Would you like to participate in an
experiment in meditation? First, look to your posture: arrange the legs
in the most comfortable position; set the backbone straight as an arrow.
Place your hands in the position of meditative equipoise, four finger
widths below your navel, with the left hand on the bottom, right hand on
top, and your thumbs touching to form a triangle. This placement of the
hands has connection with the place inside the body where inner heat is
generated. Bending the neck down slightly, allow the mouth and teeth to
be as usual, with the top of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth
near the top teeth. Let the eyes gaze downwards loosely — it is not
necessary that they be directed to the end of the nose; they can be
pointed toward the floor in front of you if that seems more natural. Do
not open the eyes too wide nor forcefully close them; leave them open a
little. Sometimes they will close of their own accord; that is all
right. Even if your eyes are open, when your mental consciousness
becomes steady upon its object, these appearances to the eye
consciousness will not disturb you.
For those of you who wear eye glasses, have you noticed that when you
take off your glasses, because of the unclarity there is less danger
from the generation of excitement and more danger of laxity? Do you find
that there is a difference between facing and not facing the wall? When
you face the wall, you may find that there is less danger of excitement
of scattering. These kinds of things can be determined through your own
Within meditations that have an object of observation, there can be
two types of objects: external or internal. Now, instead of meditating
on the mind itself, let us meditate on an external object of observation
— for instance, the body of a Buddha for those who like to look at a
Buddha or a cross for those who like that, or whatever symbol is
suitable for you. Mentally visualize that the object is about four feet
in front of you, at the same height as the eyebrows. The object should
be approximately two inches high and emanating light. Try to conceive of
it as being heavy, for this will prevent excitement. Its brilliance
will prevent laxity. As you concentrate, you must strive for two
factors: first, to make the object of observation clear, and second, to
make it steady.
Has something appeared to your mind? Are the sense objects in front
of your eyes bothering you? If that is the case, it is all right to
close them, but with the eyes closed, do you see a reddish appearance?
If you see red with the eyes closed or if you are bothered by what you
see when your eyes are open, you are too involved with the eye
consciousness and thus should try to withdraw attention from the eye
consciousness and put it with the mental consciousness.
That which interferes with the steadiness of the object of
observation and causes it to fluctuate is excitement or, in a more
general way, scattering. To stop that, withdraw your mind more strongly
inside so that the intensity of the mode of apprehension begins to
lower. To withdraw the mind, it helps to think about something that
makes you more sober, a little sad. These thoughts can cause your
heightened mode of apprehension of the object, the mind’s being too
tight, to lower or loosen somewhat whereby you are better able to stay
on the object of observation.
It is not sufficient just to have stability. It is necessary also to
have clarity. That which prevents clarity is laxity, and what causes
laxity is an over-withdrawal, excessive declination, of the mind. First
of all, the mind becomes lax; this can lead to lethargy in which, losing
the object of observation, you have as if fallen into darkness. This
can lead even to sleep. When this occurs, it is necessary to raise or
heighten the mode of apprehension. As a technique for that, think of
something that you like, something that makes you joyous, or go to a
high place or where there is a vast view. This technique causes the
deflated mind to heighten in its mode of apprehension.
It is necessary within your own experience to recognize when the mode
of apprehension has become too excited or too lax and determine the
best practice for lowering or heightening it.
The object of observation that you are visualizing has to be held
with mindfulness. Then, along with this, you inspect, as if from a
corner, to see whether the object is clear and stable; the faculty that
engages in this inspection is called introspection. When powerful steady
mindfulness is achieved, introspection is generated, but the uncommon
function of introspection is to inspect from time to time to see whether
the mind has come under the influence of excitement or laxity. When you
develop mindfulness and introspection well, you are able to catch
laxity and excitement just before they arise and prevent their arising.
Briefly, that is how to sustain meditation with an external object of
Another type of meditation involves looking at the mind itself. Try
to leave your mind vividly in a natural state, without thinking of what
happened in the past or of what you are planning for the future, without
generating any conceptuality. Where does it seem that your
consciousness is? Is it with the eyes or where is it? Most likely you
have a sense that it is associated with the eyes since we derive most of
our awareness of the world through vision. This is due to having relied
too much on our sense consciousness. However the existence of a
separate mental consciousness can be ascertained; for example, when
attention is diverted by sound, that which appears to the eye
consciousness is not noticed. This indicates that a separate mental
consciousness is paying more attention to sound heard by the ear
consciousness than to the perceptions of the eye consciousness.
