Examining the Essential Nature of the Settled Mind
The second (main section) is the exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana. Have the essential points of your body posture be as before; but, in this case, as your way of gazing is extremely important, direct your eyes, intensely wide-open, straight ahead at the center of the empty space before you, without blinking, wavering to and fro, or fluttering, and gaze (ahead), staring.
In mental quiescence your mind has become like a clear mirror. With penetrative insight you examine the nature of this mirror and the images in it. The way of looking is slightly different for these two. In mental quiescence your eyes should be looking straightforward, relaxed and in focus. For penetrative insight look more intensely and slightly upwards. This uplifts and sharpens the mind. The difference is like between your arm when it is at ease and when flexed.
Within a state of that faultless settling of your mind (in shamatha as you have attained before), set (your mind) tranquilly into its natural mode – non-manufactured, unself-conscious, not anxiously caring, dropped down to its natural state – but make it slightly more intense. Keep your mindfulness on the ever-present moment, vividly transparent, wide awake, and without meandering.
Having done (that), examine extensively the essential nature of your mind at this time when it is in perfect full shamatha. By its essential nature, does it have a color, a form, a shape? Does it have an arising, a ceasing and an enduring; or does it lack the three? Is it outside, inside, or where is it settled? Except for this settled state itself, is there actually another (awareness) knowable to the side (of it)? Is it nothing whatsoever, a blank void that cannot be identified (as “this” or “that”)? Or, in this settled state, is there awareness, which, although it cannot be identified (as “this” or “that”), is still vividly transparent, pristine, and distinct, but which you do not know how to express in words? Moreover, is that essential nature of the settled (mind) a pitch blackness, or is it a sparkling, wide-awake starkness? All mistakes and key points concerning the abiding nature (of the mind) are contained in this (questioning).
If you realise the true nature of your mind, your Buddha-nature, you have Enlightenment. If confused about it and shrouded in the darkness of ignorance, you have samsara and bring yourself suffering.
So, if gripped by concerns about the eight transitory things in life, you’ve hoodwinked yourself into (claiming that), without having developed (anything) on your mental continuum, you’ve (actually) developed (on it) fantastic boon experiences and stable realizations, which are (merely) objects of your intellectual understanding, things you’ve (merely) heard about, and (just) highfalutin Dharma jargon, then you’ve deceived yourself. And if you are a renunciate, then you’ve also caused your vows to degenerate by lying to your guru with polite affectations.
Do not worry if what you experience sounds a bit silly. If after looking you find that your mind is white, report this to your Guru. He will say, for instance, to check if it is ever yellow. If you come back and say, “It is yellow,” he will then say, “No, actually it is neither.” Through such honest exchange and interplay, your Guru will be able to lead you to recognise the nature of your mind. When you look at or examine your mind with incessant questions as above you may not recognise its nature even if you see it. Therefore you must rely on your Guru and be totally honest with him, otherwise he cannot help you. What is at stake is your liberation from suffering, Enlightenment and ability to help others.
So, put your heartfelt effort into the practice (just) by itself, and then, since it’s necessary to have genuine experience and realization that develop within you through the force of meditation, and not through patching up something through conceptual thought, tighten your faculty of awareness and examine (your mind). Then take a rest and (afterwards) examine once more. As it is necessary to examine the essential nature of the mind when it is settled, the way to set it throughout these occasions is to set it in a clear, lucid, brilliant state, like the sun free of all clouds.
Since occasionally re-energizing your faculty of awareness and then exerting effort to examine the essential nature (of your settled mind) is the first method enabling you to get to know (the nature of your mind) face to face, the guru as well must discipline and question in accord with the measure of mind of (you) disciples. To make some (of you) fit to be trained, he must repeat and question over and again, (to insure) that you have gotten to know, face to face, an intellectual understanding, a boon experience, a stable realization, and a (genuine) experience, without mixing them with Dharma jargon. You disciples as well must exert effort like that.
Examining the essential nature of the (settled) mind, then, is the first point (for vipashyana meditation).
Examining the Essential Nature of the Stirring Mind
Next, to cut down to the foundation and root (for resolving the issue of the essential nature of your mind), you need to cut down to the root from atop the stirring (mind) or rambling conceptual thought, so that you will get to know, face to face, (its essential nature).
Having adopted the essential points of body posture, way of gazing, acting, and so forth as before, then in a state of the triad – bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality – crystal-clear and relaxed, generate all of a sudden a fleeting conceptual thought from that (state) or emanate a conceptual thought in whatever way seems suitable.
Examine the essential nature of the cognition that has been emanating. Examine it at the time it is emanating. Having examined the enduring of what has been emanating, investigate what is its color, its shape, and (is there) a place it arose from, a place it endured in, and a place it ceased into? Is (this conceptual thought) located outside, or is it located inside the body? Wherever (this) aspect (of mind) might be, outside or inside the body – (for instance,) if in fact inside, in the center of the heart or the likes – in what manner does it endure and is it emanating? Does that mind (that is emanating) exist as a functional phenomenon, or does it exist as a nonfunctional phenomenon? Does it actually have an arising, a ceasing, a color, a shape, and so on? If it does, then what kind does it have, or is it the case that you say that you think it doesn’t (have these)? And even if (you say that) it cannot be thought of as being (like) this, well then, is there still something knowable that nevertheless has no arising or ceasing and so forth?
At the moment when you examine a conceptual thought, is it that there is an absence there of all conceptual thoughts, a parting from mental fabrication, without an arising or a ceasing? Or is it that in having examined that conceptual thought, it just goes away, vividly discharging without (leaving) a trace? Which one is it? Or is the measure that conceptual thoughts have arisen just that they pop up without being identifiable (as being like “this” or like “that”)? Examine is it really (like that)? If it is the case that they pop up without being identifiable, then at that moment (when they do pop up), is there or is there not (another thought that) thinks there is no identifiable component (here)?
