17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Lama Jigme Rinpoche - Excerpt from "Meditation" - December 2007

Working with the ego

There is one important thing to talk about: ego. Generally we don’t emphasize it so much, nevertheless, it is important to have a rough picture of it. When you practice Buddhism, which means following the teachings of the Buddha, we talk about ego. Generally, if you say “ego”, you think it is bad, that you need to get rid of it and get another better one. Usually, we have this feeling, but as practitioners, it is dangerous to think in this way. We should not think in terms of good or bad but in terms of how to make a proper use of it.
In the teachings, you find terms such as ignorance, ego, confusion, etc., you should not think of how to get rid of it and get better ones, you will never succeed because you cannot change this! What you should know is how to use it. You have to remain with your ego until you will reach some level of understanding through the practice. If you try and put efforts to get rid of it, you will not be able to achieve anything, you have to do with the ego. By using it in a proper way, slowly your perception, your understanding, change and then you can go beyond suffering; the quality of nyangen lé depa will thus surface.
I emphasize this because you think that this ego thing is very heavy, that you are not able to suppress it and then you lose courage in following the whole process of the teachings because if you cannot do anything, then better not focus in this direction and just forget it!
Our tendency is to try to get rid of the bad habit for immediately obtaining a good one. This is how we are, but it does not work with the ego.
In the same way, even if you are sincere with remaining in the awareness, disturbing emotions are constantly arising, and your mind is still the same as before, you cannot exchange it for another one. You need to be aware of how to act yourself properly so as not to fall in the negative while remaining with the disturbing emotions. This is not easy but referring to the teachings and looking at the present moment offer a lot of possibilities, this is how you can understand something. It requires advancing very slowly.
This is an additional remark because there is always a problem that surfaces with this idea of trying to suppress ego or disturbing emotions.

Genuine meditation

To go back to the teaching Mindfulness with respect to the four objects, yesterday, you talked about the body, and later you will also get onto phenomena, mind, and such concepts. Try to focus on these. You will not understand immediately all the terminology and all the instructions. Sometimes you may be satisfied, sometimes a little disturbed, because when you talk about reality, everything is neither so nice nor easy !
For example, when you talk about a body, it can refer to the human body but it also entails all kind of physical things. Once you heard about it, then you should contemplate it, this is not meditation but contemplation. With this understanding or knowledge, then you do meditate.
Normally, in the teachings, these stages are not so separated; I do it here in order to make it clear for you.
We use to meditate, but meditation should be genuine. Genuine meditation leads to buddhahood. When I say proper or genuine meditation, I am not speaking in terms of good or bad but in terms of the specific goal. If you want to achieve the goal, you must use proper meditation. It's the same thing as mechanics: in order to get the right result you cannot mix the pieces at random! I used the term “proper” related to meditation for you to apprehend the meaning. If you continue in this direction, slowly, you will understand the sense. This is really important.
You must come to the point where you can say: “This is what I see today, I cannot see more than this but I am positive this is right”, and by undergoing this process, due to meditation, you will go deeper.

As for meditation, usually we use zhiné (shamatha) or calm abiding, a more profound level is called lhaktong (vipashyana), insight. What does this Tibetan term mean? Lhaktong means: “Today I try to focus, to analyse, to concentrate. I could see this, I believe this.” Then, somebody tells you more, you understand the terms but not the meaning behind, this is very common.
Based in proper zhiné meditation you can then continue with proper lhaktong meditation, and slowly what you didn’t understand will be understood better. In Tibetan language, lhaktong means that you can see more than you use to understand or perceive. The terms always go with a technical aspect: when you focus on the teachings, lhaktong means that you understand the teaching in a more profound way. When you really come to the point where you fully grasp it, you can apply the teaching, you can actually do it. Without a proper understanding sometimes you will succeed in applying it but sometimes not. This is the same with our general experience: once we understand something we can do it, however, without a genuine understanding, then it requires a lot of attention and sometimes we forget the goal. The teachings aim at awareness, so you have to remain with this awareness. The sense implied is that you contemplate your understanding of the meaning. In order to refine your understanding and be able to follow it, you must continue and meditate.
How to obtain the result

