CAN YOU THROW SOME LIGHT ON THE FEELING OF NOSTALGIA?
The whole of humanity suffers from nostalgia. Yes, I call it a suffering - it is a disease. It happens only because we are not able to live in the present totally, passionately, intensely. Then the mind starts making substitutes for the present, and then there are two possibilities: either you move towards the past or you move towards the future. Neither the past exists nor the future: the past is no more, the future not yet. All that exists is this moment, only this moment. Now is the only real time and here the only real space.
But whenever you become obsessed with the past or the future it simply shows one thing: an escape from the present, an escape from the existential And why should one want to escape from the existential? Why should one want to escape into memories or into fantasies? There can be only one reason: you don’t know how to live now, you don’t know the art of getting in tune with reality.
Because your present is so empty, so meaningless, you have to compensate for it with something.
The easier way is to compensate for it with the past because the past once existed; it has left its footprints in the sands of your memory, so it is easier to fall back. The past seems more substantial than the future, hence ninety-nine percent of people fall towards the past. Only one percent - the poets, the visionaries, the artists - look towards the future, they compensate for their present with the future. But basically both are doing the same; more or less everybody is doing it in his own way.
Nostalgia means non-meditativeness, unawareness, unconsciousness, and it is an utterly futile exercise, an absolutely futile exercise. You cannot be nourished by the past, there is no way to live it again, but you can live in memories. Living in memories is an empty gesture.
So the first thing, Ronald, is to remember that it is not only you who is suffering from nostalgia, everybody is although there may be relative differences.
And the people who live in the future are also projecting their past, because where else can they get the material to make future dreams? They will get it from the memories. They will modify their past, decorate their past, make new combinations of the past and create a future - a future heaven. And this is true about individuals and about societies too.
The old societies, for example, India, live in the past. India’s golden age has passed. In the future there is only darkness and nothing else; the future holds no hope. So India falls back towards the past.
It happens to every individual in his old age - it is an indication of old age - because the old man cannot look ahead, there is nothing there but death. If he looks into the future he can hear the footsteps of death coming closer and closer and closer. It is frightening. He closes that door completely, he looks back. It is more beautiful - all those memories of youth and childhood…
The child lives in the future because he has no past. He is always hoping to grow up as soon as possible, as quickly as possible. The same is true about young societies, for example, America: its whole history is only three hundred years old. India has existed for at least ten thousand years; more is possible but not less. Ten thousand years certainly create a deep hankering for the past - the society is so old, so collapsing.
But America can hope for the future - it is so young; it has no past. If the American tries to go to the past, where can he go? Abraham Lincoln, Washington… and then comes the end. There is not much in it - three hundred years is nothing. India can go on and on as far back as one can conceive.
So it is true about individuals, it is true about societies, races, collectivities - that if you are very young you look towards the future, if you are getting old you start looking towards the past.
So one thing, Ronald: you must be getting old, if not physically then psychologically. But deep down you know that the peak of life has passed and the future looks dark and dismal. But I don’t differentiate much between future and the past because both are escapes.
The king had very small reproductive machinery. One day, while bathing with other nobles, a friend remarked, “My dear King, you have a really small thing there!”
And the king replied, “Yes. If it was another inch smaller I"d be a queen!”
Relatively speaking… This is the whole theory of Albert Einstein, The Theory of Relativity.
So, Ronald, you may be too obsessed by nostalgia and others may be a little less obsessed, or more, but it is only a question of quantity.
Only an enlightened person has no nostalgia because he need not escape from the present. The awakened person lives herenow, he knows no other life.
The first thing about nostalgia: it can be understood only if you understand the nature of the mind.
The mind functions like the pendulum of an old dock: it moves from one extreme to another, it never stays in the middle. If the pendulum stays in the middle, the dock stops. That’s exactly true about the mind: if it remains in the middle, the mind stops, and that is the beginning of meditation. To be in the present is the beginning of an immense journey into eternity.