There is no end to the amount of questions to which you can subject a thought such as “I saw my friend yesterday.” Where is this thought? Where did it come from? What is it made of? Is this thought the same shape as your friend and is the image of your friend the same as your friend himself? When this thought passes, does it leave no trace like a cloud disappearing from the sky, or does it leave a footprint like a child walking on the beach? If you say this thought has no qualities and cannot be found, then what about the thought that thinks that? If a mute person cannot put his thoughts into words, does this mean he has no thoughts?
By interrogating thought like this you can “question it to death”. If you are plagued by thieves and you catch one and publicly flog him, and then do the same for several more, the thieves will get the idea not to come any more and you will be free of them. The same thing will happen with your thoughts. Persistent questioning takes the life out of them and they will not bother to come so often. And when they do, they will be weaker in force and not so bold. In this way you will come to see the nature of your mind and thoughts.
After a conceptual thought has stirred up, or you have made one stir up, examine it without stopping it or grasping on to it. Whether it has a happy (feeling) to it or an unhappy one, examine the essential nature of happy and unhappy (thoughts). No matter how many thoughts you have, examine them. When a disturbing emotion has arisen strongly, such as one of the five poisons (of desire, anger, naivety, pride, or jealousy), or you make one arise, examine it too. Making sure to cut out any interpolations (you might superimpose) from within, examine the conceptual thought itself and the object of that thought, and its immediately preceding conceptual thought, (to see) whether there is any difference in terms of the mind (or consciousness aspect of them).
When you see the essential nature of conceptual thought as clarity-making, knowing and starkness, then examine whether there is actually any difference between the clarity-making, knowing and starkness you saw previously with respect to the settled mind and the clarity-making, knowing, and starkness you see now with respect to conceptual thought. If you cannot decide, then draw that conceptual thought itself back in and set (your mind) in a (state of) clarity-making and knowing.
This is a figure of speech. Thoughts are not like a jack-in-the-box which you can stuff back into your mind. What is meant is to cease interrogating the thought and let it dissolve.
In other words, as you will (now) be examining the essential nature of your normal awareness itself, unadulterated by anything, which originally had a conceptual thought pop up (in it), examine it thoroughly, and so on.
When a wave rises and falls, has the ocean basically changed? Does a cloud affect the sky?
In short, when, having adjusted to the way that (thoughts) dawn (in your mind) and to your understanding (of them), you have made decisive distinctions through the two (of you), guru and disciple, (working together), then you have cut down to the depths and to the foundation and root (for resolving the issue of the essential nature of your mind).
Exerting effort in getting to know, face to face, (the essential nature of your mind) through examining (it when it is stirring with conceptual thought) and in the procedures for examining it are the second point (for vipashyana meditation).
Examining the Essential Nature of the Mind in Relation to Appearances and in Relation to the Body
Further, in order to get to know, face to face, appearances and the mind as being inseparable, there is examination of (the essential nature of the mind) from (when it is focused) atop an appearance. While having your way of gazing and body posture as before, direct your eyes and your focus, single-pointedly, at any suitable visual form in the space (before you) – some definite object such as a pillar, a vase, or a reflection of your body (in a mirror), or Mount Meru – and examine it, staring piercingly. Then, after setting your awareness that is atop that (object) into a loosened (state) for a short while, examine once again.
Likewise, examine the essential nature of a sound that is the cognitive object of your ears, whether or not there is a difference (in essential nature) between a pleasant and an unpleasant, or a loud and a soft one, such as that spoken by yourself and someone else, and so on. Similarly, whatever dawns – a fragrant or a foul odor that appears as a cognitive object of your nose, a delicious or unpalatable taste to your tongue, a pleasant or unpleasant, hot or cold, or intensely painful physical sensation to your body – examine it.
At that time, alternate examining each of the five (types of sensory) objects, whichever they may be, and the examiner conceptual minds that are examining (them, by considering), “Is it that when an appearance ceases, (the mind also) goes away? Or is it that (the mind) itself and the appearance appear separately? Or is it that the appearance is present and arises by coming in to the mind? Or is it that, for the mind to make (the appearance) appear, it goes out to take hold (of the appearance), thinking, ‘I shall make this appear?’ Or is it the case that, since appearances and the mind are inseparable, an appearance without an object (that it is an appearance of) is there, distinctly, in a void?”
When you close your eyes, does the appearance of an object disappear? When you put your hand in front of your eyes, where is the clarity of the appearance?
Having examined whether there is really a difference between those two (namely, a mind and an appearance), then examine (as follows) for what is the difference between an appearance that is a cognitive object and a conceptual mind that has it as its object:
When you have examined an object, if the cognitive object is (really) “out there,” vividly clear, (different and separate from the mind perceiving it), then whether there is a whimsical thought that is thinking those words (“it is ‘out there’”) or there isn’t any thinking of those words, (it wouldn’t matter). It would (only) seem as though there is no difference at all between those two – that object (“out there”) and that mind that is examining it, unobstructed and plainly evident, but which (on its own part) does not take (anything as its cognitive object), does not make anything clearly appear, and is (just naturally) in a comfortable state. (But, actually, since the cognitive object would in fact be “out there,” different and separate from the mind perceiving it,) there couldn’t be any thought thinking something different from those words (that it is “out there.”) However, if it is (just) a whimsical thought that is thinking that the object is “out there,” vividly clear, (but it really isn’t “out there,”) then examine that whimsical thought itself, which is thinking those words (“it is ‘out there.’”) What kind (of thought) is that? (Is its object “out there?”)
Likewise, examine as well both the body and the mind. Which are they: one and the same or different? If they are one and the same, then the body, which has an arising and a ceasing, and the mind, which, being eternal, is parted from any arising or ceasing – the two would have to be the same.
Although your cognitions, like your body, change from moment to moment and are thus impermanent, the nature of the mind as a clear, void, blissful awareness is something that does not change and is permanent in the sense that it does not depend on causes or circumstances. The nature of your mind does not arise out of nothing when you are born or wake up, nor does it cease when you die or fall asleep. The awareness is by nature the same regardless of what it is aware of.
