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Lions Roar : July 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2007 19 IN TEXTS ON MEDITATION, it is often said that our view is like our eyes. Our eyes create the path we are walking on, which is our meditative prac- tice. When we begin to medi- tate, we usually use the breath as our object in order to sta- bilize, clarify, and strengthen our view. In the intermedi- ate stages of meditation, we begin to contemplate quali- ties like compassion, which broadens our view as well as our path. At a certain point, we reach a stage called “fear- less.” What makes us fearless? A taste of selflessness. If we asked the Buddha, “Who am I?”, he would tell us that our nature is great emp- tiness and purity, and at the same time, radiance or luminosity. What is the meaning of emptiness and luminosity? It means our essential nature is ungraspable. It has no beginning and no end. Like a diamond, it cannot be penetrated. At the same time, it can penetrate everything, because it recognizes the dreamlike nature of appearances, including the appearance of a self. Confused mind tries to grasp because it thinks appearances are real. When we hear the word “emptiness,” we’re apt to project a nihilistic view, a view of eradication. We think, “You took ‘me’ away. That’s no fun.” We may even develop a fear of selflessness because we don’t understand what it is. This fear comes from our misplaced certainty in the reality of appearances. Fear is just get- ting its hooks into our misunderstanding. If we believe the self is real, we believe there is something to be harmed. We believe there is something to protect. The teachings of the Buddha tell us there is nothing to fear from emptiness. The word is just a way of pointing to a view: our true nature is empty of the concept of who we think we are. When we hear about the qualities of selflessness—purity, lumi- nosity, changelessness, and indestructibility—we may think they are in the past, once upon a time. But this primordial state of being has always been here and is always here. It has never changed, is not changing, and never will change. In order to experience the reality of our essential nature direct- ly, in more advanced stages of meditation we take the na- ture of the mind itself as our object. We look directly at the mind, because it is the mind that causes us to believe that the self exists. Anger, jealousy, and fixation are all created by our mind’s belief that appear- ances are real. In such a practice we in- quire into our mind’s true nature. We observe that we constantly vacillate between relative (our conventional way of seeing) and absolute (the nature of things as they are). On a relative level, it appears that we exist. There’s a “me” who has feelings and emotions. There’s a world of sentient beings and material goods. But that world is in a constant state of flux and disinte- gration. Ultimately, it does not exist in the way we think. It ap- pears to exist because we hold it together with our mind. So in this kind of practice we look at the mind and its tendency to cling to appearances. Ordinarily, the relative appearance of things bogs us down. You could say that we are unable to penetrate the absolute nature of relativity. We’re unable to transcend the world we are in right now, partly because of incredible fixation. With the practice of clear seeing, we are trying to liberate our fixation on appearanc- es. We are not trying to eliminate appearances but are trying to overcome that fixation. Clear seeing means to see what is essen- tial, and what is essential is to overcome our grasping to things as real. We are trying to go directly to the source of the mind and undo that fixating aspect. The inquiries we make during this practice—Where does the mind come about? Where does the mind go?—are attempts to loosen our fixation. We usually can’t imagine that the mind doesn’t arise, because our experiences come about and we hold on to them. We habitually regard the mind as a solid entity and hold our perceptions as real. Now we practice trying to find the self. This level of introspection is a way to develop the mind’s Free from Fixation Like a monkey that confuses the moon’s reflection on water for the moon itself, we continually mistake appearances for reality. Buddhist practice doesn’t eliminate appearances, says SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE, but it helps us not to get stuck on them. TILEDESIGNBYWILLIAMDEMORGAN(1832-1917).©VICTORIA&ALBERTMUSEUM,LONDON/ARTRESOURCE,NY.