Wednesday, October 27, 2010

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche's Lecture (Samatha and Vipassana Meditation Practice)

This is the 29th entry from my fieldwork diary. The original date is 15.10.2010.

*Although I had written around 33 pages in total by hand (by the end of H.E. Garchen Rinpoche's lectures), there were still a few things that I had missed out on during his speech. Mostly due to the fact that I didn't write quick enough to catch everything that he had said, for which I am sorry.
I should also mention that the English translation of every speech was done by Ari-Ma, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche's American disciple and personal translator.


"I will give an introduction to these practices.

Vipassana in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the nature of reality.
Samatha (calm abiding) comprises a suite, type or style of Buddhist meditation or concentration practices designed to enhance sustained voluntary attention, and culminates in an attention that can be sustained effortlessly for hours on end.

To you dharma friends, I have no great scholarship or studied texts but I have experience with suffering. The Buddha's dharma has methods on how to eliminate this suffering.

In general, senior students have some knowledge on calm abiding. We must know their basic foundation - the mind has numerous thoughts. If we engage in these practices we can see the true essence of things.
When we cause the mind to abide we see that which we had not seen before. It's special insight from meditation. If one realizes the natural state of mind one attains buddhahood. There are many different buddhas.

Birth and death are both illusions. The natural state of mind is like still water, and vast and expansive like the sky. These qualities can be achieved. In the teachings of the Buddha it is said that all sentient beings are the essence of Buddha. They take various physical forms in the six different realms. This shows that Buddha-nature is temporarily covered by obscurations. It's important that we understand that the natural state of mind is the Buddha-nature. It is the nature of great bliss.

If we practice calm abiding we accomplish bliss and buddhahood. The mind is like the sky, the emotions are like the clouds and transcendent awareness is like sunlight. One will not recognize the basic nature of mind so one should practice. If we don't remove these clouds, we don't recognize our own Buddha-nature. So when we learn about calm abiding it's important to understand why these negative emotions have not cleared away. They've become vast and deep - grasping at phenomena as real. They have transformed the mind like water transforming into a block of ice. We make distinctions between Samsara, Nirvana and other sentient beings. We grasp to these things so they become real to us.

When we engage in the practice of calm abiding it's important to understand this. In the teachings of the Buddha, it is taught that all phenomena are manifestations of the mind, and all Samsaric phenomena is created by the mind. We turn our attention inward - to the creator of these phenomena. Read the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, it explains the nature of the mind.

If we try to practice calm abiding directly during meditation the mind will abide. Without understanding this we are lost. So if we understand the ultimate truth, we realize that the creator of Samsara and Nirvana is in the grasping of the mind. Self-grasping is the cause of all suffering. From this manifests Samsara and from the altruistic mind manifests Nirvana. Our mind creates all phenomena (the Samsara comes from self-grasping and buddhahood comes from an altruistic mind).

We can practice calm abiding with this realization. Lord Jigten Sumgön truly understood the nature of phenomena and mind. Phenomena isn't real, it is just an illusion. So if we recognize this as illusory and that the inner mind is the creator of such phenomena then we lose that self-grasping. If one does not see the natural state of mind one gives rise to the negative emotions (Samsara).

Although the mind is empty in nature, if one does not truly understand the cause of law and effect, it'll be impossible to understand phenomena as they truly appear. Negative emotions accumulate negative karma. To stop this we must see the natural state of mind. If the mind is not recognized one gives rise to ignorance.

We need to distinguish ordinary consciousness from primordial awareness. How do we do this? There is benefit when negative emotions are eliminated. So we should turn inward and investigate the mind. This is why we should practice. Look at the natural state of mind - it abides in the mind. Look at the mind with the mind.
When these negative thoughts are removed, one clearly recognizes the mind. If one cultivates this the mind becomes stable. Through repetitive practice we reach stability, even though in the beginning it may come and go.

There are various spiritual traditions and methods on how the mind can abide. Buddha gave rise to loving kindness and compassion. The mind is the union of emptiness and compassion. In meditation one is no longer bound by self-grasping. It's important to give rise to love and compassion (cultivation of compassion is one of the preliminary practices). We establish a stable foundation through practice. We should recall the kindness of all sentient beings and think of them as our mothers (expanded loving kindness and compassion). If we cultivate this even towards enemies it'll be of extreme benefit and help. We must give rise to this mind if we wish to practice meditation. If we don't train our minds we are stuck in self-grasping. We must wish that even enemies become free from suffering. It should be merged with all our conduct.

