Purify Mind
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Power Of Mind    
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The Ten-Recitation Method
  The Ten-Recitation method is a simple, convenient, and effective way of practicing Buddha Recitation. It is especially suitable for those who find little time in the day for cultivation. Practicing the Ten-Recitation method helps us to regain mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha and brings us peace and clarity in the present moment.

  We should begin this practice the first thing in the morning, as soon as we wake up. We should sit up straight and clearly recite Amitabha's name ten times with an undisturbed mind, whether out loud or silently to ourselves. We should repeat this process eight more times for the rest of the day:

  1. At Breakfast, 2. Before Work, 3. At Lunch Break, 4. At Lunch, 5. After Lunch Break, 6. Getting Off Work, 7. At Dinner, and 8. At Bedtime.

  Altogether, we practice this method nine times a day, every day. The key point is regularity; we must not practice one day and fail to practice the next day. If this practice is maintained steadily, the cultivator will soon feel his purity of mind increase, and his wisdom grow.

  Diligent practice of the Ten-Recitation method, together with deep faith and determined vows, can ensure fulfillment of our wish to reach the Western Pure Land of Infinite Life and Infinite Light. We hope everyone will practice accordingly.




The Oral Commentaries
  of His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgön, Chetsang Rinpoche.

  On The Short Sadhana of Amitabha Buddha and The Pureland of Dewachen

  We begin on page 2 of the text. The first word is ‘Namo’. ‘ Namo’ means "I bow down to, prostrate to, or make obeisance to”. To whom? To the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. In addition to, or as another mode of manifestation of the Three Jewels, there is what is called ‘The Three Roots’. They are one’s teachers, the lamas; the chosen deities, the Yidams; and the Dakinis who are the forces of inspiration manifesting as enlightened females. All beings who have attained any stature of enlightenment: Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, any of those in whose mind has arisen enlightenment. In all of them, I go for refuge for the sake of establishing all sentient beings in the state of Buddhahood. In this one stanza of four lines, there are two processes, where both refuge and the generation of bodhicitta are contained. The first two lines constitute the refuge. Then the purpose for going for refuge is to place all sentient beings in the state of enlightenment; I will generate the mind of enlightenment. In this one sloka , two things are accomplished: going for refuge and the establishment of bodhicitta. These are the preliminary steps for entering the practice of the sadhana. Three things have been accomplished already. One has been obeisance. The second is the taking of refuge. The third is the generation of bodhicitta. One repeats this stanza three times.

  Now one can engage in the main body of the practice. However, to engage in the practice, first, let go of your perception of yourself as an ordinary flesh and blood person, and your environment as being ordinary. Dissolve everything into emptiness. Then, from emptiness itself, arises the remainder of the practice. The dissolution of all ordinary perception into emptiness and rising of all subsequent practice from emptiness is implicit in the first syllable of this line: the syllable ‘AH’. It is said that the syllable AH is the supreme sound. It is the seed of all other letters, syllables, and sounds. AH is the thirtieth letter of the Tibetan alphabet, making it the culmination of the meaning, the sound, the intention, and the vibrational frequencies of all the other letters. It is the implicit underlying, deep meaning of, and the culmination of all the other letters and all the other sounds. In the text of the “Manjushri Namsanghati”, it is said that it is the supreme among all letters because it is natural. It is spontaneously self-arisen. It is not produced or contrived in any way. For example, it is the first sound made by a baby. Therefore, it is said to be unborn. As unborn, it is the symbol of emptiness itself. “AH” signifies Mahasunyata . It is called the king of all letters. Just as the letter AH pervades all the other letters of the alphabet, so emptiness pervades all other phenomena. It is the underlying substratum of reality. The letter AH personifies emptiness. First, you dissolve everything into emptiness, which means to abandon your view of yourself, companions, and your environment as being ordinary. When you practice the developing stage of deity yoga, according to tantric procedure, you need to let go of ordinary, demeaning, limited perception, and cultivate pure view. Not seeing you and others as flesh and blood (ordinary beings), but rather as Chenrezig. Not seeing this building, as an ordinary building, rather seeing it as a celestial mansion in the midst of the Pureland of Great Bliss. The Lama is not an ordinary teacher, but is in fact the true manifestation of the Buddha Amitabha. This is called the ‘cultivation of the exalted view of the developing stage’. The next line says, “All phenomena, all experiences are unborn”. They are pervaded by emptiness, just as the letters of the alphabet are pervaded by AH. The next line says, “This is the nature of reality.” The natural condition is great compassion and awareness of emptiness, non-dual. This is not something fabricated by the mind. This not just our idea. This is not something we create by thinking it so. It is the essential nature of reality itself. It is now, has always been, will always be the case that emptiness and compassion are the ultimate nature of reality.

  The next line on page three, that begins with ‘Kung Nan Rig Ped Chung Tro Ley’, means that all-pervading, substratum of reality. The true nature of existence, which is compassion and emptiness, is not dormant. Just as the sun naturally emanates its rays resulting in illumination, the nature of reality manifests from the unmanifest Dharmakaya the rays of compassion and wisdom radiating into our realm of existence. The manifestation takes the symbolic form of a lotus blossom upon which is a moon seat. The lotus blossom signifies freedom from defilement. The moon seat signifies being free from attachment or desire. They both signify the white seed of the father and the red seed of the mother. The birth of a human being in our realm takes place when the white thig’le (bindu) of the father and the red thig’le of the mother come together and between them is the consciousness of the being to be born. When those three factors come together, a being is born in this world. What is symbolically presented here, is rebirth into the Pure Realm of Pure Perception of the Developing Stage of Deity Yoga. In the Pureland, birth takes place in a similar way. The lotus symbolizes the red seed of the mother, and the moon seat symbolizes the white seed of the father. One’s own consciousness is between them. One then abandons the ordinary view and develops divine view. Because of that, one is born in the form of Chenrezig, having one face and four hands. The essence of the procedure of the Developing Stage of Deity Yoga is as follows. In our ordinary view we are engaged in what we consider worship: we think of the deity as something external and then offer ourselves and various substances as a service to that deity. In the Developing Stage of Deity Yoga, the procedure is different. One eliminates the view of oneself, one’s environment, and one’s companions in this world as ordinary. If you see yourself as an ordinary human being, then your mind is under the sway of the virulence of the five poisons . To eliminate the five poisons, one cultivates the divine view. One sees one’s self, his environment, and companions as divine. The cultivation of the divine view effectively removes the five poisons from one’s mindstream. If you are Chenrezig, and not an ordinary flesh and blood human being, if you are the Bodhisattva of Boundless compassion, then you have no ignorance, attachment, aversion, pride, or jealousy. You mindstream is then, innately and primordially pure. That innate primordial purity is cultivated in the divine vision of the Developing Stage of Deity Yoga. Another reason for the cultivation of the divine view is that if you cultivate the qualities of the Buddha, by considering them you’re own, then, little by little, they become your own qualities. The more you contemplate possessing these qualities, the more they actually increase. By slow stages, you develop the qualities of the enlightened being. On the other hand, the more you develop these qualities, the more you abandon negative qualities and mindsets. Little by little your negativity is lessened and the positive nature of your mind manifests. Just as when the sun rises, little by little the darkness disperses. That process takes place simultaneously. The more the light increases the more the darkness decreases. The more you contemplate the qualities of enlightenment, the more you develop those qualities, and the more your limitations are overcome. To symbolize the completion of great compassion in the form of Chenrezig, one meditates on one’s own body color as being a luminescent white (moon like) color. Your have one face and four hands, In the first hand, the upper right hand, you hold a crystal mala, symbolizing the capacity to liberate all sentient beings from cyclic existence. The upper left hand holds the stem of the lotus blossom. The lotus blossom is a flower that is rooted in muck and yet grows and blossoms above it in a way that is pure. The flower is in no way stained or defiled by the muck and mire in which it is rooted. This is symbolic of the fact that although as human beings we have fallen into cyclic existence, and abides within it. Yet we have within us the inalienable core of our being our actual original nature and it is enlightened (tathagarba ). That Buddha-nature is in no way defiled by the apparent stains of cyclic existence. The first pair of hands a folded in the prayer mudra in front of Chenrezig at His heart level. The gesture is quite elegant. The hands are cupping the Wish Fulfilling Jewel . The Wish Fulfilling Jewel is symbolic of Chenrezig’s power to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. The next line says that Chenrezig appears in the form of Samboghakaya . In that form, he appears as an enlightened being manifesting in the body of visionary enjoyment. He wears various ornaments. There are three different groups of ornamentation. For example, there are five types of silk garments, the silk that hods together the jewels of the crown, a shawl, a skirt, a belt (or sash), and a long flowing scarf. . There are eight types of jewel ornaments. The jewels in the crown are earrings, a choker necklace, a longer necklace that hangs to the heart chakra, an even longer necklace that hangs to the navel, arm bands, bracelets on the wrists and ankles, and finally, rings. These are always present in all Samboghakaya forms. His two legs (your two legs) are crossed in the full lotus position. You then meditate on that appearance with great clarity and sense of reality. However, it is not a flesh and blood construct. Rather, it is an empty, self-luminous form, devoid of self-nature, yet appearing in exact detail. Remember that you are visualizing yourself as Chenrezig. In the space in front of you facing you, appears Amitabha Buddha. He is seated upon a throne held aloft by eight peacocks , two in each corner of the throne. On top of the throne is a variegated one thousand petaled lotus blossom. On top of the lotus blossom is a moon seat. The moon seat symbolizes the assuaging of the fiery nature of delusion and afflictions. The cool rays of the moon seat calm that down. On top of the moon disk seat, standing upright is the essence of Amitabha Buddha, the syllable HRIH. It is red in color. Amitabha Buddha appears from the transformation of the letter HRIH. Amitabha Buddha is the representative of all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three times. He is deep ruby red in body color. He has one face and two hands. His hands rest in Dhyana Mudra form. His feet are in the full lotus position. He holds in his hands a begging bowl filled with the nectar of immortality. To His right is Chenrezig. To his left is Vajrapani . Normally Vajrapani is very wrathful looking; here he is not like that. He is portrayed in a peaceful form or manifestation. Both Chenrezig and Vajrapani are standing and they are slightly turned toward Amitabha Buddha. They each have one face and two hands. They stand on top of sun and moon disks. The complete congregation of enlightened beings such as bodhisattvas and arhats surrounds them. Let us recap for a moment. You are Chenrezig. In the space in front of you is Amitabha Buddha. To His right is Chenrezig and to His left is Vajrapani. They are surrounded by the mandala of all enlightened beings. From the crown, throat, and heart chakras of the three central figures, light rays emanate white, red, and blue. Those light rays constitute an invitation to the wisdom beings in their purelands to come forth and join with the commitment beings, which have been created by the visualization. This is called an Invitation. The wisdom beings come forth and descend like downpour of light bodies in the form of Amitabha Buddha, Chenrezig, and Vajrapani. They come forth from the Pureland and merge with the visualized construct collectively known as the commitment being. At the bottom of page seven, it is written: “Hung Hrih, from the realm of Dewachen in the west. Oh Lord Amitabha! Please be on this stainless throne of lotus, sun, and moon disks.” That is called the invitation. The second thing that happens here is having invited Him, You invite Him to take a seat on the throne prepared for Him. Amitabha Buddha then takes His seat and you make obeisance to Him. You prostrate to Him with your body, speech, and mind. Then you make offerings to Him. This is not a set of ordinary offerings. Instead, you offer all the elements of existence to Him. Having done that, you begin to have a heart to heart conversation with Amitabha Buddha. In this case, you confess to Him all your downfalls and broken vows. You open your heart to Amitabha Buddha in that way. The wisdom beings have come and hovered over the assembly of commitment beings, they are still visualized as external to you as Chenrezig. You tell them to sit down and accept the offerings, and then you confess your non-virtues. They will dissolve into the commitment being (visualized as Amitabha Buddha, Chenrezig, and Vajrapani) at the recitation of the mantra Za Hung Bam Ho . (Here, His Holiness takes some time to demonstrate the mudra that goes with saying of the mantra.) We come, now, to the part of the sadhana that constitutes the recitation of the mantra. Having merged the wisdom beings with the commitment beings, in the heart of Buddha Amitabha on top of a lotus and moon disk (lying flat), is the seed syllable Hrih, standing upright. The letters of the mantra ‘Om Ami Dewa Hrih’ are set up on the edge of the moon disk. They are set up counterclockwise, but rotate clockwise. As you recite the mantra, light rays emanate from the mantric syllables and transform the whole universe as an external container into the Pureland of Great Bliss. In addition, with all sentient beings as the contents of that container, transform into the commitment being. While reciting the mantra, you hold the idea that the experience of what is called ‘The Three Vajras’: Vajra body, Vajra speech, and Vajra mind. That is to say, all form is the enlightened body of Amitabha Buddha, all sound is the mantra of Amitabha Buddha, and all thought is the movement of Amitabha Buddha’s consciousness. With that realization, your recite the mantra ‘Om Ami Dewa Hrih.’

