Ganges Mahamudra Verse Two
Lama Jinpa: So the second verse says, “For instance consider space, what depends on what. Likewise Mahamudra, it does not depend on anything. Don’t control, let go and rest naturally. Let what binds let go and freedom is not in doubt.”
So we check our energy, then read the verse and when we do the meditation, at this point, we are not repeating the verse to ourselves. We get it, like we get the joke, and then we rest in the nature of mind. You are not repeating the verse to yourself.
“For instance consider space, what depends on what. Likewise Mahamudra, it does not depend on anything. Don’t control, let go and rest naturally. Let what binds you let go and freedom is not in doubt to say anymore.” Go home now if you get it.
I’ll say a few things theoretically, because once again even though it’s theory, it’s helpful. Generally, in Mahamudra, we like to break things down into simple threes or something like that so you can easily remember.
First, nature of mind, nature of reality is this knowing. The mind knows where this knowing is. It is empty knowing. We can’t find an entity that knows the subject, and we can’t find the subject entity that knows something, the object. It’s just pure awareness, pure knowing. So that’s first.
Second, the mind has this clarity, this vividness; our experience, particularly of the phenomenal world, is vivid. Sometimes the term luminous is used. It’s just kind of so precise, so completely apparent.
Then third, the mind is unimpeded and all pervasive. There is nothing outside of our experience. There is no, the mind stops here, our awareness stops here, and then there’s the other side end of the universe. No. (Laughter) It’s just completely, completely unlimited – unimpeded is sometimes the term we hear used.
So we talk about those three things. Primarily, there is this unknowing/knowing – no subject/object. There is complete vividness, luminousness even, and then completely open, like space. So in Mahamudra particularly, Tilopa is talking about space a lot, about spaciousness. And nothing holds. There is no resting in space. We don’t have to rest the mind anywhere. In most of the meditations, you’re always putting your mind on your breath. In this we say rest naturally but it’s really like free fall resting. It’s really relaxing.
You probably noticed we brought in all the blue chairs. It’s not just for my aesthetic needs, although that’s a piece of it. As much as I love the maroon chairs, they have too much of a slope. These have only a very slight slope. Posture is really important. And when sitting in a chair, we still want to have our pelvis higher than our knees. A wedge cushion can help; these blue chairs are fine, it’s just that when people lean back in a chair their knees are higher than their pelvis and it rounds out the back. You can’t sustain a long effort of free meditation without good posture, particularly not with the more advanced meditation that requires real energy work and awareness. No chair is perfect; no body is perfect. But the proper posture is important, we’re doing yoga. If you need support, then put a back support behind the chair so you’re aligned with gravity.
That way you’re kind of away from the chair, which makes sense, right? Sometimes we have to put cushions on the floor to rest our feet on, so our feet aren’t dangling. Depending on the chair and someone’s body, your feet can be flat on the floor or sometimes crossed a little.
Because most chairs are kind of hard, if your legs are crossed, you’ll cut off some circulation. In my case, if I’m sitting in a chair, sometimes I kind of alternate crossed and not crossed.
So, the classical way of teaching Mahamudra, and Dzogchen too, and I like to do it classically, we just present the highest teachings right from the top – that’s my role. The role of the student is to try to do the meditations and fail. (laughter) So we teachers just say, “It’s easy. Just do it and rest.” The student says, “Okay, I’ll do it.” And then you can’t do it! That is when we go to path Mahamudra – we’ve established ground Mahamudra.
Maybe for a really exceptional student, they just hear it once and get it – don’t worry about that. In our tradition, we put it out there and you get a little piece of it, but then we find out that we’re losing the view so to speak. We can’t maintain just resting in the natural state right away. We can’t just have space-like nature of clarity and knowing. We need to do something, right? We need to do path Mahamudra.
So now you hear what’s being taught and say “Ohh, okay…” There, the student is getting the joke, but that doesn’t mean you’ve become a comedian. Being in the audience is not the same as being a master. When students say, “Yeah, I’ve got it, no problem.” that isn’t that same, because there’s no path Mahamudra there, no path Dzogchen. Actually they’re in trouble, and I’m in trouble too, because then I have a rogue student who thinks that they really got it, so I’ve got a big problem! I don’t need more problems! (laughter)
So path Mahamudra, as I explained in retreat, is broken down into what are called ‘The Four Yogas.’
The first yoga is the yoga of one-pointedness. That means we actually have developed enough energy, enough concentration mind, so that we can basically stay with it. We can stay with our experience – we can stay with our lived experience, rather than going off into our explanation and fantasy.
Dzogchen style is a little more like emphasis on now, on immediate experience. It’s the now and the immediate, non-conceptual moment. In Dzogchen, the emphasis really is on the now mind, the now awareness, or yeshe. In the one-pointedness, we’re really staying with the now. In Mahamudra too, we’re not drifting off into what we’re doing after the retreat kind of thing- we’re staying with our own lived experience. What is our own lived experience? It’s what you are experiencing right now – except of course, we tend to drift off. So we practice the yoga of one-pointedness.
Second is the yoga of nonconceptuality. The yoga of nonconceptuality is like this: even though we say, I’m staying with my own lived experience, staying present with myself, even with advanced practitioners; we tend to see our thoughts and distractions as a problem – right? People ask me, “Lama la, how can I get rid of my thoughts?” and that kind of thing.