Eternity is vertical, time is horizontal. In time you move from A to B, from B to C, from C to D; it is linear, a line, a horizontal line. The moment you stop in the middle, you don’t move from A to B, your whole dimension changes - it becomes vertical. You dive deep into A: from Al to A2, from A2 to A3, from A3 to A4, and you go on diving deeper and deeper into A - not to B, not to C. The horizontal is no longer there; it is vertical. And the heights of life and the depths of life belong to the vertical dimension. The horizontal means the shallow, the superficial.
The mind is equivalent to time, hence it is not only a metaphor when I use the clock and the pendulum as symbols for the mind, it is literally true. The moment you are out of the mind - that is, you are moving in the vertical dimension - you are also out of time.
A Sufi saying attributed to Jesus is that when a disciple asked Jesus, “What will be very special in your kingdom of God?” he said, “There shall be time no longer.” The disciple may not have ever thought that this was going to be the answer: “There shall be time no longer.” It is not reported in the New Testament - the New Testament has missed many important things about Jesus - but other secret traditions have carried those messages. “There shall be time no longer.” He defines his kingdom of God by that statement - that will be the most special thing about it - no time, timelessness.
The mind is time; the moment there is no mind there is no time. And when there is no time there is no past, no future. Remember, time consists only of past and future: nostalgia for the past and dreams of the future. The present is not part of the time at all.
So when you hold the pendulum of the clock in the middle, the clock stops; when you hold your attention, your awareness, exactly in the middle, in the present, mind disappears, time disappears.
If you don’t know the art of meditation then the pendulum goes on moving from one extreme to another: from the past to the future, from the future back to the past. That’s how it keeps itself going, that’s how it keeps its momentum.
A beggar knocks at the gate of a Bavarian convent and asks the sister on duty, “Please, do you have any old robes for me?”
A bit ruffled, the sister replies, “But this is a nunnery! We don’t have any men in this house and no men’s clothing, of course! ”
The beggar apologizes and leaves.
The Mother Superior, who has overheard the conversation, says, “You shouldn’t have told him that we are without any male protection. Now that he knows he might come one night and molest us.” After a brief moment of thought, the sister on duty opens her little window and shouts after the beggar, “Hey, you, listen! At night the house is full of men!” That’s the way of the mind - from one extreme to another; it never stops in the middle. It is extremist, either rightist or leftist; it knows nothing of the golden mean.
You ask me, Ronald: FREUD CALLED IT REGRESSIVE AND A SEEKING OF THE WOMB. THIS DOES NOT SATISFY ME.
You have not understood poor Sigmund Freud; he is one of the most misunderstood men of this century. He had many insights of tremendous value and they gain more value because of the fact that he was not an awakened man. He was a blind man groping for the door and many times he came very close to the door. But obviously, not being enlightened himself, whatsoever he says about the door, his experience of being close to it, does not have that clarity which only a Buddha or a Lao Tzu or a Jesus can have. He uses words which can be very easily misunderstood. His words are ordinary, his insights very extraordinary. It is almost a miracle that a man who knows nothing of meditation, who knows nothing of his own consciousness, has many times come so close to the truth. One step more and he may have stepped out of darkness, out of blindness.
For example, Sigmund Freud calls it regressive. It is true, but the word “regressive” hurts. Nostalgia is regressive. Of course, it does not satisfy because it does not give you any nourishment for the ego. Regressive? And you always thought it was some great poetic quality, that you had a great understanding of the past, that your memory was magical, that you could recreate the past, you could relive it as if it were there again. You may have thought of it as something of very great creative value - and Sigmund Freud comes and he calls it “regressive”. It is certainly regressive.
You think of yesterdays only because you are not grown-up yet; you are still living somewhere farther back. The average psychological age of human beings is twelve years. And that is the average, Ronald - one may be ten, eight, seven, six, five, because there are people who are sixteen, twenty, twenty-five… So don’t take the average for granted.
