Calm Abiding Meditation

Today we will talk about meditation. We know meditation is good for our health, physically, verbally, and emotionally, for any of the challenges of life. It is a most powerful purification for anything we do in our lives. Therefore it is important for realizing our own buddha nature. In dzogchen this is called rigpa and in mahamudra awareness of the nature of mind. Whatever we call it, the potential is within us and it is important to know this. There is a good example in the singing bowl. The potential for sound is in the singing bowl. Similarly, the potential for peace and happiness is within us. But without hitting the singing bowl, it will not make this sound. But once we strike the singing bowl, it makes the sound. Similarly, the potential we have is only realized through practice. The striker is the causal condition for the sound of the singing bowl. So we must have the right conditions for practice. The most powerful conditions are the teaching of the Buddha and the blessings of the lineage. Without these conditions complete awareness will not arise. The sangha, our family and friends are also other conditions. So we need to have the right positive conditions, such as this precious life. Whether you meditation is good or bad is not so important, you just need to do sit down, relax, and practice. So to have the right conditions for meditation practice is important. If you are not aware of the benefits of this precious life, you will not appreciate meditation and seek after the eight worldly concerns.

Calm abiding meditation has different levels and techniques. It is important to sit comfortably and in silence. Try to be calm in body, speech, and mind. Calmness of the body means that everything the body wants is given up for a time. So you need to be patient with that. The senses want to be active. These desires arise, especially in a long retreat. Garchen Rinpoche has said many times, when you look at the true nature of the mind, you will see it doesn't need anything. Only the body needs to be protected. Calming the speech means not speaking. Calmness of the mind means relaxing. The mind will not remain calm, so it requires some technique, such as watching the breath go in and out. Our inner energy has a strong connection with the breath. So how do we know if the mind is calm? During our meditation, suddenly thoughts will arise. When you truly recognize this happening, that is a beginning of calm abiding. When they go unrecognized, that is not calm abiding. But still thoughts will arise again and again. We chase after all the thoughts that arise. So that happens when we start calm abiding, but that is not a problem. Just keep at it and do not chase after or judge the thoughts. Just be aware and bring the focus back to your natural breathing. That will bring back your natural calm.

Then after some practice there will be an experience of bliss. It may remain a short or long time, and may or may not persist after the meditation. From that bliss arises some clarity. So that is another calm abiding realization. Sometimes the bliss and clarity appear together, sometimes separately. But the most important thing is not to attach to any experience and return to the practice. The progress of calm abiding meditation is like mountain rapids turning into a stream in the plains. Sometimes the calm loses its clarity and becomes sleepiness. So that is an obstacle to meditation practice. If you do not dispel the sleepiness, it will become a habit. Another obstacle is the mind running away outside. So the mind has to be brought back. When the mind is calm, focus into the navel chakra and watch your breathing. Sometimes in dzogchen it's said counteracting drowsiness and excitedness is not important, but I don't agree with that.

Generally there's not much to say about meditation. But if you do not practice it is hard to understand. As we discussed yesterday the potential is inside us. Just as the singing bowl has a potential for making sound, so we have the potential for enlightenment inside us. Sometimes this is called the ground mahamudra. If we are not aware of this potential or do not practice we will not understand. But after looking inside ourselves, we will see the potential is there. During meditation practice the experiences may arise of bliss, clarity, and non-thought. All this arises from the potential. We can experience the bliss of body, speech, and mind from calm abiding. All thoughts arise from the fundamental mind. The deeper calm abiding meditation is when you can sit silently as long as you wish. Outer sensations will not affect you.

It is fortunate to have a precious human life and time for study and for the practice of meditation. Then we need to open our hearts with kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta. The purpose of life is peace and happiness for ourselves and others, love for self and others, and compassion for self and others. There are a lot of things to do in life, but they will never be finished. We need to do what is beneficial for ourselves and others. To have a positive karmic link with the dharma is not easy. And having this link is not enough, we also need the proper conditions. So we should appreciate the opportunity to practice the dharma. Whether one has success in the practice depends on karma. I went to school and university and studied the dharma. It is because of the kindness of others that I was able to apply myself to study and later practice. You know what I have to say, because we have known each other for many years. No matter what, do not give up the practice of kindness and meditation. The purpose of practice is to be free from suffering and to attain happiness, both for oneself and others.

All of Buddha's teaching talks about wisdom and compassion. We do supplications to the lineage to receive the blessings of the lineage. This is a particularly important practice in the Kagyu lineage. Through this supplication we receive compassion and wisdom from the blessing of the enlightened beings. Blessing in Tibetan is jinlab. Jin means give and lab means transform. Connecting with the lineage masters transforms our hearts. Through the blessing of the supplications all obstacles are removed. Renunciation means to renounce the cause of suffering. Whatever temporary afflictive emotions we have liberate themselves by recognition through the practice of mahamudra or dzogchen. Every living being has the nature of an enlightened being. All men are Chenrezig and all women are Tara. Whatever speech there is, is the inseparable quality of mantra. In the beginning we need to recite specific mantras, but for enlightened beings all sound is mantra.

We aspire to achieve the qualities of the enlightened beings of the past. We haven't yet awakened, but we have the same potential as them. When true understanding of mahamudra dawns, all the things of samsara and nirvana have a single taste. Once the nature of samsara is understood, just that is nirvana. Sometimes we think, "I have not had a good meditation today." But that which is aware of this is good meditation. Anything can arise in meditation. So we should simply be aware of them and let them go.

It is difficult to achieve realization only through academic study. It requires the blessing of the lineage. This especially stressed in all the Kagyu lineages. The purpose of meditation is to remain in the wisdom and compassion nature. Therefore meditation has to be a regular daily practice. Milarepa is one of the great examples of how to remain in continuous meditation. Milarepa told Lekse Palbum it is not necessary to change you name, clothing, or hair, you just need to follow the teaching. He told her to sit down and meditate like you are a huge mountain. So after the break you can try this.

August 13-15 2009
Susquehanna Yoga Center