Category Archives: Spirituality

Tranquility in Tandem with Vipassana – a harmonised approach to buddhist meditation – Meditation on Emptiness or non-self

The 12 link dependent origination graphically illustrated how we go through samsara – from birth to death to rebirth. To break free from samsara all we needed to do is to break one of these links. Buddhistic spiritual path , if our intention is to be free from samsara, is to break one of these links. We could of course just follow the advice of Buddha and follow the precepts well so that we will have a peaceful life and a good rebirth.

The more important goal for a buddhist is to seek liberation from samsara. For this to happen meditation is essential. In order for meditation to progress fruitfully we must also lead an ethical life.

One of the links that practicing buddhist try to break is the avidya or the “ignorance” link. Avidya do not mean a lack of knowledge but rather knowledge that are inaccurate or wrong. So whatever knowledge we have of the world is not correct or a poor representation of what is real.

Because of our delusions we are not able to see the true nature of reality and i.e. it is empty or devoid of inherent existence particularly our SELF. It exists only because other things exist. We depend on them to continue to exist. When all these collapse , so will we. We cannot exist by ourself.

The meditation on emptiness lead us to realise emptiness or non-self. This realisation breaks the link of ignorance and we are said to have entered the stream. We will take at most 7 lifetimes to break free from samsara.

In the 4th frame of reference “mind qualities” in the satipathana sutta one of the objects of meditation was “Investigation of the nature of reality (dhamma vicaya)” . This essentially is the meditation on emptiness.

The tibetan emptiness meditation used the 4 point analysis and you can look it up. You can try to use the script that they recommend or follow your own.

Zen particularly Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation on interbeing is also a very good script to follow. Personally I like this because of the inherent beauty and gentleness of the approach.

It is important to remember that in vipassana the fruit that we hope to attain is DETACHED OBSERVATION of whatever vipassana objects that we choose.

A number of aspects of vipassana meditation requires us to observe our “thoughts”. So a good practice is to practice observing our thoughts.

Thoughts arise, remain and fall away dependent on causes and conditions. Even when we are not doing anything these thoughts will continue to arise , remain and fall away. So a simple preliminary practice is to just observe these thoughts either with eyes close or open does not matter. We only need to be relaxed and observe – don’t engage with it, don’t say hello to the thoughts, don’t say goodbye, just observe.

You then try to familiarise yourself with the meditative script either using the tibetan, Thich Nhat Hanh or your own. Familiarise it until it is like a nice song that got stucked in our consciousness that gets played over and over again.

One of the fruits of vipassana meditation is to be able to generate a single line of thoughts that is continuous. This is the access meditative state that provide the necessary conditions for insights to arise.

While sitting comfortably , put your concentration on the third eye/ajna and then observe your random thoughts. Shortly after initiate your emptiness meditation script and let it run. You need to just observe the flow of the script and in time insights will start to emerge that is not in the script.

In time liberating insight will arise – when you least expect it. Whatever that you expect is not it. It is your mind’s projection.

Try it.

** this is given in good faith. May all be able to gain much and progress **

Tranquility in Tandem with Vipassana – a harmonised approach to buddhist meditation.

Tranquility in Tandem with Vipassana – a harmonised approach to buddhist meditation.

Yuganaddha Sutta: In Tandem
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.170.than.html

This sutta described how a person could gain arahanthood by one of these 4 methods. The four are :

1. Developed insight preceded by tranquility. These are your jhanayika

2. Developed tranquility preceded by insight. These are your vipassanayika.

3. Developed both tranquility and insight in tandem.

4. Developed niether tranquility nor insight.

1 and 2 are very controversial. Very thick books had been written to argue that their method is best and that vipassana method is wrong if they do not develop tranquility.

I am not joining the debate 🙂 . Suffice to say that vipassana obsession with avoiding the bliss that came from tranquility can some times be harmful. The newsreport of a thai monk cutting off his penis because the bliss he felt during meditation was a distraction is a serious delusion amongst the community. Concentration and mindfulness are 2 inseparable qualities of the mind and both are mutually supportive and complementary.
My interest is in (3) ; the development of both tranquility and insights in tandem. This too has it’s share of controversy. In other sutta it was detailed how mogallana went into jhana state and then used that jhana state for insights and he progressed from first jhana to the fourth and each time went from jhana to insight and not in tandem.

There are also a very small school of thought that felt that both tranquility and insight could be developed simultaneously and the sutta basis is the Atthakanagara Sutta (https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.052.than.html
) .

The commentary work on the suttas had basically ignored this approach.

Before we continue we must first know and understand that many techniques that are currently being taught is not found in the sutta. Many of these works came from the commentaries and the techniques designed by people of old had became a tradition. Some of these techniques would be like the objects used in kasina meditation, naming and labelling of vipassana etc. could not be found anywhere in the sutta.

What is being disclosed is given in good faith and metta and like the above is not found in the sutta. Use it if you think it will benefit yourself. Ignore it if you think this is pure bunkum.

When Buddha was asked what’s the difference between concentration and awareness he gave an example. He said that if you were to take a cup and fill it to the brim and walk along a road and you must not spill a drop of it. You would be looking at the water level intently and that’s concentration. AT THE SAME TIME you would also notice the road and the obstacles on the way and that’s awareness. Both of these faculty actually worked together at the same time. If you wanted a scriptural support for what I am about to offer you can try looking this up 🙂 (eerrh…I forgot which sutta this came from – do post and let me know if you find it )
Concentration meditation requires that the practitioner chooses an appropriate object for concentration . The practitioner then applies his mind in a single-minded fashion on the object without deviating to other physical or mental objects that invade the consciousness. Every time we get distracted and noticed it we bring our mind back to the object of concentration. Some techniques also progressively make this object smaller and smaller.

The choices available for meditation objects are many. Amongst the theravadin the kasina meditation is perhaps much prized and revered. So for this technique we should use a tiny ball of light between the eyebrow. The chakra or energy center stimulated is the ajna chakra. This is quite a safe chakra to use compared to others. The ajna chakra is also where our inner guru resides as it is a center of insights and wisdom. When the ajna is opened you will understand many dharma , not only buddhadharma. When your ajna opened, in buddhism you would have entered the stream and you would know and understand buddha dharma without doubt.

The ball of light could be white, gold or purple colour. Purple is the natural colour frequency of the ajna. A possible fruits of using this object other than bliss would be kasina – the natural light within inner being. If the spontaneous kasina arose you can drop the ball entirely and just concentrate on this kasina. You would be considered as one of the “fortunate ones” by the theravadins.

After stabilizing the ball of light you can increase your meditation further by imagining a second ball much smaller within the outer ball. After stabilizing this let go of the outter ball of light. Repeat to get a finer and finer state of mind. But this is not essential for this tandem approach. Don’t need to if you don’t want to. This can actually help you develop jhana quickly.

Awareness/mindfullness or vipasanna meditation also requires a meditation object. The 4 foundation of meditation specifies 4 references whereby objects could be chosen from. The 4 references are

a. body
b. feelings
c. perception
d. mental formation

Within each of these references are numorous recommended objects of attention that could be used. The keyword here is “attention” as opposed to concentration. We are not supposed to be fixated with the object like in concentration meditation but to be aware of the events arising from the field of attention. We should just let it arise, remain and fall away without us engaging with it. Whenever we engaged with what arosed from within the field of attention by giving commentaries or opinion or preferences or aversion more objects and events will arise.

The jhana in tandem with vipassana approach to meditation uses both the concentration object and the vipassana object simultaneously. As an example if we were to choose the front of ajna chakra as concentration object and breathing as the vipassana object within the body reference then what we do is to place our concentration on the ajna and just be aware of our breathing. We don’t need to wet the tip of our nose or focus on our belly. Our breathing apparatus is actually quite large and it is not difficult to “know” that we are breathing. We don’t need to note it or label it to “know” that we are breathing. It is actually self-evident if we try it for even a shortwhile.

Another useful object to use within the body frame of reference is the visual field. Visual field was not included by the Buddha. The tibetan mahamudra like to use this. What you do is to look for a wide open space like sitting on the side of mountain overlooking a huge lake. Then you do what you did before. Put your concentration on the ajna and open your eyes wide and take in the visual field. Whatever changes or movements within your view you just remain aware of it. Don’t comment, don’t choose etc. Just watch !!

