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Freedom through imagination

Freedom through imagination

This talk was given during the White Tara Winter Retreat at Sravasti Abbey.

  • How we can make an identity out of being sick, boxing ourselves in
  • Imagining the light and nectar freeing us from illness and pain
  • Having confidence in the purification

White Tara Retreat 33: Changing solid identities we create (download)

We were on the statement we make to ourselves after finishing the visualization and mantra recitation where we’re thinking, “I am liberated from all negative karma, disturbing attitudes, negative emotions, disease, interferences, and dangers of untimely death. I will use my life in a meaningful way, to transform my mind, develop love, compassion, the six far reaching practices, and act in ways that benefit others, myself, and our environment.” There’s a lot in this.

Yesterday we talked about imagining or pretending what it would be like not to have any afflictions, and how powerful that is on our mind just to be able to pretend that, and how it shifts our mind to go in that direction.

Next is disease, and then interferences and dangers of untimely death. We can make a whole identity about being sick, can’t we? “Oh, my aching back!” Or, “I have this current problem,” or whatever it is. And we can make an identity out of a conventional thing and reify this identity and get stuck in it and think, “That’s who I am, I am my illness.” In that way we box ourselves in and we never have a thought of what it would be like to be well, we don’t even think it’s possible.

The thing of imagining light and nectar going into all the different parts of our body and to our mind as well, and then really at the end thinking “Okay, I’m free from disease, I’m free from pain.” Whether it’s physical disease or mental disease, whether it’s physical pain or mental pain—again just imagining that it has been purified—that the karmic causes for it are gone, that the pain itself is gone. Imagining what it’s like to actually be joyful changes our mind, okay? It enables us to actually transform and become what we are imagining being. So try that.

Especially as we age we can really get this identity, “Oh! I’m aging and everything is failing!” Yes, the body and mind are aging and going downhill. But that doesn’t mean that we need to get depressed and anxious about it and develop an identity of, “I’m becoming incapacitated,” and all that. Instead you think all of that unnecessary reaction is getting purified and you really feel that your physical energy is coming back because you just had all this light and nectar with the five elements coming in re-balancing all your energy. You feel your mental energy is coming back because you have all the implements: the Taras, and the mantras, and her lotuses all coming in to you, improving your mental state. Think, “Oh yes! That’s worked!”

Then the same thing with the spirit interferences if there’s any danger of an untimely death. Instead of having anxiety about all these things which makes it conducive to a self-fulfilling prophecy, just having some kind of confidence of, “Okay, this has all been purified, and whatever happens in my life I have the tools to work with it. Externally I have resources, internally I have the Dharma. Nothing has to overwhelm or overcome me, I don’t need to live in fear and anxiety.”

I think really talking to ourselves in that way and imagining that is very powerful. And so, if you’re doing your self-generation where you’re Tara and you identify as Tara, you can’t be an anxious, fear-ridden, worried Tara. You know? It’s not going to work. You have to really be Tara. And so, those things that aren’t Tara—you have to let them go.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.