Compassion and the Individual – The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets the audience as he arrives at a talk titled "Beyond Religion: Ethics, Values and Wellbeing" in BostonThe purpose of life
ONE GREAT QUESTION underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life? I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

How to achieve happiness
For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.

The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.

As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but every one who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind!

Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, that is we can develop both genuine sympathy for others’ suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.

Our need for love
Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However, capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However, vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others.

Inter-dependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay.

It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore, we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.

We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects. If we are merely mechanical entities, then machines themselves could alleviate all of our sufferings and fulfill our needs.

However, since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require.

Leaving aside the complex question of the creation and evolution of our universe, we can at least agree that each of us is the product of our own parents. In general, our conception took place not just in the context of sexual desire but from our parents’ decision to have a child. Such decisions are founded on responsibility and altruism – the parent’s compassionate commitment to care of their child until it is able to take care of itself. Thus, from the very moment of our conception, our parents’ love is directly in our creation.

Moreover, we are completely dependent upon our mothers’ care from the earliest stages of our growth. According to some scientists, a pregnant woman’s mental state, be it calm or agitated, has a direct physical effect on her unborn child.

The expression of love is also very important at the time of birth. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mothers’ breast, we naturally feel close to her, and she must feel love for us in order to feed us properly; if she feels anger or resentment her milk may not flow freely.

Then, there is the critical period of brain development from the time of birth up to at least the age of three or four, during which time loving physical contact is the single most important factor for the normal growth of the child. If the child is not held, hugged, cuddled, or loved, its development will be impaired and its brain will not mature properly.

Since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is its most important nourishment. The happiness of childhood, the allaying of the child’s many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence all depend directly upon love.

Nowadays, many children grow up in unhappy homes. If they do not receive proper affection, in later life they will rarely love their parents and, not infrequently, will find it hard to love others. This is very sad.

As children grow older and enter school, their need for support must be met by their teachers. If a teacher not only imparts academic education but also assumes responsibility for preparing students for life, his or her pupils will feel trust and respect and what has been taught will leave an indelible impression on their minds. On the other hand, subjects taught by a teacher who does not show true concern for his or her students’ overall well-being will be regarded as temporary and not retained for long.

Similarly, if one is sick and being treated in hospital by a doctor who evinces a warm human feeling, one feels at ease and the doctors’ desire to give the best possible care is itself curative, irrespective of the degree of his or her technical skill. On the other hand, if one’s doctor lacks human feeling and displays an unfriendly expression, impatience or casual disregard, one will feel anxious, even if he or she is the most highly qualified doctor and the disease has been correctly diagnosed and the right medication prescribed. Inevitably, patients’ feelings make a difference to the quality and completeness of their recovery.

Even when we engage in ordinary conversation in everyday life, if someone speaks with human feeling we enjoy listening, and respond accordingly; the whole conversation becomes interesting, however unimportant the topic may be. On the other hand, if a person speaks coldly or harshly, we feel uneasy and wish for a quick end to the interaction. From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others are vital for our happiness.

Recently, I met a group of scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high-around twelve percent of the population. It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of the others.

So, as you can see from everything I have written so far, one thing seems clear to me: whether or not we are consciously aware of it, from the day we are born, the need for human affection is in our very blood. Even if the affection comes from an animal or someone we would normally consider an enemy, both children and adults will naturally gravitate towards it.

I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that, although some modern schools of thought seek to do so, human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.

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A Wonderful Mind: Teachings on the Refuge, Bodhisattva, and Tantric Vows

A Wonderful Mind: Teachings on the Refuge, Bodhisattva, and Tantric Vows By Garchen Rinpoche

MEANING OF REFUApala with Jigten SumgonGE
If you have already received the refuge vow before, in all four traditions it is the same. The Three Jewels are always the same. So if you have received refuge before, you do not have to receive it again. But you may if you wish. But even if you have received it before, it is good to hear the introduction on the meaning of the vow again. When we take refuge, it is like a purifying and restoring ceremony. We purify our transgressions, broken commitments, negative emotions, and we restore our bodhicitta. Therefore it is good to receive the refuge vow again.

Some people take refuge because they understand with their wisdom that samsara has the nature of suffering, and they want to become free from that suffering. They know they can only become free if they rely on the Three Jewels. There are others who take refuge in the Three Jewels because they want to help other sentient beings. They know that alone they are not strong and they must therefore rely on the Three Jewels. So we take refuge in the Three Jewels with such a mind of wisdom and compassion. To have those is a great merit.

When we take refuge, we seek a protection from the vast ocean of suffering. Everyone wishes to be happy and no one wants to suffer. That, we all share in common. There are various systems in this world to protect us from suffering. The mundane systems only concern this life. Sometimes they can protect and sometimes they cannot. For this reason, many religions have appeared in this world. This is also the intention of the Buddha’s teachings. The word “Jewel” (Tibetan: Kon Chog) means “rare and supreme”. The most supreme source of protection is the Three Jewels. Also, the Three Jewels are rare because, unless we possess great merit and wisdom, we will not even have the wish to take refuge. You have the wish to receive refuge. That is a great merit and a sign that you have already connected with the Three Jewels in a past lifetime. There are not many who have this kind of merit and wisdom.

Actually, all sentient beings possess Buddha Nature. The difference between Buddhas and sentient beings is that the Buddhas are like a vast ocean, and sentient beings are like blocks of ice on that ocean. Sentient beings grasp at the duality of self and others, and therefore become like ice-blocks and wander in the six realms of samsara, suffering incredibly. And of all these different kinds of birth, even though we may obtain the precious human body, if we still do not meet with Dharma, we still will not know how to tolerate suffering in this life and how to create happiness in future lives. We must understand that happiness comes from causes. The cause of our happiness that we are experiencing right now is loving kindness and compassion. Through taking refuge, we understand this. We must also understand that our present suffering also has a cause. The causes are afflictive emotions. So when we take refuge, we learn about the need to abandon the causes, the afflictive emotions.

In the beginning we take refuge in the outer sources of refuge. We all have heard about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The outer Buddhas are infinite. They are the Buddhas of the Three Times. The outer Dharma is the words spoken by the Buddha, the teachings on karma and so on. It is the method to free from suffering. It is the path. The outer Sangha is those who have entered the path of Dharma (practice) and have found freedom from suffering, and therefore have the ability to show this path to others. These are the Three Jewels. Today, in the context of giving you refuge, I am your Sangha. Having found liberation from suffering myself through having applied the Dharma practices, I have found that it is of great benefit, and I am passing this on to you, thinking that also it will benefit you.

THE INNER THREE JEWELS

Once we have taken refuge we should also understand the inner sources of refuge. The Three Jewels are not somewhere far away, separate from us. They are actually contained within our own mind. We must understand the connection between the Three Jewels and ourselves. This means the cause of the Three Jewels is actually present in our own mind. For example, the mind of the Buddhas is like a flower, and the mind of sentient beings is like the seed of that flower.

The Buddha shows us the way to actualize this potential, but the cause we already possess. It is Buddha Nature. Our own Awareness. Then, if we cultivate love and compassion, the Dharma is within us. And if we have these, we are Sangha. These Three Jewels within our own mind are our true protection, our real refuge. The way in which we take refuge is explained in the refuge card:

“I take Refuge in Transcendent Awareness, the heart essence of Buddha. I take Refuge in Compassion, the heart essence of Dharma. I take Refuge in Spiritual Friends, the heart essence of Companions.”

“I take Refuge in Transcendent Awareness, the heart essence of Buddha.” Our awareness is the heart essence of Buddha. The inner Buddha is our own mindfulness. That is what we take refuge in. It is our cause of enlightenment. It is the mind that recognizes “This is an affliction.” “This is love.” “This is compassion.” It is our own discriminating awareness. In the beginning there is a wish, “I want to take refuge.” In the middle, there is an awareness that thinks, “Now I have received refuge.” In the end, there is an awareness that thinks, “Now I must observe the precepts.” This awareness in the beginning, middle and end is one continuum. It is our mindfulness. This mindfulness is our inner Buddha. If we observe refuge precepts, we observe them through mindfulness and heedfulness. This is our discriminating wisdom. It discerns between what is virtue and what is non-virtue, what is the cause of happiness and what is the cause of suffering, what to do and what not to do. The Buddha is the one who has perfected this wisdom. We also possess this, but we need to purify our mindstream.

All sentient beings and all the Buddhas have the same mind. Our mind is the Buddha. This mind has the nature of water. When the water is completely pure, it is like enlightenment. And if the mind is temporarily defiled by different afflictive emotions and thoughts, then temporarily the water is dirty and one is a sentient being that suffers. But still, it has the nature of water. When we purify the mind of negative emotions and self-grasping through wisdom and compassion, the pure mind itself is the Perfection of Wisdom. That is the mind of Buddha. That mind is our own mind. That mind itself is the non-conceptual wisdom that transcends the Three Spheres (Duality of Subject, Action, Object). This also is the etymological meaning of the word Buddha (Tibetan: Sang Gye). “Sang” means to clear away. This refers to clear away grasping. “Gye” means to expand, vast. This refers to freedom that transcends the Three Spheres.

“I take Refuge in Compassion, the heart essence of Dharma.” If our mind already is the Buddha, then why is it that sentient beings are not enlightened? What is the difference between sentient beings and Buddhas? If the seed does not meet with conditions, it will not sprout. This is just like sentient beings not meeting with the Dharma and wandering endlessly in the six realms of samsara. In The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices it says, “All suffering without exception comes from wishing for one’s own happiness. The perfect Buddhas arise from the altruistic mind.” It is because we give rise to a mind of self-grasping that we fall under the power of negative emotions. This leads us to wander in the six realms of samsara. The Buddha said: “Within all sentient beings is the Buddha. Sentient beings are only obscured by adventitious stains.” These stains are the stains of self-grasping.

To separate from the self-grasping mind, we must cultivate the altruistic mind. When we take refuge, we must recognize the preciousness of love and compassion, and then habituate to it, continuously. If love and compassion remains in our mind, we will become free of self-grasping. Throughout the six times of day and night, we must always remember sentient beings. That is the Dharma. The outer Dharma consists of eighty-four thousand Dharma teachings. But in brief, they are included in loving kindness and compassion. The inner Dharma is love and compassion. The real Dharma that we take refuge in, the actual Dharma, is our own love and compassion. This is the supreme protection. If we do not give rise to love and compassion, then even if we take refuge, we will not really be protected. We will not become true Dharma practitioners. When with wisdom we apply the method to abandon the causes of suffering, this becomes the path. Gampopa said: “Bless me that my mind becomes the Dharma. Bless me that Dharma becomes the Path.” For the mind to become Dharma is rather easy. What is more difficult is the second. The Dharma only becomes the path if we give rise to altruistic mind. Only then we will become free of self-grasping. To practice Dharma means to let go of self-grasping. Otherwise we cannot go beyond samsara.

“I take refuge in Spiritual Friends, the heart essence of Companions.” The Dharma is shown to us by Sangha, the guides on our path. If we cultivate love and compassion, then we become a Sangha. In general, Sangha has many qualities. But in brief, the qualities are love and patience. That is what makes Sangha “noble” or “superior”. Ordinary sentient beings have self-grasping. When someone hurts them, they revenge. But as Sangha, we cultivate the altruistic mind. Even if somebody hurts us, we practice patience. We protect over love. The essence of Sangha is virtuous conduct. A superior Sangha remains inseparable from an altruistic, beneficial intent towards sentient beings. You should think, “I am noble Sangha. When someone mistreats me, I will practice patience. I will protect love.” Then you are true Sangha. Then you will be able to protect yourself and others.

“Companions” or “Spiritual Friends” refers to any teachers in this world. They can be mundane, worldly teachers, or they can be Dharma teachers who are very precious. If we give rise to faith and respect for all our teachers, the qualities of these teachers will enter our own mind. As Gampopa said in The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: “The contributory cause is the spiritual master. The Method is the spiritual master’s instruction.”

The spiritual master actually is even more precious than our own body. In The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices it says: “Holding sublime spiritual friends even more dear than one’s own body is the Bodhisattva’s practice.” The reason for this is that whatever we learn from our teachers remains like a seed in our mind. The wisdom of what we have learned remains in our mind. We can see this sometimes in little children. For example, some children are interested in learning things and also it comes easy to them. This is a sign that they have already learned in the past. And then there are other children, even though they might have the same parents, they have no interest in learning, and also it is harder for them to learn anything. This is because in many past lives they have not learned, not studied. This is in a worldly sense. But Dharma teachers especially teach us karma, and with this they give us the freedom to accomplish happiness in the higher realms, temporarily, and ultimately to attain enlightenment. When we are introduced to the causes of happiness and suffering, we receive the freedom to create our own happiness. Thus we should remember both kinds of teachers again and again, the worldly teachers and the spiritual teachers, and think of them with love.

We should see the spiritual master who gives us refuge as the embodiment of the Three Jewels. If you practice Lama Chopa, you understand how the Lama is the embodiment of the Three Jewels. The guru’s body is the Sangha. The guru’s speech is the Dharma, because it explains the words of the Buddha. The guru’s mind is the actual Buddha. Actually, everyone’s mind is the Buddha because we all have Buddha Nature. The Buddhas and sentient beings are like the mala beads on one mala string. The string is Buddha Nature. It is the union of emptiness and compassion. The enlightened mind of the Buddhas and the mind of sentient beings have a single ground. The Buddhas have perfected altruism while sentient beings grasp at a self and are afflicted, that is the only difference. Still, their nature is the same. All the Buddhas are included within the guru. Even within one Sangha, the Three Jewels are contained. In this way, I am representing the Three Jewels. My body is Sangha, my speech is Dharma, and the mind the Buddha. If you have this view, then qualities will arise in your mind.

In brief, the essence of inner refuge is to cultivate love. When we die, our wealth and possessions will not help us. We have no power to carry them with us. But if we have cultivated love and compassion, it is like a seed in our mind that we will bring forth with us. It is this precious bodhicitta (love and compassion) that will be the cause of happiness in all future lives.

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Lama’s Blessings and Karma

There was one very important, very precious question there, the answer to which will benefit everyone. So the question was that if one has accumulated negative karma but then one receives the blessings of the guru, can these blessings tranSP coi transform the negative karma?

Garchen Rinpoche:  That’s really an excellent question. We first need to understand what the blessings of the guru actually are. Of the guru’s body, speech and mind, we first approach this physical body. We attend to the guru on a physical level. Then there is the speech of the guru, which helps us to understand the Dharma. When we hear the teachings, we can understand that karma is infallible.

But ultimately and most importantly, what we really need to obtain is the guru’s mind and not his body and speech. The guru’s mind is one with the mind of all the Buddhas of the three times. It is a mind of Bodhicitta, the Four Immeasurables. It is a mind of great love for all sentient beings without bias. It is a mind that wishes for the happiness and freedom from suffering of all sentient beings. In particular, in the Drikung Kagyu lineage, in the beginning of our prayers, when we pray for the happiness of all sentient beings, we place our enemies, obstructors and those who hate us before everyone else.

With such a state of mind, you can transform karma. How does that happen? Actually, where is the karma in the first place? All karma is stored within the self-grasping mind. Therefore, if there is no self-grasping, then there is also no karma. This is why it is said that ultimately, karma is empty. Only on the relative level karma is infallible. For as long as there is self-grasping, karma is infallible. Gampopa said that until all grasping at thoughts comes to an end, there is karma. So when the grasping to the thought of a self comes to an end, this is also end of all karma because all karma abides within the self. The deepest idea we have is the idea of a self. This is transformed when we give rise to Bodhicitta.

Therefore, if we cultivate Bodhicitta, we can transform karma. Bodhicitta is like a powerful fire; not an ordinary fire but a fire that can consume the entire universe and turn it into ash. So this is a really important question.