  (At this point, His Holiness leads His students in the practice of the sadhana up until the recitation of the mantra.)

  When you begin to recite the mantra, you should visualize light rays boundlessly emanating from the commitment being in front of you. First, offer the light to the enlightened beings of the ten directions, then the light comes back to emanate once more to touch and purify all sentient beings. You recite the mantra for as long as you have time, of for a set number of repetitions.

  As the practice winds down, you visualize that light rays emanating from the commitment being. The light rays dissolve all external environment into the three main figures of the commitment being. Then, Chenrezig and Vajrapani dissolve into Amitabha Buddha. From Amitabha’s four places, the crown, throat, heart, and navel chakras, light rays emanate and strike you in the four corresponding places. This cleanses and purifies you from all obscurations of body, speech, and mind. The light rays transfer to you the four empowerments. The Amitabha Buddha melts into light and dissolves into you through the point between the eyebrows. At this point, you enter the inseparability of emptiness and appearance. You allow the mind to rest in its own natural sphere, the state of Mahamudra.

  What has gone on up to now has to do with the developing stage practice of the deity yoga of Amitabha Buddha. Everything that is concerned with the developing stage practice has a particular point of reference. It has an object of meditation, a support of meditation. When Amitabha Buddha dissolves into light and merges with you, you enter what is called the Completion Stage practice of the Deity Yoga of Amitabha Buddha. In this stage, there is no fixed frame of reference. This is a state beyond thought. A state transcends the conceptual mind. The purpose of the practice of the Developing Stage of Deity Yoga is to overcome one’s view of oneself and one’s surroundings as ordinary. It is to make divine your view of existence itself. It is to overcome your attachment to an ordinary, demeaning view. The purpose of the completion stage practice is to overcome your view of your self and your environment as divine. Therefore, having attained the beatific vision, you go beyond the beatific vision by giving up your attachment to this divine view. It is said that the developing stage practice perfects the accumulation of merit, and the completion stage practice perfects the accumulation of wisdom. Both practices, taken together (in fact, they are an inseparable unity), yield Buddhahood. This practice combines, in a quintessential way, the main practices of sutra and tantra. This is a non-dual practice of sutra and tantra leading to non-dual realization, and non-dual accumulation of wisdom and merit.

  Translated by Michael Lewis / Transcribed by Ngakpa Jeffery Könchog Gyaltsen

  ©San Francisco Ratna Shri Sangha



Instructions for [Cultivating] the Pure Land Dharma Gateway
  By the Great Ming Dynasty Dhyana Master Shrama.na Han-shan De-ching (1546-1623)

  The dhyana meditator Hai-yang came from afar to have an audience at Gwang-shan. He sought the transmittal of the dharma of the precepts. It was directed that he be given the [Dharma] name of "Profoundly Foolish." Holding up the stick of incense and requesting assistance, he declared, "I, disciple so-and-so, have made a vow to seek rebirth in the Pure Land of the West and to gather a number of Dharma companions together in the same place that we might exclusively practice pure karma. I pray that [the Master] will be compassionate and proffer instruction in the essentials of Dharma."

  On account of this, the Old Master instructed him, saying, "In the Buddha's explanation of dharmas to be cultivated for the purpose of going forth from [the sphere of] birth and death, there are many types of skilful means. It is only [the method of] mindfulness-of-the-buddha with the intention of achieving rebirth in the Pure Land that is the most rapid and essential. The perfect and marvelous Dharma gateways of such [teachings as] The Floral Adornment Sutra and The Lotus Sutra as well as the marvelous conduct of Samantabhadra all ultimately point in their import towards the Pure Land. Such great patriarchs as Ashvago.sa and Nagarjuna as well as those from this region such as Yung-ming and Jung-feng all engaged in extremely strong promotion of the single gateway of the Pure Land.

  This Dharma gateway was spoken spontaneously by the Buddha without his first being asked. It comprehensively takes on all three grades of faculties and equally takes in all four groups [of disciples]. It is not the case that it is a provisional technique set forth for those of inferior faculties. In a sutra, it states, "If one [would] purify the buddha land, one [must] engage in constant purification of one's own mind." As the primary priority one must first establish purity in the faculty of the precepts. This is because the ten evil karmic deeds consisting of the three physical, the four verbal and the three mental [karmic actions] constitute the causes for suffering in the three [miserable] destinies. Now, one possesses the essential [prerequisite] of upholding the precepts. If one first takes as a necessity the purification of the three karmic vehicles [of body, mouth and mind], then the mind will naturally become pure on its own.

  If the body does not engage in killing, does not engage in stealing and does not engage in sexual misconduct, then the karma of the body becomes pure. If one does not lie, does not engage in frivolous speech, duplicitous speech, or in harsh speech, then the karma of the mouth becomes pure. If the mind does not engage in greed, hatred or stupidity then the karma of the intellectual mind becomes pure.

  When in this manner the ten evil actions have become eternally cut off and the three karmic vehicles have become as pure as ice this brings about the essential [prerequisite] of the purified mind. Within this pure mind one develops an aversion for the suffering of the Saha world, brings forth the vow to go forth to rebirth, and peacefully nourishes one's establishment of the correct practice of mindfulness-of-the-buddha. Having done this, then the absolute essential requirement in mindfulness-of-the-buddha becomes the urgency of one's mind in relation to birth-and-death.

  One first cuts off external conditions. One exclusively brings up the one thought. One takes the one phrase, "Amitabha" as the very root of one's life. It is not forgotten for even a single moment. It is not cut off for even the space of a single thought. During both the day and night, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, whether picking up a spoon or raising the chopsticks, whether twisting or turning around, whether bending down or raising up, whether moving or still, and whether at leisure or busy, -- in every single moment one refrains from any stupidity or mental darkness. One does not allow the intrusion of any other conditions.

  If one uses the mind in this manner then after a time it becomes so pure and completely developed that one does not forget [one's mindfulness] even in one's dreams. Wakefulness and sleep become of a single suchness. When this becomes the case then one's skill becomes subtle and integrated and then becomes fused into a single, [continuous] entity. It is at this time that one gains realization of the power [of this practice].

  If one's mindfulness reaches the state where one is single-minded and [one's thoughts are] not scattered, then when one approaches the end of one's life, the realm of the Pure Land will manifest before one. Then, one will naturally not be detained by birth and death. This being the case, one will then achieve as a response [the manifestation of] Amitabha who will emit light and lead one forth. This demonstrates the efficacy [of this practice's ability] to definitely bring about [the desired] rebirth. Thus this single-minded exclusive mindfulness assuredly is a correct mode of practice.

  Additionally, one should definitely supplement it with visualizations. One will then perceive more of the esoteric. For the sake of Vaidehii, the Buddha explained the sixteen marvelous contemplations. As a result, in this one life she took them all up and brought them to realization. Now, The Contemplations Sutra is still presently extant. If one gathers together pure companions with whom to carry on the same cultivation, based on their individual resolve and wishes, each person could select a single contemplation from among the sixteen contemplations.

  Alternately, one may simply visualize the marvelous features of the Buddha or [one of] the bodhisattvas. Or else one may visualize the realm of the Pure Land as in The Amitabha Sutra wherein it describes the lotus blossoms, the jeweled ground, and so forth. One may engage in visualizations in a manner which accords with one's own aspirations. If the visualizations become distinct and clear, then during both the day and night they manifest before one as if one was abiding in the Pure Land. Whether one is sitting, lying down, or walking, whether one opens the eyes or shuts the eyes, it is as if it were right before one's eyes.

  When the visualization has become perfected in a way such as this, when one draws to the end of one's life, one is suddenly reborn in the space of a single thought. This is the so-called case of "as for being reborn, one is definitely reborn. As for going [there], one does not actually go [anywhere at all]." This is the marvelous import of the Pure Land as mind alone.

  If one applies one's mind in this manner and if one meticulously upholds the practice of the precepts, then the six faculties become pure. If one eternally cuts off evil karma and afflictions, then the mind ground becomes pure. If one's contemplative mindfulness becomes continuous, then the marvelous practice is easily perfected. As for the true cause of the Pure Land, there is nothing which lies outside of this.

  If one's mindfulness of the buddha consists only in verbal utterances and yet one seeks thereby to gain rebirth in the Pure Land, if one fails to uphold the pure precepts, if one fails to cut off the afflictions, and if the mind ground is defiled, the Buddha declared of such a person that he will be eternally unable to succeed in this.

  Therefore, the practitioner must first take the upholding of the precepts as the foundation while employing the bringing forth of vows as auxiliary causes. Mindfulness of the buddha and the [associated] visualizations constitute a correct mode of practice. If one carries out one's cultivation in this manner and yet does not succeed in going forth to rebirth [in the Pure Land], then the Buddha would thereby fall into [the offense of] false speech.




  SATI / exerpt from Mindfulness in Plain English by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana

  Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word 'Sati.' Sati is an activity. What exactly is that? Well, this is one of those questions without a precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness (Sati) is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced - rather easily - and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the thing itself. The actual experience lies beyond the words and above the symbols. Mindfulness could be described in completely different terms than will be used here and each description could still be correct.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal - quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality which gives rise to words - the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So, it is important to understand that everything that follows here is an analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. Please don't sit around scratching your head and trying to figure it all out. In fact, the meditational technique called Vipassana (insight) that was introduced by the Buddha about twenty-five centuries ago is a set of mental activities specifically aimed at experiencing a state of uninterrupted Mindfulness or Sati. When you first become aware of something there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize he thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness (Sati). Ordinarily, this stage is very short. It is that flashing split second just before you focus your eyes on the thing, just before you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before ,you start thinking about it - before that little 'yak, yak' machine inside your skull says, "Oh, it's a dog." That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is Mindfulness (Sati). In that brief flashing mind- moment you experience a thing as an un-thing. You experience a softly flowing moment of pure experience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it. Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. Yet this moment of soft, unfocused, awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the Mindfulness (Sati) step is so fleeting as to be unobservable. We have developed the habit of squandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, cognizing the perception, labeling it, and most od all, getting involved in a long string of symbolic thought about it. That original moment of Mindfulness just gets lost in the shuffle. It is the purpose of the above mentioned Vipassana (or insight) meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness. When this Mindfulness (Sati) is prolonged by using proper techniques, you find that this experience is profound and it changes your whole view of the universe. This state of perception has to be learned, however, and it takes regular practice. Once you learn the technique, you will find that Mindfulness has a number of interesting characteristics.

The Characteristics of Mindfulness (Sati)
  Mindfulness (Sati) is mirror-thought. It reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. There are no biases.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is non-judgmental observation. It is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. With this ability, one sees things without condemnation or judgment. One is surprised by nothing. One simply takes a balanced interest in things exactly as they are in their natural states. One does not decide and does not judge. One just observes.

