Questions about the Clear Light Mind
If the clear light mind is not influenced by causes and circumstances and it's not independently existing, then by what is it influenced?
When we speak of clear light mind as being an unaffected or unconditioned phenomenon, we need to understand that “unaffected” can be understood in two ways. One is in terms of not arising at all from causes and circumstances; but, the other way is that something does not arise anew or newly from causes and circumstances.
In other words, this way of being unaffected is referring to phenomena that have a constant, everlasting stream of continuity. So, clear light mind and the enlightening influence of the Buddhas are unaffected phenomena in that sense of the term. They are unaffected in the sense that they don't arise anew from causes and circumstances, but nevertheless they continue forever, constantly pervading all.
Some continuities have spatial parts. This is the case with physical objects, for instance, even atoms have directional parts. We can subdivide atoms into subatomic particles. These can be subdivided further into quarks and so on. But when we get down to the smallest particle, even that is not something that does not have parts, because even that will have directional parts. So, the continuity of an atom is a continuity of its parts.
Likewise, there are continuities that have temporal parts, for instance consciousness. Consciousness has continuity in terms of its parts in the sense that it has former and latter moments. Likewise, the clear light mind is something that is imputed on its temporal parts.
How can the clear light mind experienced at the time of death, be used to bring us enlightenment?
To be able to make use of that clear light of death, which comes normally at the time of death, it is necessary to have trained beforehand and practiced in terms of clear light experienced at the time of being awake and at the time of dreams in the dream state. By being used to that and having familiarity with that, then through certain very special methods, one can likewise make use of the clear light mind at the time of death to achieve enlightenment.
Questions about Disturbing Emotions
Sometimes when we get angry and hold it inside, we get almost sick. What should we do to avoid such frustration?
There's a saying in Tibetan, “If there's an obstruction inside a conch shell or trumpet: if we blow it out, we get rid of it.” Like that, in situations like this, sometimes it's very good and helpful to let off steam, to let it out. When anger has actually arisen and we're in a state of rage, then at that time it's very difficult to gain control over it and to apply an opponent.
However, the method that is followed is to try to train ourselves beforehand, before we get angry. Over and again, we think about the disadvantages and drawbacks of being angry and train ourselves in thoughts of love, patience and compassion for others. By building these up as beneficial habits, they will make a large impression on our minds so that, in difficult situations, our anger will become less strong. The stronger the impression made beforehand in terms of thinking of its disadvantages and so on, the less strong our anger will become.
To be able to change the mind is not something that happens instantly by a simple method such as eliminating the darkness in a room by turning on the lights. It’s not something that works so simply and instantly. It is something which requires a great deal of effort over a long period of time, working gradually.
Are all kinds of desires and attachments disturbing emotions? If they aren't, what is the difference between positive and negative desires?
There are different types of desires. Those desires that are based on reasonable causes and necessities are not ones to be given up. Those are reasonable types of desire. Even when we have rid ourselves of all disturbing emotions, still we will have various desires that are based on reasonable causes and needs.
There are types of desires, however, that are based on attachment. For instance, when we go into a store and look at all the items and take this one and that one. We pick up many, many different items; but, then for example, when we go to pay for them, if we don't have enough money to pay for them all, then we realize that there are some items that we really didn't need, that weren't so necessary.
This is a clear example of how there are certain desires that are just based on being greedy – desires for luxury items we don't really need. That's a distinction that can be made in terms of desires for things that are unnecessary or luxury items, as opposed to desires for things that we actually need based on reasonable necessities.
This is a gross level of distinction between correct desire or wishes and attachment. However, there is a much subtler level. For example, with the view that phenomena do not have self-established existence, then there is a type of very subtle attachment that is brought forth by a conception of truly established existence. This attachment can be identified as attachment only from the point of view of the understanding of non-truly established existence. It's not an attachment in terms of wishing for some object with a gross level of attachment.
