The Great Medicine Which Conquers
Clinging To the Notion of Reality
Steps in meditation on the enlightened mind
Root text by Shechen Gyaltsap Pema Namgyal
Explained by by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche
Part seven of a monthly series (Click here for part one.)
To deepen your practice and wisdom, you should realize that although all sentient beings would like to be free of suffering and achieve some sort of well-being, they are confused about how to achieve such aims. In fact, their actions often contradict their desire. Realizing this one cannot help but feel profound compassion for those who perpetuate suffering, while destroying any chance they may have for happiness. The feeling of compassion alone is not enough however; one needs to actually do something to benefit others. The supreme way to help is by dispelling the very cause of suffering: ignorance. And, in order to be able to demonstrate how to do so, you yourself must progress towards enlightenment. For that, you need to develop a profound understanding of the absolute truth.
Once you grow familiar with this,
Develop absolute bodhichitta.
To achieve the transcendent perfection of wisdom one progresses through three kinds of knowledge: the knowledge of hearing or studying, the knowledge that is born from deeply contemplating what one has heard or studied, and the knowledge gained from meditating or becoming familiar through experience with what one has heard and reflected upon. In this way, one becomes familiar with relative bodhichitta and then gains insight through direct experience into the absolute aspect of the awakened mind. By applying yourself in this way, you will become more and more familiar with the nature of the inner phenomena of mind and the outer phenomena of appearances. We have a strong tendency to perceive things as being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Our judgment of something as being beautiful or ugly leads to an attribution of those characteristics to outer objects and then to the resulting discriminations we make in terms of accepting or rejecting, but:
All discernible appearances, both outer and inner phenomena,
Are like dreams and illusions
In the past they did not exist,
In the end they will not exist,
And in-between they appear through a chain of interdependent factors.
Dreaming that you are drowning or being consumed by flames can be very vivid and frightening. While dreaming there is no way to know that your experiences are not real; only when you wake up do you realize that it was nothing more than a manifestation of your own mind. The way we normally perceive phenomena as pleasant or unpleasant is very similar to dreaming. If you analyze the situation and familiarize yourself with seeing phenomena as dreams and illusions, then appearances will become more transparent and less solid. Appearances, like dreams, do not truly exist; no matter how long they may last, they come from nothing and leave nothing behind, yet there appears to be a chain of interdependent factors in-between. No phenomenon exists alone, none has solid existence.
Although they appear,
From the very beginning phenomena are empty of true existence;
Intrinsically, they are without essence,
The expression is the kayas and wisdoms,
Yet the absolute nature never changes:
As it was, so it shall be.
The phenomenal world is just like a dream and its nature is emptiness. There is no solid reality behind the way phenomena appear to be; from the very beginning they are empty of intrinsic existence. There is nothing but a dynamic stream of ever-changing, interdependent relationships.
There are two ways of seeing phenomena. The first is impure vision -- the deluded way of perceiving everything as solid and attributing intrinsic qualities to it. Second is the recognition of the true, empty nature of all phenomena, which never changes. In fact, all phenomena are an expression of the kayas and wisdoms. The kayas are the different dimensions of buddhahood whether manifested, subtle or absolute. Wisdom is the mode of the mind when it is not deluded.
Not knowing this, childish sentient beings
Treat phenomena as if they were solid and real;
Thus begins a chain of attractions and aversions,
And the great sufferings of this existencea non-existent masquerade!
If you recognize the unchanging, absolute nature of phenomena, then you will also see their intangibility. Things appear yet are empty; they are empty yet appear. If you do not realize that then you are like a na´ve child who is easily fooled by appearances. Ordinary confused beings treat phenomena as solid and real, and do not see that phenomena are merely an expression of wisdom and the display of emptiness.
Reifying the world of phenomena naturally starts an unending succession of attractions and aversions, which in turn gives rise to craving and desire. This one mistake of solidifying phenomena then gives rise to the endless cycle of samsara. All the suffering of existence is, in fact, a "non-existent masquerade."
The powerful roots are ignorance
And assuming that beings and phenomena truly exist;
When these become habitual,
Conditioned existence arises.
Until now we have been introducing the different expressions of buddhahood known as kayas.
To be continued next month
Translated by Ani Jinba Palmo.