Dalai lama Meditation

The Dalai Lama explains how to practice meditation properly

Sure, you’ve probably heard bits and pieces about focusing on your breath or focusing on different parts of your body, but according to the Dalai Lama, this isn’t what real meditation is.

In the Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, the Dalai Lama says that meditation is about seeing your “natural state of your consciousness”.

Disk et, Nubra Valley, J&K, India – His Holiness the Dalai Lama is staying at the Disket Monastery Phodrang. This morning on his way to the teaching ground he stopped to perform a short consecration in the new assembly hall. Reaching the teaching ground he received and returned people’s greetings as he made his way to the throne. Before taking his seat he waved to the crowd to the left, right and straight ahead. A recitation of the Sutra Recollecting the Three Jewels was followed by the Heart Sutra and the Praise to the Seventeen Masters of Nalanda.

“Today, you’re going to listen to a Dharma discourse,” His Holiness began. “In Tibet and across the Himalayan region, people tend to think of Dharma in terms of reciting mantras or performing rituals. Gelukpas may think about the ‘Stages of the Path’. I’m 82 years old, I’ve seen a lot and I feel we’ve been too accustomed to focus sing on teachings that were intended for specific groups or individuals rather than on the general structure of the teachings. Here and now in the 21st century, when everyone’s so busy, I prefer to introduce people to Buddhism by summarizing the contents of our 300 volumes of classic Buddhist literature.

“The Four Noble Truths were given in an open public context, but the Perfection of Wisdom teachings were not. Consequently there are those who assert that the Mahayana is not the teaching of the Buddha, just as there are others who claim that tantra is not the Buddha’s teaching either. It’s because of such qualms that we need to pay more attention to the general structure of the teachings. Whether we follow the Nyingma and their Kama and Terma teachings or the Geluk and the Sergyu, Ensa and Shungpa lineages, our attention to specialist teachings becomes ground for differentiation.

“The Pali tradition teaches that the Buddha only turned the wheel of Dharma once. The Sanskrit tradition on the other hand speaks of three turnings of the wheel. The first turning dealt with philosophical views up to the Vaibhashika School and monastic discipline, the second dealt with the perfection of wisdom, including the Madhyamaka view and the third was the source for the Mind Only School. Another way of looking at this is to see the Two Truths as the basis, method and wisdom as the path and the two bodies of the Buddha as the result. This accords with the logical approach of the Madhyamakas. When you understand this you’ll be able to fend off challenges about the teachings of the Buddha.

“Starting with the Two Truths and going on to the Four Noble Truths, a disciple can come to understand true cessation and the true path and that that can be achieved because we have Buddha nature.”

The Dalai Lama’s Favorite Meditation

The Dalai Lama is particularly fond of a meditation that promotes taking responsibility for others’ well-being. Based on A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life by the eighth-century Indian scholar yogi-poet Shantideva, he calls for imagining a three-sided scene. In meditation:

1. Imagine that you are your better, more relaxed, confident, and wise
self in the middle looking at two sides in front of you to your left
and right.
2. Then imagine your selfish self on one side: the person who, in a
pushy way, is trying to get an earlier flight, or a piece of cake, or
something like that—this person who’s just thinking of herself or
himself. Remember a recent incident or play-act a convincing
instance of your nasty, cruddy self, thinking, “I, I, I,” not your usual self,
but a nasty, self-serving version.
3. Across from your selfish self imagine a group of destitute persons—
poverty-stricken or in pain.

Thus, in the middle looking at the other two sides is your wise, discriminating self. You look out to one side where your cruddy, selfish self is, utilizing any of a variety of examples:

1. Remember an incident when you were whining in self-pity about your own welfare, putting yourself
totally, unreasonably ahead of everyone else. You were so wound up in your own thing that you
couldn’t notice somebody else’s concern. It’s awful. It’s ugly.
2. Or, remember a situation when you unreasonably carried on, got angry.
3. Or, remember an instance of feeling selfish desire: You’re in a store somewhere, you particularly
want some item, you’re getting overly fascinated with it.
4. Or, remember a time when you were greedily jealous. There’s always someone among your
acquaintances who makes more money for less work.

