With the understanding of how we should view a sadhana from the previous post, in this post I will discuss some general advice for how to successfully engage in sadhana practice. This applies to any sadhana we do, not just our practice of Heart Jewel.
The most important thing we need to do while we are doing our sadhanas is to generate single pointed concentration. For those of you who were at the Summer Festival in 1997 when Geshe-la opened the temple at Manjushri, you may recall what I am talking about. At the time, we all knew that the first teaching he gave in the temple would be an important teaching, but I think few of us knew how important it would be. The official title of the teachings was a commentary to the Lamrim, but he actually spent 2.5 of 3 days telling us one thing: we have all the practices we need to attain enlightenment, and the only thing we have to do to accomplish this goal is to pay full attention to them while we are doing them. That’s it! We have everything we need, we have the perfect methods to accomplish our goal, and all we need to do is apply single pointed concentration to our practices as we do them. If we do this, then all the good feelings naturally arise, then we will long to do our practices, and we will quickly progress towards enlightenment. Every time we do our practices we gain deeper personal experience of the practices (not just intellectual familiarity with them) and so every time we do our practice it moves us deeper and is fresh and powerful. Practiced in this way, sadhanas never grow dry.
The second most important thing we need to do (with single pointed concentration) is to, as Venerable Tharchin says, ‘intend to the meaning of the words.’ It is not that we use single pointed concentration to verbally recite the words! Not at all. That will just single pointedly go nowhere! We need to single pointedly generate the minds intended by the words. The words refer to minds that we need to generate in conjunction with the words. The words are a method for enabling us to gain access to and generate the minds intended by the words. As Venerable Tharchin says, the words of the sadhana should ‘give voice to what we feel in our heart.’ The words of the sadhana should be, as he says, ‘the very expression of our heart.’ From our heart, again as he says, ‘flow and emerge the words of the sadhana.’ We need to check if this is our experience. Or are we just saying these words verbally (or mentally) without allowing them to touch our heart. We need to train again and again, gaining deep familiarity with the intended meanings of the words, so that when we say them they are ‘giving voice to what we feel in our heart.’ This can easily take an entire lifetime to do, and still we would not fully accomplish this. This is our training. This is why we recite sadhanas. This is what we are training to be able to do. If we do this, Geshe-la said he ‘100% guarrantees us that we will attain enlightenment.’ These were his words at that historic Summer Festival.
The third things we need to do is to experience our sadhanas as a tour through our guru’s mind. Above we said that sadhanas are guided meditations by the guru. This is literally true. It is not just that he wrote the words to the sadhana, but that when we recite them, he literally is entering our mind and helping us to generate what is in his mind. These are methods for generating his mind in our mind. More accurately, they are methods for transforming our mind into his mind. The words, and the minds intended by the words, are subtle emanations of our guru’s mind. When we generate these minds in our mind, we are literally transforming our mind into his mind. He is directly entering our mind, and we are gaining first hand experience of what it is like to have his mind as our own. Our recitation and meditation are the supreme method for directly mixing our mind with his.
Literally what we need to do when we engage in recitation and meditation is we need to ‘let the guru do the meditation for us in our mind.’ Kadam Bjorn emphasized this during his teachings very much. He said, ‘one moment of reliance will produce greater results than years of straining (going at it on our own).’ We need to learn to meditate using his mind, and not using our ordinary mind. It takes a while to learn how to actually do this, but there is no more powerful way in which we can do our practices.
So how do we rely upon the guru’s mind alone in all of our practices? Specifically, within the context of sadhanas, we need to view each word (and corresponding mind) as a subtle emanation of our guru’s mind inside our mind. We should view each line of the sadhana as an implicit request that our guru reveal to us the meaning of these words in our heart, and to bestow upon us the realization implied by the words. It is the guru’s job (technically the Yidam, who we see as the Guru Deity) to bestow realizations, and the necessary condition for him to be able to do so within our mind is us making these requests. He is standing ready to bestow upon us all the realizations of the stages of the path, and we merely need to give him an opening in our mind to do so. Our requests made out of faith in this way are the method for opening our mind to permit his realizations to pour down into our mind. If we practice like this, our sadhana practice will become extremely powerful. The only way in which can understand the difference between practicing with our own mind versus practicing with our guru’s mind is if we try it out for ourself. Once we gain personal experience of this, we will realize that this is the best way to practice, even that there is no other way to truly practice.
To begin with, one of the most important things to remember when visualizing the Field of Merit is to have 100% conviction that we are in the living presence of our Guru in the aspect of Je Tsongkapa and his two sons (and likewise in the living presence of our guru in the aspect of Dorje Shugden for the Dorje Shugden part). This conviction, more than anything, is what makes our practices powerful.
Finally, we need to enjoy. Geshe-la says when we practice Dharma we should be like a child at play. There is a very good reason for this. When we enjoy our practices, results will come naturally. When we enjoy results, we will naturally relish the opportunity to practice more; which brings even more results, and so the virtuous cycle continues. So above all enjoy the spiritual adventure!