Or if they are different, then you should be able to recognize two separate things, the body and the mind (totally apart from each other).
The mind, without being located “here,” pervades the (entire) body, not (just) its top or its bottom, so that you experience feelings (all over). How is that? The body and mind are (respectively) something that supports and something supported (like a cup and the tea in it). But, if the body is outside and the mind inside (as two separate things), like a man and his clothing, then (consider) that experience itself of a feeling. If you are of the mind that thinks that it is the body alone that has feelings, then a corpse would also have to have feelings. But if the mind (alone) has the feelings, then the two (body and mind) would have to be different (and unrelated).
(Now,) the mind is something that cannot be killed or cut. But if, when your body is pricked by a thorn, your mind feels it, then how is that not the same as the example of when the supporting clothes (being worn by someone) are burned by a fire, the supported man (wearing them) is (also) burned by the fire?
When you prick the body, do you prick the mind also? After looking at this thoroughly, you must reach a firm decision. Namely, you must decide that the body and mind are neither the same, nor different. Conventionally they are like something that supports and the thing supported, but ultimately they are not two inherently existing objects sharing such a relation.
Since, having thoroughly examined with that (kind of analysis), you need to be able to reach a decisive conclusion, then at this very point, know as your mind, like water and waves, all feelings that arise and set (your mind on that realization).
Because it is within that state that you will have become decisive from your depths about the abiding nature (of your mind), examining like that is the third point (for vipashyana meditation).
Examining the Essential Nature of the Settled and Stirring Minds Together
Examine once more the essential nature of your mind at the time when it is settled pristinely in its clarity-making and voidness (in other words, emptiness). Then again, after having made it stir with a conceptual thought and having examined its essential nature, examine whether the essential natures of the settled and stirring (minds) are the same or different. Having examined like that, if you see that they are different, then how are they different?
Do the settled and stirring (minds) dawn by alternating, like when you have strung thread (around two sticks) spread apart and twirl (the two threads) together with equal strength (to make a string)? Is the settled (mind) like the ground and the stirring (mind) that arises like what grows in a field? Or are the two (states, settled and stirring,) like a coiled snake or rope (in that there is just a rope and it is either straight or coiled, so that) when one (state) is the case, the other isn’t happening? Is it that (the mind) is something that while it is settled, it isn’t moving; and while it is moving, it isn’t settled?
However, concerning that, since, when it is stirring, (the mind) emanates a variety of all different things, and when it is settled, it remains without stirring, the difference between those (two states) is great. But, if you think their essential natures are different, is the difference between the two in terms of color, shape and so forth? Or is it a difference in terms of something like the trio: arising, enduring and ceasing, or a no-longer happening, not-yet happening and presently-happening and so on, or static (permanent) and nonstatic (impermanent)? Examine!
In fact, when you know conceptual thought as (something also to be included within the sphere of) meditation, (you realize that) the essential nature of both the settled and stirring (minds) is nothing but the same. The way they dawn is that they dawn by alternating, and when (your mind) is settled, there is nothing that is stirring, and when it is stirring, there is nothing that is settled. Like water and waves, (the two states) are the gait or action of the mind alone. That is all there is to it. When you understand that both the settled and stirring minds are nothing more than stark clarity-making and voidness, then you have a little understanding.
The mind is like a mirror, in that it has the same void clarity whether or not it is reflecting an object.
However, after you have drawn a conceptual thought in and set (your mind) in meditation, is it that (now) there is in fact a clarity-making and voidness, or it is that in the wake of the thought having disappeared there is in fact a clarity-making and voidness?
In other words, is it like the darkness of night dissolving into the clarity of daylight? Or is it like the darkness disappearing and being replaced by daylight?
Or is it that the plainly evident conceptual thought itself was in fact a clarity-making and voidness? If you think that it is like either of the former two, you must still make strong requests to your guru (for inspiration) and then make effort once more to examine and try to gain certainty in seeing how it really is.
There are several ways, then, of looking at the nature of the mind. These have been looking at the settled mind, the moving or thinking mind, the mind reflecting an appearance, the mind in relation to the body, and both the settled and moving minds together. These ways of looking at the nature of the mind can be approached in three styles.
As for those who have gone through these (stages of) examining the essential nature (of the mind), those who skip ahead (develop) vipashyana first, then shamatha, and then sometimes they have neither and sometimes both will dawn. Those for whom it happens at once develop both shamatha and vipashyana at the same time by merely being taught the mental labels (for them). This is due to the power of their previous training.
This refers to instincts from former lifetimes as is the case with tulkus, reincarnate lamas.
Those who progress gradually develop (the two) in stages. Here, as (the explanation) has been made under the influence of the latter (type of person’s approach), it must be taught (like this only) after assessing the way in which (the disciple’s experiences) dawn.
For (that way of practicing), then when examining in fact (the essential nature of the mind), set (your mind) in (a state in which) there is an aspect of clarity-making, but no aspect of (conceptual) grasping, like a small child looking (at the paintings of deities) in a temple. Within that state, exert yourself with great perseverance to examine (in this way): Having rid yourself of laziness and turned away from clinging, having no requirements and being renounced, having firm conviction (in your guru), appreciation (of him or her) and belief in facts, and having mindfulness firm with no meandering, practice in an uncontrived state without being fettered by any hopes or worries. Having taken interest in only your future lives, having not gone into the slackness of rambling about (after things of this life), if you make effort in these (ways of) examining the mind, then it is impossible for you not to develop quickly and with certainty this much deep awareness, (that) of vipashyana.
Therefore, ascertaining (the essential natures of) both the settled and stirring (minds together) is the fourth point (for vipashyana meditation).
