These teachings touch on many different practices and texts ranging from shamata and guru yoga to One Sentence Pith Instructions and Aspirations for Mahamudra.
Seeing and Resting Download
The utility of deception; faith, trust, and not knowing your reaction to what you haven’t experienced; the union of seeing and resting (guided meditation); what it the teacher in one’s experience; questions from participants.
It’s a basic axiom that the key to a successful military campaign is deception. A lot of people don’t like this, but it’s true. There’s something analogous to this in teaching [Laughter]. Now you really don’t trust me anymore, I can tell.
There is a proverb that “the ‘opposition’ of the man of knowledge is better than the ‘support’ of the fool.”
I, Salim Abdali, bear witness that this is true in the greater ranges of existence, as it is true in the lower levels.
This is made manifest in the tradition of the Wise, who have handed down the tale of the Horseman and the Snake.
A horseman from his point of vantage saw a poisonous snake slip down the throat of a sleeping man. The horseman realized that if the man were allowed to sleep the venom would surely kill him.
Accordingly he lashed the sleeper until he was awake. Having no time to lose, he forced this man to a place where there were a number of rotten apples lying upon the ground and made him eat them. Then he made him drink large gulps of water from a stream.
All the while the other man was trying to get away, crying: “What have I done, you enemy of humanity, that you should abuse me in this manner?”
Finally, when he was near to exhaustion, and dusk was falling, the man fell to the ground and vomited out the apples, the water, and the snake. When he saw what had come out of him, he realized what had happened, and begged the forgiveness of the horseman.
This is our condition. In reading this, do not take history for allegory, nor allegory for history. Those who are endowed with knowledge have responsibility. Those who are not, have none beyond what they can conjecture.
The man who was saved said: “If you had told me, I would have accepted your treatment with a good grace.”
The horseman answered: “If I had told you, you would not have believed. Or you would have been paralyzed by fright. Or run away. Or gone to sleep again, seeking forgetfulness. And there would not have been time.”
Spurring his horse, the mysterious rider rode away.
Some of you have been complaining about the interviews, so I thought that was [unclear] [Laughter].
This is a different one. This is not about the interviews [Laughter].
There was once a hard working and generous farmer who had several idle and greedy sons. On his death bed he told them that they would find his treasure if they were to dig in a certain field. As soon as the old man was dead the sons hurried to the fields which they dug up from one end to another, and with increasing desperation and concentration when they did not find the gold in the place indicated.
But they found no gold at all! Realizing that in his generosity their father must have given his gold away during his lifetime, they abandoned the search. Then it occurred to them that since the land had been prepared they might as well now sow a crop. They planted wheat which produced an abundant yield. They sold this crop and prospered that year.
After the harvest was in the sons thought again about the possibility that they might have missed the buried gold! So they again dug up their fields with the same result. They planted another crop.
After several years they’d become accustomed to labor and to the cycle of the seasons—something which they’d not understood before. Now they understood the reason for their father’s method of training them, and they had became honest and contented farmers. Ultimately they found themselves possessed of sufficient wealth no longer to wonder about the hidden hoard.
Thus it is with the teaching of the understanding of human destiny and the meaning of life. The teacher, faced with impatience, confusion and covetousness on the part of the students—no names will be mentioned [laughter]—must direct them to an activity which is known by him to be constructive and beneficial to them but whose true function and aim is often hidden from them by their own rawness.
How many of you are familiar with utility theory? Rational choice theory. It comes principally from economics. And it is the principle…or the theory, that when presented with complete information people will make a rational choice to maximize their interests. Hence, called utility theory. Utilization of resources. It’s the basis of almost all economics, economic theory, a good deal of sociological theory, a fair amount of psychological theory. There’s only one hitch. It’s not true. That’s most economic theories based on a principle that everybody knows isn’t true. How many of you make all your decisions rationally? How many of you make any decisions rationally? [Laughter] Those of you who have studied traditional Tibetan Buddhism, and a good bit of other traditions too, but definitely the Tibetan tradition. Jewel Ornament is a good example but there are many others. Even my book which I now have to rewrite from scratch. It’s all presented on the base of rational choice theory.
One of my favorite questions for teachers these days is, “Since we know rational choice theory is not true, how do you teach?” That’s what is answered partially by those two stories. Okay? Now there are huge dangers in this. One of the dangers is, that there is a hierarchy of knowledge, and that that hierarchy can be exploited for power. That’s happened pretty reliably over the last 5,000 years. Not by everyone, but by enough. And at the same time it’s also true that there are possibilities, which until they have a certain level of experience or a certain ability—what have you—we simply can’t know, or even if we hear about them, we just won’t believe them.