A third object that can be used is the aural field. In tibetan buddhism the aural capacity is the last to go when we die. So while we may be comatose , just about to pass away and all those wonderful relatives were to argue in front of you it could cause distress for you. The method is the same. Concentrate, close your eyes and just listen. Whatever that came up don’t joint the “conversation” in your mind. Just observe – let it rise , remain and fall away. Don’t invite them to stay by keeping a distant detachment from it.

Then there is walking meditation. Concentrate on your ajna and then walk naturally without trying to control it’s pace. If you play the script in your mind of up,up,up,up…fwd,fwd,fwd…down,down,down,down it is not awareness of your body but the script within perception. Using the perception frame of reference as a vipassana object requires further explanation and will not be covered here.

The second frame of reference is feeling. Within this frame there are 3 sensations and i.e. pleasant, neutral and unpleasant. We can choose one sensation such as eating delicious food. We can be aware of the pleasant sensation or if the chilli was too hot the unpleasant sensation. What is important here is not to chase after the pleasant sensations. If you find it delicious you kept eating it faster and faster. Just relax and let the pleasant sensation sink it and be aware of it. You really do not need to say “delicious, delicious” to know that it is delicious 🙂

Even sexual encounter could be used for this practice and the mahamudra uses such an approach.

There are certain things to take note of. If you feel sore at the point between the eyebrow it is alright. Just don’t use concentration but instead continue using the vipassana object. If your concentration is strong you may experience headaches. What you can do is to visualise the ball of light just above the head. You may be able to feel the energy flowing upwards. This will relieve the headache. If this happened then you need to pull back from using this for a shortwhile. Do some yoga or taichi.

In this technique you could switch between concentration and awareness or use both at the same time. It is having the best of both worlds…..no need to fight or argue over who is best 🙂 .

Hope whoever reading this would try it and may you find much success in your spiritual practice.

Wheels of Enlightenment : love and wisdom

Love without wisdom is blind.
Wisdom without love is powerless.
Love and wisdom complements and complete each other.

Life become a quest when we sincerely pursue both love and wisdom.
Life become a burden when instead of finding love and wisdom we found material satisfaction. Fame, fortune and power blind us and consume us.

The day we realised it is a burden is the day that we realise that love and wisdom are within.

We come home when the heart and mind is quietened.

Expanding One’s Consciousness ; A Misguided Approach to Spiritual Advancement

The recommendation :

(http://www.e-buddhism.com/2016/09/9-powerful-ways-to-expand-your.html)

======== My Reply ===============
We have 6 consciousness, according to theravadin teaching. 8 consciousness in mahayana teaching.

Each of the consciousness is associated with each of our 6 senses. Our consciousness + sense contact give rise to sense object.

Expanding this consciousness is often a bad idea.We overstimulate our sense of self. Expanding these consciousness would be same as expanding our self/ego.

Buddha in the theravadin sutra spoke of another consciousness. This consciousness is NOT ASSOCIATED with anything physical.This is the consciousness without bound (viññāṇa anidassana) . This consciousness is already without bound and you can’t expand it. The reason we have not experienced these hightened state of consciousness is because we are mired by our 6 sense consciousness. These 6 sense consciousness are like a prison cell. If we could drop them the unbounded consciousness will naturally and spontaneously arose. This can only be done through meditation.

Buddha and 4 wives

Why Buddha Said Every Man and Woman Has 4 Wives or Husbands

“In one of the Agama Sutras, the Buddha’s early sermons, there is a very interesting story:

Once there was a man who had four wives. According to the social system and circumstances of ancient India, it was possible for a man to have several wives. Also, during the Heian period in Japan, about a thousand years ago, it was not unusual for a woman to have several husbands. The Indian had become ill and was about to die. At the end of his life, he felt very lonely and so asked the first wife to accompany him to the other world.

‘My dear wife,’ he said, ‘I loved you day and night, I took care of you throughout my whole life. Now I am about to die, will you please go with me wherever I go after my death?’

