With our mind mixed inseparably with the guru’s mind, we now engage in our Lamrim meditation.
What are the good qualities of the Lamrim? Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path that the Lamrim teaching is the condensation of all Buddhadharma, the instructions of Lamrim are easy to put into practice, and the presentation of the instructions of Lamrim is superior to other traditions. He also explains that through gaining experience of Lamrim we shall understand that none of Buddha’s teachings are contradictory, we shall take all Buddha’s teachings as personal advice and put them into practice, we shall easily realize Buddha’s ultimate intention and we shall naturally become free from the great fault and from all other faults. When I first read these words, I literally started dancing around my living room saying “YES!”, feeling as if I had just found the answer to all my questions.
It is customary for Kadampa practitioners to cycle through the 21 meditations explained in the New Meditation Handbook, doing one a day. In the beginning, when we are unfamiliar with the meditations, it is useful to review the meditation before we start that way we don’t have open our eyes and thumb through a book during the meditation.
In general, when we meditate there are two parts: analytical meditation and placement meditation. Analytical meditation is when we contemplate the various points in the Meditation Handbook or our own contemplations to lead us to our desired object. The goal is to get to the object of meditation, how we get there is not as important. Placement meditation is once we have found our desired object, we then hold it in placement meditation for as long as possible. All of this is well explained in the Kadampa books.
From my experience, there are five things which enable us to get the maximum effect out of our Lamrim practice. I will explain these in detail over the next three posts.
1. Do what moves your mind the most.
What we are after here is transforming our mind. How we get there is not so much what matters, but getting there (the object of meditation) is what matters. At different times different things will move our mind more, and so at such times, that is what we should focus on. For example, in my own case, in the beginning of my spiritual life I was happily doing my Lamrim cycle as normal for many years, then I had a life-changing retreat where I realized it was possible to meditate with my guru’s mind instead of my own. Since then, every day for many years, I meditated on reliance upon the spiriutal guide. I did so because it was what moved my mind the most, I still feel like I have so much left to go. The way in which I did this was by meditating on the interrelationships between reliance upon the spiritual guide and all the other 20 meditations. So in some sense, I am meditating on the Lamrim with a theme of reliance on the spiritual guide.
I continued in this way until Modern Buddhism came out and I read the practice of the Yoga of Buddha Heruka. I felt as if Geshe-la had given me a personally tailored practice and I saw how by engaging in this practice I engage in all of the Kadam Dharma every day. Every object of the lamrim is contained within it, and now I try generate the appropriate lamrim mind at the relevant place of the sadhana. I am quite certain there will later come a time when the nature and composition of my practice will change again to something else and this is perfectly natural and OK. Our practice needs to focus on what moves our mind the most.
2. Use the Lamrim to solve whatever you perceive your biggest problem to be.
If we don’t apply our Lamrim practice to our daily problems, then it becomes intellectual. But when we use the lamrim as the solution to whatever is troubling us the most, then it becomes very personal, very practical, and very powerful. So we can ask ourselves, how does meditation 1 inform how I should view this problem? How does meditation 2 indicate what I need to do with this problem, etc.
Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path that all faults find their opponent in the Lamrim, the Lamrim functions to solve all the problems of all living beings, and all of the instructions of Lamrim are to be put into practice. To put the instructions into practice means to use them to solve our problems, not to just consider them as some abstract generation of various minds. In the beginning, our ‘biggest problem’ will most likely be something related to this life alone. That is OK. That is just where our concerns are at the moment. But it doesn’t take long, perhaps 6 months to 1 year of pure Lamrim practice, before we feel start to feel as if the scope of our concern begins to extend beyond this life. It is not that we are no longer concerned about this life as well, rather we start to see this life in the context of our countless future lives. At this point something very magical takes place, what we perceive to be our biggest problem shifts out of this life alone. We start to sincerely (not intellectually) worry about our happiness in future lives. Then we start to worry about our problem of uncontrolled rebirth. Then we start to worry about others problem of uncontrolled rebirth. This process evolves and unfolds naturally as a result of sincere Lamrim practice.
What makes it all work, and what makes it all resonate deeply within our mind, is when we use the Lamrim to solve whatever we perceive to be our biggest problem. The situation may not change, but our view of the situation will completely change; thus solving our mentally fabricated ‘problem.’ The Lamrim is practical advice, and needs to be used to solve our problems. If we are not doing this, then our practice is highly intellectual, and will have little power to transform our mind. Not because the Lamrim has little power, but because we are not using it in a powerful way.
As we gain experience of this, we start to see the Lamrim like a toolbox which we use to solve our own and others various problems. Over time we realize from our own side that the Lamrim truly does possess all we need to solve our problems. When we realize this from our own side, then we start to get a glimmer of our good fortune of having found the pure Kadam Dharma.