Kagyu Samye Ling Fri 27-Mon 30 August 2004. Weekend course of teachings and meditation. Lama Yeshe assisted by Gelong Thubten teaches about meditation, practice and discipline, and the benefits of using dharma as our path. Slightly edited.
This teaching is in the second part of the Joyful Living series, available at Samyeling online shop.
1st session: Meditation in the modern world
(Beginning prayers.) Good afternoon everybody. Of course there are many of you who have been to Samye Ling before, and now also I can see many of you who are new to Samye Ling. And I do really hope your short dharma vacation – there is no chance of you attaining enlightenment in such short period of time – so it’s good to have a good rest, a very quiet resting as well as dharma practice. So you should enjoy, first of all, and also I think we are fortunate to have such a good weather, maybe I should give credit to group energy, because it is a wonderful day today.
Yesterday Daily Telegraph people phone in my office saying: “I’m calling to speak to someone, because Eskdalemuir is meant to be the coldest, dampest and wettest.” I said: “No, you are wrong, we have the best weather, I’m looking through the window.” When I hear about these landslides and floods, we don’t have all of this here, so I said: “It’s all because of our good motivation and this beautiful stupa.” So he said: “What is stupa?” I said: “Go to website, because I don’t have a secretary and my broken English, I can’t explain all about stupa.”
Anyhow, for us, such a good weather is a very precious thing. And not only this, as I said, lot of you are new here; we have a beautiful shrine room, I don’t think this meditation room will let you down. And hopefully our people are doing their very best to serve you good food and hope that your room is comfortable enough. If you have no cause to complain accommodations, good weather, good place to come and meditate, I think then we have everything outwardly possible to help us to learn how to meditate.
Meditation is I think very difficult. That’s why there aren’t many meditators. Some intelligent people are able to think that to just do meditation is wasting your time. We should be doing something. So I am wondering what we should be doing? And also meditation is tried by us as Buddhists 2500 years. We tried meditation and we know it works. If everything depends on our state of mind, then if we are able to tame or perfect our mind, then everything we have been pursuing, our happiness, pleasure, joy, we will see it’s all in the mind itself.
I always think European people are the best people to try Buddhism. Why? Because you have already succeeded in materialistic wealth. You all have more than you will ever need and still we seem to find many, many reasons to be unhappy, dissatisfied. And I’m looking into many people in other parts of the world, there is such poverty, they don’t even know when the next food is going to come, but somehow they didn’t find so much mind problem. We are, maybe because we think thinking too much is creative. We have this idea that knowledge is being able to think and think and think. But we did not somehow recognize: thinking too much also makes us little crazy. Because we somehow don’t seem to know, what is that we are thinking about, what is that we really want in our life.
Two problems: one, we think we live in a free world, so we should be able to mess around everything whether it is our life or other people’s life. Secondly, we never stop thinking. So, how come? We eat the best food in the world, we have the best medication, doctors, everything. Still we manage to find we are weak, sick, we are not strong. I consider we are consuming all our energy, just wasting thinking, thinking, planning, planning.
For me as a lama, I could happily tell you that if everybody – every one of us is human race – can think and plan everything, and if we achieved everything we planned, we would all be in a better place. We could have achieved everything we wanted to achieve by thinking and planning.
But somehow not many of us can say that, because we think and plan, but it doesn’t seem to go the way we want it to go. Or even if we somehow succeeded in our planning and thinking, how long does it last? For some people few weeks, few days, months, years? I’m fed up with this, I need something else, because I live in a free world and I have intelligence, so I need to have so many more ideas.
So, we use meditation. We did come to meditation. Some people have an idea you go to some sort of transcending experience, wonderful, peaceful, very wonderful experience. When you have this idea and go into meditation, it’s a disaster, it never happens that way. Then some people think meditation is peace and quiet. You go into meditation hoping to have this peace and quiet, you sit there. Your same old mind is with you, so it doesn’t allow you to have this peace and quiet. That’s what we do every day or every moment when we get into difficulties, we are trying to sort out, we are thinking and changing job, it doesn’t help, changing profession, it doesn’t change. Changing even partner, it doesn’t seem to change [the problem], because some people seem to think you have two or three personalities. We manage to have this someone behind your head telling you what’s wrong with you, what needs to be done.
When you come for example to meditation here, then people sit here for few minutes and think: “Well, meditation is meant to help me to have this most beautiful experience, peace and quiet, when I am sitting here, it seems to me I am worse than ever before, so people some day think: “I think I don’t want to do meditation, because it makes me very difficult, it makes me a worse person.” What you have to realize is: it’s not meditation making you worse person, but that chatting box behind your head is just part of you, it’s coming with you wherever you go, so you can’t find peace or satisfaction.
We have to also have different motivation level: there are many people out there: they think I just want to do meditation and just peace and quiet. You don’t have any more ambitions that this; just want to meditate simply and find peace and quiet. But we Buddhists meditate and one thing more than just peace and quiet: through the help of meditation if I’m able to gain stability in my mind and body, in the return it brings clearance in my thinking. With this clarity in my thinking I should be able to hope more that just peace in the mind, because I have to think what is that causes me dissatisfaction in my life. As a Buddhist we somehow want to overcome this always not getting what we want, not being able to keep what we want to keep.
People have suffering. It’s like wheel of dharma, means we can never say we have something or we have achieved something happiness forever. Even finding happiness seems to me it’s also illusory, because as soon as you think you found happiness, how long it lasts? It just gets lost. All this is in my opinion related to attachment, desire, anger, all sort of poisons.
When we are meditating first thing we should do is: we should be in a right place, that means when people learn to meditate, that is place like this, then your physical form is here. Once your body is here, then without any expectation, if you can physically and mentally learn to relax, not expect anything. When you are fully relaxed, when you feel your breathing out and in, you can mentally count one; out and in, mentally count two, so somehow you are fully engaging with this new experience of your breathing.
When you have we call overwarming anxiety or emotion or whatever disturbs your meditation, you should never need to think you have to do something about it. Some people have a notion: “We should be suppressing.” When you think there is something to be suppressed you will never succeed, because this is simply a feeling. A feeling, if you are trying to do something about your experience of feeling, you get entangled in this, like undoing a bundle of thread. You will be making lots of knots, you can’t get out, so when you have any of this anxiety, thoughts, emotion, best method is: do nothing. You completely leave it alone.
Then of course, because you are brought up to think that you have to be so creative and busy in your mind, your mind is not capable of even sitting for five minutes without thinking, doing or planning something. You think it’s so boring, I’m not experiencing anything new or special. You are able to mess it up, maybe you could be grasping or pursuing some sort of wonderful experience of your life. People think, plan, chase or grasp some experience in the past. That is wastage. We have not come here to think what good things happened in our life. That is no use. "Past" in English means over with, finished. It won’t change your life, it won’t make your everyday life more meaningful.
So if we are able to not cling on the good things in life or not rejecting what we consider a not good experience in life, because these two, both of them are capable of wasting our time, but always just bringing your mindfulness back into this breathing exercise very gently. But those of you who have been meditating, know all this experience, there is no harm if you can meditate without any of your thoughts and feelings, not in the past, not in the future. If you can meditate well, then there is no need for you to use methods. But if you are unable to remain in that stage of mind, then engaging your mind with one method and trying to be fully focused with this is very useful. Otherwise mind is all over the place.
Meditation for me is not seeking a very different experience, don’t be afraid of your own inner feelings, if it’s a painful experience or things which you never have been able to cope or deal, if it keeps on appearing, the best method is: do nothing and don’t let it to bother you, leave it alone. And if you are able to do this, then in mahamudra experience we call it’s like a bubble in the river. It means, when river flows bubble forms but it dissolves instantly.
Like your anxiety, thought, feeling, experience comes, but you didn’t try to do anything, you managed to leave it alone, so it did not disturb your peace in the mind. A good, skilful meditator means, I always say, it’s like good parents. But some parents have very well mannered children. Some parents have very handful – the child is a handful, so either you just involve your energetic child telling all the time what they shouldn’t be doing and run after this child all the time. You lose all your energy and become very irritable, the end of all this is: you have no rest, the child has no life, you could end up beating your child.
A bad meditator means whenever your thought, emotion or feeling comes, you think you have to do something and resolve this. You will not end up resolving anything, but if you watch, like if I’m sitting here, if there is a naughty child running everywhere, so long as he is not damaging the place or hurting himself, I just let this child to do whatever they want. In few hours time the child will be so subdued, because he is so tired and had enough, so you don’t actually need to bother telling him what not to do. The chid will be happy to go into sleep.