  It is psychologically impossible for us to objectively observe what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our various states of mind. This is especially true with unpleasant states of mind. In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can't examine our own depression without accepting i fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can't examine something fully if you are busy rejecting the existence of it. Whatever experience we may be having, Mindfulness just accepts it. It is simply another of life's occurrences, just another thing to be aware of. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake - what is there, is there.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is an impartial watchfulness. It does not take sides. It does not get hung up in what is perceived. It just perceives. Mindfulness does not get infatuated with the good stuff. It does not try to sidestep the bad stuff. There is no clinging to the pleasant, no fleeing from the unpleasant. Mindfulness sees all experiences as equal, all thoughts as equal, all feelings as equal. Nothing is suppressed. Nothing is repressed. Mindfulness does not play favorites. Mindfulness (Sati) is nonconceptual awareness. Another English term for Sati is 'bare attention.' It is not thinking. It does not get involved with thought or concepts. It does not get hung up on ideas or opinions or memories. It just looks. Mindfulness registers experiences, but it does not compare them. It just observes everything as if they were occurring for the first time. It is not analysis which is based on reflection and memory. It is, rather, the direct and immediate experience of whatever is happening, without the medium of thought. It comes BEFORE thought in the perceptual process.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is present-time awareness. It takes place in the here and now. It is the observance of what is happening right now, in the present moment. It stays forever in the present, surging perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wave of passing time. If you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is Mindfulness. If you then conceptualize the process and say to yourself, "Oh, I am remembering", that is thinking. Mindfulness (Sati) is non-egoistic alertness. It takes place without reference to self. With Mindfulness one sees all phenomena without references to concepts like "me", "my" or "mine". For example, suppose there is a pain in your left leg. Ordinary consciousness would say, "I have a pain." Using Mindfulness, one would simply note the sensation as a sensation. One would not tack on that extra concept "I". Mindfulness stops one from adding anything to perception, or subtracting anything from it. One does not enhance anything. One does not emphasize anything. One just observes what is there - without distortion.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is goal-less awareness. In Mindfulness, one does not strain for results. One does not try to accomplish anything. When one is mindful, one experiences reality in the present moment in whatever form it takes. There is nothing to be achieved. There is only observation.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is awareness of change. It is observing the passing flow of experience. It is watching things as they are changing. It is seeing the birth, growth, and maturity of all phenomena. It is watching phenomena decay and die. Mindfulness is watching things moment by moment, continuously. It is observing all phenomena - physical, mental or emotional - whatever is presently taking place in the mind. One just sits back and watches the show. Mindfulness is the observance of the basic nature of each passing phenomena. It is watching the thing arising and passing away. It is seeing how the thing makes us feel and how we react to it. It is observing how it affects others. In Mindfulness, one is an unbiased observer whose sole job is to keep track of the constantly passing show of the universe within. Please note that last point. In Mindfulness, one watches the universe within. The meditator who is developing Mindfulness (Sati) is not concerned with the external universe. It is there, but in meditation, one's field of study is one's own experience, one's thoughts, one's feelings, and one's perceptions. In meditation, one is one's own laboratory. The universe within has an enormous fund of information containing the reflection of the external world and much more. An examination of this material leads to total freedom.

  Mindfulness (Sati) is participatory observation. The meditator is both participant and observer at one and the same time. If one watches one's emotions or physical sensations, one is feeling them at that very same moment. Mindfulness is not an intellectual awareness. It is just awareness. The Mirror- thought metaphor breaks down here. Mindfulness is objective, but it is not cold or unfeeling. It is the wakeful experience of life, an alert participation in the ongoing process of living.

  Mindfulness is an extremely difficult concept to define in words - not because it is complex, but because it is too simple and open. The same problem crops up in every area of human experience. The most basic concept is always the most difficult to pin down. Look at a dictionary and you will see a clear example. Long words generally have concise definitions, but for short basic words like "the", "is" or "but", definitions can be a page long. And in physics, the most difficult functions to describe are the most basic - those that deal with the most fundamental realities of quantum mechanics. Mindfulness is a pre- symbolic function. You can play with word symbols all day long and you will never pin it down completely. We can never fully express what it is. However, we can say what it does.

Three Fundamental Activities
  There are three fundamental activities of Mindfulness (Sati). We can use these activities as functional definitions of the term: (1) Mindfulness reminds us what we are supposed to be doing; (2) it sees things as they really are; and (3) it sees the deep nature of all phenomena. Let's examine these definitions in greater detail.

  Mindfulness (Sati) reminds you what you are supposed to be doing. In meditation, you put your attention on one item. When your mind wanders from this focus, it is Mindfulness that reminds you that your mind is wandering and what you are supposed to be doing. It is Mindfulness that brings your mind back to the object of meditation. All of this occurs instantaneously and without internal dialogue. Meditation is not thinking. Repeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries over into the rest of your life. You should be paying bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not. This is a very lofty ideal towards which those who meditate may be working for a period of years or even decades. Our habit of getting stuck in thought is years old, and that habit will hang on in the most tenacious manner. The only way out is to be equally persistent in the cultivation of constant Mindfulness (Sati). When Mindfulness is present, you will notice when you become stuck in your thought patterns. It is that very noticing which allows you to back out of the thought process and free yourself from it. Mindfulness then returns your attention to its proper focus. If you are meditating at that moment, then your focus will be the formal object of meditation. If you are not in formal meditation, it will be just a pure application of bare attention itself, just a pure noticing of whatever comes up without getting involved - "Ah, this comes up... and now this, and now this... and now this."

  Mindfulness (Sati) is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we have ceased to do so. Bare attention is noticing. It re-establishes itself simply by noticing that it has not been present. As soon as you are noticing that you have not been noticing, then by definition you are noticing and then again you are back to paying bare attention. Well, that all sounds very involved, but there is nothing complex about it. It is just the words. It is just a thing you will learn to do by feel, the way you play baseball. Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness. It has a flavor - a light, clear, energetic flavor.

  Conscious thought is heavy by comparison, ponderous and picky. But here again, these are just words. Your own practice will show you the difference. Then you will probably come up with your own words and the words used here will become superfluous. Remember, practice is the thing.

  Mindfulness (Sati) sees things as they really are. It adds nothing to perception and it subtracts nothing. It distorts nothing. It is bare attention and just looks at whatever comes up. Conscious thought loves to paste things over our experience, to load us down with concepts and ideas, to immerse us in a churning vortex of plans and worries, fears and fantasies. When mindful, you don't play that game. You just notice exactly what arises in the mind, then you notice the next thing. "Ah, this... and this... and now this." It is really very simple.

  Mindfulness (Sati) sees the true nature of all phenomena. Mindfulness and only Mindfulness can perceive the three prime characteristics that Buddhism teaches are the deepest truth of existence. In Pali these three are called Annica (impermanence), Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and Anatta (selflessness - the absence of a permanent, unchanging, entity that we call soul or self). These truths, by the way, are not presented in Buddhist teaching as dogmas subject to blind faith. The Buddhists feel that these truths are universal and self-evident to anyone who cares to investigate in a proper way. Mindfulness is that method of investigation. Mindfulness alone has the power to reveal the deepest level of reality available to human observation. At this level of inspection, one sees the following: (a) All conditioned things are inherently transitory; (b) every worldly thing is, in the end, unsatisfying; and (c) there are really no entities that are unchanging or permanent, only processes.

  Mindfulness works like an electron microscope. That is, it operates on so fine a level that one can actually see directly those realities which are at best theoretical constructs to the conscious thought process. Mindfulness actually sees the impermanent character of every perception. It sees the transitory and passing nature of everything that is perceived. It also sees the inherently unsatisfactory nature of all conditioned things. It sees that there is no sense grabbing onto any of these passing shows. Peace and happiness just cannot be found that way. And finally, Mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena. It sees the way we have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of experience and then conceptualized them as separate, enduring, entities. Mindfulness actually sees these things. It does not think about them, it sees them directly. When it is fully developed, Mindfulness sees these three attributes of existence directly, instantaneously, and without the intervening medium of conscious thought. In fact, even the attributes which we just covered are inherently arbitrary. They don't really exist as separate items. They are purely the result of our struggle to take this fundamentally simple process called Mindfulness and express it in the cumbersome and inherently unsuitable thought symbols of the conscious level. Mindfulness is a PROCESS, but it does not take place in steps. It is a wholistic process that occurs as a unit: you notice your own lack of Mindfulness; and that noticing itself is a result of Mindfulness; and Mindfulness is bare attention; and bare attention is noticing things exactly as they are without distortion; and the way they are is Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta (impermananent, unsatisfactory, and self-less). It all takes place in a flash-bang. This does not mean, however, that you will instantly attain liberation (freedom from all human weaknesses) as a result of your first moment of Mindfulness. Learning to integrate this material into your conscious life is another whole process. And learning to prolong this state of Mindfulness is still another. They are joyous processes, however, and they are well worth the effort.

Mindfulness (Sati) and Insight (Vipassana) Meditation
  Mindfulness is the center of Vipassana meditation and the key to the whole process. It is both the goal of this meditation and the means to that end. You reach Mindfulness by being ever more mindful. One other Pali word that is translated into English as Mindfulness is Appamada, which means non- negligence or an absence of madness. One who attends constantly to what is really going on in one;s mind achieves the state of ultimate sanity.

  The Pali term 'Sati' also bears the connotation of remembering. It is not memory in the sense of ideas and pictures from the past, but rather clear, direct, wordless knowing of what is and what is not, of what is correct and what is incorrect, of what we are doing and how we should go about it. Mindfulness (Sati) reminds the meditator to apply his attention to the proper object at the proper time and to exert precisely the amount of energy needed to do that job. When this energy is properly applied, the meditator stays constantly in a state of calmness and alertness. As long as this condition is maintained, those mind-states called 'hindrances' or 'psychic irritants' cannot arise - there is no greed, no hatred, no lust or laziness. But we are all human and we all goof. Most of us are very human and we goof repeatedly. Despite honest effort, the meditator lets his Mindfulness slip now and then and he finds himself stuck in some nasty, but normal, human failure. It is Mindfulness that notices that change. And it is Mindfulness that reminds him to apply the energy required to pull himself out of the soup. These slips happen over and over, but their frequency decreases with practice. Once Mindfulness has pushed these mental defilements aside, more wholesome states of mind can take their place. Hatred makes way for loving kindness, lust is replaced by detachment. It is Mindfulness which notices this change, too, and which reminds the Vipassana meditator to maintain that extra little mental sharpness needed to keep these more desirable states of mind. Mindfulness makes possible the growth of wisdom and compassion. Without Mindfulness they cannot develop to full maturity.

  Deeply buried in the mind, there lies a mental mechanism which accepts what the mind perceives as beautiful and pleasant experiences and rejects those experiences which are perceived as ugly and painful. This mechanism gives rise to those states of mind which we are training ourselves to avoid - things like greed, lust, hatred, aversion, and jealousy. We choose to avoid these hindrances, not because they are evil in the normal sense of the word, but because they are compulsive; because they take the mind over and capture the attention completely; because they keep going round and round in tight little circles of thought; and because they seal us off from living reality.

  These hamperings cannot arise when Mindfulness is present. Mindfulness is attention to present time reality, and therefore, directly antithetical to the dazed state of mind which characterizes the impediments. As meditators, it is only when we let our Mindfulness slip that the deep mechanisms of our minds take over - grasping, clinging and rejecting. Then resistance emerges and obscures our awareness. We do not notice that the change is taking place - we are too busy with a thought of revenge, or greed, whatever it may be. While an untrained person will continue inn this state indefinitely, a trained meditator will soon realize what is happening. It is Mindfulness that notices the change. It is Mindfulness that remembers the training received ad that focuses our attention so that the confusion fades away. And it is Mindfulness that then attempts to maintain itself indefinitely so that the resistance cannot arise again. Thus, Mindfulness is the specific antidote for hindrances. It is both the cure and the preventive measure.

  Fully developed Mindfulness (Sati) is a state of total non-attachment and utter absence of clinging to anything in the world. If we can maintain this state, no other means or device is needed to keep ourselves free of obstructions, to achieve liberation from our human weaknesses. Mindfulness is non-superficial awareness. It sees things deeply, down below the level of concepts and opinions. This sort of deep observation leads to total certainty, a complete absence of confusion. It manifests itself primarily as a constant and unwavering attention which never flags an which never turns away.

  This pure and unstained investigative awareness not only holds the fetters at bay, it lays bare their very mechanism and destroys them. Mindfulness neutralizes defilements in the mind. The result is a mind which remains unstained and invulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life.

  [California Buddhist Vihara Society, 4797 Myrtle Drive, Concord CA 94521]



  Introduction To Insight Meditation

  The aim of this booklet is to serve as an introduction to the practice of Insight Meditation as taught within the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. You need not be familiar with the teachings of the Buddha to make use of it, although such knowledge can help to clarify any personal understanding you may develop through meditation.

  The purpose of Insight Meditation is not to create a system of beliefs, but rather to give guidance on how to see clearly into the nature of the mind. In this way one gains first-hand understanding of the way things are, without reliance on opinions or theories -- a direct experience, which has its own vitality. It also gives rise to the sense of deep calm that comes from knowing something for oneself, beyond any doubt.