Those who do harm to us - it come from a cause, a past connection to these harmdoers. Instead of repaying their kindness in the past we had given rise to negative emotions in them (negative results, karma). Calm abiding helps to protect from negative emotions. They are the worst.
Wherever we go we can cause the mind to abide. Through loving kindness we can eliminate these negative emotions.

All beings have been our kind mother in one life or another. When we first begin this practice we can use an object before us and get support from it. With regard to calm abiding - familiarize yourself with that support. You can manipulate the size of the object through the power of the mind in visualization. Hold that image in your mind's eye (even though the image is not stable, it may change). Yet however it may change, it is important not to follow it or become distracted. A candleflame is an excellent support, its natural radiance is helpful in meditation.
You can also do this with your eyes closed. For example, Milarepa meditated with his eyes closed. In that way, he had the wisdom to recognize the thoughts of his disciples.
We simply need to focus and we should suspend all thoughts of the past, the present and the future. There is no need to make plans for the future. Without following thoughts they spontaneously dissipate. Being free of thoughts will be of great help in the practice of calm abiding.

At the time of death the body perishes but not our mind (the transcendence of consciousness). If we have not cleansed the mind through practice we will be reborn in the six lower realms. The most important activity in this life is to practice calm abiding. We have obtained a precious human birth and the time of death is uncertain, and it is difficult to obtain a human birth again. So even if it is hard to achieve a state of calm abiding, if we practice we will succeed through that effort.

If calm abiding becomes stabilized you should investigate your errors. It is important not to become attached to experiences in meditation. In the past practitioners couldn't abandon their faults, they had to investigate a lot. So we should become aware of our quality of calm abiding - a clear knowing aspect of the mind. When it is present transcendet awareness becomes greater. It's like a sprout of a flower - the seed is planted and you cannot stop its growth.
In that way, we can recognize thoughts when they arise and whether they abide or not - this, too, is a good sign of practice in calm abiding.

When we understand the qualities of calm abiding we give rise to a powerful wish to practice. We must work with stable thoughts. Smaller thoughts are not so powerful and are easier to dissipate. When the mind is stable enough we can even eliminate the greater thoughts.
If we have a strong motivation to practice special insight, once calm abiding has become stabilized transcendent awareness increases. It's not necessary to force the meditation because the mind naturally abides and spontanously manifests. Knowing these qualities will help to give rise to the experience of special insight, it is a self-clarifying awareness.

There is an aspect of clarity in meditation - that aspect before a new thought arises, the moment of silence.
Jigten Sumgön gave the following examples on this:
1. The mind is like an ocean and thoughts are like waves that dissolve back into that ocean. In this way, thoughts and emotions cannot do any harm.
2. A crystal clear mind that is luminous and free of taint, it reflects outer objects and abides in one place. All forms, objects and outer appearances are reflected within. The mind should be that way - undisturbed.
3. Like a lotus - it merges out of the mud yet it is untainted by the mud. It is the same with our emotions - when they arise their nature is recognized and clarity increases, and negative emotions disappear. This is the transformation of negative emotions into transcendent awareness.

Through recognition we reach primordial awareness (Vipassana practice). Disturbing emotions can be eliminated by special insight.
The purpose is to stabilize special insight. By the power of the mind negative thoughts can be dissipated.
In that way there is:
1. Recognition of negative emotions and flaws, and that our own emotions and errors create the six lower realms.
2. Cultivation of loving kindness towards other sentient beings.
3. The recognition of the nature of negative emotions. If we understand that the cause is empty by nature there is no need to accumulate negative karma.

If we're able to cultivate these practices of calm abiding we can recognize the natural state of mind. Mental experiences of self-grasping are diverse. Contemplate well on the truth. Cultivate a mind of awareness and mindfulness. We can abandon the causes of suffering and benefit others."


*Important side note: These diary entries do not reflect every word the teacher said, and there may be some mistakes or misunderstandings, for which I am sorry and accept responsibility. In a few instances, I have interjected my own interpretation or explanation.

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