Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

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Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:09 pm

Hello, me again with questions regarding the natural state :) (As a disclaimer: I attended Norbu Rinpoche's teachings online last week, and will be visiting Lama Yeshe next year, so I'm not trying to avoid formal instruction!)

It has been said that one's initial experiences of rigpa may deserve the title "baby rigpa," and even before that, perhaps "natural mind" or "ordinary mind". Tsoknyi Rinpoche says:

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.
...
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.
...
Dzogchen meditation is to sustain the continuity. It is to give Baby Rigpa breathing space. Up till now, he has been suffocating.


In the Dzogchen tradition, of course, it is imperative to get a pointing out instruction first. In Mahamudra (particularly in the style of Thrangu Rinpoche, who was my first Mahamudra teacher), one may arrive at a first glimpse of thamal gyi shepa via vipashyana meditations. It is my understanding that this initial glimpse may not be as "deep" a recognition as one may receive from a full-blown pointing-out, and that this is okay. With the tiniest glimpse of ordinary mind, one may refine one's view by repeatedly allowing oneself to recognize it, as well as by deepening it with further vipashyana meditations (e.g., coming to experience more deeply that perceptions are mind, that thoughts are mind, etc.).

My first question is: in what way does an experience of "baby rigpa" differ from a "complete" recognition of rigpa? For example, in the latter, it is said that there is absolutely no subject-object duality or sense of time. Could it be that a "baby" experience of this is just a lessened sense of duality and time? Or is it always full-blown, but just experienced for less time? In Rinpoche's online practice manual

I do feel that as I practice, my sense of duality is slowly being eroded -- but I never have moments where it is completely absent. I take this to mean that my experience of the natural state is slowly being refined, and that this may help "ripen" me for a recognition of rigpa (either alone or with another pointing-out). As such, I am practicing by remaining in what I feel to be the natural state, and doing further vipashyana practices.

So my second question is: have I understood correctly? Can one "bootstrap" by having a partial recognition of the authentic state, and refine it with further practice in this state, as well as more vipashyana? Or is it folly to think that one can make progress in this way?

Much of my time is spent in what I could call "thought-free wakefulness," or what feels like a self-aware presence. There is no sense of some concrete thing doing the watching, but there continues to be a sense that objects are being watched. Because "ordinary mind" and rigpa are by definition nondual, and I don't experience all objects as manifestations of rigpa, there is the nagging sense that I'm "doing it wrong" (which I only address between sessions, of course :tongue:). So I'm hoping what's really meant is that one attempts to remain in a state which doesn't actively reify these dualities, and they progressively fall away.

(FWIW, I've been given advice here more than once to "stop trying" and "stop worrying," and I'm happy to do that. It would help to know whether my overarching understanding of the process is on track.)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:14 pm

I should acknowledge that Astus kindly pointed out the following to me in a recent thread:

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).


This certainly helps. Hopefully the rest of my understanding is correct.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby underthetree » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:20 pm

I'd also add: relax. Relax, relax, relax and keep on relaxing.
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:21 pm

underthetree wrote:I'd also add: relax. Relax, relax, relax and keep on relaxing.


:namaste: Thanks, that's a valuable addition. As I mentioned, I'm happy to relax -- particularly if I know I am not on a completely mistaken path! (And relaxing while doing this on retreat for the past few weeks seems to be doing something, so even if I'm totally wrong, at least I have that :tongue:)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:49 pm

"in what way does an experience of "baby rigpa" differ from a "complete" recognition of rigpa?"

The difference is made in order to show that there is a difference between a practitioner and a non-practitioner (i.e. a buddha). The practice is abiding in the natural state, and the natural state is the result, so this way the result is the path. But we can translate it to make it clearer: it is about practising with the correct view in order to attain complete realisation. The correct view conceptually is emptiness, experientially it is not grasping anything as real. It is practice because one works with habitual tendencies that are gradually removed.

"Much of my time is spent in what I could call "thought-free wakefulness," or what feels like a self-aware presence. There is no sense of some concrete thing doing the watching, but there continues to be a sense that objects are being watched."

As Nagarjuna and many other masters have pointed out, there is no ultimate truth beyond conditioned reality. The term "ordinary mind" is usually explained as being ordinary in the sense of simple, uncomplicated, not proliferating views. There is another sense I like to add, and that is the expression's literal sense, our everyday mind that thinks, feels, remembers, wants, hurts, etc. If there is the idea that the true nature of mind is without all the usual content, that is a reification of an abstract self, it is an imagined nothingness, it is annihilationism. Whatever appears in the mind is just natural. Thoughts, etc. come and go. If you fuss about it, there is a problem. Whether you want to grasp or reject, pull or push, there is trouble. If you don't mess around, all is perfect as it is.