That was brought home to me in a very unlikely setting in the mid 90’s. I’d gone to a conference sponsored by Ernst and Young for CEOs and entrepreneurs. I don’t know what I was doing there—somebody said “Just go”. It actually turned out quite well because I met someone that opened locked doors. But one of the presenters there was a very senior person in Wells Fargo. They said that when they did customer polling on banking by telephone, the responses were uniformly negative. “No, we would never want to do that. We want to go and see a teller etc.” But Wells Fargo and other banks were faced with a situation where the costs of providing that amount of labor were just so high, they wanted to move customers to banking by telephone and banking by ATMs. So they were faced with disregarding the results of their own survey and started telephone banking, and ATMs etc. And customers soon found that they loved it, because it allowed them to take care of everything on their own time without waiting in line. This person from Wells Fargo said “What we learned from this—this is very important—what we learned from this is that people do not know how they will feel about something they haven’t experienced. It’s all conjecture.”
They encounter this a great deal in spiritual work. A lot of people who are used to operating in the world a certain way, are afraid of meditating, or practicing meditation because they’ve said, and I’ve heard this many, many times “Will I lose my edge?” Or as another person said it “I don’t want to become a ball of mush.” [Laughter] And in the subject matter that we’re dealing with, which is moving into a direct experience of how things are, one of the things that comes out a lot is people [unclear] are afraid that they will lose their ability to function. It is completely impossible to explain to them, because they don’t have an experience on which an explanation can be based. Hence faith and trust form an inevitable part of spiritual practice. And, people being people, are inevitably abused.
This evening I want to focus on taking what we’ve worked with so far, and bringing it together as best we can. To review, and I’m doing this because we have tomorrow night, and then we have Friday night, and then we go home. Larry and I are going to stick around. We don’t have anything better to do, right?
So, first few days, our work focused on the matter of resting. Now you’d think that resting comes naturally. How many of you found it came naturally? What was the problem? I’m taking that lack of response as a “No.” [Laughter] What was the problem? Or, maybe we should create a little more latitude here. What were the problems? Or, well lets go the whole hog. What are the problems? [Laughter] Anybody.
Student: Restless mind.
Ken: Restless mind.
Janet: Emotional reaction…
Ken: One second please. How is that a problem?
Student: Because unless you regard it properly it doesn’t settle and you can’t command it to not be restless.
Ken: So is the problem the restless mind, or that the mind is not responsive to commands?
Ken: Which is a problem?
Student: Well, if you’re trying to change it, it’s a problem. Rather than to relate to it.
Ken: So it’s the nature of the mind that’s the problem.
Student: The relationship to it.
Ken: [Laughter] Janet. She was so eager to answer a few moments ago! [Laughter]
Janet: I don’t know.
Ken: What were you going to say?
Janet: I was going to say that it’s the…it’s the reactive emotions…being lost in them, that’s the problem.
Ken: So is it the reactive emotions, or getting lost in them?
Janet: Getting lost in them.
Janet: Taking them as a thing.
Ken: I heard somebody use that phrase. That means it’s off limits.
Janet: Okay, well when I…when I start to feel like…well…
Ken: It’s a good thing I’m not Seung Sahn Sunim.
Janet: When I’m…
Ken: Had this big stick. Said, “Speak!” [Loudly] [Laughter]
Janet: Then I can’t say that. When…there’s nothing wrong with the reactive emotions, if I can see that they’re happening, but when they’re happening really powerfully, I can be swept away by them and not see that they’re just emotions.
Ken: Okay. So we see from both of these replies that the presenting problem in resting is not the actual problem. Follow? You start out and say, “Well this is the problem.” But when get a little bit into it you see, “Nope, that’s not the problem. Something else is the problem.” So I have a question. I’m being totally unfair this evening. What is the ultimate problem in resting? [Laughs] Ralph, a brave soul.
Ralph: Basically the mind doesn’t believe that it’ll work. As everybody said no experience it’s not true.
Ken: The mind doesn’t believe it will work. I love the way we talk in Buddhism. Is this you, or the mind? [Laughter]
Ralph: A little of both.
Ken: Who are we talking about here, or what are we talking about?
Ralph: It’s a reactive…it’s a…it’s a belief I hold in my core. This opinion that I hold about the world.
Ken: And what is the opinion?
Ralph: The opinion is I’m leery about things that are untested and proven.
Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Nancy.
Nancy: I think it’s because I can’t accept the experience that’s happening right at that moment.
Ken: Okay. Alan.
Alan: I think it’s the self. The need to maintain this fictional self.
Ken: Why do you need to maintain the fictional self?
Alan: Because without it I don’t know who I am.
Ken: Oh dear why do you need to know who you are? Larry’s already there. [Laughter]
Alan: Without it I might rest. [Laughter]
Ken: Why do you need to know who you are? There’s a book that came my way called Blindsight. [Online under the by-nc-sa Creative Commons license.]