In meantime you will be able to maintain your own energy, you didn’t waste by chasing around and getting involved with this child’s activities. So good meditator means: when you see your mind is busy, jumping out from a window, kindly, gently bring it back. If you are new, if we are doing 30 minutes of meditation, if you have to bring it back thousands of times, don’t get impatient, don’t get obsessed: “Oh I’m no good, it’s jumping out all the time, I’m not to be a meditator, I can see how bad I am.”
You find all sorts of reasons to lose tolerance and you become very impatient meditator. So you won’t achieve anything by becoming impatient. So you have to be absolutely relaxed, very tolerant, million times goes out, no problem, just bring it back here gently, kindly. Then you will really feel: I’m happy to sit, there is no problem, actually I don’t need to do anything. Because when I learn to leave all my anxiety or feeling, there is no chest pain, there is no uptight, no headache, because there is no pressure.
What you need to do is absolutely you have to be fully relaxed. Never need to do anything more than just mindfulness and just be here. Be here. It’s so simple, maybe problem with mahamudra is it’s so simple that we cannot manage to have a simple idea in our head. We are so complicated. We are so busy and engaging, so what makes our life more difficult is simplicity. Maybe that’s what is missing in the world: we managed to make everything so complicated and busy. So it is better to have this simplicity in your life, means if you feel good about yourself even now, that’s much more worthwhile than thinking about how bad everything is, how bad whole the world is, how bad everything is. It’s no use anymore.
Just simply be in here, no need to suppress, no need to follow, the two most important is in every meditation. We will do some meditation, you will find out yourself. Most meditators, either you are so involved in the past, thinking about what has happened or what has not happened, so we manage to spend whole session thinking about past. You can even go back to childhood, if you are very busy sort of mind, because you think sitting meditation is so painful or it is not giving this wonderful experience, it’s better to get lost in the past. So you could go back in the far away. If we get lost in the past, we need deliberately put effort and say: “Do not follow the past.” You put gentle stop to this and don’t go back to the past.
If we achieve this, then many people are so capable thinking: “Well, it’s so boring without thinking something, so you manage to lead the future. You could be thinking: “I wish Lama Yeshe finish talking, what can I do? What I will be doing this afternoon, evening or tomorrow, next week and month?” You can plan whole future on one session. That is considered totally wasting. Not to lead the future means if you start to think about future you are never going to get a moment of peace in your mind, because every mental activity you will be thinking about future, planning about future. So we say not to lead the future.
I think these two are very good methods. If you manage to stop not following the past, if you manage to stop not leading the future, then you should be where you are now. Then for some reason many people start to go into sleep. Those who manage to sleep have less mental chaos. You feel little all right and not so bad, but you think it’s wonderfully soothing, so you knock.
According to Buddhism we have been sleeping for many generations. That’s why we are in this samsara. When you come to meditation, the one thing you don’t do is sleep. To overcome that – these are very important methods, I’m telling you, because most people do manage to sleep, your mind is gone. You have to put a proper body posture [straightening your back] and looking upwards, waking yourself up. So your energy is completely awaken. You come away from the sleepiness. That is how a meditator overcomes sleepiness. Good body posture, even you want to sit cross-legged, whatever gives you pain and wakes you up is necessary for good reason. So you can look upwards.
But then, some people get so nervous and your mind is very distorted and can’t settle. Everything is much tension, you can’t meditate. For these people, just drop down your shoulders and relax, [long sigh] really release your tension and energy. Physically relax, do not put any strong body posture, just let it go and then look down to what we call vajraground. It means if you eyelashes are feeling heavier, going down, it’s like experience before sleep. You feel heavier here, looking downwards, it will bring that excessive energy, so you will be able to settle properly.
So these four methods I am giving to you. They are going to be useful forever, till you reach full liberation. One: not to get involved in the past; two: not to lead into future; three: to wake you up posture physically giving you little discomfort, so you won’t be able to sleep; four: when you are so tense, uptight, then you even physically let go off this, take big breath, like relieved and then lowering the shoulders and looking downwards will bring your energy down. Then finally you will be able to focus your mind.
Tonight I don’t think we need any more methods than this, this is more than enough. You don’t need to do anything, you don’t need to expect anything out of meditation, simply sitting there and be aware of whatever is happening in the past, not following the past, not leading the future, not trying to battle through, just emotion, anxiety, joy, good, bad, everything, just simply leave it alone. And if we can do, right now we have 23 minutes here, we can do a meditation. Afterwards we can have a question and answer session, then you can say: where is your mind mostly, is it in the past, is it in the future or is it trying to battle through your anxiety, negativities, or you are so involved in your good experience, because if you are able to somehow pinpoint any one of these, maybe we could find a remedy for this. Then you can have more chance to mage progress I your meditation, so we can talk this later on.
I think 22 minutes of meditation is definitely not long. Before I made a promise saying: no lama or teacher ever want to lead meditation, because they think students get fed up and run away or they say: “We don’t enjoy your teaching.” People think teaching means talking. Talking for me is – what is use for all of you to go to so many different teachers? When you go out, you hardly remember what these teachers have been saying. What is use?
Everything in dharma we learn, we must be able to apply in our life here and now. Otherwise useless, you could boast your pride, ego, you can say how many lamas or teachers you visited, how many teachings you have taken, how many tapes you have, how many books you read. You have read, but nothing changes in you. You are worse than before. That’s why it doesn’t give any credit to Buddhist followers, because they never learned to put into practice. What is good to think that you have been all practitioners, if you are not better human beings?
So I made a promise, whether you like or not, I’m going to do the hard job, that is sit with you, even if you are able to sit with me and deal with your own emotion and anxiety, which you have been running away from all the time, I think we achieved something. Because you know, you don’t have to be terrified here, nobody will be attacking you, nobody will be panicking here, all is calm. Either you will be so courageous saying come’ on, I’m ready to have this battle. You could say: “I have been running away from you all the time, now is the time for you to come and we will have a battle. If you really think you want to fight, or you learn to leave it alone, because there is no need to fight, because there is no-one to fight, except for your own ideas.
In this way, being able to meditate for me is everything. If we are more caring, more aware human beings, not projecting, not labelling, more kind and more stable, then I think Buddhism is giving you something, you feel this teaching you followed has actually brought change in your life now. Otherwise for me it is meaningless, you can go to every teacher, still you could be more arrogant than ever before, yet you are not kind and nice anymore, you could be even making lot of bad karma, killing everybody else [for the reason of] how good the teaching is, because you think you know everything. Therefore you can judge it saying: “This teacher is good, because he is teaching what I want to hear, “ or “This is teacher is bad, because he is not teaching what I want to hear,” there are many judgemental students going round.
I have been practising meditation. That’s why I have been able to somehow help myself, and many times my wish is to help many other people. But if I’m able to help 60 persons and mess 50 persons, I’m quite happy with this, still I’m doing something useful instead of doing nothing. I can’t claim I’m 100 % successful, Buddha hasn’t been successful that way. Even Christ hasn’t been successful that way. Ordinary lama like me, if I manage my life as well as able to help 50 persons, I consider it a good benefit. It all comes through the meditation.
As far as through studies is concerned, as you can see, some of you have better knowledge than me, because I did not manage to put so much emphasis on book studies. I have been working with my own mind all these many years. It took me so many years, and when I found enough peace in my mind, I found no reason to get involved in the studying, because I’m happy. I’m satisfied lama, I don’t need to study anymore. This way I started other way, I went through lot of pain and suffering. It wasn’t easy; through meditation, through sitting cross-legged, it was lot of pain and agony. None of you think I had easy time.
You have to go through all this physical and mental pain to achieve something. Like how come people who made up their mind to go up to Mt Everest, and they never give up till they reach to there, it’s called successful. Some weak people may not even go near Mt Everest, they go to Kathmandu saying: “It’s too much pollution, I’m not going to Mt Everest.” You have no chance to reach to Mt Everest, and those people, who have this determined mind, no matter, some people even don’t come back alive, but they say: “I want to reach to Mt Everest, never giving up. When we want something so meaningful and precious, we should never be afraid because it gives some physical pain or some mental disturbance, because we have to listen to other part of us. It doesn’t matter how difficult it is, we should be willing to go over this. If we make that effort, once we manage over that stage, then it is easy road, so we should make that effort.
Question: Can you tell us something about the physical pain in meditation, especially the knees and feet?
Lama Yeshe: Oh, I see. If I do let’s say three hours long session I get pins and needles, but one hour, one and half hour, it’s all right. But to start with, just even 15 minutes, it was very difficult. So I started with 10 or 15 minutes, but I have spent almost 15 years doing meditation. You can see it is a very slow progress, but if our mind is peaceful and calm, then you somehow have less physical pain.
