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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
WINTER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 35 on. Lastly, the Vajrayana not only trains the mind through discipline and meditation on compas- sion, but it also offers methods for transforming our impure perception into pure perception. The Dissolution of a Visualization Ultimately, the most important goal of buddhad- harma, particularly the Bodhisattvayana, is the realization of nonduality. One of the most effec- tive methods for accomplishing that realization is the practice of visualization, central to which is the dissolution of the deities or gurus as they merge to become one with the practitioner. But how does the practice work? Imagine the reflection of the moon in a mirror or on a lake. Although the reflection is pristinely clear, it is still just a reflection, not a direct view of the moon that has somehow been submerged beneath the water or inserted into the mirror. Another example is a rainbow: even though we can see the rainbow quite clearly, at the same time it is empty of intrinsic reality. Similarly, even though a rainbow is empty, we can still see it. Both the reflection of the moon and the rainbow are simultaneously empty and visible. So, the meaning of nonduality here is the absence of separation, or the absence of dif- ference, between appearance and emptiness. In other words, nothing we perceive—not the guru, the student, or anything else—truly exists externally. And until we fully realize nonduality, the exercise of dissolving or merging the deity or guru with ourselves is an extremely useful tool. It is also a method that works well if you want to receive blessings, empowerments, or even inspiration. Often, however, practitioners have difficulties with this part of the practice because they tend to turn over in their minds all the theories about visualization and dissolution that they have learned (while they are supposed to be practic- ing). This is a good example of how stuffing your mind with too many concepts can hinder your spiritual progress, and this is why we are told to put theory aside altogether when we practice. The best advice here is to keep it practical. Spiritual practice is a bit like riding a bicycle: once you have learned how to cycle, there is no need to go over the theory behind how the gears work or to think about the best height for your seat every time you go for a ride. All you have to do is get on your bike and start pedaling. The key to visualization is to do the best you can and not worry too much about whether what you are doing is right or wrong; eventually you will get the hang of it. The pith instructions are extremely prag- matic—just do it!—which makes realizing non- duality a little like learning to drive. However preposterous it may sound when you start out, having spent weeks learning about where all the different buttons and levers are in your car, there will come a time when you have no choice but to put the manual aside, turn on the engine, and drive. The same goes for visualization prac- tice. At first, the dissolution may be more like dropping an apple into a bag than merging with the guru, but unless you take a risk and try it, Students often try to re-create a photographic image of a Tibetan painting in their mind, with two-dimensional deities who never blink. Practicing this erroneous version of visualization instills in you a far worse form of perception than the one you were born with.