Just look into your nostalgia, where you are lingering in past. There must be a few special spots, a few special memories which come again and again. That’s an indication that something has remained there, something has not grown since then. A part of you is still six years of age if that is the time which gives you sad and sweet memories. If you remember some other time then another part is still clinging there. Man is spread out almost all over the way.
There is a story in India:
Shiva’s wife died and he loved the woman so much, so madly, that he in his madness thought that there must be a physician somewhere in the country who could still bring her back to life. So he carried the dead body of his wife Parvati on his shoulders and roamed around the country looking for some miracle worker, some physician who knew the secret of the nectar which could revive the woman.
Of course, the body started deteriorating: it became rotten, parts of the body started falling. But he was so mad he went on and on. The hands fell in one place, the legs fell in another, the head fell somewhere else… That’s how the Indian sacred places were born - this is the story. One part fell in Varanasi, another fell in Puri, another fell in Ujjain, and so on and so forth. The body fell in twelve parts all over the country. By the time his tour was over nothing was left; the woman had disappeared. But wherever one part of the woman fell a sacred spot arose; it became a teertha, a place for pilgrimage.
This is somehow very significant for each of you. A part of you fell when you were four years of age and that part has remained there, another part fell somewhere else… you are spread out all over the way. You are not one piece, you are a multiplicity - multi-psychic many minds. And one part of may be very grown-up and another may be very childish.
A scientist may be a very grown-up man as far as his science is concerned. When he goes into his lab he is a very skilful, intelligent person, he works with great acumen, talent, genius, but another part of his life may be very childish, almost stupid. When he is out of his lab he is a totally different person.
It is said about Karl Marx that one day he brought many boxes of cigarettes to his home. The wife was a little puzzled. Women are more together than men; they are more earth-bound, more earthly and live more closely to the present.
The wife asked, “What made you bring so many cigarettes? And we are out of money!” He said, “Don’t be worried at all! I have found a secret way of earning money, that’s why I have purchased so many cigarettes. I will tell you the secret. Just along the way while coming back home I thought about an economic law: that if you smoke twelve cigarettes per day and you can find cheaper cigarettes, then with each cigarette you will be saving money, so the more you smoke the more money is saved! So now there is no need to worry about money. I will simply smoke and money will be saved! And I have found the cheapest brand. So much money will be saved that now you need not worry!”
The woman thought he had gone mad! He closed his doors and started smoking, two cigarettes at a time, because he was in such a hurry to earn money! And the woman rushed to one of his friends, Friedrich Engels, and told him the whole thing: “He has gone mad! He is continuously smoking, and two cigarettes at a time, because he thinks that the quicker the better!”
Engels came and tried to convince him, but he argued. It was very difficult to bring him down to earth.
And this happens to many people: in one part they may be grown-up, in another part very childish.
Nostalgia is regressive. You may not like the word, but the truth is there. Sigmund Freud is very dose to the right point. And he is also right about the womb; again he is using a word which seems offensive. Who wants the womb? Who wants to go back into the womb? The very idea is sickening!
What can you get in the womb of a mother? Just the very idea will make you vomit!
Just the other day Ajit Saraswati sterilized my tailor, Veena, and my librarian Gayan went to see the operation. Before Ajit started the operation, Gayan fainted. The very idea of looking into the womb was enough! And if this is so about a woman, what about a man?
Just think: looking back into the womb - if there were a window and you could look inside - would you like to go there? You will escape as far away as possible from any womb because a few wombs are very dangerous - they can suck you in!
I have heard:
A woman was lying on the street dead and naked. A rabbi was passing by. Seeing the naked woman he removed his hat and covered her, particularly her private parts.
Then a drunkard came by. He looked at the naked woman and, being completely drunk, he thought there was a man there also. So he asked the rabbi, “What are you going to do?”
The rabbi said, “I am going to contact the hospital people.”
But the drunkard said, “First we should take this guy out. Just his hat is showing, the rest of the guy has gone. By the time you bring the hospital people the guy may have disappeared! First let us take this guy out and then you can go anywhere you want. I am concerned about this poor man.”
