INTRODUCTION OF MEDITATION
WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS.
Regardless of one's past, regardless of whether one is born male or female,
high class or low, once one is born human, one certainly has the capability
to understand and realize the profound wisdom, intellect, and compassion that
is within everyone. But although we all have that capability, we need a method
whereby we can first recognize, and then understand, and then develop and realize
our wisdom. Those who have already done this are known as enlightened beings.
Those who have not yet recognized that capacity and wisdom are known as sentient
We know that there are enlightened beings, or bodhisattvas, who have manifested
extraordinary and superior qualities. They perform miracles and seem to have
a strength and capacity for understanding very much beyond our capacity as ordinary,
sentient beings. But actually, their capability does not surpass ours, because
we have the same extraordinary abilities that seem to not be possible within
ourselves. So what we first need to learn is how to unfold that capability,
that potential, which is very much within ourselves.
Having understood this, one might ask, "Since we have this capability for
wisdom and quality within ourselves, sooner or later won't we just gradually
attain enlightenment naturally?"
Now, the unfolding of our wisdom, and the purification of the obscurations of
mind, does not happen on its own. Throughout beginningless time in the past
we have taken uncountable births, but, not having applied the method to unfold
the wisdom and remove the obscurations, we are at present still sentient beings.
Likewise, regardless of how many births we will take in the future, if we do
not apply the method we will remain sentient beings. Therefore it is essential
for each one of us to try, no matter which teaching we hear, to apply that teaching
to our daily practice, and to apply it practically to our lives.
The Buddha, the enlightened being himself, said in his teachings, "I cannot
take up the suffering of all living beings with my hands, nor can I bestow my
wisdom, my realizations, into the hands of sentient beings. The taking of that
suffering and the giving of that wisdom is not possible. What I can do instead
is teach the method to attain enlightenment without a single mistake."
And having taught this immaculate teaching perfectly, the Buddha said, "Whether
one is now able to attain complete liberation and an end to suffering, and experience
the total development of one's wisdom, will depend on the individual's effort
in his or her practice." So, even though two students may be getting the
same revealed teachings, one of them could be developing faster, owing to superior
diligence and capacity to grasp the meaning of the teachings.
What the Buddha was talking about when giving the immaculate stainless teaching--the
literal translation is "the method"--was a method in three stages.
The first method is for the beginner. The second method is for one who has already
begun and made some advances, and the third stage is very advanced. There is
a method for each stage. Each is necessary and builds upon the other. As we
begin life our capacity is only that of an infant, a child. As we grow into
adulthood, our capabilities and capacities grow too, and we build on what we
have learned. Then we grow elderly, and we have the greater experience and wisdom
of a lifetime with which to understand. One must progress through the steps
of the method in the same manner
There are people, however, who feel that they are very inferior. Because of
this, they feel they should remain within the beginning method of practice throughout
their lives. There are also certain people who think they should only practice
at the highest level of teachings. Neither is possible. When you are completely
new, you need to introduce yourself into the practice, learn the Dharma. So
therefore, you are a beginner. Having learned about the Dharma, you then go
to the second stage. You cannot remain at the first stage forever. Likewise,
when you have understood greater knowledge in the second stage, you go to the
third stage. One cannot remain at the beginners stage throughout one's life.
Likewise, one cannot start at the top and begin from the third stage. We all
have to follow the system to build our capacity to understand. The image here
is of building a house. We would like to finish the house so much that we would
like to put on the roof first. But without the walls, without the foundation,
we cannot put the roof up on its own. Therefore, we have to begin with the foundation,
then put up the walls, then the roof.
Now the next question arises: How do we practice the method? We need to approach
each teaching with three different attitudes: first by listening, or hearing,
second by contemplation, third by meditation.
So first we have to hear the teachings. This does not mean that we must first
hear all the teachings of Buddhism, which would obviously take a very long time.
