Tranquility and Insight Meditation
How to meditate and understand the nature of the mind
by His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche
This teaching concerns the two main stages of meditation: (1) Shiney; tranquility meditation which develops concentration, and (2) Lhatong; the meditation which develops supreme insight.
We must first engender precious Bodhicitta before listening to this dharma teaching. Bodhicitta is the motivation to achieve enlightenment so that one can benefit all sentient beings.
The Basis and View to be developed before Meditation
Before beginning and progressing through the stages of meditation, one must maintain good ethics and steadfast discipline. A practitioner should listen to, study, contemplate and put into practice the authentic dharma teachings. It is with good discipline as the foundation that a practitioner can achieve the fruit of meditation practice. Without pure discipline and without properly studying the dharma, the practitioner cannot reach the fruition of meditation. Without pure discipline, one is missing the most important foundation of the dharma path.
A practitioner should likewise contemplate that Samsara, our worldly state of confusion, is conditioned existence. Samsara arises due to the coming together of causes and conditions. In order to attain enlightenment, one must be unattached to worldly existence and not chase after worldly desires; a practitioner should break away from samsaric confusion.
If one practices in this way, enlightenment is possible!
To develop real understanding about the delusive state of samsara, the practitioner should deeply reflect upon the impermanence of all phenomena. Also, one should develop a deep understanding about the suffering which sentient beings endure.
In samsara, no happiness we experience is ever-lasting and forever real. As they say, whatever goes up must come down! Whether it be our body which was created by our parents or a tree which grows from a seed in the ground, all appearances will "come down" and dissolve. All appearances will end at some point. Every moment, every step we take, we get closer and close to this ending point.
Now, due to people's perception about death, some become frustrated with this impermanence topic. They confront death with a frightened and terrified attitude. But, it is senseless to be so paranoid and so attached to the physical body.
People are so concerned about their age and youthfulness. They develop a tragic attachment that is so strong; they are blinded by it. We must not fail to recognize that we are dying every moment.
From the moment of birth until death, each moment we die little by little; it is a long process. The elements and conditions which make up our body become less and less vital throughout our life. At the time of death, they diminish totally.
Since this process is happening all the time, why are we so attached and worried over it? Unfortunately some individuals die from a gradual painful illness, or from a sudden malady such as heart attack. Even though there is suffering involved with these illness, it is the natural potential of the body to become ill. As long as there is a body, the potential is there. Take, for example, a vase with four living snakes inside of it. Usually the snakes sleep, but when it gets warm the snakes wake up and begin moving or fighting, shaking the vase back and forth.
Our body works in the same manner. We have the elements of Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. As long as they are in harmony, one does not have illness. But, the potential danger to become ill is always there. It is only a question of time until the illness breaks out. Through this understanding a practitioner can lessen attachment to the body and worldly existence.
Unable to recognize the above truths, those who wander in samsara's confusion are distracted and afflicted by the experiences that their senses take in. They search for delicious tastes, pleasant sounds, good feelings, and so forth. But in reality these "sense-pleasures" have no sense and meaning!
A dharma practitioner must understand that the desire for worldly happiness leads only to distraction and further conditioned existence. For example, someone who is sentenced to death cannot enjoy the delicious food offered a day before the execution. This is because he is aware that death is imminent.
Dharma practitioners do not want to become discouraged or feel worthless in this sort of manner! But, like the man to be executed, practitioners should see that death can happen. We must understand that constantly being attached to everything does not result in happiness being prolonged.
One can never satisfy the mind through using the five senses; the very opposite is the case! The more one feeds the senses, the more one wants! The more energy one puts into satisfying the mind, the more is needed to maintain that happiness. If you eat delicious food today, you will want delicious food tomorrow; otherwise one is not satisfied.
Feeding into our senses and desires (in order to achieve happiness) is like going to a phony doctor. This doctor diagnoses the patient with the wrong illness and then treats him or her with the wrong medicine. The more medicine taken, the more sick and ill the patient becomes.
This is the same result with searching for happiness through sensual pleasures.
The mind only becomes more and more unsatisfied by craving for things which appear beautiful or pleasing. A practitioner can prevent this by using a remedy called "closing the sense doors." This means one does not chase after, or run away from, appearances. Through practicing in this way, a peaceful state of mind will be achieved.