Who wants to go into the womb? So it offended you, Ronald, but what he means really is that those nine months in the mother’s womb - of course you are not conscious of them anymore, you were not conscious of them even when you were in the womb - were the most pleasant time. Unless you can find a more blissful space the desire to go back into the womb remains; it is an unconscious longing.
Those nine months were of tremendous silence, rest, warmth There was no worry, no problem. You were fed, you were taken care of, and everything was absolutely automatic. You were surrounded by warm water and the womb was keeping you in a very cosy space, protected, safe, secure. Those nine months are still there in your unconscious, hence there is a desire to go back to the womb. That is part of nostalgia; in fact, that is part of what you call love.
The man trying to penetrate the woman is nothing but a search for the womb - very much changed but deep down still the same search. Every man is looking for the mother and unless your woman fulfils the role of your mother you will not be happy with her.
Now you are asking something impossible, hence so much unhappiness in the world. You are asking your woman to be your mother and yet be your woman - young, very alive, beautiful and yet at the same time motherly. Now, she cannot do both things. If she has to be very beautiful according to your criterion of beauty, if she has to be very young, then she cannot be your mother. If she tries to be your mother then she will no longer be beautiful; then she will not be a Sophia Loren. Then she will be like my Sushila - she is a perfect mother! You can find the mother, but if you are asking for Sophia Loren in Sushila then there is going to be trouble! What can she do? She cannot do both things. And Sophia Loren will look good in the films, but she cannot be a mother to you. She cannot give you that warmth - she does not have that much fat. How to give you warmth? She is bony!
Don’t ask a woman to be both a model and a mother. But that’s what everybody is asking. And every woman is asking the same from the man: to be a dad and to be a lover. No man can fulfill both roles together; it is almost impossible. Hence you will be frustrated this way or that; frustration is bound to be there.
The search is for the womb. You may not like the word “womb”, but that’s your misunderstanding.
Nothing is wrong with Freud using the word, but you have misunderstood it.
Punya has sent me a joke. She says, “This is a real joke. I heard it on the main street of the ashram between the boutique and the bag check.”
One sannyasin said to another sannyasin, “What I can’t stand about this ashram is: wherever you look, there are queues.”
The other said, “What? Jews?”
This is your misunderstanding, Ronald.
Mr. Gold had been married for many years when he had to go to Paris for a business trip.
In that city of love, he easily fell victim to the amorous advances of the pretty mademoiselle. But somehow Mrs. Gold found out about it. She wired her husband at his hotel, “Come home! Why spend money there for what you can get here for free?”
The next day she received a cable in reply: “I know you and your bargains!”
Just a misunderstanding on your part…
An English vicar checked into a large hotel. As he was walking up the main stairway he met a tiny old lady half-way up, panting for breath and carrying an enormous suitcase.
He eagerly took the case from the speechless old lady and carried it to the top of the stairs.
When he returned to help her up, she kicked him viciously in the shins. “It took me ten minutes to carry my case that far down!” she shouted.
Ella: “I’m homesick!”
Bella: “But this is your home.”
Ella: “I know, and I’m sick of it!”
The newly-arrived ambassador to a Far Eastern country called on the Emperor to present his credentials. Although he was disturbed by the presence of so many comely, half-nude maidens in the palace, he was determined not to show it. Trying to restrict the conversation to affairs of state, he asked, “Your Highness, when was the last time you had an election?”
“Ah,” said the Emperor, with a smile and a sly wink, “Just befo” blekfast!“
Ronald, the problem is not with poor Sigmund Freud, the problem is with you! What can he do if it does not satisfy you? It is not a question of satisfying you - the truth is truth.
You say: SOMETIMES THE PERFUME OF A FLOWER, SOUNDS, A PLACE OR AN INCIDENT FROM CHILDHOOD, CAN EVOKE A FEW SECONDS OF FEELING AND YEARNING THAT ARE SO SAD AND SO SWEET, IT CAN CHOKE ME WITH ITS INTENSITY.
