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.
padmamalla 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 a 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 master replied: Nonaction is the vital point that contains all types of conduct. All other types of conduct change and do not last. Let actions be while free of effort; then all deeds are accomplished. To follow thoughts and tendencies is to be involved in the dharmas of cause and effect, the vehicles of sentient beings.
Well, what then does nonaction mean? The conduct that is uninvolved in the duality of hope and fear is such that, no matter what dharmas you engage in, by letting be in the equanimity of non-striving you are free from deliberate and attached yearning. By letting be in the nature of effortless equanimity, no matter what you perceive or
think of, it is the conduct of all buddhas. To understand and realize this is known as having brought together all types of conduct within a single vital point.
~ Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche (Treasures from Juniper Ridge)
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