Three New Books Fromsnow Lion Publications

The following article is from the Summer, 1993 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Ancient Wisdom
Training the Mind in the Great
Way What Color is Your Mind

ANCIENT WISDOM Nyingma Teachings of Dream Yoga, Meditation and Transformation

by Gyatrul Rinpoche 150 pp., #ANWI $14.95 Available now!

If dharma practices are condensed into the most essential activities necessary to accomplish realization, one must consider how time is spent during formal practice, during various daily activities and during the night. Essential teachings containing practical instructions for these three periods were chosen and elaborated upon by the Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche. The first is one of the most direct and useful dream yoga accomplishment manuals available. The second is one of the most useful manuals for the Dzogchen meditation practices of shamatha and vipassana and was written by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche. The third selection, entitled Transforming Felicity and Adversity into the Spiritual Path, is a contemporary classic for improving the quality of daily life experiences.

Here's an excerpt of Gyatrul Rinpoche's commentary on meditation:

What is the benefit of peacefully abiding, allowing the mind to remain still, in a natural state which is motionless? Until you are able to develop quiescence, you will not be able to control or suppress deluded mental afflictions. They will continue to arise and control the mind. The only way to get a handle on that and put an end to it is to accomplish quiescence. Once that is accomplished, all other spiritual qualities will arise from that basis, such as superknowledge, clairvoyance, the ability to see into the minds of others, to recall the past, and so forth. These are mundane qualities that arise on the path but are developed only after the mind can abide peacefully. Qualities such as heightened awareness and clairvoyance must be developed, because it is through them that one is able to understand and realize the fundamental nature of the mind. As it says in the Bodhicharyavatara, one of the m^ important mahayana texts, Having developed enthusiasm in this way, I should place my mind in concentration; for one whose mind is distracted dwells between the fangs of mental afflictions.

An individual who has been able to accomplish quiescence will no longer be overpowered by attachment to ordinary activities and contact with worldly people. The mind automatically turns from attachment and attraction to cyclic existence, because quiescence is the experience of mental contentment and bliss which is far more sublime than ordinary attractions that arise from confused perception. When the mind is at peace, it can then be directed to concentrate undistractedly for indefinite periods of time. Quiescence destroys delusion because mental afflictions do not arise when one is experiencing the equipoise of single-pointed concentration.

People who have achieved quiescence naturally experience compassion as they view the predicament in which other living beings are ensnared. Pure compassion arises as they begin to clearly perceive the nature of emptiness in all aspects of reality. These are only a few of many qualities as taught by the Buddha which are the direct result of accomplishing quiescence.

Quiescence is the preparation and basis for the main practice which is the cultivation of the primordial wisdom of insight. These two meditations are complementary. The success that one has in developing insight is dependent on the success that one has with developing quiescence. If you are able to develop quiescence only to a certain degree, then your experience of insight will be limited. However, if you are able to fully accomplish quiescence, then you will be able to fully perfect insight as well. If that is the case, then that is as good as saying perfect enlightenment will be realized.

Now as for accomplishing quiescence, initially you should try to practice in a place which is isolated, quiet, and comfortable. It is important to feel comfortable and content in the place you have chosen to meditate. After arranging a comfortable cushion to be seated upon, assume a very straight sitting posture. The seven-point posture of Buddha Vairocana is ideal. Otherwise, be sure to sit so that the spine is erect. If you are sitting in a cross-legged position, then the best position to sit in is the full lotus. If you are unable to sit in full lotus, you can sit in a cross-legged position and elevate your buttocks a bit so that your back will be straight. Otherwise you may sit in a chair so that your back is straight. Keeping your spine straight, you should bend your head down a bit so that the chin is slightly tucked in and allow the gaze to go out over the tip of the nose. Allow the tip of the tongue to barely touch the roof of the mouth in a natural way so that the mouth is neither tightly closed nor gaping open. The arms and hands should be down to the sides. If you are sitting in a cross-legged position, the hands can be placed right over left in your lap. Otherwise, if you are sitting in a chair, they can hang naturally.

The sitting posture is very important and so is the position of the speech. Allow the speech to be silentno talking, no making of sounds, just natural breathing. There is nothing else to do other than remain calm and natural.

The position of the mind is to avoid recalling events of the past, anticipating future events, and contriving or controlling the present moment. Just allow yourself to remain natural and at ease. Whatever arises should be allowed to be as it is without alteration or adjustment.

To allow your mind to rest in the natural state is easier said than done. The main reason for that is because, from countless past lifetimes until now, you have established habitual instincts, mental impressions that make your mind chaotic and full of countless varieties of conceptual proliferations. In order to achieve peace, you must employ techniques. This does not mean that you should try to control thoughts by recalling, anticipating, or altering the experience. But rather, as you begin, you should attempt to place the mind upon an object so that the mind can focus and calm down. The use of objects on which to place the mind corresponds to the three kayas. The first step is the nirmanakaya method and is accomplished by using an image of Buddha Shakyamuni appearing as the nirmanakaya buddha (embodiment of intentional manifestation). An image of Buddha Shakyamuni is positioned directly in front of you so that you will gaze naturally upon it.