What is actually meant is that we must hear and accept whatever teaching we
have heard, and apply it to ourselves. How does one accept a teaching that one
has heard? You accept it as if you were a sick person accepting the medicine
a doctor prescribes. You simply take that medicine. If you first had to study
about medicine itself before accepting any, then maybe your sickness would become
incurable before you finished studying. What is necessary here is to listen
to the teachings that are given and to apply them as much as possible to your
daily life and practice.
The second step is contemplation, or reflection. To contemplate or reflect on
the teaching that you have heard is essential, because when you are reflecting
upon what you have heard, you are keeping it fresh in your memory. This helps
when you are practicing, because you remember everything. If you miss the contemplation
stage, then you would be like a child who has been taken to see an entertainment.
That child has enjoyed the entertainment very much, but has not kept anything
in mind. He has forgotten what came first, second, third, in order, although
he remembers he enjoyed it all. In time he forgets the events also. We should
not let ourselves forget the teachings we have heard because we did not contemplate
and reflect upon them after we heard them.
Yet listening to the teachings and then contemplating their meaning is still
not sufficient. We need to practice. The third stage is actually to put into
practice what we have heard and what we have contemplated. Meditation is putting
into practice. Its like learning to cook. You may have learned from a great
chef what to cook, how to prepare it , have a good description of what cooking
is. But as you have never cooked in actuality, you may be starving to death
anyway. What you have learned from the chef has not been of benefit to you,
because you are not practicing it. You have to cook to enjoy the meal, and that
is the practice.
To experience the qualities, the wisdom and knowledge, that grow within ourselves,
to enjoy them, we have to actually meditate, we have to actually practice. Now,
many people think that meditation is only for beginners. They think that once
you are in the advanced level you may not need the meditation. Meditation is
necessary for both beginners and advanced beings. It is an essential part of
the spiritual quest.
Meditation has been misrepresented in the Western world. The term alone causes
many people to get discouraged. Their understanding of meditation is that they
must do it in a completely isolated place, under a tree or in a cave, and starve
to death. They think that to meditate means to give up everything: family, house,
possessions, wealth. With that conception in mind, the term meditation simple
scares the wits out of them. But it is not true. Meditation does not mean that
you have to give up everything. The method to unfold wisdom is practicing, and
integrating the practice into our daily or worldly activity. That is meditation.
Then slowly and gradually our spiritual strength and wisdom develops.
As we develop our qualities within, our virtues, then naturally we detach from
worldly matters; we detach effortlessly from our material possessions and wealth.
That detachment happens very naturally, as our inner qualities develop. We do
not have to force ourselves to give up anything. It happens effortlessly, like
winter yields to summer. As we develop our inner qualities, we will shed our
possessions as easily as we shed our heavy winter clothes when the season changes
to spring. We take off our coats and no longer need them. As the heat of summer
comes, we shed our sweaters, effortlessly. Likewise, when our inner development
allows it, we will effortlessly give up possessions and wealth. As if we were
going from a hostile country to a friendly, favorable one, there is no hesitation
on our part to leave the one and go toward the other, more appealing one. Likewise,
once we have developed the Inner qualities, then we have no hesitation about
giving up worldly things. It actually happens by itself.
All that happens, all the changes that one experiences, are very pleasant. There
is no unpleasant experience at all, because it is happening along with one's
inner development. Without it, giving up things is very unpleasant. Take the
example of the Tibetan refugees who, without any choice, had to leave their
mother country. Because they were very attached to their land, and they were
driven out of it, but had not developed sufficiently their inner qualities,
the change from Tibet to India was very much unfavorable and unpleasant. Bun
with the development of inner qualities it is not like that. It is very pleasant.
Again, when we speak about the practice, many people think that it leads to
mental problems. They think that all practitioners are lunatics. Since people
are not really willing to become crazy, they hesitate to practice. They also
think that meditation will separate them from worldly success, as well as causing
mental problems that will keep them from spiritual success. Actually, I assure
everyone that if you depend upon a teacher and practice, it will never lead
you to any mental problems at all. But again, nothing in the world is impossible.
