Meditation Practices to Accomplish the Four Immeasurables
Acharya Lama Kelzang Wangdi
Meditation Instructions to Accomplish the Four Immeasurables
Let us recite "The Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer" and do a short meditation together before beginning the teachings.
Answers only (to questions that students asked after the short meditation practice):
There is nothing to worry about when one notices one's many thoughts during meditation practice. In fact, it's good news, because it's a sign that one is aware that one is meditating. One doesn't notice that many thoughts arise in one's mind while one is busy with daily activities. Noticing one's thoughts when one sits down and meditates is the first sign of correct practice. One works with that slowly, slowly and step-by-step.
The statement a student made about keeping the mind flowing in space is very important from the Mahayana point of view, which teaches that one brings one's mind into a state of mental ease and feels that it's like the vast expanse of space. One's mind has to be relaxed so that one can progress in one's practice and so that one can be fully open like space. One is free to do anything in space, even to walk or fly. Likewise, when the mind is free and relaxed, then the thoughts and disturbing minds are like part to make you refreshed and calm.
Many thoughts arise in one's mind when one begins working on oneself by meditating. One doesn't cling to a thought but simply lets it go and consequently experiences mental calm and ease. Thoughts settle down if one leaves them alone and doesn't follow after them. It's like mud in water that settles down to the bottom of a glass - one allows the water to become clean by not stirring up the mud. Don't block thoughts. If you block thoughts, then the qualities of enlightenment won't arise. Also, don't follow after thoughts, because if you do, then you will still not be a meditator.
Our basic mind is just as calm as the deep ocean, but its outer layer, so to speak, becomes stirred by thoughts that are like waves on the ocean's surface. Buddhist teachings tell us that everyone has Buddha nature, which can be compared with the calm ocean. Until now, one has become accustomed to the functional habits of one's thoughts that move just like waves. By leaving thoughts alone, they subside into the ocean again. Many great Kagyu Masters said, "The mind is like the ocean and thoughts are like the moving waves that subside into the ocean all on their own again." Some Kagyu Masters compared the mind with water and thoughts with ice. Our way of thinking, our negative thoughts, our habits, etc. are like frozen ice. It's so easy to hit and hurt each other when we throw ice-cubes at each other. Ice melts into water, though, when we train our mind and then thoughts transform into Dharmakaya-mind.
Let us now look at the topic of this seminar, which is how to realize the Four Immeasurables, tshäd-med-bzhi in Tibetan. In order to practice them well, I think it's very important to develop Bodhicitta, the Sanskrit term that was translated into Tibetan as byang-chub-kyi-sems and means "a mind determined to awaken to enlightenment for the benefit of all living beings."
Most people think that Bodhicitta is something far, far away and is totally out of reach, which isn't the case at all. Normally, one's conceptual mind is extremely strong and cannot be positive unless it is balanced and in harmony with one's feelings.
Bodhicitta has two qualities that need to be joined and united: compassion and wisdom. Compassion without Weisheit, "wisdom," can be dangerous, whereas wisdom without compassion can be even more dangerous. Really, they have to work together, and Bodhicitta is the working together of wisdom and compassion. Wisdom is "discriminating awareness" (shes-rab in Tibetan) and means "looking towards Buddhahood for one's own welfare with discriminating wisdom-awareness." Compassion is "having loving kindness for others" (snying-rje). It's easy developing loving kindness if one has discriminating wisdom-awareness. So it's indispensable to develop and have wisdom-awareness.
At the start of one's practice, generating and developing Bodhicitta is mainly like this: One thinks, "I should become like Buddha and after that I can help others." Or one thinks, "I probably can' be much of a help to anyone as long as I'm not enlightened myself." For this reason, this kind of practitioner has a strong determination to become enlightened; they have the incentive to attain their goal and the wish to benefit others later. It's more than wishful thinking - it's an intense determination that keeps them working and working and moving forward. From the Mahayana point of view, the Four Immeasurables are the basis for developing Bodhicitta. The Four Immeasurables are: immeasurable equanimity, immeasurable loving kindness, immeasurable compassion, and immeasurable joy. One develops them step-by-step, because it isn't easy to have Bodhicitta.
This meditation practice begins with Shamatha (zhi-gnäs in Tibetan, "calm abiding meditation") and then address the intellectual level of the mind in that one first practices focusing one's attention on one's conceptual mind. At first one just relaxes and calms down one's crazy monkey mind for a while. Then one should be aware of one's thoughts and rest by not following after them, yet one retains remembrance through one's presence. For example, when one meditates compassion due to the wish that all living beings be free of suffering, one remembers this wish and then slowly even loses conceptual thinking about it - but there should be a flowing presence of mindfulness that one never loses. Do you understand what I mean? For example, when one thinks "Bonbon" ("candy") while it's in one's mouth, one tastes it and continues tasting it after the bonbon is finished, i.e., the presence of the taste of the bonbon is still apperceived and so one remembers it. One has to think a little bit about it when one puts another bonbon in one's mouth after having lost the sense for the taste of the bonbon that one had. Remembrance of one's thought of compassion should be like that.
In meditation practice, one doesn't only work with thoughts but also with feelings. One needs to be able to recollect what one feels so that a feeling enters one's heart, otherwise it's very difficult. Returning to our example: One first has to have the thought of wanting to put the bonbon in one's mouth before one does - it doesn't happen by itself. And one does have a feeling for the taste of a bonbon, even if one has no bonbon. In the context of Mahayana meditation practice, one holds one's mind on the presence of loving kindness or the next steps of practice and doesn't lose one's awareness while meditating Shamatha. One first thinks about one's practice, becomes wakefully aware, and as a result one has presence of mind.
Let us now look at how to develop the Four Immeasurables. One develops Bodhicitta after having perfected the Four Immeasurables and integrated them in one's life. A short summary of each section is given in italics after the instructions have been presented.
The Four Immeasurables
1. Immeasurable Equanimity - bTang-snyoms
It's especially important to develop immeasurable equanimity if one has a job and works with people. Equanimity means balancing the feelings one has for those persons one likes the most with those one dislikes. There are 13 points that delineate meditation on equanimity. The first explains why it's necessary to develop equanimity.
The great Indian master of Madhyamaka philosophy, whose name was Yeshe Nyingpo, said that one needs fertile soil if one wants to grow crops and that equanimity is like a very good field. In the same vein, the more balanced and in harmony one is with others, the more relaxed one's mind will be; likewise, the more biased and partial one is about others, the more excited and restless one's mind will be. Question: Does equanimity only concern people or does it refer to other beings too? Lama: It concerns all living beings.
The second immeasurable is loving kindness, in which case one isn't biased and doesn't differentiate between friends and foes. It is genuine love for everyone and arises naturally. The example is a sprout: If one has immeasurable equanimity, then the seed one planted will grow into a tree. Being impartial and just as unprejudiced as if one were meeting someone for the first time, one experiences that everyone is peaceful and pleasing and as a result they see one in the same light. For example, if you have heard that the Kamalashila Institute is very good, you have positive thoughts about it, come for a visit, and feel good about anything that is going on. If you have negative thoughts about it, then the slightest mishap that might occur during your stay confirms your idea, "Oh, it really is like I thought." In that case, one was only eager to justify one's prejudices and jumped at a conclusion very fast. Loving kindness, in contrast, is very powerful, and in the simile the little sprout has grown into a tree, which is like compassion, the third immeasurable.
Compassion is like a full-grown tree that freely offers any kind of bird shelter and a home for its nest. Temperatures reach 45Â° C during the summer season in India and everyone feels refreshed when they sit under the cool shade of a tree that matured and grew from a sprout of loving kindness on the fertile ground of equanimity. One feels so relaxed and cool in the summer when one takes a walk in the evening in a park with many trees or in a forest and hears the birds sing.
The fourth immeasurable is joy, which is like a pond in a park or a lake in the forest that make everyone very happy and joyful. So, the practice concerns how one develops equanimity, how equanimity develops into loving kindness, how loving kindness develops into compassion, and how compassion develops into joy. Equanimity is very important and necessary, because it's the basis of one's spiritual progress.
Summary: "Equanimity is like fertile soil -
loving kindness is like sprouts that grow into (tall) trees -
compassion is like the refreshing cool shade (under a tree) -
and joy is like a pond (in a park)." - Yeshe Nyingpo.
The second step in the practice of developing immeasurable equanimity is the focus of one's attention. One focuses on others, just like it is stated in "The Prayer of the Four Immeasurables" (that you will find in the section on prayers at the end of this article). One works on oneself by focusing one's attention on all those persons one meets in life.
As it is, one automatically generates desire and attachment when one sees or is together with people one likes. One automatically feels aversion when one sees or is together with those persons one doesn't like. It's necessary to analyze one's mind by reflecting how attachment and aversion arise and function, i.e., one focuses one's attention on how one's mind moves when one has desire and when one has aversion. If one analyzes well, one will see how strongly attachment and aversion are present in one's mind. It's difficult developing equanimity if one doesn't know how attachment and aversion arise and function. One has to really concentrate and recognize what is going on in one's mind in order to realize what attachment and aversion mean. Then one slowly tries to reduce one's attachment for the person one likes and craves for like hell. One also slowly tries to reduce one's aversion towards the person one dislikes.