When mind is giving you hard time, it’s looking for some form of excuse, so then we manage to find pain. It all depends on, sometimes when your meditation experience goes very well, 10 minutes gone, 20 minutes gone, you didn’t feel anything about your pain. But sometimes you start wrong way, so even 10 minutes you find difficult. It all depends on your state of mind.
Question: If we do get cramp, should we move or should we just bear with it?
L.Y: In different cultures people give different answers. In Tibetan culture lamas told us, or they were told by other teachers, if you have pain, that’s the very reason you are practising Buddhism. So you should not be afraid of this pain and you should go through this. That shows you example like Milarepa, having passed his most lineage to Gampopa, when they separated, Milarepa showed Gampopa his bottom with holes saying: “This is my lineage to you.” Something like this, just saying how important it is for us to sit. But that was long time ago. Even as recently as 10 or 15 years ago, Lama Kalu Rinpoche, I don’t know how many of you know him, he was very skinny elderly lama, he was giving a very profound teaching in India for many students for seven months. He was sitting on a hard cushion and once he asked his attendant to look, because he was having some pain. They found out there was a big hole in his bottom.
So, I think they are able to go through this. If in Europe we ask you to go through this, I don’t know how many people will be able to manage to do this. I say always, whatever makes your life more easy. So you have less pain to worry about. Instead of making progress, if you think moving round a little bit helps you to meditate, maybe you should start with this, but then it’s like habit building. It all depends on how much pain you are willing to put up with. So there is no one method which works for everybody.
Q: Would you talk about what to do in postmeditation, in everyday life?
L.Y.: I think every human being thinks we have been so busy and engaging, but many ways when you can see, you have no recollection about what you have been thinking or doing mentally. Mindfulness in Buddhism is very important. It means we go into very intensive meditation retreat to somehow achieve this mindfulness during retreat, because we have nothing else to do but meditation, being able to achieve mindfulness during meditation. Once we think we have achieved it, we bring this mindfulness outside of session, so we could be mindful: “I’m talking,” mindful “I’m drinking,” mindful “I’m driving.” If we are able to bring the mindfulness into our life, life will be much more meaningful and also it really brings joy when you can somehow find: I am talking. You realize: “Oh, that’s what the Buddhist lamas teach,” we call lost child meeting it’s mother, because it is like you sort of reconnect to yourself. Otherwise we are sort of gone away, it’s gone, we have no recollection.
Mindfulness in mahamudra is very important. It’s not a complicated thing. All we need to say is: “I’m thinking, I’m drinking, I’m talking, I’m walking, I’m driving.” If we know just simply like that, then everything changes. That should be our goal, when we are practising. That means then we will be mindful of what is actually true teachings of Buddha: loving-kindness, forgiveness. And if we are mindful, then we wouldn’t be giving other people hard time. Mindfulness is very important part of practice.
Q: [Sometimes in meditation I find that I have fallen asleep. What can I do?
L.Y.: We say in Buddhism sleep is marigpa, ignorant. In Vajrayana full antidote for overcoming sleep is Dorje Sempa practice, Four Foundations. If we are able to do the Dorje Sempa practice properly, it should lift up this foggy mind. Less sleep is necessary. To temporary solution: stay up, and if it doesn’t work, full lotus position. That will definitely wake you up, yes! And also there are good methods, if you have good teachers, they will twist your arm, lock you in, so you won’t be able to fall to sleep. Full lotus position, locking your arms in, looking up. But that will be quite harsh. So actually to overcome all our ignorance, our stupidity, this Four Foundation practice is key to everything.
I want to make little bit clear, some people say: “Well we don’t really like this Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism, it’s too busy, we really want meditation.” But what you don’t know is that your mind is worse than Vajrayana methods, none of you can actually meditate, you see. We will give you a chance to meditate, our aim is to be able to meditate, so we don’t have to do visualisation and chanting and all the things we do, if your mind is capable of meditation. But if you can’t meditate and then just say: “I want to meditate, but I have resistance in visualisation practice,” that is quite naïve, because what Vajrayana method does is: our worldly, mundane, chaotic mind is engaging in all forms of negativities, and it’s very busy.
So tantrayana gives you a challenge of being able to engage in some quite busy and occupying visualisation, but they are very positive. Motivation is pure, engaging mind is pure, you are not chasing your desire or attachment, but you are somehow shifting that busy engagement into visualisation and chanting.
If your mind is peaceful, good meditator never needs to practice anything. Just meditation, meditation. And if you don’t have this, then just saying: “We don’t like doing anything else,” seems to me very naïve. The Vajrayana methods are very useful, because if you are able to direct or engage your mind whichever direction you want to engage, when you achieve this, then you will be more positive state of mind. You will have more confidence that you are actually your own boss. You can direct your thoughts or feelings or mind whichever way you like to have. Before mind lead you everywhere, now you are able to direct where you want mind go.
When you are able to transform this and able to engage this, then you can get rid of these methods. These are all just simple methods. It’s not your realisation, it’s method where you want to get. If we are travelling, you come up here, some of you come in a car, some in a train, some have been flying up here. We need to have some method to get where we want to get. Otherwise it’s not easy. That’s why there are all these different forms of methods; visualisation, chanting, these are all there to help us to transform negative, mundane, chaotic, undisciplined mind into something positive engaging, so you have control over your own destination. And then, if you are able to meditate, then it’s easy.
Q: I get distracted by my vision while my eyes are open. I’m trying not to focus on anything, but my mind keeps looking at whatever is in my vision.
L.Y.: I think that’s for the beginners, because we manage to get busy by following the vision, what we see. That’s why we say for beginners, maybe it’s temporarily better to close your eyes, so that you will be able to meditate and focus where you want focus inwardly. Once you build confidence, then when you open up your eyes gradually, you will see everything, but mind won’t follow it anymore.
I always think it’s my duty to clarify, because in English we say “emptiness”. People think it must be something dead or hollow, no feeling, no senses. It’s nothing like this, mind is really space. Spaciousness, but it has all the qualities of warmth, joy and pleasure. Mind has all the qualities, it’s not dead. Yet, why then Buddhism or English say “empty” – because you can’t pinpoint the mind, it’s not object, it’s not round, it’s not oblong, it’s not white, it’s not black. Buddha has looked this in and out, and he could not find what is mind. That’s why it came to conclusion that if you don’t see anything, you can’t actually say this is form, shape or colour, then you can’t say “it is that”.
Otherwise there is like this feeling of seeing everything, but no need to be engaging in anything, the feeling of this overwarming peace or comfort, but you cannot pinpoint anything. Mind itself has very unique properties, very special. It’s not hollow, it’s not cold, it’s not nothing, because when we say “nothing”, that means nihilist. Buddhism never said “nothing”. When they use the emptiness, because in English language maybe we don’t know how to find [a word] in another language. All it’s saying is: you can’t say it is there, because you can’t pinpoint where it is, or you can’t find the colour, form or shape.
You couldn’t say it is there called mind. That is why even your scientists are always trying to look further and further, and most of them manage to get crazy because there is no end, is there? The more research they do, the more they can find things to look for. So it’s expanding and expanding, never coming to any conclusion, because there is no conclusion. It’s limitless. That’s why in Buddhism we use this mind, so we are saying: if I feel I’m happy or not happy, it’s my mind thinking this, if I say I want something to be happy, it’s my mind saying this. Or it’s saying: I don’t want to lose something.
Everything comes back to mind. If we don’t pursue this hallucination of the mind, then there is nothing to chase, nothing to lose, nothing to gain. It’s very beautiful. If one meditates and whenever this notion of “I’m suffering because I have lost something, then if you are able to think: “What did I actually lose? I came to this world by myself and I will leave this world by myself. How can I lose anything when I didn’t come with anything?” That is wise thinking about everything, changing circumstances.
Q: I have been taught several techniques to help meditation: concentration on visualisation or sound. I find myself switching between these many times during a session, spending maybe five minutes on one, then jumping to something else. Could you say something about that?
L.Y.: Mahamudra, Vajrayana tradition, I can give all of you thousands of methods, but I know it’s useless, because your mind already has such a habit of changing everything many times every day, so it is not useful. You are not going to gain any benefit by changing all the time. It’s like try this, don’t like this, try this, don’t like this, so it keep on jumping here and there. Use a specific method for at least six months. Keep on trying, doesn’t matter whether it works or not, you are trying to use the same method again and again.
Gradually mind will accept this. So then you can use another method to go further. Otherwise you know too many methods and then you say: “Oh, it doesn’t work now, so I use this, it doesn’t work now, so I use this.” Method itself becomes an obstacle, because then it is able to keep your mind busy. So not to change – if you are using lot of methods, during one session better not change, just use one method.