Maintaining good discipline while guarding our sense doors is also a necessary part of our practice. One should not engage in negative behavior, because it is negative behavior which is used to satisfy our sense desires.
After gradually reducing fixation and our uncontrolled senses, we can then begin to learn and practice the path of enlightenment.
A practitioner then respectfully attends dharma teachings and becomes aware that existence has suffering. By analyzing these teachings, genuine trust can develop. Now a practitioner must integrate what has been learned into daily life and meditation.
The Buddha said that a practitioner should not just “believe” in his teachings, especially not blindly. He told us to analyze, develop trust in, and then put into practice his teachings. With such genuine trust, one can practice meditation and learn about the different methods used during meditation.
The Mind in Meditation
Meditation is mental activity and contemplation. We work with the mind because it is the basis for all of samsara and nirvana. Whatever appears, it is the mind's own activity.
Appearances which are supposedly outside of the mind itself are truly not different from the mind; it is the mind which perceives and classifies phenomena. According to the Mahayana, no phenomena which arises is ultimately “outside” of the mind's perception.
The Buddha taught that ignorance causes conditioned existence (our existence, which is condition by karma and other factors). From the mind’s ignorance arises the Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination. This causes us to experience samsara.
Ignorance is when the perceiver believes that the objects he or she sees are ultimately independent of the mind’s experience. Therefore, the perceiver is attached to external objects, believing their existence to be separate from the mind’s own individualized perception. This tendency, and attachment to external phenomena, keeps growing stronger everyday. It has been growing this way since beginningless time.
Only if there is a perceiver can form be seen and sounds be heard. Through this understanding we know that everything comes from the mind’s own perception and experience.
There must be an awareness, a mind, to perceive objects. For example, if there is a blue object in a room and everyone gathered in that room is talking about it, the perception and awareness must exist. Otherwise, there is no blue object and no one to talk about it with.
Suffering also exists only due to the condition of this perception. If there is something causing suffering and someone to perceive it, then the suffering exists. If there is nothing which can perceive the suffering, then the suffering is considered not there, not existing by perception.
Nothing can be experienced outside of the mind’s awareness.
As described in the Buddha's teachings, the true nature of the mind is beyond relative words and extremes, it is beyond existence and nonexistence. The mind has no form and no color. There are different terms for this true nature (such as Buddhanature, Dharmadhatu, Tathagatagarbha), yet they all refer to the essence of the mind.
The nature of the mind is beyond words, it is different from common awareness or consciousness which experiences samsara. The great master Saraha of India said that the mind's nature is beyond words, just like vast space is beyond conceptual understanding. No matter how long one thinks about it, no solid conclusion will be there. The mind's nature must be realized, it cannot just be talked about.
With this view about the mind as the basis, the practitioner can meditate and samadhi (state of deep concentration) will arise. By entering into samadhi, a practitioner will directly see that all experiences manifest directly from the mind and are illusory in nature.
Pre-Conditions to Meditation
Two major conditions are needed before one learns to practice Shiney and Lhatong meditation. First, the practitioner should study the dharma and know where authentic teachings are given. Second, the practitioner must meditate where one is not distracted; having enough food, being healthy, not being around people and objects who one has strong attachment too, are all necessary conditions so that distraction does not arise.
Once these conditions are fulfilled and distraction is not there, the practitioner must know what obstacles, or veils, arise while meditating. One should know these emotional tendencies during meditation before they arise and hinder practice.
These veils are in general are (1) Agitation and distraction of the mind with many thoughts. The mind is stirred up and follows after these thoughts, thinking about them, such as what is beautiful and what is not. (2) Regret and doubt arises when the practitioner starts to contemplate about what happened in the past, letting the mind wander. (3) Heaviness of the mind causes meditation experience to be unclear. The true nature of the mind cannot be seen and one cannot even concentrate one-pointedly. (4) Dullness of the mind is when one foolishly cannot even go into or stay in meditation.
The practitioner should gradually learn what are the causes for these veils to arise, and how to get rid of them. For example, the mind gets stirred up due to thinking about beautiful forms, good food, friends, desires and other objects. One gets distracted sometimes by eating too much or too little, or due to sleeping a lot or not sleeping enough. Mental tendencies of dullness or agitation arise due to food and sleep conditions. The mind can become unclear and dull if our stomach is full of food, or agitated if we do not eat.
