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 16 1991
In the past I have introduced the meditation I want to do tonight. The reason I want to do it, because John brought up the subject of self and we do delegate meditative objects into two categories, those which deal with the relative level of truth, and those objects which deal with the ultimate level of truth.
Relative level of truth deals with the relative aspects of things such as the relative aspects of our mind. Our mind is captivated by attachment or controlled by anger, or very thick so we could say our mind is captivated by ignorance. These are relative objects because they are taking an aspect of our being and saying this aspect is there so we will apply something to it which will balance it or rectify a particular delusion we find prominent in our being. These are relative to the nature of ourself and in contrast to a particular aspect which we find we have, and we balance it.
On the ultimate level, there is the object of self. And what is the nature of self. Of course this is always a Buddhist theme, it is important that we gain a better realization of ourself, then we will better be able to integrate other principles. I line to think that they fit the very core of our being. It is easy to meditate and develop a sense of piety which has a strong self grasping or strong self cherishing about it. And yet we would be qualified as being pious or pure. But we are really not in harmony with the nature of reality around us. We are maybe even quite bigoted even, our something like that, but in a very nice way.
The point is, the delving into the nature of self is an important issue. Because if you have a correct understanding of your self nature, then you have a key to be able to utilize meditation in a way to go to the very root of the issue of your self or existence, and therefore they become more profound in their effect upon you. So in that regard, if we look at ourselves, or if we become more observant of ourself, we have two levels of being able to observe that on. WE have the physical level, our body, and then the mental emotional level which is within our mind. And by investigating either of these, we can come to some conclusion about ourself.
I don't want to go into philosophy, but, we have worked at concentrations which are trying to assist us to become a more balanced person or becoming a nicer person. That is the general intent of all of the meditations that we do, to bring out qualities within ourselves. Make ourselves better participants in the world around us.
For this evening, I would like to delve into the idea of ourself. And utilizing that in a context which is not too extreme for us to be able to grasp. It requires, for concentration, an object. And you place your mind upon it. The object is to be realized by what it entails or embodies. Let say we take the meditation of the Buddha in the space before us. If you reflect on the Buddha, you can have this body in from of me, it is male or female, seated in a certain posture and is enlightened. There is a simplistic understanding there. Then if you become more realized, you would understand that the enlightened being has different qualities or attributes we can refer to as the six perfections, morality, generosity, patience, enthusiasm, meditation and wisdom. There is suddenly more quality coming into that object. And it all depends on internal understanding for that object to reflect those qualities. So you object of focus becomes more endowed, and in many ways, you reap the benefits of that by becoming more realized in those areas. Or understanding, or close to those areas.
The definition of meditation is to become closer. To become more familiar with a particular object. So let's try to find or approach a meditation which has a concentration object which goes to the very root of the issue of existence and yet will have a quality. Like when you think of the Buddha, not just being this is the nature, abut, I am actually a participant in that, and therefore I as the participant can do something. We look at the Buddha and visualize these great qualities but then maybe feel a sense of awe and maybe a sense of faith and devotion come within our heart. These are some of the side effects of meditation on the Buddha that you would develop a clearer faith, a stable faith, a faith of these qualities.
If we talk of meditation which is going to the root of our existence, we can say the root of my existence, and the Buddhist term for that is interdependent, I am a fully interdependent entity. And then you can allow yourself to settle on that. That is one aspect of the nature of myself. But another facet is that I have mind which establishes life around me. And we delve into that when we talk of motivation. How you motivate yourself is how you are going to experience the day as the day goes by. Because, your motivation sets up your attitude, and your attitude establishes how things will be experienced. If your motivation is I am going to be unhappy and I have reasons why I can validate I'm unhappy, and I don't want to do anything about it, and that is why I am going to stay very miserable, and I am going to infect everyone around me with my misery, and you go around spitting poison at people, and in that way, if you are really into it, you can be very nasty. And make a lot of other people unhappy too!
That is where you have a negative attitude, negative motivation, and then you pursue it. You don't want to change it particularly until it seems justifiable that yes, I can now give up my negative attitude. It's easy. Motivation in mind establishes our experience. And, you can see that like in that example, the motivation will be carried through until it feels that the objective whatever it might be, making everyone else miserable is attained. And finally attaining it, will finally give up on it. Why is everyone so unhappy? I want to be happy now!
I"m serious. Sometimes you feel you have a bone to pick with someone, and you will really pick it, and now I'm free. Now they are carrying this bone, and they will want to pick it after awhile.
