The beauty of meditation is that you can understand your own reality, and if you understand your own problems in this way, you can understand all living beings’ situation.
But if you don’t under-stand your own reality, there’s no way you can understand others, no matter how hard you try—”I want to understand what’s going on with my friend”—you can’t. You don’t even understand what’s going on in your own mind.
So, meditation is experimenting to see what’s happening in your own mind, to know the nature of your own mind. Then, as Nagarjuna said, if you understand your own mind, you understand the whole thing. You don’t need to put effort into trying to understand what’s going on with each person individually. You don’t need to do that.
We talk about human problems; we talk about our own problems every day of our lives. The reason I have a problem with you is because I want something from you. If I didn’t want something from you, I wouldn’t have a problem with you. That’s why the lam-rim teaches that attachment, grasping at your own pleasure, is the source of pain and misery, and being open, concerned for other people’s pleasure, is the source of happiness, realization and success. For some reason, it’s true; even on the materialistic level.
I tell you, actually-forget for a moment about Buddhadharma and the universal sentient beings—even if you simply want good business, somehow, if you have a broad view and want to help other people—your family, your nation—somehow, for some reason, you will be successful.
On the other hand, if you are only concerned for “me, me, me, me, me,” always crying that “me” is the most important thing, you’ll fail, even materially. It’s true; even material success will not be possible.
Many people, even in this country, have material problems because they are concerned for only themselves. Even though society offers many good situations, they are still in the preta realm. I think so, isn’t it? You are living in America but you’re still living in the preta realm—of the three lower realms, the hungry ghost realm; you are still living in the hungry ghost realm.
Psychologically, this is very important. Don’t think that I’m just talking about something philosophical: “You should help other people; you should help other people.” I’m saying that if you want to be happy, eradicate your attachment; cut your concrete concepts.
The way to cut them is not troublesome—just change your attitude; switch your attitude, that’s all. It’s not really a big deal! It’s really skillful, reasonable. The way Buddhism explains this is reasonable. It’s not something in which you have to super-believe. I’m not saying you have to try to be a superwoman or superman. It’s reasonable and logical. Simply changing your attitude eliminates your concrete concepts.
Remember equilibrium? Equilibrium does not mean that I equalize you externally. If that were so, then you’d have to come to Nepal and eat only rice and dhal. Equilibrium is not to do with the object, it’s to do with the subject; it’s my business.
My two extreme minds—desire, the overestimated view and grabbing, and hatred, the underestimated view and rejecting—conflict, destroying my own peace, happiness and loving kindness. In order to balance those two, I have to actualize equilibrium.
The minute your fanatical view and grasping start, the reaction of hatred has already arrived. They come together. I think you have experienced this; we do have experience. The minute something becomes special for you, breaks your heart, in that minute, the opposite mind of hatred has come. They are inter-dependent phenomena. For some reason, by having an ego, the tendency is always to be unbalanced, extreme. We have so many problems—individual, personal problems; they all come from the extreme mind.
Actually, you should pray not to have desirable objects of the fanatical view. You’re better off without them. They are the symptoms of a broken heart and lead to restlessness. You should be reasonable.
You can see that some people’s relationships are reasonable. Therefore, they last for a long time. If people’s relationships start off extreme, how can they last? You know from the beginning, they cannot last. Balance is so important.
The thing is, why don’t we have good meditation? Simply—why don’t we have good meditation? Why can’t we concentrate, even for a minute? Because our extreme mind explodes; internally, there’s a nuclear blow-up. That’s all. We’re out of control. We should learn how to handle that explosion.
First of all, this problem is not something that has happened by accident. We should know that there’s an evolution to its existence. Therefore, our first order of business should be to investigate the extreme view of our ego mind.
Now, I’m going to go quickly. This morning you did the meditation of contemplating on your breath in an easygoing way. But as meditators, we are also extreme. The reason is that samsara is so overwhelming and our reaction is, “I want to meditate; I should meditate.” We push and push, pump and pump; we’re very unnatural. That’s no good. Then our minds freak out. Then we don’t like coming to the meditation center; we want to escape to the jungle. We make ourselves like that; we beat our mind. That is unskillful. It’s true. I think most meditators are unskillful—like me. Unskillful.