Combining Shiney and Lhatong
Although there are many different methods of meditation, all are contained within Shiney (Tranquility) and Lhatong (Supreme Insight) meditations.
Shiney meditation is when one develops one-pointed concentration. The mind becomes calm and still. Lhatong meditation is when the practitioner sees the nature of the mind.
The practitioner can only see clearly the mind’s nature only if Shiney and Lhatong meditation are practiced together. This way, recognizing the mind’s true nature is like a bright flame which does not move.
When the flame does not move it is clear and illuminates all darkness with its light. But if the wind is moving, the flame then will not be clear and darkness will remain. So, without Shiney meditation, Lhatong will not arise. Without Shiney, meditation will not be stable and one-pointed. And, without Lhatong meditation, the practitioner will not gain wisdom.
Now the practitioner can begin Shiney meditation. One starts concentrating on one object. There are both pure and impure forms in which one can concentrate the mind on. Visualizing or concentrating on a solid form of the Buddha is the best method, it is a pure form which the mind can settle it's concentration with.
However, especially at the beginning, people have the tendency to not concentrate on a pure form like the Buddha. So then an impure form such a stone, piece of wood, or anything else is placed in front of oneself. The mind’s concentration is then guided to this impure object and one trains the mind to remain without unwavering on that object. One can placed the object in the shadow of the sun and moon, and watch as it changes. One can also concentrate on the breath and watch it go in and out.
Shiney meditation uses the senses and our mind’s awareness. The eyes are the sense which distracts us the most, therefore forms are used to slowly aid one in concentrating single-pointedly. Distraction through sound, smell, taste and touch are not always as dominant as distraction through sight during meditation.
Slowly the practitioner will adapt to the calm mind and learn to use other meditations. After one learns to concentrate on a stone, then one can next visualize a ball of light between one’s eyebrows or above the head. The color of this sphere of light is not important. It is more important that one sticks with this meditation for a long time and trains the mind with it.
Then, the practitioner can begin visualizing the Buddha and other deities, and take these pure forms as the objects of our meditation. First one should visualize the Buddha without much detail. Gradually the eyes, cloths, nose and details are included in the visualization.
We must balance meditation practice by not concentrating too much or too little. This is like what should be done when someone tries to spin a cord. If he does it too fast and strong, the cord will get cut. And, if he spins it too loosely, the cord will end up being a ball of intertwined, loose strings. So, with meditation, a balance needs to be maintained. Too loose and too tight are both unsuitable for meditation.
Shiney meditation is not meant as a method to become unaware or to develop a blank mind. While meditating, if your mind becomes very unaware and too quiet, then take a short break. Pause and then begin the meditation afterward. Stop the meditation for a short period if one is tired or the meditation isn’t working well. Otherwise, if one continues, you will not want to meditate again that day or become frustrated.
This can be understood through the example of us doing manual, physical work. If you do some work and then take a short break, you will be happy to return to the work. But if you continue to work until you are tired, you will not want to work again. Likewise, you meet a friend and have a good time; you both want to see each other again when the time is right. But, if you and your friend spend a very long time together, you will get tired of seeing him and will not be interested to meet him again in the near future.
So, short yet frequent periods of meditation is what beginning practitioners must do. Slowly one learns to meditate longer and develop concentration.
By practicing this way, one will reach the results of Shiney quickly. The mind will naturally be able to remain in a state of concentration. Even the body will learn to relax and be able to sit in meditation for longer periods of time. In time, even meditating for one week or more will not be painful.
Meditating in this way is connected with the Hinayana, the vehicle of the Listeners who aim at liberating only themselves from suffering. In in the Hinayana, one begins to meditate in this manner.
Other Shiney practices in the Hinayana include meditating upon the impermanence of the body; one sees how the body consists of many organs and then dies. The process of death is meditated upon, such as how the body becomes darker and more ugly, until only a skeleton is left. This is not done as a morbid practice, but instead so the practitioner will recognize the reality of impermanence and death. People sometimes do not wish to think about death, they feel it is a sad topic. But if we are so against it now, when the time of death comes the individual will face much more agony and resentment. So by thinking about death now, we will suffer less later on.