Summary: If one wishes to have immeasurable equanimity, then one needs to be able to focus one's attention on all sentient beings. One begins by engaging in analytical meditation in that one reflects that one is attached to one's father, mother, and friends in this life and that one dislikes one's enemies. Having contemplated this well, one realizes that this is how one's mind is.
The third contemplation is working on oneself by remembering the kindness of others. One thinks of the person one has had extreme difficulties with in this life, the person whose name one cannot even stand hearing and who makes one freak out when one just thinks of him or her. One practices by thinking that maybe this person was one's brother or sister in one's past life. One thinks that maybe he/she was one's spouse in one's last life and that one had a very good and interesting time together. One continues practicing by thinking, "Why should I be so upset now, seeing we were so close then?" Or one thinks of one's partner one was married to for 9 whole years in this life before one divorced and doesn't want to hear about, see, or remember anymore. If one recalls that one had a good and slightly difficult time together, then one is a little bit more free. Thinking of the good one experienced inspires one to renew instead of block the connection one had. If one has the wish to renew the relationship, one is more capable of doing one's best, and that's very interesting.
Thinking positively of and feeling kindness for others changes oneself. This change cannot be created from the outside or by somebody else but must come from one's own innermost being through one's understanding. It needs to become an atmosphere, otherwise it's very difficult.
Summary: While wandering in samsara since time that is without a beginning, one's enemies have been and are just as helpful as one's parents are. Why be hostile towards them instead of trying to repay their kindness?
The fourth step in the practice of developing immeasurable equanimity is becoming aware of inconsistency and uncertainty by first contemplating that friends can turn into enemies. As a result of one's practice, one understands and realizes that there's no reason to have desire and be attached to those persons one likes. Furthermore, by contemplating that enemies can turn into friends, one realizes that there's no reason to be hostile towards those persons one doesn't like. The point is realizing that one needn't be attached to the person one treasures, since that same person can cause difficulties; one is certain that one wouldn't like him or her anymore should this happen. Furthermore, the point is realizing that one needn't resent the person who causes difficulties, since that same person can be friendly and helpful; one knows that then one wouldn't despise him/her anymore. By reflecting in this way, one becomes more balanced and impartial towards others. One also becomes more open, free, and the atmosphere changes, specifically with regard to oneself. Through one's practice, one slowly is more spacious and doesn't feel as though one is locked in a cage.
Change takes place, so becoming aware of inconsistency and uncertainty helps one become balanced by knowing that there is no reason to remain stuck in one-sidedness. One reflects that nobody knows who will become a friend or who will turn into an enemy. It is a fact that the first five close disciples of Lord Buddha were once his enemies. One never knows, but that's how it is. And that's why we pray in "The Dedication Prayer": "Through this goodness may omniscience be attained and thereby may every enemy be overcome." If you have any questions, please ask.
Question: Does equanimity mean freedom from both anger and love? Lama: Equanimity causes the person who loves to love even more, while desire and attachment block. For example, one might want to see the person one craves for every day or three times a day, which would be robbing that individual of freedom. Seeing each other once a week would be fine and then one's love would last longer. Having desire because of one's love causes problems for both parties. Therefore one should work at being balanced so that one's love lasts; otherwise one blocks the other person, who cannot possibly live up to one's expectations and then everything would backfire. Same student: Is it a matter of being balanced and not of getting rid of anger and love? Lama: It's a matter of reducing one's anger and of not having expectations that block genuine love. One practices equanimity in order to balance one's aggression and desire so that one becomes more neutral. It's easy to have genuine love if one has no expectations. It's easy recognizing how aggression blocks and that's why it isn't that hard to handle. But it isn't easy recognizing desire because one enjoys it.
Next question: I have a problem when someone I may have been very kind to turns around and is very aggressive towards me. What is the trick to stop that person when I don't have the time to think about how I should react? I usually either run away or bark at that person. Lama: I don't think that barking is really a good idea. Running is â€¦ Student: Sorry. There's a second thing. In our society I realize that when people try to trick you out of money, it's aggression. I find it's helpful, not for me but for the situation, to pick up the phone, dial their number, and tell them, "Stop, or I'll call my lawyer." This doesn't seem like being kind, but it helps. Lama: Kindness comes from the heart and not from words, because sometimes it's necessary to be wrathful if there is no other solution. Being wrathful doesn't mean you will harm someone. Your motivation in your heart is being really free. Telling someone who's out to cheat you that you will call a lawyer doesn't mean you aren't kind, because you're not out to hurt them but to make them understand. The motivation is important, and we have to resort to different methods that are appropriate for the person and specific situation. If you don't speak up in situations as you described, then you aren't being kind. One has to be practical and kind inside.
Next question: There are situations in which it's necessary to be wrathful in order to help. But I have noticed that when I'm wrathful, my own emotions mix in and don't belong there. How can I differentiate? Lama: It's normal that it's difficult. Apply different methods in those situations - sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh. Basically, the heart and motivation should be pure. The method depends upon the situation. One needs to differentiate whether it's necessary to discuss the matter or to be wrathful, otherwise it becomes complicating. Same student: Yes, presupposing I have a pure motivation, my own emotions slip in while I'm wrathful in order to solve a problem. Then I heap my emotion, that's out of place, on top of my wrathful reaction. Lama: Achtsamkeit, "awareness," is important.
Next question: Taking the example that someone is about to kill my mother and this disturbs me deeply, how can I sustain my equanimity? Lama: Equanimity is having a pure heart. One has to react to the situation you described by either calling the police or by fighting. One's first reaction is in one's own hands, and normally one would call the police in a case like that. Sustaining equanimity after having done what one did means not holding on to one's experience and not thinking about it months later. If one has solved a problem, then one needs to let go of thinking about it, instead of returning to it again and again, and one needs to do this oneself. Managing a situation according to the Dharma isn't that easy and it's easier dealing with it afterwards, so that's very important. It's not helpful thinking about the same difficult situation one had last month for the rest of one's life. The immediate situation is difficult, though, since one doesn't have time to think and reacts emotionally, so there's a difference. But one needs to learn to balance one's mind slowly, slowly on a mental level, which is the first stage of practice. The practical level is very difficult. One needs to become stronger and more stable oneself, and there's no guarantee that one will react adequately. But one reacts differently when one is balanced while dealing with critical situations, in which case one doesn't have time to contemplate one's reactions beforehand. One doesn't extend a critical situation by thinking about it afterwards and again and again.
Question: If the method is thinking that one's enemy in this life was one's mother or relative in a past life, what do we do if we see ourselves as an enemy? Lama: I don't think that happens. Student: In the West quite often. Lama: If one hates oneself and sees oneself as one's own enemy, then it would be helpful reflecting that one is endowed with the Buddha nature and has attained a precious human life. One needs to appreciate that one is a little bit like a Buddha and understand that somehow one's thoughts are causing the problem. One needs to know that they aren't really a part of oneself but are adventitious and temporary. Learning to appreciate and acknowledge what one really is through practice takes place slowly. Meditate that you are actually unchanging like space and that your thoughts and emotions are like passing clouds. If that doesn't help, then look at your hatred directly when you hate yourself. Okay?
Summary: Friends can also be enemies who cause harm. In contrast, it's difficult imagining that enemies, who presently make one suffer, can be helpful. Those persons one looks at with indifference are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies. And so, it's not definite who really helps or harms. Therefore, one shouldn't be attached to one's friends, because they can also cause harm, and one shouldn't be hostile towards one's enemies, because they can also be helpful.
The next step concerns how to meditate equanimity, step-by-step, by neutralizing one's main obscurations, which are ignorance, attachment, and aversion. In order to diminish and abandon one's desire and attachment, which block genuine love, one first thinks of the person one likes the most and imagines seeing him or her as though one were meeting for the first time. Due to being neutral, one's mind is so clear, fresh, and free of pre-conceived ideas. As a result, one approaches the same person with a clear and fresh mind, comes closer and closer, and is friendly and kind, because one is free of problems one formerly had due to one's expectations. Attachment blocks genuine love and compassion for one another. It's so easy to see that one's mind is not fresh rather confused when it is blocked, and that's when the real problems come. Neutralizing one's ideas about the person one likes the most is done by returning to the beginning, i.e., to the first time one met; then one's mind is fresh and clear and one has a better understanding. One understands that one became confused, because one burned with desire and, having been stuck, could not deal with the relationship reasonably. But, it's not easy being neutral. Does anyone have an idea? My idea is being as relaxed as possible, watching one's breathing in order to calm down instead of thinking and living a busy lifestyle. I think that concentrating on one's breathing will neutralize one's desire and attachment. One practices like that slowly.
It's very difficult recognizing attachment, which is very, very powerful. Attachment even drives people to commit suicide. Anger is also one of the main reasons why people take their lives. Nobody speaks clearly when they are angry. Attachment is also a main reason why someone commits suicide. It's easier recognizing aggression; even other people notice when one's face turns red due to anger and aggression.
