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.
December 11 1990 Nanaimo
We are on the theme of concentration and the benefits of developing better concentration. I would like to take a step back and move into a better understanding of that. In the Buddhist concept of how one is a practitioner, if one is quite astute, there is a terrific openness of free licence for the activities that can be used. So you can look at it as what is termed method and wisdom. On the side of method you can say is love and compassion. That is the essence of it, is activities involving others and the activity should be motivated or have some aspect of love or compassion.
The definitions of those are desire to give happiness or the desire to take away suffering. They are sort of the same thing, but there is a different intent in each one. That one is to give, and the other is to take away to be able to bestow happiness. Essentially that is the idea in method. To give happiness and take suffering away. To bestow love on others and to cultivate compassion which is also an active activity.
In that then, there is incredible freedom of licence in the sense of when you look at all the people that are around you, whatever activity fulfills or qualifies in those areas, are automatically part of your practice. So it is not like you have to have a rigid set of dogma. It is basically your creativity and the needs which are around you which you are able to be sensitive to and perceive, are what motivates you. And that can be quite inspiring if you want to have a very live practice, a practice which is giving you a lot of freedom of expression. That is the side of method.
On the side of wisdom you have of course mundane wisdom which is knowing how to practice well your love and compassion. So rather than just being a person who continuously is all mushy, you develop wisdom for your love. So you understand how to be patient with others. And when you are dealing with a difficult person, then you have the patience to wait for their personality to settle enough that you can work with them and be effective for them. Same thing with compassion. When you are trying to help someone who is suffering, maybe your compassion first is quiet and silent. And then after some time have an opportunity to help them and assist them. These are termed mundane or relative wisdom because they are wisdom which benefit the person in the immediate moment and in the immediate lifetime.
If you want to develop a more profound wisdom, then that is what is termed the ultimate wisdom, having an ultimate understanding of the ultimate nature of reality. That goes beyond the context of what we term mundane manifestation of love and and compassion like when you are kind to some one, that is a relative activity. If you have a deeper or profound mind, then it can become an ultimate activity too, or an activity which reflects ultimate understanding. What does it mean when we say the ultimate nature of reality? You can look for it to be reflected in the outside world but the best place to look for wisdom is in your own mind.
Again if we look at the freedom of licence for the practice, the practice is you. And it is not something external to yourself. And that is quite a wonderful thing. If you are inspired to be a practitioner, then it is not like a dedication to a church or something which is external to yourself. If you do those sorts of activities they are qualified as being part of your love and compassion but they are not a necessity, so to speak have the faith. On the side of your wisdom, the same as with method, it is referring to yourself. In that regards, you are looking to try to help others, so it is still the activity of love and compassion. In seeing needs for that person, you have relative wisdom understanding how to beneficially work with them, not just immediately giving them everything they want and then thinking that is wonderful love and compassion. Sometimes that is more detrimental. So having wisdom is knowing how to help people in a relative way.
Ultimate wisdom can be appreciated through seeing reality around you as it reflects back to you. Or back to your own mind. But more profoundly and more immediately is the observation of your own consciousness. By that is meant that you do not have to look external for the development of wisdom. Rather, you allow yourself to settle and in settling you will observe the mind. In observing the mind you will become aware of how consciousness is, how consciousness manifests itself and such. And as that grows, as you start to observe it, then you become more knowledgeable about yourself. It is a process which is merely observation with awareness focusing of what is reality. And what is real about me. So really it delves into the ultimate question of what is the self? And what is the nature of myself? So it goes to very profound levels.
You have terrific freedom of licence externally with how you want to manifest your love and compassion, and also you have terrific freedom to be able to observe yourself, to go into yourself, and the criteria for the observation is merely allowing yourself the tranquillity to be able to observe your very own mind as it manifests in each moment.
Coming to that point then, what is necessary to be able to gain wisdom? Specifically, ultimate wisdom? To gain that you need a tranquillity. That is the major function. If you have a very speedy mind, or a mind that does not experience tranquillity and peace, then although you might have some small insights, there is no place for them to be settled. The mind skips over them very fast. And what is termed as a realization is not generated. It is too fleeting! So you get an experience but because the the mind is very fleeting, then you say, O that is interesting!, and then your mind goes to on the next subject. The effect of your realization is very minimal and therefore does not change you to a deeper position of realization.
So we need tranquillity. Tranquillity is not that you lie on your back and let everything go dead. It has to be that you allow your mind to become tranquil. In that the focus is mind itself. And the ability that you try to develop is a state of consciousness which is opened and not clinging to any particular thought pattern that comes up. The mind that we have is the ultimate creator of our existence. The teachings of Buddhism points to where does all the phenomena come from? Where does all that we perceive, all the enemies come from, where do the friends come from? Even to where do the burning grounds of hell come from? The texts literally says it all comes from the mind. From the very mind itself all is created.