  Insight Meditation is a key factor in the path that the Buddha offered for the welfare of human beings; the only criterion is that one has to put it into practice! These pages, therefore, describe a series of meditation exercises, and practical advice on how to use them. It works best if the reader follows the guide progressively, giving each sequence of instructions a good work-out before proceeding further.

  The term "Insight Meditation" (samatha-vipassana) refers to practices for the mind that develop calm (samatha) through sustained attention, and insight (vipassana) through reflection. A fundamental technique for sustaining attention is focusing awareness on the body; traditionally, this is practised while sitting or walking. The guide begins with some advice on this.

  Reflection occurs quite naturally afterwards, when one is "comfortable" within the context of the meditation exercise. There will be a sense of ease and interest, and one begins to look around and become acquainted with the mind that is meditating. This "looking around" is called contemplation, a personal and direct seeing that can only be suggested by any technique. A few ideas and guidance on this come in a later section.

  It should be noted that knowledge of terms in Pali -- the canonical language of Theravada Buddhism -- is not necessary to begin the practice of meditation. It can be useful, however, to provide reference points to the large source of guidance in the Theravada Canon, as well as to the teaching of many contemporary masters who still find such words more precise than their English equivalents.)

  1. Sustaining Attention

  Time and Place ... Focusing the mind on the body can be readily accomplished while sitting. You need to find a time and a place which affords you calm and freedom from disturbance.

  A quiet room with not much in it to distract the mind is ideal; a setting with light and space has a brightening and clearing effect, while a cluttered and gloomy room has just the opposite. Timing is also important, particularly as most people's days are quite structured with routines. It is not especially productive to meditate when you have something else to do, or when you're pressed for time. It's better to set aside a period -- say, in the early morning or in the evening after work -- when you can really give your full attention to the practice. Begin with fifteen minutes or so. Practise sincerely with the limitations of time and available energy, and avoid becoming mechanical about the routine. Meditation practice, supported by genuine willingness to investigate and make peace with oneself, will develop naturally in terms of duration and skill.

  Awareness of the body ... The development of calm is aided by stability, and by a steady but peaceful effort. If you can't feel settled, there's no peacefulness; if there's no sense of application, you tend to day-dream. One of the most effective postures for the cultivation of the proper combination of stillness and energy is sitting.

  Use a posture that will keep your back straight without strain. A simple upright chair may be helpful, or you may be able to use one of the lotus postures (See the " Notes on Posture"). These look awkward at first, but in time they can provide a unique balance of gentle firmness that gladdens the mind without tiring the body.

  If the chin is tilted very slightly down this will help, but do not allow the head to loll forward as this encourages drowsiness. Place the hands on your lap, palms upwards, one gently resting on the other with the thumb-tips touching. Take your time, and get the right balance.

  Now, collect your attention, and begin to move it slowly down your body. Notice the sensations. Relax any tensions, particularly in the face, neck and hands. Allow the eyelids to close or half close.

  Investigate how you are feeling. Expectant or tense? Then relax your attention a little. With this, the mind will probably calm down, and you may find some thoughts drifting in -- reflections, daydreams, memories, or doubts about whether you are doing it right! Instead of following or contending with these thought patterns, bring more attention to the body, which is a useful anchor for a wandering mind.

  Cultivate a spirit of inquiry in your meditation attitude. Take your time. Move your attention, for example, systematically from the crown of the head down over the whole body. Notice the different sensations -- such as warmth, pulsing, numbness, and sensitivity -- in the joints of each finger, the moisture of the palms, and the pulse in the wrist. Even areas that may have no particular sensation, such as the forearms or the earlobes, can be "swept over" in an attentive way. Notice how even the lack of sensation is something the mind can be aware of. This constant and sustained investigation is called mindfulness (sati) and is one of the primary tools of Insight Meditation.

  Mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati)

  Instead of "body sweeping", or after a preliminary period of this practice, mindfulness can be developed through attention on the breath.

  First, follow the sensation of your ordinary breath as it flows in through the nostrils and fills the chest and abdomen. Then try maintaining your attention at one point, either at the diaphragm or -- a more refined location -- at the nostrils. Breath has a tranquillising quality, steady and relaxing if you don't force it; this is helped by an upright posture. Your mind may wander, but keep patiently returning to the breath.

  It is not necessary to develop concentration to the point of excluding everything else except the breath. Rather than to create a trance, the purpose here is to allow you to notice the workings of the mind, and to bring a measure of peaceful clarity into it. The entire process -- gathering your attention, noticing the breath, noticing that the mind has wandered, and re-establishing your attention -- develops mindfulness, patience and insightful understanding. So don't be put off by apparent "failure" -- simply begin again. Continuing in this way allows the mind eventually to calm down.

  If you get very restless or agitated, just relax. Practise being at peace with yourself, listening to -- without necessarily believing in -- the voices of the mind.

  If you feet drowsy, then put more care and attention into your body and posture. Refining your attention or pursuing tranquillity at such times will only make matters worse!

Walking and Standing
  Many meditation exercises, such as the above "mindfulness of breathing", are practised while sitting. However, walking is commonly alternated with sitting as a form for meditation. Apart from giving you different things to notice, it's a skilful way to energise the practice if the calming effect of sitting is making you dull.

  If you have access to some open land, measure off about 25-30 paces' length of level ground (or a clearly defined pathway between two trees), as your meditation path. Stand at one end of the path, and compose your mind on the sensations of the body. First, let the attention rest on the feeling of the body standing upright, with the arms hanging naturally and the hands lightly clasped in front or behind. Allow the eyes to gaze at a point about three metres in front of you at ground level, thus avoiding visual distraction. Now, walk gently, at a deliberate but "normal" pace, to the end of the path. Stop. Focus on the body standing for the period of a couple of breaths. Turn, and walk back again. While walking, be aware of the general flow of physical sensations, or more closely direct your attention to the feet. The exercise for the mind is to keep bringing its attention back to the sensation of the feet touching the ground, the spaces between each step, and the feelings of stopping and starting.

  Of course, the mind will wander. So it is important to cultivate patience, and the resolve to begin again. Adjust the pace to suit your state of mind -- vigorous when drowsy or trapped in obsessive thought, firm but gentle when restless and impatient. At the end of the path, stop; breathe in and out; "let go" of any restlessness, worry, calm, bliss, memories or opinions about yourself. The "inner chatter" may stop momentarily, or fade out. Begin again. In this way you continually refresh the mind, and allow it to settle at its own rate.

  In more confined spaces, alter the length of the path to suit what is available. Alternatively, you can circumambulate a room, pausing after each circumambulation for a few moments of standing. This period of standing can be extended to several minutes, using "body sweeping".

  Walking brings energy and fluidity into the practice, so keep your pace steady and just let changing conditions pass through the mind. Rather than expecting the mind to be as still as it might be while sitting, contemplate the flow of phenomena. It is remarkable how many times we can become engrossed in a train of thought -- arriving at the end of the path and "coming to" with a start! -- but it is natural for our untrained minds to become absorbed in thoughts and moods. So instead of giving in to impatience, learn how to let go, and begin again. A sense of ease and calm may then arise, allowing the mind to become open and clear in a natural, unforced way.

Lying Down
  Reclining at the end of a day, spend a few minutes meditating while lying on one side. Keep the body quite straight and bend one arm up so that the hand acts as a support for the head. Sweep through the body, resting its stresses; or collect your attention on the breath, consciously putting aside memories of the day just past and expectations of tomorrow. In a few minutes, with your mind clear, you'll be able to rest well.

Cultivating the Heart
  Cultivating good-will (metta) gives another dimension to the practice of Insight. Meditation naturally teaches patience and tolerance, or at least it shows the importance of these qualities. So you may well wish to develop a more friendly and caring attitude towards yourself and other people. In meditation, you can cultivate good-will very realistically.

  Focus attention on the breath, which you will now be using as the means of spreading kindness and good-will. Begin with yourself, with your body. Visualise the breath as a light, or see your awareness as being a warm ray, and gradually sweep it over your body. Lightly focus your attention on the centre of the chest, around the heart region. As you breathe in, direct patient kindness towards yourself, perhaps with the thought, "May I be well", or "Peace". As you breathe out, let the mood of that thought, or the awareness of light, spread outwards from the heart, through the body, through the mind, and beyond yourself. "May others be well."

  If you are experiencing negative states of mind, breathe in the qualities of tolerance and forgiveness. Visualising the breath as having a healing colour may be helpful. On the out-breath, let go -- of any stress, worry or negativity -- and extend the sense of release through the body, the mind, and beyond, as before.

  This practice can form all or part of a period of meditation -- you have to judge for yourself what is appropriate. The calming effect of meditating with a kindly attitude is good for beginning a sitting, but there will no doubt be times to use this approach for long periods, to go deeply into the heart.

  Always begin with what you are aware of, even if it seems trivial or confused. Let your mind rest calmly on that -- whether it's boredom, an aching knee, or the frustration of not feeling particularly kindly. Allow these to be; practise being at peace with them. Recognise and gently put aside any tendencies towards laziness, doubt or guilt.

  Peacefulness can develop into a very nourishing kindness towards yourself, if you first of all fully accept the presence of what you dislike. Keep the attention steady, and open the heart to whatever you experience. This does not imply approval of negative states, but allows them a space wherein they can come and go.

  Generating good-will toward the world beyond yourself follows much the same pattern. A simple way to spread kindness is to work in stages. Start with yourself, joining the sense of loving acceptance to the movement of the breath. "May I be well." Then, reflect on people you love and respect, and wish them well, one by one. Move on to friendly acquaintances, then to those towards whom you feel indifferent. "May they be well." Finally, bring to mind those people you fear or dislike, and continue to send out wishes of good-will.

  This meditation can expand, in a movement of compassion, to include all people in the world, in their many circumstances. And remember, you don't have to feel that you love everyone in order to wish them well!

  Kindness and compassion originate from the same source of good will, and they broaden the mind beyond the purely personal perspective. If you're not always trying to make things go the way you want them to; if you're more accepting and receptive to yourself and others as they are, compassion arises by itself. Compassion is the natural sensitivity of the heart.

  2. Reflection

Choiceless Awareness
  Meditation can also proceed without a meditation object, in a state of pure contemplation, or "choiceless awareness".

  After calming the mind by one of the methods described above, consciously put aside the meditation object. Observe the flow of mental images and sensations just as they arise, without engaging in criticism or praise. Notice any aversion and fascination; contemplate any uncertainty, happiness, restlessness or tranquillity as it arises. You can return to a meditation object (such as the breath). whenever the sense of clarity diminishes, or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by impressions. When a sense of steadiness returns, you can relinquish the object again.

  This practice of "bare attention" is well-suited for contemplating the mental process. Along with observing the mind's particular "ingredients", we can turn our attention to the nature of the container. As for the contents of the mind, Buddhist teaching points especially to three simple, fundamental characteristics.

  First, there is changeability (anicca) - the ceaseless beginning and ending all things go through, the constant movement of the content of the mind. This mind-stuff may be pleasant or unpleasant, but it is never at rest.

  There is also a persistent, often subtle, sense of dissatisfaction (dukkha). Unpleasant sensations easily evoke that sense, but even a lovely experience creates a tug in the heart when it ends. So at the best of moments there is still an inconclusive quality in what the mind experiences, a somewhat unsatisfied feeling.

  As the constant arising and passing of experiences and moods become familiar, it also becomes clear that -- since there is no permanence in them -- none of them really belong to you. And, when this mind-stuff is silent -- revealing a bright spaciousness of mind -- there are no purely personal characteristics to be found! This can be difficult to comprehend, but in reality there is no "me" and no "mine"-- the characteristic of "no-self", or impersonality (anatta).

  Investigate fully and notice how these qualities pertain to all things, physical and mental. No matter if your experiences are joyful or barely endurable, this contemplation will lead to a calm and balanced perspective on your life.

Contemplating Your Practice
  These meditation exercises all serve to establish awareness of things as they are. By bringing your mind fully onto experiences, you will notice more clearly the state of the mind itself -- for example, whether you are being lazy or over-eager in your practice. With a little honest appraisal, it becomes evident that the quality of the meditation practice depends, not on the exercise being used, but on what you are putting into it. Reflecting in this way, you will gain deeper insight into your personality and habits.

