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They have a true origin or cause. But there can be a true stopping of those sufferings, such that they never recur. This comes about through developing on our mental continuums true pathway minds or true paths that lead to their stopping. True Sufferings There are three types of true sufferings: The suffering of suffering refers to our usual experiences of feelings of unhappiness.
These may accompany either our experiences of objects of any of the five physical senses, including physical sensations of pain, or they may accompany purely mental events. The suffering of change refers to our usual experiences of feelings of happiness. These may likewise accompany either our experiences of objects of any of the five physical senses or they may accompany purely mental events. The problem with such happiness is that it soon dissipates, never satisfies, and is replaced by unhappiness.
The all-pervasively affecting suffering is the basis that affects, brings about, and perpetuates all our experiences of the former two types of true suffering. This refers to our experience of the tainted aggregates of our bodies and minds, which came about through the force of karmic impulses and disturbing emotions and attitudes.
Presently, our aggregates are still associated with these disturbing emotions and karmic forces. Because of that, our tainted aggregates generate further tainted aggregates. In terms of the twelve links of dependent arising, the true origins refer to the first and second links: unawareness or ignorance and affecting karmic impulses, as well as the seventh, eighth, and ninth links: craving, an obtainer disturbing emotion or attitude, and further existence. Further existence refers to a karmic impulse — deriving from activated karmic aftermath — that actualizes further existence.
The further existence that these karmic impulses bring about are bardo in between rebirth existence, conception existence, predeath existence, and death existence. These four stages of existence encompass all three types of true suffering.
The four may be summarized as death, bardo, and rebirth. Our mental continuums, being without beginning and without end, still go on once we have attained a true stopping. They continue, however, but not under the force of disturbing emotions and karma, and they are no longer associated or mixed with them.
The mental continuums of arhats liberated beings have true stoppings of the emotional obscurations preventing liberation, while the mental continuums of Buddhas have, in addition, true stoppings of the cognitive obscurations preventing omniscience. These are true pathway minds. To bring about the attainment of a true stopping of the emotional obscurations, that nonconceptual cognition of voidness needs to be conjoined with a mind of renunciation, the determination to be free.
To bring about the attainment of a true stopping of the cognitive obscurations, it needs to be conjoined as well with a bodhichitta aim. Nonconceptual cognition of voidness and a network of deep awareness accumulation of wisdom that it builds up are the obtaining causes for the attainment of the omniscient mind of a Buddha.
A bodhichitta aim and a network of positive force accumulation of merit that it builds up are the obtaining causes for the attainment of the enlightening physical bodies of a Buddha. With the practice of tantra in general, we build up causes for attaining the enlightening mind and physical bodies of a Buddha that are closer in analogy with the resultant ones that we aim to achieve.
We do this through a process of visualizing ourselves in the form of a Buddha-figure yidam , within the context of an understanding of voidness. With the practice of the highest class of tantra, anuttarayoga tantra, we work to access our subtlest clear light mind and its accompanying subtlest energy-wind and to generate a facsimile of the enlightening mind and physical bodies of a Buddha with them. We do this in order to purify our mental continuums from experiencing ever again the true sufferings of ordinary death, bardo, and rebirth.
Let us survey seven of them. Although such a way of handling this potentially dangerous situation does not rid us of the true origins of our problems — our disturbing emotions and attitudes and the karmic tendencies to act them out — nevertheless, it at least prevents us from reinforcing those true causes.
Applying Opponent Forces Exercising self-control not to act out a disturbing emotion when one arises does not actually counter the disturbing emotion. To counter it, we need to deal more directly with it. The first method is to apply an opponent force. An example is meditating on ugliness in order to overcome attachment, or meditating on love in order to overcome anger. When sexually attracted to someone, we imagine the insides of their body if we were to peel away the skin.
When angry with someone acting in an annoying fashion, we call to mind that they are acting this way because they are unhappy and something is bothering them. With love, then, we wish for them to be happy and have the causes for happiness, even if out our loving wish is out of our own self-interest so that they will stop bothering us. This method, however, is only a provisional one. It does not rid us of the disturbing emotion such that it never arises again.
Turning Negative Circumstances into Positive Ones Another method is to change our attitudes and turn negative circumstances into positive ones. For example, when we are experiencing difficulties, we look at our suffering as depleting our past negative karmic potentials, rather than becoming upset and angry about it. By my negative karmic potentials ripening now, it rids me of having to experience something even more terrible later in this lifetime or in a worse rebirth state.
In this way, may nobody ever have to suffer again from hepatitis. Again, however, it is only a provisional method for eliminating our problems and their true origins. Applying the Mutually Exclusive State of Mind A third method that is used in Buddhism is to direct toward an object the exact opposite state of mind from that which we had previously held toward it and which had caused us many problems.
This is an effective opponent because we cannot have two mutually exclusive ways of cognizing an object simultaneously in the same mental cognition. One mind cannot take the same object in two contradictory, mutually exclusive ways at the same time.
When the opponent state of mind is backed by logic, while what is mutually exclusive with it is generated by a false understanding, then if we are able always to stay focused on this opponent state, its exact opposite will never arise again.
For example, grasping for truly established existence and the realization of voidness — the total absence of truly established existence — are mutually exclusive. If I look at this watch, for instance, and the time it shows, I cannot look at this object with the same mind in two opposite ways. When I view it in terms of my understanding that there is no such thing as a truly established time — for instance a time when a lecture must end — then I become more relaxed.