Milarepa taught,

"If you are happy practicing with mind,
Thoughts are the mind’s magical creations.
Be mind itself."


Read the full poem: Milarepa's Song to Lady Paldarboom
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:18 am

Thanks Astus!

So if I understood your post correctly: so long as one is allowing this reflexive awareness to sustain itself, without grasping / clinging / avoiding, one is in the natural state and should proceed. In other words, being in the natural state does not presuppose some particular absence of dualities in one's experience, or other defining characteristics. Any time experience is allowed to unfold (relatively) unimpededly and without distraction, it is the natural state and is correct practice.

I think (a big) part of the reason I'm confused is that even prior to undertaking heavy shamatha practice 4 years ago, I felt somewhat capable of allowing reflexive awareness to shine forth without excessive grasping or distraction. Certainly my shamatha and vipashyana practices have strengthened this ability, but it doesn't feel intrinsically different. Yet, the practice manuals make it sound like even the initial realization of "natural mind" is a very difficult realization to come to on one's own. So either I have a knack for this sort of thing, or I'm doing it all wrong. Without meaning to sound immodest, I am beginning to suspect it is the former -- after all, I spent the better part of my youth investigating this on my own, as it is my passion.

This week I came across some articles suggesting that people look for a gap between thoughts, and many commenters indicated that they find this hard to do. From talking to friends, I've found that some can't even understand how it might be possible to be aware without thoughts. If indeed that is the starting position from which people are normally taught, then the abovementioned difficulty seems easier to understand. (I may even be mis-remembering what my own mind was like 5 years ago.)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:28 am

Astus wrote:The correct view conceptually is emptiness, experientially it is not grasping anything as real. It is practice because one works with habitual tendencies that are gradually removed.


When you say that the correct view conceptually is emptiness, does this imply anything practice-wise? I am trying to separate my vipashyana practice (of recognizing phenomena as empty) from my "resting in the natural state" practice, where the lack of grasping becomes easier due to whatever tiny insights I accumulated from the vipashyana.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby Astus » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:48 am

There are two defining characteristics: awareness, no characteristics. Well, it's actually one signless awareness. Attaching to any specific feeling, form, thought, impression, vision, etc., is identifying with something, taking an impermanent appearance as eternal. Why is it said to be difficult? Because it is our very basic habit to cling to thoughts and other things. Therefore one fails to differentiate between the content of the mind and mind itself. And when there is differentiation, the mistake happens again by thinking of "mind itself" as a thing, as a state.

Ajahn Sumedho taught a very easy method to see the gap between thoughts. First create a clear and strong thought, for instance saying in your mind "Om mani padme hung". Note how you start to say it in your mind, how you are saying it, and how it goes away. Then a break. A gap. Then you say it again in your mind.

The correct understanding of emptiness is a practice itself. Just consider the fact that karma ultimately comes from thoughts. If you change your thought-patterns you change your karma. Emptiness teaches oneself that there is nothing really to attach to, nothing to identify with, nothing to rely on. So when there is nothing real found, nothing concrete attained, one can let go of it. Without clearly seeing that appearances are empty of self, one may enforce on oneself some calm and peace, but then after meditation everything starts again as before. So understanding helps to let go. When all is let go of, there are no reference points, it is just non-conceptual awareness, it is resting meditation.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:59 am

Astus wrote:There are two defining characteristics: awareness, no characteristics. Well, it's actually one signless awareness. Attaching to any specific feeling, form, thought, impression, vision, etc., is identifying with something, taking an impermanent appearance as eternal. Why is it said to be difficult? Because it is our very basic habit to cling to thoughts and other things. Therefore one fails to differentiate between the content of the mind and mind itself. And when there is differentiation, the mistake happens again by thinking of "mind itself" as a thing, as a state.


Please forgive my nitpicking and attempts to pin down a verbal description of something decidedly nonconceptual, but I think we're narrowing in on my confusion. I can differentiate between mind and contents, and do not think of mind as some thing or state, but a difficulty remains:

I don't experience appearances as themselves being awareness (or "manifestations of" it). I do experience that "mind itself" is nothing but an empty cognizance. Appearances seem to be undefinable, transient, self-liberating "happenings" that appear to this awareness, as opposed to being made of it. Because it still feels like awareness is apprehending appearances, this is dualistic, and as such cannot be a recognition of rigpa. I don't conceive of awareness as a characterizable thing, but it feels like a subject of experience. Does this duality need to collapse before it can be said that one is practicing in the natural state? In other words, must one first have a direct experience that phenomena are manifestations of rigpa and thus indistinct from it? In some readings of texts, it seems like the answer is yes, and in others, maybe not.