  There are some useful points to bear in mind whenever you meditate. Consider whether you are beginning afresh each time -- or even better, with each breath or footstep. If you don't practise with an open mind, you may find yourself trying to recreate a past insight, or unwilling to learn from your mistakes. Is there the right balance of energy whereby you are doing all that you can without being over-forceful? Are you keeping in touch with what is actually happening in your mind, or using a technique in a dull, mechanical way? As for concentration, it's good to check whether you are putting aside concerns that are not immediate, or letting yourself meander in thoughts and moods. Or, are you trying to repress feelings without acknowledging them and responding wisely?

  Proper concentration is that which unifies the heart and mind. Reflecting in this way encourages you to develop a skilful approach. And of course, reflection will show you more than how to meditate: it will give you the clarity to understand yourself.

  Remember, until you've developed some skill and case with meditation, it's best to use a meditation object, such as the breath, as a focus for awareness and as an antidote for the overwhelming nature of the mind's distractions. Even so, whatever your length of experience with the practice, it is always helpful to return to awareness of the breath or body. Developing this ability to begin again leads to stability and case. With a balanced practice, you realise more and more the way the body and mind are, and see how to live with greater freedom and harmony. This is the purpose and the fruit of Insight Meditation.

  However, with the practice of insight meditation, you discover a space in which to stand back a little from what you think you are, from what you think you have. Contemplating these perceptions, it becomes clearer that you don't have any thing as "me" or "mine"; there are simply experiences, which come and go through the mind. So if, for example, you're looking into an irritating habit, rather than becoming depressed by it, you don't reinforce it and the habit passes away. It may come back again, but this time it's weaker, and you know what to do. Through cultivating peaceful attention, mental content calms down and may even fade out, leaving the mind clear and refreshed. Such is the ongoing path of insight.

  To be able to go to a still centre of awareness within the changing flow of daily life is the sign of a mature practice, for insight deepens immeasurably when it is able to spread to all experience. Try to use the perspective of insight no matter what you are doing -- routine housework, driving the car, having a cup of tea. Collect the awareness, rest it steadily on what you are doing, and rouse a sense of inquiry into the nature of the mind in the mist of activity. Using the practice to centre on physical sensations, mental states, or eye-, ear- or nose-consciousness can develop an ongoing contemplation that turns mundane tasks into foundations for insight.

  Centred more and more in awareness, the mind becomes free to respond skilfully to the moment, and there is greater harmony in life. This is the way that meditation does "social work"-- by bringing awareness into your life, it brings peace into the world. When you can abide peacefully with the great variety of feelings that arise in consciousness, you are able to live more openly with the world, and with yourself as you are.

  3. Further Suggestions

Personal Conduct
  As our insight deepens, we see more clearly the results of our actions -- the peace that good intention, sincerity and clear-mindedness promote, and the trouble that confusion and carelessness create. It is this greater sensitivity, observing in particular the distress we cause ourselves and others, that often inspires us to want to live more wisely. For true peace of mind, it is indispensable that formal meditation be combined with a commitment to responsibility, and with care for oneself and others.

  There is really nothing mysterious about the path of Insight. In the words of the Buddha, the way is simple: "Do good, refrain from doing evil, and purify the mind". It is a long-observed tradition, then, for people who engage in spiritual practice to place great importance on proper conduct. Many meditators undertake realistic moral vows -- such as refraining from harming living beings, from stealing, from careless use of sexuality, from using intoxicants (alcohol and drugs), and from gossip and other graceless speech habits -- to help their own inner clarity, and perhaps gently encourage that of others.

Company and Routine
  Meditating with a few friends at regular times can be a great support towards constancy of practice and development of wisdom. The solitary meditator eventually faces diminishing will-power, as there's often something else to do that seems more important (or more interesting) than watching the breath. Regular group meditation for an agreed-upon duration keeps the participants going, regardless of their flux of moods. (The investigation of these shifts of disposition often yields important insights, but on our own we can find it difficult to persevere with them.) As well as seeing the personal benefits, you can reflect that your efforts are helping others to keep practising.

Notes on Posture
  The ideal is an upright, alert posture. Slumping only increases the pressure on the legs and discomfort in the back. It is important to attend to your posture with wisdom, not insensitive will-power! Posture will improve in time, but you need to work with the body, not use force against it.

  Check your posture: „h Are the hips leaning back? This will cause a slump. „h The small of the back should have its natural, unforced curve so that the abdomen is forward and "open". „h Imagine that someone is gently pushing between the shoulder blades, while keeping the muscles relaxed. This will give you an idea of whether you unconsciously "hunch" your shoulders (and hence close your chest). „h Note, and gently release, any tension in the neck/shoulder region.

  If your posture feels tense or stack: „h Allow the spine to straighten by imagining the crown of the head as suspended from above. This also lets the chin tuck in slightly. „h Keep the arms light and held back against the abdomen. If they are forward, they pull you out of balance. „h Use a small firm cushion underneath and toward the back of the buttocks to support the angle of the hips. For the legs: „h Practise some stretching exercises (like touching the toes with both legs stretched out, while sitting). „h If you have a lot of pain during a period of sitting, change posture, sit on a small stool or chair, or stand up for a while. „h If you usually (or wish to) sit on or near the floor, experiment with cushions of different size and firmness, or try out one of the special meditation stools that are available.

  For drowsiness: „h Try meditating with your eyes open. „h "Sweep" your attention systematically around your body. „h Focus on the whole body and on physical sensations, rather than on a subtle object like the breath. „h Stand up and walk mindfully for a while in the open air.

  For tension or headaches: „h You may be trying too hard -- this is not unusual! -- so lighten your concentration. For instance, you might move your attention to the sensation of the breath at the abdomen. „h Generate the energy of good-will (see the section on "Cultivating the Heart"), and direct it towards the area of tension. „h Visualising and spreading light through the body can be helpful in alleviating its aches and pains. Try actually focusing a benevolent light on an area of difficulty!




  Practicing Dharma in Daily Life / by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Waking Up
  In the morning when you wake up, visualize the Buddha on the crown of your head and think, "How fortunate I am that so far I have not died. Again today I have the opportunity to practice the Dharma. I again have the opportunity to take the essence of this human rebirth which has so many freedoms and richnesses. The great essence to be taken from this opportunity is to practice bodhicitta, the mind that is dedicated to attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, by renouncing myself and cherishing others. Cherishing only myself is the greatest obstacle to be happy myself and it is especially the greatest hindrance to bringing about happiness of all sentient beings. So, from now on, I will never allow myself to be under control of the self-cherishing thought.

  "Also, cherishing others is the best means to bring all success for my own happiness and especially to successfully bring about the happiness that all sentient beings desire. Therefore, from now on, I will never separate from the precious bodhicitta, the mind cherishing other sentient beings, for even one moment. With the bodhicitta, and the mind that cherishes others, I will live my life."

  Then make a sincere request to the Buddha, "Whether my life is happy or painful, may whatever actions I do with my body, speech and mind always become only the cause to lead quickly the pitiful mother sentient beings throughout infinite space to enlightenment." Guru Shakyamuni is extremely pleased with your request. He melts into light, which flows down through your crown to your heart, blessing, inspiring and transforming your mind. Think, "I have received all of the Buddha's qualities." Then imagine a small Buddha made of light appears at your heart. Throughout the day, think of the Buddha constantly. In this way, you will become more mindful of what you do, say and think, as you will be aware of Buddha witnessing it.

  Read and contemplate the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation: 1. With the thought of attaining enlightenment For the welfare of beings, Who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel, I will constantly practice holding them dear. 2. Whenever I am with others, I will practice seeing myself as the lowest of all And from the very depth of my heart, I will respectfully hold others as supreme. 3. In all actions, I will examine my mind And the moment a disturbing attitude arises, Endangering myself and others, I will firmly confront and avert it. 4. Whenever I meet a person of bad nature Who is overwhelmed by negative energy and intense suffering, I will hold such a rare one dear, As if I had found a precious treasure. 5. When others, out of jealousy, Mistreat me with abuse, slander and so on, I will practice accepting defeat And offering the victory to them. 6. When someone I have benefitted And in whom I have placed great trust Hurts me very badly, I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher. 7. In short, I will offer directly and indirectly Every benefit and happiness to all beings, my mothers. I will practice in secret taking upon myself All their harmful actions and sufferings. 8. Without these practices being defiled by the stains of the eight worldly concerns, By perceiving all phenomena as illusory, I will practice without grasping to release all beings From the bondage of the disturbing, unsubdued mind and karma. By remembering Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, do your daily life actions as follow:

Eating and Drinking
  Before you eat or drink, think, "I am going to make this food (drink) offering to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, who is the embodiment of all the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha, in order to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all mother sentient beings." Think the food is very pure and sweet nectar that gives great bliss. Its taste is delicious, like what a Buddha experiences; that is, it is completely beyond the usual ordinary appearance of food. Offer the food with the following prayers and imagine the Buddha at your heart experiences bliss as you eat.

  Recite "OM AH HUM" three times to consecrate the food and then offer it with any of the following verses:

  Guru is Buddha, Guru is Dharma, Guru is Sangha, also. Guru is the source of all (goodness and happiness). To all the Gurus, I make this offering. You, whose body was formed by a million perfect virtues, Whose speech fulfils the hopes of all beings, Whose mind perceives all that is to be known, To the prince of the Shakyas I make this offering. The supreme teacher, the precious Buddha, The supreme refuge, the holy precious Dharma, The supreme guide, the precious Sangha, To all of the objects of refuge, I make this offering. As you eat, imagine that Guru Shakyamuni at your heart experiences bliss from the nectar that you have offered to him. He radiates light which fills your entire body.

  Dedicate the positive potential (merit) created by offering the food: May we and those around us, in all future lives, Never be separated from the Three Jewels, Continuously make offerings to the Three Jewels, And receive the inspiration of the Three Jewels. When you dedicate, especially remember the sentient beings who created negative karma by harming others and who suffered and died in the process of growing and preparing the food.

Enjoying Sense Objects
  Whatever sense objects you enjoy during the day -- clothes, music, beautiful scenery and so forth -- think that you are offering them to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha who is at your heart. In this way, you continuously make offerings to the Buddha, thus creating a great store of positive potential. Also, you will become less attached to sense pleasures and will begin to enjoy them with a peaceful mind.

Making Offerings on the Altar
  Think, "I am going to make these offerings in order to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all pitiful mother sentient beings who have been kind to me since beginningless rebirths." Immediately consecrate whatever you offer by saying, "OM AH HUM."

  When you look at the pictures and statues of the Buddhas and holy beings on your altar, think that they are all the Guru and the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha of the ten directions. Offer to them with this recognition, and imagine that they generate great bliss by receiving your offerings. Think that you are offering to the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats and sanghas of the ten directions. Offer to the statues of the Buddhas and deities (which represent the Buddha's holy body), to all the scriptures (which represent the Buddha's holy speech), and to all the stupas (which represent the Buddha's holy mind) that exist in all ten directions. This includes making offerings to all holy objects in Tibet, in India and in each person's home where there is a holy object. This is the most skillful way to accumulate merit without needing to take even one step or spend even one dollar to travel to those places. By thinking that ll the statues, Buddhas, bodhisattvas and so forth are manifestations of the guru, you accumulate the highest merit.

  After offering, think, "Whatever happiness and virtue I have accumulated, may all sentient beings receive it, and whatever suffering beings have, may it ripen upon me." Then dedicate the positive potential.

  When you go to work, think, "I must achieve enlightenment in order to lead each and every sentient being to enlightenment. Therefore, I am going to do service for sentient beings by going to work." If you are working in order to provide for your family, it is service to sentient beings. If you do not have to provide for your family, you nevertheless need the necessary material conditions in order to practice the Dharma so that you may attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. While you are at work, remember the kindness of the other sentient beings who gave you the job and who make it possible for you to earn a living. Thinking in this way helps to avoid generating negative emotions like anger at work.

  Think, "I am going to bathe by transforming this action into the cause to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings." By thinking in a new way, you can make your shower or bath a purification practice. One way to think is that the water is very blissful and you are offering it to the Buddha at your heart. Another way is to visualize whichever manifestation of the Buddha you feel a strong connection with (for example, Chenresig or Tara) above your head and think that the bathing water is flowing from his or her hand. The water is the nature of wisdom and it is making your mind clear so you can practice the path for the benefit of sentient beings. While you are washing, think that all negative karmas, sicknesses and interfering forces are cleansed by the wisdom realizing emptiness and that you receive all the realizations and the qualities of the Buddha.