It is this type of method that Buddhism employs in general for achieving true stoppings of true problems and their true causes, once we identify the deepest true origin of all problems as our unawareness of voidness.
Dissolving Disturbing Emotions into the Underlying Conventional Nature of the Mind When disturbing emotions arise, mahamudra meditation provides several methods for dissolving them into the underlying conventional nature of mind.
Mind, in Buddhism, refers to the mental activity of mere clarity and awareness. This means the mental activity of giving rise to appearances, which are similar to mental holograms, and being cognitively involved with them. These two aspects are two ways of describing the same activity and are not consecutive. In Gelug-Kagyu mahamudra meditation, we shift the focus of our attention from the content of the sensory or mental cognition that is accompanied by a disturbing emotion and focus instead on the conventional nature of the mental activity that is occurring.
Not only is the mental activity giving rise to and being cognitively involved with a cognitive appearance of the object of the disturbing cognition, it is also doing the same with the disturbing emotion. And that is all that is happening. Changing the focus of our attention like this removes the emotional energy that is driving and perpetuating the disturbing emotion and quiets it down.
When the disturbing mental activity and all conceptual thought naturally subsides, then like a bird released from a ship in mid-ocean, the mind automatically is in its primordial pure state of clarity and awareness, which it was in all along. Each type of deep awareness accounts for the basic structure of its corresponding disturbing emotion, while unawareness ignorance accompanying it provides the disturbing aspect. Underlying that longing desire is individualizing deep awareness, which merely distinguishes the object as an individual item, distinct from everything else.
To recognize the underlying deep awareness, we may either analyze the structure of the disturbing emotion or just let the mental activity naturally quiet down, thus revealing its underlying deep awareness. Meditation in Analogy A seventh method that is used in Buddhism to rid ourselves of problems is to meditate in analogy with what we want to purify and what we want to achieve. This is the method used in tantra in general, and more specifically in anuttarayoga tantra. It is done in conjunction with meditation on voidness combined with bodhichitta.
The basic method is to be like a secret agent in disguise and imitate what we want to destroy. Serkong Rinpoche loved to use this image. Like a secret agent in disguise, we go down to the deepest level of our minds to investigate the natural tendency of the mind to give rise to what happens to us in life. We find out the weakest, vital point of the whole mechanism. Then, we sabotage the mechanism so that it stops giving rise to what we want to get rid of.
It is somewhat similar to a mental judo and it is the method that we use in anuttarayoga tantra. We always speak in terms of a basis to be purified, a path that does the purifying, and the result of the purification: basis, path, result. In our case here, the three are all analogous to each other: the basis that we want to purify, the path that is going to do the purifying, and the result of the purification.
By having the three be analogous, we can use the path like a secret agent to purify the basis and bring about the result. The method will become clearer when we look at the specific example of uncontrollably recurring death, bardo, and rebirth as the basis we want to purify. As we have seen, death, bardo, and rebirth are another way of presenting the Noble Truth of suffering — the all-encompassing affecting suffering of having tainted aggregates. With anuttarayoga tantra practice, we are aiming to rid ourselves of experiencing death, bardo, and rebirth under the influence of karma and disturbing emotions and attitudes by acting like a secret agent in disguise.
The Meanings of Purification Arrow down Arrow up First, let us look at the different possible meanings of what it could mean to purify death, bardo, and rebirth. There are many possibilities that do not apply to the method used in anuttarayoga tantra. When we speak of purifying death, bardo, and rebirth, it is not purification in the sense of removing stains from something, like purifying our mental continuums of fleeting stains. It is not that we have an everlasting continuity of death, bardo, and rebirth, like we have an everlasting continuity of a mental continuum, and we work to make this endless continuity free of stains just so that we can have a nice death, bardo, and rebirth without stains.
It is not that type of purification. It is not purification or cleansing in the sense of chasing away interferences from death, bardo, and rebirth, like chasing away harmful spirits or disturbing qualities from flowers that make us sneeze. In tantric sadhana practice, we chase away interfering forces, for instance from objects of offering, by imagining fierce figures emanating from our hearts and chasing them away.
In this way, we purify the offerings. We rid them of disturbing qualities so that we can enjoy them purely. But here, we are not working to chase away interferences so that we can enjoy death, bardo, and rebirth more purely, free from confusion. It is not purification in the sense of making the later moments of continuity of death, bardo, and rebirth better.
For instance, we speak of developing love, which is the wish for all beings to have happiness and the causes for happiness. At first, our love may only be directed toward our loved ones and be mixed with attachment. But as we progress on the spiritual path, we purify that love so that is becomes extended equally to all beings — friends, strangers and even our enemies, and is mixed with an equal attitude toward everyone.
In this sense, we are purifying our love so that it becomes better; it becomes purer. But here, we are not trying to make the continuity of our recurring death, bardo, and rebirth better, for instance with better rebirth states.
It is also not purification to make the later moments of continuity of death, bardo, and rebirth be of a different quality.
Like instead of eating food with attachment, we imagine ourselves as a Buddha-figure and that we enjoy purely, without any confusion, the offerings we imagine being made to us. We are not striving to continue to die, go through bardo, and be reborn, but instead of as an ordinary person, as some sort of pure deity who dies and is reborn more nicely in some paradise without so much suffering and confusion.
The Purification Method Used in Anuttarayoga Tantra