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.
Jan 14, 1990
Following on the talk of last week, again the emphasis is on the meditation and particular technique. It is important that there are good solid ideas which go with your meditations.
I'll talk of suffering which is one of the more chronic things which bothers us. When we have suffering or feel miserable, depression can set in. It is something which is not unique to each one of us. When you are depressed, it is hard to see the benefit of the Buddha outside, or anything outside. Our depression consumes us. We get very introverted. When I was in India, to even think of going down to the temple or to go and stand in front of a Buddha statue was really sort of meaningless and almost more depressing. In some ways it was depressing to walk into a temple when one was depressed already. I mean, here it was, your not making the grade and here you go in this temple. Not much solace and that is my experience.
The point is, how can you effectively deal with depression, unhappiness and suffering in an effective way for yourselves? You could spend some time doing things which get you out of it. If you just introvert and become lethargic and apathetic, it just turns into a big puddle of emotional mush. That doesn't help sometimes. It is good to do something. So whether you go and become involved in some group doing volunteer work, those things are beneficial for helping one get out of depression. They talk you out of yourself. That is one way to do it. Or doing spiritual practice, prostrations, and such. They are beneficial. It is not so common here but circumambulating holy sites is very common in India. And just walking that way, sometimes one walks through the problems. Those are manifest or active ways of dealing with depression.
But when you just deal with the exact emotions and feelings which are in yourself, it is hard to make your mind go outside itself. Because it is miserable. You don't feel good. You don't feel happy. All you want to do is maybe crawl into a hole and be alone. And sort of ...everybody get off my back. I don't want anybody around me. I am unable to deal with the world right now. That is what depression and suffering in the stronger sense is.
The technique we have been working on works well for that. But you have to get it on an organic level to have it be able to work for you. And by that I mean, the technique of working and trying to develop bodhicitta, compassion. Last week I spoke of having that bit of magic in your vision of what it is to have love. The love in your heart. That it has some magic to go out and you should visualize it going out with your breath. And it sort of magically helps people that need to be helped.
You have to come back to your organic self. You have to get in touch with your breath as you sit there and meditate.Just an awareness of breathing and the rise and fall of the abdomen. To allow your mind to expand and appreciate that there is magic going on in you at that level where the air comes into your body, absorbs into the blood. Allow yourself to get into the full meaning of it. The whole blood system has this immune system in it, the thing that is working to keep you alive. The magic of the body is incredible! It's capacity to handle cuts and infection, it is always healing the body. It is natural. It is the body's nature to heal.
As you sit there and breathe, allow your mind as you relax, and it's just an awareness, to be conscious of the incredible magic of your body. So as you sit there you have an awareness which becomes really close to the nature of who you are as an organic being within this very organic universe we are part of.
This has different levels of benefit. You are being aware of your breath and that helps you relax. Breathing awareness calms the mind down. On a deeper level, it is an object for concentration, it doesn't require a lot of thinking, just keeps you focused very well. It also helps you realize that you are actually totally part of the world around you and this helps dissolve the sense of independent self existence that we have, that sense of being some sort of fixed entity that makes a lot of trouble. By realizing that we are part of the world and that we are continuously taking in the air, we are part of the world in that way.
It is not like we are part of the world because I made a decision. We are part of the world because every pore in our body is breathing this world. Let yourself realize that. Then you can be a little more philosophical and say, "If I put myself in a room with bad air, or I don't eat good quality food, it will make me sick." Same thing. Philosophically I could say if I let my mind get into negative thoughts and such, it is going to make me a little more negative and such so I should try to think positive thoughts.
It is just organic. It is nothing special and unique, or religious dogma or something like that, it is just nature. The nature of the world around me. I need to have the clean air, food and water to live a healthy physical life. Same thing with my mind. All you are doing is breathing. But you are developing a real what you could call roots, philosophy.
Now, we move into the side of bodhicitta. If you do that well, you should try to move into that altruism which is saying my love that I feel, or the good feelings that I have, you should base them on an initial step which says, just I want happiness, everyone wants happiness. The flea in front of me wants happiness. And even though I might not like fleas, I have to respect the flea that says that it wants happiness.
You let yourself move into that, and that gives a very real foundation for love. Because as soon as you can look at something and realize that it wants happiness, you can relate to the emotion of what it means to be happy. So a flea's happiness is doing what it can do. At least you can say that flea wants happiness. And you know what happiness means. It means joy, it means fulfillment. And then when you look at others you can have a sense of their wanting happiness. So you have a real basis of equanimity. Of empathy. And empathy brings love very naturally. It is just a sense of that we are all in this world together. From there on you can generate a very natural love because you are related.
