in any way.
In this way those facets of awareness and compassion are really important. And in all levels of practice, they are very intricately connected with signs and images or whatever else is going on in your life.
The meditation for this evening is quite simple. It is just conscious awareness. Awareness has two facets. One is that just as you sit there and are aware, you will distract yourself into a series of thoughts and think about the garden or someone you want to meet or whatever it is that you are going to be doing, and then you remember I am meditating, so you try to come back and meditate a bit. That is one type of awareness. Another type that is related is when you are actually focused on yourself, is awareness of your tone of the type of feelings that you have at that moment. And maybe trying to clear them up a bit, or put them in order and try to end up with an attitude or feeling which is more in harmony with your ideals. That would refer to having a more open and compassionate mind, a considerate mind. A mind with which of course has the quality of awareness. So for your meditation mostly, just allow yourself to relax and to meditate. To be with yourself. Within that investigate your own consciousness, and your own awareness. The state of awareness that you have at that moment.

Copyright 1994  Daka's Buddhist Consulting  All Rights Reserved