Ken: Yeah. It’s by a…
Alan: It’s a…[unclear].
Ken: No, No, No.
Ken: Yeah, yeah… Blindsight’s by a guy called Peter Watts who lives in Toronto, a marine biologist I think.
Student: Used to be.
Student: Used to be.
Ken: Used to be. You read the book?
Student: Oh yeah.
Ken: And it’s a science fiction book. It’s a very interesting book. Because there’s so much really hard science in it, and I mean hard science. Raises such interesting questions as, What is the difference between sentience and intelligence? And “What is the evolutionary function of sentience, when intelligence is all that’s needed to survive?”
So, why do you need to know who you are?
Alan: There was some sort of fear. If I don’t know who I am, I’ll get lost like Nasrudin did. [Laughter]
Ken: Are you familiar with Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat?
Alan: You better refresh my memory.
Ken: So, if you’re afraid of getting lost, where do you want to go?
Ken: I’m going to get killed by this woman [unclear]. [Laughter]
Student: You’re projecting! [Laughter] Who do I remind you of?
Ken: It’s the narrowing eyes. The pupils.
Student: It means I’m thinking [Laughter].
Alan: Well I don’t have a good answer for that.
Ken: Yes, this is what I was afraid of. You see, Alice comes across the Cheshire Cat, and says to the Cheshire Cat, “Please sir, which way should I go?” The Cheshire Cat asks the question I just asked you, “Where do you want to go?” And Alice says, “Well it doesn’t really matter.” And the Cheshire Cat says “Then it doesn’t really matter which way you go!” [Laughter] See? And Alice says, “As long as I get somewhere.” To which the Cheshire Cat says, “Well if you go far enough, you’ll be somewhere.” [Laughter]
So Alan, where do you want to go? Or, we can take it right back to, Why do you need to know who you are? Your choice.
Student: I’m not going to look at you. [Whispers]
Alan: [Laughter] I don’t need to know who I am, I…at least with this particular song I don’t really…it’s just an obstacle here to me. I don’t… I don’t know who I am to begin with.
Ken: So what prevents you from resting then?
Alan: The self. It’s just perpetually babbling in my ear about…
Ken: Is it the self that is the problem, or that you don’t know how to let go of the self.
Alan: That’s it.
Ken: That’s it. [Laughs] So, we have here another instance of what appears to be the problem, when investigated, it turns into something else. Now we’re just pursuing this a little bit through Q and A here. Question and answer. But this is exactly the dialectic that takes place in meditation, except we aren’t always aware that that’s what we’re struggling with, until something shifts and we can see something that’s blindingly obvious, that we couldn’t see before. Right? Okay.
Ken: So, Let the mind rest.
When you just let mind rest, and don’t do anything with it, what happens to thoughts, feelings, and sensations? Thoughts come. Thoughts go. They take care of themselves. Feelings come. Feelings go. They take care of themselves. Sensations come. Sensations go. They take care of themselves. Look at this mind which rests. It naturally takes care of itself. You don’t have to do anything with it. That’s the resting mind. That’s resting. As you rest, stay awake, undistracted. Consider briefly how you could describe this. And when I ask that question, looking right at mind. Nothing to see, yet you’re aware and experience arises without any restriction. This is seeing, or insight. Now consider, what’s the difference between the mind that sees, and the mind that rests? In the resting there is seeing, and in the seeing, there is resting. This is the union of seeing and resting. Or in technical terms, shamatha and vipashyana. Resting in the seeing, seeing in the resting. You don’t have to do anything to your mind. This is just how it is. Now let a thought float up. A leaf, or a candle, or a friend, it doesn’t matter. Or an idea. There’s the thought. Is it the same or different from the mind? Resting in seeing, there’s an empty clarity. And in that empty clarity, a thought appears. How is it different from the empty clarity? Or is it empty clarity too?
And now take some body sensation. Sensation of your hands resting together or on a part of your body. There’s an experience there. Is that different from the empty clarity? Or is it empty clarity too? So as you rest like this include in the empty clarity more and more of your experience. What you experience visually, or auditorily, or kinesthetically. What you experience as thought, or feeling, or belief. What you experience as distraction, or confusion, or dullness. Here there’s nothing you have to do. There is nothing to distract. There is nothing to control. There’s nothing you have to work at.
Okay. Look around. Move your bodies.
Ken: Questions? Would you turn that towards me, like this? Thank you. Ken.
Student: Why do we sit?
Ken: I have no idea. [Laughter] Why do you sit?
Student: I like to do it. I do. I like it. I enjoy it.
Ken: I guess you’ve answered your question.
Student: But I could be doing other things, and sometimes it’s a difficult choice. Both things I like to do, which is to make music, or meditate.