Question about Taking on the Suffering of Others
If someone has the karma of being sick or has the causes for premature death, is it possible for us to take these things on our self and to give them longer life? If so, what is the method for doing this?
There is the practice of bodhisattvas taking on the sufferings of others and giving others one's happiness. They have the training for this and, within the sphere of this training, in certain exceptional cases it will actually work and a bodhisattva will be able to take on other's suffering. It will work, however, only on the basis of there being a very special connection or karmic link from the past between the person who has the suffering and the other person. It doesn’t just happen all of a sudden without any other previous strong connection or link. It has to be based on some special connection from the past.
Mental Constancy or Absorbed Concentration
We already discussed having fervent regard or admiration for the teachings and likewise having wisdom or discriminating awareness as the first two causal factors that bring about a purification of our Buddha-natures. Now we will discuss the third, mental constancy or absorbed concentration. Absorbed concentration or samadhi is something shared in common between both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.
In the previous life accounts of Buddha, before he became enlightened, there is the account of his having studied absorbed concentration with a non-Buddhist teacher. That indicates that achieving such a state of absorbed concentration, in which the mind has tremendous power and ability, won’t happen unless we put great effort into developing it. It also indicates that this level of concentration is something that we must have.
As for our minds, we have primary consciousness and mental factors. Concerning primary consciousness, there are those who assert that there is only one primary consciousness, there are those that assert six, some that assert eight and some that assert nine different types of primary consciousness. The most widespread assertion is of six, including the five types of sensory consciousness and then one mental consciousness.
As for the mental factors, then according to the Abhidharmasamuccaya (An Anthology of Special Topics of Knowledge) by Asanga, there are fifty-one. However, I’ve heard about a Burmese text in which two hundred are listed. However, we can't really count all the mental factors that there are; so in fact these lists are merely summaries or summations of the major mental factors. It’s within that context that we understand the listing of fifty-one. Absorbed concentration or samadhi is one of those mental factors.
Wisdom or discriminating awareness is also a mental factor that takes an object and examines or analyzes it, discerning and discarding what is incorrect about it in terms of its nature and so forth. In that way, it discerns what is the correct thing about it. This is discriminating awareness; whereas, absorbed concentration does not make such types of discrimination or analysis of its object. Rather, it is just the factor of staying single-pointedly on the object, and remaining with it.
Shamatha Meditation for Gaining Absorbed Concentration
In general, we have these factors of being able to discriminate things and being able to concentrate on things. Different types of meditation are used to enhance or make these powers stronger. Meditation to gain a serenely stilled and settled state of mind of shamatha helps increase the power of our basic concentration. Meditation and training to gain an exceptionally perceptive state of mind of vipashyana help to increase the power of our basic discriminatory factors.
For gaining a stilled and settled state of shamatha, there are many objects that can be used as a basis, either external or internal objects. It really doesn't make any difference. Among the various inner objects that we can use to focus upon to gain this absorbed concentration, we can focus, for instance, on various energy drops within the body, or on the subtle energy systems, the channels and so forth. There's also meditating on internal clear light and so on.
There's also meditation in which we don't meditate on any physical object with form, but rather we meditate or focus simply on consciousness itself, on the factors of mere awareness and clarity, which are the defining characteristics of the mind. There are the close placements of mindfulness on the body, the feelings, the mind, and so on. Whatever type of object we choose to focus on to gain absorbed concentration, we choose an object that is suitable to us. First, to take that object to mind, we need to know this object correctly and clearly. For some beginners, whose minds are not yet subtle and flexible, there are occasionally found special instructions for using objects through the basis of the senses. For instance, a beginner might focus with their eyes on an object and by staring at it, try to work to get a little bit more stable concentration.
There are some instructions like that; however, that's only for beginners in some special cases. In general, the main thing that we use for gaining absorbed concentration is the mental consciousness, not the consciousness of the senses. Whatever object we're concentrating on with the mind, we take it to mind by thinking about either a semblance or mental picture – a mental hologram – of it, or by thinking about it and using an idea of it and focusing on the idea. As for when to do this meditation, it is better to do this the morning, the early morning.