Meeting, Face to Face, the Essential Nature of the Settled Mind
By having cultivated, like that, examining the essential nature (of your mind) in that way and (meditating according to) the quintessence teachings concerning the mind, then with practically no need (for your guru) to get you to know (its nature) face to face, (stable realization of it) will come springing up (to you) spontaneously from within. Some (people, however), do not recognize it even if this has happened. And some, wishing to have developed excellent boon experiences and stable realizations quickly, with (merely) an intellectual understanding and dry listening (to teachings about the nature of the mind, only) with their ears, will speak (of these experiences and realizations) with unerring Dharma jargon, despite their not having developed them. Since (such) can be heard, the guru must differentiate those (types of people); and the disciple as well must practice taking (all this) to heart.
After you have examined or looked at the nature of the mind and reached a decision about it, you must experience it in meditation and recognise the experience in terms of what you have previously ascertained. Therefore the Guru is essential, for through his interplay and questioning he leads you to the correct decision about the nature of your mind and confirms for you when you have had a true meditational experience or insight into it. This is what it means for a Guru to make you recognise your mind or, literally, to introduce, you to it.
As a beginner, the first way to get to know, face to face, the essential nature (of your mind) at the time when you are examining it (is as follows). Having carried out, as before, the ways to examine the essential nature of your previously settled mind and so on, that essential nature of the settled (mind) will, in fact, be right there. (The essential nature of what that mind is) is a vividly transparent, glaringly distinct, pristine, relaxed awareness which, within a state of a sparkling, vividly awake starkness, and not just an absence, can nevertheless not be identified (as a “this” or “that”). Yet, while not being identifiable as something that, with a shape, color, and so on, is like “this,” or that can be said to be expressible in words as being like “that” and “that”; it is, nevertheless, an awareness that makes (things) clear without obstruction – crystal-clear, pristine, stark, distinct and vividly wide awake. But, it’s not something that you think to yourself, “It’s something I’m seeing that I had not seen (before), something that I’m experiencing that I had not experienced (before), something that I’m knowing that I had not known (before)” – it is not like that.
It has always been the case, for the nature of the mind is permanent.
It is not even a something that you can put into words as being like this: “There is something there that is dawning to me.”
But, if your decisiveness (about the essential nature of your mind) is just an intellectual understanding that it is a clear, serene, unidentifiable settled state of clarity-making and voidness, then because that is unreliable, not the slightest (attainment) will come (from it). (On the other hand, if it is) a decisive statement that it has dawned from within (from your own meditation practice), that is a dawning of an exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana into the (essential nature of) the settled mind.
Therefore, except for perceiving this essential nature in a denuding manner through a tremendous effort, like pressing a rock against a broken bone to set it, (there is no other way to attain vipashyana into it. Otherwise,) if (your guru) tries to get you to know (the nature of your mind), face to face, prematurely, you will be left with it as an object of only an intellectual understanding, and you will become closed-minded and smug.
If the Guru tries to make you recognise the nature of your mind before you have had any meditative experience, you will have only an intellectual understanding. Because of your smugness and self-satisfaction, you will become jaded, lacking all appreciation for the profundity of the teachings. Closed-mindedly you will feel you understand everything already and therefore will disparage all your Guru’s further efforts to teach you. Like a stone in water, you will not absorb anything he says and thus you will make no progress. Therefore it is better for the Guru to be reserved about teaching the nature of the mind, lest he do so prematurely and jade the disciple.
Then, because of the harm (inflicted), even attempts to lead you with further (instructions) and the like cannot bring you to get to know it face to face. (This is because,) without having cut the stream of your conceptual thoughts, you will not have seen the essential nature (of your mind). Without having seen its essential nature, (your guru) will not have been able to bring you to know it face to face. Having not met it face to face, your meditation will not be able to function as a pathway of mind (leading to liberation and enlightenment).
(Therefore,) even at times when you have excellent boon experiences, examine them; and at times when (your meditation is going) poorly, repeatedly try to intensify the clarity.
In other words, when you are in pain, do not indulge yourself but rather look at the nature of the mind experiencing this pain and try to intensify and focus on its clarity. This is similar to the technique used to eliminate mental wandering in tantric visualisation meditations, namely intensify the clarity of the visualisation and extraneous mental activity disappears.
(Remember,) teaching the methods for cultivating (meditation) practice is called “forward-leading discursive instruction,” while knowing from meditation (carried out by following those instructions) is called the “completed state of discursive instruction.” As that is the case, then if you have cultivated (your meditation practice) without having meandered from that state (of completed instruction), you will have had no difficulty in having developing boon experiences and stable realizations. When, through (that route), you have seen the essential nature (of your mind), then because it will have instilled certainty (in you) and cut off your doubts, now you will be able to get to know (that nature) face to face.
Of the two (states) that are (achieved) in general in meditation, shamatha and vipashyana, (look for the following to check for the first.) When your mind has been set, relaxed into its natural mode, all conceptual thoughts automatically still in their own place and (your mind) settles clearly and serenely into its natural mode. Your intellect does not enter into mentally wandering about worldly matters or this life. (Your mind) is blissful, soft, with all disturbing emotions stilled into a fine sleep. Settled single-pointedly into its essential nature of being constructive, (your mind) remains (like that) for as long as you wish, under your own control. You do not feel even the passing of breath in and out. If (your state of mind) is actually one (like this), that is a distinguished stilled and settled state of shamatha.
That (state has) as its main, most important (features) the boon experiences (of bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality). Although (these boon experiences) cannot serve the function of stable realizations, (which are attainable only with vipashyana); nevertheless, you cannot do without them. If you have cultivated them without any clinging, then in that state of mind, without lapsing into mental dullness, flightiness of mind, or an unspecified state of indifference, (you will see that) the essential nature of the mind is that it is something parted from any expression, thought, or talk that its shape or color is like “this.” Inexpressible in words as being something knowable and able to be experienced as an object of your own intellect as being “like this,” it is like the bliss of a youth, a unified pair of clarity-making and voidness, parted from all extremes of being something that can be identified and then mentally fabricated, unadulterated by any conceptual Dharma thoughts, unsullied by any conceptual worldly thoughts. Unsuitable (if identified) as being a lethargic state of shamatha or of nonconceptuality, it is an awareness that is sitting (there), naturally present all along, dropped down to its own state, naturally simple. It is called “normal awareness” or (simply) “the mind,” the root of all good qualities.