That was the first step in evolving that meditation technique. Just awareness of one's body being part of the universe. And then allowing ones mind to become aware that one is part of the universe. One's personality is part of the world. And we are all equal in the world together and therefore allow some love. And then to allow yourself to move into that altruistic position which is saying just as I want happiness and try to make my happiness come together, that I try to buy the right foods, try to be with the right people, why can't I do that for other people too! Why should I just focus on me alone? Me is just like every other person. The desires I have are like other people, they have desires. So I should help try to fulfill their desires and happiness.
The best way is to try to give them higher realizations. Spiritual realizations are the ultimate help. Like helping them realize their own enlightened nature and such. But on a mundane level we can do other things like giving kind words, being generous in whatever way is necessary. So you have different levels of being altruistic.
That is the evolution of the technique that we have been working on. Last week we got to being able to allow yourself to believe that you have magic. And that magic is your love and compassion. Love is the wish to give happiness to others. Compassion is the wish to release them from suffering. Those two movements, just to allow the air you breathe out to have that sort of magic that does that. And you let your mind live or experience that. And so now you can see if you come back to it, if you have really got more in touch with your body and your own realizations of how the body and the world are interacting, you can have faith in that. If you know something it is reality. You don't doubt it. And soon as you know it as reality then you can have faith in it.
With that mind then you can say, although I am absolutely miserable right now, although I would love to die or crawl into a hole and be alone, if I can generate, even if I could have the idea that love and compassion is beneficial, that is like the white corpuscles of our blood. You mind has to move from having knowledge and faith in what the body does in healing itself. Then automatically you can allow yourself to be miserable but you can allow yourself to know that love and compassion, goodness, does bless and benefit things.
So when you are sitting there and you are miserable, if you sit and have a meditation session when you are miserable, then you can say, hey, right now I have no control over my mind. I am full of delusion. That is why I am suffering. Because I have a lot of problems. I have got a lot of delusions. Delusions and suffering are directly related. If you have delusions, you have suffering. So I have delusions right now. The general sense of myself is miserable. But I know something. I know that just as my body works to combat illness, I can know that my love and compassion can change the situation. So you just let yourself breathe with the knowledge that a positive vision of the world, that the goodness that I know and believe, and love and the compassion, all of whatever I qualify as being altruistic and spiritual things, is really naturally healing me also.
And so you don't have to do anything other than allow yourself to breathe. But you have knowledge about it. And it helps you get out of your delusions, the sufferings and the misery that you are experiencing.
I am trying to give you more depth into that style of meditation. Maybe for the last month you have not been miserable. Maybe you have been happy. Maybe for the last six months you havn't been miserable. But as some point you will feel miserable and at that time maybe this might come in your mind, the memory of this. And then it might help you a little bit, alright? That is what counts. When you need something.
Like when we suffer, we do seek remedies. That seeking of remedies is refuge as have been referred to in the teachings. So although you might take aspirin for a headache and try to distract yourself when you are depressed, those are temporary methods of dealing with depression. You should actually seek the root of depression which is delusions. And you should try to resolve or change them. The more that you can change the basis of your being which is being egocentric, being ignorant and full of unawareness and closed mindedness and such, the more you can start to move the basis of your existence over to a more positive frame of reference, the more you won't be unhappy. You won't have massive depressions, you won't be miserable with yourself and such. You will be more stable within yourself.
There are different philosophies. Everyone knows to be positive and everything then will be wonderful. It is a wonderful philosophy. But to take it and really make it change you on a gut level is really important.
For the meditation tonight I would like to you to spend more time on that. Try to let your mind become more deeply in touch with what it means to just sit there and breathe. What it means to be in your body. What it means to be alive. To become more sensitive or just more open to the fact that right now, your body is doing things to keep you alive. Allow yourself to know that as you breathe. Because you mind that is sitting inside your little head right now and listening to what I am saying, or thinking the thoughts that it's thinking right now, is the one that controls the whole ball game. So that one is the one that has got to open up and become a little more realized. Because if it doesn't, there is no other magic in the world, you know. Your little ego or your perspective or whatever you want to term it calls the whole match. So that one has got to change if you want to have a better experience. You have got to get in touch with that.
So this technique which is so really you should work well for you. Spend the first part of the meditation just trying to get your perspective of who you are, your sense of self, to become more naturally just aware of that. It is nothing false or artificial, its the reality of you sitting right there. So you breathe and allow yourself to be open about it. Open up and relax and get into it and enjoy it. Hey, I'm alive. If I didn't do this right now I would be sick. Allow yourself to experience that. Then, take the energy you are feeling or however you are experiencing yourself, whether you are just feeling the pulsations of your blood going through your body or you are feeling a tingling of energy in your body, and then say hey, that tingling energy is my love and compassion, my bodhicitta. And it is transforming me every second. So allow yourself to move into that sort of organic sense of self that you are having as you are breathing and make that with the quality of bodhicitta.
All you have done is just taken your mind set moved into that very positive head space in a really natural way, a deep way.
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