Only clinging to the physical form of the guru is of not much benefit. It is of some benefit as the physical form of the guru is a support to cultivate devotion, and on this level, the guru is like a friend. Through the speech of the guru we can gain an understanding. Once we have understood, we must also gain experience.

Understanding alone is not sufficient. For example, there are many great scholars of the scriptures such as the Madhyamika, the Middle Way. They understand the meaning of emptiness and the nature of mind. However, if it remains a mere understanding, then it is of little benefit.

It is necessary to put this understanding into experiential practice. Only this will lead to realization. And only when we realize non-dual wisdom will we become free of all doubts. Then all karma dissolves. Then there is no more self and no more dualistic perception. Then there is no “one” who creates karma and no karma to be created. When one realizes that the nature of mind is like space, one understands that within space there is no duality; no “two.”

Coming back to jealousy. Of the five or six afflictions, jealousy is the worst. The essence of jealousy is to find joy in the sufferings and misfortune of others. Jealousy is the most powerful destroyer of merit. Jealousy is also a very subtle emotion; it is always somehow there. First, therefore, we have to recognize that it is there.

The question is answered during the teaching in Colorado host by Drikung Jamtse Choling. 2015.05.29
Translator: Ina Dhargye

A Message from His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche regarding the Rise of Environmental Challenges in the World

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SP Amidewa 3This is a message to all the Buddhists in the world. In general, anyone who practices a religion, any religion, needs love and compassion. This love and compassion is to be directed towards all sentient beings: “May all sentient beings have happiness and may they be free from suffering.” Therefore, when people anywhere suffer from heat and cold, you should pray to the one in whom you take refuge. Pray for the benefit of all countries in the world, for example, “May those without rain have rain; may those without water have water; may the fire that injures some be extinguished,” and so forth. You should make prayers that accord with your own tradition. As Buddhists we can recite the Prayer for World Peace or single-pointedly supplicate to Tara. This is the responsibility of every religious practitioner, even if you are the only one in the house. Such prayers will surely be of benefit. Even if only one or two people pray, it will surely bring benefit.

We should all pray together for the well-being of all countries. This will also benefit us. If we close ourselves up and only care about our own well-being, then of course, that will not be of much benefit. But if you pray with the intention to benefit the entire world, that will actually benefit yourself the most, and it will also benefit the world. This is called “accomplishing the benefit of others and oneself.” So everyone should supplicate his or her own source of refuge.

Buddhists, for example, can supplicate Jetsun Tara, Chenrezig, and so forth; recite Mani mantras; perform purification rituals before stupas, or even small statues; be generous to animals, and so forth. All these practices will benefit the world. Otherwise, hatred and jealousy will increase in this world, and love will decline. This will lead to an increase of heat in the world, and in the end the world will go up in flames. Thus, it would be good if everyone would consider this. We should all pray and take this to heart with great concern. If we remain unconcerned about the suffering of others as long as it doesn’t affect us personally, we are just paying lip service to our prayer, “May all sentient beings have happiness and may they be free from suffering.”

The single cause of all the misery in this world, such as floods on the outer level and conflicts on the inner level, is the ill will arising from the hatred and jealousy of the people inhabiting this planet. Instead of helping one another, people harm each other: countries go to war, people and religious groups fight with each other. In brief, love—the harmony of the inner elements—affects the harmony of the outer elements. The five mental afflictions and the five outer elements are profoundly related. Therefore, our efforts to give rise to love and compassion will be fruitful by virtue of three powers: first, the power of one’s own pure intention—one’s own good heart ; second, the power of the Tatagathas—all the buddhas of the three times have made aspiration prayers, but in addition, we must supplicate them. Just as with a wish-fulfilling jewel, unless one expresses the wish, it will not be fulfilled. If we supplicate, then we will receive the power of all the buddhas; this is the power of the Tataghatas. And third, the power of Dharmadhatusamsara and nirvana have a single basis. The duality of samsara and nirvana is only a temporary appearance due to various karma and afflictions.

