Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby monktastic » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:16 am

Thanks again, both of you. It sounds like I really do need a guru. Until then, maybe these more direct questions can be answered online:

It's well accepted that practicing "mundane" shamatha, even a subtle one like unsupported shamatha, does not bring one any closer to realization. Meanwhile, if one has a taste of emptiness, it sounds like resting in nature of mind does lead to progress. The two seem very subtly different.

(1) Are there concrete differences as well as subtle ones (i.e., important fundamental differences in practice that can be described in words, in addition to the "you have to 'get it' to practice Mahamudra")? For example, in the unsupported shamatha I was taught, I'm supposed to ignore all arisings, whereas in Mahamudra I neither accept nor reject. However, even some descriptions of unsupported shamatha say this.
(2) Is there any way to be sure that I'm doing the latter and not the former, or does even that need a guru?
(3) If I practice the former, is there risk of "sliding back toward duality" or something?
(4) If I try to practice the latter, is there a risk of ... anything if I'm not "ready" yet?

Today I stumbled upon this from the blog awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com:

The witnessing state is equivalent to stabilized shamatha (shiné), once shamatha is stabilized one is essentially proficient in "really good dualistic mindfulness" (as you said). After stabilized shiné, next step is released shiné and once released shiné is achieved and stabilized, one is said to be officially practicing dzogchen.

"When you have achieved released shiné and remain in the continuation of this state, you have finally become a dzogchen practitioner."
- Chögyal Namkhai Norbu


Unfortunately I can't find any references to "released shine" anywhere.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby monktastic » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:17 am

Thanks to your suggestion, I just went and reopened "Vivid Awareness" (which I bought last week apparently). This may be all I need:

As I mentioned above, there is a distinction between tranquility and insight meditation. In tranquility there is a lot of stability but not much intelligence, whereas in insight meditation we do have intelligence.
...
[Mind] is not just blank nothingness, it is the union of clarity and emptiness. ... If we were to think about it, we would say "Oh, that's what mind is." Of course that would just be a thought produced by our minds; when we actually experience it, we do not have this thought. Instead, we have a feeling. This is the intelligence born of meditation that comes from directly seeing the nature of mind as it is. ... [So] we experience this intelligence and rest evenly within this experience.


In short, so long as I maintain the experiential sense or feeling that mind is empty cognizance, I can keep calm and carry on, and it is no longer the "pure" shamatha I seem to worry so much about :twothumbsup:
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby heart » Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:47 am

monktastic wrote:Today I stumbled upon this from the blog awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com:

The witnessing state is equivalent to stabilized shamatha (shiné), once shamatha is stabilized one is essentially proficient in "really good dualistic mindfulness" (as you said). After stabilized shiné, next step is released shiné and once released shiné is achieved and stabilized, one is said to be officially practicing dzogchen.

"When you have achieved released shiné and remain in the continuation of this state, you have finally become a dzogchen practitioner."
- Chögyal Namkhai Norbu


Unfortunately I can't find any references to "released shine" anywhere.


It is normally referred to as "shine free from focus" or "shine which delights the tathagatas" , it is an translation problem.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby Astus » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:12 am

In calming meditation you have to avoid disturbances, you have to concentrate not to be disturbed. If merged with vipashyana, resting without abiding on anything, there is no effort made not to be disturbed, because all is seen without being hung up on them. Example: normally one is disgusted by a pile of fresh dung, with concentration one blocks either the object or the feeling, with insight one does not reify the object nor identifies with the feeling and so there is self-liberation.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby monktastic » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:44 pm

Thank you both again. This is immensely helpful. Astus, this sounds very much like what I'm doing. I could say that my practice is maintaining a reflexively aware presence (an awareness that knows it is aware) -- or more precisely, allowing that presence to sustain itself, with me having to periodically check and refresh it. Sometimes I fall back into the extreme of "meditation," and sometimes into "distraction," but when those happen I try to gently nudge it (or release it) back toward undistracted nonmeditation.

