In this fifth article on Tantra, following on from this one, I’m going to describe a meditation I like to do on transforming my enjoyments into the spiritual path. This method is derived from Buddha’s Tantric principles rather than his Sutra teachings, but anyone can do it – you can do it, and you’re anyone. This is a simple exercise that can be practiced even without an empowerment, and that shows something both profound and liberating: we have the power within us to generate bliss. We don’t need another person, a physical act, or any external object to create it.
Why? Because our mind is naturally peaceful. It is only our delusions and distractions that prevent us from experiencing this. As it says in Introduction to Buddhism in the chapter What is Meditation:
When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arise from within.
As our mind becomes subtler and less distracted, as dualistic appearances slowly subside, our mind becomes even more peaceful, nay blissful. The most blissful mind of all is our very subtle mind, our root mind — it is even called “the clear light of bliss”! It is our actual Buddha nature, our potential for enlightenment. We cannot access this properly without engaging in profound Highest Yoga Tantra practices, but we can get an idea of it straightaway and start to identify with it.
Once we know that bliss comes from within, we can start to transform attachment or uncontrolled desire into the path by considering, for example, that the enjoyment does not lie outside the mind. As Geshe Kelsang says in Clear Light of Bliss p. 4:
The bliss generated from attachment meditates on emptiness and thereby overcomes all the delusions, including attachment itself. This is similar to the way in which the fire produced from rubbing two pieces of wood together eventually consumes the wood from which it arose.
We begin by simply sitting comfortably, getting into a good meditation position, keeping our back straight but not rigid, relaxing our shoulders, and resting our hands in our lap or wherever is comfortable. Our head is tilted a little forward and our eyes lightly closed or, if we prefer, slightly open to allow a little light through our eyelashes. Our mouth is closed, with our tongue resting on the roof of mouth.
We relax into this posture and forget about everything else. We come into the present moment, into the here and the now.
We drop from our head into our heart chakra, the center of our chest, our spiritual heart. We feel our awareness centered there, it is where our root mind is.
Already we are aware of a sense of spaciousness and peace, with less conceptual activity or thoughts.
To overcome our distractions we now think that everything outside our body melts into light and disappears.
Then, like a mist lifting, this light gradually dissolves toward our body into empty space, leaving nothing behind. Everything disappears, including the past and the future, what we did today or have planned for tomorrow.
All that remains is our body suspended in empty space.
Now to relax our body we briefly scan it from head to toes to become aware of any tension, tightness, or indeed pain that we are holding onto. We bring a gentle awareness to these parts.
We think, “I don’t need to hold onto any of this physical stress or tension, I can let it go.” We let all the heaviness fall away from our body, as if we were dropping heavy luggage that we have been carrying around too long.
Every muscle relaxes, our whole body melts into light, with just its merest outline remaining.
We think: “My body is hollow like a rainbow, light as a feather, and so comfortable that I am hardly even aware that it is there.” We enjoy this deep physical relaxation for a little while.
Now we remember that we are in our heart and become aware of the thoughts, sensations, and so on arising from our root mind. There is a constant stream of awareness arising as thoughts, feelings, ideas, images, physical sensations, and so on, and we watch these as they arise and disappear again into the clarity of the mind. We don’t have to follow them, think them, judge them, or react to them in any way — just let them come and go, rise and fall. We enjoy the space between our thoughts, and finally feel the thoughts dissolving into the boundless clarity of our root mind, like waves dissolving into a boundless ocean.
We think: “This is my mind. This is where I am happy or sad, wise or confused. This is the source of creativity, the source of all thoughts and other mental activity. This is awareness. This is where everything happens, where everything begins and ends.”
Now we can change the energy of our mind by using our desire or attachment energy. We either remember or imagine the thing we’d most like to be doing right now, bring to mind the thing that would give us the most positive pleasure. This can be a sense pleasure or an internal meditative feeling, it’s up to us. (No one will ask you what it is afterwards :-)) It could be eating pizza, holding someone’s hand, watching an exquisite sunset, skiing down a mountain, or something more X-rated. (As desire realm beings, we probably have plenty of things to choose from, so choose your favorite!) It could alternatively be a spiritual bliss we are familiar with, such as meditating on love or dissolving a Spiritual Guide or Buddha into our heart. Whatever we know gives us bliss, we remember or imagine it at this point.
We notice how the energy of the mind completely changes… our mind is clearer and more relaxed, more alert and concentrated, more awake and blissful. Waves of bliss energy arise in our root mind at our heart.
We allow ourselves to bathe in this bliss energy in our heart.
Then we forget or let go of whatever it was we were imagining or remembering. We let it dissolve away, and focus entirely on the bliss waves, allowing ourselves to bathe in this ocean of bliss energy in our heart.
We feel that this bliss is our root mind at our heart.
If and when the bliss fades, we remember or imagine whatever stimulated it, and then when the bliss comes back we let it go. We can meditate like this for a few minutes.
(Even if we do not think that we are experiencing much of anything, we still believe or imagine that we are going deeper within, absorbing into a blissful inner peace. Sometimes we just need to believe something for it to actually happen because this belief, if correct, creates the cause for the actual experience. Buddha described this as “bringing the future result into the present path.” Don’t under-estimate the power of conception; with our thoughts we create our world.)
We feel that we are absorbed into an ocean of bliss at our heart, the clear light of bliss. And with this blissful mind we can now understand something very important. This bliss is actually coming from within the mind, not from without. If we have concentration and mindfulness, we could keep this bliss going endlessly. Understanding this, we already have some wisdom.
The other thing we can understand now is that while our mind is blissful, everything appears blissful to it. Everything is a reflection of our mind.
So whatever understanding we have of this, we focus on it for the last few minutes of the meditation.
This bliss at our heart, however slight, shows our potential for limitless bliss and happiness — it is our Buddha nature. When this subtle mind of bliss is mixed with emptiness, the ultimate nature of things, we quickly destroy our ignorance, and other delusions and obstructions. Through this we fully purify our mind and become a Buddha.
Just like Buddha Shakyamuni, whom we can now believe, if we want, is appearing right in front of us. And with a determination quickly to realize our potential for the lasting peace of enlightenment, and understanding too that everyone has this potential, we can, if we like, recite the Liberating Prayer.
More next time on why this meditation is so good.