Part of a series of teachings on a set of verses from the text Wisdom of the Kadam Masters.
- Realizing that things are not inherently existent
- Realizing that things exist dependently
- Walking meditation
Wisdom of the Kadam Masters: Who’s walking? (download)
I thought I’d continue on the first line, again,
The best learning is realizing the truth of no self.
We’ve talked a little bit about some practical ways to apply emptiness in simple ways. They seem simple. They’re not so simple if you really get into them; to reflect on emptiness in your meditation, and also when things are happening in your daily lives. But as we know, to have a complete realization of emptiness you not only have to realize that things are not inherently existent, but you also have to realize that they do exist dependently. Usually they say in meditative equipoise you realize the non-inherent existence, and only after you’ve had at least an inference of emptiness, when you come out of that meditative equipoise then you see things like illusions and you become able to establish them as existing dependently. That makes it a complete realization of emptiness.
To move into the second part, establishing that things exist dependently, Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche has a nice meditation. He does it in the context of a walking meditation, but I think it’s also good to do sitting. He starts out, when you’re walking, that you ask yourself, “Why do I say, ‘I’m walking’?” You’re walking and you say, “I’m walking.” Then you ask yourself, “Why do I say ‘I’m walking’?” On what basis is it said, “I’m walking”? Then you have to think about that awhile. On what basis do you say you’re walking? It’s usually because your body is walking. Okay, I’m walking because the body is walking. But also, I’m not the body.
Then you’re thinking. Why do I say I’m thinking? Because the mind is thinking. It’s okay to say, “I’m thinking.” On one hand that establishes—just when you’re not analyzing—that there’s an “I,” because there are these activities going on and you can label them. On the other hand if you shift and you start applying analysis, I say “I’m thinking” because the mind is thinking, yet I’m not the mind. You can go all sorts of different ways with this.
Then another similar way that I find very, very helpful is, when I’m feeling something, like, “I feel tired.” You know how sometimes when you feel tired (I don’t know about you, but I can get really into it): “Oh, I feel so tired. I’m so tired.” And there’s this feeling of the suffering of feeling tired coming. Of course, there’s the tired feeling, and then the suffering of feeling tired is my mental feeling. The feeling of tiredness is the physical feeling derived from the body. The suffering from feeling tired is the mental, because I’m sitting there saying to myself my new mantra, “I’m so tired, I’m so exhausted.” At that point it’s very interesting, I’m not even feeling the physical sensation of tiredness because I’m too involved in telling myself I’m tired mentally and feeling the mental suffering of being tired. So it’s interesting to look at that, the difference between the physical feeling of tired and the mental suffering you go through telling yourself you’re tired when you’re no longer actually feeling tired.
Then you go back to the physical feeling and you say, “On what basis do I say, ‘I’m tired’?” It’s very interesting to sit there because you’re saying “I’m tired,” and on what basis do we say, “I’m tired”? What are the physical sensations that we’re having that we put together and give the label “tired” to? You may never have thought about this before. We’re usually so out of touch with our experience that we’re not even sure, when we start to look, what are the physical sensations. Here I’m not talking about the feeling I’m just talking about the sensation, the physical data on which we say “I’m tired.” What is that?
You do a little bit of analysis there. Then that brings you into, here are all these things on the basis of which I say “I’m tired,” but being tired is not any of those things in and of themselves. Then when I build on top of that, “Oh I’m so tired,” on what basis is all that suffering coming from? What’s the basis of that? Very interesting to start examining.
Or you say, “I’m mad.” Why do I say, “I’m mad”? Or put it another way, how do I know I’m mad? How do I know I’m angry? I say, “Oh, I’m really angry.” How do I know I’m angry? On what data, physical and mental, what’s the basis of designation for saying, “anger”? What’s going on in your body? What’s going on in your mind? What’s the flavor, or tune, of your mind? You really look at all those different parts on the basis of which we say “anger.” And yet, are any of those, in and of themselves, anger? No.
Then on top of that you say, “I’m angry.” Who’s the “I” that is angry? Are you anger? Or do you have anger? Because “I’m angry” is kind of neither of them. You say, “I’m angry.” I have anger, so the “I” and the anger are separate? Or, “I’m angry” the “I” and the anger are union-oneness? Is it either of those ways? What is this “anger” anyway? Don’t think about whatever incident it was, just focus on your experience. How do I say “I’m angry”?
You can do this for many different experiences that you have during the day. “I’m sleepy,” “I’m angry,” “I’m attached,” “I’m daydreaming….” Whatever it is. And look at what’s the basis of designation. Quite interesting. This is the basis of designation, there’s the objects designated, but that object designated is not the same as the basis of designation.
Because it’s different saying, “My stomach hurts,” and, “my heart is beating fast.” That’s different than saying, “I’m angry.” Isn’t it? Or, “I have this particular mood in my mind,” and you get in touch with that mood, that feeling, and what is anger about that mental sensation, that mental experience? What is “anger” about it? Why do I call that “anger”?
Very interesting to do some exploration this way. It leads you into understanding emptiness and dependent arising. It also helps us release some of our incredible [clenching] about what we happen to be feeling that day.
You know how it is when you wake up and you say, “I feel tired,” then that gives you a complete blank check for the whole day to sign out. I don’t have to try to do anything today because I told myself I’m tired. So I can’t do anything today. We give ourselves a blank check. Same when we say, “I’m angry.” Blank check to just dump on everybody. Whatever it is. Instead of really looking, “What do I mean when I say those words?” You start to see the whole buildup in your mind of lots of stuff.
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.