Q: Because of an accident which damaged my spine and kneecaps, I can't sit in lotus position, or cross my leg in any way, so I was hoping that sitting on a seat might be better. Is this acceptable for ding meditation?
L.Y.: Vajrayana is very flexible. If your body doesn’t allow you to sit in the proper body posture, it’s no problem. Only they say you have to sit upright with proper posture. Because the physical form has 72000 types of pranas and nadis [energies and channels], it’s like a live engine. When it’s properly set up, energy flows, everything goes very smoothly, that will allow us to make progress in meditation much more easier.
And also sitting cross-legged properly – there are two types of energy: one is arising energy, one is losing energy. So it stops this downward energy by sitting cross-legged. You don’t lose energy, it only brings up, increases energy. But in your case, if you can’t sit other way than sitting on the chair it’s okay, we have even some practitioners just doing sleeping meditation. Mind is important. Best is if you sit up in proper meditation posture but due to any physical form difficulty you can sit on the chair. If you can’t succeed, you can just lie down and meditate. Because most important is working with your mind. But also then, sleeping is not easy part of… it’s even more difficult.
Q: How do you measure progress if you are not to be concerned about other things that pop up in the mind. Should you be concerned about making progress over, for example, six months?
L.Y.: Meditation – we are not building a chair, so we can’t say: “I finished my chair.” Meditation is trying to work with the mind which even doesn’t exist in a solid form. So there isn’t really much progress to show, except for how you are able to deal with your own emotional level. If you are not attached to things, then you will be coping very well, because if you lost most precious thing in your life, it wouldn’t matter any more, because there is nothing to actually lose. Or if you found something, very precious thing in your life, you won’t be grasping forever like this. What Buddhists say it brings to us, is letting go. Not letting go of objects which have solid form, but letting go of feelings and thoughts, anxiety and good and bad, things like that. That should be our goal, if we do true meditation.
Q: I can’t keep my mind on things I do during the day. What is the best way to create good vigilance?
L.Y.: I think for the mahamudra we are talking about two levels. One is when we are taming our mind, we focus our mind on whatever object or thing we are doing very diligently. Then you are using methods working with mind: I’m looking, I’m looking this. This is not called mindfulness, here you are taming your mind to engage and be able to focus to a specific object. Mindful means you don’t have to do any of this, be aware of your thinking. Be aware of your talking, but you are not making deliberate effort. There is nothing to put focus on. That we call, even if you are able to meditate few, five seconds without doing anything, involving anything, there is such a freeing experience. You feel so freed that you no longer do need to do anything.
One is: you are taming mind, so you are putting great effort, deliberate effort and focusing your mind. One is just being aware. Mind sees everything, that’s all.
Q: I would like to ask about compassion. When somebody is actually acting affecting others in a negative way. How can you feel compassion in your heart?
L.Y.: In Buddhism: increase your wisdom. We only show compassion or kindness toward other human beings if it is benefiting them. If it makes them worse, then you are not doing right. You have to see the final result of your understanding towards other human beings. Because with some people, doesn’t matter how much loving-kindness you show, they somehow take total advantage of this, and they turn everything upside down, then it’s not much useful, because you won’t be able to benefit. If you get upset, then you lose the good merit you gain by having loving-kindness towards other people. So it’s always involving wisdom, how it benefits others and how it benefits them benefiting other people.
But the one most important advice I always want to give: most Europeans go through difficulties sometimes in your childhood and you are never able to give it up, and it’s disturbing you now, so you go to psychiatrist, you go to therapist. There you ask: “What’s wrong with me, and you think something a big deal has happened in the past, so it is never allowing you to actually function properly, do proper things in life. For us [Tibetans] that is such a wastage of time, because whatever has happened to us in the past, it wasn’t anybody’s choice. Total forgiveness is absolutely necessary.
Like ordinary people, who are not taught Buddhism, you go to school, for example. If your teacher gives you a hard time, many people grow up and have grudge over the teacher. We as Buddhists, we get disciplined very harshly, but we never keep grudge, we will say: "Thank you for whatever treatment you have given, due to this very reason we are strong and capable of helping."
It’s all mind thinking, like many of the high rinpoches, they have tutors. They are only given tutors who are really rigid and even if necessary they beat them up. If you are weak, the monastery will change.
For example my brother. He has one of the harshest teachers. Not only that, when he was young, he was almost same, like in exile in Tibet, if you were sent to East Tibet to receive teaching without even attendants to look after, teacher said: "You are going to be responsible for thousands of people. You have to have all the experience of good and bad and also know the painful side of life." And if you are taught that everything there is for you to learn and to be able to help other people; it means I haven’t seen him ever saying any bad thing about his teacher. When he went first time back to Tibet first thing he did was looking for his teacher. And even if his teacher passed away, he has his relatives and friends, my brother still looks after him.
If any one of you went through what he went through, you will need ten psychiatrists or therapists! I remember a high lama saying: "It is so painful, when you sit high up on a throne, when your tutor is going to give you hard time, when they do prostrations to you [the tutor prostrating to the high lama he is tutoring], that means they are going to give you this!" It’s more painful to watch what they do than actually put up with it, but this is something appreciated. And here you don’t do this. You just don’t learn to forgive, even to your parents, if they give you hard time.
Some people, your parents have gone through lots of difficulties. When you get into difficult state of mind, you can’t think properly. That time they do many things wrong. No parents in the world will deliberately, happily beat you up or give you hard time. But whatever they have done, I call they are passing their bad lineage to you. That’s what they received, that’s what they are going to pass to you, so I tell my students: never ever pass bad lineage, but you learn to forgive them. When you learn to forgive, you free yourself from suffering.
It will help you not needing to go to psychiatrist or therapist. You want them to somehow help your ego saying: “It’s true, I went through difficulties, because the psychiatrist or therapist says so.” To confirm your belief that you have been abused. What’s the use of it? They are gone, dead, you suffered and you are suffering now, and it’s not useful. In Buddhism we say: whatever happened, no human being will deliberately harm you, if they are in good state of mind. They have done that, because when people get outrageously angry, upset, they do all sort of things. So we do not create our mind like this.
You can see in some parts of the world for many generations people are killing each other, because somebody killed this, so I have to kill that. Killing each other, we have to stop this happening. If you are a good Buddhist: stop going to psychiatrist or therapist (laughter). Forgive, practise forgiveness. And when people are giving you hard time, don’t fight back thinking you can get better result like George Bush. Have loving-kindness instead of fighting, thinking we can solve problem. George Bush may be able to drop the bombs, but each one of the Iraqi people who die, they have ten or twenty relatives, he made all of them their enemy now.
What happens if somebody goes and kills your family? You want revenge. World's problems cannot be solved by killing and bombing and taking advantage of your power. If we really want to have world peace, inner peace: loving-kindness and forgiveness are the key to success. When you go home, to your family, husband, wife, children – instead of arguing put your loving and kind idea. If they are shouting to you, debating with you, instead of shouting back and debating, if you talk something more useful, more meaningful, more forgiving subjects, maybe you will save yourself from these long argumental useless things people do. So, good Buddhist: forgiveness, then therapists and psychiatrists will lose their job!
You must think Lama Yeshe is crazy. I am crazy. That’s my lineage. Milarepa says: “All of you think I am crazy, but I think all of you are also crazy.” So it’s like we are having different opinion, you see. For me, many things we do don’t make any sense. We can’t teach a lesson by killing other people. We can’t reason shouting to other people thereby give a lot of unnecessary suffering. What we need is a stable and more understanding, a calm mind, forgiving mind.
We don’t need to wait for anybody, we can change everything here now. Applying Buddhism in everyday life, living Dharma means: if you want to free yourself from pain which is caused, first learn to forgive. Recite the mantra of forgiveness: forgiving, forgiving, forgiving… Then even your dream will change. One day you will find, you could actually forgive. Then you are totally liberated. So, forgiveness.
Q: How can you help the parents with the things that happened in their past? How can you stop their suffering?
L.Y.: Well, I think we, as human beings, you can do everything in your own power, talking to them, helping whatever is missing in their life, then telling them that this is not going to make their life meaningful. It’s not going to improve their situation. The more you talk it – it’s like when people talk about positive or negative, our mind gets influenced very easily. So, if you keep on talking to them how to overcome by forgiving and letting go of the first experience, gradually they will benefit. So you need more and more talking.