There are also different methods used to meditate upon the breath. Meditating upon one's breath cuts off our constant thought flow and the stir of mental activity. The practitioner breaths in and out, doing so for twenty-one times. The breath is relaxed and natural. Forcing the breath is not proper here. This breathing technique is repeated for as long as is possible, and also based upon what level the practitioner is at.
In one particular breath practice, the student follows the exhaled breath mentally until it is sixteen finger-lengths in front of the nose, and likewise follows the inhaled breath until it reaches down into one's body.
Another method used with breathing is to imagine colors with the breath, such as blue, yellow and red. One can also visualize the breath as a jewel necklace circulating as one breaths in and out.
Obstacles during Shiney Meditation
With regards to the various obstacles that arise in meditation, there are two types of antidotes: one is changing the meditation method and the second is through behavior/external changes. If neither of these antidotes work, it generally means that there is a karmic cause for the mind's dullness or distraction.
If too many thoughts arise, make sure that one is wearing warm cloths, the gaze is looking slightly downward and that one is not hungry. During meditation, visualizing a dark blue buddha like Akshobhya or the Medicine Buddha is beneficial. Likewise, contemplating the truths of impermanence, suffering and death will calm the mind's excitement.
The karmic cause for an active and overly excited mind is generally desire and attachment. Having greed and jealousy in previous lifetimes can cause this habit. To lessen this karmic cause, shunning attachment and greed should be practiced.
If the mind is dull and too relaxed, do not eat too much, wear less clothing and gaze slightly upward. It is useful to make the mind happy when dullness arises. Contemplating on the qualities of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is beneficial here. Recalling that one has a precious existence and a wonderful opportunity to practice the dharma is also an excellent antidote. Meditating on white colored buddhas bring positive results.
The karmic cause for a dull and unclear mind is having wrong views, meaning one might have disrespected the Three Jewels, whether it be not standing in their presence or even slandering them. To lessen this karmic cause, praising the Three Jewels, whether it be the Bodhisattvas or the authenticity of the the Four Noble Truths, will bring positive results.
When meditating, it is necessary to assume the proper position, which is called the Seven Points of Vairochana. By sitting in these seven points, the energy channels in the body flow properly. Otherwise, if the body and its energy are imbalanced or in an awkward position, this can cause the mind to wander or become dull.
- The legs should be placed in either the full lotus position or half lotus position.
- The hands should be placed below the navel, resting on the lap, with the right hand placed on top of the left hand. The thumbs should touch each other right below the navel.
- The shoulders should be pulled back slightly and broadened.
- The chin should be tucked in only slightly, closing the back of the throat.
- One's gaze should be focused into the space in front, about sixteen finger-lengths in front of the nose.
- The tongue should gently touch the top palate of the mouth and the lips not be too open or tightly closed.
- The back should be straight, but naturally bend at the bottom.
It is important that the practitioner learns to sit in this meditative position. This is because, the position of our body affects our physical and mental state of well-being.
Physically, inside our body, we have different energy channels (winds). Our posture during meditation affects these energy winds. The legs control the downward energy winds, which control excreation. The hands control the energy wind of digestion. The back holds the energy wind that controls physical strength. The shoulders control the energy wind which stabilize our lifeforce. The position of the mouth and chin control the upward winds. So, our body position during meditation can protect against illnesses and aid one's physical well-being.
Likewise, the way our body leans can affect our mental state. Leaning towards the right causes more aggression to arise while leaning towards the left causes desire to become stronger. Ignorance and dullness arise when one leans forward, and as one leans back pride arises. When the gaze is improper, more thoughts tend to distract the one's concentration.
With Shiney meditation, the goal of practice is to learn how to control these distractions and negative emotions, even though the practitioner has not fully cut these obstacles from their root yet.
With Lhatong meditation, the student develops wisdom, recognizes the true nature of the mind and fully cuts the emotions from their roots.
There are different levels of Lhatong meditation, such as contemplating the emptiness of the self or the emptiness of phenomena. Then, there are the 'pointing out instructions' given by a qualified master to the disciple, pointing out the nature of the mind and how to meditate in order to arrive at this recognition. Based on the student's degree of accomplishment, one of these levels of Lhatong meditation can be used.