The thing is, saying it another way, we are too intellectual. Even though we don’t learn intellectual philosophy, we are still intellectual. Intellectually, we push ourselves this way and that. It’s unnatural. We are unnatural. That’s the problem. We are so artificial. We’re artificial, plastic intellectuals; we’re a new type of plastic product—plastic intellectuals!
We should be happy. Approaching Dharma, approaching meditation, we can be happy. It means we want to be happy. We know we all want to be happy, but we often misunderstand lam-rim and Dharma. We think that when we come to Buddhism, we should suffer; our lives should be ascetic; we should be mean to ourselves. That should not be the case. You love yourself, you have compassion for yourself, so you should not put in tremendous, tight effort when you meditate. You should not put in tremendous effort! You should learn to let go. Actually, it’s true—meditation is easygoing; using simple language, it’s easygoing.
So, contemplate your breath without expecting good things to happen or bad things to happen. Anyway, at that time, it’s too late to be concerned whether good or bad things are going to happen. Whatever comes comes; whatever doesn’t come doesn’t come. At that moment, you can’t do anything about it. So, contemplate your breath.
Now, when you reach the point where maybe there are neither good thoughts nor bad thoughts, just medium, it means you’re successful. At that time, according to your level, just let go; let go. Have no expectations of what’s happening, what’s going to happen, what’s really happening—no expectations. Just let go.
When distractions come—perhaps your ego imagines, “Oh, I’m getting pleasure”—don’t reject them; contemplate such notions. In that way, you can reach the point where the first notion disappears, which shows that the appearances your ego imagines are false. When they clear, contemplate the resultant clarity. If you are unable to contemplate that clarity, move your mind a little by thinking, “I have just caught my ego muddying my mind with illusions and overestimated conceptions; so many living beings suffer from such conceptions and are unable to catch them as I can,” and generate much compassion or bodhicitta.
You can also generate the determination to release other sentient beings from that ignorance, while being aware that, “At the moment, I don’t have the ability to really lead other sentient beings into clarity, therefore, I need to clear up my own mind more.”
Then go back to contemplating your own thought again. Through your own experience, you know that your mind, or thought, or consciousness, has no color or form. Its nature is like a clean clear mirror that reflects any phenomenon. That is your mind, your consciousness, your thought. The essence of thought is perfect clarity. The movement of thought creates conflict, but when you investigate the nature of the subject, you find that the essential character of thought, even bad thought, is still perfect clarity. It is clean clear, like a mirror, and reflects even irritating objects. Therefore, when even bad thoughts come, don’t get upset, don’t cry, and don’t criticize yourself—instead, use the technique of simply being aware; just contemplate the clarity of the subject, your own mind. If you do that, it will again become clear, because clarity is its nature. Similarly, when good thoughts come, instead of getting busily distracted by the object, again contemplate the clarity of the subject, your own mind.
Another way of saying this is that when you have a problem of thinking, “This is a good thought; this is a bad thought,” remember that in fact, both types of thought are unified in having clarity as their nature. If I pour two glasses of water into one container and shake it up, the water looks disturbed but the nature of the water from both glasses is still clean clear. Shaking them up together doesn’t turn the water into fire; it still retains its clean clear water energy.
Sometimes it looks complicated when we present the three principal paths to enlightenment in the Tibetan way, but actually, they’re very simple. When you are contemplating and a thought arises, move from that thought and practice renunciation. When another thought comes, move from that to bodhicitta. Then again go back and contemplate the clarity of your own consciousness. That’s easy—you’re just moving your mind into renunciation, bodhicitta or shunyata. You’re doing well! You’re making your life worthwhile.
When we explain the lam-rim, we can go into so much detail. You can explain renunciation so extensively that you could spend thirty days talking about renunciation alone; and thirty days on bodhicitta alone; and 30 days on shunyata alone.
Maybe we need all that, but when you’re practicing, you can put those three together such that just one movement of your mind becomes renunciation; one movement becomes bodhicitta; one movement becomes shunyata. You can do this. Sometimes when we give extensive explanations you think, “Wow; this is too much.” But if you put it practically, when you practice, the lam-rim can become in some ways small.
Perhaps that’s enough for today.
However, when you reach the point of clean clear comprehension, just leave your mind on that.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise