Although there are numerous methods for training in shamatha, many masters prefer those that use the breath as an object of focus. This is because breathing is something we are constantly doing anyway. Our breath is not something that is only present when we are meditating and not otherwise. Therefore when we focus on the breath, we do not need to do anything special or create anything new. We simply place the mind on what is naturally already there. Instead of thinking that practice involves doing something out of the ordinary, we just return to or settle into what is already happening. That is why the breath is taken as an object of meditation.
However, sometimes people then think that breathing meditation means inhaling very deeply, holding their breath for a bit and then blowing all the air out of their lungs. I think this happens precisely because they think, “I am meditating. I should be doing something special or unusual.” But they have forgotten that they are already breathing. We have this problem of always wanting to do something intentionally. There is no need to intentionally breathe. Just relax on your breathing. Be aware of the breath. That is all.
Everything in life happens due to various causes and conditions coming together. Interdependence reveals the profound implications of this simple fact. It shows us that everything that exists is a condition that affects others, and is affected in turn, in a vast and complex web of causality. As part of that web, we ourselves are a condition that impacts those around us. That means if we change, so do others.
Make every effort on the path, uniting absolute and relative bodhichitta. This distils the essence of all the sutras and the tantras. The subduing of one’s own mind is the root of Dharma. When the mind is controlled, defilements naturally subside.
We establish some stability and focus in our mind and see which elements in it lead to greater peace, which to greater suffering. All of it — both the peace and the suffering — happens lawfully. Freedom lies in the wisdom to choose.
The altruism of bodhichitta is the path of beings of great potential.
Therefore train yourself in the deeds of bodhisattvas, and do this on a grand scale! Shoulder the responsibility of freeing all beings from samsara. Of all the eighty-four thousand sections of the Buddha’s teachings, none is more profound than bodhichitta.
You have the freedom to analyze, and you are encouraged to do so, but at some point you have to enter into this world of decidedness. This takes bravery. It’s very scary, because analyzing is like a handrail: it’s a support; it creates security. The rational mind justifies things, and it makes you feel comfortable. Everything is checked. But from there, you have to take this leap.
When you finally decide, “OK, this person is going to be my guru,” it will not delete all your doubt overnight. You have made this decision after a lot of analysis; that doesn’t mean you are without doubt. But your decision is now taking the lead.
It may even be good to tell your prospective guru, “Look, I’ve decided I want to be your student, but at times I will doubt you.” The guru has to understand. If there is a guru who expects you to have no doubt from the time you step through the door, this guru is an idiot. Actually, this guru doesn’t have the ingredients to be a guru.
Becoming attached to any type of meditation — experiences, visions, dreams, whatever — will bind you. Do not regard these things as having any particular positive or negative value or judge them as good or bad. They are just appearances within the mind, which do not justify desire or fear.
Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams of flowers in air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong;
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.
Sometimes we have a positive thought and are moved by an altruistic motivation to benefit others, but the response is not what we had hoped for. People might not accept our offer of help. We ourselves might feel our capacity was not adequate to the task, or we might be left with the feeling that our virtue lacked strength. However, when it comes to art, there are no such problems: for example, when children make drawings, they are not concerned about the reactions of grown-ups or other people. They simply express on paper whatever arises spontaneously in their heart or mind, without forcing or faking anything and without worrying whether others will like it or not.
Similarly, when it comes to engaging in virtue, it is important that we do not act to please or impress anyone. Rather, we should be expressing whatever is pure and spontaneous in our heart and mind, without pretence, phoniness or hesitation. First, we bring forth whatever we find within ourselves that is beautiful and spontaneous, and only later do we consider whether it will be accepted or not. Otherwise, sometimes others have strong expectations and we might feel we will not be able to show them what we have that is beautiful. This is the feeling that comes.