Vipashyana Meditation
The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Excerpted from the transcript of "Tranquility And Insight Meditation" (Texas 1992)
Part 4 of 5 | 1, 2, 3 , 4, 5

We have now completed an extensive explanation of tranquillity meditation.  One may now ask, "What is the result of practicing tranquillity mediation?" It is that the mental afflictions are pacified or caused to lie dormant; manifest mental affliction does not occur.  However, tranquillity meditation by itself cannot eradicate mental afflictions. 

Insight or vipashyana (lhatong ) is extremely important because it can eradicate the mental afflictions, whereas tranquillity alone cannot.  That is why one wants to be able to practice them in a unified manner.  The unified practice of tranquillity and insight has three steps.  First one has to practice tranquillity; then one has to practice insight; and then one brings the two together.  Doing this will eradicate the cause of samsara (which is mental afflictions), thereby eradicating the result of samsara (which is suffering).  For that reason, it is improper to become too attached to the delight or pleasure or tranquillity, because tranquillity alone is not enough. 

As was said by Lord Milarepa in a song,

    Shiné ge zing la ma shen par
    Lhatong ge metok trung par shok

    ( Not being attached to the pool of tranquillity
    May I generate the flower of insight

Shiné means shiné. Ge means "of".  Zing means pool; so pool of shamatha.  La is "to."  Shen is "attached," and par is negation, so it means "not attached" to the pool of shamatha.  Lhatong is lhatong, vipashyana.  Ge is "of" again.  Metok is the flower; in this case a lotus.  Trung means "born" or "arise."  Shok means "may."  .

In these two lines, tranquillity is compared to a pool of water, and insight to a lotus flower which grows up out of that pool and beautifies the pool.  If one is content just with the pool of water, which exists in order that the flower can grow, and one does not actually grow the flower, it is not beautified.  If however one attempts to grow the flower  without the pool, it cannot arise (lotuses can only grow out of a body of water); and even if it could arise, it would dry up. 

Such quotes as these from the songs of Milarepa are appropriate to be chanted from time to time.  So you could learn the Tibetan as well as the English, and occasionally recite it.  That is recommended.  The reason why it is appropriate to sing melodically entire songs or quotes from the songs of Lord Mila is that his songs are the songs of a siddha.  Therefore the words and the meaning carry great blessing, and can generate great benefit. 

Three Causes of the Generation of Insight

What is insight?  It is very important.  It is described as being the prajna or full knowledge which distinguishes all dharmas or all things.  How does one generate it?  According to Jamgon Lodro Thaye in the Treasury of Knowledge, one generates it in reliance upon three causes.  These three causes are taught in Stages of Meditation by Kamalashila.  The first of them is to rely upon great beings, which means upon qualified spiritual friends or teachers, from whom one receives instruction.  This alone is not sufficient, however.  It is necessary to apply the second cause, which is to become learned, or literally "to have listened a great deal."  One should thoroughly examine the Buddha's teachings, his supreme speech, as well as the commentaries on these teachings, by the scholars and siddhas of India, Tibet and so forth.  However, this itself is also not sufficient, because the third cause is also necessary, which is proper reflection--to properly and thoroughly examine the actual meaning of the instructions that one has studied.  In reliance upon these three causes, one can generate the full knowledge, which is insight. 

Supramundane Insight

There are said to be three varieties of insight.  These are first of all mundane insight; then supra mundane insight of the hinayana, and the supra mundane insight of the Mahayana.  Of these we are concerned today with the two supra mundane insights, which will be briefly explained. 

There are two categories of wisdom: what there is and how it is; this is concerned with what there is, the varieties.  The practice of supra mundane insight involves two stages, the first of which is called full discrimination.  Full discrimination is an examination of conventional things or conventional dharmas.  Its nature is an unmistaken knowledge which discriminates correctly between the various characteristics of what is experienced.  This is mainly an examination of conventional things, such as (externally) the five objects of the senses (sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations), and internally the five aggregates, the eighteen elements and the twelve fields of sense perception.  It consists of an understanding of all of these individually, with their specific characteristics based on a thorough examination of them. It leads to the knowledge or insight that sees all things as being of the nature of the Four Noble Truths. It sees how there is ever-present suffering; it sees that the cause of suffering is impermanence.  In fact it sees both coarse impermanence, which is the impermanence of cessation or destruction, and subtle impermanence.  This insight into conventional reality is extremely important.  It is easy to acquire, because conventional things are, by definition, what appear for one's ordinary conceptual experience or perception. 

One may ask, "To what experience does the practice of full discrimination lead?"  It leads to an experience which is analogous to that of someone with poor eyesight who goes to a doctor and gets a prescription for glasses, and then can see lots of things that he could not see before.  What happens is that one sees much more detail.  Whereas before, one's vision was fuzzy, one now sees things clearly.  If someone with poor eyesight who has never worn glasses begins to wear them, then they will say things like, "Oh, I never saw that before," or "I never knew it looked like that."  The experience of full discrimination is analogous to that.  In fact the nature of this experience is indicated by the meaning of the word lhatong, which we translate as insight itself.  "Lha" means superior, in the sense of something better (vaster or more profound) than before.  "Tong" means to see.  So it means one's vision is more profound, much vaster than before. 