If you are unaware of it, then there is unknowing (ignorance) and uncontrollably recurring samsara. But if you are aware of it, then there is knowing and deep awareness or the released state of nirvana. It is either called “simultaneously arising deep awareness” or it is called “the primordial state” or “clear light” or “the exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana.” Therefore, now (when you get to know it face to face) is the dividing point for giving a nod to samsara or nirvana.
If you recognise the mind, it is Nirvana; but if you do not, then it brings you samsara. Thus the nature of samsara and Nirvana is the same. Their difference is in terms of your awareness of their nature.
From having had your guru bring you to know, face to face, (the essential nature of your mind, you) disciples will recognize it like meeting someone with whom you were familiar long ago. That recognition is called “recognition of the mind.” (Its essential nature) is not something produced by the great discriminating awareness of a disciple or the skillful guideline instructions of a guru.
It has been there all the time and is something you come to recognise only through meditational practice.
From the start, (your mind) has been abiding (with an essential nature) like that. But because previously it had been obscured by disturbing emotions and conceptual thoughts, you did not recognize it. But now that the stream of your conceptual thoughts has been cut and you have gotten to know (that essential nature) face to face, you are aware of it. Concerning the mind – that crystal-clear clarity-making that cannot be identified (as “this” or “that”) and which, while lacking a self-nature as (an existent or a non-existent) “mind,” nevertheless, has the defining characteristic of a mind, (namely) vividly transparent appearance-making – (what is) the essential nature of (that) void, clarity-making awareness? A crystal-clear limpidness without a break in continuity – that is the essential nature (of the mind).
If you cultivate a denuding recognition (of the essential nature of the mind) as being that, without ever wavering from it, then from among the unimaginable benefits from that, there will be the dawning of an exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana into the settled (mind). Since that is (a state of) having met, face to face, (mind’s essential nature), getting to know (this essential nature), face to face, (atop the settled nonconceptual mind), is the first actual fundamental step (in attaining a state of vipashyana). So, once you have pierced through to (your mind’s) vital point, (further) practice and continual cultivation (of your meditation) is extremely important.
Thus, recognizing (the essential nature of the settled mind) in that way and cultivating it are the fifth point (for vipashyana meditation).
Meeting, Face to Face, the Essential Nature of the Stirring Mind
With the second way of examining (namely, examining the essential nature of the stirring mind), you cut down to the foundation and root (for resolving the issue of the essential nature of your mind). (Now, to go further, you need to know that) there are two (ways to get to know, face to face, that essential nature): (1) getting to know it, face to face, atop the nonconceptual (settled mind) and (2) getting to know it, face to face, atop the stirring (mind) or atop conceptual thought – with (the latter,) getting to know it, face to face, atop the stirring (mind, referring to) when it has stirred with a conceptual thought or you have made it stir (with one).
The first (namely, getting to know, face to face, the essential nature of your mind atop the nonconceptual settled mind) was as follows. Your awareness was settled into a nonconceptual state, serenely, clearly, crystal-clearly, parted from mental dullness and flightiness of mind. By having examined that (awareness, you realized that) it was not even something that could be thought of as being the “this” (within the context) of the whimsical thought, “There isn’t any color, shape, or the likes to ‘it’ or an arising or a ceasing.” Yet, (you also realized that) there is in fact something knowable as being without an arising or a ceasing. When (you had such type of stable realization), that was an arising of an exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana into the nonconceptual (mind).
To conceptualise about the lack of qualities of the non-conceptual state of mind is to go to an extreme of making non-existence into a “thing”.
(Now,) as for the second (way), if (after having examined the stirring mind) you said that all conceptual thoughts that had stirred were a bare void, parted from an arising and a ceasing, that was talk of a (literal) void (and you had gone to the extreme of nihilism). But, suppose (you realized that, in having examined conceptual thoughts), then parted from (their having) the trio of an arising, enduring and ceasing and from their being identifiable as having a color, a shape, or the likes, there was (simply) a vivid discharging (of them) without (their leaving) a trace. If (that were the case), then (stable realization) has arisen a little.
However, suppose that, without even a whimsical thought that (conceptual thoughts) are unidentifiable, (you realized that conceptual thoughts) simultaneously dawn and liberate themselves (by automatically subsiding), without being identifiable as something unimportant and not to be grasped. If (that were the case), then you had met (the essential nature of the stirring mind) face to face. Or, alternatively, suppose that you realized that conceptual thought and the objects of thought, the mind at the time when it’s settled and at the time when it’s stirring, previous minds and previous thoughts, and so on, without being good or bad or having the slightest difference (in essential nature), are (all equally) clarity-making, knowing and starkness. And suppose that you (also) realized that, without it being the case that, in the wake of having drawn in a conceptual thought or in the wake of a thought having disappeared, (the conceptual thought) had gone into a clarity-making and voidness, but rather that the conceptual thoughts that suddenly arise were themselves a dawning of clarity-making and voidness. If (that were the case), then you have (also) met (the essential nature of the stirring mind).
Now, with (either of these two ways of meeting the essential nature of the stirring mind), there is not even the slightest thing to differentiate from a nonconceptual (settled) state your realization in which (the mind) stirred with conceptual thoughts, the settled (mind), and the essential nature of conceptual thought itself, all three, sit denuded in clarity-making and voidness. (You had differentiated the essential natures of the settled and the stirring minds) because your intellect, not having recognized (the essential nature of conceptual thought), had considered it to be taken (as different from that of the settled nonconceptual mind), after having interpolated (a difference).
Previously, when you did not recognize (the essential nature of) conceptual thoughts, you were unable to take them into your meditation and there was unknowing (or ignorance). Therefore, now that you recognize them, thoughts themselves can be your meditation and you will remain in deep awareness. So now make the root of your meditation be conceptual thoughts.
Previous to that, the thoughts themselves were obscuring themselves, and so they were something you couldn’t see.