Like even in Samye Ling I was trying to say, I don’t want people talking gossip. If you talk gossip, why you are here? Because gossip affects other people’s mind, we are very gullible. We just hear something, and then we think it’s true. But people are not so strong like in old times, we are very weak. Whatever we hear, we somehow start believing in it. We jump here and there – somebody says: “Okay, that’s his truth.” Another one says: “That’s his truth.” No useful purpose will be fulfilled. Friends, family, if we talk, how many people are ever able to overcome their past problems and difficulties by forgiving?
That’s why we say lineage is important. 2500 years the lineage existed because it’s useful, it’s benefiting. And if it’s not useful, not beneficial, it wouldn’t even exist here now. So it works, and I was even recently watching some of my lamas who were participating in this scientific research in America, saying how meditation helps. Some of those lamas are my friends and I know them personally, and even the scientists saying how they are able to calm their mind so easily. When they meditated on loving and compassing, how the auras change. They can really see the difference. I don’t know how many of you have seen these many lamas, who have been in the cold cotton cloth and they were able to dry [the cloths], it was said if they had been ordinary people, they would have been frozen. But you can say: mind over all matter. It means, when your mind thinks, you can achieve everything, it’s mental strength manifestation.
2nd session: Meditation - the next step
Good morning everybody, I hope all of you are having a nice dharma vacation. Yesterday I said to you, make sure, you don’t go into the past and you also make sure you don’t go into the future. You should be where you are now. But then, somehow your very engaging mind – sometimes even you have a peaceful mind, you want to stop this, because you think: “Something is happening with me, I have no feeling or thoughts.” So it’s like this mind: on one hand you think you should have a peaceful mind and on another hand you don’t know what to do with a peaceful mind. You manage mess it round.
So you don’t need to do anything, if you have a peaceful mind, you are not going you get lost. Some even have this feeling that if you have this experience sometimes, where there is no centre, there is no solidity, many people manage to think: “Oh, I’m terrified, I can’t meditate, I’m lost.” That just shows you how big this ego you have is. It seems to me if you are following Buddhism, we are dealing with ego of essence of non-solidity. Somehow, even you are having such an experience, instead of rejoicing and appreciating this, you get frightened, so there is something wrong in our way of thinking. If any one of you have such an experience, never need to be terrified, we have so many of us here, we will protect you! Nothing is going to happen to you, you will never manage to lose yourself, so not even bother to worry!
Then secondly, even a very strong anxiety, emotion – don’t get terrified, don’t think you need to run away. That’s what you have been doing, and still, you are on holiday, you come here to take teaching, if your anxieties [come] here, that correctly shows you, you will never be able to run away from it, except dealing with it. So appropriate way of dealing is saying: “Okay, if you like to have go on me, I’m ready, come' on, now is the time, I’m prepared! Instead sort of really frightened: “Oh, what might come,” you just have this attitude saying: “Come' on, I’m here and ready, welcome.” Then nothing will come, because there is nothing there to come. So you should have this positive state of mind.
Nowadays as a lama, I would like to teach everybody how to remain positive all times and how to become a positive human being, and if I join the worldly people, if I become negative, how can I influence you? That’s why even something falls out, I manage to be happy. That’s because it’s lama’s duty to become positive human being, and they teach other human beings how to become a positive, caring human being. We have lot of people going round there saying: “Oh, it’s all doomed, it’s all negative, people have no hope, civilisation might go.” All these things people manage to tell you, and people start to believe: “It’s true, it’s not meant to be raining but it’s raining…” (laughs).
So we can relate with whatever is happening, instead of sort of doomed day. It’s not true, if this buddhanature does not exist, how could it have doomed day, see? It’s a way of thinking. When we have this solidity in physical form, because we are born as human beings, we also get aged and also we die as aged human beings, if we are fortunate enough. But because everything is impermanent, it means so long as there seems to be so called solidity, everything could also fall apart, even this solid building; how do we know that if we don’t maintain this, in hundred years time it will remain here? That’s why we say: we need to learn the Buddha’s teaching properly, not to build everything into so real and solid.
So we should have less solidity, more understanding of the essence of this spaciousness. Not emptiness, I wouldn’t like to use this anymore, it makes people unhappy. We will forget about emptiness, you don’t need to worry about. Then great teachers come here and say, you could invest getting your mind. Even you don’t have any clue, you think: “It’s working, I’m looking for my mind.” How do you know you are looking for mind? What is that mind you are looking for? Does it have a horn? Is it like a sheep, its colour, its form? When you waste so much time looking for your mind, and when you find nothing there so called mind, that is what we call mind.
Lamas know that you are never able to find mind, that’s why when they say, when doubt comes into your meditation: “Is it true? I‘m real, I have a body, a form, how could there be this spaciousness?” But look, there is something beyond this body. When they say you investigate, it means trying to get rid of these doubts. And wasting too many hours looking into something where you won’t find anything, because there isn’t. Buddha hasn’t found, so you have no chance of finding anything.
So not to waste so many hours looking for mind. There is no chance. What we need to do is even in the name of practising thinking: I’m practising highest form of mahamudra practice and I’m looking into my mind. My mind! It’s like wasting. Mahamudra means: you never knowingly lose the mind to do anything, not even think: “I’m going to meditate.” Then it’s not perfect, because saying I’m going to meditate means there is something to be meditating.
Even if you say: “I’m looking for something,” that is not mahamudra. Mahamudra means you are able to leave everything the way it is. Doesn’t matter you see things, hear things, doesn’t matter whatever is happening. There is nothing you need to reject or nothing you need to instruct your mind to do, because the minute you are going to engage with your mind activities, it is almost same as what we are doing now, but somehow for ordinary human beings this is impossible. That’s why we are learning to meditate. It means we need to put some form of visualisation, some form of practice, we have to use a method, to achieve our result.
That’s why we are talking about different methods, and that’s why Thubten was giving you Four Ordinary Foundations. A positive wisdom mind benefit using Four Ordinary Foundations. Remembering them helps you to keep away from all the samsaric activities. This has consequences, unexpected suffering. So, if we can remember these four ordinary thoughts all the time, it helps us to guide in the right path. When people don’t have a good wisdom it means we somehow manage to think. Thinking aging is painful.
But did anybody ever manage not to get old? So why not to think aging is something beautiful? In Asian tradition you gain really good respect when you are above 55. Really, under 55 you don’t have enough wisdom. Maybe that’s what is wrong in here. Everybody thinks you have to be young and energetic, and you don’t think about aging, it’s so painful. I look into my Theravada brothers’ traditions; hinayana or theravada traditions. All the bikkhus or bikkhunis, they don’t make any difference how well educated. Education makes no difference.
How old you are – I went to Sri Lanka, I was meant to be seeing this abbot. He sent me to a person who would be in a higher position. He asked: “How many years you have been a bikkhu? He said: I have been more years than you, so I’m the boss!! So everything has to do with age, age has beauty; aging person means you have had many, many ups and downs in your life, you have lot of experience. Aging is nothing wrong. We somehow think aging is problem and I’m quite sure from the way we treat the old people, it is a problem: we like to put them in old people’s home. So it is lot of suffering. For many people once you go to old people’s home, that’s end of you. Nobody comes out so easily, they know, one by one they die.
So it’s like suffering animals going in a slaughter house. When the animals go to slaughter house, nobody comes out of it, they are slaughtered. Just like this, when we think of aging, sickness and dying, which happens to all of us, then we don’t have to be terrified, we don’t need to be afraid of aging, we don’t have to be afraid of dying. I could say that we as Buddhists have approved your Western civilisation.
I have had many people dying here in Samye Ling in retreat. Some of them through age, some of them with cancer, every one of them prepared so properly, when they died there was no suffering. Many years ago the doctors and nurses said: “We can’t understand this Tibetan belief; you are locking people into retreat.” It was really very difficult for them to appreciate us. Few times in retreat few people died in there, finally doctors say: “You people don’t need us but we need you.” They had joy, they were not afraid of death, even someone who died in Langholm managed to write to their friends in Australia, saying: “You don’t need to worry.” Whatever he/she had done, this person died with dignity, happiness and joy.
So it’s no good to deny us thinking about the nature of impermanence, death, suffering and aging, because this happens to all of us. And also in Buddhism what we are teaching is, it’s like a passing lineage. In Asia, if I’m old I know someone of my relatives will look after me for whatever the reason. In here, Europe, if all the young people don’t learn to look after your aging parents, none of your children will look after you, because you don’t even really deserve to be looked after, if you don’t look after your own parents. You don’t pass that lineage.