When we do this meditation to gain absorbed concentration, the way in which we hold our bodies is something that makes a difference. Most people here know how to sit in the proper meditation posture, so there's no need to really explain this. For instance, when you do the Japanese zazen meditation, you sit very properly. Most of you are familiar with these postures. When we start to focus on a mental object, it's necessary not only to just know that mental object, but also to be able to have it completely clear, vivid, and obvious, as if we could actually see it.
For instance, if we were a Christian, then we might focus on a cross. You're not actually looking at a cross with your eyes, but rather you’re imagining a cross with your imagination. As for the distance at which you should visualize this, you would visualize it about four or five feet away from us and at the level of our eyebrows. Using your mind, you want to be able to see this clearly in your mind's eye without forgetting it, without losing the object, but to have great memory or mindfulness of it. What we use to maintain that object in our mind's eye is called “mindfulness,” the same word as “memory.” This is what we use for holding the object and maintaining our attention on it without losing it.
While we are maintaining our attention on this object with mindfulness, we want to be able to have that object appear extremely clearly and vividly. What we are working to get is a very vivid mind, a mind that itself is very alert and clear, so that it sees this object clearly.
Overcoming Dullness and Flightiness
To maintain our mental hold on the object correctly, we use the force of alertness. This is to combat mental dullness and flightiness of mind. These are the two obstacles that we want to get rid of.
Concerning mental dullness, first the mind becomes heavy and murky; this is called foggy-mindedness. With this as a cause or circumstance, then we develop mental dullness. That's sometimes translated as “sinking,” in which the mind has a certain type of clarity in holding an object, but it's a little bit dull, it's a little bit off. When we have mental dullness, this can lead to the mind being entirely unclear.
Another possible obstacle, flightiness of mind, is when the object of focus is lost completely as a result of the mind holding onto the object too tightly, too strongly. If the mind is too excited and, in that state, we lose the object entirely, then we use methods to calm the mind down. When we calm the mind down, what we want to do is to collect it back inside. When we tone down the excited state of the mind, that will bring it back and make it more collected inside. But if we calm it down too much, then again we have the danger of mental dullness.
When the mind is extremely dull, it can also sometimes be called “discouragement.” In other words, often we find in some of the texts that the ancient translators translated the same word with these two expressions; the mind being very dull or low and the mind being discouraged. Perhaps low and discouraged convey closely what is intended here. If the mind is too low or too discouraged, then what you want to do is uplift it again. If the mind has become flighty and is too excited, we tone it down. If the mind becomes toned down too much and we become too low, then we want to lift it back up.
There are several levels of mental dullness and flightiness of mind or mental agitation. There's rough, subtle, and extremely subtle mental dullness and the same set of three in terms flightiness of mind. We need to know what these various difficulties are with these different levels of dullness and flightiness of mind, and actually be able to identify them. This is something that we identify or recognize based on our own experience in meditation.
When we can actually identify thelevels of these difficulties ourselves from our own experience in meditation, then we can start to apply the various opponents to get rid of them. It's extremely important to have an experienced teacher who has experience in all these matters so that we can ask questions. It is important is to devote a great deal of time to this.
How to Practice Shamatha Meditation
To practice this shamatha meditation, continuity of practice is most important. In daily practice, most time should be spent on this one practice in many short sessions. Right from the beginning, we should try our best to have it be of good quality. Even if the sessions are short, it doesn't matter; each should be a very good one and short. We need to practice this meditation in an environment of complete stillness and silence. In modern cities, it's almost impossible unless we are put inside a soundproof box.
If someone has the proper conditions, through this practice a person may achieve a state that would qualify as one of absorbed concentration within a few years. Generally, in the texts, they say that there is the possibility to achieve it within six months, but that's almost impossible. I can say it's very difficult, at least a few years. I think maybe six months or six years.