They were so thick, they obscured their own nature. But now they are transparent; you can see right through them.
Now that there is an awareness of meditation atop conceptual thought, which is especially more distinguished than meditation atop the nonconceptual (settled mind), then whatever conceptual thoughts may dawn, make them into something you have recognized. When they have not arisen, stay in the mental state of them not having arisen. There is no need to emanate (them). But when they have arisen, stay there in the mental state of them having arisen. There is no need to collect them back. Therefore, without making any reflection whatsoever concerning hopes or worries, make the essential nature of your meditation be conceptual thoughts themselves.
Conceptual thoughts are nothing more than the mind. That mind, which automatically liberates itself (as a vivid discharging that naturally dissolves in its own place), is a Dharmakaya, a corpus encompassing everything, by essential nature a stark clarity-making and voidness, parted from something to be liberated and something to do the liberating. Since (that is the case), then stable realization like that is the dawning of an exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana into conceptual thought and thus (a state of) having met, face to face, (the essential nature of the mind) as being Dharmakaya, a unified pair of clarity-making and voidness.
Thus you must realise that thoughts, being a clear Voidness, arise and subside at exactly the same time, like a handprint on water. They have no endurance and there is no interval between their arising and subsiding. Nor is there space between them as if they were “things” that could be separated by space. This is what the term “naturally subsides” means, which when translated literally is “self-liberation”.
In short, whatever (conceptual thoughts) dawn, make them into something you recognize and, having set (your mind) atop just that, without contriving and without meandering, be sure to cultivate that (realization). Getting to know (mind’s essential nature), face to face, (atop the stirring mind), then, is the second actual fundamental step (for attaining a state of vipashyana).
Having met it face to face, however, is not enough. Cultivating it continually is the sixth point (for vipashyana meditation).
Meeting, Face to Face, the Essential Nature of the Mind in Relation to Appearances and in Relation to the Body
The third step in getting to know, face to face, (the essential nature of the mind), is getting to know (its nature), face to face, atop appearances as being inseparable appearance/mind.
By having examined some appropriate object – one of the five types of external sense objects (a sight, sound, smell, taste, or tactile sensation), and so forth – (you observed) an unobstructed, plainly evident cognitive object, without even a whimsical thought that that object is sitting out there. (You also observed) a mind doing the examining of it, which, without your grasping it as even a “that,” was a vivid discharging. (You realized that) those two (the appearance of the cognitive object and the mind) were neither the same (“thing”) nor different (separate “things”), but without even thinking that they were neither (the same nor different).
To think they were neither would imply that being neither was some sort of inherent nature truly existent in them.
(Likewise, you realized that) body and mind, are also inseparable, without being either the same or different – a unified pair of clarity-making/voidness and appearance/voidness, like (the appearance of) the moon in water.
If the reflection or appearance of the moon in a puddle and the water were the same, then when you put your hand over it, the appearance should still be there. If they were different, you should be able to lift the appearance off the puddle like a piece of paper.
(Consider now) even your feelings: hot, cold, and so on. They appear, but (you need to realize that), by not being aware of them as appearance/voidness, your mind imputes (them conceptually as being truly established as “hot” and “cold”) and thus you have limitless grasping. But except for that (being so), you need to realize that what is actually established as the ultimate phenomenon is totally parted from a body and mind that are, in any way, bases for imputing feelings.
In a dream, you have a body and you see many appearances, and they all seem real and truly existent. But when you awake, you see that they were all of your mind and appearing to your mind, and that they had no true basis for their existence or for you to have labelled them “my body” and so forth. The same is true of death with reference to your life’s experiences and when you awake from ignorance and see what you deceptively considered concrete and real is actually void of existing as such.
Appearances all come from the mind. If you think there are ghosts or demons, you will see them. If you do not believe in them, you will not. Once Je-tzün Mi-la rä-pa was meditating in a cave and, noticing a hole in the wall, he wondered if it might contain a ghost. As soon as this thought arose, a horrible ogress riding on a musk deer appeared and asked him, “Why did you call me? Your grasping ego sent for me. Quiet your mind and then I can leave.” Likewise, it is because you have been fooled into thinking that appearances exist as real, ~ objects “out there” that you believe them to exist that way.This is nothing more than superstition.
All appearances are reflections of the mind, void of true, inherent existence as something solid “out there” existing from its own side. For instance, great Lamas will come to Bodhgaya and see it as a paradise and all the people there as deities. To a beggar, it will appear as a hell. And for each of them, this is reality. Consider a glass of liquid. A hell-creature sees it as molten copper, a hungry ghost-as pus and blood, a. fish as a home, a human as water and a god as nectar. Each of these is merely an appearance to and of the mind. However things appear to you, that is your mind. But appearances are all deceptive, because they appear to be real and “out there”, when in fact they are not.
Consider the same person wearing the same set of thick clothes in summer and in winter. At one time he labels them heavy, at another thin and light. What is the basis for his labelling them as such? There cannot be an inherently existing basis for this in the clothing; it is all appearance. The same is true with feelings. Snuff and chilli pepper are either delicious or terrible depending on what you are accustomed to, in other words how they appear to you.
(To gain this realization,) direct your (intensely staring) way of gazing and your mind (single-pointedly) at whatever appearance pops up (before you, such as your finger). Then, a little while after that, release (your stare. Observe that,) at first, the finest details of the cognitive object are there, vividly clear. But, a little while after that, (the appearance) gets switched off, automatically in its own (place), because either you turned away, being disgusted and not wanting to look (at it any more), or your eyes went numb or started to tear. But then, having gazed at it (again) a little while after that, an appearance, distinctly knowable as something that cannot be grasped (separately from mind), comes (again), getting switched on automatically in its own place.
At that point, when (mind) itself and (this) appearance are there inseparably, distinctly knowable as appearance/voidness, not as (separately established) objects, (realize that what you are observing) is the reflexive appearance of the abiding nature of reality or the defining characteristic of the mind. By means (of that, realize that) there are no two different (separate “things”) – external appearances and an internal mind – but (just) the mind’s reflexive brilliance dawning with no obstruction.
