Tibetan Tantric Meditation on Selflessness
Mahamudra meditations tend to unify emptiness and bliss, and represent many core principles of Tibetan Buddhism. Nagarjuna’s text on The Middle Way played an important and influential role in these practices. Selflessness of persons and selflessness of phenomena are highly represented in noted meditation practices. Therefore,, this can be considered an advanced post on the topic. The following general steps will note aspects of the meditation sequence. We begin with the idea that all realness related to perceptions of I/Me/Mine are imputed through thoughts and the projections of the mind. Humans tend to experience I/Me/Mine and objects of awareness as real, concrete, substantial, and permanent entities. This is one reason why we cherish human life so, so much. To open up awareness and experience to the opposites of these characteristics, we need to focus meditative practice within a series of specific steps. These modified steps are noted below.
- First decide what the object of negation is. All will be related to emptiness of persons and objects. For our practice now, we will focus on the I/Me/Mine of “your” breath as our object of negation (selflessness and emptiness). Your breath is not permanent or self-originated; it contains properties of emptiness.
- Using our mind, body, breath and object awareness as the sources of negation is quite difficult, and may require years of practice to achieve. This is due to the reality of using our mind and body in experiencing the perceived situations and negating their inherent existence at the same time. This can be confusing.
- Defining inherent existence is a problem in and of itself. This depends on key Buddhist principles like impermanence, dependent origination, no-self, and ultimate emptiness of all things. I/Me/Mine ego perceptions of self, phenomena, and breath meet none of these listed Buddhist requirements.
- Use of logic is important at first. Since the I/Me/Mine of self, mind, body, phenomena, and breath have never existed as permanent, self-originating, substantial entities the use of logic is a starting point. So now just focus strongly on how the breath is impermanent, not self-originating, and ephemeral. Tangle with your mind and body experience on this while you breath slowly and deeply in and out, in and out.
- Realize it is your “self-grasping” mind (p. 189) that makes you “think” the breath is real in ultimate terms not simply in contemporary terms. Just because we mind-body experience breath does not mean it is ultimately real and ever-lasting. We all know that when we die, so does our breath.
- Remember a time when you were insulted or harmed by the words and/or actions of others. Notice how quickly your mind-body system can produce that unpleasant emotional reactions – a temporary emotional reaction. You probably felt flattened, but for a short time related to your lifetime!
- Now recall a time when you were joyous or happy by the words or actions of others, and how that pleasant emotional reactions was also quite temporary – not ever-lasting. You probably felt inflated but for such a short time.
- Our pleasure-seeking and suffering-avoiding self does not bring us happiness; in fact this brings us more suffering exactly because of the core principles of impermanence and dissatisfaction with whatever we now experience. We always want more and more! We attach to and grasp at anything that we believe may make us happier. We do the same thing for suffering; we hope in vain to avoid, reduce or end it.
- The I/Me/Mine of your breath is not part of the aggregates or it may be. If you are ill, it is not YOU who are ill but part of the body or mind that is ill. If the experience is and is not part of the aggregates then it cannot exist inherently, ultimately. It is only our contemporary experience that is being mind-body registered. It is the working of the “mistaken minds” (p. 194).
- Recall that the aggregates (also named skandhas) of form, feeling, perception, volitional acts, and consciousness are the “heaps” related to attachment and desire. Each one upholds impermanence, self-suffering, and no-self. Our endless seeking desires and behaviors cause suffering due to general dissatisfaction with what is, and imply no underlying soul or self in this endless samsaric process.
- If nothing exists concretely and permanently in ultimate time and space, what is there to fear and what is there to seek? Have you experienced anything like emptiness in your meditative being here now? Before you answer to yourself, note that emptiness experiences come is various forms.
- Now slowly and with discernment, take a few more deep, slow, calming breaths. Be with yourself!
For more information on this complex process refer to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (1982, 2014 end.). Clear Light of Bliss: Tantric Meditation Manual. London, UK: Tharpa Publications, pp. 187-204.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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