An basic way to meditate upon the emptiness of the self is to by analyzing the five skandhas. The five skandhas are the five aggregates which cause us to infer that a self or "I" exists. They are Form, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formation/Discrimination and Consciousness.
The self, the "I," is a strong concept. But it is a false one, something that we just get attached to. It is our own perception which sees a "self" as being a particular way.
This is just like someone who mistakes a tree at night to be a human figure, or falsely sees a cord as a snake. Our concept of ego is like this. We habitually, since beginningless time, identify these five skhandhas as being the ego, the self.The first skandha is Form, which in this case refers to the body.
This aggregate, this body, is not the self exclusively. We cannot identify our body as being "me," this is a misplaced idea. The self would be changing just as the body does if this were a true idea: when you are weak, your ego is weak; when you are thin, your ego is thin; when you are old, your ego is old. Our body is always changing so it cannot be the self.
Also, the body is not a solid entity; it is consist of many parts. If someone has sixty-three bones, do they have sixty-three egos then? If someone has thirty teeth, do they have thirty egos? The body then has so many parts, each of these parts would become an individual "self," or ego, and so instead of there just being one "I" or "me," there would be many.
One can continue to analyze the other skandhas in the same manner. For example, with the second skandha, feeling, we might have felt something in the morning. Now that feeling is gone, but is the ego also gone? Likewise our tastes, such as sweet and sour, are they the ego? Obviously the ego isn't just feeling. Feelings come and go, but our ego, our self, doesn't come and go in the same way.
The mind attaches wrong concepts to the self, an illusory idea. This tendency of an ego is so imbedded in our mind. Therefore one should conclude in meditation that the self is not the five skandhas. And, the self is not the five senses either.
Once one has gained this confidence in the illusory nature of the self, then this understanding is the beginning of Lhatong. With the non-distraction of Shiney already firmly developed, the student can begin to develop the wisdom of Lhatong.
So, to develop this wisdom during Lhatong meditation, the student should be introduced to the concept of a self, and its illusory or empty nature. The student needs to be taught about how one's perception of appearances is not always what is truly there. The student should be taught that their strong tendency to affirm a self is an ignorant habitual pattern which arises out of ignorance.
Emptiness is explained in the commentaries of Nagarjuna, and the teachings on Madhyamika (Middle Way). In Madhyamika philosphy, conditioned existence is analyzed and critiqued. Evidence and logic is presented, demonstrating that phenomena is empty of appearance. The simplest explanation is that there is no unit of phenomena. We first see things and label them, or have directions or places such as north or south. The further and further we go, the smaller and smaller part of phenomena we claim to find, we can still go smaller. We understand that there is no unity or solid unit in phenomena.
The student now sees how phenomena is empty. The term emptiness though, in Buddhism, is beyond all extremes. By saying "there is nothing, there is no phenomena," one leans towards one extreme that there is nothing at all existing. And likewise by affirming that existence is solid, one is leaning towards the extreme of permanent existence. But emptiness does not mean a total void. This misunderstanding should be cleared away, otherwise the student will not understand this term and think that the universe is just blank space.
Analyzation is another form of Lhatong meditation. It is what has been primarily used so far here and is considered the tradition of the Panditas of India. One meditates analytically about phenomena. For example, one realizes that emotions such as anger and desire arise due to causes and conditions and are empty of true existence.
The other form of Lhatong meditation is through the pointing out instructions from the teacher, which can be given during an empowerment or another teaching. One meditates upon the nature of the mind without analysis in this case. One just rests the mind in its own nature, free from extremes and all emotions and concepts; it is a direct experience.
So, there are these two specific categories related to emptiness. The first is the 'emptiness' which we think of, which we imagine during meditation or analyzation. The second is the real emptiness which is beyond all intellectual concepts and only experienced by realized beings.
The Mahayana Attitude must be developed
As Mahayana practitioners, at the conclusion of our Shiney and Lhatong meditation, we must dedicate the merit, wishing to benefit all beings and ourselves so that enlightenment is reached.
This motivation must always be there when we meditate, otherwise we will stray from the Mahayana path. Meditating upon emptiness without bodhicitta is not a Mahayana practice!