Because appearances as (separately established) objects to be grasped (do not exist), awarenesses that (conceptually) grasp (them) are, in fact, dawnings of deception. At the time of those (dawnings), those (appearances) cannot be singled out as separate (“things”): they appear because your mind is deceiving itself. Therefore, except for mind being appearances, there are no such things as appearances, or cognitive objects, that can be established even to the slightest degree as (“things” that are) extraneous (to the mind).
A scarecrow seen at a distance appears to be a man. What is this appearance, except for your mind?
Previously, you were (in a situation of) seeing (seemingly external appearances), due to (the actual nature of appearances) having been obscured by unawareness or by your mental faculty’s (conceptually) grasping (for separately established cognitive objects). But now that the stream of your grasping conceptual thoughts has been cut, you are (in a situation of) recognizing (mind) itself as being without (separately existing) cognitive objects. (Mind) is the (mental) activity of light-rays of Dharmakaya arising simultaneously with appearances, in which the appearances are distinctly knowable as an utter voidness, without cognitive objects and without (conceptual) grasping of appearances.
Thus when your friend appears before you, just see his appearance and remain in the here and now. Do not think, “Oh, what a good friend he is,” or “What a horrible friend, he didn’t write.” Do not cling to an idea of this person as an unchanging concept, inherently existent, solid and real. Remain open, fresh and spontaneous, without expectations, worries or preconceptions and realise the inseparability of appearance and Voidness. Remain with the void appearance of the person and not your fixed ideas.
With (this recognition), now cultivate (your realization) without manufacturing (any conceptual thoughts). Let your six-fold network (of sensory and mental kinds of primary consciousness) be carefree and loose. Cultivate practicing atop (whatever) appearances (dawn).
The six conglomerates are the consciousness, cognitive power and objects of your faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. Realising that a consciousness, cognitive power and object are all three interdependent, void of existing inherently alone and all necessary for a cognition, just relax and be aware of whatever comes up.
With (your) awareness softly, yet vividly discharging within that state, set it, in an uncontrived manner, on the way things are.
Moreover, concerning that (meditation state), without purposely trying to achieve a blissful (state of) bliss, a clear (state) of clarity-making, a stark (state of) starkness, or an excellent (state) of excellence, do not wish (that something else had happened) concerning what has already passed; do not cogitate about what has not yet happened; do not think about what is presently happening. Do not meditate by intellectualizing. Do not get involved in investigating or scrutinizing what is and is not. (Rather,) in a state in which your mind is dropped down to its natural state, at ease, fresh and clean, unlabored and not anxiously caring, set it in a state of the mind’s intrinsic nature. Then it will be set in a state of inseparable appearance/voidness, inseparable resounding/voidness, inseparable bliss/voidness, inseparable knowing/awareness and inseparable clarity-making/voidness.
The realization of inseparable appearance/voidness like that, with bare (nonconceptual) cognition that does not obstruct appearances, but is parted from (conceptually) grasping them, is the dawning of an exceptionally perceptive state of vipashyana into appearances. Thus, that is (a state of) having met, face to face, (the essential nature of the mind) as being Dharmakaya, a unified pair of appearance and voidness. Continually cultivate that (state) itself and you will develop stable experiences and perfect realizations.
That, then, is getting to know (mind’s essential nature), face to face, atop appearances. In other words, since it is the third getting to know (its essential nature), face to face, (and thus the third actual fundamental step for attaining a state of vipashyana), cultivating practice like that is the seventh point (for vipashyana meditation).
Meeting, Face to Face, the Essential Nature of the Settled and Stirring Minds Together
Further, there is getting to know (mind’s essential nature), face to face, after having examined which one it is: “Are the settled and stirring minds the same or different?”
When you scrutinized whether the settled and stirring minds were the same or different, then from (realizing that the essential nature of) the two (is the same), you became aware of conceptual thought as (something to be included within the sphere of) meditation. (You realized that) the manner of their dawning, with which those two – the settled and stirring minds – are nothing other than the same, is that they dawn by alternating. The agent that is not stirring at the time when it is settled and not settled at the time when it is stirring is just the functioning mind alone. And the essential nature of those two does not go beyond their being denuded clarity-making and voidness.
Concerning that, you (also) realized that conceptual thoughts that all of a sudden arise, from the first, are themselves a denuded clarity-making and voidness, without it being the case that, after you draw in a thought, then you see a denuded clarity-making and voidness, or that, in the wake of a conceptual memory having disappeared, (the mind) went into a clarity-making and voidness. And when it came to isn’t it (like that), you were now aware of the abiding nature of the mind.
As it says (in the expression), “the (mind) falls into fingers of being settled or stirring,” whether settled in serene clarity-making in a nonconceptual state or having been stirred with conceptual thoughts, the essential nature of the mind or of conceptual thoughts themselves is denuded clarity-making and voidness, and nothing more than that.
The settled and moving states can be referred to as fingers dividing from the same hand.
They are both of the same nature as the hand, but if it is one finger it is not the other.
With the realization that all appearances or cognitive objects are spectacular emanations of the mind – all are like water and waves – and aside from that, none can be established in any way as an ultimate phenomenon, you will now be (in a state of) having met, face to face, (the essential nature of) appearances as mind.
With the realization that the mind cannot be established as a “something” – through having scrutinized its essential nature in terms of the trio: a going, an abiding and a coming about – (and so) like a horse or an elephant in a dream, that it cannot be established as an ultimate phenomenon, you will be (in a state of) having met, face to face, mind as a voidness.
With the realization that, while being a voidness, yet within a state of clarity-making and lucidity, assorted (appearances) dawn, spontaneously establishing themselves with no obstruction, like (the appearance of) a moon in water, you will be (in a state of) having met, face to face, voidness as spontaneously establishing (appearances).
