A hundred scholars and a thousand yogis can say all they want to say about the nature of mind. But all can be summed up by this teaching of Jigme Lingpa. The mind should never be separated from loving kindness and compassion. Loving kindness and compassion should never be separated from emptiness. And mindful awareness should never be separated from emptiness. These are the key teachings.
The five poisons are ignorance, attachment, aversion, jealousy, and pride.
Ignorance means not knowing. For example, when negative emotions arise, such as anger, but we don’t realize we are angry, this is ignorance. One level of ignorance is not knowing or not being aware of negative emotions. Another level of ignorance is when we’re aware of these negative emotions but don’t recognize the fact that they are negative. There are many levels of ignorance, too numerous to mention here.
Attachment is desire. For example, when we see something pleasant and think, “It is mine. My child. My thing.” Whenever we perceive something as pleasant, attachment arises immediately and we think, “If only I could get that…;” and then when we get it we start thinking, “Oh no, maybe I’ll lose it.” This is attachment; this is grasping.
Aversion arises when we think someone or something may harm or hurt us, or when we experience something unpleasant.
Pride is thinking, “I am important. I am superior. I am great.” When we have pride, we see everyone as lower; we think we are the best and that our path is the only true path.
Jealousy arises toward those we regard as equal or a little bit better than us. We think, “If only he was worse off than me, I could become better than him.”
Sometimes we talk about six afflictions, adding stinginess. Stinginess is strong grasping, being unable to let go or give. It is miserliness.
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
padmamalla Joining Profundity and Vastness ~ Ex.3
According to Mahayana, egolessness can happen only if you have a sympathetic, compassionate attitude to your own ego. Only then does it dissolve? That is the boundary between profundity and vastness, between the experience of egolessness, or shunyata, and the practice of compassion. It is impossible to understand the profundity of the destruction of the twofold ego without understanding the vast discipline of compassionate bodhisattva activity. So vastness and profundity work together.
Overcoming twofold ego can only be done by means of sympathy and softness. It requires a compassionate and even emotional attitude. With such sympathy, you are willing to be cut by the prajna sword. You are willing to take the bodhisattva vow, which says, “I don’t believe in myself, and I don’t believe in others. Nevertheless, I would like to save all sentient beings before I attain my own enlightenment.” The moment you take the bodhisattva vow, you are deciding to commit yourself to practice bodhisattva activities, and at the same time, you are committing yourself to realize and experiencing the nonexistence of ego. So the traditions of vastness and profundity work together simultaneously.
Joining Profundity and Vastness ~ Ex.4
Profundity and vastness are the ground of both Mahayana’s vision and action. If you develop depth, you are developing benevolence at the same time. Because of that warmth, you don’t have to defend yourself anymore. When you realize that you don’t have to defend yourself, you realize there is no defender either, so a big dissolving process takes place. That seems to be the basic idea of compassion. So compassion is not just being loving and emotionally kind; it is actually compassion that cuts through. Your attitude toward your own existence is based on aggression, so when you have a loving attitude toward yourself, your aggression dissolves. Therefore, you don’t exist.
Your attitude toward others is also an expression of aggression, so when you have a loving attitude toward others, they don’t exist either. Based on compassion, a mutual dissolving or opening-up process takes place. And when you open up, you don’t have to have an opener. From the Buddhist perspective, dwelling on any experience could be regarded as the activity of aggression. This applies even if you are trying to maintain the quality of peace or Shanti. When you do not have to maintain anything at all because everything is okay, there is no confusion. That is the epitome of twofold egolessness: there is both the profundity of twofold egolessness and the vastness of compassionate bodhisattva activity.
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
~The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
When there is an appearance of true existence, if it actually exists in the same way that it appears, then by carefully investigating this existence its nature should become clearer as our investigation becomes deeper. For example, even in worldly experiences if something is a truth the more we test and examine it the firmer and clearer it becomes. On the other hand, if something is untrue then by testing and examining it becomes uncertain and eventually fades away completely. As Nagarjuna says in his Ratnamala (The Precious Garland): Form that we see from afar,
Becomes clearer as we go closer,
So if a mirage is a real river,
Why does it fade as we go nearer?