The first part of insight is called full discrimination; the second part is called "utterly full discrimination."  It consists of an examination of the absolute truth or absolute reality.  This is an understanding of the absolute or actual nature of each and every thing--of external things, of individuals, of situations and so forth.  Particularly in the context of the Mahayana it is an examination, and the resulting understanding of, twofold egolessness: the non-existence of the individual and the non-existence of experience. 

This is a little hard, because this ultimate nature transcends the intellectual or conceptual mind. However it is necessary to begin with a conceptual examination of it.  In the midst of a conceptual examination, one can view or acquire a glimpse of the wisdom that itself transcends concept.  In fact, one has to proceed in that way.  One cannot say at the very beginning "This wisdom and this nature are totally transcending conceptual mind, and so there is no point in attempting to reach it gradually."  One has to make use of conceptual mind; but conceptual investigation will lead to a realization that transcends the concepts. 

Analytical Meditation

There are two traditions of how this is begun.  In one tradition, one begins by analyzing the imputed self of persons, and thereafter analyzes the self of things.  In the other tradition, one begins by analyzing the imputed self of things, and thereafter analyzes the imputed self of persons.  It does not really make any difference.

We could begin by looking at the self of persons.  In order to do this, we have to begin with the first part of insight, full discrimination, because the understanding of conventional reality that is gained through full discrimination is useful here, as one begins by determining the nature of such things as the five aggregates, and the sense components and sense fields.  Fundamentally, one begins by looking for what we call "I," looking for our "self," and looking for this thing to which we constantly exhibit such clinging.  According to Buddhadharma, when you analyze this I, to which we have so much clinging, you find that it consist of what are called the five aggregates.  Aside from these five aggregates, there is no self that can be found.  Finding that it must be, if it exists, one or more of the five aggregates, then one tries to determine which one of the five it is.  Is it form?  Is it sensation?  Is it perception?  Is it mental formation?  Is it consciousness?  Each of these is, as the name aggregate implies, an agglomeration of many things.  One determines that even if it is one of the five, it must not be that entire one, if it is a unitary thing.  It must be one part of one of the five.  One analyses each of the five, and each of their components, to try to determine which part of which of the five this "self" actually is.  One asks, "Can I actually find it?" and one attempts to look for it. 

What you are looking for is this self that we normally take to be present, and a unitary thing.  One analyses the ego-clinging itself, the imputation of this self, and tries to determine whether it has any accuracy.  This imputation or this clinging is the root of mental affliction.  When you analyze this imputed self, you cannot find it.  You determine through the analysis that it cannot exist or be present in the manner in which we conceive of it.  This experience that one sometimes has through the practice of analysis, of not being able to put one's finger on the self, is a glimpse of the wisdom that transcends concept.  This is called the arisal of a glimpse of wisdom through analytical meditation. 

It is a fact that mere appearances do not obscure or afflict us.  It is our reaction to them.  The Buddha said in the sutras that if one could just hear the sounds that one hears; if one could just smell, or just feel a tactile sensation, that would be very good.  But that is not what we do.  When we contact a sense object, it starts a process of reaction.  In this connection, Tilopa said to Naropa, "Son, it is not by mere appearances that you are fettered; it is by craving or clinging."  Naropa cut through craving or clinging, which seems to be the same meaning as the Buddha's statement in the sutras. 

If one can continue to apply this analysis of the self of persons again and again, and through that analysis continually get glimpses of this subtle wisdom, then at a certain point the experience of the subtle wisdom will become continuous. 

If one investigates the true existence of things, one investigates it to determine whether things are real or not--whether they have a true existence, and if they are solid.  This is more than just a coarse or shallow examination; the manner of investigation is primarily threefold. One investigates by reasoning a) by cause, b) by result or effect, and c) by nature.  Through the application of these various manners of analysis, one comes to gradually reveal the emptiness of all things.  For example, if I were to analyze the status of the glass which is in front of me, I would try to determine exactly what the glass really is.  Is it a physical object, compounded of subtle particles, or is it a name?  If it is a name, there is a problem because it is called different things in different languages.  On the other hand if I say that it is compounded of subtle particles, then it can be determined both by the reasoning of the Middle Way school and by the proof in modern physics that subtle particles have no true existence.  In that way, one analyzes and breaks down the objects of experience. 

There is a great deal of detail to how this is done, and excellent explanations of these matters of analysis are available in the English language in such texts as An Open Door to Emptiness by Kenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, and Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.  Both of these texts are extensive in their explanations, and reliable.  You cannot really get it by reading them just once; you have to read them again and again and again.  The way in which the meaning is expressed in these texts is not hard to understand, but the point itself, that which is being expressed, is so profound and subtle that it requires extensive and repetitive investigation. 

Part 4 of 5 | 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5 | Talk Index

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