In India there was once a Brahmin who meditated upon emptiness without Bodhicitta. He did so for twelve years. Through this time, he was very proud and always thought, "I am such a great meditator, no one can meditate like me. No one is as good as me in realizing emptiness!"
This Brahmin then developed attachment to his own state of mind, and aversion towards others. He thought he was better than everyone else. After he died, he was reborn as a cat. The Brahmin was possessive of oneself and angry at others, like a typical cat, so that was the state in which his mind went.
So, as we progress now in our practice, the attitude of bodhicitta must be there. Otherwise, our practice will not result in any benefit.
Faults during Meditation practice
There are five main faults which can hinder a practitioner's meditation or samadhi (concentration).
The first fault is laziness. Now, there is a different between worldly laziness and laziness when practicing the dharma. Worldly laziness is when we do not have much energy and are tired. But here, with dharma practice, it means one thinks "I can't practice, I am bad at this." So this is dharma laziness. It is more a lack of confidence and lack of desire to practice.
To overcome this laziness and be diligent in practice, there are various methods. Shantideva wrote a commentary on the Bodhisattvas' Way of Life which explains how to practice the six paramitas (perfections) and develop endurance and diligence. People in this world are often so ready to fight, or even die in a war. They train themselves so diligently for this. But instead they should apply this energy to diligently practice the dharma, which brings the true result.
True happiness is not from worldly activity. It is from the dharma.
Also, when we get very ill, people are often very diligent in finding a doctor and vigorously aim to get cured. But we will only be cured for a short while, because since beginningless time we have suffered in samsara.
We have been in a prison, and our negative emotions are what holds us in that prison. All painful states of existence including old age, sickness are from these emotions, they are the cause for our suffering.
If we try to eliminate our suffering through means other than dharma practice, there will be no true result. Even if we find the right doctor and he eliminates the illness from us, the illness can come back. Likewise our enemies can come back and attack us again after a war.
So, we must attack our real enemies, our distracting emotions. One doesn't need to go to war, find a doctor to eliminate illness or engage in political agenda. Instead, practicing the dharma will (as its final result of supreme enlightenment) bring a cessation to all these sorts of suffering.
The second fault people encounter when meditating is forgetting what one has learned. If we forget the dharma teachings and instructions, then we cannot use or apply them. We sometimes are distracted and do not concentrate, so the teachings are not in our memory. Therefore, the dharma student should listen attentively to dharma teachings. One must recall and reflect upon the teachings we receive again and again, so we do not forget anything.
The third fault we encounter is having a dull or unstable mind, which was discussed previously. Our mind can be either unclear or have too many thoughts.
The fourth fault people have is not using the antidote or instructions which eliminate distracting emotions. If we are taught how to overcome dullness or another distraction but do not apply such instruction, then we are failing in our meditation practice.
The fifth fault is when a practitioner over-applies the instructions or antidote. For example, some people continue to be frustrated over getting distracted in meditation and continue applying a particular antitode, even though the distraction is over. This fault in itself causes distraction in meditation and is not beneficial.
Six Powers of Shiney Meditation
There are six powers which develop though proper Shiney (Tranquility) Meditation.
First, the power of listening aids our practice. We hear detailed instructions on meditation and which methods to adopt in our practice. If we listen to these teachings, then we can practice them in order to clear away all the veils and emotions which cloud our mind's nature.
Second, the power of contemplation arises. After listening to instructions, the practitioner should remember and reflect on them.
Third, the power of attention becomes strong. One's mind is clear and concentrated upon an object without a lot of effort.
Fourth, the power of knowing what is going on during meditation. The practitioner here is mindful and aware during meditation. He or she knows when distracting emotions arise and what antidotes to apply. The practitioner can also see the subtle distracting thoughts which are not always apparent. For example, a river can flow both above and below ground. It is obvious on land, but below the ground it is subtle. In the same way the mind during meditation should even uproot the most subtle forms of distraction. One's meditation should be mindful, not mindless.
Fifth, the practitioner uses diligence when meditating. We learn to be diligent when applying the instructions on how to eliminate the distracting emotions. The distracting emotions can be categorized into six particular ones: ignorance, desire, anger, pride, jealousy and wrong view. Wrong view is when one falls into the extreme of either eternalism or nihilism. From these six emotions stem twenty others such as dullness. Diligence is when we are able to use the right antidote to eliminate one of distracting emotions as it arises.