It is possible only if this moment is not intense enough to grip you totally, only if something is left out of this moment if you are holding back.
For twenty-five years I have never thought of my past, of my childhood - no nostalgia. And I have never thought about the future either. This moment is so much - in fact, too much - so overwhelming, who bothers about past and future?
You say: MY CHILDHOOD WAS NOT SO HAPPY, NOR IS THE WOMB SO APPEALING THAT MERE SENTIMENTALITY FOR "THE OLD DAYS” CAN EXPLAIN IT.
Nobody’s childhood can be happy, it cannot be happy for the simple reason that the child is so dependent, so helpless. He is continuously being manipulated by the parents, by the teachers, he is continuously repressed by everybody, ordered, commanded. No child can be ever happy, but everybody, later on, thinks that the childhood was the most beautiful thing that happened to him.
The reason is again relative: the childhood was miserable, but now you are in far more misery! Now the childhood looks beautiful: seeing all the worries of life and the responsibilities and the troubles and the anxieties, it looks beautiful. But that is the only relative - the older you become, the more beautiful it will look.
That’s why it is both sad and sweet. The sadness is its truth and the sweetness is your invention.
And when the childhood was not happy - you say it was not happy - that simply shows you must be living a really miserable life today. If even an unhappy childhood attracts you, that shows only one thing and shows it definitely: that today is just dark, meaningless, hence the past pulls you backwards.
I can say only one thing to you: learn the art of meditation - meditation simply means the art of being herenow totally, absolutely - and then all this nonsense about nostalgia will disappear. Otherwise, it is going to remain with you to the very end.
From the cradle to the grave people go on living somewhere where they cannot live and go on escaping from the only place where it is possible to live.
Lama Tsongkhapa taught that we should practice both contemplative meditation and concentration meditation. In the former we investigate the object of meditation by contemplating it in all its details; in the latter we focus single-pointedly on one aspect of the object and hold our mind on it without movement.
Single-pointed concentration [samadhi] is a meditative power that is useful in either of these two types of meditation. However, in order to develop samadhi itself we must cultivate principally concentration meditation. In terms of practice, this means that we must choose an object of concentration and then meditate single-pointedly on it every day until the power of samadhi is attained.
The five great obstacles to samadhi are laziness; forgetfulness; mental wandering and depression; failure to correct any of the above problems when they arise; and applying meditative opponents to problems that are not there, that is, they are purely imaginary.
The actual antidote to laziness is an initial experience of the pleasure and harmony of body and mind that arise from meditation. Once we experience this joy, meditation automatically becomes one of our favorite activities. However, until we get to this point we must settle for a lesser antidote to laziness — something that will counteract our laziness and encourage us to practice until the experience of meditative ecstasy comes to us. This lesser antidote is contemplation of the benefits of samadhi.
What are these benefits? Among them are attaining siddhis very quickly, transforming sleep into profound meditation and being able to read others’ minds, see into the future, remember past incarnations and perform magical acts such as flying and levitating. Contemplating these benefits helps eliminate laziness.
The second obstacle to samadhi is forgetfulness — simply losing awareness of the object of meditation. When this happens, concentration is no longer present. Nagarjuna illustrated the process of developing concentration by likening the mind to an elephant to be tied by the rope of memory to the pillar of the object of meditation. The meditator also carries the iron hook of wisdom with which to spur on the lazy elephant.
What should we choose as an object of meditation? It can be anything — a stone, fire, a piece of wood, a table and so forth — as long as it does not cause delusions such as desire or aversion to arise. We should also avoid an object that has no qualities specifically significant to our spiritual path. Some teachers have said that we should begin with fire and later change to swirling clouds and so forth but this is not an effective approach. Choose one object and stick to it.