First, I will try to explain the result because we always want to know what we will achieve! When you know the result, you then understand why you want to apply the methods. Referring back to the Buddha's teachings, it is shown that the basic cause for suffering is attachment. Suffering here means general, global, suffering. We all have a rough understanding of this but we don’t know how to deal with it.
We also talk about ego-clinging, it seems to be the cause of the problem but this is also linked with the attachment to me. We identify ourselves with a self and cling to it and everything is related with this. Many circumstances are coloured by this attachment. Nevertheless, if you really find out that there is no reason to be attached, if you come to the point where you have the conviction there is no ground for attachment, the main result will surface!
If you really see no reason to be attached, then you will not suffer. When you hear this right now, you panic: what will you do if there is no attachment?! Once you actually see it, there is no fear and no suffering that can surface. As soon as this understanding is achieved, the possibility of accomplishing all qualities is at hand.
I tried to give you a glimpse, a simple picture. It is difficult to express things when they are resumed but to put it in a very simple way all the teachings are linked with this.  

Usually, when we hear attachment is a problem, we immediately think we have to detach ourselves! The difficult thing is that if you try to do this, you will never succeed and it will even bring more suffering somehow! However, if you really find the meaning, then you won't need to stress yourself, it will come naturally. Yesterday, I talked about diamond. Our concepts makes for attachment, concepts fill our world and we follow them: that is the reason why it is difficult to get rid of the concept that diamond is valuable. You can see this is only a stone, nevertheless, it is still difficult to let go of it! However, if you really understand, there is then no reason for being attached. Attachment comes from your own mind. Let's take an example: if someone gives you a stone he found on the road, you will take it but stones are everywhere, there are not of any value, so even if you lose it afterwards, you have no reason to suffer from this loss since there is no reason to be attached to it. If you find this very meaning, there is no reason for suffering to surface. I guess this will help you to understand more or less!

When we talk about the practice of mindfulness, first there is a message, an instruction. You need to reflect to see whether this information is true or not. In general, you believe it is true but you feel it is not for you right now. You cannot change immediately! Maybe some persons, due to some past preparation can change on the spot but for most of the people this is not possible. Nevertheless, slowly, with the practice of meditation done on a continuous way, you will come to understand the meaning. In the same way as when we grow older and more mature we understand things in a different way than when we were children: for instance, toys are not so valuable or important anymore.
It is difficult to change only by intellectual understanding, it is actually impossible. You must understand the meaning of the body, of the mind, of sensations, and if you meditate constantly, you will realize the meaning of the teachings. This is not like opening a window and seeing all the landscape immediately. It is a slow process; you must go step by step you cannot gather all knowledge immediately.


Through the instructions on meditation you will come to understand the meaning of shunyata, the meaning of emptiness. This is what is explained in a deeper way in the teaching Mindfulness with respect to the four objects. Through this you will be slowly able to apprehend the meaning of emptiness. If you continue to focus on this understanding of emptiness, it will change your desire.
We are talking about desire and attachment and changing these. The reason for this change is that you will actually be able to see something; your perception will be different. Now, we feel emptiness is important to know, to understand, but we don’t exactly know what it entails. The teachings say that emptiness is important to be known but since you don't know how to discover it by yourself, you just follow the words and try to put your own concepts and sometimes this does not work very well. Something can come out of it but the result will not be the one aimed at.  

What does emptiness mean? When you hear “empty”, you think it is like the empty of space; there is also the idea that empty means nothing. Actually, this is not quite the same! That’s the problem here! You are using the terms not exactly knowing the meaning thus you cannot understand properly. If you analyse in details the constitution of physical matter, you gain an understanding but still it is difficult for you to be convinced somehow. If you develop your capacity, your potential of sherap, wisdom, you will be able to perceive this clearly because this pacifies your mind, in other words, it means that you get the clear meaning of emptiness.
When you just try to reflect a little bit on the instructions, you can more or less guess the meaning, but still you cannot have a clear vision. In order to actually see clearly you need this process of meditation we just talked about.

