In the last two sessions, His Holiness Karmapa developed a theme which I have put together from my notes into one teaching.
I encounter the question frequently about how to combine dharma with daily life.
We need to practice to bring dharma and daily life together.
Why do we need to practice? Under pressure our emotions can rise up. We may feel we will go crazy, get sick or commit suicide. Or we may have a good result from work but it doesn’t bring us happiness. So we need to practise to eliminate these two problems.
Practice means to have an experience in the mind. We need to put feeling into our practice. It should be a verb not a noun.
However, we should not see it as a job, homework or as an external ritual. It’s not important whether we do it 10,000 or 100,000 times. We need to do it for ourselves, not to show anyone else. We need to take ownership of ourselves.
We need to habituate gradually, to look inwards at our own being, so that we have a feeling of satisfaction.
We should not treat practice as an external ritual. We are doing the practice to transform our mind. If we are just doing the external part, that is not practice. If we do deity practice we should do it in a profound way and understand the meaning.
When we study and listen to the dharma, we have to look and see things with our own eyes and feel it intensely. Through seeing that everything decays and perishes, we know there is continuous change. When the Buddha looked at birth, old age, sickness and death, he developed renunciation. Take that as an example.
I have a place and the time to study the dharma but I do feel the sufferings of beings intensely.
Our practice needs to be an antidote for the afflictions. For this we need to know how to meditate. Many people cannot use their practice as a support but maybe we can use the obstacles to recognize our afflictions and use them as the path.
If you take a tiny bit of chilli, you will not feel its heat, but if you take too much you will really feel it. Similarly if we are always on the edge and easily angered, it’s hard to recognize it. When it is hot it’s easy to identify. When a situation arises and we really feel it, hit someone, then end up in court because of our anger, we will recognize the affliction as a fault.
We need to know how to turn our attention inwards, and use the afflictions to advance. Our mind is like a broken watch that needs a magnifying glass to see it. We have to bring it up, look at it and rely on the antidote to repair it.
The moment anger overtakes us we have no love in our mind. We have trouble seeing the affliction as a fault. We might see it as a little problem but somehow we can’t turn our attention to it. We think sometimes we have to get angry. Then we have fallen under the power of the affliction. Seeing the afflictions as a fault is like seeing something so repugnant we want to vomit. If you see it that way, it’s simple, like going to the toilet. You know you have to go and you go. You don’t have to think about it.
It’s important for us to distinguish between what we need, like medicines, and what we want. Usually we give 100% of the kingdom of the mind to the things we want, and strip the power from the things we need. We should serve that part that wants to take away the faults. Then we are in control of the kingdom of the mind.
His Holiness then described the meditation posture: body straight, mind relaxed, chin tucked in, eyes looking out. And the vajra position:
We Tibetans have vajra this and vajra that; double and crossed vajras. As children we were competitive about who could sit longer in the vajra posture. But you foreigners have to wrench and pull your legs onto your thighs. You can sit in half vajra.
For support, we can think of how the Buddha looked when he attained enlightenment. He was luminous with a golden colour, his body radiant, eyes loving. Think to yourself that he is present here. See the Buddha under the bodhi tree smiling. Let the mind rest one pointedly as long as you can.
Practise with short sessions many times. When distracted, take a break.
Sometimes you can use the awareness that you are distracted. Apply that awareness over and over again. Don’t let the mind get tight.
Because we are so busy, our body and mind get separated. First relax and don’t chase after thoughts. When you feel peace, then focus.
After we had meditated with His Holiness for one minute, he concluded by drawing us all into one luminous mandala.
‘This has been one of my favourite and most exciting times, coming together and seeing each other’s faces. It’s like coming back to a warm and loving family. We’ve been able to be joyful and to smile together. I hope all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three times will see it.
I will always remember this occasion where we have gathered together in one mandala with joy and excitement. I’d like this joy and love to spread out and become part of you. Wherever you go, I’ll remember you.
Before he passed into parinirvana, the Buddha said, ‘remember that all phenomena are impermanent. So be careful.’
I wish to be like a lamp, like a star that’s bright and clear. I’d like us to be lamps for each other.’