Vows, commitments and modern life: Being preoccupied with the taste of mental stabilization.

Here taste refers to the experience of bliss, peace, and suppleness induced by concentration.  If we become attached to this and regard it as the ultimate result of concentration we incur a downfall because this attachment diminishes our wish to help others.  The real value of concentration is it is a means by which higher realizations can be achieved.

For most of us, we have very little experience of the taste of actual mental stabilization, so from one perspective this downfall can seem remote to our experience.  But it drives at a deeper point in terms of how we approach our practice of meditation.  There is a fundamental difference between meditating in search of results and meditating in pursuit of creating causes.  The former is an example of this downfall and the latter is the correct way of practicing. 

What does it mean to meditate in search of results?  Quite simply it means our intention of meditation is to enjoy pleasant inner experiences while doing so.  In other words, we treat meditation as simply another means of fulfilling our worldly concern of experiencing pleasure.  We like to feel “blissed out” or we want to forget our troubles or we simply become attached to experiencing results while we meditate.  All of these are examples of this downfall.  The definition of pure practice is practicing for the sake of our future lives.  Clearly practicing for the sake of the time during our meditation session is not that. 

Attachment to experiencing results while meditating is very common and can be very subtle.  We perhaps want to experience some sort of “ah ha” moment, or perhaps we are attached to attaining a certain level of mental concentration, such as the second mental abiding.  In our Tantric practice, it is very easy to become attached to the imagery and the visualizations, relating to it as some form of spiritual pornography.  At a subtle level, it can simply be a subtle form of wanting to harvest the results of past efforts and judging the success of our meditation against the standard of whether or not it was a “good meditation” (by which we mean one that was pleasant and easy going).  Such attachment to results while meditating quickly destroys our practice.  Attachment functions to separate us from the objects of our attachment, so the more attached to results we become the more distant they will be.  Likewise, when they don’t come, we quickly become frustrated with our practice and can falsely conclude that it doesn’t work.  Many have completely abandoned their practice for this reason.  This can especially be a problem for people who do retreat.  In my view, attachment to results during retreat is the single biggest problem people face during retreat, and if they don’t learn how to overcome it retreat time can be a living hell creating all sorts of bad habits they then carry into their daily practice.

The correct way of practicing is to completely forget about any results.  Our only goal in engaging in practice is to create good causes, not harvest their results.  We seek not to experience any results, rather we seek to progressively improve the quality with which we create good causes for ourselves.  Like a training gymnast, we strive to perfect the internal gymnastics routine that is our sadhana.  Like someone diligently saving up their money, we view our daily practice as our rare opportunity to put away some good causes for a better future.  Like a squirrel, we go about the work of stocking up inner resources for the long winter ahead.  For a practitioner free from attachment to results, difficulties during meditation are greeted with enthusiasm since we know we are working through our greatest obstacles.  The greater the inner struggle, the happier we are because we know it is by persevering through them that we will make it to the other side.  Retreat for a pure practitioner is not engaged in with any hope for results, rather it is viewed as an extremely rare and precious opportunity to create countless good causes for the future.  Venerable Tharchin said we should think that everything that happens in this life was caused by actions of our past lives, and everything we do now will not ripen in this life but only in our future lives.  While of course this is not strictly true, there will be some effects which ripen from causes created in this life, as a mental outlook this is perfect.  

3 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Being preoccupied with the taste of mental stabilization.

  1. Thank you for this inspirational message. From my own perspective meditating on death makes me anxious to see some movement in my mind now because I have no idea when death will come and need to be prepared for it. As a human life is rare it is imperative to seize this opportunity. To overcome this and remember it’s a ‘joyful path’ I recall that I am practicing for the benefit of others and stop thinking about what’s in it for me.

    Gen Dragden told me to be happy when a meditation goes well and to be encouraged but to be patient with all conditions, good or bad, as everything is exactly as it should be and is perfect for our spiritual practice. Wanting results makes our mind tight.

    I am slowly learning to stop using meditation to make samsara more comfortable and use difficulties that I encounter in daily life to remind me of why I need to develop renunciation.

    I keep working on my faith in my spiritual guide and find that directly asking for help with my obstacles always helps. I regularly forget that he is with me all the time and need to remember that I am not doing this on my own and couldn’t do it without him!

    Reading Great Treasury of Merit has been wonderful, showing just how beneficial reliance on our Spiritual Guide is as he gives us constant blessings, merit and purifies negativity. This has really helped me to accept difficulties and let go of attachment to quick results or immediate signs that my prayer has worked. Only Buddhas can see the big picture and know what is really best for us.

  2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with meditating to feel better, happier, more blissful or whatever in search of immediate results in this life. This is encouraged.

    Buddha laid out teachings for all scopes of beings. I would be overjoyed if all my friends meditated to just experience a bit of happiness. This obviously is not the point of the vow.

    For anyone who has taken Bodhisattva vows Basic Buddhist intention reigns, future lives. However, we still use meditation as a tool to keep our life happy, and if that means looking for the immediate, then brilliant. This comes with practice and skill if the practitioner.

    In HYT, bliss is very easy to generate. It is a superior to bliss experienced in Sutra. Attachment is Also used to help generate the mind to bliss.

    It is more important to be happy with ones practice than to ever fretting about attachment. Enjoy. Offer it all to the Buddhas and so forth. This issue is solved in Tantra where it is burnt by the Inner Fire, it blazes to provide an inner nourishment. No problem.

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