Maybe I'm just nitpicking details. If this duality will collapse on its own over time, that's fine. It's just that every time I come across the term "nondual awareness" in Mahamudra manuals to describe the natural state, I suspect I'm a long way off from even beginning.

(On re-reading, you may have already answered this question. If I stop interpreting "nondual awareness" to mean a state in which there exists no subject-object duality, things make sense. But then I don't understand why they call it nondual even in the initial stages before this habit has been removed. Perhaps it is merely nondual in the sense that one is not reinforcing the duality of a self meditating on an other?)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:24 am

Ah, sod it. Just re-reading the quote (from you) that I pasted in my first response makes it clear what to do in practice. So "nondual awareness" as it is used to describe the fledgling natural state need not be nondual at all. There may still be dualities inherent in one's experience. The "final" state of rigpa may be nondual in the literal sense, but prior to that all dualities should simply be ignored.

If indeed this interpretation is correct, I propose adding that disclaimer to the preface of every Dzogchen and Mahamudra text to save others countless hours :smile:
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby passel » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:10 am

Tsoknyi R. gives a helpful piece of advice- working with rigpa, or baby rigpa, just persist in the practice, short times/ many times, and if you miss the mark, worst case scenario you wind up in unsupported shamatha. you earn merit and set the stage for future recognition. you gain stability so you don't spook yourself out of when you do recognize. kshanti paramita (patience). you just keep returning, letting confusion be a mindfulness bell, feel it as it is. even jigme lingpa in his autobiography sometimes confesses to not being sure if he's parked in the alaya, deluded about rigpa. that's devotion for the real world.
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:06 am

passel wrote:Tsoknyi R. gives a helpful piece of advice- working with rigpa, or baby rigpa, just persist in the practice, short times/ many times, and if you miss the mark, worst case scenario you wind up in unsupported shamatha. you earn merit and set the stage for future recognition. you gain stability so you don't spook yourself out of when you do recognize. kshanti paramita (patience). you just keep returning, letting confusion be a mindfulness bell, feel it as it is. even jigme lingpa in his autobiography sometimes confesses to not being sure if he's parked in the alaya, deluded about rigpa. that's devotion for the real world.


Thanks, that's very interesting! If Jigme Lingpa is unsure about when he's in rigpa, then I probably don't need to worry about it for a long time :) I'm not sure what is meant by "letting confusion be a mindfulness bell, feel it as it is" means btw.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby passel » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:13 am

you don't have to practice nonduality, just notice it from time to time. you're not an experiencer experiencing experiences, that's just a bunch of ideas, only true when you're tangled in thought (ie. most of the time!). the sound, the hearing of the sound, and the hearer of the sound all show up together. they only seem to be different when we think about it, but right then, when the sound shows up *bam* it's nondual. that's basic pali canon stuff, it's in the nidanas. you do however need to practice shamatha, you can't just notice that, because it's a conditioned state, so it comes and goes and responds to cultivation and development. but if you train the shamatha there's just so much more room for things like noticing (and also it's easier to be decent which is pretty important).
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:31 am

Just watched this brilliant video of Sogyal Rinpoche on resting in the natural state: http://www.vajratv.com/meditation-is-simply-resting/

He never once mentions the word "nondual." Other instructions do, e.g.:

Non-dual awareness and naked ordinary mind are synonyms.
-- http://www.mahamudracenter.org/MMCMembe ... c420995624

Rigpa, "ordinary mind," and "the natural state" are all called "non-dual", and are sometimes used interchangeably. But rigpa is legitimately non-dual in the sense that authentic recognition of it precludes the experience of any form of duality. The same cannot be said of "the natural state," where one is simply allowing dualities to subside by not grasping them. That's why I've been so utterly confused. The meaning of "non-dual" in those cases is very different.

