Using bliss to overcome attachment and other delusions

A guest article by a modern Buddhist practitioner who works full time as a manager of software development teams.

Light dispersion illustration.Leveraging objects of desire as a basis for rapid inner transformation is part of the quick path to enlightenment. To accomplish this transformation, we need to practice on the basis of a pure motivation and some understanding of ultimate truth, emptiness. These practices also require some experience of Buddhism and a Tantric empowerment. See the article Tantra: Transforming enjoyments for a similar practice that anyone can do.

Before engaging in them we develop the motivation of bodhichitta, a determination to become a fully enlightened being in order to liberate all living beings permanently from suffering. With this motivation we then recall our knowledge of emptiness, remembering that nothing exists from its own side. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso summarizes this preliminary practice in Part Four of The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra:

We should first develop the supreme good heart, bodhichitta, that sincerely wishes to liberate all living beings from suffering permanently by ourself becoming the enlightened being Heruka, and the understanding and belief that our body, our self and all the other phenomena that we normally see or perceive do not exist at all. ~ page 124

Learning to transform objects of desire

How can we begin learning to transform objects of desire? When we gaze upon an attractive person in the meditation break, or eat some delicious food, it induces a feeling of bliss in our mind. If we train our mind to recognize and hold this blissful feeling, we can use it as an object of meditation. With this feeling of bliss, we then contemplate emptiness by recalling that: 1) this appearance is not independent of our mind and 2) this appearance is not outside of our mind:

  1. If the pleasurable experience is independent of our mind, then everyone would perceive that person or object as attractive. Since the experience depends on our mind, the person we normally perceive, the independent person, does not exist at all.
  2. If the pleasurable experience is outside of our mind, then we could not experience it. Since pleasure is a feeling in the mind, this indicates that our mind is creating both the experience and the person or object who is the object of that experience, rather like an experience in a dream. Another way of saying this is that the person is an appearance of our mind, appearing to our mind.

1280px-European_honey_bee_extracts_nectarThese are very profound topics, but they will start to make sense naturally if we build familiarity with them now. Thinking in this way we can mix the feeling of bliss with the knowledge of emptiness. This recollection helps to oppose the mind of attachment that would suck our mind into the object. Instead, we can be like a bee extracting pollen from a flower, understanding that the pleasurable feeling is arising within the space of our mind. We can enhance this entire experience by connecting it to our Spiritual Guide’s mind of spontaneous great bliss at our heart.

Taking refuge in our own inner bliss

This process helps to train our mind in refuge, which is the foundation of being a Buddhist. We are learning to turn within to our experience to find the happiness and freedom we seek. With familiarity, this bliss within our heart will grow and we will naturally rely on it to find satisfaction. Over time it will become infinitely more satisfying than any of our ordinary enjoyments.

Mahasiddha Tilopa

According to Lamrim, a mind of refuge contains faith in Buddha, his teachings the Dharma, and the Sangha practitioners. To incorporate this we can remember that this experience of bliss and emptiness is Dharma, protecting us from delusions and suffering. It is also mixed with the mind of our Spiritual Guide inseparable from Buddha, as well as the experience of the past and present Sangha Yogis and Yoginis.

By enjoying objects of desire in this way, we can come to understand how these practices destroy attachment, like a fire consuming the wood that started it. Every object of desire will take us straight into our heart to build an increasingly transcendental experience there.

Bringing the experience of bliss into the meditation session

Once we have some experience of enjoying objects of desire in the meditation break we can learn to apply this to the meditation session. For example, we can learn how to generate bliss in the meditation session by gazing upon a visualized god or goddess. This is easily done if we recall the bliss experienced from the meditation break.

There are many times in the meditation session that we can apply this in the context of our sadhana, or practice — for example, after dissolving our Spiritual Guide into our heart and before meditating on bringing death into the path of the Truth Body. In Tantric Grounds and Paths Geshe Kelsang says:  

At first our experience of bliss will not be very strong, but if we develop familiarity with this meditation we shall gradually develop a special feeling of bliss. We should maintain this experience and keep our own subtle mind focused on this feeling single-pointedly. ~ page 243

In this way, we use the meditation break to enhance our meditation session and vice versa.