Furthermore, one is more inspired when one has less attachment, but one needs to learn to become balanced. Student: It's not that easy in certain situations. Sometimes one has to be calm on the outside and succeeds, but inside one is trembling with rage, which is not being balanced. Lama: Yes, it's still strong. One first works on being balanced on the outside, on the rough level, and then being calm on the inside. It's not easy and takes a lot of time to work on the inner level, because anger is our habit. We don't even realize what is happening when we are angry.
After having worked on diminishing and eradicating one's attachment and desire and after developing genuine love, instead of blocking it, one practices diminishing and abandoning one's aversion towards one's enemies. One works on overcoming one's aversion until one sees that one can be neutral and balanced should one run into those people one treasures and those one despises at the same time. As it is, one's feelings go up and down and it's hard to balance the differences. Calming down a little bit is okay at the beginning of one's practice. But, one should reduce those ups and downs on a practical level. One slowly sees those people who bring on difficulties with less hatred and aggression and becomes more calm and peaceful oneself.
Also, many problems arise as long as one doesn't harmonize one's feelings for those persons one usually sees with indifference or doesn't care about. It's really hard recognizing one's indifference, which needs to be balanced too. After all, those same people won't always be those one looked at with indifference and ignored. So it's important to take them into consideration too.
These practices are carried out more on a contemplative level so that disciples become free of the main afflictive emotions.
Summary: One starts practicing the meditation on equanimity by thinking of a friend. One regards this friend neutrally in order to learn to abandon one's attachment. Then one regards an enemy neutrally, too, in order to overcome one's aversion. One also brings those persons one doesn't really care about to mind in order to become free of ignorance. These contemplations serve to diminish and eventually eradicate negative emotions that everyone has.
One now reflects that everybody is the same and understands that everyone wants to be happy and nobody wants to suffer, which is the reason why people jump from one track to the other in their attempt to fulfill their wishes and as a result they experience pain and frustration. Then they suffer. It's necessary to meditate in order to be practical by loosening and finally abandoning one's afflictive emotions.
Summary: One reflects that everyone without exception wants to be happy and doesn't want to suffer, but out of ignorance they unknowingly create the causes of suffering.
The practice and results: Contemplating and practicing the Four Immeasurables are a means to develop loving kindness and compassion not only for oneself but also for others. By training one's own mind in this way, one automatically benefits others. If one recognizes one's own situation, one is able to understand others. One understands and sees that one becomes more free the more balanced and harmonious one is. One practices by wishing and praying deeply that everybody without exception be more balanced and has equanimity. The more beneficial wishes one has for others, the more one benefits oneself.
One practices for oneself by first thinking of the one person one treasures most and prays that he or she becomes free of attachment and aversion that bring on so many problems and so much suffering and pain. Then one brings a person one doesn't like to mind and prays that he or she becomes free of attachment and aversion. Finally, one thinks of a person one ignored in the past and prays for him or her too. Later, one works on the other afflictive emotions that arise from the three main mind poisons and practices in the same way. One becomes all the stronger oneself the more sincerely one practices and the more fervently one makes wishing prayers for others.
There are many meditation practices. In Vajrayana we are used to praying to the Medicine Buddha, which is an easy method. One imagines that a small Medicine Buddha as a sphere of light sits above the crown of the person's head one is praying for and that the light of the Buddha flows through him or her, dispelling all emotions and making him/her very calm and relaxed. That's how one can practice. One feels one's wishes deep within one's heart, recites the prayer, and expands one's practice to include and embrace more and more beings. The method is focusing one's attention on others, yet the result is that we become free and suffer less.
The signs that one's practice is progressing are obvious. One isn't as aggressive towards others, isn't as attached to close ones as one was in the past, and is more balanced. Yet, one practices by focusing one's attention on others, which accords with the Great Vehicle of Mahayana.
Practice is especially important in situations in which one is very aggressive. In such moments one thinks, "Oh, it's not easy. Let everyone be free of aggression." Having a wish like this is very practical. If one thinks like this the very moment one is angry with someone, the less aggressive one will be. If one thinks like this when any other emotion (like jealousy, desire, pride, and so forth) arise in one's mind, one is more balanced and in agreement with oneself. But it's especially helpful thinking like this when one has attachment and aversion. When one recognizes that attachment and aversion are very strong in one's mind, one thinks, "May other sentient beings be free of attachment and aversion." One can hold one's mind in continuous presence by being aware of one's wish. If one is successful, one is free of attachment and free of aversion oneself. One intensifies one's practice when one notices that one's awareness weakens. Practicing in the described way, one rests one's mind in the presence of one's awareness.
Summary: One prays that all beings be free of attachment and aversion. Attachment and aversion are the main causes of prejudice. One therefore prays that all beings be free of every mind poison that irrevocably brings on partiality.
One practices by first bringing one person to mind, then two, then three, then one's neighbors, then one's countrymen, and finally all beings who live in the entire universe and practices in the same way for all of them.
Meditation practice: In Mahamudra we use positive thoughts while practicing Shamatha meditation with a reference and focus our attention on thoughts like the ones just described. So, let us meditate together now by just coming to understand the instructions. One thinks of one person and wishes, "May he/she be free of attachment and aversion." One keeps this thought in mind in a continuous flow by relaxing and being present in one's awareness of that thought. This is the meditative level. The practical level is integrating one's practice in daily life. It's very difficult if one doesn't combine the meditative and practical levels. One trains slowly, slowly. Continuing with meditating equanimity, one imagines two persons, somebody one likes very much and somebody one doesn't like. Both of these people sometimes like and sometimes detest each other. Having neutralized one's own feelings, one tries to balance the feelings that all three persons involved (including oneself) have for each other by wishing that their habits of attachment and aversion cease. (Short meditation.) If you have any questions, please ask.
Question: I can learn to like my enemy but cannot stand the character. Lama: At least one has come to like everybody without liking their character. That's okay, but it may bother you. It's okay to make a difference between persons and their character. The point is not to hate. Same student: I couldn't really decide, because I don't really have enemies. I dug in my past, found 6 or 7 enemies, and had trouble deciding which one to choose for my practice. Lama: After that? Same student: I thought of people my friend doesn't like and got mixed up.
Question: Sitting in this peaceful atmosphere and thinking of someone I don't like, I thought it was probably due to ignorance on my part, so I couldn't concentrate on the person and thought, "Oh, they just want to be happy." It was very strange, more abstract than focusing on the image of the person. There was no exchange. Lama: At least you knew that everything boils down to ignorance.
Question: I cannot feel hatred but don't like a lot of things people do. There are many things I can't stand, but I don't hate anyone. I really had a problem setting up a relationship between the person I like and the one I don't like while meditating now. It didn't work for me, because these two persons have no connection in real life. Lama: Were you able to work with your own connection to them? Student: Yes, that was okay. Lama: That's fine, because the purpose of this practice is to work with one's own connection, which is easier. Then one makes wishing prayers that anyone who experiences the same difficulties be balanced. One becomes a little bit balanced oneself when one neutralizes one's feelings for those persons one likes and dislikes. By contemplating that everyone wants to be happy and does not want to suffer, one realizes that all beings have these wishes in common. One's own connection with others becomes more neutral through this practice. One focuses on one's own mind and becomes aware how one's likes and dislikes feel. One works on oneself and sees how one feels by looking at the person one likes and at the person one doesn't like. Reflecting that everyone wants to be happy and nobody wants to suffer, one looks again and makes wishing prayers. Another method is imagining that one is meeting the person one likes the most and the person one dislikes the most for the first time. One looks at one's own mind and sees how one feels. If one cannot stay neutral and one's attraction and rejection increase, then one returns to the practice.
Question: I don't think it's that easy when it comes to the person I like. It's easy with an enemy. Why can't I just look at the connection, say "thank you," and leave it as it is from a distance? Lama: The person you like is not the problem. It's complicating, because it involves the whole process. One analyzes how attachment and desire develop in reliance on the person one likes and how aversion develops in reliance on the person one rejects. One learns how they develop by looking at the different movements in one's own mind. One sees that they are like movements racing through different webs within oneself. One is aware of the excitement one feels when looking at the one or the other and feels that one's face even gets red. The purpose of training is to realize what happens when one sees someone one doesn't like. One has to know whether one is excited or is okay. One notices how one feels when one unexpectedly runs into someone. For example, when one speaks about the person one resents, one feels very uncomfortable. One watches oneself in those moments and sees how negative thoughts arise in one's mind. It's easier seeing how one's mind moves when one thinks of someone one doesn't like. It's harder when one thinks of the person one likes the most. In one's practice, one then thinks to oneself that one is very relaxed. Kindness and love are not the problem, rather how attachment and desire arise in one's mind due to one's love. At this stage, one looks to see how attachment arises and practices being balanced.
Question: Neutral? Being neutral means one has no aggression, no love, no emotions. Lama: No attachment. The feeling of being neutral doesn't mean there are no feelings, rather that one has no negative feelings. Student: So, neutral does not mean an absence of feelings, the relative aspect of feelings? Lama: Feelings are very important but are difficult in this specific practice. Student: That's good. Lama: Actually, attachment and aversion are the main enemies. It's good if one doesn't have many problems with them.