Does this sound correct to others? If so, I think all my questions are answered and there's nothing left to worry about :)
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby Astus » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:25 am

"I don't experience appearances as themselves being awareness"

If I think about this sentence literally, even imagining it feels absurd. Awareness is being conscious of something. If that thing is the consciousness that is aware of it, the whole thing collapses. I mean, logically. So that's not what is meant. The other end, that awareness and objects are separate is also ruled out, otherwise they had no connection to each other. In terms of practice, it is to be determined by looking for the gap or border between object and subject in the sensory fields. Of course there is no such thing. Another method is to search for the mind and the object if it's inside, outside or in between. Teachings on this are found in Wangchuk Dorje's Ocean of Definitive Meaning and commentaries. What it comes down to is that there is just the flow of experience, as in the examples of the mirror and the lake. Because everything is an experience, everything is mind. And since all experience are ungraspable and inconceivable, they are empty. When you relax and let sights, sounds, etc. appear and disappear as they are without fixating on any of them, you just open yourself completely, the idea of any viewer and viewed, hearer and heard becomes meaningless. Try to meditate on a single sensory gate, first perhaps using a fixed visual object. Then investigate what you experience.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby underthetree » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:53 am

monktastic wrote:
underthetree wrote:I'd also add: relax. Relax, relax, relax and keep on relaxing.


:namaste: Thanks, that's a valuable addition. As I mentioned, I'm happy to relax -- particularly if I know I am not on a completely mistaken path! (And relaxing while doing this on retreat for the past few weeks seems to be doing something, so even if I'm totally wrong, at least I have that :tongue:)


Are you relaxing in meditation, though? Relax everything - start with the physical, but then start to see all sensations or the experience of those sensations as subtle tensions to be relaxed. Relax away from all stimuli, impressions, distractions, internal promptings. Then relax whatever it is that is telling everything to relax. Let go of everything except awareness itself. Don't worry about non-duality. Experience.
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby Andrew108 » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:32 pm

Hi Monktastic,
One thing to note is that awareness as talked about in Mahamudra is more like an objective fact rather than a subjective experience only. What I mean by this is that a genuine realization is not really something that happens to you. What I mean by this is that realization in Mahamudra is not something brain-based. What I mean by this is that when you die and you no longer have your brain you will still be connected to the objective fact of realization. So realization has to be a recognition that your subjective ups and downs, wishes and wants, meditation abilities are an expression only. Soon enough you realize you don't have to try hard because you are the Mahamudra. So when you die you don't want to change death but you quite enjoy the ending of brain and perception in the body you called yourself. Then you get stuck with the objective fact of existence itself and how that displays. So real awareness is connected with the simple pure fact of existence.
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby deepbluehum » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:39 pm

All these various pointing instructions you received have imparted authentic experience. Now slowly you stabilize.
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:13 pm

Astus wrote:"I don't experience appearances as themselves being awareness"

If I think about this sentence literally, even imagining it feels absurd. Awareness is being conscious of something. If that thing is the consciousness that is aware of it, the whole thing collapses. I mean, logically. So that's not what is meant.


Excellent! This suggests that I've been misinterpreting "non-dual" when the natural state is said to be non-dual. I've probably been influenced by the modern "non-dual" traditions, which consider the above collapse to be good.

Astus wrote:Because everything is an experience, everything is mind.


That's something I've recognized for as long as I can remember, which probably explains why I've been so flummoxed by all the instructions to get me there. By the way, one particular instruction is this one, from Clarifying The Natural State:

In this way, no matter what visual perception you see, you must become certain that it is merely the mind's perceiving quality. ... Since mind's expressive power is unconfined, you must recognize that it appears as visual forms and so forth.


Read one way, it matches what you just said. Read another way, I arrived at my first quote. With your assistance, I'm beginning to stop worrying that I'm misreading all of these quotes.

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

--Gampopa
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Re: Thamal gyi shepa vs. baby rigpa vs. rigpa (etc.)

Postby monktastic » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:19 pm

underthetree wrote:Are you relaxing in meditation, though? Relax everything - start with the physical, but then start to see all sensations or the experience of those sensations as subtle tensions to be relaxed. Relax away from all stimuli, impressions, distractions, internal promptings. Then relax whatever it is that is telling everything to relax. Let go of everything except awareness itself. Don't worry about non-duality. Experience.


Thanks! I haven't seen exactly those instructions before, but they make a lot of sense. Now that I'm gaining confidence that I'm not totally misguided, it will be much easier to relax. The primary tension came from the sense "if they say it's easy to rest in thamal gyi shepa, and that's equated with rigpa, and in genuine rigpa there is no experience of time, then clearly you're doing some other practice." Now I see that my practice is correct, and I will refine it as you suggest.
Last edited by monktastic on Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa
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