And with the certitude that – without (the mind) wavering from (still) being, after having merely spontaneously established (an appearance), a clarity-making/knowing/voidness that spontaneously establishes (appearances), parted from mental fabrication, unchanging (in nature) and greatly blissful – (spontaneously established appearances) dawn and automatically liberate themselves simultaneously, like a snake knotting and uncoiling (itself), you will be (in a state of) having met, face to face, the spontaneous establishment (of appearances) as automatically liberating themselves.
That mind, which is something to get to know, face to face, (that) normal awareness, stirring with all sorts (of conceptual thoughts), knowing this and that, darting here and there – just that is called “the unified pair of clarity-making/voidness,” “great blissful awareness,” “voidness possessing the supreme of all aspects,” or it is called “mahamudra, the great seal.” Since, when you recognize it, that is called “the realization of mahamudra,” set (your mind) on that (normal awareness) as a vividly wide-awake knowing that is naturally present all along, without there being anything whatsoever to be meditated on and without meandering for even an instant.
When, in a relaxed and loosened up (state) – with no hopes or worries to be had, (such as) hoping for (your meditation to be) good or worrying about it being faulty – you have cultivated (seeing) the natural face of normal awareness, in that moment you will be seeing mahamudra, that unified pair of blissful awareness/voidness, like the expanse of the cloudless pure sky. Now your states of stilled and settled shamatha and exceptionally perceptive vipashyana will be a joined pair and your boon experiences and stable realizations will be superior. Since you will be implanting (this) as a pathway mind to liberation, it will serve (as one).
Voidness is mind’s intrinsic nature; clarity-making is mind’s defining characteristic; the unity of that pair is mind’s essential nature. Parted from all extremes of mental fabrication – excellent and bad, the trio: arising, ceasing and abiding, existence and nonexistence, static and nonstatic, and so on – beyond words and thought and yet, though parted from being recognizable (as a “this”), still exists as something that is experienced, (this) vividly wide awake, stark clarity-making, with a intrinsic nature of bliss, clarity, and nonconceptuality, (has many names). It is called “the identity-nature of great deep awareness,” “the actual nature of the great self-arising,” “the abiding nature that is the character of what is validly knowable,” “perfect awareness,” “the accordant nature (of reality),” “the equal nature (of samsara and nirvana),” “great blissful awareness,” “(Buddha-nature,) the womb containing a Thusly Gone One,” “prajnaparamita, far-reaching discriminating awareness,” “the omniscient mind,” “the deepest,” and “voidness possessing the supreme of all aspects.” Because all phenomena can be realized as the mind, it is (called) “Chittamatra, mind-only.” Because it is parted from all extremes and a middle, it is (called) “Maha-madhyamaka, the great middle way.” Because it is difficult for everyone to realize, it is (called) “Guhyamantra, the secret protection for the mind.” Because this smashes all deceptions, it is (called) “Vajrayana, the diamond-hard vehicle of mind.” Because it beholds the essential nature of Buddhahood, it is (called) “Dharmakaya, a corpus encompassing everything.”
In short, nondual deep awareness parted from all mental fabrication that (conceptually) grasps duality – the equal nature (of samsara and nirvana), great blissful awareness parted from mental fabrication, the great seal of mahamudra – that is what you have now met, face to face.
With regard to that, in implanting as your vital point firm conviction and appreciation (for your guru), you will be soaring (above samsara). In never having enough of making requests (to him or her to be able to meet, face to face, the essential nature of your mind), you will be circling (above samsara). In his or her inspiration directly entering (your mind), you will be descending (onto mind’s essential nature).
By having now met, face to face, what is present, unhidden and obvious as an intrinsic part of yourself, unobstructed and denuded, you will be landing on top of basis mahamudra. You will be seeing its essential nature as pathway mahamudra. You will be ascertaining it as resultant mahamudra. Therefore, cultivate (these states) like this with joy.
Having now made your attainment of a (precious) human body meaningful and, by implanting (mahamudra) as your pathway mind to liberation, having made your samsaric existence have an end, meditate well and with joy, and cultivate (this) for a long time – (that is) very important.
Having examined the settled and stirring minds, what you get to know, face to face, is appearances as mind, mind as voidness, voidness as spontaneously establishing (appearances), and the spontaneous establishment (of appearances) as automating liberating themselves – (in other words) mahamudra. Having gotten to know (this) as pointing a finger at Dharmakaya and having cultivated its practice continually like that, then without the serenity of (merely) an intellectual understanding to reach the endpoint (of the path), making sure to have packed it on your mental continuum is the eighth point (for vipashyana meditation).
As for these (above eight points), that was one way of having organized getting to know, face to face, the (joined pair of) shamatha and vipashyana in (four) actual fundamental steps (namely, in relation to the settled mind, the stirring mind, appearances, and the settled and stirring minds together). It was first to focus on examining (the essential natures of all four) and then, having generated (recognition of) all of them in progressive order, to get to know them, face to face, in accordance with your understanding.
The other (way) is to have organized them such that, (after) each method for having generated (recognition of the essential nature of one of the four), you have each getting to know (that essential nature) face to face in accordance with your understanding. Although that is also all right, yet here, without relying on a mass of sentences, I have organized the methods for examining (the four) in (just this) one way.
Having arranged one by one, in progressive order like an alphabet list of steps A, B and C, (these steps for) getting to know, face to face, (the essential nature of the mind) in accordance with gaining decisiveness (about it) to your innermost core and its signs, I have written (this) in accordance with the methods to have generated (them) when the occasion has arisen (that you have become actually ready to generate them properly). If, however, from the start, (your guru) had tried to bring you get to know, face to face, (the essential nature of your mind, without leading you first through a thorough examination of its nature, that superficial) getting to know it, face to face, would have made you closed-minded and smug. Since there is the danger that, when people familiar with the Dharma have become closed-minded and smug, they will be unable to have generated (stable realizations) on their mental continuums, then to eliminate that (danger), I have organized like that the methods for bringing (disciples) to get to know, face to face, (the essential natures of their minds). Those (steps) are the actual fundamental part (of the mahamudra practice).