Question: Just because I don't like somebody doesn't mean that I don't have compassion for that person. Lama: Having compassion is not the question. It's a matter of working with one's aversion with respect to a person one resents. Let me give a practical example: The person you don't like says awful things about you in front of many people, that you are bad and stupid. Can you really have no aversion for this person at that time? Student: Lama SÃ¶nam taught that this person is trying to be happy, like all sentient beings, and that this person has a bad strategy to be happy that doesn't function well. But there are people I really don't like. I have compassion but do not like them. Lama: Aversion is evident when one hurts others or is strongly hurt oneself. If one is being hurt, it's possible to stand back, which is easier to deal with intellectually than in reality. One isn't touched and doesn't react with aversion when people one doesn't care about say similar bad things. Reflecting and putting the teachings into practice are different, so one needs to balance one's mind. One usually has much time for those people one likes and responds to those people one doesn't like with the excuse that one has an appointment and is therefore in a hurry.
One needs to practice step-by-step so that one realizes the meaning well. Equanimity, loving kindness, and compassion are mostly practiced for those people one hates, seeing it's easy to have loving kindness and compassion for those one likes. There's no problem if one is able to give one's love and compassion to those one doesn't like. If one can't, then one needs to intensify one's practice of equanimity. Then one's mind becomes more impartial and one has less and less aversion and attachment.
Summary: The sign of successful practice is that one realizes that there is no difference between one's enemies and friends.
In the next practice, which is without a reference, one meditates that everything is devoid of complexity, just like space, and one's mind simply rests in emptiness.
The results of successful practice are impartiality, i.e., equanimity, as well as realization of the ultimate truth.
Being free of ignorance and pride, the benefit of having perfected immeasurable equanimity is that one has wisdom of equality, which is the wisdom of Dharmata, and the Svabhavikakaya, "the natural truth body," (i.e., the body of the essentiality of the three bodies that are attained by perfecting the next three practices).
2. Immeasurable Loving Kindness - Byams-pa
Loving kindness is more than a concept. It's the sincere wish - the heartfelt deep feeling - that everybody be happy. For example, one opens up and feels very pleasant when one sees the person one treasures most, so practicing with him her in mind enables one to feel fresh and happy - they are very important feelings. Having had these feelings oneself, one practices by remembering and having them for all sentient beings.
One trains in developing and increasing loving kindness by using one's breath and doing Tongleng ("the practice of giving and taking"). There are three things that those less fortunate than oneself need very much, so one imagines giving all one's happiness to the person one likes the most, i.e., one imagines giving him or her one's good health, possessions, and the benefit of one's virtues when one exhales. One imagines that he or she receives everything one gave and is very happy and relaxed. It's easier giving things to the person one cherishes, which is the reason why one thinks of him or her first. Then one expands one's practice by imagining two, three, and more and more people. Continuing, one gives those persons one despises the same things, imagines that they received what one gave, and that everybody is happy and content. Consequently, one feels good towards all those one practiced for and also feels good about oneself - the two, self and others, go together. One wishes everybody one knows happiness and well-being from the depths of one's innermost heart.
Summary: Having generated and developed immeasurable equanimity, one recalls a person one treasures and wishes that he or she experiences true happiness. Then one brings more and more people to mind and gives rise to the same wish for them.
Following, one focuses one's attention on all sentient beings and sincerely wishes that everybody attains the temporary happiness that can be experienced in the human realm or in the realm of the gods and furthermore wishes that they attain ultimate and lasting Buddhahood. One begins this practice by focusing one's attention on one person and continues by bringing all beings to mind.
The practice and result: The practice of developing loving kindness has two aspects. On the one hand, it's the aspect of aspiration. On the other hand, one actually practices giving others one's happiness by engaging in the breathing practice, which is the aspect of application. One doesn't feel overly connected with people by only having good wishes for them, but one does feel more responsible and is therefore more connected with those who received anything one was able to give. For example, you have a sense of responsibility that an underprivileged child you are sponsoring has a happy and good life, so there's a difference between aspiration and application. Prayers are the aspect of aspiration, but it's necessary to be practical. Putting one's sincere and heartfelt wishes into practice is the aspect of application and links one with one's prayers.
There are many different practices that help one learn to truly care for and reliably help the needy. Meditating the Medicine Buddha in Vajrayana (which was described above) is an easy method to develop and increase loving kindness. One is aware of one's wish that all living beings experience happiness while imagining light from the Medicine Buddha one visualizes seated above the crown of their heads flowing into them. As a result, on the practical level, one is so happy that they are happy and is even happy when one meets one's former enemies in everyday life.
One's sacred outlook, that merely begins to resemble that of a Bodhisattva and a Buddha, changes in that one has less aversion, which only leads to hatred. The atmosphere changes if one practices and others see one as pleasant too. For instance, one feels the sacredness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a huge and filled auditorium and he feels the atmosphere even more, I think, otherwise he wouldn't be interested and wouldn't enjoy teaching. It's difficult teaching if one doesn't have loving kindness. Also, Noble Nagarjuna meditated loving kindness when he retrieved the sacred Prajnaparamita texts from the nagas, serpents who live in the deep ocean and are said to be not easy-going and very aggressive. There is also the story of a deer that found protection at the feet of JetsÃ¼n Milarepa while he was meditating in a cave. The bloodhound of the hunter chased after the deer and made it up the steep slope to the cave where the deer was gently resting at JestÃ¼n Milarepa's feet. Without having had the intention, the bloodhound changed completely in the peaceful atmosphere of the JetsÃ¼n and timidly lay down next to the deer. Finally the hunter arrived, panting and out of breath. He was furious at the sight and, while about to shoot Milarepa with his bow and arrow, shouted, "Are you a human being or a magician?" JetsÃ¼n Milarepa remained so calm and relaxed and answered, "I am a human being. I am called Milarepa the Meditator." The hunter experienced deep devotion and became his pupil; Sherab Dorje was his name.
Even though a practitioner wants to attain an enlightened body like a Buddha, it's a little bit difficult as long as he or she doesn't train diligently. One's sacred outlook changes completely through practice. In a prayer it is stated that simple food for meditators or yogis and yoginis can be transformed into 100 kinds of pleasant tastes. Someone who has trained very well and has the sacred outlook feels comfortable in the presence of those who are seen as extremely difficult and they, in turn, become gentle in the presence of somebody who has the sacred outlook. Question: Is the sacred outlook the inner view? Lama: Yes, the sacred outlook is a holy inner view.
In Vajayana, we say "having the pure vision." It's very important. When one has the pure vision, one sees every building as a palace and everybody as Noble Chenrezig. This is what having insight means - nothing is painted or decorated, rather one sees purely. For example, when you're really relaxed and peaceful, you see everybody relaxed and at ease. When you are terribly angry, you see everyone in upheaval. We can't change the outside, but we can change ourselves and have a pure vision. If you have the pure view, you don't have bad feelings and can even transform suffering and pain. You will have noticed that many elderly Lamas practice a lot and are not really bothered in difficult situations. They have changed their way of seeing things. That's how it works, but it's difficult in modern society.
If one really wants to practice Mahayana and Varjayana, it's very important to practice diligently and correctly so that one sees everything as the pure Mandala of the Yidam Deity. One makes things up and creates them if one doesn't practice, and that's not what having the pure vision means. Of course, a beginner who is not used to the pure vision has to make it up while training in the creation phase of practice, which is more creative than the completion phase. But slowly the pure vision becomes natural and then one sees everything with the pure vision; otherwise one's meditation is a fantasy. The practices are very meaningful. One first has to work with one's way of thinking, because thoughts cause one to feel in one's heart, but thinking alone doesn't work. Thinking and feeling need to go together all the time. Is that okay? Any questions?
Question: Does the relative level have a connection to the ultimate? Lama: Yes. The teachings I am presenting now deal with the relative level; the ultimate level concerns emptiness. The teachings on the relative level, like the practice of Shamatha, are more practical, because one learns to be balanced, generous, more present, and feels more pleasant. One's mind becomes fully present through Shamatha meditation. Different masters explain different Shamatha practices, but the purpose is to become relaxed and to calm down. So, if you relax and calm down through Shamatha practice, that's it, and it's okay.
Developing loving kindness is not practiced in order to only calm down, but to really change one's outlook and achieve the sacred view at the same time. While still practicing, one sees things as more pleasant, is even relaxed when one runs in to one's enemies, who also feel relaxed when they see you, like the bloodhound that became calm in the presence of JetsÃ¼n Milarepa. One can say that the JestÃ¼n was full of loving kindness when this incident occurred.
Actually, all our prayers express the wish to be able to help others, so one learns to really concentrate one's thoughts and feelings on them. Others feel if one is proficient in one's practice, which helps them and oneself. The meditation practice of Phowa helps like that. If one doesn't have loving kindness and compassion, "dry" Phowa will not help. It's really difficult. Looking at it practically, a meal certainly tastes better if it's cooked by someone who really likes being generous - loving kindness even changes the taste of a meal. Offer someone a meal without really wanting to and see how they feel. Some cooks are famous because of their motivation. Sometimes Lamas feel that what Lamas said wasn't really that good, but the audience feels that it was really good and extremely helpful, because Lamas have so much loving kindness and compassion and really want to benefit others as much as possible. It's a fact that not only words count, but how one feels. One is different due to one's training.