Student: And sometimes its… I usually opt for meditation, but sometimes I…
Ken: I think you should have a chat with Alan back here.
Ken: Where do you want to go? [Laughter] He’s expert on this now. [Laughter]
Nancy: I have a question.
Nancy: I have…Well I have a question in my mind about when you bring the object…when you drop the object into your consciousness, there is the…sort of the clear emptiness, but its also…has become objectified it seems…like there is an object there.
Ken: There’s a perception.
Nancy: There’s a perception that there’s an object there and that’s….
Ken: And is the perception different from the empty clarity?
Nancy: I guess it seems different. I mean my mind tells me it’s not different but in….
Ken: What does your experience tell you?
Nancy: I would say sometimes it seems like it’s empty, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Ken: Yeah. And this is a very good example of where it is a matter of capacity of attention. There’s a certain solidity to our experience because the energy in attention is at a lower level than the energy in perception.
Ken: That’s why we do so many push ups.
Nancy: [Laughs] I know what you mean.
Ken: Meditation push ups.
Nancy: So actually, we’re trained to have the perception clearer than the attention? I mean our life sort of trains us that way?
Ken: For most of our lives we’re functioning at a pretty low level of attention. There are many factors which encourage that. We are taught from a very early age to ignore, to be distracted, to fear, and so forth. This is not always intentional teaching, but it’s what we learn. When we seek to become clear, then all of that conditioning begins to show up in awareness. Which makes meditation so much fun! But as we work at that, experiencing, as you said earlier, experiencing whatever arises. We do this over and over again. The level of energy in our attention rises, and we are able to experience more and more, until we are able to experience perception as perception, and not objectify perception as object.
Student: And not think that your student wants to kill you…[laughs].
Ken: I didn’t say that this time. Your question?
Ken: I insist.
Student: [Laughing] You insist…Maybe you want to kill me?
Ken: Absolutely. [Laughter] Everybody here is on the same objective. It’s what you came here for.
Student: Well I could say I get very mixed up about my perceptions of the teacher.
Ken: Okay. Say more.
Student: At first I think I see it clearly, and then half way through the retreat I really get mixed up.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. Care to elaborate. The nature of the confusion?
Student: The nature of the confusion usually reflects some kind of…patterned thinking going on.
Ken: So in a certain sense you project onto the teacher.
Student: Very much so.
Ken: Oh. This is not uncommon. [Laughter] I now have a question for you.
Ken: In the world of your experience, what is the teacher?
Student: A teacher is…a person…living, breathing human being who is attempting…
Ken: Ah. We have to stop there.
Student: Just a minute, I’m not finished! [Laughing]
Ken: I know but you didn’t understand my question.
Student: Yes I did, you just haven’t heard the answer yet.
Ken: Okay. Continue.
Student: The teacher is a living human being who is attempting to help me wake up to my own teacher. The inner teacher, which is mind…the nature of mind. And the teacher has some level of capacity in his own practice to be in that place, and so I’m always bouncing off who’s projecting.
Ken: I understand…I think. In the world of your experience, what is a person?
Student: A person?
Ken: What is, a living breathing human being in the world of your experience?
Student: In my experience…Well…
Ken: Let’s make it simpler.
Ken: [Does something with paper] This is a pamphlet.
Ken: Right? [Turning pages] You have a lot of people who are enjoying this. They’re not being very friendly.
Ken: In the world of your experience, what is this?
Student: It’s a pamphlet.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. Pamphlet is something that, you know, I can give to you.
Ken: And you can give back to me. There was some kind of dessert for lunch today wasn’t there?
Ken: What was it?
Student: I think it was the cake that was made for people who can’t eat wheat, [laughing] there she is.
Ken: How was it? How was it?
Ken: How was it?
Student: I didn’t like it.
Ken: Okay, so even though you didn’t like it, I’d like to ask you a favor.
Ken: Give me your taste…your experience.
Ken: No, don’t tell me about it. Give me your experience of it.
Student: I can’t!
Ken: Oh, you can’t!
Student: I can try to describe it.
Ken: Yes, I know you can describe it, but you can’t give me your experience.
Ken: Okay. In the world of your experience, what is this? You can’t say a pamphlet, ’cause you can give me a pamphlet.
Student: All right I need to meditate on this one.
Ken: No you don’t, you just need to think a little.
Student: I could give you the cake. [Laughs]
Ken: That doesn’t [unclear] your experience of it.
Student: I know, I can’t give you my experience of it, and I cannot give you my experience of the pamphlet either!
Ken: I’m not asking. I’m just asking, in your experience, what is this?
Student: It’s an arising.
Ken: Yeah. It’s a waving green, right?
Ken: Experience a waving green.