With persistent practice, consciousness may eventually be perceived
or felt as an entity of mere luminosity and knowing, to which anything
is capable of appearing and which, when appropriate conditions arise,
can be generated in the image of whatsoever object. As long as the mind
does not encounter the external circumstance of conceptuality, it will
abide empty without anything appearing in it, like clear water. Its very
entity is that of mere experience. Let the mind flow of its own accord
without conceptual overlay. Let the mind rest in its natural state, and
observe it. In the beginning, when you are not used to this practice, it
is quite difficult, but in time the mind appears like clear water.
Then, stay with the unfabricated mind without allowing conceptions to be
generated. In realizing this nature of the mind, we have for the first
time located the object of observation of this internal type of
The best time for practicing this form of meditation is in the
morning, in a quiet place, when the mind is very clear and alert. It
helps not to have eaten to much the night before nor to sleep too much;
this makes the mind lighter and sharper the next morning. Gradually the
mind will become more and more stable; mindfulness and memory will
See if this practice makes your mind more alert throughout the day.
As a temporary benefit your thoughts will be tranquil. As your memory
improves, gradually you can develop a kind of special perception and
understanding, which is due to an increase of mindfulness. As a long
term benefit, because your mind has become more alert and sharp, you can
utilize it in whatever field you want.
If you are able to do a little meditation daily, withdrawing this
scattered mind on one object inside, it is very helpful. The
conceptuality that runs on thinking of good things, bad things, and so
forth and so on will get a rest. It provides a little vacation just to
set a bit in non- conceptuality and have a rest.
There is yet another method of meditation which enables on to discern
the ultimate natural of phenomena. This type of mediation involves
analytical introspection. Generally, phenomena are divided into two
types: the mental and physical aggregates — or phenomena that are used
by the I — and the I that uses them. To determine the nature of this I,
let us use an example. When we say John is coming, there is some person
who is the one designated by the name John. Is this name designated to
his body? It is not. Is it designated to his mind? If it were designated
to his mind, we could not speak of John’s mind. Mind and body are
things used by the person. It almost seems that there is an I separate
from mind and body. For instance, when we think, “Oh, my lousy body!” or
“My lousy mind!”, to our own innate mode of appearance the mind itself
is not the I, right? Now, what John is there who is not his mind or
body? You also should apply this to yourself, to your own sense of I —
where is this I in terms of mind and body?
When my body is sick, though my body is not I, due to the body’s
being sick it can be posited that I am sick. In fact, for the sake of
the well-being and pleasure of the I, it sometimes even becomes
necessary to cut off part of the body. Although the body is not the I,
there is a relationship between the two: the pain of the body can serve
as the pain of the I. Similarly, when the eye consciousness sees
something it appears to the mind that the I perceives it.
What is the nature of the I? How does it appear to you? When you do
not fabricate or create any artificial concept in your mind, does it
seem that your I has an identity separate from your mind and body? But
if you search for it, can you find it? For instances, someone accuses
you, “You stole this.” or “You ruined such and such,” and you feel, “I
didn’t do that.” At that time, how does the I appear? Does it appear as
if solid? Does some solid, steady, and strong thing appear to your mind
when you think or say, “I didn’t do that?”
This seemingly solid, concrete, independent, self-instituting I under
its own power that appears at such a time actually does not exist at
all, and this specific non-existence is what is meant by selflessness.
In the absence of analysis and investigation, a mere I as in, “I want
such and such,” or “I am going to do such and such,” is asserted as
valid, but the non-existence of an independent or self-powered I
constitutes the selflessness of the person. This selflessness is that is
found when one searches analytically to try to find the I.
Such non-inherent existence of the I is an ultimate truth, a final
truth. The I that appears to a non-analytical conventional awareness is
the dependently arisen I that serves as the basis of the conventions of
action, agent and so forth; it is a conventional truth. In analyzing the
mode of subsistence or that status of the I, it is clear that although
it appears to exist inherently, it does not, much like an illusion.
That is how the ultimate nature of the I — emptiness — is analyzed.
Just as the I has this nature, so all other phenomena that are used by
the I are empty of inherent existence. When analyzed, they cannot be
found at all, but without analysis and investigation, they do exist.
Their nature is the same as the I.
The conventional existence of the I as well as of pleasure and pain
make it necessary to generate compassion and altruism, and because the
ultimate nature of all phenomena is this emptiness of inherent
existence, it is also necessary to cultivate wisdom. When these two
aspects — compassion and wisdom — are practiced in union, wisdom grows
more profound, and the sense of duality diminishes. Due to the mind’s
dwelling in the meaning of emptiness, dualistic appearance becomes
lighter, and at the same time the mind itself becomes more subtle. As
the mind grows even more subtle, reaching the subtlest level, it is
eventually transformed into the most basic mind, the fundamental innate
mind of clear light, which at once realizes and is of one taste with
emptiness in meditative equipoise without any dualistic appearance at
all, mixed with emptiness. Within all having this one taste, anything
and everything can appear; this is known as “All in one taste, one taste
These are a few of the types of meditation practiced in the Tibetan
tradition. Of course there are many other techniques such as mantra and
so forth. Perhaps now we could have some discussion.
Question: Why is it better to meditate in the morning?
DL: There are two main reasons. Physically, in the early morning —
once you are used to it — all the nerve centers are fresh, and this is
beneficial. Also, there is a difference just in terms of the time.
Further, if you have slept well, you are more fresh and alert in the
morning; this we can see in our own experience. At night I reach a point
where I cannot think properly; however, after sleeping and the waking
in the early morning, that thing, which yesterday I could not properly
think through, automatically appears more clearly. This shows that
mental power is much sharper in the morning.
Question: What is the most expedient means for overcoming
resistance to meditation?
DL: Five faults are explained as obstacles to meditation. The first
is laziness; second is to forget the advice on the object, that is, to
forget the object; next are laxity and excitement; then failure to apply
an antidote when laxity or excitement are present, and the last is to
continue applying the antidotes when laxity or excitement have already
been overcome. These are called the five faults. Eight antidotes are
explained for them. The antidotes to laziness are, first of all, the
faith that intelligently sees the value of meditative stabilization, the
prime value being that without it the higher paths cannot be generated.
In dependence upon ascertaining the good qualities of meditative
stabilization, the aspiration which seeks to attain those qualities is
induced. By means of that, exertion comes whereby you eventually attain
pliancy causing body and mind to be free from unfavorable states and to
be serviceable in a virtuous direction such that whatever virtue is done
is powerful. These four are the antidotes to the first fault, laziness.
It is helpful not to practice too long in the beginning; do not over-
extend yourself; the maximum period is around fifteen minutes. The
important thing is not the length of the session but the quality of it.
If you meditate too long, you can become sleepy, and then your
meditation will become a matter to becoming accustomed to this state.
This is not only a waste of time but also a habit that is difficult to
eliminate in the future. In the beginning, start with many short
sessions — even eight or sixteen sessions in a day — and then as you get
used to the process of meditation, the quality will improve, and the
session will naturally become longer.
A sign that your meditative stabilization is progressing well is that
even though your meditative session may be long, it will feel as though
only a short time has passed. If it seems that you have spent a long
time in meditation even though you have spent only a little, this is a
sign that you should shorted the length of the session. This can be very
important at the beginning.
Question: Could you say something about effort? Isn’t a great
deal of effort necessary?
DL: Effort is crucial in the beginning for generating a strong will.
We all have the Buddha nature and thus already have within us the
substances through which, when we meet with the proper conditions, we
can turn into a fully enlightened being having all beneficial attributes
and devoid of all faults. The very root of failure in our lives is to
think, “Oh, how useless and powerless I am!” It is important to have a
strong force of mind thinking, “I can do it,” this not being mixed with
pride or any other afflictive emotions.
Moderate effort over a long period of time is important, no matter
what you are trying to do. One brings failure on oneself by working
extremely hard at the beginning, attempting to do too much and then
giving it all up after a short time. A constant stream of moderate
effort is needed. Similarly, when meditating, you need to be skillful by
having frequent, short sessions; it is more important that the session
be good quality than it be long.
When you have such effort, you have the necessary “substances” for
developing concentration. Concentration is a matter channelizing this
mind which is presently distracted in a great many directions. A
scattered mind does not have much power. When channelized, no matter
what the object of observation is, the mind is very powerful.