In that it is important to identify that my mind is the most crucial factor for how I experience things. How people are perceived are created from my mind's side. Not from an external side. As example, when there is something that you do not understand and perceive as a possible threat. Take a subject like aids. Without any understanding, all we know is if someone has aids, they are contagious. And if I get it I can die. There is no cure. There is some very heavy information there. And then lets say suddenly someone we know says I have aids. immediately we have a lot of fear, apprehension and so we like to avoid them. If you work with the small knowledge you have, then maybe you would have a similar response. So mind creates immediately there is enemy, as in threat. And I want to avoid that. If you then gained more knowledge, that maybe aids can on be transmitted sexually or via blood products, suddenly you realize I don't need to worry! All of a sudden you drop all of your fears and see the person as someone you could be friendly toward. You could find them warm, a very real person and start to like them! They are so refreshing because they are immediate in their responses. And suddenly you have a friend.
It is your mind that has made the difference. It started off having fear and then aversion, and then once you gained a little knowledge and maybe some confidence, and actually your mind had the confidence to pursue the issue a bit, all of a sudden your mind is friendly and actually supportive. The point is mind creates our reality. In that sense you have to say alright, mind creates reality and you can draw from the texts of Buddhism where it is said that the ultimate source of reality is from our stream of consciousness, for our experiencing self.
In that way looking at your own mind is the source of finding out where things are really happening, how things are really created and such. So with that as an interest, as a stimulating point into the practice, then all we have to do is to set ourselves down, become peaceful and observe the mind. That is the whole practice. There is no wonderful special extra unique technique. All the teachings are around that. All the teachings on tranquillity and such are not some different perspective or something that is artificial to yourself. It is merely the very observation of consciousness as it manifests. And within that the only qualifier is that your mind has to settle very deeply to observe properly. To have a superficial five minute sit down and think that might give you some experience and realization is not really suitable. You need to have a cultivation on a deeper level of tranquillity, stability, awareness. And then as mind manifests itself in different mind states, such as aversion to someone with aids, or then finding then having a sense of support. All those mind states can be observed and seen how they formulate. What is the basis they come from? How do they manifest themselves? How do they formulate to end up with an actual perspective?
All it requires is the observation of the mind to see how they function. In that it is said, you will find the ultimate nature of reality. In the opening parts of the Heruka sadhana it gives a definition of Heruka, he is the realization of the ultimate nature of reality by just observing the mind itself. The meaning is that, in all Buddhism there is that. That just the recognition of the mind can be the realization of the ultimate nature of reality.
We are going to go more into the teachings of tranquillity. But in doing that the point of it is that there are the presentation of the ideas of self. What is reality? The self? In Buddhism there is the recognition of four different types of philosophical tenets. And they are fairly philosophically beaten out and clear. But essentially they came from people who had particular styles of realizations and felt this was the way that the self or reality was to be understood. This means that there is no one answer for any one of you. It means when you sit down and observe your mind, as you work at the observation, then you will go through different phases of saying that this is how the self seems to appear to me at this time. And then as you allow yourself to be tranquil, you might find less faults. It is not actually quite the way it is. And then you alter and adjust. Well that very process is the development of wisdom. It is the development of experience.
What makes it powerful is the ability, when you allow yourself to settle, and a particular aspect of your mind becomes fairly clear to you, that you are able to allow that to remain or abide for sometime so you become more familiar with the experience. And then you say, as my mind manifests, I understand aspects of mind. And therefore they do not fool me any more into believing that this particular way I am or thought I was, pass.
The real point of realization is observation which generates experience and from there the ability to allow that to be held in consciousness. And again as I say, always checked, always assessed and such. When you move to the ultimate point of realization, they say the mind takes no position at all. Obviously there is a long way to go if we think we have it all worked out now! Actually in Buddhist philosophy the ultimate position is no position. Which means then that it has got to be thought about for awhile.
Anyway, I would like you to think about it when we go into the meditation. Principally we are working on tranquillity. It has the qualities of being open like space, stable like a mountain, deep like the ocean, the analogies which are always used. But in allowing yourself to work into those, as I say you can think about it, like what is being asked of me in the form of activities? External method activities. Just to try to realize a more compassionate or loving relationship with the world around you. And do it as you feel is best suitable for you. Some are much more physical. When someone is suffering they can put their arms around them and care for them. Others cannot do that. It is not the way that they are. So it would be artificial to do that. Rather, maybe it is just being with them and allowing them to talk and stimulate them that way. There is no right or wrong way. The main thing is your relationship with the world should be qualified with love, the desire to give happiness, or compassion, the desire to relieve suffering.
From there you could say, if I help someone now go through a bad experience, does that really help them? It helps them immediately, but it does not bring ultimate help. It is debatable because they are still confused about things. They still have trouble, trauma ahead. So obviously there is a need for being a little more profound. Well initially we should realize our own mind before we think we could possibly help someone on that level. So therefore there is need for personal realization. This requires only the development of tranquillity, calm abiding, and then the observation and realizations that arise from that. So I am going to leave you to observe and discover your own minds.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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