  Sleeping At the end of the day it is important to purify the negative actions created during the day. The most powerful method to do this is by means of the four opponent powers: 1. Having regret for the negative actions you have done. 2. Taking refuge and generating bodhicitta. 3. Doing remedial actions, i.e. a purification practice. 4. Determining not to do the action again in the future. By doing this, it stops the karma from multiplying each day, each week, each month. It also purifies the negative karma accumulated since beginningless time. By thus cleansing your obstacles, you have the opportunity to become enlightened. Before going to bed, think, "I take refuge until I am enlightened in the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha. By the positive potential I create by practicing generosity and the other far-reaching attitudes, may I attain Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings."

Om Vajrasattva Hum
  Visualize Guru Vajrasattva on your crown. Light and nectar flow down from his heart into you and purify all negative karmas and obscurations of yourself and others. While visualizing in this way, recite Vajrasattva's mantra at least twenty-eight times: "om vajrasattva hum" Then Vajrasattva says to you, "All your negative karmas and obscurations are completely purified. Be happy about this." Vajrasattva absorbs into your heart and blesses your mind.

  Dedicate the positive potential: "May the precious bodhi mind Not yet born arise and grow. May that born have no decline, But increase forever more. "In all my lives with the victorious one, Lama Tsong Khapa, acting in person as the mahayana guru, may I never turn aside for even an instant from the excellent path praised by the victorious ones.

  "Due to the positive potentials accumulated by myself and others in the past, present and future, may anyone who merely sees, hears, remembers, touches or talks to me be freed in that very instant from all sufferings and abide in happiness forever."

  When you go to bed, think, "I am going to practice sleeping yoga in order to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings." Lie down in the lion position, which is how the Buddha lay when he passed away: lie on your right side, with your right hand under your cheek. Your left hand is on your left thigh and your legs are extended. Remember the kindness and sufferings of sentient beings and go to sleep feeling loving-kindness towards them. Visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha on your pillow and put your head in his lap. Very gentle light flows from the Buddha into you and by remembering the Buddha's enlightened qualities with devotion, fall asleep.

Do It Yourself
  Do it Yourself / by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

  The Venerable Ananda, the Buddha's personal attendant, spent twenty- five years with the Buddha serving him. The Buddha asked him several times to strive hard and attain enlightenment. He had known all the Dhamma and theories of meditation. However, as he enjoyed serving the Buddha and other fellow bhikkhus, he neglected his own attainment of enlightenment until finally a great pressure came from the 499 Arahants assembled to hold the first Buddhist council. They insisted that he should attain enlightenment before the designated date for the council planned for the third month after the Buddha's passing away.

  Buddha had already said: "Monks, meditate. Don't be heedless. Don't let your mind be filled with defilements. Don't weep and wail saying: "This life is full of trouble, full of misery, full of pain, full of agony." The mind not developed through the practice of mindfulness meditation creates tension, anxiety and worry. Don't keep crying and repeating the same mistakes. You cannot run away from reality. Life is not rosy. It has ups-and-downs and bumps all over. These are facts we face every day.

  The practice of mindfulness meditation is similar to a the shock absorbers in a car. If the shock absorbers are not good, you will see how difficult it will be when you drive. This vehicle of ours - the body and mind, this combination - is full of such difficult moments. There is no place to run away from them. Even if you go to the moon (not an impossibility these days), still you will go with your body and mind filled with all kinds of impediments still existing in the mind. You cannot leave them here and go over there. They follow persistently and doggedly wherever you go, and they keep bothering you, day and night. Most people experiment with three solutions.

  They perceive the problem is "over there, in the world." Therefore, they think that by correcting the world, trying to solve society's ills, they can solve their problems. They wish to make the environment "proper, beautiful" and free from problems. Only then can they live happily. So they get engrossed and, sometimes, even obsessed, in trying to straighten out society. Of course, the desire to improve society's ills, itself, is commendable. They see suffering and become compassionate and then act. They may keep themselves fully occupied trying to correct the society's ills. They might think that they keep themselves out of trouble without realizing that they actually are forgetting their own nagging problems. They continue to have their own pains and suffering unattended primarily because they do not have time for themselves. These people are very compassionate, understanding, ready to render their service to the society selflessly or without any reward from the society. We read many wonderful accounts of many such noble persons who at the expense of their own attainment of enlightenment dedicate their lives to the society. External activities might hinder solving one's own problems.

  Although we live in society with people, each one of us has a little world of our own, views about the world, our own perception and understanding of the world. Each follows his or her perceptions, and views of the world. We may sometimes think that all the problems we experience are generated from the outer world. Therefore, we turn our energies to the world believing involvement in doing something to correct society will solve our problems. The second line of thinking which people pursue to solve their problems is to think that there is no problem at all. They believe that everything is imaginary. They think: " I exist by myself, I am most important, and I am all alone, and nothing else matters to me." The third way to solve personal problems is to run away from our problems.

  We may receive temporary solace, temporary comfort thinking either the problem exists over there in the external world or it does not exist, or diverting our attention to something, ignoring that there is a problem, or running away from the problem.

  The real solution lies in none of these methods. The real solution, according to the Buddha's teaching, is to discover a way to purify the instrument, the agent, which makes the world happy or unhappy, peaceful or miserable, pleasant or painful. That which creates problems and suffering for everybody. This instrument is our mind. Purification of this mind is one of the purposes of mindfulness meditation.

  As we all know, all our thoughts, words and deeds originate in the mind. Mind is the forerunner. All conditions which we experience are mind-made. They are created in the mind, directed and led by the mind. Mind puts them into action. "All actions are all led by the mind: mind is their master, mind is their maker. Act or speak with a defiled state of mind, then suffering follows like the cart-wheel that follows the foot of the ox. All actions are all led by the mind; mind is their master, mind is their maker. Act or speak with a pure state of mind, then happiness follows like a shadow that remains behind without departing." (Dhammapada 1-2)

  The analogy of the ox pulling the cart is most appropriate to illustrate our problems. The ox pulling the cart does not enjoy pulling the cart. He is not happy with this burden; it is not a pleasure. This poor bull pulling the cart has a terrible time. The whole burden of the cart is on his shoulders, and he will be in pain. The bull would have done better if he had not been born a bull. The condition of the bull is compared to the condition of ignorance, and stupidity - not seeing the truth as is. An unenlightened life is full of ignorance and given to defilements of all kinds. Therefore, an unenlightened person committing thoughts, words, and deeds with impure minds suffers very much like the bull who always suffers by pulling this heavy cart. On the other hand, when we speak or do something with a pure mind we feel happy, and have no regrets, no pain, no suffering following us.

  Our purpose in life is to improve ourselves everyday and become happy. We do many things to gain happiness. However, most of the things we do to gain happiness may generate unhappiness, pain, suffering and trouble because our minds are not pure. It is the pure mind that can generate happiness, not the impure mind. Therefore, the first purpose of practicing meditation is to purify our mind; that generates peace and happiness.

  The second purpose of meditation is to overcome sorrow and lamentation. When a meditator begins to see the truth he or she can bear and conquer sorrow and lamentation caused by impermanence.

  The third purpose is to overcome suffering and disappointment caused by greed and hatred.

  The fourth purpose of meditation is to tread the wise path, the correct path which leads to liberation from grief, sorrow, disappointment, pain and lamentation. This is the path of mindfulness - the only path that liberate us from suffering.

  The fifth purpose of meditation is to liberate ourselves completely and totally from mental pain and defilements and to free our minds from greed, hatred and delusion.

  These five purposes are very noble purposes. All other purposes of meditation may be overlooked because none of them is capable of generating these results making us really peaceful and happy by eliminating our problems. We don't try to ignore or avoid them but mindfully we face and tackle them as they arise in our minds.

  Certain people simply want to meditate without having any background knowledge of meditation. They think knowledge of the theory of meditation is an impediment. This attitude can be compared to the attitude of a traveler who wishes to go to a definite destination - let us say Washington DC. The traveler has great confidence in his ability and believes his confidence alone is sufficient to get him there. This person may have a vehicle - a car. Then, getting into the car, sitting behind the steering wheel, he starts to drive. However, there has been no preparation for the journey. There is no knowledge of the roads or the conditions of the roads or of the weather. He hasn't even consulted a map. All he has is a car and confidence and some experience in driving. The car may carry a sufficient quantity of gas, oil, and other items, so, the traveler gets into the car and starts driving. He may be on the road for a long time spending a good deal of money on gas, time and energy. Indeed, driving will lead him somewhere, but not necessarily to his destination. A wise driver, on the other hand, studies the map in detail, determines the detours, and may ask others who are more experienced.

  If the driver wishes to go to Washington DC and if there is a place called Washington DC, the driver will find it. Similarly, we need to have a goal in meditation. We want to reach this goal and realize our purpose. And we do need some guidelines. We do not necessarily need a great deal of philosophical and speculative theory. The guidelines are road signs to follow so that we will know (not guess) if we are heading in the right direction. Certainly confidence is necessary, but in itself, is not sufficient. In addition, we need understanding and knowledge of the theory.

  Then what is meditation? How do we reach this goal of purifying the mind, overcoming grief and lamentation, overcoming pain and disappointment, treading the path leading to liberation from pain, suffering and samsara - this world of birth and death?

  There is a way to attain it. When we refer to "the Way" it may turn many people off. They might think the speaker is trying to sell something and trying to deprecate everything in the world, and say "If this is the only way, we are not prepared to buy it." Now, when you wish to go to Washington DC, there are a number of ways to get there. Flying is the quickest way these days, of course. In other times, we would use a car or boat, or only our two feet. Whatever the means of transportation, we have to cover a specific distance to arrive in Washington DC. What is essential is that we get there - whether by slow or fast means. Therefore, "the Way" means "The Way of Mindfulness" that transverses a certain distance or area to realize our destination.

  This way of Mindfulness does not, however, lie in a geographical area or in space. It is in our own mind. We have to do certain things. That doing is also "the Way" -- the way to cultivate our minds to accomplish this journey. Cultivating the mind means practicing mindfulness. When no mindfulness is present, when we are unmindful all the time, we are entrapped by "red herrings." We are caught in all kinds of confusion. We don't understand things as they really are. To enable us to get to our destination, we need a clear understanding of where we are. Clear understanding is born from mindfulness. No matter what else we do or other practices we engage in they have their own purposes and goals. We learn that they do not purify the mind.

  The very word meditation means cultivation. We know what we mean when we say, "We cultivate a land." We know that there has to be a land and some means of cultivating it. We have to do certain things, such as cutting down the trees to clear the land, remove weeds and other things, and till it over and over and fertilize it. Then we can plant seeds and nourish it and grow certain crops. Similarly in the practice of meditation, we need to mentally cultivate the mind. We do not need to sit in one place just waiting for something to happen. We may wait indefinitely, or for a very long time, without anything happening. We might say that we have spent so much time in meditation. Sitting in one place doing nothing is not meditation. And also simply watching our breath all the time is inadequate and insufficient. Of course, mindfulness of breath is an important part of meditation. Simply watching the breath without any mindfulness may be called the practice of tranquillity meditation, however, it is not Right Concentration without mindfulness. We begin, however, with watching our breath. This meditation which is totally distinct to Buddhism is called Vipassana meditation or Insight meditation. There are guidelines for the practice of Insight or Vipassana meditation. These guidelines are given in the Sutta called the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

  These Four Foundations of Mindfulness are: Mindfulness of the Body, Mindfulness of Feeling, Mindfulness of the mind and Mindfulness of Mental Objects. We will explain them in turn.

  Let me take the first part - Mindfulness of the Body. Mindfulness of the body is divided into six sections. The first of them is Mindfulness of breathing. Now, why is the breath included in the mindfulness of the body? The breath is a part of our body. This body, as we know it, is made up of four basic elements: the element of extension (solid parts), the element of cohesion (the liquid part), the element of heat (radiation) and the element of air (oscillation or movement). Therefore, when we try to practice mindfulness of the body we begin with the mindfulness of the breath which is the element of air.