Student: Okay [laughing].
Ken: How does…?
Student: It’s a hot flash or sweat!
Ken: It’s sweat, and its only just begun. [Laughter] Now, what is a person, in the world of your experience?
Student: An arising.
Ken: It’s a bunch of sensations right?
Student: [Laughing] Yes. Some of them are peskier than others.
Ken: I think you could phrase that more accurately. Some of them raise more difficult in terms of experiences than others [laughing].
Ken: Okay. But there’s no person out there is there?
Student: Well that’s an interesting idea, because…
Ken: It’s the world of your experience.
Student: You’re also having an experience!
Ken: I know but don’t get into Charles’.
Student: We’re making it all up together!
Ken: Ah, no actually, we’re each day making it up separately.
Student: [Laughing] Okay, yes, but we’re interacting around making up….
Ken: Okay. Yes, but we’re only discussing your experience at this point.
Ken: Mine is irrelevant, because I don’t exist. [Laughter]. I’m not sure how I feel about that. [Laughter] That’s the way it is right now, and I have to go with it.
Student: Well, I would say that it…it’s true that I really don’t know what your experience is.
Ken: Yes. But you do know your experience.
Student: I obscure part of it.
Ken: So, what is the teacher in your experience?
Student: An experience.
Student: An arising!
Ken: And what function does this arising perform?
Student: Ahh, there’s a lot of poking and pestering. [Laughing]
Ken: We’ll graduate to [unclear] shortly. But right now just poking and pestering. What does this do for you?
Student: It helps me wake up.
Ken: Now, these projections you were talking about, what are they?
Ken: So, there we have it. You just have all of these arisings.
Ken: And this confuses you.
Ken: And I’m going to venture that it’s difficult sometimes for you to tell the arisings that are pointing out how to wake up, from the arisings that are trying to satisfy certain emotional needs.
Ken: Yeah. So how are you going to do that?
Student: Just keep looking.
Ken: At what?
Student: At the arising, and my reactions to them, which is another set of arisings.
Ken: Yeah, so it’s not just looking at them. We’re working with them in some way.
Ken: So. This might be helpful to a lot of people, so how do you do that?
Ken: See, he wants to kill me too. [Laughter] It’s the look on his eyes, right there.
Student: See may be laughing at you, but, I feel your pain. [Laughter]
Student: Well generally, there seems to be a difference when I’m in the nature of mind. Things are clearer and my body is not full of knots. Energy is flowing freely. I have fewer preferences and there’s more clarity.
Ken: It’s all there isn’t it?
Ken: In what you just said.
Ken: There it is. So, in the middle of the retreat when you’re getting confused, what do you do?
Student: I rest.
Student: Doesn’t feel very restful [unclear] sometimes.
Ken: Well you have to remember the horseman and the snake.
Student: Yes. But the thing I get confused about is how much…how clear is the teacher?
Ken: Not your concern. [Laughter] If you start worrying about how clear the teacher is then you’ll get hopelessly entangled.
Student: Okay. That sounds like good advice.
Ken: Now, one has to go a little further than that. It’s entirely possible, that at some point you are not able…or the set of arisings no longer functions to point you to your awake nature. Then you’re finished…with that teacher. That can be hard to tell sometimes. Like the snake and…the horseman and the snake.
Ken: But—and this is very, very important—in the end, you decide. It’s not the teacher that decides. Because it’s your path. It’s not the teacher’s path. You know teacher may say do this and this and this, but that may not work for you. And there may be a breakdown in communication. Given that it’s an important relationship, it’s worth checking that out, clarifying the communication. But if it’s not possible, or if something has happened that’s a deal breaker, then, you have to rely on your own intelligence, and your own experience. This is a mistake many, many students make. It’s very, very important.
Atisha was one of the very great Indian masters who started the Kadampa school in Tibet and a very influential figure. Was a red hot yogin when he was a young man. Very sharp debater. And he studied with a teacher, and learned a lot from this teacher. And he reached a point that he couldn’t learn anything more. So he went to the teacher and said, “Thank you, for everything,” presented some offerings and said, “I’m off. Goodbye.” And the teacher said, “You can’t do this! I’ve got plenty more to teach you. Who the hell do you think you are? You don’t even know what you don’t know!” And very, very angry the teacher was. But Atisha knew. And he left. And he studied with other teachers. It’s always up to you. That help?
Ken: Okay. Other questions. Karen.
Karen: [Unclear] I don’t have a question. I was just thinking.
Ken: Okay. That’ll do.
Student: It’s a very painful experience to leave a teacher that doesn’t want you to leave. I think it’s excruciating if you’ve really learned a lot from them.