The further from the world we are,
The more real it seems,
In the same way, the closer we become
It fades, becoming signless like a mirage.
~The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
When we have some experience of the mind’s emptiness, clarity, and infinite awareness, we experience its contents as manifestations of this empty, clear, and unimpeded nature. Thoughts and emotions habitually restrict us because we believe them to be solid and real. This subjects us to their control, so they determine and dictate our actions. But if we don’t grasp on to our thoughts and emotions, we will not attribute any reality to them, and they will remain void manifestations of a void mind. If we understand all thoughts, emotions, and mental activities as experiences of mind which are not independent things in themselves, then, when a passion or affliction arises, we can perceive it for what it is—merely an expression of the clear, empty nature of mind. Recognizing and realizing them as such yields freedom.
~ Kalu Rinpoche
To remedy desire, we should meditate on unpleasantness. In this context, desire refers to sexual desire, because that is usually the strongest and most intractable form of desire in the human realm. Another antidote for desire taught in the bodhisattva practices is to see all sentient beings as our parents, in particular our mother, and siblings. An antidote to ignorance is to meditate on the twelve links of interdependent arising in their forward and reverse orders.
The traditional remedy for pride is to meditate on the six elements of earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. This can help because pride is based on our notion of self, I. Through this meditation on the six elements, we can break down the ingredients of “self” and see that there is no real basis for pride.
For jealousy, we should practice rejoicing in the happiness and achievements of others. Those are the most common traditional remedies, but we can also practice looking at our own faults.
We should practice rejoicing to counteract pride; compassion to relieve jealousy; selflessness to reduce desire; studying and practicing Dharma in general to reverse ignorance, and śamatha meditation to overcome distraction.
Although there are numerous specific remedies we can apply, we can also apply one single method to reduce all negative emotions. For example, we can practice the burjom technique, which seeks to eliminate the afflictions through investigation the moment they arise. We can practice just this, or we can also just practice bodhicitta. Both are single methods that can tame all negative emotions.
The principal antidote for all the afflictions is the recognition of profound emptiness.
~ Phakchok Rinpoche
In meditation like space,
Clouds and haze are its pleasures:
Remain in its vastness without center or limit.
In meditation like the sun and moon,
Stars and planets are its jewelry:
Remain in their space, bright and clear.
In meditation like a mountain,
Plants and flowers are its finery;
Remain in their sphere unmoving, undisturbed.
In meditation like an ocean,
Waves and backwash are its movements:
Remain in their sphere deep and unfathomable.
In meditation on the unborn,
Thoughts and images are its manifestations:
Remain in their immensity, vast and lucid.
As a sentient being, buddha-nature becomes overtaken by hope and fear. The state of mind is distracted, contrived, disturbed. In the state of Buddhahood, the unmade, unfabricated nature is self-existing, but in this case, the wakefulness is undistracted. Sentient beings have fallen into distraction and are overtaken by conceptual thought. We have gotten used to this ‘negative meditation’ of distraction, not knowing that we are distracted or that we are fabricating. We have done this in life afterlife. You can know what these words mean once you have been introduced to the basic nature by a master — once you have recognized the uncontrived naturalness of your mind.
Uncontrived naturalness is not something that one does, even though it sounds like you do remain in naturalness, and you avoid fabricating. When we hear these words, our own habits and obscurations make it sound like keeping the natural state is something we should do — but actually, it is the opposite of doing. One does not do anything.
By repeatedly letting be in the state of uncontrived naturalness, it becomes automatic. Don’t think that there is a long moment between two thoughts that you need to somehow nail down and own. That would not be automatic; it would be fabricated. Rather than improving upon the recognition of buddha-nature, simply remain completely at ease. It is a matter of self-existing wakefulness getting used to itself. Do not try to keep the state of naturalness. The state will be self-kept as the natural outcome of your growing familiarity with it. Do not fall into distraction. Short moments, repeated many times.