He expected her to answer yes. But she answered, ‘My dear husband, I know you always loved me. And you are going to die. Now it is time to separate from you. Goodbye, my dear.’

He called his second wife to his sickbed and begged her to follow him in death. He said, ‘My dear second wife, you know how I loved you. Sometimes I was afraid you might leave me, but I held on to you strongly. My dear, please come with me.’

The second wife expressed herself rather coldly. ‘Dear husband, your first wife refused to accompany you after your death. How can I follow you? You loved me only for your own selfish sake.’

Lying in his deathbed, he called his third wife, and asked her to follow him. The third wife replied, with tears in her eyes, ‘My dear, I pity you and I feel sad for myself. Therefore I shall accompany you to the graveyard. This is my last duty to you.’ The third wife thus also refused to follow him to death.

Three wives had refused to follow him after his death. Now he recalled that there was another wife, his fourth wife, for whom he didn’t care very much. He had treated her like a slave and had always showed much displeasure with her. He now thought that if he asked her to follow him to death, she certainly would say no.

But his loneliness and fear were so severe that he made the effort to ask her to accompany him to the other world. The fourth wife gladly accepted her husband’s request.

‘My dear husband,’ she said, ‘I will go with you. Whatever happens, I am determined to be with you forever. I cannot be separated from you.”

This is the story of ‘A Man and His Four Wives.’

Gautama Buddha concluded the story as follows:
‘Every man and woman has four wives or husbands. What do these wives signify?’

THE FIRST WIFE
The first ‘wife’ is our body. We love our body day and night. In the morning, we wash our face, put on clothing and shoes. We give food to our body. We take care of our body like the first wife in this story. But unfortunately, at the end of our life, the body, the first ‘wife’ cannot follow us to the next world. As it is stated in a commentary, ‘When the last breath leaves our body, the healthy color of the face is transformed, and we lose the appearance of radiant life. Our loved ones may gather around and lament, but to no avail. When such an event occurs, the body is sent into an open field and cremated, leaving only the white ashes.’ This is the destination of our body.

THE SECOND WIFE
What is the meaning of the second wife? The second ‘wife’ stands for our fortune, our material things, money, property, fame, position, and job that we worked hard to attain. We are attached to these material possessions. We are afraid to lose these material things and wish to possess much more. There is no limit. At the end of our life these things cannot follow us to death. Whatever fortune we have piled up, we must leave it. We came into this world with empty hands. During our life in this world, we have the illusion that we obtained a fortune. At death, our hands are empty. We can’t hold our fortune after our death, just as the second wife told her husband: ‘You hold me with your ego-centered selfishness. Now it is time to say goodbye.’

THE THIRD WIFE
What is meant by the third wife? Everyone has a third ‘wife’. This is the relationship of our parents, sister and brother, all relatives, friends, and society. They will go as far as the graveyard, with tears in their eyes. They are sympathetic and saddened…

Thus, we cannot depend on our physical body, our fortune, and our society. We are born alone and we die alone. No one will accompany us after our death.

THE FOURTH WIFE
Sakyamuni Buddha mentioned the fourth wife, who would accompany her husband after his death. What does that mean? The fourth ‘wife’ is our mind [or Alaya consciousness]. When we deeply observe and recognize that our minds are filled with anger, greed, and dissatisfaction, we are having a good look at our lives. The anger, greed, and dissatisfaction are karma, the law of causation.We cannot be separated from our own karma. As the fourth wife told her dying husband, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’”

Belief System

All of us have it. Without it we will be lost. We rely on it to understand events and people. Same event and same person may evoke different responses in different people. The difference lies in what we believe of the event or the person.

This basically demonstrated a simple truth that all our beliefs are actually false. We can get better approximation of the truths if we persevere and honest in seeking out the truths but the truth will always elude us.

The reason for our incomplete understanding of the truth was put rather graphically and aptly by Buddha. He gave the illustration of the 6 blind men trying to figure out what the elephant was. These 6 blind men referred to our 6 sense base of sight, sound, touch, smell, taste and mental objects.