When we work like this to settle the mind and have it stay on an object, we are able to have the mind stay for longer and longer periods on the object with more and more clarity. Also, there is further and further elimination of the faults of mental dullness and flightiness of mind. Through this type of process, we go through what is known as the “nine stages for settling the mind.”
To go through these stages, we use the various six mental powers, such as listening to the instructions, pondering them, mindfulness, alertness and so on, as the forces or powers behind our meditation. We use the four different types of attention and so on to progress through the nine stages for settling our mind. This is the way to achieve a serenely stilled and settled state of shamatha.
To get into this more extensively, we would need to learn about and understand the presentation of the higher planes of mind, the planes of ethereal forms and formless beings. On the plane of ethereal forms, there are the four levels of mental constancy – the four dhyanas – which are explained through their causal branches or parts. In terms of the plane of formless beings, there are likewise four levels of balanced absorption discussed in terms of their objects and aspects. These are clear in the abhidharma texts on special topics of knowledge. This is quite extensively known in Thailand.
Developing Loving Concern
The fourth causal factor for purifying our Buddha-natures is compassion or intense loving concern. When we discuss this, this brings us into the sphere of Mahayana, the vast-minded vehicle. The three causal factors discussed so far have been factors shared in common between the modest-minded Hinayana and the vast-minded Mahayana.
There are two types of methods for developing intense loving concern that evolved in India and were practiced there. The first is the seven-part cause and effect meditation; the second is the tradition of equalizing and exchanging our attitudes concerning ourselves and others.
The seven parts in the seven-part cause and effect meditation are all based on developing equanimity toward everyone equally. On that basis, we count the seven that are recognizing everyone as having been our mothers; then thinking of the kindness of our mothers and then feeling grateful and wishing to repay that kindness. Next there is developing love, next developing compassion, then developing the exceptional resolve and finally developing a bodhichitta aim.
When we think in terms of the practice of equalizing and exchanging our attitudes concerning self and others, this involves first developing an equal attitude toward self and others. Then we think of the disadvantages of cherishing ourselves and the advantages of cherishing others. We think about how it is possible to exchange our attitudes about self and others. Then there is the actual way to exchange our attitudes concerning self and others in terms love and compassion.
Love and compassion are used in taking on the sufferings from others with compassion, and giving with love to others our happiness, so “taking and giving,” tonglen. In Tibet, the way of practice was to combine these two. When these are put together, it is in fourteen stages. If you try to think about these and get some feeling for these while I explain them, it will be good.
First is the discussion of equanimity. Normally, our minds are very uneven; we do not have equanimity. They are uneven because our minds are inclined toward those that we like, the ones that we feel attachment for. Our minds have aversion from others: we wish to get away from those we don’t like. Regarding complete strangers, in between these two, we have no feeling at all.
What we need to do, from our own sides, is to even out our attitudes and feelings toward everyone. When we think about an enemy, this enemy might be somebody who may have harmed us at some time. But if we think about other times in the past or the future, this is someone who could also have helped us, or might help us in the future. In this way, we get a more even attitude about this person as not necessarily only being someone who hurts us.
The same thing can be true in terms of those friends or relatives whom we like so much. It is in this way that we can equalize out our mind. As for strangers, even if we leave aside the discussion of past lives, even within this life, they can change their position. A stranger can become a friend or an enemy. Thinking along these lines, then we try to make our own attitude toward everyone equalized. This is the first stage.
Remembering and Recognizing the Kindness of Others
The next stage starts to involve us with thoughts about previous lifetimes. We think in terms of someone such as our mother or anyone who has given us a tremendous amount of help and benefit. This is explained in the Abhisamayalamkara (A Filigree of Realizations), where the ten equalities and the development of the mind are explained as everyone having been one's father or mother, brothers, sisters and so on. This is discussed as the ten equalities that are the object of the path of preparation, the applying pathway of mind.
