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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
spring 2007| 28 |buddhadharma In the Root Verses of the Middle Way, the great master Nagarjuna wrote that since the formed can- not be found to exist, the unformed couldn’t possi- bly exist either. He also said that samsara is merely our thinking. When we are free of thought, that is real freedom. The discovery of the unconditioned natural state involves a process of learning, reflection, and meditation training. The most important of these three is meditation. We hear about all dif- ferent styles of spiritual practice – such as meditat- ing, visualizing, and reciting mantras – but we must understand that there is only one purpose to all these endeavors: improving ourselves. This means allowing our basic goodness to manifest. To achieve this we need to apply the teachings in daily life. The first step toward developing kind- ness is mindfulness, making our minds as calm and clear as possible, which is the fifth noble quality. This is something we can practice every day, wher- ever we are, whatever we are doing. We need to be aware each and every moment. What are we say- ing? What are we thinking? How are we moving about? Be aware moment by moment, before mov- ing the body, before speaking, and also while mov- ing and speaking; then afterward remain aware, asking, what did I say or do? There are many types of meditation training, but they all fall into one of two categories: the first is deliberate meditation with effort, and the second is practicing being completely effortless, free of conceptual focus. The most profound and truest meditation is the training in complete effort- lessness, but it is not our habit to be that way. We are pretty much in the groove of being deliberate, in using effort, whether mental, verbal, or physi- cal. Unconditioned suchness, which is our natural state, transcends every type of mental construct and is effortless. Learning, reflection, and medita- tion are very important because we need to rec- ognize our true basic state. Through listening and learning we become familiar with the teachings, and through reflection we become convinced of their truth and develop certainty. Learning and reflecting are definitely deliberate and require a lot of effort, but they are essential. In order to be brought face to face with uncon- ditioned suchness, our basic nature exactly as it is, there are two factors that are very helpful, but they are not easy to acquire. One is boundless love and compassion; whenever love is almost overwhelming, when kindness and compassion are unwavering, there is a moment available for you to realize the unconditioned natural state. The other is sincere devotion to and unshakeable pure perception of the unconditioned natural state. From this spontaneously arises a respect for and pure perception of those who have realized the unconditioned natural state and have the capac- ity to reveal it to others. This also includes a pure appreciation of anyone who really practices and trains in the Buddhist teachings. In a nutshell, the real Buddhist practice is to try our best to bring forth in all beings the true sources of happiness and well-being – boundless love and compassion and the unmistaken real- ization of the natural state, the unconditioned innate nature – while at the same time removing the causes of suffering, which are craving, hate, and close-mindedness. That is what it really means to have a good heart. Love and compassion can be expanded until they become boundless, genuine, and impartial, making no distinctions between friend, enemy, and stranger. We must continue in our efforts until we have removed even the slightest obstacle to our love and compassion. Only when our love and compassion have become boundless will they be truly effortless. Meanwhile, our perseverance should be joyous and spontaneous. Such perseverance springs from our awareness of the unconditioned natural state, therefore it is not merely an admiration, yearning, or longing. As your comprehension of the pro- found nature becomes stronger and grows deeper, you develop a confident trust. Spontaneous, effort- less compassion begins to blossom as you continue to train after having truly recognized the natural state as it actually is. Sincere compassion radiates from the deepest part of your heart. You can’t help it; it just naturally springs forth. Before becoming aware of this natural state, we are bewildered, creating painful states all the time, but by continually training in this, we recog- nize that beneath everything is an unconditioned natural state. We start to notice that every self- ish emotion begins to soften and subside of its own accord. As pain and worry diminish, our confused way of experiencing subsides more and more. Then we begin to really understand how other beings feel. You may ask yourself: What can I do to help them? If I don’t help them, who will? This is when real compassion overtakes you and a sincere, unchangeable devotion begins to grow within you. We call this the dawn of irreversible or unshakeable confidence. As pain and worry diminish, our confused way of experiencing subsides, and we begin to understand how other beings feel. This is when real compassion overtakes us and a sincere, unchangeable devotion begins to grow. It is the dawn of irreversible or unshakeable confidence. MiCHaelNewHall