KARMAPA TEACHES ON “THE MIDDLING STAGES OF MEDITATION”
April 22-23, 2011. India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
He began by acknowledging how most ancient Asian spriritual traditions have profound instructions. But having the teachings is not enough, he commented, they have to be practised, and the way of practising depends on the capacity of the practitioner.
Comparing the other Buddhist vehicles and the Great Vehicle [Mahayana], His Holiness explained that, rather than seeking personal liberation from samsara, the unique contribution of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition is its commitment to transporting allsentient beings to liberation. All great beings shared this wish.
Bodhicitta strives for complete enlightenment. Why? If we compare a fully-enlightened person, a Buddha, and someone who is still training on the path, there is a difference in capacity. The Buddha has perfected his capacity. As you cannot benefit every being by a single method, the Buddha needs to be omniscient in terms of knowing all phenomena. This omniscience does not mean knowing how many different insects there are, rather it means knowing all the methods which can lead to the liberation of sentient beings. This all-knowing mind, knowing all phenomena, starts by placing attention on each phenomenon.
There are many different paths and methods for bringing sentient beings to happiness and freeing them from suffering. Some originate in spiritual traditions and others do not. Yet, it is important that we respect and understand them all, because each of them reveals a path for a person of a certain outlook or disposition.
Special insight or analytical meditation, vipassana, focusses on emptiness, the understanding of the fundamental nature of reality which can root out the ignorance which is the basis of cyclic existence, namely the clinging to the mistaken idea of an inherently-existent self. Some people may think that emptiness is the negation of everything, so nothing exists, and selflessness means no self, so how can we accumulate karma and so on. This is the extreme of nihilism and is not the meaning of emptiness or selflessness. To say that something does not exist is not profound, whereas the meaning of emptiness is profound. It is not the same as non-existence. For example, when we analyse a vase, we cannot find the imputed object. What is this not-finding? Is it the not-finding of something that exists or the not-finding of something that does not exist? We are searching for something that does exist and not finding it. What does this mean? We are not saying that the vase does not exist, but rather, that we have misunderstood how it exists. It appears to us as if it exists from its own side, so when we search, we cannot find it. It does exist but not in that way. Similarly, to think that emptiness means non-existence is wrong.
When we watch an actor in a film, he appears to us as if he really exists, but we know that he doesn’t. There is the mere appearance of the actor, which exists in dependence on various causes and conditions such as the reel of film, the film projector, the screen and so on. Therefore, this appearance is a dependent origination, produced by many causes and conditions. The appearance exists but the actor does not exist as he appears. It seems to have a true existence, that is how it appears to the mind, but it is a mere appearance.
In the same way all composite phenomena do not exist in the way in which we impute them to exist. They appear to us as if they are non-dependent. The “I” ,for example, appears to us as independent and autonomous, occupying the centre of our world, not depending on any causes or conditions. In actuality, though the “I” exists, it does not exist in the way it appears to us. It exists in dependence on many causes and conditions.
Essentialy, emptiness means an opportunity or opening. As Nagarjuna said:
For whatever emptiness is possible, for that everything is possible.
Finally, at the end of the third session, there was a special presentation to all members of the audience of the second edition of the commemorative book written for the yearlong celebration of the 900th anniversary of the birth of the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa.
These beautifully produced books were signed on the spot by the Gyalwang Karmapa and presented personally to each individual.