Many people choose the symbolic form of a buddha or a meditational deity as their object. The former has many benefits and is a great blessing; the latter provides a special preparation for higher tantric practice. In the beginning we can place a statue or painting of the object of meditation in front of us and look at it as we concentrate. But as it is our mind, not our eyes, that we want to develop, this should be done only until familiarity with the object is gained. The most important point is to settle on one object and not change it. There are stories of great saints who chose the form of a yak as their object but generally it is better to select an object of greater spiritual value and not change it until at least the first of the four levels of samadhi is attained.
Consistency in practice is also important. Once we begin we should continue every day until we reach our goal. If the conditions are perfect, we can do this in three months or so. But practicing an hour a day for a month and then missing a day or two will result in minimal progress. Constant, steady effort is necessary. We need to follow a fixed daily schedule of meditation.
Let’s say our object of concentration is the symbolic form of the Buddha. The first problem is that we cannot immediately visualise the form clearly. The advice is this: don’t be concerned with details — just get a sort of yellowish blur and hold it in mind. At this stage you can use an external image as an aid, alternating between looking at the object and then trying to hold it in mind for a few moments without looking. Forgetfulness, the second of the five obstacles, is very strong at this point and we must struggle against it. Get a mental picture of the object and then hold it firmly. Whenever it fades away, forcefully bring it back.
WANDERING AND DEPRESSION
This forceful holding of the object gives rise to the third problem. When we try to hold the object in the mind, the tension of this effort can produce either agitation or depression. The forced concentration produces a heaviness of mind and this in turn leads to sleep, which itself is a coarse form of depression. The subtle form of depression is experienced when we are able to hold the object in mind for a prolonged period of time but without any real clarity. Without clarity, the meditation lacks strength.
To illustrate this with an example: when a man in love thinks of his beloved, her face immediately appears radiantly in his mind and effortlessly remains with clarity. A few months later, however, when they are in the middle of a fight, he has to strain to think of her in the same way. When he had the tightness of desire the image was easy to retain clearly. This tightness is called close placement [Tib: nyer-zhag; Skt: satipatthana]. When close placement is lost, the image eventually disappears and subtle depression sets in. It is very difficult to distinguish between proper meditation and meditation characterised by subtle depression, but remaining absorbed in the latter can create many problems.
We must also guard against the second problem, mentally wandering away from the object of meditation. Most people sit down to concentrate on an object but their mind quickly drifts away to thoughts of the day’s activities, a movie or television program they recently saw or something like that.
Pabongka Rinpoche, the root guru of both tutors of the present Dalai Lama, used to tell the story of a very important Tibetan government official who would always put a pen and a notebook beside his meditation seat whenever he did his daily practices, saying that his best ideas came from mental wandering in meditation.
Our mind wanders off on some memory or plan and we don’t even realise that it’s happening. We think we are still meditating but suddenly realise that for the past thirty minutes our mind has been somewhere else. This is the coarse level of wandering mind. When we have overcome this we still have to deal with subtle wandering, in which one factor of the mind holds the object clearly but another factor drifts away. We have to develop the ability of using the main part of our mind to concentrate on the object and another part to watch that the meditation is progressing correctly. This side part of the mind is like a secret agent and without it we can become absorbed in incorrect meditation for hours without knowing what we are doing — the thief of mental wandering or depression comes in and steals away our meditation.
We have to watch, but not over-watch. Over-watching can create another problem. It is like when we hold a glass of water: we have to hold it, hold it tightly, and also watch to see that we are holding it correctly and steadily without allowing any water to spill out. Holding, holding tightly and watching: these are the three keys of samadhi meditation.
FAILURE TO CORRECT PROBLEMS
The fourth problem is failure to correct problems such as depression or wandering. The antidote to depression is tightening the concentration; the antidote to wandering is loosening it.
When counteracting depression with tightness, we must be careful to avoid the excessive tightness that a lack of natural desire to meditate can create; we have to balance tightness with relaxation. When our mind gets too tight like this we should just relax within our meditation. If that doesn’t work, we can forget the object for a while and concentrate on happy thoughts, such as the beneficial effects of bodhicitta, until our mind regains its composure, and then return to our object of meditation. This is akin to washing our face in cold water.