Ken: Yeah. I would say it’s difficult whether the teacher wants you to leave or not, it’s difficult to come to the understanding that you’ve learned everything you can from that teacher. I think that is very difficult. Yeah.
Okay. Lets go back to what we just went through in that kind of guided meditation. Any questions on that? Tom.
Tom: I’m experiencing a qualitative difference…
Ken: A quality?
Tom: A qualitative difference.
Ken: A qualitative difference.
Tom: Between a thought that I float, and just a thought that…and thoughts that arise naturally.
Ken: And the difference is?
Tom: That the ones that I…that I float seem less substantial. Slippery [unclear].
Ken: [Laughing] You know, I guess you’re going to have to get a mass spectrometer on them. [Laughter] So, they seem less substantial. Are they? Is there any difference? Again, is the difference in the thoughts or is the difference in the level of attention that is present when the thoughts are present? What would you say?
Tom: That sounds like…it might be correct. I’d have to examine it.
Ken: I suggest you experiment with it rather than examine it.
Student: [Unclear] had a similar experience in that the so called thoughts arising naturally seemed to have a momentum. The ones that floated up don’t have, so there’s a kind of ignorant quality or un…you know, quite unaware quality and then there’s at…then there’s attention but there’s already momentum.
Ken: And what do you conclude about that?
Student: That I shouldn’t loose my awareness. [Laughter] But I do.
Ken: Yeah. It has everything to do with a lack of attention. And one of the things we’ve concluded from that is that mindfulness is important, because that’s what keeps the level of attention going, whatever we do. In case you hadn’t noticed by now there are no vacations on this path.
Ken: Alan, you had a question.
Alan: Well um…when we got to the thought, and I guess it’s kinda similar to these, it seemed like the thought made a splash…and it’s pertinent…
Ken: Kerplop! [Laughter]
Student: It had…It wasn’t…the visual experience seemed to be quite calm and disturbed with thought. It was…it was not…it was not…I don’t know how to say it…it was like the…the sensory experiences were a fabric that was just kind of flat. The thought had a kind of a bumpiness to it. Does that make sense?
Ken: Did you think of a troublesome thought? A thought that had a lot of energy for you?
Student: Well, I thought of many thoughts…I mean, the first one was not so bad, but the subsequent ones that…as we’re expanding our awareness, you know, with all these things, that they got very troublesome, yeah.
Ken: Yeah. What about the first ones?
Student: It was quite…I guess it was on the same plane or same—
Ken: So you see it’s another example of level of attention. You follow?
Ken: Yeah. This is why I gave you the primary practice. You do this on a regular basis. It’s an energy pump. And it’s transforming energy of sensations and then internal material, into attention. That’s one of its usefulnesses. It has many, many functions. That’s one of them. It’s one of the relatively safer ways of raising levels of energy. So it’s a good practice to do.
Student: In that exercise you go through the sensory expressions, and then get the internal material and graduate up, open your heart and [unclear]….
Ken: [Unclear] and look at awareness, yeah. That’s right.
Student: I don’t know where I was going with that, sorry.
Ken: But that’s the process. And, you know, spend a few days, a few weeks working just with sensory sensations. Until you can walk into a mall at Christmas time, into a glass store, and see the reflections, and the reflections of the reflections, and the reflections of the reflections of the reflections in every glass. You know some companies and some malls have them, water coming down a sheet. You know? A wonderful place to practice. You look at that until you can see every ripple and wave in the water at one time. It’s moving, it’s not moving so fast, wonderful place to practice. Just stand in front. They’ll kick you out after a while. [Laughter]
Student: [Unclear] call the ambulance.
Ken: Or they’ll call security. They always call security before they call the ambulance. [Laughter]
Ken: Yeah. You have this wallpaper here. Wonderful stuff to practice on. You have all of these little designs in it. All these little lines. Just turn around, next meditation period. Look at the wall, until you can see it all at one time. Put on some polyphonic music, like—
Ken: Bach is very good. I was thinking of Vivaldi. Four Seasons. And hear every instrument, at the same time. Dylan’s backup band is quite good on this too. Highway 61 Revisited. I was listening to that once when I was driving. I thought… okay, I’m just going to listen to the music, so I didn’t pay any attention to any of the words. It’s extraordinarily complex—
Ken: Because in every tune, there’s several verses. If you just listen to it casually, you think they’re playing the same thing over and over again. It’s not what’s happening. They’re all different instruments, playing the same melodies, but the actual composition of what instrument is playing what is completely different in every verse. It’s what makes it so rich. You didn’t know this?
Student: No. Vivaldi I know.
Ken: Yeah. Well whatever you enjoy. But that’s how you do it with sound. Go to a massage parlor and have two people massage you at the same time. [Laughter] No, many years ago there was a yoga teacher and she had a partner and I was visiting them in Denver, and they… that’s what they did. Extraordinary. They work the body like it was a musical instrument. So that’s how you’ll develop the ability tactilely.
