Has anybody talked to you about meditation?
The basic idea of the sitting practice of meditation is that it is what the Buddha did, and because of that, he attained enlightenment. That’s the basic point. And we have been told how to practice that way too, so that in turn, we can attain enlightenment.
One of the basic ideas is that generally, when we are about in the world, we want a lot of things and we can’t get them. And sometimes we get angry with other people. Then we want to destroy them. Sometimes we have so much desire to get something to hold on to. All those things are called obstacles to meditation. They are the problems that we face.
Because of these things we suffer quite a lot, and nobody is basically comfortable with themselves because they are filled with all these feelings of anger, passion, and all the rest of it. Sometimes people say they are happy but, at the same time, they are restless all the time and in the depths of themselves they are suffering quite a lot. Such pain and suffering come from having too many thoughts and the confusion of passion, aggression, and ignorance—which is called ego. You know about that: ego? Right.
The idea of meditation is not necessarily to just get rid of these thoughts and feelings right away, but simply to work with them. As you sit, first you begin to feel some sense of yourself. Then as you sit more, you begin to find lots of thoughts coming out. Just look at them and don’t necessarily push them aside or cultivate them, but come back to your breath.
Holding the meditation posture is doing what the Buddha did. The idea is that if you make this gesture of good posture, that straightens your sense of discipline and presence. And then, experiencing that, you feel your breath and go along with the breath. The basic idea is that you don’t have to push the thoughts away, but you can almost get underneath thoughts. Out of that you could develop some sense of calmness, but sometimes it goes away. It’s like trying to catch a fish in the water with your naked hand. It slips away.
The idea is to remain with the discipline and to slowly overcome, first of all, the thought process, and then after that, to slowly overcome passion, aggression, and ignorance until, at some point, they begin to become meaningless—until they no longer are a big deal.
Then your ego begins to diminish a little bit, become less, become less of an ego. You begin to have a glimpse of what is called egolessness, which is the first step toward enlightenment. In order to do that, you also have to work with your everyday life situations. Sometimes when you’re not sitting, you might suddenly develop mindfulness. When that happens, look at yourself and try to be calm with some sense of not holding on to anything; just be steady, still. That doesn’t necessarily mean to say that you physically have to hold steady, but psychologically you do.
If you’re about to have a fight, just flash, and then hold steady. The idea of wanting to have a fight begins to dissolve, and, in turn, because of that, one begins to develop what is known as compassion. You begin to have more trust in yourself, less destructiveness in yourself, and less pain. And because you have less pain, therefore you’re able to communicate that to other people. Working with oneself that way, in turn, you begin to work with others. That seems to be the basic point of why you have to practice meditation.
If you have any questions, you are welcome.
Student: Why do you follow your breath and concentrate on your breath instead of your finger or whatever?
Trungpa Rinpoche: Yes, well, that’s a good point. You see breathing is actually a communication between your mind and body. Body is too solid to concentrate on because it’s too gross a level. And you can’t hold on to mind because it’s constantly moving. So breathing is something in between, which communicates mind and body together.
S: I thought that when you got egolessness that you were enlightened, and instead, it’s just one step toward enlightenment?
TR: Well, it’s like removing a cloud. The sun is there already, but this is removing the clouds. So you have the sun already, but ego is a layer or covering rather than anything fundamental. Therefore, basically we are good but we’ve been covered up. So we are removing coverings. That’s why you can actually undo them. Otherwise, if the clouds were permanent, you couldn’t do anything with them, right?
S: It’s like having a clear mind.
TR: Absolutely, that is clear mind.
S: But my parents are telling me that people are all enlightened but they just don’t know that. . . .
TR: Well, we might say that we know there is a sun, but still it is very cloudy. You see that is the only reason that enlightenment is permanent: it is not manufactured. It’s there all the time. And anything beyond that, such as ego and passion, aggression and ignorance, are impermanent. They come and go. Therefore we can handle them. And they come back too: sometimes when you remove them, they come back. So you keep on clearing out.
S: What would happen if you didn’t have a clear mind?
TR: Then you suffer a lot. You’re constantly tortured. You know, people are trying to please themselves but there’s no way of doing it, even if you’re a millionaire. They have everything physically that they want, lots of money and a comfortable situation, but they’re not very happy fundamentally.
S: Thank you.
TR: You’re welcome.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel