Calm Abiding 3 – 10/10/2016

Summary: Recognising the enemy, Shiney and the four thoughts.


Kunga said he’s refusing to translate unless he gets a higher seat, and since we can’t get another translator at short notice, we’ve got no choice. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I’m going to be sitting where he is, and he’s going to be sitting up here.

Please listen to the teachings with the correct motivation and conduct. With that in mind, the dharma to be listened to is shiney, calm abiding or shamatha.

Do you remember where we left off yesterday? Where were we? So, yesterday I said there were two ways of cultivating awareness, but lacking awareness myself, I can’t remember what they are. So we’ll just go back to emptiness and start again from there……wait, I think it’s slowly coming back now.

So however we look at it, there are these two approaches. Generally we should set aside a particular time for practice, and apply ourselves to it very conscientiously. Using the methods taught for clearing agitation and dullness, and doing our very best not to fall under their sway. And we really need to apply ourselves to that very seriously and conscientiously, just as if we are walking along the edge of a cliff face knowing that if we fall over the edge we are probably going to die. If we were actually walking along the edge of a cliff, then we’d be very careful, and in that same way, when meditating, we should do so very carefully and conscientiously. That’s the one side then, how we should be when we’re in that special time we’ve set aside for the practice. The other side of the practice relates to when we are sleeping, eating, walking, and sitting, because we also need to make these into meditation.

Recognising the enemy

When it comes to exactly how we should maintain awareness, and how we should apply ourselves, to say; “This is how you meditate. This is what you should do;” to make a very definitive, one size fits all statement, is very difficult. And that’s because people are different, some people have good meditation, some have a little meditation, and some have no idea what meditation is, or should be, at all. So if you then say; “This is what should be done,” as a one size fits all statement, for some that’ll be helpful, whilst for others it’ll be harmful. That’s one side of the coin at any rate.

The other side relates to the way somebody recognizes what it is that actually needs to be ‘meditated’, or cultivated, and how one identifies thought. And again this will vary from person to person, meditator to meditator, depending upon their level. For example, some people will see thoughts to be meditation’s enemy, some will see them to be meditation’s friend, and some will even see thought to be meditation itself. And therefore, to make a very definitive statement, is extremely difficult when teaching a group in this manner. What exactly needs to be ‘meditated’ or cultivated, will differ according to ones level. For us beginners, those of us who’re new to meditation, we tend to see thought to be the enemy. We think, ‘Thoughts are no good because they ruin my meditation.’ That’s the more general view, but it falls amongst the worst types of meditation. Amongst the worst there are different levels; the worst of the worst, the middling of the worst and the best of the worst.

Looking at these, let’s say that I am the meditator, and my view, is that thoughts are a nightmare, they’re really terrible and ruin my meditation. This is an inner example. So I am the meditator who sees thoughts as the enemy, and here I am, sitting nice and straight, maybe thinking about my friends, and something funny they said last night comes to mind that brings a smile to my face. Supposedly I am someone who sees thoughts as the enemy, and yet here I am with all these thoughts about my friends with a smile on my face. So I haven’t identified these thoughts as my enemies. In fact, I’m not able to recognize my enemies, even when they are right there in my camp. If I now give an external example to give some contrast, then the inner example will be understood more clearly. So let’s say that I regard all of you as my enemies, I think you’re all terrible and out to get me. First of all then, for the sake of this example, I am indoors and you’re all outside, and you all come inside and I greet you very warmly; “Oh, how are you, it’s so nice to see you.” All the time holding the basic view that you’re my enemies, but I not recognizing it at that point. That’s the external equivalent.

This exemplifies the worst of the worst levels of meditation, because although my basic view is that thoughts are the enemy, I haven’t really seen that to be so. For me it is just words, just what I, or others have said. So the truth is, we don’t know how agitation and dullness take away our samadhi, our meditation. We don’t know how they lead to many problems, take away our peace of mind, and cause us pain and suffering. There’s no certainty about this from our side, nor any real belief in it. If, for instance, I really saw thoughts to be the enemy, truly saw and understood how they ruin my meditation, take away my peace of mind, and bring pain to my mind, if I really believed that, then this problem of not identifying thoughts wouldn’t occur. I would recognize the enemy. Just like that, if we go back to the outer example; if I truly saw you to be my enemies, thought you were going to hurt or harm me, and I really felt that, then on encountering you I would feel ill at ease. I would definitely not be smiling, but instead would be very edgy. And, in the same way, if we really saw thoughts to be harmful and negative, had a good understanding of why that was so, and a firm belief in it, then this problem of not identifying thoughts wouldn’t occur. But that’s just it, we don’t have that understanding, and this is why we have the lowest of low meditations. Looking at the way of true meditation, if we look honestly and use reasoning, we will see that our meditation is not very high at all, and that we even lack the learning and knowledge of what exactly the lowest of the low meditations is.