Student: Guess I have a…footnote of a question. I have been working with the primary practice, but I’m not sure I see everything. I just know I see…
Ken: More than you used to.
Student: [Unclear] It’s not focused.
Student: And it does…I’m worried about being complete. You don’t need to be complete correct go to the next level.
Ken: Work at being complete. It doesn’t hurt. You never know what you might miss. Friend of mine…actually it was John, a friend, who taught me this. Called me up one day and said, “I’m glad I’ve been practicing this.” “Why?” “Saw a Black Widow out of the corner of my eye. Hadn’t been practicing this, I wouldn’t have seen it.” So completeness may have its uses.
Nasrudin was a judge one time. Person came to him dressed in his underwear. He said “I’m a visitor to your town. I’ve been robbed. I want you to find the thief and have my belongings returned to me.” Nasrudin looked and he said “I see you’re wearing your underwear. Is it yours?” “Yes, this is my underwear.” “Well, the thief’s not from our town, we do things thoroughly around here.” [Laughter] There’s a question over here. Janet?
Janet: Yeah. I guess my question is about bliss coming up with this and it feels to me, I mean, having been the child of the 60s and, there’s a kind of trippiness, and, I mean, it’s not like I don’t like it, but, is that what you were talking about, about getting addicted to the experience and how do you work with it without that being the hook and…?
Ken: Well, experiences of bliss, physical or mental accompany many states of meditation. Well known in the jhana practices in the Theravadan tradition, and there are lots of people who really enjoy them, which has given rise to the term jhana junkies. And it can be an addiction. And there’s people who develop similar problems in yoga with pranayama and other techniques. Bliss is an experience like any other. Anger is an experience. If you regard the anger as real, creates certain problems in one’s life. Mmm-hmm? But if the anger’s just experienced, what happens?
Janet: It just dissipates.
Ken: Yeah. Same with bliss. Except well, actually it’s the same as anger too. The anger actually doesn’t dissipate. If you experience it in attention it transforms, so the energy of the anger then becomes available, and this is one of the key principles with bliss, and it’s why many meditation traditions actually generate, very deliberately, powerful states of bliss, because by experiencing them in attention this way, the power of those states transforms into attention and then powers the attention so you can see. That’s actually the function. If you attach to the states of bliss, then you get into what somebody once called spiritual materialism.
Ken: Because you’re back into the old game of samsara: attraction and aversion. So it’s not, as we’ve discussed many times this evening, it’s not what arises is the problem, it’s how we relate to what arises. What arises is just movement in the mind, but if we say, “I want that” one kind of problem develops.
Ken: And if we say, “I don’t want that” another kind of problem develops. And we’re basically doing this all the time.
Janet: Yeah, yeah.
Janet: But we can pay attention to that. Yeah.
Ken: Yeah. And see that its actually not necessary. I mean there’s several people that I’ve discussed this with who, in interviews have said, “You know I’m having these feelings coming up and sometimes they’re nice feelings, and sometimes they’re not nice feelings.” And I say, “Okay, so just let them be there.” And then they come back and say “It’s so bad.” Or, “It’s cool.” We started off that process this evening, with the resting mind. Just resting…the natural mind at rest. So stuff arises, and since you’re intention was in the resting, you didn’t engage the stuff. Now it just becomes movement. As Nancy said earlier, experiencing the ability to experience whatever arises. That is the point of practice, ‘cause when you have that ability or capacity, however you want to put it, you never have to react to anything, which means you can experience things as they are. Okay.
You thought you were finished with stories. One more [pages turning].
After many years’ study of philosophical subjects, Malik Dinar thought that the time had come to travel in search of knowledge. ‘I will go,’ he said to himself, ’seeking the Hidden Teacher, who is also said to be within my uttermost self.’
Walking out of his house with only a few dates for provisions, he came presently upon a dervish plodding along the dusty road. He fell into step along side him, in silence for a time.
Finally the dervish spoke. ’Who are you, and where are you going?’
“I am Dinar, and I’ve started to journey in search of the Hidden Teacher.’
’I am El-Malik El-Fatih and I will walk with you,’ said the dervish.
’Can you help me to find the teacher?’ asked Dinar.
’Can I help you? Can you help me?’ asked Fatih, in the irritating manner of dervishes everywhere; ’the Hidden Teacher, so they say, is in a man’s self. How he finds him depends on what use he makes of experience. This is something only partly conveyed by a companion.’
Presently they came to a tree, which was creaking and swaying. The dervish stopped. ‘The tree is saying,’ he said after a moment: ”Something is hurting me, stop awhile and take it out of my side, so that I may find repose.“ ’
’I am in too much of a hurry,’ replied Dinar. ‘And how can a tree talk, anyway?’ They went on their way.
