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Thought or No-thought?
2022, August, Issue 7
When I came back to life, after being that inexplicable light of awareness for all eternity, beyond time and space, beyond this universe, beyond concept, I found myself in a very frustrating situation. How would I explain this? This condition of awareness is beyond thought; yet, it is also of absolutely no use trying to understand that condition by suppressing thoughts or increasing thoughts.
Sometimes, when people meditate, they mistakenly think that the purpose of such practice is to do away with thoughts. This notion probably stems from various misunderstandings of various masters, when they might say that thoughts are the problem or that effort can be an obstacle. This does not mean that we should try to stop thoughts or discontinue meditative practices. Focusing too much on the gap between thoughts can lead us into a sort of stupor, which is of absolutely no help whatsoever. Becoming too involved with conceptual thoughts, on the other hand, within our meditative practices, can lead to a sort of insanity, where everything becomes too much and we become overly agitated.
In order to see our Real Nature, we must learn to recognize that experientially, which means letting it happen, being aware, but not applying thoughts on purpose. When we sit to meditate, a thought appears. Just let it be. It will disappear without your effort. When we sit, relax; just let the heart and mind open without effort. When we are able to integrate both thought and no-thought together within our cognizance, we begin to develop the potentiality of rigpa, which means that we are able to maintain and sustain nondual awareness within each and every moment. This takes practice, even though the practice requires us to become effortless in our approach.
This way of meditating, where we are not continually rejecting or accepting, will keep us from such traps as thinking too much or not thinking at all. Both approaches are a trap. In order to become a fully awakened being, we are not trying to change anything. We allow appearances to be, simply be. We relax completely, allowing our awareness to be, as it is.
In Tibetan, the dualistic mind, or ignorance, is referred to as marigpa. If we think, if we try to change something when we meditate, we are engaging in marigpa. If we don’t think, by rejecting all thoughts, we are also engaging in marigpa.
Rigpa, which is the opposite of marigpa, means that we are simply aware of thoughts and the gaps between thoughts. We accept this natural perfection of our Real Nature, understanding that we really are Timeless Luminosity. We are all naturally Buddhas. Within this understanding there appears illumination of each moment. When we allow this illumination to occur, it becomes effortless. We don’t need elaboration. The practice becomes very simple.
My advice is to begin to practice objectless Shamatha, after you have become comfortable with focusing on breath. Of course, it is best to begin by focusing on breath. In time, however, we discover a much more relaxed state of meditation that does not require the object of breath. This is very simple; and, when done with mastery, thoughts become completely irrelevant. Our natural condition of awareness begins to emerge. Awareness happens whether there is a thought or not.
Practice meditation in many short sessions. Develop this basis for all other practices as well as you can, without judgement, without concern. Start to become joyful about this great opportunity that you have, where you can discover who you really are.
My root teacher, Namkhai Norbu, recommended that people spend time with such calm abiding meditation, which is also called Shiné. Even with very advanced practitioners he would advise to go back to that once in awhile. It’s very important to learn to be relaxed very well before attempting much more difficult meditative practices.
He also advised that people not be afraid to gather teachings and practices, finding teachers who can help in providing additional ways of meditating or expanding our understanding. This varies quite considerably, depending upon the type of person you may be.
When I came back from the death bardo, I saw the advice my master gave as absolutely precious, making it possible for me to have a full and rewarding death experience. It is so important to find what is uniquely useful to us on our Spiritual Path. This is for each of us to discover independently. When you find the tools useful for awakening, utilize them. Don’t set these amazing discoveries aside. Your precious human life is not nearly as long as you may think it is. Now is the time to awaken to who we really are.
I am very optimistically certain that everyone reading these words will begin to awaken within this very lifetime.
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