[The recording of the initial part of this session is missing]
Meditation on Voidness Builds up a Network of Deep Awareness
Let’s analyze the relation between a whole and its parts in terms of the example of a year and twelve months. A year is made up of twelve months. If both a year and each of the twelve months had truly established, self-established existence, then how are they related to each other? Two self-established entities can either be one and the same self-established entity or two different, completely independent ones. If a year and each of these months constitute only one self-established entity, then just as there are twelve months, there would also be twelve years. Or, just as there is just one year, the twelve months would also all be one and the same, because they all would have been the same year. If we think in this way, then we see that the relation between a year and its constituent twelve months, on the basis of self-established existence, is neither one nor many. Both possibilities are absurd.
We need to understand that these logical faults arise only if we believe that the existence of a year and twelve months is self-established and not established merely in terms of what the mental label “year” refers to on the basis of twelve months. If we assert that the existence of a year is something that can be established only in terms of what a mental label refers to, then there is no such logical fault. However, if we think and believe that a year exists inherently, self-established from its own side, then these logical faults follow.
From meditating on voidness like this – on the fact that there is no such thing as self-established existence – we build up what is known as the “network of deep awareness.” When we meditate on the five other far-reaching attitudes, as mentioned, we build up what is known as the “network of positive force.” To attain enlightenment, we need to have both of these networks, of positive force and deep awareness. If we build up these two networks, then the attainment of Buddhahood will come quickly.
This particular point is covered in the text by the line:
(33) Through this (will come) the completely purified, full state of enlightenment; for, by exerting yourself in the vows of the bodhisattva vows, you will fully complete the networks needed for total enlightenment.
Training in Higher Concentration
The next point concerning higher concentration is as follows:
(34) As for the cause that will fully complete these networks having the nature of positive force and deep awareness, all the Buddhas have asserted that it is the development of advanced awareness.
(35) Just as a bird without fully developed wings cannot fly in the sky, likewise, lacking the force of advanced awareness, you will be unable to fulfill the aims of limited beings.
(36) Whatever positive force is had in a day and a night by someone possessing advanced awareness is not had even in a hundred lifetimes by someone lacking advanced awareness.
(37) Therefore, if you would wish to fully complete, quickly, the networks for total enlightenment, make effort and thereby come to attain advanced awareness. It is not to be had by the lazy.
The main point here is that we need to build up the two networks: both method and discriminating awareness, wisdom. Just as a bird needs two wings to be able to fly, we need the two wings of method and discriminating awareness in order to attain enlightenment. Furthermore, whether or not we have the advanced awareness of extrasensory perception makes a big difference in our ability to help others. Since we need to have the combination of a stilled and settled mind of shamatha and an exceptionally perceptive mind of vipashyana in order to be able to attain the various types of advanced awareness, it is extremely important to make effort to attain them. We mustn’t be lazy, because laziness is one of the greatest hindrances for developing single-minded, absorbed concentration. It says in the text:
(38) Someone who has not achieved a stilled settled mind will not attain advanced awareness. Therefore, repeatedly exert effort to actualize a stilled, settled mind.
Achieving a Stilled and Settled Mind
We need to practice the methods for attaining a stilled and settled mind of shamatha. To attain it, we need to have many conducive factors gathered together. If we don’t have the conditions and causes conducive to attaining a stilled and settled mind, then even if we sit and meditate for thousands of years, we won’t be able to achieve it. This is covered in the text by the lines:
(39) However, should the factors for a stilled settled mind be weak, then even if you have meditated with great effort and even if for thousands of years, you will not attain single-minded concentration.
(40) Therefore, maintain well the factors mentioned in the chapter on A Network for Single-Minded Concentration. Then place your mind on something constructive: namely one of the appropriate objects of focus.
We can use any Buddha-figure in our endeavor to gain single-minded, absorbed concentration. For example, we can visualize the Buddha. Or we could visualize a figure with three eyes. For this, we would start with the central eye in the forehead and then the curl of hair, which is in the middle of the brows, and slowly we would start to add the clarity of all the other details of the figure. In this way, we slowly develop absorbed concentration. This is directed in the line with place your mind on something constructive: namely one of the appropriate objects of focus.
The size of the visualized figure should be rather small. We should practice according to our ability and, once we start with a certain size object of focus, then we need to stay with that. Do not have the figure grow larger or smaller. Just work with one figure and try to keep the mind on that. Likewise, we shouldn’t meditate on it being far away or very high up. If we are practicing tantra, then we are permitted to visualize ourselves as one of these deities. Again, we would start the process of gaining clarity of the visualization in terms of, for instance, the eye in the center of the forehead and then going on to the hair in the middle of the brow and eventually getting clarity of more and more details.
If we focus on the figure of a Buddha when we are trying to develop a stilled and settled mind, there are many great advantages.
When we achieve the state of a stilled and settled mind, at the same time we will achieve the abilities of advanced awareness. This is stated in the line in the text:
(41ab) When a yogi actualizes a stilled settled mind, he or she attains, as well, advanced awareness.
Training in Higher Discriminating Awareness
Not only do we need to have a stilled and settled mind and absorbed concentration, but we also need to develop the discriminating awareness that cognizes voidness. A stilled and settled mind together with a nonconceptual cognition of voidness is able to eliminate the various obscurations and obstacles. Just having a stilled and settled mind alone won’t be able to do it.
This is given in the line of the text:
(41cd) However, if you have failed to apply yourself to far-reaching discriminating awareness, you will be unable to deplete the obscurations.
(42) Therefore, in order to rid yourself of all obscurations, without exception, regarding the disturbing emotions and knowable phenomena, always meditate on the yoga of far-reaching discriminating awareness together with methods.
Discriminating Awareness and Method
The text goes on to say that it will not do to only have method without discriminating awareness or discriminating awareness without method:
(43) This is because discriminating awareness lacking methods as well as methods lacking discriminating awareness have been said still to be bondage. Therefore, never abandon having both.
The text continues by clarifying and defining method and discriminating awareness:
(44) To get rid of doubts concerning what is discriminating awareness and what are methods, I shall clarify the actual division between methods and discriminating awareness.
The five far-reaching attitudes other than far-reaching discriminating awareness are known as the methods. It says in the text:
(45) The Triumphant One has explained that leaving aside far-reaching discriminating awareness, all networks of constructive factors, such as far-reaching generosity and so forth, are the methods.
In the next stanza, it continues to explain that we can only attain the enlightened state of a Buddha by having method and discriminating awareness combined. It cannot be attained by discriminating awareness alone:
(46) It is by the power of having meditated on the methods that, through meditating thoroughly on something with discriminating awareness, someone with a (bodhichitta) nature can quickly attain enlightenment. It does not come about by having meditated on the lack of (self-established) identities alone.
Objects for Meditation on Voidness
The objects upon which we meditate for voidness include the voidness of the five aggregates, the eighteen constituent components, or cognitive spheres, and the twelve cognitive stimulators. In the text it reads:
(47) Awareness of the voidness of self-establishing natures that has come to realize that the aggregates, cognitive sources, and cognitive stimulators lack (a self-established) arising has been fully explained as discriminating awareness.
There are different lists for all of these, but they would take a great deal of time to discuss. We will begin to enumerate and explain these in the next session.