Then what is use to spend some of your most productive times, like good years trying to bring up your children, giving everything they want, education, money, labouring yourself to bring up children. And then when you need most, if they can’t help you, then what is use? They are no different from collecting wealth. You can go around and say: “I’m a very successful person because I managed to have a child.” What’s the big deal? We are human beings. You gave them love and kindness and you looked after them when they could not drink even from a bottle, you washed their bottoms – how many years? You woke up, how many times in a night, did everything you could to bring someone up, because they are a human being. When they grew up, they don’t care what happens to old age [parent]. Then what’s use? Are they an object with no feeling, don’t they have a responsibility?
So we should really be saying: “Okay, if I don’t look after my aging parents or friends, I can’t expect someone else to look after me. But nobody is going to be happy being put into an old people’s home, when nobody there knows them. These people there are looking after you, because it’s their profession and some places seem to be good, but some places seem to be awfully bad. So whole purpose of your practising Buddhism, learning Buddhist philosophy is: pass the right method, don’t bring children to the world like owning a property. You bring to world a human being who has all the qualities of a human being, pass good knowledge, so that they can help and save other human beings.
I think this is the only way we can move forwards. Otherwise people want to deny aging and suffering, because you don’t want to think about it, it’s so painful. If thinking makes it so painful, when it happens to you, that time it is hundred times more painful. We as Buddhists, we think about this, so that the nature of impermanence, suffering, pain, aging, when these things happen, we know it is going to happen. When it happens, it is much, much easier, it’s not much pain. But when you deny, when it happens, it is definitely much pain.
So, when you are meditating, we are practising dharma. You are not trying to pick up vocabulary but you are going to pick up good wisdom, making it part of your everyday life. It means kind and caring human being, less fighting in home and office, less argumental, always argumental is source of everybody’s headache. When there is argument, it’s wise to withdraw from whatever you think you are right about. Just resign, go home and meditate and you can keep your peace in the head. Then you think I have to win over this, because I am right and this person is wrong. How do you know this person is wrong, because we all think differently. What is true to you may not be true to me, and vice versa. There is no way arguing will resolve so many of these big issues. When we are able to calmly, wisely give up, it will really benefit us.
Sometimes if you meditate first, afterwards you will have plenty of time to questions and answers. So all of you people who are new, don’t get tense and uptight thinking: “We have too many people, it makes me tense”. Forget all other people, just feel yourself. Physically relax, mentally relax. Once you manage to do this, remember not to get involved in the past or future. If whatever appears, certain thought, feeling or anxiety, it will keep on coming hundred times again and again. Many insignificant, not important feelings or thoughts will just gradually dissolve away. But some important issues in your life will not go away. They just keep on coming, whether you use methods or not. What we need to do is, if you find certain issue, which has been coming again and again, maybe then we can see, how we can remedy those issues afterwards.
This time I’m not even giving you any method, because I think people know what to do. So without method fully relax, I call river-like meditation, it means there is no method and no form except for simply being aware. Exactly 30 minutes, not more, and I can assure every one of you can meditate that long, so why not start a good habit. When you go home, you should meditate at least 30 minutes every day, a habit building. So, maybe then you could definitely make progress in practice.
I have heard and seen many students saying: “Lama Yeshe, we have so many important jobs to do in our life and we can’t find time to practise.” For me your priorities are totally wrong. Most important thing in your life is meditation and practice. If you have no stability, no calmness, no peace, no satisfaction, then what is important? – Peace in your mind. Sometimes we say in English “meditate”, I don’t know what it means. In Tibetan we call shinay. Shi means peaceful, nay means remaining in peaceful state of mind. Or shi means to subdue the poisons. If we don’t have anger, jealousy, envy, pride, then our mind will be always peaceful.
So our goal should be bringing this mindfulness. Our body is like a car with engine. Some people are very outwardly, very artificial. You want to show your car, you can polish only the body, but you let the engine fall apart, so what is use to be putting all this polish and making nice looking, bumpers and all this, if your engine doesn’t function, it’s finished! What is important is that you maintain your car engine properly, so it will take you where-ever you want to go. When we put so much emphasis on make-up and do all these hundreds of things we do in our life, stretching our wrinkles or fixing our nose, what use of that, what is it giving to us? It is absolutely fine, whatever outlook you have.
Stretching here and there is not going to make you any better human being. What makes you better human being is more positive, more caring human being. So, always think: “Should I take more care about engine [mind] or the body?” Body and mind are inseparable. It’s like if your mind remains positive and stable, body will be absolutely fine. It’s mind which transmits everything. So when you feel low in energy, when you feel negative, somehow that feeling is shown in your physical expression. So if you are positive, strong, healthy, even little bit headache, little bit sickness, not a big problem, easy. Oh, I don’t really mind, I have headache but it doesn’t bother me. But when you are not positive, then everything affects.
And also I think I have to adjust my wording yesterday. I was not insulting psychiatrists! They should not terrified, because we haven’t achieved this letting go of the mind. Non-grasping mind. So if you are going to be therapist or psychiatrist, you will never lose job! Don’t worry about what I say, because if everybody achieved this non-grasping, non-judgemental mind, then they might really lose their job, but that is so difficult, nobody is achieving. As long as we have this big, big I, the ego: “I don’t like to suffer…” Negative and positive way means a good human being, say if I am sick, I would be thinking: "Oh, I’m sick, but I wish other human beings never get sick like me. I wish to be sick for all of them." That’s good way of thinking. Bad human being thinks: “Why it’s me? Why don’t they get sick, I always get sick.” That is very bad motivation. So you won’t be able to overcome [sickness] by having such motivation.
That’s why we say everything is based on motivation. If somebody is going to be sick, they won’t take away your pain and suffering. So, why you wish for them to be sick? It’s good idea that okay, I couldn’t help myself, I could not stop from getting old and sick. Why not being more positive and courageous and say: “Fall on me.” Some people think: “I can’t think so, because all this weakness is going to come to me.” Not true, because you haven’t achieved like Milarepa, you could not take other people’s pain and suffering. So even if you thought that you could take other people’s pain and suffering, it doesn’t mean you will get worse off. Then you might think: “Why we think this way?” We are training our mind, so that when we are capable of taking, we will not hesitate to take that pain and suffering. So it has to be taught and educated.
Milarepa could take other people’s pain and suffering. We are not Milarepa, so we better train our mind. Somehow many good human beings manage to find themselves unnecessarily with chaos in mind. Even everything else goes fine, you find reasonable reason to be unhappy. So why we think we are so much enjoying being suffering? Maybe it’s due to samsara where we live in. Suffering doesn’t have part in our life.
It’s time for questions and answers. As I said to you: this form of meditation, if you could meditate that way, one day you would feel so relieved, so freed, because there isn’t anything you need to do, there isn’t this so called negative energy or negative pressure, nothing exists there. So when you are not bothered by your anxiety, insecurity, paranoid mind, when you don’t play with this, it just gets dissolved by itself. That shows you that actually it doesn’t exist. For me sometimes like some little naughty children, if you play with them, they get out of hand. They get worse, they do all sort of things and you wish you hadn’t played with them, just like this, if you were to leave your own neuroses alone, it dissolves by itself.
You don’t need to do anything deliberately to suppress. There is nothing to suppress. There is no need to be afraid of this. This method of not using any method, not engaging in anything or in any form, then everything just dissolves. There is nothing you feel you need to do. And if you achieve this through meditation, then it’s easy out there, whatever challenge comes, you know solution is not with involvement, solution is learning to let it go, non-judgement, letting go. That will be solution.
Anything about your meditation, I’m supposed to be lama who is supposed to have some experience. My mind was not easy. Could have been worse than yours, that’s why I think I have answer to all of your ongoing chaos, because I went through lot of problems, when I was learning meditation. It was so painful. It took me five whole solid years to solve my problem. So you people put one hour, 30 – 40 minutes thinking: “How come no change comes?” Such ambitious, this is year 2004, 24 years of my life dedicated solving my problem and really finding this satisfaction. But many times my students say: you are not worse than any other human being. Sometimes they think I’m worse off, but maybe, it could be true to their own opinion, I’m not saying I’m better off. But 24 years, I gave up everything else, even now many hours of meditation. And most of you: 30 minutes here, 40 minutes there, then saying: “My meditation is not working, my mind is same as before, we lose hope!” You are able to dedicate all your life, how many years you study to get where you are? When you earn some sort of salary, you spent eight hours a day. It’s the simplest thing, working with mind is more difficult.
When you are dealing with your own mind, that’s first time you can’t blame anybody else, you have to deal with it. You are the one to take responsibility. We human beings found ways of blaming everybody else except ourselves. So when you are dealing with meditation, long periods of times, if I have ongoing chaos, it’s nothing to do with other people, it’s my problem. We need to deal with it through the practice. Meditation is the solution. We need to learn to meditate. And not only that I’m a meditation teacher, so I always promote meditation, but it’s like selfish persons do what they do… Meditation means, whether in Tibet and historically or later on, everybody says, whether one is a great lama or not, depends on whether they will they show signs of achievement or not, and only meditators do, not the ones studying 24 years or whatever.