If contemplating a happy subject does not pick us up, we can visualise that our mind takes the form of a tiny seed at our heart and then shoot this seed out of the crown of our head into the clouds above, leave it there for a few moments and then bring it back. If this doesn’t help, we can just take a short break from our meditation.
Similarly, when mental wandering arises, we can think of an unpleasant subject, such as the suffering nature of samsara.
When our mind is low, changing to a happy subject can bring it back up; when it’s wandering, changing to an unpleasant subject can bring it down out of the sky and back to earth.
CORRECTING NON-EXISTENT PROBLEMS
The fifth obstacle is applying antidotes to depression or wandering that are not present or overly watching for problems. This hinders the development of our meditation.
THE MEDITATION POSTURE
The posture we recommend for meditation is the seven-point posture of Buddha Vairochana. Sit on a comfortable cushion in the vajra posture with both legs crossed and your soles upturned. Indians call this the lotus posture; Tibetans call it the vajra posture. It is the first of the seven features of the Vairochana posture. If you find this or any of the other points difficult, simply sit as is most convenient and comfortable.
The seven-point posture is actually the most effective position for meditation once you develop familiarity and comfort with it, but until then, if one of the points is too difficult you can substitute it with something more within your reach.
Keep your back straight and tilt your head slightly forward with your eyes cast down along the line of your nose. If your eyes are cast too high, mental wandering is facilitated; if too low, sleepiness or depression too easily set in. Don’t close your eyes but look down along the line of your nose to an imaginary point about five feet in front of you. In order not to be distracted by environmental objects, many meditators sit facing a blank wall. Keep your shoulders level, your teeth lightly closed and place the tip of the tongue against the front of your hard palate just behind your top teeth, which will prevent you from getting thirsty when engaging in prolonged meditation.
THE MEDITATION SESSION
Start your meditation session with a prayer to the lineage gurus in connection with your visualisation. Then go directly to concentrating on your chosen object, such as an image of the Buddha.
At first, your main difficulty will be to get hold of the mental image; even getting a blurred image is difficult. However, you have to persist.
Once you have succeeded, you have to cultivate clarity and the correct level of tightness, while guarding against problems such as wandering, depression and so forth. Just sit and pursue the meditation while watching for distortions. Sometimes the object becomes too clear and you break into mental wandering; at other times it becomes dull and you lose it to sleep or torpor. In this way, using the six powers and the four connecting principles,1 you can overcome the five obstacles and ascend the nine stages to calm abiding, where you can meditate effortlessly and ecstatically for as long as you want.
In the beginning, your main struggle will be against wandering and depression. Just look for the object and as soon as you notice a problem, correct it. On the ninth stage, even though you can concentrate effortlessly for a great length of time, you have not yet attained samadhi. First you must also develop a certain sense of pleasure and harmony within both body and mind. Concentrate until a great pleasure begins to arise within your head and spreads down, feeling like the gentle invigorating warmth of a hot towel held against your face. The pleasure spreads throughout your body until you feel as light as cotton. Meditate within this physical pleasure, which gives rise to mental ecstasy. Then when you meditate you have a sense of inseparability with the object — your body seems to disappear in meditation and you sort of become one with the object; you almost want to fly away in your meditation. After this you can fix your mind on any object of virtue for as long you want. This is the preparatory stage, or the first level of samadhi. Meditation is light and free, like a humming bird in mid-air drinking honey from a red flower.
Beyond this you can either remain in samadhi meditation and cultivate the four levels of samadhi or, as advised by Lama Tsongkhapa, turn to searching for the root of samsara. No matter how high your samadhi, if you do not cut the root of samsara, you will eventually fall.