Recognizing others as one's mother is only an example; it can be any of these others. We just think of whoever might be the dearest one to us, the one who has been the kindest to us and use this as an example. For instance, there may be someone whose mother died in childbirth or when they were very young and so they don't have a special connection or relationship with their mother; or in some cases it's a not so pleasant a relation. It's not necessary to insist that such persons need to think of the kindness of their mothers.
That's the second point, recognizing others as having at some time been our mothers, or someone who has been the dearest to us. The third point is to think of all the kindness that has been shown to us and that we have received when they have been our mothers. So, we have the first three points of equanimity, then recognizing others as our mothers, and then remembering their kindness.
Next is a special way of remembering their special kindness. Others have been kind to us, not only when they have been our friends or relatives, but everyone has been kind to us even when they have been strangers from whom we've derived a great deal of benefit. This can be either directly or indirectly. Also, even from our enemies, we have derived a great deal of benefit, because it is from our enemies that we learn patience. We develop patience only with obnoxious people or enemies.
We can think of the example of this church. We are all gathered together in this very lovely conducive circumstance of being inside this church building. There aren't enough windows so there isn't enough air in here, but aside from that. it's a very conducive place. We should think about all those people many hundreds of years ago who actually built this building. We do not have any special connection or relationship with those people of the past who constructed this building; nevertheless, it is based on the kindness and the work of those total strangers from the past that we are able to enjoy the present conducive circumstance and facility of this building.
With this as an example, we can extend this out and see that in fact we are enjoying the benefits of the hard work of a very large number of total strangers. No matter what we make use of, whether it be food or clothing, medicine or any objects, all these things come about through the efforts and the kindness of the work of others.
Even fame is something that is derived from one person talking about another to others. We cannot become famous just by ourselves. No matter how we look upon the matter, there is no way that we can exist by ourselves in a vacuum. That means that all our success in life is dependent entirely on others. Whether another's special motivation is there or not, as far as we're concerned, the kindness of their work is related to us. We have benefited from it and so it's been very important for us. This is the way to remember their kindness.
In terms of practices – the practice of love, the practice of kindness, the practice of compassion, the practice of patience, the practice of forgiveness – without others there's no possibility to practice these things. For altruism, there is someone there to receive it so we can develop an altruistic attitude. Without that, there's no possibility to develop it. That way to achieve Buddhahood is entirely dependent on other sentient beings. That's why the circumstances that allow us to become enlightened Buddhas ourselves, half are provided by the Buddhas themselves through inspiration and teachings and half of the circumstances are provided by sentient beings.
In terms of one's own attainment of enlightenment, this is established based on there being both Buddhas and sentient beings, and these two conditions together equally. This was in the sphere of the fourth point here, the point of the special way of remembering the special kindness of others.
From our awareness of the kindness of others, we develop a special feeling of heartwarming love, the love with which we cherish others and would feel unhappy if anything bad happened to them. It's within this context that we develop this feeling of wanting to repay that kindness.
Developing an Equal Attitude toward Others
At this point, we work to develop an equal attitude toward self and others. The equanimity that is developed here in terms of equalizing our attitudes toward self and others is not the same type of equanimity that was the first step in this process. That first type of equanimity is the type of equanimity with which we get rid of or eliminate our attachments and repulsions.
At this later point in the process, the equanimity that we develop is one with which we feel that just as we ourselves want to be happy and not to have any suffering or problems, everybody is equally in the same situation. We are all equal, self and others, in that we all want to be happy and nobody wants to have problems or to suffer.
This is the essential point of equalizing our attitudes about self and others. We ourselves do not want to have any suffering; we ourselves want to have as much happiness as possible. We never feel that we have enough happiness and even with the tiniest amount of suffering or problems, we want to get rid of it. We don't want to have that. And just as we feel this way, so does everyone else, all sentient beings.
