Questions on visualizations

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Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:20 pm

Does anyone care to offer any suggestions regarding visualizations during meditation?

In both sutra level and tantra level practices there are mediations that include visualizations - for instance some of the lamrim meditations for sutra and deity yoga, guru yoga, etc. for tantra.

While I have been able to cultivate visualizations to some extant, I am always open to suggestions to improve this skill to benefit Dharma practice.

How clear are your visualizations? How detailed are they? Are your visualizations comparable to, say, a virtual reality machine? A vivid dream? A 3D movie? Or are they more like sensing the object of visualization is there, but not actually 'seeing' it with your inner-eye? If your visualizations are strong, clear and vivid, did this take a long time to attain? Or did you start out already having a propensity for being a visual-type of person? Has anyone used non-dharmic sources to improve your visualization skills (such as 'creative visualization' exercises, etc)? When you practice a sadhana where the text gives a description of a yidam, do you visualize the yidam while chanting/reciting the text or do you chant/recite the text and then pause to meditate on the yidam? Or both?

I apologize in advance for so many questions all at once. If you respond there is no obligation to address them all. Feel free to pick and choose.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby heart » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:43 pm

The question is not how they are for us but how they are for you, right? What ever you got that is what you work with.
My only hint is that a little wisdom goes a long way in developing visualizations.

/magnus
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby futerko » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:44 pm

Vajratantrika wrote:When you practice a sadhana where the text gives a description of a yidam, do you visualize the yidam while chanting/reciting the text or do you chant/recite the text and then pause to meditate on the yidam? Or both?
I learn them separately at first then combine once I have confidence in both.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:26 am

There are probably as many different kinds of practices as there are grains of sand on a beach e.g. rumor has it there are 6,400,000 dzogchen tantras alone out there somewhere. So i think it all depends which text you're working with and what systems, blueprints and maps it describes.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:10 am

heart wrote:The question is not how they are for us but how they are for you, right? What ever you got that is what you work with.


This is true. At this stage, I am looking to go further than what has been cultivated so far.

heart wrote:My only hint is that a little wisdom goes a long way in developing visualizations.


Thank you.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:10 am

futerko wrote:
Vajratantrika wrote:When you practice a sadhana where the text gives a description of a yidam, do you visualize the yidam while chanting/reciting the text or do you chant/recite the text and then pause to meditate on the yidam? Or both?
I learn them separately at first then combine once I have confidence in both.


Thank you futerko. That makes a lot of sense to me.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:12 am

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:There are probably as many different kinds of practices as there are grains of sand on a beach e.g. rumor has it there are 6,400,000 dzogchen tantras alone out there somewhere. So i think it all depends which text you're working with and what systems, blueprints and maps it describes.


No doubt about there being many different practices. What I am referring to though is the skill of visualization itself. So, for instance, meditations in one of the various lamrims such as generating the merit field for refuge to use just one example, or at a tantra level something like deity yoga where you visualize a yidam. I'm not asking so much about details of a specific practice (especially tantra if the practice is restricted), more about the experience of visualizing that tends to be common in many different practices if that makes sense? I am looking for pointers of how to further develop the ability to visualize in general.
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May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Caz » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:44 am

I was always told that the most important part of the visualisation is to believe and the rest will just come in time. :thumbsup:
Abandoning Dharma is, in the final analysis, disparaging the Hinayana because of the Mahayana; favoring the Hinayana on account of the Mahayana; playing off sutra against tantra; playing off the four classes of the tantras against each other; favoring one of the Tibetan schools—the Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, or Nyingma—and disparaging the rest; and so on. In other words, we abandon Dharma any time we favor our own tenets and disparage the rest.

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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby byamspa » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:39 pm

Somedays its super clear, I can see the details of the flowers a diety is holding, or the licks of flames.

Other days, I'm so obscured i'm lucky i get 'blue' with Maen-la or 'green' with Tara.

So you just have to keep going, have faith in the diety and your teacher and the teaching. The rest will come to fruition in its own time.
Phenomenon, vast as space, dharmata is your base, arising and falling like ocean tide cycles, why do i cling to your illusion of unceasing changlessness?
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby dakini_boi » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:03 pm

Vajratantrika wrote: I am looking for pointers of how to further develop the ability to visualize in general.