Sixth, through daily meditation the practitioner has the power to meditate very easily. It is almost effortless, and the five faults are caught right away and eliminated. At this stage of meditation, the mind can concentrate easily. This activity of concentrating allows us to be able to explain the nature of samsara and nirvana. Concentration gives us the ability to be motivated. Also in this stage, the mind overcomes the emotions easily, one can meditate without distraction and one can meditate spontaneously.
The Views of Emptiness
Already we have discussed the emptiness of the self and phenomena. There are three kinds of awareness and enlightenment. Here it will be explained based on the teachings of the Buddha Maitreya, who transmitted these teachings to the master Asanga in India. Maitreya's teachings elaborate on the Middle Way View (Madhyamika). Asanga's commentaries are known as the Mind Only view.
As Asanga explained, all appearances are from the mind. It is the mind which sees and creates these appearances. This is because, an object appears in many different way for sentient beings. It there was a flower and everyone experienced the appearance of this flower on the worldly level, there would be so many different appearances. If one hundred people saw it, each person would perceive it differently.
So we do not have only one appearance, because we have many minds perceiving it. If there was only one appearance there should be only one mind here, but there are one hundred people. If there are four people then four appearances of the flower are there. Exactly how many appearances arise are due to how many sentient beings there are to perceive them differently. It is the same with sound, and the other senses.
So our perception is conditioned by our consciousness. Appearances are conditioned by the experience of our consciousness. So, all appearances are from the mind.
Also, all appearances are from the mind only because for an appearance to arise both the subject and the object must be present at the same time. A subject is the one who is aware and uses his or her senses (such as the ability to hear or smell) in order to perceive phenomena.
So if our awareness has the ability to perceive an object, then it is perceived. If the subject and object do not come together, then phenomena does not arise. Objects and other appearances are not separate from the mind, they all arise from within the mind's awareness.
The Middle Way (Madhyamika) view explains that the mind's nature is emptiness. The mind's nature cannot be spoken of as arising, we cannot classify phenomena or appearances as being the mind's true nature. The mind's nature is beyond all words and concepts. The Madhyamika view here is considered the highest wisdom, beyond the duality of the mind and external objects.
First, one learns to understand the real nature of phenomena through analyzation. For example one can contemplate upon the question: if objects truly exist do they arise due to self-conditioned causes or due they arise due to something else? Next one analyzes the essence of phenomena and if one can actually find it; one analyzes whether or not phenomena truly has an essence or even the smallest unit. Then if there is a so-called essence, one analyzes whether or not it was already there or if it just came up new.
So through logic one analyzes phenomena and recognizes its empty nature. Through this, the practitioner is liberated from attachment and the concept of an eternal ego. One also will be liberated from the extreme of nihilism.
One will soon understand very firmly that everything is due to the coming together or causes and conditions. It is like a picture on the television screen or an image in a mirror, there are many factors which connect and come together. The picture and image is not really there on the television or in the mirror, but it appeared due to conditions and causes. So one sees that appearance and emptiness are inseparable like a mirror or television.
The view of the Madhyamika has different explanations, such as the Svatantrika and Prasangika views.
The Svatantrika view explains that the nature of phenomena has an inherent essence or buddha-nature. It represents the teachings of the Middle Way by demonstrating that since we already have the inherent nature, then the view of emptiness is there. It explains that appearances and emptiness are inherently inseparable. Therefore, although external appearances are empty, the true nature of the self is always there and can be revealed through direct experience.
The Prasangika view explains that phenomena and the self both are empty. Therefore the nature of everything, including the self, is refuted through logical means and pure analyzation which brings forth realization.
The Prasangika view and its connection with the wisdom paramita is explained in the commentary the Bodhisattvas' Way of Life by Shantideva.
The Svatantrika view (and instructions on analyzation and meditation) is explained in the commentaries of the Indian master Kamalashila.
The teachings on the Mind Only view of Asanga can be found in two of the five divisions of Maitreya's teachings such as the Uttaratantra (Gyu Lama) and the Abhisamayalankara (The Ornament of Clear Realization which explains the perfection of wisdom).