The Faults of a Selfish Attitude and the Benefits of Cherishing Others
This leads us to the next point, which is thinking of the faults of having a selfish attitude and self-cherishing. When we think about the faults of self-cherishing, we think in terms of what comes from this selfish attitude. For example, we commit adultery and other forms of inappropriate sexual behavior. We can go through all the various non-virtuous or destructive actions, particularly the destructive actions of body and speech, and see how all these destructive actions come about because of our self-cherishing attitude.
We can see this not only in terms of Dharma or religions, but just in general in the world. If there is somebody who is extremely selfish, who always exploits and harms others and is always self-cherishing, nobody likes them. When they die, people feel relieved and rejoice that they've finally gotten rid of this person.
The opposite side of this is to think about the next point, the benefits of cherishing others. All constructive actions or virtuous actions come about because of cherishing others. It is because we cherish and have sincere concern for others that we restrain ourselves from taking the lives of anyone else. It is because of cherishing others and our concern for others that we refrain from stealing things from them. It is because of cherishing others that we refrain from causing harm or pain through inappropriate sexual behavior.
Likewise, all the good qualities of having love, compassion and bodhichitta, all these come about because of concern and cherishing of others. If we think of examples from our ordinary lives, if there's somebody who devotes their energy and themselves completely to the service of others, in social work or any type of involvement with helping society, this is something beneficial that everybody likes.
It's not necessary to have to think about this in terms of religion or Dharma, but just in general. We can see that self-cherishing or selfishness is something that has a great many faults and drawbacks. It's naturally obvious, that’s its nature; whereas cherishing others and always having concern for others is something that has a great many benefits and advantages.
We should compare who is more important if everybody wants to be happy and nobody wants to have any suffering or be unhappy, self or others. Everyone has exactly the same feelings and the same right to have happiness and the same right to be rid of suffering and problems. If we look at ourselves, we are just one person. When we look at others, the only difference is that one self is single and the other is a majority. Now, you see, forgetting the majority and emphasis on the minority, that is foolish.
What is most important is society or others. If we consider them to be the least important and we consider ourselves to be the most important, that is silly. In this way, we come to feel that, "I myself am not really so important and others are far more important." It is with this state of mind that we focus upon the sufferings or problems of others with intense concern. With a feeling of compassion, we try to take on these problems or remove them from others.
When we focus on others who are deprived of happiness and who have very, very little happiness, then we develop a feeling of love. With that feeling of love toward them, we practice thinking in terms of giving happiness to them. When we think in terms of this love and compassion, this is not only in theory, but rather we think of taking the responsibility ourselves to actually take on their suffering and give them our happiness.
When we take on this responsibility ourselves and accept this, this is known as an “exceptional resolve.” We have the exceptional resolve to actually do it.
How will it be possible for everyone to be free of their sufferings and problems and to gain happiness? In terms of provisional practice, for poor people with problems, we do whatever it means to help. If someone has sickness, we introduce them to a good doctor. In cases where someone needs financial help, we try to help with that. We can especially help in terms of education or helping an educational institution, the medical field, and social work. These are forms of helping other people in terms of provisional benefit.
In terms of long-term benefit, just as we need to get rid of our problems and all the disturbing emotions and compulsive impulses on our own mental continuums in order to become happy, likewise, the same is true for others. They are going to need to eliminate these disturbing emotions and compulsive impulses from their mental continuums too.
We can help others and work for their benefit by teaching them the discriminating awareness of what is to be accepted or rejected in this whole process of eliminating the causes of their problems. To do that, it's necessary for us to be able to know all the dispositions, thoughts, idiosyncrasies and personalities of all others.
If we do not know the types of disposition, thoughts, feelings, and all these different aspects about each person, then even though from our sides we may have the motivation to be able to benefit and help them, even though we might teach them the correct, valid teachings, nevertheless, it might not actually suit the other person. In that case, it might not benefit them at all. In fact, it might even be harmful for some.
However, if we have the omniscience with which we know everything that can be known, then for sure we will have the ability to be able to benefit and help everyone properly. Therefore, we need to think about the possibility of actually achieving such an omniscient state of mind with which we know everything that can be known.