Does anyone have questions about how to meditate loving kindness? No questions? Let me repeat that in one's meditation practice one thinks when exhaling that one is giving the happiness of one's physical health, possessions, and virtues to someone one likes very much. One wishes that he or she receives one's offerings, is happy, and that their happiness never ends. One expands one's practice by imagining more and more people and practices for them in the same way, thus multiplying one's generosity. (Short meditation.) Do you have any questions or wish to say something?
Question: Should we imagine the person we are meditating for as a person consisting of flesh and bones or like a rainbow? Lama: Their usual body now.
Next question: And the breath carries physical happiness? Lama: Yes, physical happiness, material happiness, and mental happiness. Student: The breath comes out of the mouth? Lama: Out of the nose. Normal breathing is done through the nose. Student: It's difficult for me, because by breath doesn't go out to anyone when I look at my nose. Is it like golden light or what is it? Lama: You just sort of feel that something is going on while you are exhaling. The nose itself is not the object of one's practice. It would be very important to clean your breathing by holding your hands in the specific position and inhaling as gently as possible and exhaling more forcefully each time you do the exercise, three times in all. You think that all your bad and negative energy flows into open space when you exhale and that you are taking in all the good and positive energy when you inhale. This exercise is important before you begin the actual practice, because it makes you stronger to work for others. Afterwards, breathe slowly and normally and concentrate on your breathing for a while. Then do the meditation practice on loving kindness.
Question: Would you please give a brief explanation of the meditation practice on loving kindness? Lama: First do the breathing exercise three times; afterwards breathe gently and focus your attention on your breathing, counting it 21 times. When meditating the first time, it's very important to give love to yourself by imagining yourself in front of you and offering the three aspects of generosity described above to yourself. Then make wishing prayers that you be very happy and feel very content on the relative level. But you also need to pray that you accomplish ultimate happiness.
Question: You spoke about the Tongleng practice of giving all one's happiness to others when one exhales, but you didn't say anything about taking on their suffering when one inhales. Lama: It's not needed here. One imagines clear light flowing out to others, because this is the aspect of practicing developing loving kindness. It would be good to engage in both practices of giving and taking when one practices developing compassion, which is the wish that others be free of suffering and is the third step in the practice of accomplishing the Four Immeasurables.
Question: I had an amazing sensation in that I slowly opened up further and further for those persons I love. Then people appeared who I didn't expect and who are in other places. Lama: Good.
On a conceptual level, one slowly works with the person one feels is closest and is together with the most. In the prayers, we pray for the welfare of all sentient beings, which is different. Thoughts are a basis for training on the meditative level. Then it slowly becomes easier on the practical level, so both levels always need to be united, otherwise meditation remains a theory. If there had still been a discrepancy between the meditative and practical levels in his life, JetsÃ¼n Milarepa would not have had the power to pacify the vicious bloodhound that was chasing the gentle deer.
Buddha Shakyamuni had a cousin named Devadatta, who was always competing with Lord Buddha and giving him a hard time. One day Devadatta gave an elephant alcohol to drink and drove the drunk animal to attack the Buddha, who was full of loving kindness and compassion and naturally pacified the crazed animal. In the same way, slowly, slowly you can also become just as loving and compassionate and, if you have gained stability, you can calm your agitated dog when it won't stop growling and barking. The atmosphere really changes if one doesn't see things as a threat, but when one sees that everything is in truth peaceful.
Summary: The sign of successful practice is that one sees all beings just like the person one treasures most.
Vipasssana: Let me now speak about non-referential meditation practice, Vipassana in Sanskrit (lhag-mthong in Tibetan, "special insight meditation").
In Vipassana meditation, it's also very important to integrate clear understanding with daily life. While practicing Shamatha, which concerns loving kindness, one thinks the person/people one visualizes are real in that they consist of flesh and blood. In Vipassana meditation, which concerns emptiness, one doesn't visualize the person/people in their usual form, rather in the form of transparent light, or as a rainbow body/bodies, or as an image/images in a mirror. Student: When I hear "rainbow body," I immediately see a rainbow. Is that the idea? Lama: Yes, that's the idea. You can't touch a rainbow. Same student: So there are the 7 colors of a rainbow. How do the colors start? Lama: I think it might be easier not to imagine them in the colors of a rainbow that have a specific meaning, but to just imagine the person or people one visualizes as plain light. This is easier and helps oneself and others, too. One runs into problems on the practical level if one doesn't understand this visualization deeply and fully, because one would think that the rainbow exists like any other object one usually perceives and thinks really exists.
Seeing oneself as well as one's offerings and others as beaming light is easier and more practical than imagining that one has to travel from one place to the next in one's usual form in order to help those one wants to help. It's easy to practice imagining all objects of meditation as light but quite difficult to understand. Visualizing the objects of practice in the form of reflections in a mirror or in the form of transparent light during meditation is an easy method for us to meditate the realm of form, which gradually leads to the more difficult practices of meditating the formless realm. When one really meditates emptiness, one's mind becomes like open space and is totally free. As long as one is fixated upon something, one is still restricted and closed. The purpose of Vipassana meditation is becoming open like space, totally free, but one begins by visualizing transparent forms so that one can slowly meditate the formless realm that is like space. Should you suddenly fly through the realm of formlessness that is like space without being prepared, you would be shocked. It's necessary to slowly open the gate to the vast expanse of space by meditating images in the form of shining light. When one has opened the gate and meditates utter openness, one doesn't feel that there are any differences anymore. Some great meditation masters can travel everywhere, because they abide in open space that is free of impediments. The true state of the mind is not blocked or impeded by anything - it is utter freedom. There isn't the thought that something needs to be done or there is somewhere to go either, because things just happen when one is free. Thoughts of doing this or that or going here or there are not present in the mind of a great master and therefore nothing obstructs such a saint and sage.
When one's mind opens and becomes more free, one's loving kindness grows and is natural. A master sees that others are suffering because they don't understand their situation and he feels no difference between himself and them. The mind of a realized master is limitless and his love and compassion are natural. He sees that others are entangled in suffering and its causes and knows that their suffering is not necessary. Therefore he has immense empathy. For instance, seeing a difficult situation very clearly, no matter how much one explains that it's not necessary to somebody, it somehow doesn't work. Then one feels very sorry for that person and one's loving kindness grows. It's not the same as wishing, because one sees the situation clearly. It happens like that through practice and becomes limitless as one progresses. When one really understands others' situation and has deep empathy for them, one's loving kindness becomes "great." Let me tell a story.
Once there was a father with his kids in the subway and everybody was upset and many people were angry, because the children were playing quite loudly and running around. A woman stood up, went to the father, and complained by shouting at him, "You should take your kids on your lap and keep them quiet. They are really disturbing everyone." The man told her that he was on his way home from the hospital where his wife had just died and, because they were overly agitated, he was allowing them to be free to jump around and play there. When the people in the subway heard this and were informed about the situation, their attitude changed immediately and loving kindness naturally arose in them. Like that, when one sees and knows what situations people endure, then one has genuine loving kindness. So, that's the aspect of Vipassana, which is seeing clearly. It's seeing everyone and everything clearly and transparently, like a rainbow, like light, like an image in a mirror, and not solid or consisting of matter or flesh and bones, etc.
What happens within oneself when one develops loving kindness through Vipassana meditation? One's loving kindness slowly, slowly transcends boundaries, because one isn't restricted to material limitations that are impediments. What happens to those persons one imagined having rainbow bodies or as light during one's practice? One sees them like that in real life, too, but one has to train in order to be able to see them in that way.
One first experiences the result for oneself and feels transparent. It's also very important and beneficial to train in this way so that one doesn't dislike and is more friendly towards oneself. As long as one resents and belittles oneself, it's rather hard developing qualities of being and one gives up before one even tries. The more one resents oneself, the more problems will come. One meditates a little bit by contemplating and looking deeply. One asks oneself, "Do I really hate myself? Is my hate mental or do I hate my body?" If one finds that one hates one's body, one searches for one's hate by asking, "Where is it? Do I hate my head, ears, eyes, nose, blood, intestines, bones?" The more one resents oneself, the more one needs to work to overcome it. Having searched well and discovered that there's nothing to one's body that one really detests, one understands that one was very deluded and feels relieved and relaxed as a result. When one has overcome self-contempt, which is a very aggressive trait, one has more loving kindness and compassion for oneself, one's ideas change, one has more energy, because one is free and really feels it. Then it's easier being helpful and generous towards others. So, one slowly works on feeling happy oneself by practicing in this way, otherwise it's impossible to develop loving kindness and compassion for others.