Like when you look Bokar Rinpoche now. He has passed away, he is one of our greatest kagyupa teachers. He is still in samadhi, it means he is in a meditating form. I think if you have seen this experiment in America, where they did some measurements, he was one who participated it. And recently he passed away. Everybody is saying how wonderful it is, he is in samadhi form and all sort of relics are falling out, even our artist Sherab Palden who is now 91 (he was in a big monastery in Kham), he said to me, those teachers who he considered should have achieved everything, because they are elegant in teaching, appearance looks good, when they passed, nobody was seeing any special signs.
Those sort of crazy yogis, people thought they were maybe mentally little disturbed, somehow they had less grasping on objects and they were able to meditate. When they passed, they could meditate and sit up in samadhi form. Why is this? Because they decided they were no longer going to invest their precious time and trying to work with the worldly ideas. They just wanted to be true to their practice, so if you say something, if they don’t like, they are just like a little child saying: “I don’t like you!” They don’t have to play round and say: “Yes, we like you.” This sort of lamas have the non-grasping mind. It means they are more straight and honest than little child. So people call them crazy, because they say if they don’t like, they don’t like. If you ask them to stay and they don’t want, they go away. Or if you say: “Go away,” and they don’t want, they stay.
Just like this, so it’s very difficult to say who has so much knowledge. Only you will see when they pass away. For example, Chögyam Trungpa in America. Everybody said he was the worst lama who ever came, he smoked and drank and did all sort of things. All his students thought: "That’s wonderful, he is perfect teacher. We can smoke and drink with him and do all sort of things with him." But nobody is like Chögyam Trungpa: when he passed away, seven days he sat up in samadhi form. I don’t think none of his smokers and drinkers who participated, will be able to do that. That shows you that not everybody is same. So if you want to smoke and drink, why do you want to bring lamas and lineage in this? Just smoke and drink, that’s what you always do. You don’t have to smoke and drink in the name of dharma saying it is “tantrayana”, very precious, high practice. That’s all stupid, there is no tantrayana about indulging in a poison.
What we have to do is a to really know how to work and practice according to your inner ability. Not following because someone is doing this or that. So I think if you look into website of Bokar Rinpoche, you will get beautiful inspirational information coming from all directions; how beautiful way of dying.
My students, people who know the nature of impermanent, [who have] all come to my course, if you want to die with dignity, with happiness, joy, create here now, don’t think: “Oh, I haven’t achieved this, how I’m going to die?” You create your karma or suffering now. You don’t need to be frightened. Whatever the state of mind you are going through now, which is then going to be, we call exaggerating in a positive way or a negative way. If you want to die in a proper way: be happy! Have faith in the dharma.
And if you are a good practitioner, then we as a Vajrayana way know how to die properly. We think death is an opportunity, because somehow we are in prison with this solid physical form. Even we get so old; you can see your grannies, you think they are out of mind and they behave like child; we say mind goes back to where you started with. Mind has no form, no shape, so it can’t have birth and death. That is very good comfort to know. All what is happening is changing skin like snake, this body is no longer functioning, so you want to leave this body. This body is not really such a big and precious important [thing].
We need to know how to die properly. It means if we have been doing this three years of retreat, we say first opportunity, when you die, is buddhahood. When you die your consciousness is freed, if your mind becomes limitless like space, don’t get frightened, don’t get terrified, that’s called dharmakaya, because there isn’t anything but this awareness.
We say if you aren’t able to achieve that, the second [opportunity] is yidam. If we have been practising Chenrezig, Gyalwa Gyamtso, any form, we can visualise, we can transform, we can become yidam. So we can attain this second opportunity. Then third we call tulkus, it means we missed the two opportunities, so we can say: "Okay, now look for what is the best opportunity; find the right parents, who are going to bring me up with good education, so if I miss these two opportunities in this life, I will not miss opportunity in next life." If you miss three opportunities, then deep in your heart pray for blessing, whoever you trust. If you are believer of Christianity, once you become one, there isn’t any [differences] – whoever. You say: “Help me, guide me, show me, bless me, so my future life will be better than what I’m going through. We call this the third way. We Buddhists actually know how to die properly, with dignity and joy. So we should follow that; death is not a disaster, death is an opportunity. All the possibilities are open for you. Right now we have very limited possibilities. So why should we be afraid of dying?
Session 3: Putting it into practice
Good afternoon everybody and I hope you had wonderful short holiday. I also hope that you learn more than you really need to take home. Sometimes trying to take as much as you can, then it may remain in your book or in the tape, so that may not be in the long run that much useful. My advice to all you is: just put everything that you learn into practice. It doesn’t have to be complicated, don’t have to be writing a book. What matters is through your meditation if your life becomes more meaningful and enriched, and if you become more wise and be able to do what you have to do in the right way, dharma is benefiting you.
So I think that when they put in the program “Living Dharma”, I don’t know what actually is living dharma, but I taught about this again thinking, maybe it is true, whatever you learn, you need to apply this every moment of your life. It means dharma is alive, if you write it in a book, dharma is sleeping on the shelf! Living dharma seems to do very well if you sort of think: “This is what Lama Yeshe would say, what we have to do,” if we get into difficult situation. So, the idea is, what you learn, putting into practice every moment of your life.
I never let anybody go without doing some meditation, otherwise I feel I’m not doing my job. But then Thubten says: “Maybe Lama Yeshe, some of them have more things to ask, how about a question and answer session. So if the question and answer is simple and it has to do with meditation and mind, I’ll be very happy to try to answer this. But if you are going to talk about dhyani buddha five families and enlightenment, forget about this, I even don’t know what they are! Yes, it’s true, I haven’t seen them! At least I have no recollection now, I mean what does it matter what colour they are and which buddha family and what is enlightenment? For most people, what is enlightenment? It’s useless to talk about enlightenment and all these different buddha families, even trying to get all these sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya, I think what a headache! I think what sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya, it’s all meant to be same thing!
So what are we going to do? I can see I know little bit about mind. I meditated many times, so I know the change in my moods, change takes place in different ways and also I heard from many retreaters and dealing with people, so when it comes to meditating, when you get involved with anything which has to do with mind, then I feel I could answer. So, if you want to ask anything about meditation, practice, you are more than welcome to ask me now.
Question: To know yourself and to know your own mind is it through meditation or through asking questions from a teacher trying to help you to understand your own nature, so that we might not create more problems to ourselves?
Lama Yeshe: In this day and age our mind is so unbalanced, forget about actually taking what teacher says seriously, we can’t even manage to trust ourselves, so how are you going to actually learn nature of mind by debating, through questioning and answering? What will come is: you need to know enough, remaining you have to find out through meditation, what is the actual mind. Till that you won’t get a full satisfactory answer.
Then it’s like we could waste a whole hour talking about mind, and when you go out your head will be warmer than before, and still there won’t be any really full satisfaction. Because if mind doesn’t actually exist as mind, how can you explain, except for you and you alone can experience.
Question: This morning I was doing mantra practice, and I was aware that part of my mind was with the mantra and another part was everywhere, almost like music. What do you do then?
Lama Yeshe: I think our mind is very highly developed, so it manages to do two or three things at the same time. That’s why I think there is something wrong with the modern age, it means old times people’s mind was more simple. They were able to focus just one thing. But now, because we think we made great progress, our mind sometimes manages not only one but two or maybe even three things. With meditation we are trying to bring this into oneness. It means you should focus your mind short periods of time very intensively in one object, not allowing this mind to be split in two. But because our mind has been so busy and chaotic, if you do it for a long period of time, you lose the motivation or you lose focusing, then the mind starts to jump all over the place.
For example, when I did my shinay meditation, like if you put a small object in front of you and completely gazing wholeheartedly, just gazing on that object, till you have a double vision, that time you won’t have two thoughts going. So when you start seeing a double vision, that means you are focusing so much, so then you can relax for a while. When you really put effort and focus very diligently, our eyes start to see like rainbow colours or it starts forming different shapes and forms, that means we are focusing too much.
Those of you, who really want to get into oneness, use short periods of time, five minutes each session. Then relax a while, then again come back to the object. I haven’t been giving all of you any methods, because method does manage to make newcomers and also people who have lot of stress, it makes them more stressful. It really uptights you and even people feel headache etc., because mind refuses. If mind has this idea that you have to refuse everything, rejecting, that’s why in this course I didn’t give you any method. Then I’m thinking your mind has no cause to complain! You are not asking a thing. This should be able to somehow help you to release this tension. It’s very freeing.
