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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
34 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 2 variations of these five emotions. For example, imagine you go to a party, and as you glance at someone you find attractive, your passion filter quickly clicks into place and you immediately label that person “desirable.” If someone else gets in the way, your aggression filter is activated and you label this other person “hideous.” As the evening wears on, other people provoke your insecurities, causing you to sit in judgment of them, make comparisons, defend your choices, and bolster your personal pride by denigrating others—all of which is triggered by the filter of profound ignorance. And the list goes on and on. These different perceptions arise in our very own mind and are then filtered through our emo- tions. In fact, everything we experience, big and small, will always lead to disappointment because we perpetually forget that everything we perceive is a product of our own mind. Instead, we fixate on perceptions “out there” that we are convinced truly exist. This dynamic is what we work with in the Vajrayana practice of visualization. It’s all a matter of training the mind. One of the many methods offered within the three yanas of the Mahayana teachings is that of the Shravakayana, the “path of the listener.” In the Shravakayana, the student relinquishes clinging to “self” by disciplining body and speech using particular methods—for example, shaving the head, begging for alms, wearing saffron-colored robes, and refraining from worldly activities like getting married or having sex. Training the mind in the Bodhisattvayana is also about practicing discipline in body and speech as well as meditat- ing on compassion, arousing bodhichitta, and so brought up in the modern world often have dif- ficulties with visualization practice. Part of the problem, I think, is that Tibetan teachers like myself assume all sentient beings process things the same way Tibetans do. We teach you to picture the Buddha the way he is traditionally depicted in Tibet, adorned with ornaments that are valued by Tibetans and convey specific mean- ings to them. But becoming a perfect Tibetan iconographer is not the point of visualization practice. The main purpose of visualization practice is to purify our ordinary, impure perception of the phenomenal world by developing “pure perception.” Unfortunately, though, pure per- ception is yet another notion that tends to be misunderstood. Students often try to re-create a photographic image of a Tibetan painting in their mind, with two-dimensional deities who never blink, surrounded by clouds frozen in space, and with consorts who look like grown-up babies. Practicing this erroneous version of visualization instills in you a far worse form of perception than the one you were born with, and in the process the whole point of pure perception is destroyed. What, then, is really meant by the terms pure perception and impure perception? “Impure” does not mean that the object of our visualization is covered with dirt or is polluted or defiled in any way; the impurity isn’t “out there.” “Impure,” in this context, means that the problem is “in here”—that is, we look at the world through emotional filters that we label “desire,” “jeal- ousy,” “pride,” “ignorance,” and “aggression.” Everything we perceive is colored by myriad