One cannot just sit down and meditate on the free and open expanse of space. One needs to train. And the more one trains correctly, the more loving kindness and compassion one will have and these qualities will become deeper and deeper. That's the Vipassana way, which is very important. If one practices diligently, one slowly feels that one likes everybody. So, the result of Vipassana practice is feeling very pleasant, one for the other. One's aggression diminishes and vanishes, too, and then mirror-like wisdom shines from within oneself, because one sees everything clearly, like a clean mirror that reflects everything clearly. When one's mind is free of delusion, anger, aggression, and all other afflictive emotions and one feels peaceful and is relaxed, then the mirror that is one's own true mind is not blemished. Then the mirror-like wisdom one has achieved reflects everything clearly and purely. Having mirror-like wisdom, one has attained the Sambhogakaya, "the body of complete enjoyment." So, that's the result or benefit of meditating loving kindness. It's okay?
Shantideva said, "Patience is the greatest virtue" - and it's not easy to be patient. He also stated that aggression and anger are the most powerful and worst negative emotions that one can have, because they destroy everything. One's mind becomes dark and foggy when one is angry and then one doesn't see anything clearly. It's so evident on a daily basis: One doesn't see anything from any other perspective when one is aggressive. One is very clear when one is relaxed and at ease.
Question: Many of my patients and many other people resent themselves, because they have had many negative experiences. They aren't Buddhists â€¦ Lama: They don't need to be Buddhists. Student: They don't want to become enlightened and don't want to develop love and compassion for all living beings. When one suggests that they search for what they hate, they have very precise answers and say, "I hate my belly, because I'm too fat." Lama: That's easy; they can exercise more. Student: Should I tell them that they should search for what they hate? Lama: One's advice depends upon the person who is advising and the person being advised. If one needs to develop more loving kindness oneself, then one offers to run along with them. Student: They return for treatment and tell me that they were too tired to get up from the couch to go out and do sports and hate themselves all the more for it. Or they tell me that they are worthless. Should I tell them that they should look at their mind? Lama: From my point of view, it's important to give such people feedback and make compliments for whatever they do. It's even possible to train animals by rewarding them for their good behavior. It's quite interesting that discarded dogs or cats that lived on the streets and are trained by specialists need to be treated with utter care. It's necessary to encourage them, because they have lost trust in human beings. Whatever they do, one speaks kindly to them by saying, "Oh, hi. Good. Great." One does this until they're able to have trust in their new owners. As for patients, one shouldn't say too much. Saying "Great" is enough when they do something good, otherwise they will become proud. One needs to look at the situation, though, because one can't always be the same and only say, "Great" to them. Student: What about meditation? Lama: Meditation doesn't mean just visualizing. It means being practical and it depends upon the motivation. Meditation is any practice that helps one become good. Student: I'd like to help my patients meditate, but these instructions are more for myself. Lama: No. Working with loving kindness is to make others happy and to help them be content. Student: Yes, I hope to help my patients meditate but don't know what to advise them to do. Lama: Okay. It's important to ask and inspire those people close to a patient to encourage them. It's also good to find out what a patient enjoys so that you can open up to that and work with it to help, otherwise they don't like what you suggest they do. I think it's important to know someone's background and not to try to change them, which is very difficult. For instance, it's really difficult for tourists to drink Tibetan butter-tea, but if one tells them that it's soup, then they enjoy it. And so, it's not recommendable to try to help others based upon one's own ideas or methods, rather to find something that accords with their environment and lifestyle. That's my suggestion.
Does anyone else have another question? So, I think butter-tea should only be offered as butter-soup in a bowl. These kinds of concepts are very strong. For example, we call German vegetable soup that has lots of vegetables in it "curry." Some people who can't stand potatoes like pomme frites. That's how our mind works.
Summary: One abides in the realization that all beings are equal and has loving kindness for them. This is great loving kindness, great because one is impartial towards all living beings and privileges no one. Having great loving kindness for everybody is the sign that one has realized the inseparability of loving kindness and emptiness.
The benefit of having loving kindness is that one is kind to one another, especially when one meets and is together. When one has perfected the practice of immeasurable kindness, one is free of aggression and has attained mirror-like wisdom and the Sambhogakaya.
3. Immeasurable Compassion - sNying-rje
The first step to develop compassion is contemplating others' suffering and sincerely wanting them to be completely free of their suffering and pain. One is extremely touched in one's heart when one sees the person one likes the most suffer and one really wants to fee him or her from suffering and pain. The practice is reflecting in this way for one person, then two, then three persons, then everybody and really wanting them to be free. The practice is focusing one's attention on oneself, then on the person one treasures the most, and following on two, three, and going further and further and further by imagining more and more living beings and giving rise to the same wish for them.
Summary: After having realized the second of the Four Immeasurables, one advances in one's practice by wishing that others be just as free of suffering as one wishes this for the person one is closest to and likes the most.
One imagines that the person one likes the most is suffering due to heat or cold, hunger or thirst, or fear of old age, sickness, and death. One wishes that he or she becomes free of these kinds of suffering. One then expands this heartfelt wish by bringing many others to mind and by having the same wish for them.
The practice: The way of practicing is like Tongleng as discussed above. One cleans one's breathing three times, breathes gently afterwards, and counts one's ingoing and outgoing breath 21 times. One starts meditating by imagining that one is giving all one's physical health, possessions, and mental well-being while breathing out to the persons one sees and as a result experiences their happiness. Then one imagines that one is absorbing all the present and future suffering of everyone while breathing in. As a result, one truly feels that nobody is suffering anymore and that they are very happy because of what one was able to do for them. One continues by imagining that one is giving everything good that one has to others when one exhales and feels that they are really happy and content. One repeats the entire practice while breathing in and breathing out.
One might feel uncomfortable and insecure, thinking that one will suffer due to taking on others' suffering, so there are more detailed methods that one can practice. One Vajrayana practice is imagining Noble Chenrezig in the center of one's heart and feeling that he purifies and transforms all suffering that flows into him when one inhales. When one exhales, one feels that fortune and happiness stream out to everyone from him. Meditating Chenrezig might be problematic for someone who isn't used to this practice, but it's a very good method for those disciples who like it.
Students who are used to meditating but aren't familiar with Noble Chenrezig can meditate the white syllable "Ah" in the center of their heart, which symbolizes "fundamental discriminating wisdom," prajna in Sanskrit, shes-rab in Tibetan. They can imagine that all the suffering they inhale flows into the syllable "Ah," is transformed through the syllable, and that fortune and happiness then flow out to everyone when they exhale. Those persons who have difficulty imagining the syllable "Ah" and are not acquainted with Chenrezig can imagine a sphere of plain white light in the center of their heart and practice in the same way. Question: And suffering is transformed through that light? Lama: Yes, their suffering goes to the light in one's heart, is transformed by the light, and flows out to others from that light.
One can work on oneself first by visualizing oneself in front and imagining that one is taking on all one's present and future suffering when one inhales, that it is purified by Chenrezig, or the syllable "Ah," or the light in one's heart, and brings oneself happiness when one exhales. One continues by practicing for the person one likes the most and proceeds by practicing for two, three, four, and many, many, many, many more beings.
The result: On the intellectual level, it's reasonable and easy to understand that one doesn't really take others' suffering upon oneself and doesn't really give them one's happiness. We actually keep what we have - we just copy and paste and don't cut. Beginners fear that they will feel uncomfortable and be empty and lost if they give everything away. Question: Does inhaling refer to "cut"? Lama: You can think like that if it's best for you. Suffering is purified in the form of compassion. So, this is the method that one is free to slowly, slowly practice.
The sign that one is training well is that one feels that it is unbearable when one sees others suffer and one only has one wish, namely to help them become free. When one is simply told that someone is suffering, one reacts as though one's only beloved child is seriously sick and, oblivious to anything else, one does everything in one's might to find a doctor. In the same way, one's pure heart is really touched and one even becomes emotional due to the wish that those who suffer truly become free.
Summary: Having turned one's back on superficial pursuits, one dedicates one's time to leading a meaningful life and is free to engage in ever more wholesome activities as a result. One has the earnest wish to benefit living beings and therefore helps others become free of suffering.
The sign of successful practice is that one cannot bear seeing anyone suffer and, because one cares so much, one never grows weary of helping those in need.
Concentrating one's mind on one's breathing, calming down by practicing, and resting one's mind are more on the Shamatha level. Visualizing the individuals one is trying to help as a sphere of light in one's heart and the sacred images are more on the Vipassana level. By accomplishing the practices, one's compassion becomes limitless and extremely strong and one has accomplished what is called "the inseparability of emptiness and compassion." When one is faced with the real situation and, due to seeing it very clearly, one has even more compassion.
So, the results of having compassion are that one's mind is fully benevolent and, without hesitating a moment, one is willing and able to protect others. The habit of being malevolent diminishes and slowly, slowly vanishes. Also, the more compassion one has, the more one's attachment diminishes and as a result discriminating wisdom arises in one's being and one has attained the Dharmakaya, "the body of reality."
Aggression evolves from Anhaftung, "attachment." The more one wants, the more aggressive one will be. For example, one becomes upset so easily and fast, even when someone says something, when one is hungry, because one really wants food. I don't think one will have much aversion in one's mind when one is detached from the need of wanting. Does anybody have a question?
