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Lions Roar : September 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 17 Good Mind Underlying all our discursiveness and dramas, says SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE, are inherent qualities of peacefulness, compassion, and clarity that we can access through meditation practice. PEOPLE IN THE WEST have been meditating for a long time. But even though we’ve learned to sit still, when things come at us in life we don’t always know how to respond. We don’t know how to react to the news on TV, or when somebody blows up at us. The easiest thing is to get mad and blame another. We’re even proud of how pissed off we can get. If aggression and blame brought happiness, the world would be a very happy place. But in these dark times, what we really need to do is learn to respond with compassion. Where is compassion going to come from? Even though we often act as if it’s a million miles away, it is always right here, a renewable resource. In contemplative meditation, we can learn to access it directly and generate it. In peaceful-abiding meditation, the point of following the breath is to enter the peace of the present moment and rest there. As we stabilize our mind, emotions and thoughts still come up, but we’re not so easily dragged away by them. We be- gin to get a glimpse of the vast tranquillity, clarity, and steadi- ness that underlies all the mental drama. In Tibetan, these qualities are called sempa zangpo, “good mind.” In a moment where we don’t particularly feel self-conscious or aggressive, where we’re not blaming somebody else, the mind feels clean and free. We feel optimistic, as if we can do anything. That’s sempa zangpo developed. Good mind is clean and clear, a fer- tile garden in which we can plant whatever we want. Traveling in Tibet, I have met so many people who were tortured as their culture was destroyed. If their response were bitterness, I would understand. But in every case, they express appreciation for what they have now and compassion for those who harmed them. Through everything they endured, they maintained their connection to good mind. I feel the same good clean mind when I’m with my teachers. When they hear sad news, they cry. When they hear something funny, they laugh. But whatever it is, their mind is very light; it doesn’t get them down. The news lands, they understand it, and they move on to the next thing. They’re not depressed for days. There’s an innate instinct for the mind to want to feel good. The technique of meditation provides direct access to how it can feel good. Contemplation moves us forward to the place where we can learn to ground ourselves in the reality of good mind and experience how it feels. That is how we develop a mind that is able to generate compassion as a response to any situation. If we know what good mind is, we always have a place to be. We may think we don’t know how to contemplate, but we’re always contemplating something. Many of our contem- plations are neutral; some make life harder by leading to acts that harm others and ourselves. For example, if we contem- plate what we don’t have, we feel tight and claustrophobic, as if we’ll never have enough. This contemplation leads us into the small mind of ambition and jealousy. Then we can’t even enjoy ice cream, because the mind is trapped by negativity. The great meditators say that it is better to have good mind, because good mind takes us to wisdom, which leads to freedom. In contemplative meditation we become famil- iar with good mind and ride it to the meaning of reality by focusing on a thought that is useful and beneficial. For exam- ple, in a basic contemplation, we focus on the preciousness of our life. There are some very difficult situations in the world, yet we find ourselves free and well-favored in our ability to generate compassion and cultivate wisdom. Resting our minds on the thought “free and well-favored,” we let its meaning penetrate us. We feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation. We think about that and draw a conclu- sion: “I will use my time well.” As the meaning comes and goes, we use the words to bring our mind back to it, just as we use the breath to bring us to the moment. In contemplative meditation we’re changing our attitude. The point isn’t to contemplate for a long time, but to get to the meaning quickly and bring it into experience. If you’re SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE is spiritual director of Shambhala, an international network of meditation and retreat centers. He is the author of Turning Your Mind into an Ally and Ruling Your World. GAVINKINGCOME/SCIENCEPHOTOLIBRARY