Rationalism, in which science is based on, also rely on these 6 sense base and Godel’s incompleteness theorem clearly demonstrated and proven mathematically that ALL our rational thoughts can never be complete. We can get closer and closer towards a better understanding but the complete truth will always elude us.

Yet each of us often counted on such imperfect tools in our day-to-day interactions with others and often we thought we were correct in our assessment of events and others and are unwilling or perhaps incapable of considering other possibilities. And we proceeded to invest heavily our emotions , our speech and actions in sustaining a false belief.

Buddha taught a different way out of this rationalism quandary and i.e. the development or rather revelation of another aspect of our mind ; the penetrating luminosity of our mind. When the rational mind is quieted this luminous quality of the mind get to express itself. The result is insight. Insights often give us a wholistic view of events and of people and by its very nature the mind becomes flexible, pliable and in time free.

Mindfulness – the mechanics

Mindfulness – The Chinese character 念 is composed of two parts, the top 今 meaning “now; this” and bottom 心 signifying “heart; mind.”

Mindfulness = “mind is here and now”
Mindfulness_image
Our mind is invaded by 6 senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and mental objects.

If we focus on mental objects (thinking) there is every likelihood that we will exclude other sensations and missed out a lot of events that happened around us. Are we still mindful ?

Often, especially efficient multitaskers, we dart from focusing on one sense objects to others and seem to take everything in. This is a very stressful state.
Are we still mindful ?

Bare awareness has no preference , no judgement and as a result the inner dialogue die by itself very quickly. This state of awareness is alert but as it does not engage all the sensations our memory and conditioning are not triggered to come into play and as a consequence nothing is stored as well.

Karma and our Mouth

While having breakfast this morning there was a shouting match going on just behind me. People were running away. I turned around and saw an indian man shouting at an old chinese man and it would seemed he was about to smash the old man’s face in.

The indian man was accusing the chinese man of maligning him to others and simply adding all kinds of mental projections on what had happened.

I knew that old man as well and had spoken with him just 2 weeks back at a coffeeshop. He was talking to a few people next to my table about karma and how our present life – for better or for worst was a result of past lives bad actions. His mouth just could not stop talking. He then came over to my table and started talking about how fortunate he was. He doesn’t have any pain or aches even though he was already 60+ reaching 70 soon.  I asked him how about bad karma created by one’s mouth ?  He looked at me stunned and then walked away to do his chores. A short while later he came back and then answered my question. He said his words never hurt anyone and further since there is no action so there is no karma.

I went on to give him an example of how our words could literally kill someone and how it could actually cause tremendous amount of harm to others. He disagreed and we left our separate ways.

Buddha reminded us to guard our thoughts, speech and actions as all of them come together to create the causes and environment in which karmic seeds were created. To believe that only physical harm could cause bad karma is gross misunderstanding of what Buddha had taught and those who propagate it is being irresponsible.

Today’s event was a grim reminder of this simple truth as taught by Buddha.

 

Free Inquiry and Critical Analysis

The things that we believe

A few years back I visited thailand and stayed for a month. Inevitably the question of my experiences with prostitute would crop up when this was revealed. No one would believe it that I had not engaged in such carnal delights. Offers of carnal delights were very commonplace in the land of the smile – including an offer to be a wife for a month.

Buddha once said that the truth is the truth even if no one believe in it. A lie is a lie even if 10,000 people believe in it. In that simple aphorism Buddha made it clear that truth and what we believe to be true are 2 separate matter. What is even more important is that truth can never be established by the sheer number of people believing in it.

What then is our belief mechanism ? If we understand this we would then be less likely to be manipulated by others with their “truth” or lies conveyed as indisputable “truth” to serve some malicious agenda or Buddha forbid, some kindness agenda. We can be cruel without even knowing it when our indisputable belief is strong.

A good place to start in understanding how our belief system is formed is to look at kalama sutta. The free inquiry advocated there is actually a key to unlocking much of our false perception and subtle cruelty. Free inquiry is very different from critical analysis that many of us use. Critical analysis , as in all analysis and synthesis, fools us into a false sense of having attained or understand the truth of reality. Critical analysis is compelling mainly because it falsely believe that it had examined all angle critically.