Question: During a seminar, Ringu Tulku was asked what a Buddha is. He answered that for him a Buddha is someone who has realized wisdom and compassion. If I could realize compassion by practicing Vipassana as you taught it here, then it would be an easy and practical method to accomplish realization. Did I understand you correctly? Lama: Yes, they are the same. Shamatha is the method to develop compassion and Vipassana is the method to develop both wisdom and compassion. There are many ways to work; some masters recommend practicing Shamatha first, others recommend practicing Vipassana first. The Lojong, "mind-training instructions," say that one should first practice Vipassana, which addresses ultimate Bodhicitta, and then practice Shamatha, which addresses relative Bodhicitta. It's not easy if you don't really understand and realize the view. I think it's harder beginning with Vipassana.
Summary: Resting in the state of emptiness is the sign of having realized the inseparability of emptiness and compassion.
The benefit of having accomplished immeasurable compassion is the unfailing ability to protect beings from harm. Being free of attachment, one has unfettered discriminating wisdom and the Dharmakaya.
4. Immeasuarable Joy - dGa-ba
Joy is very important and necessary. Having developed equanimity, loving kindness, and compassion, one feels joy when others are helped, find their own way, and are happy. One has to really feel it from the depth of one's heart. One's joy is authentic when one is free of separating oneself from others' happiness and success.
The practice: One first practices being joyful for oneself until one feels completely happy and content. Then one practices developing joy for others and prays that they always remain happy. One feels intense joy when one sees that others are happy, which should be one's genuine feeling until one attains Buddhahood. So, when one attains Buddhahood, one will always be happy, since everybody who attains it will never experience suffering or pain again, and that is the perfect result.
Summary: The method to practice attaining immeasurable joy is rejoicing when one sees that someone is happy and wishing that his or her happiness is never disrupted and never ends.
One focuses one's mind on all sentient beings when meditating immeasurable joy.
The signs of having accomplished immeasurable joy is that the more one hears about or sees others' happiness, the more appreciative and joyful one is and isn't envious of others in the least. Usually, one feels uncomfortable when one is jealous, for example, one wants to become famous when one hears or sees that somebody is famous. This is the reason why developing immeasurable joy is a very important practice.
Summary: The sign of successful practice is that one isn't envious or jealous but rejoices when one sees or learns that others are progressing and prospering.
Meditating without a reference is the Vipassana way of developing joy. It's very good to practice Vipassana without a reference when one feels that one is jealous after having learned that someone has become famous, rich, is successful, or extremely lucky. Then one thinks, "Everything is like a dream. Their good fortune is like a dream and my jealousy is also like a dream." One's compassion will increase and one's jealousy will decrease if one thinks like that. The less jealous one is, the more easily joy can arise and develop in oneself. Resting one's mind in emptiness transforms one's jealous mind.
Again, one feels one's jealousy and works with it by thinking that it's not really there but is like a dream, like a mirage, like a reflection of the moon on the surface of a body of water. One thinks that the person who is making one jealous is like a rainbow. Furthermore, one thinks that everyone else's success is also like a dream, like a mirage, like a water-moon. Then one can be joyful about others' happiness. One's joy will increase the more one practices, otherwise it's not easy to experience joy, because one is jealous. Student: I don't understand, because the joy you are describing seems to be quite superficial. If I imagine that someone tells me, "I got a new car that's faster and more luxurious than the cars that other people have" and I feel joy for him by saying, "Great. You are better," then I'm reinforcing samsara. Lama: Yes, you are right. Joy in this context doesn't mean making others more proud, rather you are working on yourself, because sometimes you are uncomfortable when someone tells you things like that. It's hard to recognize when one is jealous. Feeling uncomfortable when others are happy is a sign that one is jealous. One trains feeling joyful for others by thinking, "Oh, that's good" - but one doesn't tell that person that one thinks this. These teachings are Lojong instructions.
Actually, there are eight lineages in Tibetan Buddhism, called the "Eight Chariots," which are the eight major practice lineages of Tibetan learning and attainment and are traditions that can be traced back through the centuries of the history of Tibet and into India. They are the Nyingma Lineage, the Kadampa Lineage, the Sakya Lineage, the Marpa Kagyu Lineage, the Shangpa Kagyu Lineage, the Shije and ChÃ¶d Lineages, the Jodruk Lineage, and the Nyendrub Lineage. The Lojong instructions belong to the Kadampa Lineage, whose disciples are famed for training their mind. There is the story of a Kadampa master who was meditating in his cave, saw that a rich merchant was on his way to visit him, and thought, "I should clean up my cave so that the merchant thinks I'm a good meditator." But then he realized that his idea to clean his cave, that he usually never dusted or swept, was superficial. He took a handful of ashes and threw them all over the place. The merchant arrived, saw the mess, and asked the yogi why the place looked the way it did. The yogi was honest and told the merchant the truth. In that moment, the merchant felt greater devotion for the yogi-master than he had before. The Lojong practices deal with training oneself. Feeling uncomfortable when someone is successful or prosperous means that one has something to work on.
Question: May I ask a question about ego's cleverness? You said that one can feel joyous for others on the level of Vipassana by imagining things to be like a rainbow or dream. How can I deal with the problem of feeling proud that I know that everything is like a dream when I see that someone is happy to have a beautiful new car but doesn't know that it's like a dream? How do I deal with the new kind of ego that I am creating, because ego is quite clever? Lama: That means that your meditation isn't working, because training oneself concerns giving up ego. It's a little difficult working directly, so one has to work indirectly. Understanding emptiness and egolessness are the same.
There are two main aspects called "self," that of persons and that of phenomena. An egotist thinks of the "I" or "me" first and thinks he is better than anyone else. Pride arises from ego. Thinking that one is special and having an individualistic mind is the workings of ego. Such people tell others, "I know better than you." Concerning phenomena, things have no ego, rather one clings to phenomena, so it's a matter of clinging. "Self" of phenomena refers to anything one clings to, so there is a difference between the self of a person and that of phenomena. Student: Is it possible to train in developing equanimity with regard to objects and not only with regard to people? Lama: Yes, but the practice starts with developing equanimity with regard to people, because we deal with them all the time. We also have to train having equanimity about objects, because objects cause one to become very agitated and upset, in which case one cannot have loving kindness. One cannot develop equanimity towards all phenomena and see that they have no self, i.e., are free of self-existence, so one works on it slowly, slowly. Sometimes one can be so tolerant towards people but not tolerant towards things. For example, one becomes so angry about a rock that fell on one's foot or about a table when one bumps against it. Student: I have another question. Isn't grasping for and clinging to phenomena the same driving-force that moved us to come to this seminar, to sit here and learn the teachings so that we can practice to mature spiritually? Aren't we clinging to phenomena when we want to have a nice Buddha statue on our shrine, want to know many ways to practice, want more and more? Don't we have to overcome this clinging too? Lama: That is what JetsÃ¼n Milarepa taught when he said, "Whether you are chained by iron or gold, you are enchained." In the beginning it's no problem to prefer being bound by a golden chain. This is where the Dharma starts, and it's better being bound to the Dharma with gold that is more pleasant than iron.
Summary: Resting one's mind in emptiness, one experiences great joy.
The result: The benefit of developing the fourth immeasurable is being less and less jealous and envious and as a result being free of feeling any discomfort. When jealousy is completely overcome, one has all-accomplishing wisdom of a Buddha, which is the same as the Nirmanakaya, "the emanation body."
Summary: The benefit of perfectly rejoicing in others' happiness and virtues is experiencing immeasurable joy oneself. Being free of jealousy, one has all-accomplishing wisdom and the Nirmanakaya.
When one has fully developed the Four Immeasurables, then one has the five wisdoms and four kayas, which is Buddhahood. Kaya is the Sanskrit term that is translated into English as "form" or "body," but it would be better to say "appearance" or "manifestation." Question: What is the first kaya? Lama: It is the Essence-Kaya. Student: This is the first time I hear this. What is the Sanskrit term? Lama: Svabhavavikakaya. Student: I read in a Sadhana that there are five Buddha bodies. What is the fifth? Lama: Bliss-Kaya. Another student: Sambhogakaya? Lama: Sambhogakaya is one. Another student: Can you enumerate the kayas a little? Lama: Nirmanakaya is the incarnation of a Buddha, like Buddha Shakyamuni or Guru Rinpoche in a human appearance. That's the easy way to understand. Sambhogakaya is a manifestation like Noble Tara, who is not visualized as a human being during practice. Verstehst du? "Do you understand?" Another student: Are they mentioned in the summary that you gave us at the beginning of this seminar? Lama: Yes. Another student: What is the Svabhavavikakaya? Lama: The essence of the other three kayas. There are many ways to explain it, but it's better to just remember it like this now. Another student: When five kayas are mentioned, does that refer to the Rupakayas? Lama: No. The fifth is the Bliss-Kaya. Student: Isn't that the Sambhogakaya? Lama: No. The fifth kaya is explained in Vajrayana. Student: What is the Sanskrit term? Lama: We don't use Sanskrit then. Student: What is the Tibetan term? Lama: bDe-ba-chen-po, the "Body of Great Bliss," grosse GlÃ¼ckseligkeit. In the next course I will speak about Vajrayana; it gets complicating when one mixes too much.