~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
These two states are as different from each other as are the experiences of having one’s eyes open or closed. This can be understood from one’s own inner experience. The latter state—that of primordial wisdom—relies on awareness, the immaculate and exalted ground of self-arisen primordial wisdom. If one grows used to this state, all-discerning wisdom (the expression of awareness), which distinguishes phenomena in terms of the specifically and the generally characterized, is able to cause all the qualities that are the signs of the path to arise effortlessly. This is why the two states just mentioned must be distinguished. Except for those who have trained in the practice of vipaśyanā in previous lives and gained experience of it, this is something that ordinary beings have difficulty in realizing, and consequently, they make many mistakes. If in their meditation sessions, beginners in the practice analyze too much and worry about whether their mental state is the ordinary mind or awareness, consciousness or primal wisdom, the universal ground or the dharmakāya, they will be distracted and perturbed. These are no more than states of intellectual inquiry and are of no help in the realization of the fundamental nature of the mind. It is therefore good to bear in mind that a natural, uncontrived state of mind is the very essence of meditation.
Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Is mind the basis for faults?
The master replied:
Lack of realization is the basis for faults.
Realize the nature of mind to be empty in essence.
Within this vast and empty dharmakaya,
No defilement of faults can live.
Thus, the buddhas of the three times
Awaken by realizing the nature of mind.
Firmly resolve that faults have no inherent basis.
~ Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche (Treasures from Juniper Ridge)
Whenever there is pain, work with that. It’s not a question of cracking jokes, making things light, or making things funny. Instead, a general perspective of choiceless humor always comes along with that pain. Usually, we are so involved with general principles, ideas, and achievements that we do not pay attention to the details of what is happening in our life. We want to eat our apple, but we don’t regard the core. We don’t ask how the core feels about the whole thing; we just eat the apple and throw the core in the garbage. But that could be a very humorous situation. We do a lot of things without consideration. We drink our cup of tea, not considering the cup and the plate and what’s left behind—the tea leaves and everything.
Things are done in such a blind way all the time, and the sense of humor doesn’t work—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are incapable of humor. If you pay more attention, there is more humor. So when you walk out onto the street, if you pay more attention to the passersby, your own steps, and your state of mind at the time, you find there is a lot of room for everything. Everything you find is so dharmic, every gesture—including large scale, small scale, medium-small scale, and small-small scale domestic details. You find there is lots of room, immense room for everything—and once you begin to see that, you also begin to be able to appreciate puns.
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Training in emptiness means relaxing and letting go. We experience emptiness directly by letting go of grasping and fixating on appearances as solid. These include outer appearances and inner appearances such as thoughts, emotions, and dreams. Letting go brings awareness of space. Then we can see the ornaments of space for what they are: expressions of emptiness.
Emptiness is our greatest protection from fear. We don’t need to be afraid of being challenged, because there is nothing solid to challenge. We have no need to armor ourselves against destruction or cling to anything for security. Like sky accommodating clouds, we accommodate whatever life brings —free from fear and bias. This is the ultimate mind training.
Sickness, old age, and death will come into all of our lives. But what can they actually destroy? They may destroy our physical well-being, but they can’t destroy anything that is really “me.” This “me” is the experience of space itself: It is open, unobstructed, and free from fear. The incredible suffering of the human realm—the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death—can not destroy us. When we make ourselves comfortable with emptiness, we free ourselves from fear.
By habituating ourselves to our natural state, we no longer put stock in things that, by their very nature, don’t hold up.
Without this understanding, life is difficult. The fears we had as toddlers stay with us throughout our adult lives. This is unnatural, but nowadays it’s common. Traditionally, people had much more understanding and acceptance of life. Without this understanding and acceptance, adults are burdened with toddlers’ fears. There is always something that makes our hearts clench with fear of losing our well-being.