Then, on the other side, look at the group of destitute people. Sick. Living in poverty. Finding it difficult to get something to eat.

His Holiness asks the level-headed you in the middle to reflect on this fact: “The selfish I on one side and the destitute ones on the other side equally want happiness and don’t want suffering.” And then the question is: Whom will I help? My selfish self, or the destitute people? Just imagine it. As the wise one, you are asking yourself, “Which side am I going to help: the selfish one, groveling after her or his own welfare, or these destitute people?”

The only conclusion is: “There’s only one of me; others are infinite in number, exemplified by five or ten destitute people. How could the welfare of this infinitely larger group not be more important?”

In other circumstances, outside of such a graphic situation, it might seem that, in the abstract, self and other are equal: Self is one and other is one. They’re both singular. But when, aided by this visualization, you actually consider what “other” is, it’s composed of an incredible number of individual selves, individual I’s.
But still, you might consider that, even in this scenario, you assume that the motivations of the “other” side could be just as self-cherishing as your own, and thus you could find no real qualitative difference between self and other. You might then be inclined to help all equally—including your own nasty, self-cherishing self. It strikes me that this is perfectly fine, as long as your nasty self amounts to just one and does not equal “other” in terms of number, who, quantitatively, are hugely different. Thus, if you are considering five people on the “other” side, then you should consider yourself one-sixth, not half.

Or, you might get stuck wondering whether this contemplation calls for helping others and not helping yourself at all. It seems to me that the win-win solution is to put the main emphasis on helping others, making altruism the motivation of self-improvement. What is being targeted here is the feeling of oneself being so exaggeratedly important in the process of becoming happy. Everyone wants happiness and doesn’t want suffering.

Or, you think, “I am more important because I’m figuring this all out, and I’ll be able to pass it on to ones who don’t understand.” I have found it fun to let this type of pride just be, not try to oppose it, but to think, “Even this sense of self-importance is for the sake of others.” Think this over and over again, and pride, which usually serves to hide your inadequacies, disappears. The self-importance becomes hollow and fades. When I was interpreting for the Dalai Lama under the bright lights in front of large crowds, I found the situation brought a huge uplift in concentration—the communication of his message at that point depended on me. I enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed making myself inconspicuous but effective, enjoyed trying to make the task look effortless, enjoyed the open state of mind that I would need for adequate memory when he would talk for five minutes in Tibetan without break, enjoyed the interaction with him when, listening to my English, he would then repeat in Tibetan something I had missed. But I found that after leaving the stage, I longed to be back on it—the lights, the intensity, the attention. I found that it was getting so that I lusted after “the stage.” I recalled stories of actors who could not stand themselves except when onstage and knew I had to figure a way out of this. After a while, this is what came to me: “May these feelings of intensity and so forth go for the benefit of those who are listening.” I thought this over and over, and it worked. I no longer lusted for the situation, but I accomplished this not by forcing myself to not want it, but by realizing that the whole activity was for the sake of others and by deeply feeling this realization in imagination—imagining strength entering into the bodies and minds of the audience. Any type of pride can be handled in the same way.

There are a lot of little things that we can do for others as we go about the day. Provide a cushion for somebody in your meditation group who has difficulty finding a cushion to sit on. Little actions mean a great deal to others. When the Dalai Lama visited the University of British Columbia, he had a meeting with the dean and a group of professors including an aged man who had come in just for this meeting with His Holiness. He was sitting down. When His Holiness entered the room, he tried to get up, although His Holiness was not very near. The fellow, a thin, very old man, was trying to get up to show his respect. All of us saw the great difficulty that he had getting up—such that he might fall down—and we felt in our hearts for him. However, the only one who moved quickly to help him was the Dalai Lama, who took hold of him and helped him up. His Holiness wasn’t so full of himself as to think, “I’m here to receive these people.”