The second step is the sambhogakaya method accomplished by using an image of Vajrasattva appearing as the sambhogakaya buddha (embodiment of complete rapture). The third step, the dharmakaya method, is accomplished by visualizing an image of Vajradhara in the center of the heart. Once quiescence is accomplished in these three stages, you are ready to begin quiescence practice with no elaborations at all.

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TRAINING THE MIND IN THE GREAT WAY

by the First Dalai Lama trans. & ed. by Glenn H. Mullin 170 pp. #TRMIGR $12.95 Available now!

The attitude of self-cherishing and the habit of ego-grasping are considered by Buddhist teachers as the two greatest enemies to happiness and peace of mind. By practicing the lojong methods for developing great compassion and the blissful wisdom of emptiness presented in this famous teaching by the First Dalai Lama, these two syndromes can be transformed and eventually overcome.

Excerpts from the Foreword by the Dalai Lama:

The tradition of Lojong Dondunma, or Seven Points for Training the Mind, is an oral transmission of meditative techniques for spiritual development that comes down to us in a line of transmission deriving from the Indonesian Buddhist master Serlingpa, who lived in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. Serlingpa studied in India for many years, and then returned to his homeland of Shri Vijaya. Numerous lineages from him were brought to Tibet by the venerable Atisha Dipamkara, who had travelled to Indonesia from India and trained there for twelve years. Atisha later was invited to the Land of Snows, and taught the Tibetans until his death. It is said that although he had studied with many different teachers, his Indonesian guru Serlingpa remained most close to his heart, and that tears would come to his eyes whenever he even mentioned this master's name.

Of all the teachings given by Atisha in Tibet, the lojong cycle from Serlingpa is considered the most quintessential. This cycle of instructions are prized by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and have profoundly influenced the sentiment of Tibetan spirituality in general. Over the centuries we Tibetans have drawn strength, courage and joy from the precious lojong instruction.

We can spend our life trying to tame the world, a task that would never end; or we can take the more practical path of taming our own minds. The latter is by far the more effective approach, and brings the most immediate, stable and lasting solution. It contributes to our own inner happiness, and also contributes to establishing an atmosphere of peace and harmony in the world around us.

As the Buddha has said, The mind is the forerunner of all events. One way of understanding this line is that if our mind is positive, then our activities of body and speech, and thus our lifestyle, immediately become positive. This automatically renders them conducive to happiness for ourselves and those around us. On the other hand when the mind is negative, then our activities of body and speech, and thus our lifestyle, become negative. This automatically contributes to frustration and unhappiness for ourselves and others.

Not only does the state of our mind dramatically affect the way in which we choose to shape our future, it also significantly influences the manner in which we experience the present moment. I have often pointed out to Tibetans that the lojong teaching is one of the principal sources of our strength as a people. It has helped us tremendously over the recent decades of hardship and suffering brought upon us by the Chinese invasion and brutal occupation of our homeland. I advise my people that if we rely upon the ideals of compassion and wisdom as taught in our spiritual traditions for so many centuries, and as expressed so well in the lojong teaching, then nothing the Chinese military does to us can harm us. In the end we will endure and succeed. On the other hand, if we give up the spiritual ideals that have characterized us as a people for so long, values that we as a culture can bring into the modern world as our small contribution to world civilization, then even if we win our struggle for self-determination we will have suffered a greater loss.

The First Dalai Lama's lojong commentary illustrates the commitment to the ideals of love, compassion and wisdom that characterized Tibetan Buddhism when he composed this work some five-and-a-half centuries ago.

We need to train the mind in the bodhisattva ways, in the practices that induce the qualities of kindness, love, compassion, tolerance, inner strength, wisdom, and so forth. When we do that, we immediately become happier and more balanced people, and we contribute to happiness and harmony around us.

At present the world is not lacking in the technology of war. Our weapons of destruction are everywhere, and more are being produced every day, their sophistication and power constantly increasing. But what we are lacking is the technology of peace, the technology to produce love, kindness, and open-heartedness. Material development is useful and necessary, but unless linked to a corresponding development of humane spiritual vision it will not only be useless, but also harmful and counter-productive to the achievement of happiness during our life on this earth. The destruction of the environment and the extinction of numerous forms of wildlife are examples of how material technology devoid of spiritual sensitivity can have disastrous results.

Some of the lojong ideas may seem limited to a specific time and situation; but the essence carries a timeless message. This message recommends that we transcend spiritual pettiness and egocentric behavior, and instead learn to see ourselves in the context of a commitment to universal responsibility. We have to look less at what we can grab for ourselves from this world and from others, and more at how we can be useful in a universal sense.

Greed has no end, and from the beginning produces no happiness. This was expressed by the holy Indian master Shantideva, when he wrote, The buddhas care only for others; worldly beings care only for themselves. Just look at the difference between the two. If we can become more like the former, like the buddhas and bodhisattvas, then we ourselves will become the immediate and direct beneficiaries of the consequent spiritual rewards.