I think it's helpful to pick one aspect of the visualization and focus on it for some time. For example, an implement in a deity's hand. And do not think that the visualization is not complete if done that way, remember that each pore of the buddha's skin contains millions of buddhafields. Each implement the deity holds is a symbol of complete buddhahood in and of itself. This can help you to you relax, as you won't be overwhelmed by the need to visualize the whole thing. And as you relax, the entire visualization can emerge more easily. But just think of the amazing blessings from even focusing on one small aspect! Another way is to focus in turn on different parts of the visualization, spending a few minutes on each part.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Silent Bob » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:34 pm

The advice I got years ago to "recall the holographic nature of the display", so every part of it is implicit in every other part, turned out to be enormously helpful. Recalling this, there will still be days when "it's green..." is the best you can manage and other days when you catch a wave and it's all heart-connected, but in either case you won't be negating your own efforts with anxiety that you're doing something wrong and the everyone else's visualization is better than yours.

Another piece of advice from a very accomplished Western lama that's worked for me was, "if you view yidam and the practice of yidam as just a way to relate to the guru, then your path will be without obstacle. Which doesn't mean that it will go smoothly, it means that you'll never get into a weird trip about it."

Chris
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby byamspa » Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:17 pm

And a single day's 'bad' visualization coupled with aroused Bodhicitta and wisdom is better than a 'clear' visualization combined with obscuration and delusion.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Knotty Veneer » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:16 pm

Vajratantrika wrote:How clear are your visualizations? How detailed are they? Are your visualizations comparable to, say, a virtual reality machine? A vivid dream? A 3D movie? Or are they more like sensing the object of visualization is there, but not actually 'seeing' it with your inner-eye? If your visualizations are strong, clear and vivid, did this take a long time to attain? Or did you start out already having a propensity for being a visual-type of person? Has anyone used non-dharmic sources to improve your visualization skills (such as 'creative visualization' exercises, etc)? When you practice a sadhana where the text gives a description of a yidam, do you visualize the yidam while chanting/reciting the text or do you chant/recite the text and then pause to meditate on the yidam? Or both?


I think secret to good visualisation is the same as meditation on an actual or object or on the breath - stay focussed but relaxed. If you let your mind wander too much then obviously it will be difficult to maintain a clear visualization. Similarly if your mind is too tight, you will tire and lose the visualization that way.

I think it's important to to remember that when visualizing your are not using your eyes so you will not see the deity as you would if they manifested physically in front of you. You can hone in on details or draw back and imagine the entire scene.

When learning a sadhana I often pause just before the section which describes the field of merit and build the visualization in my mind before reciting the text. If I am practising with a group I will often wait until the mantra recitation to build it up if I cannot do it during the recitation of the text.

Other tips I have found useful, especially if getting distracted, is to "sweep over" the visualization - imagine the details from the top down, then from the bottom up and from left to right and then right to left and so on. It's great if you can rest your attention comfortably on a detail like the seed syllable of the deity but if you can't (and we all have days when it's easier than others), move the focus of your attention around to different aspects of the visualisation like the jewelry, mantra syllables, mudras, retinue etc. Remember too that your point of view is not limited to being in front of the deity - you can go beneath, behind, above or either side. You can move in right up close or even inside - the deity is made of light after all. SImilarly if you visualizing yourself as the deity you do not have to "look the deity's eyes", you canput your awareness outside and view the deity from without.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby conebeckham » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:09 pm

I cannot recommend strongly enough the book "Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation" by Jamgon Kongtrul, translated by Sarah Harding, if you are engaged in deity visualization.

A quote: "The clear form of the deity is the luminous appearance of your own mind, and the unclear, disastisfying experience is also your mind!"