[Laughter] If you try it on your own, without a lama, or teacher, or if you
are learning only through pieces of paper, a book, it may possibly lead to problems.
For example, say you have read an excellent book about a fascinating land that
you immediately want to go to. You start walking toward where you think the
book said this wonderful land was to be found. You could, however, be walking
in a completely wrong direction, yet it is impossible for the book to speak
up and correct your path. Practicing on your own could similarly lead you to
the wrong path. What you have to do is, having read about this fascinating land,
try to get some information from someone who has already been there. You obtain
the directions, you get the guidance, and then nothing goes wrong. You can get
to that marvelous land. The teacher's guidance is necessary. One cannot really
practice on one's own.
Again, meditation does not conflict with worldly activities or worldly success.
In fact, meditation helps the individual to be successful in worldly activities
as well as spiritual ones. Through meditation we learn how to relax, to have
mental peacefulness, tranquility. Through having learned how to maintain this
peacefulness of mind, we are better able to deal with the hectic life of the
world. Meditation also helps because of the wisdom we develop through the practice,
and of course, wisdom is necessary in every activity. So, by practicing the
method and developing your bodhicitta, realized beings say that you then become
"the darling of the world."
Let me repeat that. Having developed bodhicitta, here meaning peacefulness of
mind and an altruistic attitude, you then become the darling of the whole world.
Not of just one person, or two; when you are the darling of the whole world
you are loved by everyone. And that is being very successful indeed.
Again, meditation teaches you how to relax and how to develop peacefulness in
your mind. With this peacefulness also comes a happy and joyful frame of mind.
Because you now have this inner peace and joyfulness, you are able to deal with
others without any frustration, without any aggression, and always keeping your
happy state of mind. When others experience you without any aggression, with
a happy state of mind, they automatically like your atmosphere, they like your
presence. You become liked by all beings.
Developing the bodhicitta brings happiness not only to you but to those around
you also. Mental peacefulness does lead you to do everything better. You are
more willing to listen to the problems of others, and better able to help them.
When you are depressed or upset, if someone tries to share their problems with
you, you are unable to listen to them. You may even become angry at them for
talking to you, and say hot words that will hurt the other person. Yet when
your mind is peaceful and happy, this would never happen. Also, if you have
a job to do, with a peaceful mind you can do it without any mistakes. Mental
peace and tranquility are necessary in our worldly activities and in everything.
Many people expect the result of meditation to come in a short space of time,
overnight, so to speak, but this is not possible. It is a process of development
wherein consistency is the key. If you practice every day, even for a short
period of time, regularly, that is adding to your development. If you practice
many hours a day for a while, and then forget to practice for months, there
is no development at all. It is like getting somewhere in Tibet, where there
are no cars, buses, or trains: you have to go by foot. If you begin walking
and keep walking, even if it is at a very slow pace, sooner or later you will
be at your destination. If you run in spurts and take long rests, then run and
jump again toward your destination, you are more likely to break your ankle
and never get to where you want to go.
If we keep practicing, there is a certainty that we will arrive. Qualities develop
within ourselves. It is what is called meditation experience. Again, it cannot
happen overnight. It is like being born an infant and growing up gradually.
We cannot be born a fully grown human being, we have to be patient and experience
as we grow. We do know for sure that once we are born, we will grow up into
a completely grown person. Likewise if we keep on practicing meditation regularly,
we will certainly grow within as a result of the practice.
So this is a short introduction to the wonderful qualities we all have within
ourselves, and to the correct method to unfold those qualities. The method includes
hearing teachings, contemplating the instruction you have obtained, practicing
meditation, and getting fruition, the results of our practice. Along the way
we find the method helps in every part of our lives as we continue toward the
greater result, complete enlightenment.
Taken from a teaching
given by the Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra on April
25, 1986. Translated by Chojor Radha. Edited by Andrea Price.