You can train yourself in this way to feel surrounded on all sides by goodness and benefit. Everything and everyone is benefiting you. The whole world becomes your personal benefactor and is part of you. You have not only been benefited in material terms. Those whose ideas you find useful, who brings out the best in you, who challenge you to grow — they are also your personal benefactors and form part of who you are.
Teaching yourself to see and feel in this way will make it much easier for you to feel close to others. It can make a tremendous contribution to your personal happiness and can certainly make you a more positive force in the interdependent world.
You exist as an idea in your mind.
Many people who approach the practice of Buddhism are willing to sacrifice one or two hours of their day in order to perform some ritual practice or engage in meditation. Time is relatively easy to give up, even though their life may be very busy. But, they are not willing to change anything of their personality – they are not willing to forgo anything of their negative character. With this type of approach to Buddhism, it hardly matters how much meditation we do, our practice remains merely a hobby or a sport. It does not touch our lives. In order actually to overcome our problems, we have to be willing to change – namely to change our personality. We need to renounce and rid ourselves of those negative aspects of it that are causing us so much trouble.
Don’t try to make clarity of mind with severe practice. Every mind comes to hate severity, and where is clarity in mortification? So an ancient once said, “Clear a passageway through severe practice.”
Enlightenment, or Nirvana, is nothing other than the state beyond all obstacles, in the same way that from the peak of a very high mountain one always sees the sun. Nirvana is not a paradise or some special place of happiness, but is in fact the condition beyond all dualistic concepts, including those of happiness and suffering. When all our obstacles have been overcome, and we find ourselves in a state of total presence, the wisdom of enlightenment manifests spontaneously without limits, just like the infinite rays of the sun. The clouds have dissolved, and the sun is finally free to shine once again.
When about to settle in the natural way of mind-essence, some people merely try to stay conscious and aware. Then they rest in this state of mental consciousness with the feeling: “Ah, how clear!” Other people fixate on a state of utter void as if their mind had gone blank.
Both of these cases, however, are simply aspects of consciousness clinging to a dualistic experience. Whenever this duality occurs — between the clarity and the one perceiving clarity, the emptiness and the one perceiving emptiness — look into the nature of this stream of rigidly fixated mindfulness. By doing so, you pull up the stake to which the dualistic mind, which holds to a perceiver and something perceived, is tethered, and make room for the naked, wide-open natural state of awareness — a luminous emptiness without center or edge.
To apprehend in a nondual way this luminous and open, natural state is the essence of awareness. It is the dawn of naked wisdom, free from the veils of fixated experience.
So let the phenomena play. Let the phenomena make fools of themselves by themselves. This is the approach.
When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced. This is our chance to come out of our self-protecting bubble and to realize that we are never alone. This is our chance to finally understand that wherever we go, everyone we meet is essentially just like us. Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us to a loving relationship with the world.
Suppose a teacher gives us the mind transmission, pointing out the nature of our mind when we are at the beginning of our path. We have this wonderful experience and think that something fantastic has happened to our meditation, but the next day the experience might not be so clear, and the following day, even less clear. After a year we might recall, “Well, last year my meditation was really great.” This happens when we have no steadiness of mind. Shamatha helps us stabilize our insights, and for this reason it is the foundation of meditation.