Here are the two last (hopefully!) points that keep me from being confident:

1. One is often warned against duality. For example:

Without wishing for the state to continue for a long time and without fearing the lack of it altogether, all that is necessary is to maintain pure presence of mind, without falling into the dualistic situation of there being an observing subject perceiving an observed object. -- ChNNR


I hope this means that one does not maintain the subject-object distinction in the (non)meditation -- as in, there is no thought of "I am meditating on this." I hope it does not mean that one must not have any sense of there being any subject-object distinction in order to practice properly. "I" (as this reflexively aware presence) still feel separate from the world, though I am not meditating on it.

To use your example, Astus, even in my current meditation my mind is reifying the dung -- deep down, I still have the sense that it exists, even if I'm not elaborating on it. It doesn't clearly appear to me as emptiness, and I'm hoping it doesn't need to before I can begin Mahamudra vipashyana practice.

2. We are told to rest evenly in mind essence, but the degree to which one must realize it is not clear. For example:

[Mind] is not just blank nothingness, it is the union of clarity and emptiness. ... If we were to think about it, we would say "Oh, that's what mind is." Of course that would just be a thought produced by our minds; when we actually experience it, we do not have this thought. Instead, we have a feeling. This is the intelligence born of meditation that comes from directly seeing the nature of mind as it is. ... [So] we experience this intelligence and rest evenly within this experience. -- Thrangu Rinpoche


Through years of investigation into my mind, it is clear to me that there is no-thing there, and yet it is cognizant. There's no longer even a "feeling" (as bolded above). It's so obvious that I'm worried I may have it wrong: I don't even know what it would feel like to believe anything else! Because It doesn't feel like I'm experiencing any particular intelligence now, I'm worried that I'm not "there" yet.

And so there's a nagging suspicion that I'm doing it wrong; when I'm told to rest evenly within the experience that my mind is a cognizant emptiness, it feels no different than if I were just told to rest my mind without distraction. Why not just tell me that? (Actually, elsewhere they do tell me just that; I'm hoping this isn't something additional I have to "add" to that.)

Maybe it would help me to understand where the danger lies for someone who has not experienced mind essence as empty cognizance? Perhaps the less one realizes that their mind is an empty cognizance, the faster they would fall into one of the extremes (a grasping meditation, distraction, or spacing out)? If one has a tiny recognition of this, might that be enough to "bootstrap" so that one's sense of empty cognizance grows over time? Is that, perhaps, even the whole point?

(And please don't think I've ignored your suggestions to find a guru. I'm still getting guidance from my lama, but there's a language barrier. And I will be signing up for a Dzogchen intensive with Tsoknyi Rinpoche as soon as I can. But I do have 3 long months ahead of me during which it would be nice to clear up the above confusions.)

Edit: I think I see where one would go wrong without the recognition of mind's essence. If one did not see that mind has an instinctive, fundamental, spontaneous function of knowing, one would probably think that it must be directed somewhere or by someone in order to do its thing. As soon as one realizes that it does this naturally, one can release the grip. You still have to guard against it being occupied by distractions, and more subtly, against forgetting that it continues to do its thing, but not much else. As for why it must be seen to be "empty" cognizance (as opposed to spontaneous cognizance) I haven't figured that out yet.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:50 pm

The division to subject-object comes in when there is the thought/feeling that something is out there and I'm in here. But that thought/feeling (mental content, dharma) is an added quality to simple presence. Even if you recognise that there is this idea of duality, don't worry about it, it is just there. The important point is not to grasp phenomena, not to believe them, not to rely on them (which is not the same as rejecting them, or maintaining a thought of disbelief).

The meaning of the mind being empty is just that there is nothing to rely on, that there is no ultimate nature of mind/self. Doubt appears because there is the idea that one should find some optimal point to hold on to. But as you know, there is nothing to find as the real thing, as the true attainment. Not attaining anything is the real attainment. When the seeking stops it is found, because it is the seeking itself that contains the error. So they say: rest.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby monktastic » Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:33 pm

Astus wrote:The division to subject-object comes in when there is the thought/feeling that something is out there and I'm in here. But that thought/feeling (mental content, dharma) is an added quality to simple presence. Even if you recognise that there is this idea of duality, don't worry about it, it is just there. The important point is not to grasp phenomena, not to believe them, not to rely on them (which is not the same as rejecting them, or maintaining a thought of disbelief).

