I just failed my drive test. I was sort of speeding without realizing it, so I guess I deserved that and don’t mind too much. (I also knew things didn’t bode too well when, unavailingly trying to woo the instructor with my suave in-control persona, the alarm went off as I opened the door … and, being as it wasn’t my car, I had no clue how to turn it off again.) More to the point, however, is why am I even having to take a drive test when I’ve already been driving for 30 years?!* But one may just as well ask, “Why do I have to take rebirth and go to school all over again? I already flipping well did that.”
I was asking myself just this while I waited the 50 unsettling minutes at the Denver DMV leading up to my failed test. Samsara is relentlessly monotonous and we keep having to do things we don’t want to do, not just once but over and over and over, ad infinitum. We keep having to take tests, even though I have only met about 3 people in my life who like them, and no one looked too exhilarated to be on their plastic chairs in the DMV. A friend of mine has to re-sit her whole psychotherapy exam just because she has moved to a new state, even though she has been a psychotherapist for hundreds of years. It’s annoying. And that is just in this one life. In samsara, we keep on having to re-learn stuff we already spent way too long learning and have no need for – I sometimes think the only thing I have retained from geography lessons, for example, is a rudimentary knowledge of ox-bow lakes, and I have yet to find a way to put that to any use.
Why do I mention this? Well, because when I think about dying and taking even a best-case scenario human rebirth, I think how much I dread having to go to school all over again. So then I think I want to get out of samsara quickly by accessing and purifying my very subtle mind, and how right now, in this precious human life, I have the opportunity to do so, lucky me. Which motivates me to practice meditation with an appreciative mind, with a good feeling of gratitude in fact.
Continuing from this article on Mahamudra.
An ocean of help
Whenever we practice meditation, especially meditation on Mahamudra, it makes a huge difference if we know that we are not doing this on our own. We are connecting to a lineage through our Spiritual Guide, through his or her Spiritual Guide, and so on, back through an ocean of practitioners to Buddha himself. Their minds are all on offer so we can connect to a vast reservoir of assistance. It is not us duking it out with our delusions on our own. Not at all. Receiving blessings may not come intuitively, we need to train. Why? One reason is that we are in exile in our head most of the time, and it doesn’t occur to us to go into our heart and connect.
First way to receive blessings
This is something I like to do before doing any meditation, and it works very well with Mahamudra.
We imagine we are receiving the blessings of Buddha and all holy beings in the form of blissful lights or rays of sunshine, coming from their hearts and filling our body and mind. This enlightened energy, enlightened mind, mixes with our mind like light mixing with light. We can do this after reciting some prayers, if we like, such as Prayers for Meditation or Heart Jewel, where “receiving blessings” is almost always indicated – but we can also do it anytime, anywhere. We are bathing in an ocean of delicious blessings, which are very interesting and also everywhere.
As explained more here, blessings, or “jin gyi lob” in Tibetan, means “transformation through inspiration”, and they are not that mysterious — we are affected by even ordinary waves of mental energy so of course we can be uplifted by transcendent minds if we tune into them. This makes everything easier. We can receive blessings from any holy being we believe in, whoever works for us. Traditionally for Mahamudra meditation we rely on Je Tsongkhapa.
Why Je Tsongkhapa?
Je Tsongkhapa is the founder of our Buddhist tradition, the Kadampa tradition. He lived in the 14th century but his teachings are still flourishing because they have been carried from generation to generation in an unbroken lineage all the way, marvelously enough, to us. I believe that Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is the latest in the line of fully realized adepts in this lineage, and he has made it his life’s work to help us gain these realizations. And Mahamudra (literally, the union of great bliss and emptiness) is the specialty of this tradition. Buddha Shakyamuni gave 84,000 different teachings, and the pith essence of all of them is Mahamudra. As one scholar, Gungtang, puts it (using Je Tsongkhapa’s ordained name, Losang Dragpa):
The emptiness that is explained in Buddha’s Sutra teachings,
And the great bliss that is explained in Buddha’s Tantric teachings –
The union of these two is the very essence of Buddha’s 84,000 teachings.
May the doctrine of Conqueror Losang Dragpa flourish for evermore.
Now is the time
Maybe some of you have reached that place known as “over the hill” and things look very different from this perspective – if you’ve ever biked downhill, you know you speed up. So maybe, we think, maybe we better wait till next time round to attain enlightenment, we might have left it a bit late this time. But the truth is that the opportunity we have now will never get better. We can come under the care and guidance of an exceptionally qualified Mahamudra master. His new book, The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra, published in Tibetan at the request of many Tibetan practitioners and now translated for us into English and other languages, is unbelievable. Geshe Kelsang is now regarded as the authority in this world on Mahamudra. Sometimes I think we have no idea how fortunate we are. “Kelsang Gyatso” means “ocean of good fortune”, and all the ordained Sangha are given the name “Kelsang Somebody”, meaning “Fortunate Somebody”.
Second way to receive blessings
In the second way of receiving blessings, we can imagine that Buddha, or Guru Tsongkhapa, comes to our crown and his body of wisdom light shrinks to the size of a thumb, facing the same way we face. There is all that Buddha power on our crowns, enlightened beings are all within that space; and then we can imagine Buddha entering through our crown chakra and flowing slowly and blissfully into our heart. As he descends, we slide down with him into our heart. Now he is a presence in our heart, and once again we can think that our minds mix. This helps us get into our heart and also appreciate that he is doing the meditation along with us. It’s not necessary to visualize him clearly, we just think he’s there with us in our heart. We can experience bliss, and then mix that bliss with emptiness or the conventional nature of the mind. Also, we can use that bliss in any meditation, and we can invite any holy being.
Hope you have fun with it!
*The technical, if not karmic, reason is that I let my Florida driving license expire. Like letting life expire before getting some stable, ever-lasting realizations, I guess.
Thank you again for this artical.
I blame my self for not being a consistant buddhist etc but now i begin to realise…the experience of offered love in my life has been inconsistant. No blame here…just is Karma I guess.. I find it hard to accept love hence the habitual independant state of mind!
But Blessings indeed…i need ..we all need. So essentially i guess im learning not to critcise my self for finding meditation difficult…trying to see it as part of a growing new process .At least im trying to identfy what my own samsara consists of. Facinating your descriptor of samsara. Brilliantly useful.
Please keep sending these posts.
Hi Kaye, yeah, never criticize yourself, especially not for this — it is completely amazing that you (we) have met the instructions on how to meditate, given that we’ve been circling in confusion since beginningless time, and even more amazing that you are putting them into practice. You’re on the way out, as long as you keep at it.
Thank you so much! Good to know that all that support and love from the holy beings is available for us and help us cure our sick minds!
Yes, it is so good to know.
Second comment: “we are in exile in our head most of the time” – beautiful and very helpful!
One of the first things I remember learning about Buddhism was hearing about rebirth: I had a big problem with boredom, and the idea of having to do it for more than one lifetime was unbearable. I thought, there must be rebirth, because it was so dreary, it had to be true!
Thank you, Luna. I heard a teaching from Gen Rigpa where he said this very same thing. If you let the Buddha’s help you in your meditation, you will find it so much easier. We are not in this alone if we only allow them in.
So much easier.
Thank you so much! I was deeply moved by this week’s message. As my practice grows, there’s more clarity like puzzle pieces falling into place. Your articles are always just what I need at the moment. Your explanations are perfect and easy to apply. Thank you again!
Aw, that’s a lovely comment, thank you Norma x
Loved this article, especially as it challenges my samsara over and over again. Yesterday after spending 8 days looking after my mum, not knowing if she was on death’s door or not, I came to the conclusion this is all a TEST. Shattered emotional and ungrounded I looked at my fragile mind and know I want out of here. It seems to be one thing after another and it’s relentless. The only way I get through this is thinking this is all a preparation for the next life. I question why doesn’t this stick like stone in my mind, and it’s because somewhere in my self-cherishing mind I’m trying to find the peace looking everywhere without mixing my mind with the guru. I know it works, I’ve tested the theory and I’ve seen the results; however, because of my karma, it’s not always easy to accept. I watched Ronin 47 last night and samurai warriors fight for their cause. Why don’t we fight for ours to escape this unbearable prison? Death is coming, old age is just around the corner, yet we think we have forever. What’s it gonna take for us to dedicate our life to the guru!! SAMSARA IS LIKE GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN. No peace to be found no matter how we adjust our lives. Broken-hearted from losing those you love is just the beginning, over and over again I know I have to lose everyone. What I’m grateful for is the constant reminders and the little wisdom I have to transform continuous negative karma. If all else fails, at least I relied on my guru and transformed this reality that appears to my mind. Thank you for this article and your kindness.
Thank you Victoria for this realistic comment, inspired by your recent losses. It is true, samsara is like going against the grain because it is pervaded my misconceptions, and we will never find peace unless we realize that all the things we normally perceive, including and especially ourselves, do not exist. As Saraha says:
“If your mind is released permanently from self-grasping, there is no doubt that you will be released permanently from suffering.”
It is the doorway out of here and we don’t have a lot of time to get through it.
That last line nailed me – letting this life “expire” with that sinking mind of “not getting any stable inner lasting realizations”…just when I read my Lamrim focus for today on Cessations. ‘Not being satisfied with temporary relief’ turned more deeply into seeing that I must determine not to be complacent. Death will come like that policeman pulling me over and suddenly it may very well happen that the next car I drive won’t have the same amenities that I have now (it may NOT have heated seats and GPS!) Most likely, my permission (driver’s license) won’t be there (no lineage – or I won’t know it or be interested in having a relationship to it). I have got to go to the blessings!!! and inspire myself to “take the test” of having some inner peace right NOW (cause our Guru is basically giving us an open book test). Gratitude for this piece today 🙂
Good one. “Temporary liberation from particular sufferings is not good enough”, as Geshe Kelsang keeps pointing out, and one of these days i hope it sinks in and stays there. (Care to explain more though what you mean by an “open book test”?)
Fun reminder. Thank you!
I enjoyed this opportunity to transform my experience at the DMV 🙂 Thanks for reading.
Thankyou Luna. Was just thinking that I need to rely on blessings more during meditation when this lovely piece of encouragement dropped into my inbox. xx
Thank you for reading.
I really like the phrase ” Exiled in our head”… Perfect description, says it all.!
Great article- such clear explanation! Thank you