I myself received the lojong teachings of holy Serlingpa when still a child, and have used them as the basis of my practice since that time. I include the lojong methods of meditation for cultivating the spirit of love and compassion in my own daily devotions, and have greatly benefited from them. There are several lojong texts that I memorized as a child, and I still recite these every day.

For me, the lojong tradition stands as the heart of the Buddha's message of peace. It teaches us how to regard others with the dignity and care that they deserve, and also how to transcend the limitations of conventional ego-grasping. Kindness is a universal need, and it is something that we all appreciate being shown.

I offer my prayers that an English translation of the First Dalai Lama's important text on lojong may contribute to the spirit of love and kindness in this world, and to an understanding of the rich spiritual heritage that once existed in the Land of Snow Mountains.

WHAT COLOR IS YOUR MIND?

by Thubten Chodron 192 pp.#WHCOMI $12.95 Available Now!

This is a Buddhist approach to the concerns of daily life and a variety of contemporary issues. Written in clear and engaging language for people who are new to Buddhism, What Color is Your Mind? is also interesting to people who have studied and practiced for years. The first section of the book responds to questions people often ask about Buddhism: What is re-birth? How is Buddhism helpful in working with emotions? How can we practice in daily life? Thubten Chodron has taught widely and enjoys learning and teaching through questions. It wakes you up! she says.

The second section, Working with Anger, describes practical techniques for dealing with our own and others' anger. Although the Buddha is usually thought of as a religious leader, he was also a consummate psychologist and peacemaker. The approach presented here emerges from the author's discussions with mental health professionals, people in therapy and conflict mediators, and is based upon the Buddha's unique prescription for transforming anger.

Thubten Chodron has presented the Buddhist view on essential issues of spiritual development. . .a tremendous resource for those interested in Buddhist practice.

Ven. Thubten Chodron is especially skillful in presenting Buddhist philosophy and practices in ways that are easily accessible and practical for Buddhists who live in the Western world.Ven. Hung I Shih, Jade Buddha Temple

Excerpts from the text:

What is an empowerment? Why are some teachings secret?

The purpose of empowerment is to ripen one's mindstream for the tantric practice by making a connection with the deity, who is a manifestation of the omniscient mind. One can't receive empowerment merely by being present in the room where an empowerment is taking place. Rather, people must meditate and visualize as the master instructs. Nor is empowerment having a vase placed on one's head, or drinking blessed water, or tying a consecrated string around one's arm. An empowerment ripens one's own potential through making a connection with a particular manifestation of the Buddha. This depends on having a virtuous motivation and on concentrating and meditating during the empowerment ceremony.

After empowerment, sincere practitioners seek instructions on how to do the practice. These instructions are not given before the empowerment because the students' minds aren't yet prepared to practice them. For this reason they are secret. It's not that the Buddha was miserly and didn't want to share the teachings, nor is tantric practice the possession of an exclusive club that jealously guards its secrets. Rather, tantric instruction is given only to those who have received empowerment to ensure that those engaging in the practice have been properly prepared. Otherwise, someone might misunderstand the symbolism employed in the tantra or engage in advanced and complex practices without proper preparation and instruction.

Are all desires bad? What about the desire to attain nirvana or enlightenment?

This confusion occurs because sometimes the English word desire is used to translate two different Buddhist concepts. There are different kinds of desire. The desire that is problematic exaggerates the good qualities of an object, person or idea and clings to it. Such desire is a form of attachment. An example is being very emotionally dependent on someone and clinging to him or her. When we look with a more balanced attitude, we'll see that the other person isn't nearly as fantastic as our attachment leads us to believe.

On the other hand, the desire that spurs us to prepare for future lives or to attain nirvana or enlightenment is completely different. Here we realize that better states of being are possible and we develop a realistic aspiration to achieve them. No misconceptions are involved, nor is there clinging to the desired result.

What is offered on the shrine?

Anything we consider beautiful can be offered. Traditional offerings are water, flowers, incense, light, perfume and food, but we can offer other things as well. Water is offered each morning and removed at the end of the day. It is thrown in a clean place or sprinkled over flowers and plants. Food that is offered should be removed from the shrine before it spoils. We may eat it or give it to others, although food that has been offered on the shrine isn't generally fed to animals.

Is there a symbolic meaning to each offering?

Yes. Flowers represent the qualities of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, incense the fragrance of pure ethics. Light symbolizes wisdom, and perfume represents confidence in the holy beings. Offering food is like offering the nourishment of meditative concentration, and music symbolizes impermanence and the empty nature of all phenomena.

While we may physically offer one flower, mentally we can imagine the entire sky filled with beautiful floweis and offer these as well. It enriches our minds to imagine lovely things and then offer them to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Similarly, we can offer things mentally without placing them on the shrine. For example, when we see beautiful things in showcase windows or witness the loveliness of nature, we can mentally offer these to the Buddhas. This helps us avoid attachment to these things.

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