After a few miles the dervish said, ‘When we were near the tree, I thought that I smelt honey. Perhaps it was a wild-bees’ hive which had been built in it’s bole.’
’If that is true,’ said Dinar, ”let us hurry back, so that we may collect the honey, which we could eat, and sell some for the journey.’
’As you wish,“ said the dervish.
When they arrived back at the tree, however, they saw some other travelers, collecting an enormous quantity of honey. ‘What luck we have had!’ these men said. ’This is enough honey to feed a city! We poor pilgrims can now become merchants: our future is assured.’
Dinar and Fatih went on their way.
Presently they came to a mountain, on whose slopes they heard a humming. The dervish put his ear to the ground. Then he said: ’Below us there are millions of ants, building a colony. This humming is a concerted plea for help. In ant-language it says: ”Help us, help us. We are excavating, but have come across strange rocks which bar our progress. Help dig them away.“ Should we stop and help, or do you want to hasten ahead?’
’Ants and rocks are not our business, brother,’ said Dinar ’because I, for one, am seeking my Teacher.’
’Very well brother,’ said the dervish. ”Yet they do say that all things are connected, and this may have a certain connection with us.’
Dinar took no notice of the older man’s mumblings, and so they went their way.
The pair stopped for the night, and Dinar found that he had lost his knife. ‘I must have dropped it near the ant-hill,’ he said. Next morning they retraced their way.
When they arrived back at the ant-hill, they could find no sign of Dinar’s knife. Instead they saw a group of people, covered in mud, resting beside a pile of gold coins. ’These’, said the people ’are a hidden hoard which we have just dug up. We were on the road when a frail old dervish called to us: “Dig at this spot and you will find that which is rocks to some, but gold to others.” ’
Dinar cursed his luck. ‘If we had only stopped,’ he said ‘you and I would both have been rich last night, O Dervish.’ The other party said: ’This dervish with you, stranger, looks strangely like the one whom we saw last night.’
’All dervishes look very much alike,’ said Fatih, and they went their respective ways.
Dinar and Fatih continued their travels, and some days later they came to a beautiful river-bank. The Dervish stopped and as they sat waiting for the ferry, a fish rose several times to the surface and mouthed at them.
’This fish,’ said the dervish “is sending us a message. It says: ”I have swallowed a stone. Catch me, and give me a certain herb to eat. Then I will be able to bring it up, and will thus find relief. Travellers, have mercy.” ’
At that moment the ferry-boat appeared, and Dinar, impatient to get ahead, pushed the dervish into it. The boatman was grateful for the copper which they were able to give him, and Fatih and Dinar slept well that night on the opposite bank, where a teahouse for travellers had been placed by a charitable soul.
In the morning they were sipping their tea when the ferryman appeared. Last night had been his most fortunate one, he said; the pilgrims had brought him luck. He kissed the hands of venerable dervish, to take his blessing. ‘You deserve it all my son,’ said Fatih.
The ferryman was now rich: and this was how it had happened. He was about to go home at his usual time, but he had seen the pair on the opposite bank, and resolved to make one more trip, although they looked poor, for the ’baraka’, the blessing of helping the traveller. When he was about to put away his boat he saw the fish, which had thrown itself on the bank. It was apparently trying to swallow a piece of plant. The fisherman put the plant into its mouth. The fish threw up a stone and flopped back into the water. The stone was a huge and flawless diamond of incalculable value and brilliance.
’You are a devil!’ shouted the infuriated Dinar to the dervish Fatih. ’You knew about all three treasures by means of some hidden perception, yet you did not tell me at the time. Is that true companionship? Formerly, my ill luck was strong enough: but without you I would not even have known of the possibilities hidden in trees, ant-hills and fish—of all things!’
No sooner had he said these words than he felt as though a mighty wind were sweeping through his very soul. And then he knew that the very reverse of what he had said was the truth.
The dervish, whose name means the Victorious King, touched Dinar lightly on the shoulder and smiled. ’Now, brother, you will find that you can learn by experience. I am he who is at the command of the Hidden Teacher.’
When Dinar dared to look up, he saw his Teacher walking down the road with a small band of travellers who were arguing about the perils of the journey ahead of them.
Today the name of Malik Dinar is numbered among the foremost of the dervishes, companion and exemplar, the Man who Arrived.
Now with these stories, don’t take them literally. [Laughter] How many of you have heard a tree groaning within you, and paid it no attention? Or an ant hill? Or have hurried onwards, when a fish was gaping its mouth at you? Remember the story from the other night. The most valuable is worthless, and the most worthless is valuable. Okay. Lets take a break here, and we’ll return for meditation.