As we were discussing before, the emotional obscurations that are our various disturbing emotions are removable; these are things can be depleted or removed from our mental continuums. Likewise, the habits of these disturbing emotions, the cognitive obsccurations, are also removable. It is based on thinking in this way that we can logically convince ourselves that we can remove all these obscurations and become omniscient.
When we have this special aim or concern for other sentient beings, limited beings who have such a great need, and we have the great interest and intent to achieve total enlightenment, Buddhahood, in order to be able to actually benefit them, this is what is known as “having a bodhichitta aim.” That is the way to meditate on developing such a vast-minded Mahayana aim.
The Six Far-reaching Attitudes: The Six Perfections
If, to complete the presentation of the entire path of the teachings, I were to add a little bit more on top of what we've discussed already, it is necessary not only to develop a bodhichitta aim, but also to actually develop some type of conduct or enlightening behavior with which we actually help others.
For this, we develop the far-reaching attitudes or perfections of generosity, ethical self-discipline, patience, perseverance, mental constancy or concentration, and discriminating awareness or wisdom. These are the six far-reaching attitudes or perfections, the six paramitas. For the discussion of ethical self-discipline, the main one within the context of these teachings is the ethical self-discipline to work for the benefit of others by restraining from thinking selfishly.
In general, when we think of these far-reaching attitudes, the attitudes of generosity, ethical self-discipline and two parts of patience build up of a network of positive potential, the so-called “collection of merit.” Another aspect of patience, the patience for the teachings and practice, and primarily the far-reaching attitude of wisdom, together with the far-reaching attitude of mental constancy as its helper, go toward building up the network of deep awareness, the so-called “collection of insight.” Far-reaching perseverance contributes to both networks.
Combining Method and Wisdom
To bring about meaningful benefit for oneself and others, it's necessary to achieve both the mind and the body of a Buddha. Therefore, we need to practice their main causes, method and wisdom together, in a unified path.
As for the way in which these two, method and wisdom, are combined, it can be within the context of one being held by the force of the other. That means method held within the context of wisdom, or held by the force of wisdom, and wisdom held by the force of method, or within the context of method.
Here, method is referring primarily to the method of developing a bodhichitta aim. First, we develop a bodhichitta aim and then, within the context of holding this aim, we do the various meditations on discriminating awareness to gain the understanding of voidness. So, it’s within the context of holding a bodhichitta aim that we develop the discriminating awareness of voidness.
The other way around, it is within the context of seeing all others as existing like an illusion and so it's within the context of wisdom that then we can develop a bodhichitta aim. In other words, we have the wish to achieve enlightenment to be able to benefit all these limited beings existing in the manner of being like an illusion. In this way, wisdom is developed within the context of the method of bodhichitta and bodhichitta is developed within the context of wisdom.
The same is true in terms of the practice of all the other far-reaching attitudes or perfections. We practice generosity, and we maintain ethical self-discipline and patience within the context of realizing that all limited beings exist merely like an illusion. In this sense, we practice all these other methods within the context of our wisdom.
Method and Wisdom in the First Three Classes of Tantra
It is just this much that is practiced within Sutrayana. If we go more profound and deeper than this, we get into the subject of tantra. All that has been discussed so far still remains as the basis for going on with tantra. Tantra is not something that we practice without any foundation. It's not something that we just immediately leap into its practice without a foundation.
What do we add with tantra on top of this sutra foundation? The main point is having an inseparability of method and wisdom. If we ask, "How is it in tantra that we have an inseparability of method and wisdom?” It's in terms of having our minds aimed at ourselves in the form of a meditational deity, a Buddha-figure, and taking it to mind in the sense of taking it to be devoid of self-established existence. It can also be in terms of having a mind that understands the absence of truly established existence and having that mind appear in the aspect of the deity. In either way, it comes down to the same thing.