As for visualization, it is a mental activity, not an activity that engages the "visual sense." This is an important point. We're talking about a "mental image." Successful Visualization is really primarily about familiarity, I think. For example, if I ask you to think of, or "envision" a hammer, you will find it easy, I think, to envision a hammer in your mind's eye. You're probably doing it right now!! Right? Yidam deities, etc., are just like that, really--only more complex in the details. It requires some training and time to "flesh out" all the details. The other stumbling block is that we are told that "our bodies" arise as the deity. This is hard for some people--envisioning a hammer is not so hard, but envisioning ourselves as a hammer...well, that's a sort of "replacement," isn' t it? To help surmount this hurdle, it's useful to think about one's normal "body image" as a mental construct--which it is, really--it's quite rare that we are aware of our entire body all at once, visually. But we carry around a mental image of our entire body, which we identify as ourselves, mentally. The coarse level of deity yoga practice involves just this: Replacing that self-image with the yidam's body.

I hope these are helpful comments. Kongtrul's text is essential, IMO, if one wants to understand how these practices function.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:13 am

During Daily Activities, there is no clear appearance right? Just divine pride?
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

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Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:13 am

Caz wrote:I was always told that the most important part of the visualisation is to believe and the rest will just come in time. :thumbsup:


Excellent advice Caz. Thank you. This makes me think of the Sanskrit term Śraddhā , which is often translated into English as faith yet I've been told really has a more nuanced meaning than what is typically meant by faith in contemporary English. One of the ways I've heard it translated is confidence. I'm neither a linguist nor a language scholar by any means so I'm not so sure how accurate that is, yet I can say when I started to think of faith or belief as confidence it really opened up some things for me. For instance, I can have confidence in my teacher, confidence in the Dharma, confidence in the various practices, etc. Without this confidence present, the practice would be diminished.

Great reminder. Thanks again.
Last edited by Vajratantrika on Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:15 am

byamspa wrote:Somedays its super clear, I can see the details of the flowers a diety is holding, or the licks of flames.

Other days, I'm so obscured i'm lucky i get 'blue' with Maen-la or 'green' with Tara.

So you just have to keep going, have faith in the diety and your teacher and the teaching. The rest will come to fruition in its own time.



Thank you for the feedback Byamspa. Yes, "keep going", wonderful advice!
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
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May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:19 am

dakini_boi wrote:
Vajratantrika wrote: I am looking for pointers of how to further develop the ability to visualize in general.


I think it's helpful to pick one aspect of the visualization and focus on it for some time. For example, an implement in a deity's hand. And do not think that the visualization is not complete if done that way, remember that each pore of the buddha's skin contains millions of buddhafields. Each implement the deity holds is a symbol of complete buddhahood in and of itself. This can help you to you relax, as you won't be overwhelmed by the need to visualize the whole thing. And as you relax, the entire visualization can emerge more easily. But just think of the amazing blessings from even focusing on one small aspect! Another way is to focus in turn on different parts of the visualization, spending a few minutes on each part.


I love this! Thank you Dakini_Boi. I especially like the advice here about not thinking the visualization is somehow incomplete if choosing to focus on just one aspect for a time. Yes...millions of buddhafields in a single pore! This helps a lot.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:23 am

Silent Bob wrote:The advice I got years ago to "recall the holographic nature of the display", so every part of it is implicit in every other part, turned out to be enormously helpful. Recalling this, there will still be days when "it's green..." is the best you can manage and other days when you catch a wave and it's all heart-connected, but in either case you won't be negating your own efforts with anxiety that you're doing something wrong and the everyone else's visualization is better than yours.

Another piece of advice from a very accomplished Western lama that's worked for me was, "if you view yidam and the practice of yidam as just a way to relate to the guru, then your path will be without obstacle. Which doesn't mean that it will go smoothly, it means that you'll never get into a weird trip about it."

Chris


Chris, excellent! I love the advice from the lama you mention...keep awareness that the practice is a way to relate to the guru. I can surely see how that will remove obstacles. Thanks for sharing this.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: Questions on visualizations

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:24 am

byamspa wrote:And a single day's 'bad' visualization coupled with aroused Bodhicitta and wisdom is better than a 'clear' visualization combined with obscuration and delusion.


Aha! Beautiful. Wonderful. Thank you!
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May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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