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Lions Roar : July 2018
could sneak by them. When you settled into being lost and uncertain, that was an open gate. It came to be called here. You couldn’t try to get lost or arrive here; effort took you in the wrong direction. Even searching was fine, though, as long as you didn’t try to be clear about where you were going. Eventually getting lost or being here came to be called medi- tation. It doesn’t have anything to do with valuable qualities or experiences we can acquire or curate. We don’t have to bother with that; in meditation, we just get lost. We step through the gate into the silence and emptiness. We feel space spread out around us. In the simplest events, like breathing or looking into a stranger’s eyes, the original giddiness is visible. For this reason, meditation is something that you can’t do wrong. This is rare in life. Wrong implies time, status, and fear. In the beginning there was none of that. So that’s meditation. Technique can turn you away from it. Some old masters just asked “Who?” Who is hearing the rain? Who is wondering who she is? Who is meditating? When you ask “Who am I?” without impatience for an answer, the question spreads out. Space and not knowing appear and all is well. There is no need to add or subtract. Zhaozhou said another time, “I don’t identify with clarity. Can you live like this?” It’s raining tonight in Northern California. Raining happy, round splashes on the heads of the seals, on the first apple blossoms, on the sheep in the field, on the yellow mustard between the vine rows, on the green miner’s lettuce bursting out of the charred earth. In the darkness, the apricot and the cherry tree are approx- imate shapes and the wet leaves glisten faintly from the lights in the house. Time before the beginning of time is here, and I never tire of it. Do you hear how no one is listening and no one is wet? There is just the sound of rain out of the endless beginning. JOHN TARRANT is director of the Pacific Zen Institute and author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros and The Light Inside the Dark. Transform Your Heart and Mind To truly alleviate suffering, says Thupten Jinpa, we must change our whole way of thinking, feeling, and being. IN THE PALI SCRIPTURES, the Buddha is recorded as stat- ing that he has taught about “one thing and one thing only”— suffering and its alleviation. Today, many people meditate in order to relieve stress, feel more peace, or provide respite from the mind’s restless internal chatter. Alleviating suffering in this way is a perfectly legitimate reason to take up meditation. This said, it is also helpful to remember that, historically, Buddhists did not view these immediate goals as the main rea- sons for meditating. If we experience relief from stress, a quieter mind, and so on as by-products of meditation, this is well and fine. But for Buddhists, the real goal of meditation is to seek nothing short of the transformation of our mind and heart. The Sanskrit word for meditation, bhavana, means “cultiva- tion,” while the Tibetan term gom connotes “familiarity.” The salient point is that both of these terms touch on the notion of cultivating the mind and heart through a process of familiarizing. The Sanskrit word suggests that meditation is similar to tending the soil so that something we plant could grow eas- ily from it. The Tibetan term, on the other hand, conveys the active aspect of the pursuit—a deliberate and repetitive process through which we internalize a certain way of seeing or being. The idea is that through meditation we cultivate a way of see- ing things; feeling about ourselves, others, and the world around us; and being in the world so that this becomes our second nature. Here, the metaphor of learning to drive is apt: what was initially a deliberate, conscious, and effortful activity eventually becomes spontaneous and effortless. Transforming the way we see involves cultivating what the Buddhist tradition calls the “wisdom aspect” of the path. This includes contemplating and internalizing the insights of imper- manence, no-self, emptiness, and the interdependent nature of reality so that we relate to our self and the world around us with less extreme attachment and grasping. Transforming the way we feel entails nurturing and cultivating PHOTOBYANDREAROTH