The point is, we have a meditation object which can have qualities or attributes or reflections as in reflecting something which imbues us or gives us something of a realization or support. With that being the context of the meditation we are going to do, the object we are going to utilize is body. And the body is the most wonderful thing. It functions in the most incredible way. The more you understand about your body, the more you can crack that shell of thinking of yourself as a very independent entity. There are many levels to approach this on. You can take a political issue such as a polluting factory and all the filth and garbage that spews out of it, and reflect and see that I am not independently separate from that pollution. If I am not, then I can become polluted. And thus you break the little shell that thinks unconsciously independent self existent. Nothing can affect me. I am very real, consciousness that we have. Well, suddenly you are hassling that with this knowledge. That is a bit negative, but it works if that is what you need to do to crack that shell about your own sense of independence.
A more immediate one is that you are in this room breathing the air, we are all communicating with each other, we breathe some of each others breath! Plus what all of whatever else is happening around us. It is real. So you can start to allow yourself to focus on your body, an aspect or particular part which is more powerful for you realizing you are an interdependent phenomena. And in that way you are generating consciousness and you can expand it by adding quality. There are the four elements. Are those independent or interdependent? Use the four elements in the body. The solid element would be the meat and bones. The fluid elements the look, and so on. All generated by my being a living organism. There is an incredible wealth of object for concentration there.
So use it. That is one facet of developing a wisdom concentration which will lead you easily towards the ultimate nature of reality which is that the phenomenal universe as not having an independent self existence. It is interdependent fully. They say you can put it further, the phenomenal universe is nothing but interdependence and my labelling process upon it. For example I label my watch and so on. But in another sense, on a time continuum, it is just my label because given enough time, it will turn into other things. Other than label and the fact that I can identify a certain function, it will tell me the time, there is only an interdependent abject which completely dissolves into interdependence with other objects in a multitude of ways. So I can dissolve watch into the universe totally and completely loose it as an object, other than the fact that I can label and identify it and recognize it's function.
You are developing wisdom when you reflect in this way upon whether it is the watch, or yourself. And I want to use yourself because it is a more immediate object. So reflect on yourself as an interdependent phenomena.
The second facet has to do with motivation and attitude. It is important not to have too grand an idea that you are going to be able accomplish much of anything in particularly in an altruistic vein which is part of the mahayana tradition. It is to not have too strong a grasping at your ability to help other sentient beings. If you do that, you can cause yourself problems because you are inadequate and therefore might become disheartened. So that would be an ineffective way to work on yourself, it would be counter productive. Rather, you want to say, alright, within the nature of myself is this mind which a very active creator of my experience. So I am going to take my mind and make it positive as in I am going to in an interdependent manner place my mind in a mode of being positive as in transforming things to a good perspective, to goodness.
Often I use the example of manure. You can compost anything. You can transform pollution into something which gives positive reflection and realization for you. If nothing else, it shows bad technology is in ruining the environment! But that is a realization, isn't it? And it is a positive realization which you could then do something about! You could do petitions! There are options. There are always positive things you can do with yourself.
I'm going into the branches of what I wanted to do but the main thing is, that you are sitting here, a fully interdependent phenomena. So in your meditation, allow yourself to participate fully and become conscious of that as an experience. And utilize your own realizations of the body, the warmth solidity, fluid motions within the body, the heat of the body. Utilize however you want to work with it. And develop a deeper appreciation or integration of that conscious experience of yourself as an interdependent phenomena.
To that add the facet that your mind is also fully interdependent. It have been created by interactions and relationships with others. And you right now are the product of all those things. You are not the product of anything other than that. Other than that is maybe your previous life. But that is also part of the essence of what you are. An interdependent mind phenomena. So not being too concerned of where you have come from, just add to yourself that flavor or spice of my mind is a transforming mind in the positive aspect. Then you can sit there tranquilly. It is a beautiful meditation because it does not require a lot of being emotional or saying I am not a good loving bodhisattva or such. Rather, you can dissolve a lot of your problems by allowing yourself to go into the experience of being an interdependent phenomena. And when you see you have a big problem, attachment, or clinging or whatever you have, you can realize that is there because the mind is interdependent with those objects. That is why it has this clinging. It needs. So you can dissolve that and say to that neediness that I have, that craving that I have, I am going to transform it. I am going to allow that not to have a negative effect, but transform it into a positive situation. The best thing you can do with delusions is to have empathy for other peoples delusions which are like that one, and realize how much they suffer.
There are a couple things happening there. One you are realizing that emotion is a suffering. Two, you are allowing that to be an avenue for you to experience empathy for others and therefore you are experiencing compassion. So you are covering yourself. You are realizing it is a delusion and is therefore creating suffering for myself. You are also utilizing it as a way to appreciate and understand other people because you can see lot's of attachment manifesting for everyone in the little things they say and the little ways they act. And finally, you are being able to use that to generate an emotion of compassion and love for others. And that might be unbelievable transforming on you to help you get over attachments. Because, attachments mean there is a neediness. But where you have love, there is no more neediness there. Your mind has moved into a place where there is fullness. So you might find there is a powerful way to overcome certain delusions.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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