Enhancing One's Practice to Accomplish the Four Immeasurables
Let us begin this section of the instructions with a short meditation. We first do the practice to purify our breath by inhaling gently and exhaling forcefully three times. Then we develop loving kindness. (Short meditation.)
Loving kindness is wishing that everyone be happy. One can become so attached to sentient beings by doing this practice too much, which causes a problem. When this happens, one develops compassion and wishes that everyone be free of suffering, which causes one to be less attached. One reflects how one can free others from suffering when one practices developing compassion. If that doesn't help, one practices more in the Vipassana way and reflects that everybody is like a dream and a water-moon. Since sentient beings' happiness is unstable and doesn't last, loving kindness can also be like an enemy. It would be useless to visualize the Buddhas as in need of loving kindness in order to develop one's loving kindness, because they are perfect and have achieved stable happiness that never ends and therefore are not in need of anyone's loving kindness. For example, it's useless giving someone who is rich money, whereas a poverty-stricken person is grateful to receive a few dimes. This is valid for one's meditation practice too. The more loving kindness one has, the more attached one feels to everybody else. So one needs to balance one's practice.
Meditating so much compassion can cause one to be depressed, because one continuously has suffering in mind. Then one practices developing joy, which causes one to be less depressed about others' suffering. Or one can practice developing compassion more in the Vipassana way and see suffering as emptiness, which solves the problem of being depressed. Compassion can also be like an enemy. It would also be useless to visualize the Buddhas as in need of compassion in order to develop compassion, because they are free of suffering and pain and are therefore not in need of anyone's compassion. It's a sign that one has attachment should one have compassion for enlightened beings. It's hard to differentiate and know whether one is devoted to or is desirous of a sacred statue. It's also difficult knowing whether one is attached to or craves for one's Lama. Compassion is the heartfelt wish that living beings be totally free of suffering. How can one have compassion for a holy being who is already free?
Meditating too much joy can also cause a problem. Having too much joy can obstruct and impede one's mind in that one becomes overly excited. When one notices that one's mind is excited, it's necessary to meditate equanimity. For example, if a poor person wins millions in a lottery, they can become so excited that they even get a heart attack and die. Some people have more problems after they won in a lottery. So I pray that nobody wins in a lottery, because it can be very complicating. If one knows where to donate the money one won, then there's no problem. But it's better to be content.
Meditating too much equanimity can cause one to be very neutral, even spaced-out, not clear in one's mind, and not to have empathy for others. When one notices that one is spaced-out, then one needs to meditate loving kindness, compassion, and joy - step-by-step.
Depending upon the situation, sometimes it's necessary to alternate one's practice. For instance, one needs to meditate compassion when one notices that one has become attached due to having developed too much loving kindness for others. One needs to meditate joy when one notices that one is depressed due to having developed too much compassion. One needs to meditate equanimity when one notices that one has become overly excited due to having developed too much joy.
Equanimity doesn't mean being neutral or indifferent by having no feelings - it doesn't mean that. Rather, equanimity means being less prejudiced, biased, partial. It's important to become balanced, even when it comes to one's meditation practice, in which case one thinks, for instance, "I like the practice of Chenrezig!" Or "I don't like the practice of Tara!" Practice means training one's mind and one makes it wild as long as one is partial. So it's important to train one's mind. If you have any questions, please ask.
Question: We imagine ourselves and those we are practicing for in the form of light during practice. When we breath in what is positive, we breath out negativities, and when we breath in what is negative, we breath out what is positive. Does the object that is in the form of light also exhale or does that object only benefit from our positive breath? Lama: I don't think it's needed. One inhales their suffering in order to develop compassion and gives them loving kindness when one exhales. The practice concerns training one's own mind and creating a good atmosphere.
Next question: Concerning what you said about being attached to a specific practice, you said it's good to concentrate on a few practices. Wouldn't one have attachment to the practices one is engaged in? How can I deal with that? Lama: Of course, ordinary human beings always have attachment, and we have to work on that. Attachment has be transformed into non-attachment. It's very important to have attachment in the beginning, otherwise one isn't inspired to practice. But one has to slowly, slowly give it up. Student: Then it would be best to engage in the practice that attracts me the least. Lama: No, no, no. You didn't get what I mean. Student: Okay. Lama: Normally, it's very important to practice step-by-step. The texts explain the methods and show us what to do, so it's very important to stick to the method so that you know what you have to do. The texts are outer guides for one's inner training. One needs to be fully present. It's difficult practicing without a text, because a text makes it easier to focus one's mind. Texts are very important, because one has to be fully aware of what is written in a text - one has to have more concentration, more presence. Texts help you to remember. And that is the reason we need Sadhana practices. One is okay, because we don't have the time to practice all of them. We can practice one-by-one, systematically, which is very important. Insight practice means training ourselves by means of the outer practice. Suppose someone is very aggressive, meditate Chenrezig to help them as well as yourself. If you don't train yourself although you have practiced and know, you can still be upset. It's very important to reflect one's own state of mind. Dharma means that something is going on inside oneself. JetsÃ¼n Milarepa said, "Before I train others, I should train myself." His philosophy is very good - I really like it. This doesn't mean to say that we can't train others, but it's especially important when it comes to the Dharma to become trained oneself. We want to live a meaningful life, be happy and peaceful, and so we have to train ourselves and share as much as possible with others, who are more important than oneself.
Next question: Meditating on the level of Vipassana and imagining that one and the others are in the form of light is seeing everyone as Sambhogakaya, in which case there is no more suffering. I can't imagine seeing other people in a rainbow body and thinking I can take on their suffering, because in that form suffering has been overcome. Lama: If there is no suffering, then there is no need to work at it. But samsara is full of suffering, so we don't have to worry. I didn't mean to say that seeing someone in the Sambhogakaya implies that they do not suffer. Imagining the objects of meditation as light is done so that one doesn't fixate on them as being so solid. Seeing suffering in the form of light weakens one's fixations, which makes it easier for us. If you fixate on suffering as so very solid, then you will feel like you are being hit by a stone when you meditate. You feel a little bit more comfortable when you imagine everything as light. The purpose of this practice is to weaken and stop one's habit to divide and be dualistic. It's still a practice, but it's needed. It's complicating, because the non-conceptual mind is difficult to train. So it's easier meditating in the described way. Did you get it? Student: Yes. Lama: Clinging to duality is very strong. And it's very difficult to accomplish non-duality, but it has to happen, which isn't easy practically. The idea is to work it. If you imagine the usual forms, then they remain concrete for you, like the golden chain in the description above. It's a real problem being bound by a golden chain instead of an iron chain, because you feel it is very important. It's certainly easier giving up an iron chain than a golden chain. Like that.
Let us dedicate "The Dewachen Prayer" that we want to sing now especially for those who have passed away recently. Imagine Dewachen, Sukhavati in Sanskrit, the "Realm of Great Bliss." Buddha Amitabha is seated on a lotus-throne in the center of the palace of Dewachen. Noble Chenrezig is on his right side and Noble Vajrapani on his left side and we feel their presence. We wish from the depth of our heart that those we are praying for are with these three brothers. One imagines that those we are praying for really enjoy being in Dewachen and that they are very happy to receive the teachings that Buddha Amitabha is giving. We are convinced that they have really been born there and sincerely dedicate any merit we have been able to accumulate for their benefit and welfare, and we are sending them really good blessings. Let us sing the prayer three times and then sing the dedication prayers together.
I think it's really important to focus one's attention on one's prayers, otherwise one becomes rather dry, honestly speaking. From my point of view, we have to deeply think and feel a prayer, otherwise we aren't praying. If we want to help others, we need to do the best we can in the moment and we find that Dewachen is the only place we want to see where those persons who have died would be happy to be. For example, if you think that Mallorca is the best place to spend vacation, you tell your friends to go there and they usually do. The same with Dewachen. Thank you very much.
The Prayer of the Four Immeasurables
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss that is free of suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment, and aversion.
Through this goodness may omniscience be attained
And thereby may every enemy be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara
That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha and then
Lead every being without exception to that very state!
May precious and supreme Bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so,
And may precious Bodhicitta that has already been never decline but continuously increase!
May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.
May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in its extent.
Having accumulated merit and purified negativities, may I and all living beings without exception swiftly establish the levels and grounds of Buddhahood.
Venerable Lama Kelzang Wangdi presented the instructions in English at the Kamalashila Institute in Langenfeld in March 2008 and offered many corrections when he proofread this transcript. The teachings were simultaneously translated into the German language by Hannelore Wenderoth, who we wish to thank here very much. Special thanks to Friedbert Lohner from Bretzenheim for having organized the recording of the teachings and for having made them available to us. Photo of Lama Kelzang courtesy of Josef Kerklau from MÃ¼nster. Transcribed and edited by Gaby Hollmann from Munich, solely responsible for all mistakes. Copyright Lama Kelzang Wangdi and the Kamalashila Institute, 2008.