Lama Tsongkhapa likened samadhi to a horse ridden by a warrior and the wisdom that cuts the root of samsara to the warrior’s sword. When you have gained the first level of samadhi you have found the horse and can then turn to the sword of wisdom. Unless you gain the sword of wisdom your attainment of samadhi will be prone to collapse. You can take rebirth in one of the seventeen realms of the gods of form but eventually you will fall. On the other hand, if you develop basic samadhi and then apply it to the development of wisdom you’ll be able to cut the root of samsara as quickly as a crow takes out the eyes of an enemy. Once you’ve cut this root, you are beyond falling.
Your life, all of your life, is your path to awakening. By resisting or not dealing with its challenges, you stay asleep to Reality. Pay attention to what life is trying to reveal to you. Say yes to its fierce, ruthless, and loving grace.
If you just try to keep quiet, all will come – the work, the strength for work, the right motive. Must you know everything beforehand?
Don’t be anxious about your future – be quiet now and all will fall in place. The unexpected is bound to happen, while the anticipated may never come. Don’t tell me you cannot control your nature. You need not control it. Throw it overboard. Have no nature to fight, or to submit to. No experience will hurt you, provided you don’t make it into a habit.
Of the entire universe you are the subtle cause. All is because you are. Grasp this point firmly and deeply and dwell on it repeatedly. To realize this as absolutely true, is liberation.
From beginning to end, Samurai Jack has been the story of man’s persistence against despair. Developing the resolve to stay steadfast despite there being no sign of hope in sight, defeating his inner demons, and achieving inner balance - not euphoria and everlasting happiness, but balance. The ability to acknowledge the reality of his negative emotions, make peace with his suffering and continue on without succumbing to it.
And the ending illustrated this perfectly. It showed just how far Jack had come in terms of his resilience against despair.
If it were the less experienced Jack, he may have had a breakdown. The last time that Jack was in a seemingly hopeless situation (the time portals being gone), he considered suicide. He came within inches of killing himself, and were it not for somebody else’s intervention at the last minute, he would have actually done it. All because he thought there was no hope to fix his problem.
At the end of the final episode, Jack has finally found himself in a TRUE hopeless situation for the first time in his long life. Ashi is dead. There are no magic portals to bring her back. His first love is gone, and there is absolutely no hope to reverse this.
However, Jack is an enlightened man now. He doesn’t NEED the universe to “reward” his suffering to see the value of what he’s experienced.
The 50-year hell that Aku put Jack through, ironically, allowed him to experience the joy of love and gave him the strength to cope with losing it. With Ashi tragically taken away, he looks to the hills, watches the ladybug fly, and sees that the planet around him pulses with life.
He sees that the world is bigger than his suffering.
It’s a great metaphor for real life too. As I’m sure plenty of married people will tell you, life is no “get married and live happily ever after” fairy tale. Just because you’ve gone through many trials and tribulations to reach big personal milestones that seemed larger than life doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will be a perfectly polished, flowery narrative. When you’ve found your balance, however, the energies of joy and suffering become two sides of the same coin.
In memory, our bonds are immortal. With the inevitability of death, we are alive. Through loss, we know what love means. Jack can now have peace in understanding that the world, both beautiful and cruel, simply is.
But do you need to have a relationship with yourself at all? Why can’t you just be yourself? When you have a relationship with yourself, you have split yourself into two: “I” and “myself,” subject and object. That mind-created duality is the root cause of all unnecessary complexity, of all problems and conflict in your life. In the state of enlightenment, you are yourself — “you” and “yourself” merge into one. You do not judge yourself, you do not feel sorry for yourself, you are not proud of yourself, you do not love yourself, you do not hate yourself, and so on. The split caused by self-reflective consciousness is healed, its curse removed. There is no “self” that you need to protect, defend, or feed anymore. When you are enlightened, there is one relationship that you no longer have: the relationship with yourself. Once you have given that up, all your other relationships will be love relationships.
We do have the potential to awaken, but we must do the hard work of distinguishing when we are motivated by greed, hatred, and delusion, and when we are motivated by their opposites—generosity, kindness, and wisdom.