Spiritual Liberation – Some Basic Practice Instructions

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Take your time with each of these, really take your time with them…

1. Do not get involved with life. Allow the body-mind to look after itself. Allow everything to come and go.

2. Relax and be still.

3. Do not take yourself to be a person, a body-mind. Here the questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘From where does ‘I’ arise?’ can be useful initially, as can the assertions ‘I am not the body-mind-world’ and ‘I am That’. Relaxation and stillness are also useful here.

4. To rest in that state where one is aware but no ‘I’ thought arises is stillness. In time resting here will lead to realisation, but there must be no thought of realisation as this itself is a disturbance, a distortion.

5. Know that all is nothing,
Everything is nothing,
Nothing is here…
There is only That…

…not even That.

 

Tibetan Buddhism: Free and Easy by Gendun Rinpoche

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This is a beautiful and profound ‘vajra poem’. It was given spontaneously by Gendun Rinpoche, a late Tibetan Buddhist rinpoche (teacher), during a talk to his disciples. A book of his teachings called Heart Advice from a Mahamudra Master is highly recommended and teaches all the essentials of Tibetan Buddhism from someone who has a genuine experience of the truth that lies behind the words.

Happiness can not be found
through great effort and willpower,
but is already present,
in open relaxation and letting go.

Don’t strain yourself,
there is nothing to do or undo.
Whatever momentarily arises
in the body-mind
has no real importance at all,
has little reality whatsoever.
Why identify with,
and become attached to it,
passing judgment upon it and ourselves?

Far better to simply
let the entire game happen on its own,
springing up and falling back like waves
without changing or manipulating anything
and notice how everything vanishes and reappears, magically,
again and again, time without end.

Only our searching for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It’s like a vivid rainbow which you pursue
without ever catching,
or a dog chasing its own tail.

Although peace and happiness
do not exist as an actual thing or place,
it is always available
and accompanies you every instant.

Don’t believe in the reality of good and bad experiences;
they are like today’s ephemeral weather,
like rainbows in the sky.

Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax
this tight fist of grasping,
infinite space is there –
open, inviting and comfortable.

Make use of this spaciousness,
this freedom and natural ease.
Don’t search any further
looking for the great awakened elephant,
who is already resting quietly at home
in front of your own hearth.

Nothing to do or undo,
nothing to force,
nothing to want,
and nothing missing –

Emaho! Marvelous!
Everything happens by itself.

Dzogchen: Self-liberation in the fundamental nature

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Here are some more verses from the Kunjed Gyalpo (The Supreme Source), one of the most important texts in Tibetan Buddhism and Dzogchen. These words point the reader directly towards Enlightenment. See my earlier posts on the Kunjed Gyalpo here and here.

In the except below the first section initially directs us to listen to these teachings and realise the inherent liberation that is already present ‘without needing to alter anything’.

The second section indicates there is no need for special practices, or to speak or act in a particular way in order to get this.

In fact, as per the third section below, in trying to find your ‘authentic condition’ (which is self-liberation), you deny it and prevent liberation manifesting itself.

Listen!
As I am in the authentic condition,
all phenomena self-liberate in the fundamental nature.
Without needing to alter anything,
the teacher self-liberates in the fundamental nature.
Without needing to alter anything,
the teacher self-liberates in the fundamental nature.
Without needing to alter anything,
the retinue of disciples, too, self-liberates in the fundamental nature.

Listen!
As all self-liberates,
there is no need to correct the body posture or visualise a deity.
There is no need to correct the voice or speech.
There is no need to correct the mind through meditation.

By correcting oneself,
it is not possible to find the authentic condition,
and without finding the authentic condition,
one cannot self-liberate.
In this way one does not achieve the state of equality of the fundamental nature.

Excerpt from The Supreme Source (Kunjed Gyalpo), Chapter 29

So, what are we to do? We are essentially told that ‘you are already realised’ or ‘you are already whole’, but perhaps we don’t feel realised or whole.

We are told that no practice can take us to where we already are, but then what do we do?

The Kunjed Gyalpo exhorts us to listen to these teachings, absorb them, and see their truth directly!

But how to do this, the spiritual seeker asks.

There is no how, for in asking how you have already posited and given reality to the separate self that is looking for answer, that is looking to get somewhere. By asking how, there is already the implication that this is not it. But this is it!

The Supreme Truth and the way to it cannot be described. Only wrong ways can be described, hence the language is of negation – ‘no need to correct’….’By correcting oneself…one does not achieve’. The scripture tells us what not to do, not what to do.

The ancient method is to first listen (sravana) to the teachings repeatedly, then secondly to contemplate them and think them over (manana). This helps to develop an intellectual understanding of the teachings first, following which meditation and integration of the teachings (nididhyasana) can occur. This can occur gradually, or perhaps suddenly, without warning, a moment of clear seeing arises and the teachings that were once theoretical suddenly spring to life.

Dalai Lama: end suffering by developing insight

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The following excerpt is taken from the book “How to see yourself as you really are” by the Dalai Lama:

What makes all this trouble in the world? Our own counterproductive emotions. Once they are generated, they harm us both superficially and deeply. These afflictive emotions accomplish nothing but trouble from beginning to end. If we tried to counteract each and every one individually, we would find ourselves in an endless struggle. So what is the root cause of afflictive emotions that we can address more fruitfully? Continue reading

Maturing in our spiritual search: from experience to knowledge

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Most of the great spiritual traditions claim that there is something eternal and supremely infinite, something that is all-knowing, all-powerful and present everywhere (omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent).

If that is the case, then this Infinite must already be here, right now. If it isn’t already present right now, then it is not omnipresent. This is a vital point to grasp – if there is such a thing as the Infinite, then it must already be fully here, right now, otherwise it is limited and therefore not infinite.

It is not that certain mystical or transcendental experiences are experiences of the Infinite but our normal everyday experiences are not. No, all our experiences must be of Him. We must always be experiencing the Infinite.

This has several ramifications for the spiritual seeker. This means that the problem we face is not that we are apart from God and need to find Him or experience Him. No, the issue is that we are already always experiencing God but do not know it.

The issue is not one of acquiring a special experience or state of mind. It is that we do not correctly understand our current experience as it is right now. Even traditions that do not admit a God such Buddhism acknowledge that understanding, or insight, is what is key:

“If you do not have insight into the way you yourself and all things actually are, you cannot recognize and get rid of the obstacles to liberation from cyclic existence, and, even more important, the obstructions to helping others.”
Dalai Lama (from How to See Yourself as You Really Are)

Armed with this knowledge, we can mature in our spiritual seeking. So-called materialistic or worldly life is characterised by chasing experiences such as pleasure, power, fearlessness, pride and security. Many spiritual seekers just transfer this same pattern of yearning for worldly experiences into their quest for spiritual experiences. However as we mature in our spiritual search we can stop chasing states of mind and experiences – all of which are temporary – and instead start to try and understand our direct experience as it is right now.

This understanding or insight, whilst based upon our direct experience, is not a search for a particular experience, but an understanding of experience itself.

“That is why the insight that can liberate you from these afflictions is the key to happiness…Insight brings love, and love is not possible without insight, understanding. If you do not understand, you cannot love. This insight is direct understanding, and not just a few notions and ideas.”
Thich Nhat Hanh