So, it’s the little things that count in valuing others. Making a decision to look to see how we can most effectively help those around us. With such a motivation, your activities have a true importance that is not self-centered. It’s difficult to decide how much to give away, how much time to devote to others, but the basic motivation is clear enough, and it itself, on a day-to-day basis, unties a lot of problems.

5 Meditation Insights From The Dalai Lama

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation” (Dalai Lama)

The current Dalai Lama has dedicated most of his entire adult life to kindness and compassion, and to providing practical advice to eternal questions that trouble mankind. Recognized by his devotees as the rebirth of a line of descendants leading back to Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion), he is often described as a ‘living Buddha’ or a ‘god-king’. He personally prefers to describe himself as a simple ‘human being’ who has chosen to be a Buddhist Monk.

Regardless of any fancy titles or historic lineage, he is arguably the most important and respected living spiritual leader in the world today. Dedicating an average of 5.5 hours per day towards prayer, meditation and study; the Dalai Lama often speaks of the profound benefits offered by a regular practice of meditation. Here are 5 stimulating insights on meditation to inspire and encourage you in your own personal practice:

1. Meditation Requires Patience And Perseverance

“Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort” (Dalai Lama). It is often said that spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation should not be rushed. Some yoga experts such as B.K.S Iyengar also caution that meditation cannot be ‘taught’, that it must be ‘directly experienced in one’s life’. The Dalai Lama reinforces this message with advice relating to the amount of time required before benefits can be felt, encouraging practitioners to continue patiently down the path of their own daily practice. A focus on continuous and sustained practice is emphasized.

2. Meditation And Transformation

“The main emphasis in Buddhism is to transform the mind, and this transformation depends upon meditation…..in order to meditate correctly, you must have knowledge” (Dalai Lama). The Dalai Lama often refers to the natural ability and potential of the human mind to transform itself through contemplation or meditation practices. He speaks of using meditation to cultivate a compassionate heart and to discover deep insights into the nature of reality.

3. On Religion as a Barrier to Meditation

“Meditation is valuable for all humanity because it involves looking inward. People don’t have to be religious to look inside themselves more carefully” (Dalai Lama). There is a common misconception that meditation and spirituality is conflicting with various religious beliefs and practices. Meditation sequences and gestures such as ‘Namaste’ with the palms together are often cited as points of conflict with religious views and prayers. The Dalai Lama reinforces the message that central to meditation practice is the ability to look inwards and this process is not aligned with any particular religion or faith.

4. The Importance Of Meditation In Its Traditional Context

“….in its traditional context, the term for meditation is ‘bhavana’ (in Sanskrit) or ‘gom’ (in Tibetan). The Sanskrit term connotes the idea of cultivation, such as cultivating a particular habit or way of being, while the Tibetan term has the connotation of cultivating familiarity. So, briefly stated, meditation in the traditional Buddhist context refers to a deliberate mental activity that involves cultivating familiarity, be it with a chosen object, a fact, a theme, habit, an outlook, or a way of being” (Dalai Lama). As meditation moves further into mainstream society it is important to reflect on the foundation and context in which it has been traditionally used. Dating back thousands of years ago in India (followed closely by China and Japan) the practice of meditation has been widely used as a powerful technique for concentration, contemplation, knowledge and liberation.

5. The Practice of Meditation

“Broadly speaking, there are two categories of meditation practice – one focused on stilling the mind and the other on the cognitive processes of understanding. In both cases, the meditation can take many different forms. For example, it may take the form of taking something as the object of one’s cognition, such as meditating on one’s transient nature. Or it may take the form of cultivating a specific mental state, such as compassion, by developing a heartfelt, altruistic yearning to alleviate others’ suffering. Or it could take the form of imagination, exploring the human potential for generating mental imagery, which may be used in various ways to cultivate mental well-being” (Dalai Lama)

Meditation can be used for a wide range of purposes, whether it is to clear your mind, address a health concern, remind you to slow down and focus, or to seek spiritual insight from within. This is a reminder that there is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way of meditating, that by adopting a regular daily practice at a familiar time and place (even if for only 5 minutes before bed!)

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