How beliefs are formed….

The mental process of critical analysis often begin with what we thought to be the facts of a case or event. We then quickly construct through a series of premise of “if this then that” to try to piece together or make sense of the facts. Oftentimes if we are not too careful we subtly fill in the “missing facts” to make our theory more convincing. Con men and manipulators are very good at filling in “missing facts” and make it look real , authentic and hence convincing. Critical analysis dictates that we challenge the facts as well as the assumptions, sometimes hidden, in the conclusion we make. Such repeated challenges, supposedly we were told by objective and rational gurus , we will arrive at higher truths.

In truth ALL rationality begin from the known and finally arrive at the known. This knowledge that we seem to give so much respect and accorded a sacrosanct status are flawed and incomplete and hence the higher truth will always be missed. This higher truth is often a repackaging of the obvious.

In critical analysis we often come up with competing theories and understanding. In order to work ourselves out of analysis paralysis many highly intelligent people come up with principles to select what is most likely to be true. The best known of these is Occam’s razor which states that the theory with the least assumptions are often the most likely to be true.

Any honest person will acknowledge that the statement “MOST LIKELY to be true” meant that we really don’t know for certain.

Free inquiry….

In kalama sutta Buddha set forth a different approach to understanding our sensate world. This approach is given some fanciful name of “free inquiry” and this is often mistaken for critical analysis that all of us use as a matter of habit without even realising it. Therein lies the subtle self deception.

At the very beginning of this approach Buddha told us to abandon all that we hold valuable and sacred as the basis for our beliefs. If we are able to abandon such mental support, space is then created in our hearts and mind. Such abandonment is NOT CONDITIONAL. It is NECESSARY to free our mind. We have to understand another aspect of free inquiry is that the freedom created is not that our thoughts could wander from one notion to another. The moment thoughts invade our consciousness , freedom is lost. Mental freedom can still exist even when there is a lot of thoughts if these thoughts do not invade into our “consciousness without bound”

Free inquiry arose spontaneously when there is ample space for insights to arise. Clarity and understanding fills our being. Choiceless choice will then guide our inquiry. Only then can true compassion arise.

Be still and know that I am ..

      Meditation seem a big thing in buddhism. Everyone seem to talk about it and very few actually sit. Many misconception surrounds meditation. We often believe that we can get peace of mind, the stillness of mind when we meditate but in truth we can only meditate when we have peace of mind.  The noble 8-fold path was designed by budda precisely to achieve this. Only with the peace of mind of an ethical conduct can we achieve meditative state that will lead to liberation. A non-ethical mind can never find peace. It is always finding ways and means to prop up the ego base, to appear good and honourable and to be accepted by others.

      Every spiritual tradition that I know of spoke of this stillness. We often mistake this stillness for the stillness of the mind where there’s no more thoughts. Thoughtlessness brought about by forced of concentration (jhana) is NOT meditation and will not lead to liberation. Such thoughtlessness, while pleasant and blissful, dulls the mind. We become stupefied by the dalliance of bliss, calmness, colour and possibly even smell.

      How then do we become still ? The key lies in awareness. The teaching of satipathana sutta is the key teaching that will help us develop this awareness and through awareness stillness is seen.  But before we can get down to the mechanics of this meditation we have to know what is awareness and what is stillness. Without knowing it we will never have the requisite feedback to know if we are doing it correctly.

     Buddha was asked once what was the difference between awareness and concentration and buddha gave the example of holding up a cup of water that is filled to the brim. We hold it in front of us and then walk up a mountain side(according to tibetan buddhist story – zen has a different version and so does the amitabha group). The focus of the mind on the brim helps us to adjust ourselves to prevent spillage. The peripheral vision provide us with sense objects but the mind is on AWARE of its presence but is unable to interpret it and therefore do not KNOW what it is. If it knows what the object is then the mind had darted over to it, interpreted it. We have then lost our awareness in our "knowing". 