As a result of actions committed with an afflicted mind, we now witness a lot of suffering in this world. So how can we purify these afflictions? All afflictions arise from self-grasping, and the antidote to self-grasping is the altruistic mind. Altruism will benefit one in all circumstances: in this life, in the next life, and in the bardo. Everyone needs altruism. Even a tiny creature will experience happiness relative to the level of its altruism.

Thus we pray, “May beings possess happiness and the causes of happiness.” The cause of happiness is love. And, “May beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.” The cause of suffering is self-grasping. There is no other Dharma than that. The heart-essence of the Dharma is love and compassion. Apart from love and compassion, no other Dharma exists. What we call “the Buddha” is the wisdom-mind, the perfection of wisdom. The subtle wisdom of buddha-nature is the underlying basis of samsara and nirvana. Therefore, if one has love and compassion, wisdom will increase. If you understand this, you will discover the method to bring about happiness and liberation from suffering.

Thus, we should engender excellent aspirations. Since the world is currently in such a perilous state, I request everyone to pray well.

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Translated by Ina Dhargye and edited by Kay Candler

Calm Abiding Meditation Instructions

Calm Abiding Meditation Instructions by Venerable Traga Rinpoche

The topic of discussion this evening is calm abiding meditation or shamata meditation. So Rinpoche says he’ll explain the method for engaging in shamatha meditation briefly, without getting too extensive. But to begin with, at the outset of engaging in shamatha meditation, it is really important to gather harmonious outer Traga Rinpochecircumstantial conditions, meaning that one should have a situation for meditation that doesn’t provoke the afflictive emotions of attachment, aversion, or ignorance. If we don’t have a situation of favorable conditions to meditate in, then we’ll have many distractions that can disrupt our practice. If there are certain conditions that provoke the negative emotions of attachment, aversion, or ignorance, then we will have difficulty finding any progress in our meditation. So, to begin with, in order to have successful calm abiding or shamatha meditation, in the beginning we have to rely on outer circumstances that are favorable to the meditation.

So part of this involves practicing the preliminaries that come before the preliminaries. So that means [we do] whatever we have to do before we sit down on the cushion, whatever preliminary activities we may have to do – if we have to close the door, or open a window, arrange offerings, or change into comfortable clothes. Whatever preparations we need to make for our meditation practice should be done before we actually sit down on the cushion and begin our meditation, so our meditation is not disrupted once we have already sat down. So these are the preliminaries that precede the preliminaries – the preliminaries concerning the preparation for our meditation practice before we sit down to meditate.

Then once one has done whatever outer preliminaries that need to be established before the meditation, when one actually sits down to engage in the meditation, there are the preliminaries of sitting in the appropriate posture, expelling the stale breath, and so forth. So sitting in the correct posture means sitting in the seven-point posture of Vairochana—one’s spine should be completely straight, and one’s feet should be crossed in the lotus position. If one can’t sit in the lotus position, then that’s okay, just whatever [is] comfortable – half-lotus, or a comfortable position like the one we are sitting in now. And then one’s body should be relaxed, not too tight. One’s hands can be either resting on one’s knees or placed in the gesture of meditative equipoise with one hand resting on top of the other. Rinpoche says most of you are probably familiar with the seven-point posture of Vairochana, so particularly the most important is that the back is totally straight, the chin is tilted slightly down, the tongue is resting on the palate of one’s mouth, the navel is gently tucked slightly in and up, and the eyes are gazing down towards the tip of one’s nose.

The benefit of sitting in the seven point posture of Vairochana, is that if the abode of the body is straight, then the channels are straight without any sort of blockages. Then if the channels are straight, then the winds move freely throughout the channels. If the winds are not obstructed or contorted in any way, then the mind has the ability to settle more easily. The mind can establish proper meditation of calm one-pointed focus, without the faults of torpor or sleepiness or agitation. This seven-point posture of Vairochana can really help to achieve the proper abiding of the mind. Also, the seven-point posture of Vairochana helps to purify the obscurations accumulated through the door of the body, or the physical obscurations.

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