  In this meditation, we do not dwell upon some imaginative fairy land. We are not trying to induce self hypnosis. We are not trying to discover the hidden, mystical elements of the universe. We are not trying to become absorbed in the whole universe. We are not trying to become "One" with the whole universe. All these are interesting words. We are trying to use this personality of ours: our own body and mind. We watch mindfully this body and mind and their activities, we investigate them because they are what we carry with us wherever we go. This body and mind is our laboratory. All we have to work with is there -- the raw material, chemical substance, gases, heat, air, water, extension -- all are there. It is in this body, in this personality that we find all this. My laboratory is my body and mind. I always try to watch them within me. I cannot work in your laboratory. You have to work in your own laboratory. Most of us forget our own laboratories and try to get into somebody else's laboratory. We try to see what so-and-so is eating, what so-and-so is doing, whom so-and-so is associating with, where so-and-so is going, what so-and-so is reading, how much money so-and-so has, etc. We always forget our own laboratories. We may never know what is in this laboratory within ourselves. We, in this practice of Insight meditation, become introspective, mindful and careful to watch what is happening here in this mind and body in the present moment. That is what Vipassana meditation is all about; methodical investigation in the laboratory within ourselves.

  ©by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana



  The Benefits of Long-term Meditation / by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

  Spending time in a retreat is like recharging a battery. Once you have charged a battery, you don't let it just sit around. You install it in an appliance and use it until it runs out. Then you recharge it. Similarly, when you need to recharge yourself you go for retreats.

  The difference between charging a battery and going for a retreat is that the length of time spent in a retreat cannot really be equated with the time you charge a battery. If you charge a battery longer, that does not mean it can run longer. Once the battery has reached full capacity it cannot be charged any more. Charging after that point is useless. But this does not happen when you go on a long-term retreat.

  First, before you go for long retreats, you should have undertaken short weekend retreats. Also, be aware of the length of the longer retreat you hope to accomplish -- ten days, twenty days, a month, three months, or a year or two?

  You have to prepare your mind and body for a long retreat. You do this by attending several graduated short retreats that last a weekend, three days, a week, ten days, two weeks and a month. Once you know you can handle a weekend retreat comfortably then go to the next longer one. When you know you can handle that retreat easily, move on up to the next longer one.

Preparing Yourself
  Sometimes even a weekend retreat is boring and painful if you are not prepared. How can you prepare your mind? When you go for a retreat, donít bring your office with you. Leave it behind. People are generally unable to let go of their work. They are used to their daily and weekly routines full of TV, company, gossip, uncontrolled eating, drink, drugs, sex, travel, etc. When they go for retreats they have to let go of most of these routines.

  Since they are accustomed to working under great pressure, even in retreats they are tense and anxious. They want to get something out of meditation as quickly as possible and then get back to their work. Donít go for retreat in this frame of mind. Try to think that you have left everything behind for a while and now you have all the time in the world. Nobody -- no work, nothing -- is going to bother you. Use all the time for your practice.

  What happens to you if you do not have this kind of attitude is that you begin to feel bored and tired of meditation. You find meditation is a waste of time. You are in the same situation as when you were at work or at home or with company. If you start your retreat with this attitude, you will wish to achieve some benefit as quickly as possible, and to go home or to work to enjoy what you have been doing before you went for the retreat. Moreover, in a short retreat you experience a great deal of pain and discomfort. As you become impatient, your aches and pains become more acute. Naturally, in a short retreat you experience more physical discomfort, for you are not used to sitting in one place for a long time or to staying in one place for a long period of time by yourself without listening to radio or watching TV, or without chatting with somebody or reading a newspaper, or perhaps doing some computer work. When you try to look at yourself introspectively, taking stock of the garbage you have within yourself, you experience a great deal of discomfort.

  How much time do you have in a weekend retreat? Not more than two days. Before the body gets adjusted to the new situation, the new practice, the new discipline, the retreat time or your holiday time is over. Then you may conclude that all you got from a retreat is aches and pains all over your body. Or boredom. Then you decide never to go for a retreat again. As you have not had any previous retreat experiences, what you donít know is that it takes a couple of days for your body to become adjusted. Short retreats, however, are beneficial for preparing yourself for a long retreat.

Group Support
  People who have done meditation by themselves on their own should expect to face courageously whatever arises in their bodies and minds. Meditating alone by oneself is also beneficial in that you can make your own schedule. You can avoid any human contact. You can chose a quiet place. Even when you go to a group meditation, you meditate by yourself without worrying about other meditators.

  However, group meditation also has its own benefits. When you are in a group you receive silent group support. When you feel depressed or disheartened or disappointed you can notice others meditating. When you see them, you feel encouraged. You may think: ìIf they can do it, I can, too. Let me try.î Also, in group meditation there are times for Dhamma discussion and you can benefit from that.

  In a short-term retreat, you hardly settle down and get used to the new way of looking at yourself before the retreat is over. Moreover, as we have mentioned earlier, your mind is fully preoccupied with the pain and discomfort you are going through during the whole period of a short retreat. This does not permit you to pay any attention to the changes taking place all the time.

  The benefits of a longer retreat are many. You can see the changes in the aggregates taking place every moment. In long-term retreats, you have plenty of time to get over those difficulties. Noticing changes in your body and mind is a very good way to learn to overcome your hatred which keeps nagging you all the time. As long as anger troubles you, you cannot meditate properly.

  Secondly, you can see clearly the connection between your intense greed and continuous suffering. Third, you can very succinctly notice the total phenomenon of your life operating without anything permanent in it, just like an ever-running machine. You realize there is nothing you can do to stop the process of growing, but to accept it cheerfully. This is where you will achieve real relaxation, real joy and real happiness, which can be equated with eternal bliss. This is where you see that all the aggregates are inseparably functioning together.

  This acceptance of yourself is the beginning of an entirely new life. This is where you are firmly rooted in your practice. Prior to this experience you would go from retreat to retreat, looking for a better teacher or a better meditation system. Now you realize you have found it within yourself. You donít need to go anywhere, seeking another new teacher. Prior to this you would have been pretending to know meditation, possibly even teaching meditation, without knowing what you yourself were doing. Now you realize that this entire rat race is simply a waste of your time and energy.



  The following excerpt is from Chagdud Rinpoche's "Gates to Buddhist Practice"

  To understand how delusion arises, practice watching your mind. Begin by simply letting it relax. Without thinking of the past or the future, without feeling hope or fear about this thing or that, let it rest comfortably, open and natural. In this space of the mind, there is no problem, no suffering. Then something catches your attention--an image, a sound, a smell. Your mind splits into inner and outer, self and other, subject and object. In simply perceiving the object, there is still no problem. But when you zero in on it, you notice that it's big or small, white or black, square or circular; and then you make a judgment-- for example, whether it's pretty or ugly. Having made that judgment, you react to it: you decide you like it or don't like it. That's when the problem starts, because "I like it" leads to "I want it." We want to possess what we perceive to be desirable. Similarly, "I don't like it" leads to "I don't want it." If we like something, want it, and can't have it, we suffer. If we don't want it, but can't keep it away, again we suffer. Our suffering seems to occur because of the object of our desire or aversion, but that's not really so--it happens because the mind splits into object-subject duality and becomes involved in wanting or not wanting something.

  We often think the only way to create happiness is to try to control the outer circumstances of our lives, to try to fix what seems wrong or to get rid of everything that bothers us. But the real problem lies in our reaction to those circumstances. What we have to change is the mind and the way it experiences reality. For it is our emotions that propel us through extremes, from elation to depression, from good experiences to bad, from happiness to sadness--a constant swinging back and forth. Emotionality is the by-product of hope and fear, attachment and aversion. We have hope because we are attached to something we want. We have fear because we are averse to something we don't want. As we follow our emotions, reacting to our experiences, we create karma - perpetual motion that inevitably determines our future. We need to stop the extreme swings of the emotional pendulum so that we can find a place of centeredness. When we first begin to transform the emotions, we apply the principle of iron cutting iron or diamond cutting diamond. We use thought to change thought. A negative thought such as anger is antidoted by a virtuous thought such as compassion, while desire can be antidoted by the contemplation of impermanence. In the case of attachment, begin by determining what it is you're attached to. For example, you might, after much effort, succeed in becoming famous, thinking this will make you happy. Then your fame triggers jealousy in someone, who tries to shoot you. What you worked so hard to create is the cause of your own suffering. Or you might work very hard to become wealthy, thinking this will bring happiness, only to lose all your money. The loss of wealth in itself is not the source of suffering, only attachment to having it.

  We can lessen attachment by contemplating impermanence. It is certain that whatever we're attached to will either change or be lost. A person may die or go away, a friend may become an enemy, a thief may steal our money. Even our body, to which we're most attached, will be gone one day. Knowing this not only helps to reduce our attachment, but gives us a greater appreciation of what we have while we have it. For example, there is nothing wrong with money, but if we're attached to it, we'll suffer when we lose it. Instead, we can appreciate it while it lasts, enjoy it and enjoy sharing it with others, and at the same time know it's impermanent. Then when we lose it, the emotional pendulum won't make as wide a swing toward sadness.

  Imagine two people buy the same kind of watch on the same day at the same shop. The first person thinks, "This is a very nice watch. It will be helpful to me, but it may not last long." The second person thinks, "This is the best watch I've ever had. No matter what happens, I can't lose it or let it break." If both people lose their watch, the one who is attached will be much more upset than the other. If we are fooled by life and invest great value in one thing or another, we may find ourselves fighting for what we want and against any opposition. We may think that what we're fighting for is lasting, true, and real, but it's not. It's impermanent, it's not true, it's not lasting, and ultimately, it's not even real. Our life can be compared to an afternoon at a shopping center. We walk through the shops, led by our desires, taking things off the shelves and tossing them in our baskets. We wander around, looking at everything, wanting and longing. We see a person or two, maybe smile and continue on, never to see them again. That's what life is like. Driven by desire, we don't appreciate the preciousness of what we have. We need to realize that the time we have to be with our loved ones, our friends, our family, our co-workers is very brief. Even if we lived to a hundred and fifty, that would be very little time to enjoy and utilize our human opportunity. Young people think their lives will last a long time; old people think life will end soon. But we can't assume these things. Our life comes with a built-in expiration date. There are many strong and healthy people who die young, while many of the old and sick and feeble live on and on. Not knowing when we'll die, we need to develop an appreciation for and acceptance of what we have, while we have it, rather than continuing to find fault with our experience and seeking, incessantly, to fulfill our desires. If we find ourselves worrying whether our nose is too big or too small, we should think, "What if I had no head--now that would be a problem!" As long as we have life, we should rejoice. If everything doesn't go exactly as we'd like, we can accept it. If we contemplate impermanence deeply, patience and compassion will arise. We will hold less to the apparent truth of our experience, and the mind will become more flexible. Realizing that one day this body will be buried or burned, we will rejoice in every moment we have rather than make ourselves or others unhappy. Now we are afflicted by "me-my-mine-itis," a condition caused by ignorance. Our self-centeredness and self-important thinking have become very strong habits. In order to change them, we need to refocus. Instead of concerning ourselves with "I" all the time, we must redirect our attention to "you" or "them" or "others." Reducing self-importance lessens the attachment that stems from it. When we focus outside ourselves, ultimately we realize the equality of ourselves and all other beings. Everybody wants happiness; nobody wants to suffer. Our attachment to our own happiness expands to an attachment to the happiness of all.

  Until now our desires have tended to be very short term and superficial. If we are going to wish for something, let it be nothing less than complete enlightenment for all sentient beings. That's something worthy of desire. Continually reminding ourselves of what is truly worth wanting is an important element in developing pure practice. Desire and attachment won't change overnight, but desire becomes less ordinary as we redirect our worldly yearning toward the aspiration to become enlightened for the benefit of others. At the same time, we don't abandon the ordinary objects of our desires--relationships, wealth, fame--but our attachment to them lessens as we contemplate their impermanence. Not rejecting them, rejoicing in our fortune when they arise, yet recognizing that they won't last, we begin to build qualities of spiritual maturity. As our attachment slowly decreases, harmful actions that would normally result from attachment are reduced. We create less negative karma, more fortunate karma, and the mind's positive qualities gradually increase. Later, after we've done more meditation practice, we can try an approach that's different from contemplation, different from using thought to change thought: revealing the deeper nature, or wisdom principle, of the emotions as they arise. If you are in the midst of a desire attack--something has captured your mind and you must have it--you won't get rid of the desire by trying to suppress it. Instead, you can begin to see through desire by examining what it is. When it arises in the mind, ask yourself, "Where does it come from? Where does it dwell? Can it be described? Does it have any color, shape, or form? When it disappears, where does it go?" This is an interesting situation. You can say that desire exists, but if you search for the experience, you can't quite grasp it. On the other hand, if you say it doesn't exist, you're denying the obvious fact that you are feeling desire. You can't say that it exists, nor can you say that it does not exist. You can't say that it's "both" or "neither," that it both does exist and does not exist, or that it neither exists nor does not not exist. This is the meaning of the true nature of desire beyond extremes. It's our failure to understand the simplicity of the natural state that gets us into trouble. No conceptual structure will describe the true nature of an emotion. We experience it the way we do because we don't understand its essential nature. Once we do, the emotion tends to dissolve. Then we're not repressing the emotion, but neither are we encouraging it. We are simply looking clearly at what is taking place. If we set a cloudy glass of water aside for a while, it will settle by itself and become clear. Instead of judging the experience of desire, we look directly at its nature, what is known as "liberating it in its own ground." Then it simply dissolves. Each negative emotion, or mental poison, has an inherent perfection that we don't recognize because we are so accustomed to its appearance as emotion. Just as poison can be taken medicinally to effect a cure, each poison of the mind, worked with properly, can be transformed to its wisdom nature and thus enhance our spiritual practice. If while in the throes of desire, you simply relax, without moving your attention, that space of the mind is called discriminating wisdom You don't abandon desire--instead you reveal its wisdom nature.



