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Visualization: Developing Pure Perception (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | July 2014

EXCERPT


SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION

Visualization: Developing Pure Perception

We visualize deities to connect with their enlightened energy, purity, and sacredness, which is our own nature as well. ANYEN RINPOCHE and ALLISON CHOYING ZANGMO teach us how to visualize Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of perfect compassion.

We are constantly thwarted by our own expectations. For most of us, fantasizing about how things “should be” is a constant source of anguish. We wish our parents, our children, our friends, our jobs, our own health, and even the person standing in line in front of us at the grocery store would be just so. We often bring this hard-headed mindset to meditation.

We may have had the romantic idea that meditation was about sitting in a candlelit, quiet room and “emptying” the mind of all of its conceptual thoughts, bringing us calm and blissful feelings. Meditation actually offers something much more revolutionary. If we do it right, it gives us new eyes, new senses, and a new world. It opens us up to a part of our own mind we’ve never seen or experienced before.




Anyen Rinpoche is a master in the Dzogchen tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism and the founder of Orgyen Khamdroling Dharma Center in Denver. He and Allison Choying Zangmo have coauthored five books, including Dying with Confidence and The Tibetan Yoga of Breath.

Read the rest of this article inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Mahamudra: Looking Directly at the Knower (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | July 2014

EXCERPT


SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION

Mahamudra: Looking Directly at the Knower

The true nature of mind is empty but knowing. It can’t be identified, says ANDY KARR. So look for it.

Mahamudra is the perfect practice for lousy meditators like me who haven’t been able to pacify our minds with more basic practices. In Mahamudra, the Vajrayana meditation system emphasized by the Kagyu lineage of Tibet, thoughts and emotions are regarded as aids to realization rather than obstacles. In this approach, you don’t discard your inner chaos; you bring it onto the path to investigate its nature.

Mahamudra is nothing other than the direct realization of the nature of your own mind. And, since the mind encompasses everything you experience, it also is the nature of all phenomena.




Andy Karr is the the author of
Contemplating Reality: A Practitioner’s Guide to the View in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. He is a longtime student of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche and the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Read the rest of this article inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

The Middle Way: Investigating Reality (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | July 2014

EXCERPT

SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION

The Middle Way: Investigating Reality

When you look at things closely, says ELIZABETH MATTIS NAMGYEL, you discover the truth of dependent arising, the middle way between existence and nonexistence.

The Madhyamika, or Middle Way teachings, lie at the heart of all the Buddha’s teachings. The Middle Way, when fully understood, refers to the unshakeable wisdom and confidence of buddhahood. We might associate it with those moments of insight we encounter when everything extraneous to natural being falls away, revealing a fathomless, uncontrived brilliance. The Middle Way also describes the path of insight, through which we question the many unexamined assumptions that bind us to false certitudes and spiritual vagueness. The Middle Way is not a dogma to adhere to but a process of direct investigation that moves us toward sanity as we navigate life.




Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel is a Buddhist teacher who has studied and practiced for thirty years under the guidance of her teacher and husband, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. She is the author of The Power of an Open Question.

Read the rest of this article inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Tonglen: In with the Bad, Out with the Good (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | July 2014

EXCERPT


SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION

Tonglen: In with the Bad, Out with the Good

“Accepting and sending out” is a powerful meditation to develop compassion—for ourselves and others. ETHAN NICHTERN teaches us how to do it in formal practice and on the spot whenever suffering arises.

Tonglen, which in Tibetan means “accepting and sending out,” is one of the most powerful and intense compassion meditations in the Buddhist tradition.

The Buddhist definition of compassion is inherently intense and expansive: the willingness to stay open and available to pain and suffering, both in oneself and others. So Tonglen does more than help us develop compassion for others. It also transforms our own lives. Using our imagination and respiratory system, it helps us stay present with difficult feelings and relationships that usually provoke resistance and distance. Tonglen gives us incredibly effective mental tools for meeting painful encounters throughout the day.

 

Tonglen in Four Steps

Before the session, contemplate your intention to stay present with suffering, which is traditionally called the bodhisattva intention. Spend a few minutes doing mindfulness of breath practice to help ground you. Then begin the four steps.




Ethan Nichtern is a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition, founder of the Interdependence Project, and the author of
One City. His third book, The Road Home, will be published in early 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Read the rest of this article inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Zazen: Just Ordinary Mind (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | July 2014

EXCERPT

SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION

Zazen: Just Ordinary Mind

Our natural mind is clear, simple, and ordinary. The practice of Zen meditation, says SUSAN MURPHY, is simply to abandon anything extra. Then the ordinary reveals its magic.

First, what Zen meditation is not. It is not a meticulous body scan, nor a rigorous examination of the contents of the mind. Nor is it a private entry into nirvana.

Zazen is a deep study of the embodied mind. It is a meditation practice that fosters both gradual and sudden shifts of radical insight into the genuine nature of mind. In a typically startling yet low-key undoing of expectations, Zen often calls this clear and most natural experience “ordinary mind.” In Zazen, “ordinary” things grow both plainer and stranger at once.  

This “ordinary” does not mean ho-hum or customary. It means as ordinary as the way a bee softly bothers the flowers. As ordinary as waves welling and sucking back over rocks. As ordinary and unlikely as the overwhelming fact of the universe, of breathing in and out, of having a boundless consciousness that seems also to have a name and history and a mortal body. Ordinary means to be with what is, freely moving with unfolding circumstances and at rest everywhere, like a leaf in the breeze.

Zazen (literally, “seated meditation”) is a focused investigation of the nature of “self.” But as the great Zen philosopher Dogen put it, to study the self is to forget the self. All fixed ideas and sense of “self” become “forgotten”—in other words, softened, dissolved, dropped away, expanded to include all that is. 

This is done not by directing yourself toward something special but by subtly abandoning anything that resists the simplicity of just being, just sitting, just breathing. It begins in grounding the mind deep in the body and breath, just as they are.

Simple? Yes. And yet it takes all that we are, and many years of practice, to truly experience and maintain.




Susan Murphy Roshi is the founding teacher of Zen Open Circle in Sydney, Australia. She is the author of Upside Down Zen and Minding the Earth, Mending the World.

Excerpted from the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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