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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
WINTER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 37 involve imagining the palace to be as small as a sesame seed and Guru Rinpoche as the size of the whole universe, still fitting into his tiny palace quite comfortably. This is an exercise in nondu- ality and it is used in visualization a great deal. As the twentieth-century Tibetan scholar- monk Gendun Chöpel pointed out, Vajrayana practitioners must get used to believing in the unbelievable. Tantric methods of visualiza- tion might involve creating a raging inferno in your mind’s eye, in the midst of which sits a deity on a fragile lotus flower and a cool moon seat, embracing a very passionate consort, and surrounded by an unruly mob of angry deities wielding deadly implements. Yet the heat and the flames do no harm whatsoever and no one gets hurt. A rational analysis of such a situa- tion can only result in disbelief, since everything about this scene is contradictory and nothing in it could possibly exist in our ordinary reality. But the point is that tantric practitioners have to get used to believing in the unbelievable. Our aim is to unite and dissolve subject and object so that they are one. We unite desire and anger, dissolv- ing them into one, just as we do heat and cold, clean and dirty, body and mind. This is known as “the union of jnanas and kayas,” and is the ultimate kind of union. Gendun Chöpel also said that the reason we cannot grab hold of inexpressible notions like that of dharmadhatu is not because we strongly believe in what exists. On the contrary, it is because we strongly disbelieve in what does not exist. But it will take quite some time to insert this new knowledge of nonduality into our very stubborn system of duality. Field of Merit To visualize effectively, we usually need to begin by creating a field of merit, the details of which will depend on the ngöndro tradition you are following. If you are a beginner, try not to get too paranoid about each and every detail of the visualization—unless, of course, details inspire you. Remember that whatever you visualize is itself an illusion, a figment of your imagination based on your mind’s interpretation of various bits of information. The bottom line here is that illusions do not truly exist. What is a “field of merit”? Imagine that you want to get rich and need some form of capital to invest. A farmer with such an aspiration will need a field in which to plant seeds or graze ani- mals; a businessperson will need a loan or inves- tors to finance a new venture. Likewise, those who follow a spiritual path, because they long to liberate themselves and all other suffering beings from this net of samsara, will need to accumulate merit. To do so, two fields of merit are used, one of sublime beings and the other of sentient beings. It is through these two that we are able, ultimately, to harvest the fruit of enlightenment. Both fields of merit are employed throughout ngöndro practice. We visualize the sublime field of merit of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and imagine that they support us by providing all the power, compassion, and omniscience we need to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment. We visualize sentient beings in the ordinary field of merit and feel compassion for every one of them. In this way, we accumulate merit through both fields. Practitioners should therefore bear in mind that as we accumulate merit through visualization practice, we will always either be praying to the buddhas or offering compassion to sentient beings, and in one form or another, these two fields of merit will be part of each of our practices. Adapted from Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices, by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. Published by Shambhala Publications, October 2012. Nothing we perceive—not the guru, the student, or anything else—truly exists externally. Until we fully realize nonduality, the exercise of dissolving or merging the deity or guru with ourselves is an extremely useful tool.