Without knowing how to dance with fears and habits—to take our place, stand properly, make our moves—we’re unable to work with them. And we have to be able to work with them because fears and habits always come back.
~Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
What we normally call the mind is the deluded mind, a turbulent vortex of thoughts whipped up by attachment, anger, and ignorance. This mind, unlike enlightened awareness, is always being carried away by one delusion after another. Thoughts of hatred or attachment suddenly arise without warning, triggered by such circumstances as an unexpected meeting with an enemy or a friend, and unless they are immediately overpowered with the proper antidote, they quickly take root and proliferate, reinforcing the habitual predominance of hatred or attachment in the mind and adding more and more karmic patterns. Yet, however strong these thoughts may seem, they are just thoughts and will eventually dissolve back into emptiness.
Once you recognize the intrinsic nature of the mind, these thoughts that seem to appear and disappear all the time can no longer fool you. Just as clouds form, last for a while, and then dissolve back into the empty sky, so deluded thoughts arise, remain for a while, and then vanish in the voidness of mind; in reality, nothing at all has happened. When sunlight falls on a crystal, lights of all colors of the rainbow appear; yet they have no substance that you can grasp. Likewise, all thoughts in their infinite variety—devotion, compassion, harmfulness, desire—are utterly without substance. There is no thought that is something other than voidness; if you recognize the void nature of thoughts at the very moment they arise, they will dissolve. Attachment and hatred will never be able to disturb the mind. Deluded emotions will collapse by themselves. No negative actions will be accumulated, so no suffering will follow.
～Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Maitri is not the only maitri toward others, but it is also maitri toward ourselves. In fact, the first step of awakening buddha nature is friendship with ourselves. This tends to help a great deal. We don’t have alternatives or sidetracks anymore, because we are satisfied with ourselves. We don’t try to imitate anyone else because we hate ourselves and we would like to be like somebody else instead. We are on our own ground and we are our own resources. We might be fantasizing that there is a divine force or higher spiritual energy that might save us, but even that depends on our recognition that such a thing exists. Finally we end up just relating with ourselves. So friendship, or maitri, means the complete acceptance of our being. The agitation of buddha nature coming through, questioning and dissatisfied, at the same time produces all kinds of insightful discoveries. We begin to settle down to our situation—not looking for alternatives at all, but just being with that. So the first step of the process of awakening buddha nature, embryonic enlightened mind, is trust in the heart, trust in ourselves. Such trust can only come about if there is no categorizing, no philosophizing, no moralizing, and no judgments. Instead there is a simple, direct relationship with our being.
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
The Buddha knows that all sentient beings are deluded, and though he does not have any fixed concept of taking on this suffering of beings—conceptual sadness would be an example of this—his compassion naturally manifests wherever the violent karma and defilements of sentient beings are erupting. This happens without any specific focusing on his part. It happens naturally, just as all rivers flow into the ocean and not somewhere else. When these qualities of knowledge, compassion, and power develop, bodhisattva activity will be spontaneously complete.
What is bodhisattva activity? Accomplishing the benefit of beings in an unsurpassed way without the slightest concept of benefit for oneself. When one has actually realized the view of the intrinsic nature, there is absolutely no holding on to the distinction of self and other. Any sense of possessiveness related to oneself falls away. Through great compassion toward others, oneself and others become equal. There is absolutely no difference.
As an analogy, think of the mountains, rocks, trees, forests, and so on—all the things that take form on the earth: the earth does not foster good things and reject bad things. It treats them all equally. In the same way, bodhisattva activity pervades everywhere, and it is impossible for this pervasive quality to be in vain. It is like during the monsoon rains, when plants even grow from cracks in rocks, and inevitably trees and forests will fill the rocks and mountains and naturally break through them. The natural effect of bodhisattva activity can be compared to this.
～Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche