Turning the Mind Into An Ally – Why Meditate?

c L. Robbins
c L. Robbins

I’m reading Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s Turning the Mind Into An Ally for a Buddhist meditation class I’m taking. (Rinpoche means “precious jewel” and is accorded high teachers in the Buddhist tradition)  I want to offer a few excerpts from the first two sections of the book (Why Meditate? and The Art of Peacefully Abiding) but first a bit of background.

The Sakyong (as he’s called … it means “earth protector”) is an incarnate lama, and his father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1940-1987), also an incarnate lama, was a very well-known and rather dissolute and controversial Buddhist teacher who died at age 47, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, of liver failure due to alcoholism; apparently his kind of wisdom is known as “crazy wisdom” in the Buddhist tradition, i.e. teaching that confounds social convention. Trungpa founded the first Buddhist-inspired University in North America, Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and a lot of Shambhala meditation centers. He’s credited with bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West.

His son, the Sakyong, was born in 1962; he’s a poet, artist, avid horserider, golfer, and author of two books so far, including the one I’m reading, which is a simply written book about why and how to have a regular practice of sitting meditation (shamatha – “peaceful abiding”).

Below is a selected compilation of his comments about why one might meditate, &/or what happens through a regular practice of meditation; some of these feel true and useful to me and some do not:

to “train our minds in stability, clarity, and strength” (p. 5)

to “discover that we can abide peacefully.” He continues, “Knowing our natural peace is the basis for any spiritual path.” (p. 5)  And, “Learning to be present for the moment is the beginning of the spiritual path.” (p. 34)

“we can create an alliance that actually allows us to use our mind rather than be used by it” (p. 5)

to “undo our own bewilderment and suffering and be of benefit to others and the planet” (p. 5) Later, he says that “the source of our bewilderment and suffering” is “believing that thought patterns are a solid self.” (p. 63)

“We can train the mind to work in order to do something particular. For example, if we want to generate compassion and love, that’s work.” (p. 6)

to help create an enlightened society (p. 8)

“with an untrained mind, we’ll live most of our days at the mercy of our moods.” (p. 19)

“Meditation is how we unravel the illusion” of permanence, stability, a solid self. (pp. 22-23)

“Meditation shows how discursive thoughts lead to emotions — irritation, anxiety, passion, aggression, jealousy, pride, greed — which lead to suffering.” (p. 27)

“Meditation is a very personal journey. Simply by being conscious of the present moment we can ground ourselves in it, we relax our sense of self and begin to tune in to reality as it is.” (p. 27)

“In peaceful abiding we can begin to observe and understand our thought patterns…. We can see how it fabricates a comfort zone. We can see how it wants to take action. We can begin to understand its course without judging it.” (p. 28)

“After we’ve spent some time watching thoughts and emotions come and go, we begin to see them clearly. They no longer have the power to destabilize us, because we see how ephemeral they are.” (p. 28)

“We’re training in being undistracted and focused. We’re training in being fully present for our lives.” (p. 42)

“We practice peaceful abiding in order to cultivate that kind of one-pointed attention. It gives us the potential to have stronger, more focused access to whatever we’re doing.” (p. 58)

“Meditation allows us to relax our grip on ‘me’ because we’re able to see the thoughts not so much as one personal identity, but more as the effects of the speed of our mind. We gain perspective. We can see the thoughts come and go. We’re not so limited by them.” (p. 64)

“Our root fantasy is that ‘I’ am real and that there’s a way to make ‘me’ happy. The reason we meditate is to let that fantasy unravel.” (p. 68)

“Because practice has enlarged our perspective beyond identifying with our thoughts and opinions, we’re less likely to act from a tight, self-protected space.” (p. 83)

“The reason we work so hard to gather our minds is in effect so we can relax … we’re softening the ground of basic goodness so that love and compassion can break through.” (p. 86)

“Our root fantasy is that ‘I’ am real and that there’s a way to make ‘me’ happy. The reason we meditate is to let that fantasy unravel.

“That’s the point of meditation, isn’t it? We want to develop an open, interested, flexible mind.” (p. 93)

“Meditation is about seeing through the contrived sense of ‘me.'” (p. 94)

“The point of awareness — and the point of meditation, for that matter — is to know what’s happening.” (p. 107)

“The power of peaceful abiding is that we begin to see how our mind works. We begin to see how our life works, too. That changes us.” (p. 129)

The next post will consist of other excerpts from the book.

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