      This is where many hinaya teachings on the satipathana sutta became distorted. There is the believe that "knowing" mentioned in the sutta means perception and therefore labelling it is a legitimate technique to cultivate awareness and thence insight. But the complete sentence in the sutta was "know the body in the body", "feeling in the feeling", "perception in perception" etc. Labelling a body sensation with the perceptual faculty would be to place the body in the perception ; contravening what buddha wanted us to "know". 

      The example given by buddha on what awareness means is very clear. It is the state where our consciousness stop to project or are captivated by the objects that arise from the senses, the feeling skandha, the perception skandha and the volition skandha. Let’s take an example.

     If we stand on the side of a street, we have people and cars all moving pass in front of us. If we see a foxy lady and our mind says wow! she’s beautify we have engaged our consciousness with the external object by projecting on to it our opinion. Beauty is from our mind and not from the object. If we follow her and entertain all manner of naughty thoughts then our consciousness is captivated by the desires that arose in us. The desires again is from our side and not from the external object.

     If all the people who pass us by are strangers then most of the time our consciousness don’t engage them unless something out of the ordinary jars us out of our "stupor". Such a mind is not aware. It is dulled by boredom and self-absorption of the thoughts that emerge randomly in our mindstream. When someone we know came into view immediately there’s recognition and our mind take on a different train of thought. Our consciousness is drawn by this new sensation. 

     Meditative awareness is sensitive, alive, open and free. Only with this awareness can we know what is stillness. So where can we find stillness ?

     We can go to a mountain overlooking a bright open expanse. The breeze is blowing gently and the eagle soar gracefully overhead. Within this scenic atmosphere there is a stillness.

      We can go to the side of a roaring volcano where all lifeforms are retreating in great haste to safety. There were much fear and trepidation and even the trees sway in great apprehension. Within all the turbulence there is stillness.

      We next find our way to a mountain stream with water falling in thunderous applause on to the valley below. In the quiet recesses in one corner was a insect skirting on the water surface. The sun was glaring down with great intensity. In the midst of all the symphonic movements of nature there is stillness.

        Coming home to a city in a busy thoroughfare. Impatient drivers were swerving in and out of the traffic lane. And irate drivers were blaring away with their horns. And sweet and sickly smelling ladies with their cheap perfume were quickly making their way through the crowd to get home. In all the haste and heightened pace of life there’s stillness.

        What is this stillness that only our pristine awareness can discern ? In fact it is the discernment of this stillness of all of life and reality that is the true measure of this meditative awareness. This awareness never chooses, never engage, never project and is never captivated and therefore always free. This is pristine awareness that leads to insight and to liberation – it is sensitive, vibrant, alert and full of live and death. We can never have life without death. But you may argue that this is a paradox because how could an alert and sensitive consciousness be still ?  Even when there’s a lot of thoughts the consciousness can still be in a state of pristine awareness when we do not project on to the thoughts, engage and chase after it. All the thoughts rise, remain and fall dependent on conditions and causes. When this happens the volition skandha is de-activated and no emotions, no volition and therefore no karma will be created.  It is this state that we read in diamond sutra that "we should give rise to a thought that rest no where." Or in the Song of Mahamudra according to Tilopa :

      Mahamudra is beyond all words and symbols,
          but for you, Naropa, earnest and loyal, must this be said :

                     The void needs no reliance,
                          Mahamudra rests on nought.

                      Without making an effort, but remaining loose and natural,
                           one can break the yoke – thus gaining liberation.

      Why is pristine awareness sensitive, alert etc ?  Let’s consider what happen when we are not in this state. If we look at a beautifully decorated ice-cream we feel delight. Here our consciousness is engaged with one sense object. When we start to eat it our consciousness is again engaged. When desires arose and thoughts that threatened to make us feel guilty our consciousness are captivated by these desire and hatred. In short when we focused or pay attention to only one sense object at a time we unconsciously shut out all the rest. This is why our consciousness is not alive and is sleeping within the confine of its thoughts and sense objects.

       But if we can disentangle our consciousness from sense objects our consciousness become free…our whole being come alive and tingle and become vibrant even up to the cellular level – we become one with all of life. Then and only then will this stillness be seen for the first time. This is mahamudra – the great perfection, the great peace – the consciousness without limit.

          
        Be still and you will know…….