The meaning of the mind being empty is just that there is nothing to rely on, that there is no ultimate nature of mind/self. Doubt appears because there is the idea that one should find some optimal point to hold on to. But as you know, there is nothing to find as the real thing, as the true attainment. Not attaining anything is the real attainment. When the seeking stops it is found, because it is the seeking itself that contains the error. So they say: rest.


Thank you. So if I understood you: the reason we do the investigation before attempting Mahamudra is that if we don't, we are still grasping too hard for the Mahamudra practice to take flight. There's no specific "amount" of realization one must have, or some discrete threshold to cross (including getting a pointing-out), to progress to doing Mahamudra meditation (or for it to be useful). But one should at least have the faith (born of experience) that it is sufficient to leave this spontaneous cognition alone to do its thing, instead of mucking around with it or trying to direct or control it. Without that little nudge in the right direction, the practice is unlikely to go anywhere.

In short, I should stop worrying about whether I'm "ready" for the practice and carry on with my (attempted) undistracted nonmeditation. The worst that might happen is that I get caught in grasping something (and turn it into unsupported shamatha, or get stuck on some experience, etc.), and to clear those up I'll need a guru anyway.

That about right?
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby Astus » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:19 am

I think the important point about this kind of non-meditation is to not slip into not meditating at all. To remedy that, Gampopa's "thoughts are the dharmakaya" idea is a useful one, that is, in face of everyday events and mental appearances we can work with wisdom and compassion. To manage, we need mindfulness of what goes on. Gradually it becomes effortless and expands to every moment - this is the subject of the four yogas. Pointing out, investigation, study - this is all needed first in order to be clear about what the practice is. But then, once you got it, the only thing left is using it.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby monktastic » Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:06 pm

Astus wrote:I think the important point about this kind of non-meditation is to not slip into not meditating at all. To remedy that, Gampopa's "thoughts are the dharmakaya" idea is a useful one, that is, in face of everyday events and mental appearances we can work with wisdom and compassion. To manage, we need mindfulness of what goes on. Gradually it becomes effortless and expands to every moment - this is the subject of the four yogas. Pointing out, investigation, study - this is all needed first in order to be clear about what the practice is. But then, once you got it, the only thing left is using it.


Thank you. These words ring very true in my experience. I will carry on.

My hang-up before (e.g., in my last few posts) was: why do the Mahamudra masters insist you recognize mind as empty cognizance before attempting to undistractedly nonmeditate? The answer, I suppose, is that it removes two particularly troublesome graspings (that there is something to find and/or something to do). But as long as I understand that all hang-ups are to be released, I don't need to tie myself up in knots worrying about each individual instruction.

FWIW, these particular hangups came about in an ironic way: I had been taught to practice unsupported shamatha (or as Alan Wallace calls it, "awareness of awareness"), but after some months of doing it full-time, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to investigate this awareness. Why was focusing on awareness better (or different) than focusing on thoughts? What is the essence of "distraction?" And apparently by doing this I found myself square in Mahamudra practice. But because I didn't know this, I've been worrying myself silly with the words of masters who caution against confusing fixated shamatha for real practice. That worry was itself the primary obstacle. :smile:

So, okay, not having had a pointing-out instruction or transmission, I cannot practice Dzogchen authentically. But especially taking Thrangu Rinpoche's words to heart, that doesn't mean I cannot practice it (or rather, Mahamudra) well.

:thanks: :namaste:
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby Silent Bob » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:29 pm

I think you're getting some good advice here, if you can manage to drop the worrying and drop the trying. Ripeness is all. I practiced formless shamatha for several years, thinking it was actually MM, but when I described my meditation to Thrangu Rinpoche he just shook his head and laughed.
"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby heart » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:11 pm

Silent Bob wrote:I think you're getting some good advice here, if you can manage to drop the worrying and drop the trying. Ripeness is all. I practiced formless shamatha for several years, thinking it was actually MM, but when I described my meditation to Thrangu Rinpoche he just shook his head and laughed.