So you could use two sort of types of method. When you are so free and do nothing but sleep, then you bring these tense methods. When you feel uptight and can’t breathe and have double vision, then you can do very relaxed type of meditation. Combination of these. You have to think mind is like piano. Sometimes it gets too dry, sometimes too damp, so every time you want to play piano you have to tune it properly. So you don’t just hope thinking “I just go into meditation,” different moods, different states of your mind need to be adjusted. When you feel very tight, tense, then you should physically and mentally relax, ask nothing for your mind, meditate there. Or sometimes you feel so much relaxed and not much focusing, you feel more sleepy. Then you use this more focussed type of meditation, focusing, engaging your mind on object.
Question: Rinpoche, would you give us some advice how to develop more loving-kindness and compassion, to improve motivation?
Lama Yeshe: Well, every Buddhist teaching says: till you have proper loving-kindness, good motivation, we can get nowhere. So it’s very essential part of our dharma practice. Nowadays loving and kindness’s usefulness will come every moment, when people make you angry, when people cause you problems, when things do not go well. That’s where you have to remember to have this loving and kindness instead of getting angry or upset with other people. So I think this day and age is perfect time to plant the seeds of loving and kindness. It becomes useful, we need to use it almost every moment of our life. Like if people are saying something you don’t like, instead of getting upset you can remember loving and kindness. Or if people make you angry, instead of being angry with that, you should use loving and kindness.
So I always think of methods of… lot of these angry human beings, when you give them the fuel, if you argue with them, they get worse and worse. It’s like they need this fuel. So if you really want to help those people, you should think those angry forms like chunk of ice. How you can melt this ice is loving-kindness. You put hot sun light on ice – ice will melt. But you cannot hope to change them or help them by getting angry and upset. The method of loving-kindness, when you are able to develop it, not only it helps other people, it frees you from any unnecessary form of suffering, because you are not allowing anybody to make you angry, upset, because you didn’t see it is useful, you didn’t see it is necessary, so this is very important part of our dharma practice.
So I think it’s very good, my dharma advice to all of you is: I was very happy to see every morning, most of you were able to meditate with me one hour. That’s very good. Then there is no reason why you can’t meditate at home the same amount of time. I advice you to use quiet, small room, never take pen, paper, anything. Trying to meditate in a room of your own is sometimes disaster. Why? You go into your room and meditate, sometimes things don’t go well, so you start to remember what you forgot, then start thinking of your shopping list, things you haven’t done, you haven’t finished cleaning your room or you haven’t phoned somebody, and if you have pen and paper bad habit means you pick up the pen and pen and start writing. It is bad news. So, when you go into this room, no pen, no paper.
When you haven’t remembered this you have to tell yourself: I haven’t given myself one hour to remember my worldly needs. I have given this one hour to find inner peace. Even you remember the most important things, you just ignore it, because I have seen many people do that. And also should not need to take any book, it’s not necessary. That room is only for meditation. Then other times, like if you are travelling, in your office job, if you want to read some nice dharma book, it’s very refreshing. So you could read some books, but during meditation, you should not need to read any books, you should not need to write down anything.
Then, as you are finishing, you have to think: "I want to bring this awareness in every action I do today." So you have to remember this. And to help you to do this then if you like to recite mantra mentally, that reminds you, you need to bring the mindfulness. So then you keep on trying to be mindful all day, possibly before you go into bed, 15 minutes meditation again. Diligently think: “Have I been mindful enough today?” If you haven’t been mindful enough, you need to re-motivate, have stronger wish to be mindful next day.
And also mindfulness means: every one of us knows what is our weakness. Some people have very loose mouth, it means they say things first and then they know the consequences after. That’s not useful, because if you say things [without thinking], hurt other people, then you are feeling bad because you have said something to hurt other people, that’s no use anymore, so you need to remember: saying less is very useful. And saying more meaningful is very meaningful. We in Vajrayana practice think speech is pure, speech is perfect. So when we learn to speak the truth, then speech does give you dignity.
Some people say less, but many people trust them; people say: "We better listen this person or that person, because they really tell the truth." Speech has value. Some people say so many things, deep down in their own mind they want people to listen to them, they want people to actually trust them, but because you haven’t said the truth, people don’t trust you, people don’t listen to you, so no matter how much you talk, it’s useless. To gain respect learning to speak truth is very wonderful thing. So then people appreciate, you haven’t wasted such a precious gift of speech and you are using it properly to bring benefit to others as well as yourself. With right motivation it actually brings happiness.
Our idea is that we speak so that we can help other people, it brings happiness to other beings; speech is very important. So we learn to speak with discipline. Mindfulness, practising regularly and seeing that practice does benefit you and will help you. So, regular practice.
And then, every now and then, if you really get into difficulties, through your practice, if you really get stuck, if you have a teacher, if you have lama, then either writing or telephoning to us, they help. Sometimes having alive teacher is much more meaningful, because if you are going through certain difficult times in your life, you can open the books but they won’t have the answers for your needs. That’s why you need to have some human contact, it’s good to have a reliable teacher who is really there to help you when you really need.
And also, when we say lineage is very safe and well-tested, it means a good teacher will never ever use any of their students for their own benefit. So then students don’t have to have any doubts, because if any teacher is willing to use you for their own benefit, maybe you haven’t got right teacher. Lineage, bodhisattva commitment means teacher has dedicated their life to reach to human beings to help others unconditionally. If they can’t do that, then maybe you are not fortunate enough to meet the right teacher.
So, you should always be very careful when you are looking for a teacher. And once you really feel, out of all human forms, maybe this is the best thing you can ever get, once you give that trust, then for good or bad, whatever happens, just go through it. Not to panic, not trying to change your mind because teacher didn’t tune in your own wishes. Teacher didn’t say what you want teacher to say or think, what you want teacher to think. Teacher should be free from all this worldly manoeuvring, going round and finding out what my students want to hear from me. That’s not good enough. You have to see what my students need, sometimes pain, sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, whatever taste the students need. If teacher is willing and knowing exactly what methods to give, then you really have the right teacher.
So I think that’s what you should do and then if anyone is going today, I wish you safe journey home. I think weather is perfect, road should be safe. From Eskdalemuir we are sending you such a beautiful weather.
Helping the dying
When an elderly person is dying, who has no spiritual belief, that is not the time to teach dharma. That time is there to help them to calm themselves down. Because I have seen people who say: “I never believe in any spirituality, I have no belief. There is nothing after death.” When they die, they are the most fearful human beings. Why? In front of them they can see, their physical form is falling apart, there is something beyond there, there is panic, they are frightened. By that time for those people it’s little bit too late, but we can still give them comfort, help them and say: “If you are able to calm now, if you are able to relax now, that’s what is going to manifest in the other side, after your death.” It is very important to help them to calm themselves down.
And if you are a nurse standing by people who are going to die; symptoms are very simple and easy. When they are definitely dying with the proper sequence, when they are going to die, the five elements are dissolving. Dying person, the sick person will be saying: "I have no warmth, I need a blanket, give me something to keep me warm." That means this person is losing the five elements. Then gradually you can see, people can’t move, can’t function, that means they are losing the wind element. So then it’s all dissolving into… then you can definitely see they are dying. So then gradually we say almost every died person – a tear coming from here, means dissolving the water element. So when you see this, then there is no hope of recovering them, because they properly dissolve in the proper procedure. So all you need is good thought, good motivation.
And also if it is for example your relative, friend, some people when they die, quite number of these, they don’t even know they are dead. So if your relative or friend, if you have strong attachment or desire, they have similar feeling towards you. That we say will bring these people back to samsara. The dying person could not let go of their attachment to relatives or their wealth. Mostly if you are very attached to your wealth, that brings them back, because they are attached. One should be always very careful when person is dying, you send them with pure and good motivation and directing them for whatever you think is best for those people. You mentally guide them and direct them.
Once they take next life form that way the present connection to asking them is cut. Till that there is this lingering connection, so we need to remember to wish them good and not be talking about what you are going to do with their wealth. This is absolutely disaster. Not fighting over what they have, that’s also very terrible. In Tibet if we have say, ten families, when someone dies, we divide everything equally into ten. Whatever things belong to the dying person, we give it to good cause, and good relatives say: “The dying person is worse than us, we can manage our life. So we should give many of our shares to the dying person.” We have a very good culture. We don’t wait for dying person’s wealth. We think it’s a very bad thing. We should be able to give, help and send. I think even if you are not able to do [this], you should not be fighting over their wealth or possessions for some time. Till this person finds next path. Some of these are very important information to all of you. (Dedication.)