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Lions Roar : March 2016
Happy Wanderer I didn’t face any big problems after that. At that time of year, it is quite hot on the plains, so I went into the Himalayas. I went to Buddhist pilgrimage places such as Tso Pema and Ladakh. That was the pattern I followed in the remaining years of my wandering retreat: in the summer I would go up into the Himalayas, and in the winter I would come down to the plains and spend my time in Buddhist and Hindu holy places in India and the terai of Nepal. The best part was being able to travel freely, with no com- mitment and no schedule. It was complete freedom, like a bird flying in the sky. After my near-death experience in Kushinagar, this was very easy for me. I might plan a month or two ahead, and after that go wherever I wanted, depending on my mood. When I was in the Himalayas, though, I couldn’t stay in one place for too long. Many lamas do retreats in the mountains, and when people found out I was there, they would come and ask for my blessing and invite me to their homes. Then it would just be like my previous life in the monastery. So I would have to move on. I used that map I’d bought at the train station in Varanasi for half a year, until I lost it. I wasn’t experi- enced with maps, but if I focused really hard, I could visualize my route. Then I would ask the local peo- ple, Where is the train station? What is the best bus to take? and they would tell me. Somehow it always worked out in the end. It was good for me to have this kind of challenge. It was really helpful for my practice. Of course, it was not without fear. I was homeless, and at times my money would run out. Sometimes I would beg, and people would give me some money or tsampa, the roasted barley flour that is a Tibetan staple. Other times, they would just tell me to go away. But even when I felt a natural fear response in my body, my mind still felt free. I kept my meditation practice very simple. My main medi- tation was nature of mind practice. I didn’t do any big rituals and I only carried a couple of texts with me. In some caves, I didn’t even have a shrine or an image of the Buddha. It was very simple. Spending time with the sadhus and living like them was also good for my practice. My teacher Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche inspired me to do this. He had told me stories about spending time with the sadhus and recommended it. Many of the sadhus in Indian cities may not really be sadhus. Some of them fooled me! But in the mountains, some sadhus have profound understanding. Some were very successful businesspeople who had given up everything. The great ones don’t want to talk too much. They don’t share much about their practice. On the other hand, the city sadhus may not have How to Recognize Your Natural Awareness Meditating on the basic nature of mind was Mingyur Rinpoche’s main practice during his wandering retreat. Here are his instructions for recognizing your own natural awareness. AWARENESS IS THE NATURAL, innate, knowing quality of mind that is with us all the time. We cannot function without awareness; we would have no experience of anything without awareness. However, we do not always recognize it. In fact, most of the time we don’t. Meditation teaches us to recognize the awareness that we already have. There are three types of awareness: normal awareness, which we experience before we learn to meditate; meditative aware- ness, which comes with the recognition of awareness itself; and pure awareness, which occurs when our recognition deepens and we directly experience the nature of awareness. The most pervasive qual- ity of normal awareness is that awareness itself goes unrecognized. We remain so preoccupied and identified with every idea and image in our mind that we don’t recognize awareness itself. Awareness is always present. We cannot function without it, but we can function with- out recognizing it. Meditation requires some degree of being aware of awareness itself. We become cognizant of the quality of the mind, not just the phenomena perceived by the mind. When we begin to meditate, supports following the breath can be help- ful. When we rest our attention on the breath, we don’t get com- pletely absorbed in the experience to the point that we lose touch with everything else. We are fully conscious of the breath, but we also know that we are aware. As meditative awareness deepens, we may begin to experience what we call pure awareness. This isn’t some extraordinary state of consciousness. In fact, one of its main characteristics is that it’s completely ordinary. It’s simply the natural extension of the first glimpse of awareness that comes when we start to meditate. However, the meditation process itself connects us not only with the presence of awareness, but with the very nature of awareness. Once we recognize this pure awareness, the entire path of awakening helps nurture and stabilize this recognition, and inte- grates it with every aspect of our life. ♦ Adapted from Turning Confusion into Clarity: A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism, published by Snow Lion. PHOTOSBYLAMATASHI LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 58