That is the way to go about it. Gather courage and present you realization to a proper master, then there will be a real occasion to recognize.Thanks Bob!

/magnus
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby Astus » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:07 am

monktastic wrote:My hang-up before (e.g., in my last few posts) was: why do the Mahamudra masters insist you recognize mind as empty cognizance before attempting to undistractedly nonmeditate? The answer, I suppose, is that it removes two particularly troublesome graspings (that there is something to find and/or something to do). But as long as I understand that all hang-ups are to be released, I don't need to tie myself up in knots worrying about each individual instruction.


Kamalashila's (3rd Bhavanakrama, tr. Martin T. Adam) brief explanation of the reason for the necessity of proper discernment in insight meditation:

"Therefore, that which is described in the highest teachings as nonmindfulness and nonattention is to he seen as preceded by the discernment of reality. On account of which, nonmindfulness and nonattention are to be undertaken by way of the discernment of reality, not otherwise. Which is to say that when a yogin observing with perfect wisdom does not see even a single dharma in the three times as ultimately originated, then how in that context could he he mindful and pay attention? For how could that which is ultimately not experienced in the three times he noticed or attended to? Thus this one would have entered into the nonconceptual knowledge in which ail conceptual proliferation has been calmed. And on the basis of that entrance one penetrates emptiness. And on the basis of that penetration there is the abandonment of the net of all false views. And one who is possessed of method, on the basis of adhering to wisdom, is perfectly skilled in conventional and ultimate reality.
Thus it is on the basis of obtaining unobscured knowledge that one understands every single teaching of the Buddha. Hence without the discernment of reality there is no arising of perfect knowledge, nor also the abandonment of the afflictive obscurations."
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Pointing Out / Systematic Instruction

Postby monktastic » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:08 pm

Silent Bob wrote:I think you're getting some good advice here, if you can manage to drop the worrying and drop the trying. Ripeness is all. I practiced formless shamatha for several years, thinking it was actually MM, but when I described my meditation to Thrangu Rinpoche he just shook his head and laughed.


Thank you. I am attending ChNNR's talks this week (including his DI tonight), and will be visiting Samye Ling next year to interview with Lama Yeshe.

Since my last post, I allowed myself to release much worrying and trying. Things have been going quite well. It feels like I'm easing into the natural state, and if it's "only" shamatha, that's okay for now :)

Still, between sessions, I have questions about what constitutes "proper" practice. Here's a quote which has helped me a lot (from Tsoknyi R.):

This short moment of recognizing can surely be called mind essence. You can also name it natural mind or ordinary mind, although natural mind is better in this case. It might be a little too early to call it the rigpa of the Great Perfection. But as this state gets more clarified -- you could say more refined -- and becomes the authentic state of rigpa according to Dzogchen teachings, then at that point it will deserve its name. On the other hand, it is also possible that someone might recognize the state of rigpa from the very beginning.

Honestly, meditation is simply to sustain the view. It is nothing other than that. The continuity of whatever is recognized doesn’t have to be improved or contrived or made up or extended. In the beginning, just let it be whatever it is, however it is; just let whatever is known be that, without hope and fear. We call this continuity, however brief it might be, Baby Rigpa. … In the same way, whatever is initially seen as being the view is exactly what you allow to continue.


In other words, what constitutes proper practice is to simply do your best at remaining in the natural state. My concern was that even from early on, one was supposed to experience lack of subject-object duality or emptiness of objects or lack of time, in order to be even practicing correctly. Instead, one rests and allows recognition of rigpa to blossom (in Tsoknyi R's words, from natural mind to baby rigpa to rigpa) over time. Maybe later my practice will offer periodic glimpses of true rigpa, but for now it's heavily muddled, and that sounds like it's expected for a beginner.

So I shall keep resting and allowing empty cognizance to do its thing, and not worry that I don't have any spectacular glimpses of rigpa.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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