In the yoga of nonconceptuality, thoughts are not a problem. They’re just expressions of mind. They’re waves on the ocean, right? The ocean doesn’t worry about the waves. You only worry about the waves if you’re identified with the little boat on the surface of the ocean – but the ocean itself doesn’t worry about waves, or mind waves, or the still Nature of Mind.
Do you have to push thoughts away? Do you have to entertain them? No, neither. The yoga of nonconceptuality doesn’t mean that we push concepts out, as many people think; they say “I just want a blank mind.” The nature of thoughts is inherently the nature of mind. Where else could they come from? And just like the nature of mind, they’re empty of independence – they are interdependent. It’s great! So in Mahamudra, we’re not thinking, well I have to get rid of all of my thoughts.
Here’s an example that might make sense to some of you. Isn’t it relaxing you go to the mall and you do your shopping, and after a while you’re tired of shopping and then you’re tired of walking around, and then you’re all done with your shopping, and you just sit down and watch the people walking by? It’s kind of relaxing, just watching them coming and going. It’s relaxing. You’re maybe noticing a little bit, ‘Oh this person looks like that.’ It’s relaxing, because you’ve finished your shopping.
You’re just sitting down and you’re just watching and it’s kind of nice. You’re not running after them! (laughter) You’re not running after them and saying, “Hey, come here!”(laughter.) “Hey, why are you wearing that?” That’s called ordinary sentient beings, where you’re jumping up and stopping strangers, no wonder they’re shocked! (laughter.) You aren’t pushing them away, either – just watching.
Third is the yoga of one flavor. Then we’re really sinking in, really sinking into it, it just has one taste, one complete taste, it’s unfindable. We simply cannot find any fixed concept whatsoever – it is empty. We can’t find any stuck place whatsoever. You know there’s a great, famous Mahamudra verse by the 3rd Karmapa that says, “If you think this is it, it still isn’t it.”
If you think this isn’t it, it still isn’t it, because you’re fixating. It cannot be emptiness over here and fixation over there. It’s all spontaneous. It’s all liberated. We are talking about freedom and liberation of the self. We’re talking about transforming. We’re not talking about rescuing. We’re not talking about being good people. We’re liberating, one taste. That’s easy.
And last, fourth, is the yoga of non-meditation. In a way, it’s like some recognition we have like ‘Hah, in the past I would have taken the bait on that – but I didn’t take the bait this time!’ or ‘You know, last year or two years ago, this situation would have spun me, but now I’m just doing it.’ We recognize it, like that. We can’t say we’ve attained non-meditation, but we recognize that. We almost have to have that experience.
It’s really weird, but this shit really works! So we kind of notice “Oh, something has changed.” It’s not like you know intentional meditation where we tell ourselves, “Okay, I’m meeting with someone who normally really annoys me, so I’m going to be a good Bodhisattva, be patient; be patient.” In non-meditation, we just recognize all that and go “Oh.”
There’s still recognition, because non-meditation isn’t like you’re clueless. In non-meditation it’s more like, “Oh, that’s really interesting. I didn’t apply any antidote. I didn’t make any special effort to be patient. I just was.” Then you get this irreversible confidence as those experiences become more frequent. Initially we think we have to keep applying antidotes, “When I walk in the room, that person is going to be there so I have to armor up, but I hope I don’t run into them.” (laughter) No; in non-meditation, we are not making any intentionality to be a certain way. We aren’t making any intentionally to be nice or mean or anything. We aren’t directing our awareness in any way. It’s just that things seem to be kind of working.
Q: So you aren’t making judgements.
Lama Jinpa: We’re not spinning anything. And as that becomes more and more matured then of course that is like, so liberating. You don’t have to pre-plan. You don’t have to be on guard. Awareness is not being aware, like, “You better beware.” No, it’s just, “Oh.”
So those are the very famous Four Yogas that we have gone through very fast; just to recap before we sit still, for students, classically the correct way to do it is we try to do the practice from the highest level and then we go to the Lama and say, “I can’t do it.” If you say you can do it from the very start, you’re faking it. Okay? Like, “Lama la, I got the Heart Sutra!” (laughter) or “This is easy,” you know. No – it’s hard. Non-meditation is easy.
So the majority of our practice is path Mahamudra. There is Path Mahamudra, Ground Mahamudra, and Fruition Mahamudra; same thing with Dzogchen. You know, if someone says, “I got it the first time!” I go, “Oh, gosh; I really have got a problem on my hands.” (Laughter) If somebody says, “I get a little of it and I see that I have to keep working,” then I go, “Okay, this is good.” I’ll take one question and then we’ll break for meditation.
Q:Lama la, are the four viewed as sequential?
Lama Jinpa: Yes, they are somewhat sequential – they work out sequentially. Generally there has to be some appreciation of the previous one before you go to the next. You wouldn’t say you mastered non-meditation until you mastered the previous three. You wouldn’t say you mastered one flavor until you can say you mastered one-pointedness, but we learn about them all at once. The way our tradition goes, you’re kind of introduced to everything so that we know the full mandala, and then we’re humbly confident and frustrated. Inspired frustration is called being on the path. (Hearty laughter)
Q: Inspired frustration?
Lama Jinpa: Yes, inspired frustration. That rings a bell doesn’t it? Yeah. (Laughter) Okay, now we can have our meditation