The way that we do this is first to think of a total absence of all impossible ways of existing, or voidness. Then using that mind that understands this total absence or this voidness as a basis for actualizing what will come next, we actualize within that void state the form of a deity. We have our understanding of voidness give rise to the appearance of a mental hologram, a mental aspect, in the form of a deity.
We then meditate on the form of the body of a deity, the body of a Buddha. The body of a Buddha is something that can appear in many, many different types of aspects beyond our imagination, beyond what we could describe in words. However, in this world of ours, they would appear in forms to which we can relate; they would not appear in forms other than that.
We have the mind with which we understand voidness. Such a mind would then give rise to an appearance, a mental hologram in the form of a body of a Buddha. This is the clarity aspect of that mind, referring to its appearance-making aspect, and it is focusing on the voidness of that body of a deity, namely that it does not exist in a self-established manner, established from its own side. In this way, we have together in one mind both the clarity aspect of the body of the deity as method and the profound aspect of the understanding of the voidness of that deity.
This is the general way of procedure in the three lower classes of tantra. The main methods used in this process in the first two classes of tantra, kriya or ritual deity practice and charya or behavioral deity practice, it presents this type of practice or path in terms of the yogas with sign and without sign. When we get into the practice of the third class, yoga tantra or integrated deity practice, then it adds on top of this further sophisticated methods in addition to what we had in the lower classes. You have the practice of the four mudras or seals in yoga tantra.
When we get to the highest class of tantra, anuttarayoga or peerlessly integrated deity practice, at this level, the practice of inseparable method and wisdom is not practiced merely in terms of the rough levels of consciousness. It’s practiced in terms of an inseparability of method and wisdom on the level of the subtlest level of consciousness.
When we wish to be able to transform the subtlest level of consciousness into the nature of being an actual true path of the mind, it's first necessary to make that subtlest level of consciousness clear and accessible, so that it can actually be involved with taking objects. For this, it is necessary to stop or cease the rougher levels of body and consciousness. This involves the practices of the subtle energy system, with its subtle energy winds, channels, and creative energy drops.
In terms of this, there is the discussion of relying on a sealing partner or mudra. By relying on a sealing partner, one is able to make use of and work with the subtle energy system of the energy winds, drops, and channels, and to be able to actually transform them into the nature of a path. It is a forceful method.
By relying on all these sophisticated methods and skillful means such as this, we get down to the point of what is discussed in this complicated text, the Uttaratantra, The Furthest Everlasting Continuum. In other words, we are able to get down to working on the source that allows us to become enlightened. We are able to remove all the stains from the clear light mind.
By removing all the stains, then the natural purity of that mind becomes what is known as the Svabhavakaya, the Essential Nature Body (or Corpus) That Encompasses Everything. The mere clarity and awareness factor of the mind itself is something transformed through these methods into a Jnanadharmakaya, a Deep Awareness Body (or Corpus) That Encompasses Everything.
In the context of this presentation in tantra, we actualize from the subtlest energy wind of that clear light mind the two Form Bodies of a Buddha, a Sambhogakaya, a Corpus of Full Use and a Nirmanakaya, a Corpus of Emanations.
With this, we conclude the teaching on the Furthest Everlasting Continuum, the Gyu Lama. Although we haven't actually discussed all the words of the text, we have covered all the meaning of the text and so, in fact, we have treated it in even a more outstanding way. We may not have done this in the most profound and deepest way possible, but we have done it in a very modern way, which means we have done it very speedily.
Now we have completed this teaching, my friends. If you find something useful, something that can be practiced, then practice it. Eventually it can give you some positive results. If you feel something is not suitable, then alright. It's alright. That's all, thank you very much.
It is the custom at the end of a teaching to dedicate whatever merit or positive potential that has been built up through this teaching for positive aims. Therefore, we should dedicate the positive potential for all of us to be able to develop a kind and warm heart, and to be able to develop altruistic feelings to be able to benefit and help everyone.