Process to obtain the result

Let's go back to the topic we talked about last time. You can develop degrees of clarity in your mind. In order to develop it, you must do it in relation with your own personal environment. This is the cause of the environment. This is the reason why we talked about karma, positive or negative action. This is the invisible environment of your state of mind. If you develop a positive environment, there will then be a possibility that your mind can perceive reality, otherwise if the environment is not positive, even if you put a lot of efforts, it will be difficult to do it. These are a kind of very fundamental conditions; this is why bodhicitta is very important. Due to bodhicitta all thinking, acting, and everything become more positive but you should also be yourself positive relatively that is why you should try to learn and remain with a proper attitude and conduct: this brings positive potential. On this basis, you practice meditation, and when meditation is linked with positive conditions, it enables you to develop proper sherap, wisdom. Through an authentic sherap you can apprehend the whole of reality properly. This is a cause for attaining enlightenment.

I make it simple for you to understand how it functions. This is something very important to be aware of because even if you see emptiness, there is still something to do! The combination of the different factors is important to get the good result. This good result will make you understand the teachings better so that you will get THE result!  
When we talk about emptiness, we perceive there is something but we say it is empty, this is thus a little complicate. However, understanding how you perceive things and knowing the definition of emptiness will be very helpful. We will not talk about it today otherwise we will need to go into details, but we will make a preparation and next time it will also be included.
For example, the Third Karmapa composed a teaching on how to distinguish an ordinary conceptual mind from an accomplished one (rnam shes ye shes rnam ‘byed pa'i bstan bcos). You can understand this in the same way as I explained for emptiness. There is description on how we have to define emptiness. There are several different views corresponding to different kind of individuals and the result they can achieve respectively.
When you read, you need to know the background of the text to understand it. The main thing is to know that when you follow a particular definition or view, you can achieve the corresponding result. The main goal of the text is Buddhahood so the emphasize is on this aim, and it explains that other views do not go in that direction.
When you read, you get a concept but try and understand it better, otherwise it is contradictory, thus you develop judgments and you feel it makes discriminations. There is a discrimination to be done in order to get such a result. When you understand this, you meditate, it is the same process. There is a teaching, a message; through meditation, this message becomes clearer and clearer in the mind.
That’s why it’s very helpful. This text is long and takes time to be studied but in the next program we can use it because it will be helpful as for the view in meditation.

With this kind of good preparation you can slowly continue on the path. If you want to go quicker with your car you put a turbo on the engine, in the same way you can put the turbo of vajrayana practice so that it goes quicker! It’s very logical: if you really understand the definition of emptiness, if you understand what physical matter truly is (because we are confused: we take a physical body for real instead of seeing that this is just a mechanic) and apply vajrayana practices to this understanding, you are not artificially there but you are really there. It's quite different. Instead of your body, your awareness, your wisdom is really there, it is then easy to be connected. You can connect yourself with the yidam because there is no borderline or separation. In Christian terminology, they talk about union with God. In Buddhism we say that we are supported by the qualities of the yidam.
Of course, this will not happen immediately, you need to practice! You need to practice and be consciously present. Sometimes you can go somewhere but without any information, not knowing anything, you have to find out many things and slowly you manage. However, if you are well-informed on how to get there, things are then easy.
If you have this kind of preparation it will be very useful for vajrayana practice. Vajrayana practice has nothing to do with magic, it is very practical. If the right combinations are not gathered, it does not work! When everything is well combined, it then goes very fast. It is difficult to try to make fire without wood, but it you have prepared wood, and put dried firewood, you can get a very good fire. Here, we are talking about a fire of wisdom!

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