There is no external way to channelize the mind, as by a surgical
operation; it must be done by withdrawing it inside. Withdrawal of the
mind also occurs in deep sleep in which the factor of alertness has
become unclear; therefore, here the withdrawal of the mind is to be
accompanied by very strong clarity of alertness. In brief, the mind must
have stability staying firmly on its object, great clarity of the
object, and alert, clear, sharp tautness.
Question: What is the relationship of the mind and afflictive
DL: The very entity of the mind, its nature of mere luminosity and
knowing, is not polluted by defilements; they do not abide in the entity
of the mind. Even when we generate afflictive emotions, the very entity
or nature of the mind is still mere luminosity and knowing, and because
of this we are able to remove the afflictive emotions. If you agitate
the water in a pond, it becomes cloudy with mud; yet the very nature of
the water itself is not dirty. When you allow it to become still again,
the mud will settle leaving the water pure.
How are the defilements removed? They are not removed by outside
action nor by leaving them as they are; they are removed by the power of
antidotes, meditative antidotes. To understand this, take the example
of anger. All anger is impelled and polluted by improper conceptuality.
Both the object of our anger and subject, oneself, appear to exist
concretely, as if established by way of their own character. Both seem
forcefully to exist in their own right. But as I was saying earlier,
things to not actually exist in this concrete way. As much as we are
able to see an absence of independent self-existence, that much will our
conception of over-reification and its assistance to anger be lessened.
The sign that our perceptions are superimposing a goodness or badness
beyond what is actually present is that while desirous or angry we feel
that the object is terrifically good or bad but afterwards when we
think about the experience, it is laughable that we viewed the object
that way; we understand that our perception was not true. These
afflicted states do not have any valid support. The mind which
analytically searches for the independent self-existence of an object
finds ascertainment of its lack of independent self-nature through valid
reasoning, and thus this kind of understanding does have a valid
foundation. Like a debate in court, one perception is based on reason
and truth, while the other one is not. When the evidence is sufficient,
in such a debate the true view eventually overpowers the other because
it can withstand analysis.
It is impossible for the mind simultaneously to apprehend one object
in contradictory ways. With respect to one object, therefore, as you get
used to understanding its non-inherent nature, not only is it
impossible at that time to generate a conception of inherent nature but
also as strong as the correct realization becomes, so much, in general,
does conception of its opposite weaken in force.
To generate such wisdom we engage in meditation because our minds, as
they are now, are not very powerful. Our mind is presently scattered;
its energies need to be channeled like the way water in a hydroelectric
plant is channeled to create great force. We achieve this with the mind
through meditation, channeling it such that it becomes very forceful, at
which point it can be utilized in the direction of wisdom. Since all
the substances for enlightenment exist within ourselves, we should not
look for Buddahood somewhere else.
Question: Does emptiness also mean fullness?
DL: It seems so. Usually, I explain emptiness is like a zero. A zero
itself is nothing, but without a zero you cannot count anything;
therefore, a zero is something, yet zero.
Question: Would you please say something about the nature of
DL: //Mandala//, in general, means that which extracts the essence.
There are many usages of the term //mandala// according to context. One
type of mandala is the offering of the entire world system, with the
major and minor continents mentally constructed, to high beings. Also,
there are painted mandalas, mandalas of concentration, those made out of
colored sand, mandalas of the conventional mind of enlightenment,
mandalas of the ultimate mind of enlightenment, and so forth. Because
one can extract a meaning from each of these through practicing them,
they are called mandalas. Although we might call these pictures and
constructed depictions mandalas, the main meaning is for oneself to
enter into the mandala and extract an essence in the sense of receiving
blessing. It is a place of gaining magnificence. Because one is gaining a
blessing and thereupon developing realizations it is called an
extraction or assumption of something essential.
Question: How does one choose a teacher of spiritual subjects or
know a teacher to be reliable?
DL: This should be done in accordance with your interest and
disposition, but you should analyze well. You must investigate before
accepting a lama or teacher to see whether that person is really
qualified or not. It is said in a scripture that just as fish that are
hidden under the water can be seen through the movement of the ripples
from above, so also a teacher’s inner qualities can, over time, be seen a
little through that person’s behavior. We need to look into the
person’s scholarship — the ability to explain topics — and whether the
person implements those teachings in his or her conduct and experience.