  The Different Levels of Amitabha Practice / by Manfred Seegers

  The historical Buddha Shakyamuni had disciples of many different capacities. Although he actually taught one single way to enlightenment, different parts of his teachings were taken as vehicles according to the capacities of his disciples. Basically, one can subdivide all of the Buddha's teachings into the two vehicles of Sutra and Tantra. Sutra is also called "the causal vehicle," because one builds up the causes for enlightenment. In Tantra, "the vehicle of fruition," one identifies with the fruit, or the different aspects of enlightenment.......... To build up the causes for enlightenment means both to remove all causes for suffering and to practice the way which leads to the cessation of all suffering, to lasting happiness. In the Smaller Vehicle (Hinayana) the goal is liberation, because the illusion concerning a true self of the person together with all gross defilements is dissolved. In the Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) the goal is full enlightenment. On the basis of the wish to liberate all sentient beings from suffering, even the subtlest veils of ignorance are removed and the state of highest wisdom, of complete omniscience, is obtained. This highest wisdom is nothing but the true nature of our mind.......... If one has very strong confidence in the true nature of the mind one can directly identify with fruition itself, the different qualities of enlightenment. Based on the teachings about the Buddha nature which is present in all sentient beings, the Tantric methods of the Diamond Way bring about a very quick result. It is said of the Diamond Way that the best practitioner can reach enlightenment within one single lifetime. This is extremely fast, especially when it is compared to the Sutra approach where enlightenment can be obtained only within aeons. But not every practitioner is able to use such powerful methods. Most traditions in the Mahayana are based on the Sutra approach. Only Tibetan Buddhism uses and transmits all the Tantric methods that the Buddha has given.......... Enlightenment expresses itself in different forms. All the Buddha aspects that Buddha Shakyamuni taught can be summarized into the five Buddha families, and these five families can be condensed again into Vajradhara (Tib.: Dorje Chang), the Tantric form of Buddha Shakyamuni himself. All the Buddhas of the ten directions and also the high Bodhisattvas manifest a pure powerfield around themselves, which is their own pure land. Buddha Shakyamuni described the qualities of these pure lands in detail. He taught different methods to connect with the Buddhas and their pure lands because, compared to other methods, the practice of the pure lands is a relatively easy way to enlightenment.......... Within the circle of the five Buddha families the Buddha Amitabha (Tib.: Öpame, Eng.: Limitless Light) is the Buddha of the western direction. He bears this name, because the light radiating from his body pervades all the pure lands of all the Buddhas of the ten directions. Many aeons ago, in connection with his Bodhisattva promise, he made extremely strong wishes that he would be able to manifest a pure land which combines the qualities of all other pure lands, and that all beings who made corresponding wishes would be reborn there easily. As a result of these strong wishes he manifested the Pure Land of Great Bliss (Skr.: Sukha-vati, Tib.: Dewachen) at the time he accomplished Buddhahood.......... The teachings on the qualities of Buddha Amitabha and his pure land are found mainly in the Smaller and Larger Sukha-vati-Vyu-ha, the shorter or longer Description of the Pure Land of Great Bliss (1st and 2nd century AD), and in the Amita-yur-Dhya-na-Su-tra, the Sutra of the Meditation on the Buddha of Limitless Life (3rd century AD). In addition to these three Sutras the method of getting in connection with the pure lands and taking rebirth there is praised in numerous Mahayana Sutras. These include some 200 Sutras and commentaries, such as the Avatamsaka, Surangama, Lotus and Prajnaparamita Sutras. Also the Treatise on the Awakening of the Faith by Asvaghosha explains this practice very clearly.......... In general, there are four causes for a rebirth in the Pure Land of Great Bliss. The first and main cause is the wish to be reborn there. To visualize the Buddha and his pure land in one's mind as clearly as possible is the second cause. The third cause is to avoid negative actions and to practice positive actions. Finally, the fourth cause is to develop Bodhicitta, the Enlightened Attitude, the wish to obtain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings on the basis of love and compassion. But on the basis of these general teachings there exist many different levels of practice that the Buddha gave in correspondence with the different capacities of his students. It is these practices that one can divide into the two main categories of Sutra and Tantra which will be briefly described below.

The Sutra Level
  In terms of the Amitabha practice, the Sutra level of teachings is the basis for the Pure Land School, which is the biggest Buddhist school in the world with more than one hundred million followers. This school's main practice is the recitation of the name of the Buddha Amitabha together with three kinds of accumulations.......... The first accumulation is confidence in the Western Pure Land and in Buddha Amitabha's promise to rescue all who recite his name, as well as confidence in one's own self-nature, which is intrinsically the same as his. To recite the Buddha's name is to recite the true nature of mind. The second is to make wishes, the determination to be reborn in the Pure Land, in one's pure mind, in order to be in the position to save oneself and others from all sufferings. The third is to practice, which in this school means that one mainly has to recollect the Buddha Amitabha, reciting the Buddha's name until one's mind and that of Buddha Amitabha are in unison, i.e., to the point of single-mindedness. Stable meditation and insight are then achieved. Besides recollecting the Buddha Amitabha it is also necessary to study the Sutras of the Mahayana, and to do various kinds of positive activities. In this way one can build a bridge to Dewachen, the Pure Land. But one can also say that these three aspects - confidence, wishes, and practice are actually one and the same in essence, as the one contains all and all are contained in one.......... The main practice in the Pure Land School is to recite the name of Amitabha, but there are also three other forms. In one form one recollects the Buddha by looking at a statue or form of the Buddha. Another form is to recollect the Buddha by vizualisation, and a third form is to recollect the Buddha by meditating on the true nature of mind. The recitation of the name of a Buddha has the same effect as reciting a mantra. This is the connection to the Tantric or esoteric schools. Buddhist masters of different traditions often commented, "The method of reciting the name of a Buddha encompasses the Meditation (Zen), Sutra Studies, Discipline (Vinaya), and Esoteric Schools." This is because when reciting the Buddha's name, one rids oneself of all delusions and attachments, which is Zen. The sacred words 'Amitabha Buddha' contain innumerable sublime teachings, hidden in and springing forth from those words, which is the Sutra Studies School. Reciting the Buddha's name purifies and stills the three karmas of body, speech and mind, which is the Discipline School. The Esoteric School will be explained in the context of the Tantra level.......... The formal title of the Pure Land School in China is Ching-t'u Tsung, corresponding to the Jodo Shu in Japanese Buddhism. Devotion to Buddha Amitabha was, prior to Hui Yüan (334 - 416), an optional practice within Buddhism. Hui-yüan established this practice as an independent activity, and developed a Buddhist school around this practice by founding the White Lotus Society in the year 402. He emphasized the Buddha Amitabha's promise to cause all faithful beings to be reborn in his pure land, focusing on the practice of repeating the phrase known as the Nien-fo: "Na-mo A-mi-t'o Fo," literally meaning, "Homage to Amitabha Buddha." This practice is also used in the Japanese version of the Pure Land School, where it is called Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu).......... The eminent 16th century Zen Master Chu Hung has said, "This (Pure Land) is the most primal and the most subtle and wondrous. It is also the simplest. Because it is simple, those of high intelligence overlook it. Birth and death are not apart from a single moment of mindfulness. Consequently, all the myriad worldly and world-transcending teachings and methods are not apart from a single moment of mindfulness. Right now, take this moment of mindfulness and be mindful of Buddha, remember Buddha, recite the Buddha's name. How close and cutting! What pure essential energy, so solid and real! If you see through where this mindfulness arises, this is the Amitabha of our inherent nature. This is the meaning of the patriarch coming from the West (the meaning of Zen)."......... In Zen Buddhism one has to understand the truth of self-nature Amitabha, Mind-Only Pure Land. As the Vimalakirti-Nirdesha Sutra states: "When mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure." Rebirth in the pure land is, ultimately, rebirth in our pure mind. This high level form of pure land is practiced by those of deep spiritual capacities: "When the mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure ... to recite the Buddha's name is to recite the mind." Thus, at an advanced level, Pure Land and Zen are the same in essence.

The Tantra Level
  On the Tantra level, or the level of the Diamond Way, again many different forms of practice exist. The main focus of the Diamond Way is identification: to behave like the Buddha until one becomes a Buddha oneself. Even if one can already do the practice without having many special prerequisites, because the Buddha Amitabha made such strong wishes for all sentient beings, the practice actually becomes more powerful if one has received an authentic transmission from one's teacher. This transmission consists of the Amitabha empowerment (Tib.: wang), the 'oral transmission' or authorization for the practice (Tib.: lung), and the exact explanation how to practice in a correct way (Tib.: thri).......... Every Tantra practice can be divided into two or three parts. The two parts are the development phase, where one builds up a certain visualization, and the completion phase of the meditation, where one dissolves whatever one has built up and lets the mind rest in its own nature. When divided into three parts, the aspects of practice are called "Mudra, Mantra, and Samadhi" in Sanskrit, and the Mantra recitation is added in connection with the development phase. The first part, Mudra, building up the form of the Buddha with all details in one's mind, functions to purify the defilements of the body and as a result of that to manifest the pure aspect of the body which is the emanation body of a Buddha (Skr.: Nirmanakaya). The Mantra recitation fulfills the purpose of purifying the defilements related to speech and to manifest the pure aspect of speech which is the body of enjoyment of a Buddha (Skr.: Samboghakaya). Finally, the function of the dissolving or completion phase (samadhi) is to purify the defilements related to mind and to manifest the state of truth or the body of phenomena of a Buddha (Skr.: Dharmakaya). These functions are basically the same, whether one takes a short, medium, or extensive form of Amitabha practice. The longest forms can last a day or more and include many different kinds of rituals like offerings, etc. Because the meaning of these practices is very profound, it is not possible to explain all aspects in this context.......... The Diamond Way also contains a very special form of practice, one of the most profound teachings the Buddha has given. This is the so-called "Transference of Consciousness" (Tib.: phowa) or the practice of conscious dying. In the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism it is taught in the context of the Six Teachings of Naropa. It is also taught as a part of the Tantric Teachings of the Nyingma lineage given by the great Indian master Padmasambhava who was the main founder of Buddhism in Tibet.......... During Phowa practice one learns to direct one's mind towards Buddha Amitabha and to transfer one's consciousness into the Pure Land of Great Bliss. Thus it is possible to establish a definite connection with the Buddha Amitabha and to arrive at a direct experience of this extremely pure and joyful state. This is especially useful at the time of death. Instead of being driven through the intermediate state (Tib.: bardo) into a new rebirth in the cycle of existence, one goes directly into the state of highest bliss, from where one can freely choose whether or not to come back for the benefit of beings. Being in the state of the Buddha himself one receives further teachings and develops very quickly towards the state of full enlightenment.......... However, through this kind of practice it is even possible to realize more and more the pure nature of one's mind, which means to manifest the pure land here and now. In this case one doesn't need to send one's energy and awareness to the Pure Land and one needn't wait for the result to come when one builds up the causes. Instead, one can develop, in this lifetime, a huge capacity to benefit others and to liberate them from all sufferings. This is the actual meaning of the Phowa practice. It is a great gift, and the most powerful of all the different forms of Amitabha practice.



  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 beings. 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.

  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.

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