Four complete purities of generation stage Tantra
JTK five visions.jpg
Khedrubje’s five visions of Je Tsongkhapa

We train in the practice of transforming objects of desire explained above on the basis of the four complete purities. In generation stage, this means enjoying objects while imagining we have complete purity of 1) place, 2) body, 3) activities, and 4) enjoyments. This means that we feel we are in an enlightened world, have the body of an enlightened being, and benefit all beings without exception, and that all our enjoyments are free from impurity. This correct imagination helps us to dissolve away the contaminated ordinary characteristics of our enjoyments and to experience them in a pure way.

To train in this, while enjoying ourselves we can recall the verse from Offering to the Spiritual Guide

All beings are actual Heroes and Heroines.
Everything is immaculately pure,
Without even the name of mistaken impure appearance.

By enjoying in this way, we are making offerings to all the Buddhas. As Geshe Kelsang says in The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra:

… we enjoy any objects of desire as offerings to the holy beings who reside in the Temple of our body. This practice is a special method to transform our daily enjoyments into the quick path to enlightenment. This is Tantric technology! ~ page 104

Four complete purities of completion stage Tantra

In completion stage, we enjoy objects of desire in dependence upon the great bliss developed from meditation on the central channel. The bliss developed in dependence upon completion stage is vastly superior to any other experience of bliss. This experience develops in the root mind at our heart and contains the four complete purities. It is a non-conceptual experience of emptiness, which means it is free from gross and subtle appearances. This realization of the true nature of things with a very subtle mind is free from mistaken appearance. Due to this, there are no impure places, bodies, enjoyments, and activities appearing to it.lotuss

One practice I like to do in accordance with completion stage is offering the blissful experience to myself generated as the Dharmakaya or Truth Body of my personal Deity, such as Dharmakaya Heruka. This, in turn, enhances my mind of bliss and deepens my experience of emptiness. I offer my experience of the four complete purities of great bliss and emptiness to my Spiritual Guide’s mind mixed with my own mind at my heart. This practice feels like a mandala offering in that it fills my mind with good karma and joy!

Progress through practice and familiarity

transform enjoymentsThis practice of transforming enjoyments encapsulates every aspect of Buddha’s teachings. If we gain familiarity with developing bliss in this way, our winds will gradually come closer to abiding in our central channel. Buddha teaches that when this happens we will experience a bliss that is stable and subtle, and that gives rise to unceasing physical and mental suppleness. Our mind will become lucid and flexible, and in this space we can let go of delusions quickly and easily.

This mental suppleness allows us to easily mix virtuous Lamrim minds into everything that happens, every appearance, both in and out of meditation. As a result we will experience deep inner peace and happiness day and night. Accomplishing this is the real meaning of our human life. Once we do, we will possess a wishfulfilling jewel of a mind that bestows endless benefit on ourselves and others.

I hope this is helpful. You can find out all about it by reading Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s Tantric books. Please feel free to make comments and I will try to reply 🙂

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

16 thoughts on “Using bliss to overcome attachment and other delusions”

  1. I have a question on bliss. Is the bliss arising from the desire or from the enjoyment? For example, when you say “When we gaze upon an attractive person in the meditation break, or eat some delicious food, it induces a feeling of bliss in our mind.”, there is enjoyment when I eat the delicious food but there is only desire when I see an attractive person, much like when I see delicious food, there is desire to eat it and only when I actually eat it, there is a feeling of bliss in the mind.

    Transforming enjoyments is phenomenal and I am able to use these instructions when I am enjoying an object of enjoyment, but where I get stuck is when I have desire for enjoyment but do not have access to the object of enjoyment. There is no bliss in such desire, only pain. When the desire is fulfilled however, there is no pain and there is enjoyment and these instructions become applicable. How can I train using these instructions (if at all they apply in that situation at all), when I am experiencing desire looking at an object of enjoyment but not having the opportunity to partake of it to experience the enjoyment?

    1. In New Guide to Dakini Land, Geshe Kelsang says:
      “… the practitioner will be able to transform his or her desire into spontaneous great bliss. With this blissful mind the practitioner will meditate on emptiness and eventually eradicate all delusions, including desirous attachment.”

      The blissful experience that arises with our enjoyment depends on our mind of desire. Enjoyments are called “objects of desire” because they are dependent on our own mind of desire. When we have strong desire for an object, our experience of inner bliss increases, even when thinking about it.

      The transformation referred to here is completely different from desirous attachment. With desirous attachment, strong desire can turn into painful feelings. This is due to the incorrect view of attachment. To enjoy ourself in a way that eradicates delusions we need to do so on the basis of non-attachment. This depends on the deep experience of this practice of finding bliss within.

      Eventually, we will be to transform all enjoyment regardless of if we are partaking of them of them or not!

  2. Love it! This is a deeply inspiring article.

    My only question is on the bee analogy – I heard this analogy before but was never able to fully understand it. How is that by recognizing that the pleasure arises within my mind, rather than from the object outside, I can be like a bee extracting nectar from a flower?

    Thank you in advance, I’d love to get it right.

    1. This analogy illustrates how to enjoy objects while stopping attachment from arising. The bee finds the nectar, extracts it, and is on its way. It doesn’t cling to the nectar of a single flower.

      When we encounter objects of desire, we start to exaggerate its good qualities. Then from this we develop craving for that object. From this, our mind “sinks in” and becomes mixed with it.

      We can begin to understand how the experience of pleasure is coming from our own mind. Then through training we can take a small experience of bliss and build on that in our mind. In this way we can move our mind through enjoyments without getting caught up in them.

      Another analogy Buddha used for attachments is that they are like honey on a razors edge. This technique allows us to enjoy the honey and avoid the clinging that causes the razor to dig in!

  3. Thank you for this very helpful article!

    I am not sure I understand the difference between ‘independent of the mind’ and ‘outside the mind’. Can you clarify?

    Thank you!

    1. This is a great question and one that is worth deeply contemplating and meditating on.

      All the things we normally see seem that they are independent of our mind. For example, the universe seem that it is out there, completely unrelated to the mind apprehending it. In reality, everything is dependent on the mind viewing it. For example, people are our friends because we imputed that with our mind and relate to them through that imputation. To other people, our friends are strangers and they experience them completely differently.

      Contemplating dreams is a great way to understand how nothing is outside our mind. Another example to consider is the experience of someone with schizophrenia. This person can see someone putting a poisonous substance in their food, even though no one else perceived that. This entire experience, which they relate to as reality, is entirely inside their mind. Due to the imprints of self grasping in our minds, we are also hallucinating our self, our world, and the entire universe inside our mind.

  4. Exquisite! I’m currently on study program, studying chapter nine of “Meaningful to Behold”. Not only is the article beautiful, so are the discussion questions here.

  5. Thank you,a great article for helping us to bring the experience of our very subtle mind into our everyday life 😊❤️

  6. This is a wonderful article, thank you.

    I have just one question:

    “If the pleasurable experience is outside of our mind, then we could not experience it. Since pleasure is a feeling in the mind, this indicates that our mind is creating both the experience and the person or object who is the object of that experience, rather like an experience in a dream. Another way of saying this is that the person is an appearance of our mind, appearing to our mind.”

    I’m struggling with why the this indicates that the object is created by the mind. I can easily see why it indicates that our mind is creating the experience but I cannot see easily why it indicates the object is itself also created by mind.

    Thank you 🙂

    1. First, in a dream it appears that objects are outside and we are observing them. When we wake up we realize our mind created the observer, the experience of observing, and the observed object. None of them were outside our mind. This can be applied and understood in the same way to our waking mind.

      Second, there are no objects outside of our experience of them. For example, the moon appears to be outside our mind, but with wisdom we understand we can go to the moon just by thinking about it. Our primary mind creates the object through imputation. A pleasurable experience is a mental factor that is part of that primary mind. Thus, the object and its various aspects are created by our mind and are not outside of it.

      Third, we can consider uncommon experience of the Mahamudra Yogi. After arising from meditation on emptiness with their very subtle mind, all of the waking appearances are imbued with great bliss and emptiness. The inner purification taking place purifies both the very subtle mind and all of the appearances the subsequently arise out of it.

      In summary, all the appearances of our waking life are like the appearances in a dream, created by and experienced within our own mind. If we purify our mind through meditation on bliss and emptiness, our entire experience of the world will become pure!

  7. This is really helpful. Initially as a meditator I tried to oppose my attachments in some way or other; meditating on the pain that they cause, or on their impermanance or emptiness. Those meditations have their place for sure. But transforming attachments into pure enjoyments by remembering the bliss that’s associated with them, is so much more positive, enjoyable, and powerful. Now I understand it more fully after reading this article. Thank you!

Leave a Reply