When we are receiving dharma teachings and are being told; “That’s not right, and this is no good,” we shouldn’t take it as criticism. Instead we should maintain a sense of objectivity, thinking, ‘What’s the intent of this, what’s the point being made here?’ If we can keep that sense of objectivity, it’ll help us to gain a better understanding, and obviously good understanding will help us progress.

Going back to our external example; so you are the enemy, and if we were together then I wouldn’t forget that, would I? I wouldn’t be happily talking away to you, and then suddenly remember, ‘Oh, they’re the enemy!’ Then having forgotten again, carry on chatting; “Oh, how are you, how is so and so?” Then remember. It simply doesn’t work like that. If we go back to the inner example; if we have total certainty and understanding of how thought is the enemy, and how it ruins our meditation, then we wouldn’t associate with it, or allow it to arise. We would meditate well without letting thoughts interrupt. But, our thinking that thought is an enemy is rather thin, we don’t have all that much conviction in it at all. It’s just something we’ve heard, ‘Oh, thoughts are no good, and so on.’ But we haven’t understood thought well or clearly. So it’s the same as my thinking I have an enemy called Kunga, but when I am with him I don’t recognize him as the enemy and we chat away merrily. This is exactly what’s happening in our meditation. We’ve heard there is an enemy called thought, but haven’t yet understood or really recognized thought, and don’t yet know how it ruins our meditation.

So I feel this is what’s happening in our meditation. And these so-called enemies we are constantly falling under sway of, associating with, and that we do not yet recognize, are agitation and dullness. And yet we don’t see there to be anything wrong with that. Have a look for yourselves. What I’m saying now, and also often when I am teaching I’ll say things, you can use to check against yourselves to see if they apply or not.

To give another example; say that we are doing a job, just two or three minutes worth, maybe writing an email. Say we’ve been writing for 30 seconds, we press something and we lose everything we’ve written, we write it again and we lose it again…,’Aarrrrgh!!!’ This is how we’ll feel isn’t it? If it goes wrong, we get upset and annoyed don’t we? For sure the feeling, ‘Oh no, that was wrong, this shouldn’t be happening,’ comes to mind, And that’s because we are very clear about what it is to write an email, and what result we expect at the end of it. We’re also very clear that there’s a problem, something keeps going wrong. Because we’re clear about what’s what, we feel something, some kind of annoyance or whatever it may be, when things go wrong. Then, if we look at the activity of meditation, our main task there is to focus on the object of meditation, and our enemies are agitation and dullness. So I meditate and gradually my head starts nodding, I drift in and out of sleep until I actually doze off. This is one form our meditation takes. The other is where we’re sitting there thinking about all sorts of things. And like this we constantly fall between agitation and dullness. But we never get fed up, or annoyed with ourselves. Instead we’re very, very accommodating when it comes to these sorts of things. It’s as though we’re actually an amazing meditator, not bothered by anything. If it was the email, then as soon as there is a little problem we flare up, but when it comes to our meditation, we’re extremely accommodating towards dullness and agitation. In the eyes of our meditation we are like true bodhisattvas, never getting upset with agitation and dullness in the slightest. They cause us no problems whatsoever. So this is how it is for most of us when we meditate, and thus we fall into the lowest of the low category of meditators. Of course, this is mistaken and not the way, but for most of us it’s hard to even reach the middling of the worst.

Shiney and the four thoughts

So it isn’t helpful for us to be thinking our meditation is very high. Of course, some people may have high meditation, but they are very rare. The best approach is for each of us to examine our meditation for ourselves. We need to be clear about what makes for the lowest of the low meditation, what’s its main feature, and how did we end up like that? The real issue is that we lack the preliminaries, the ngondro. You’ll have all heard that first of all one does the preliminary practices and then moves on to the actual practice. The actual practice here being shiney and lhagtong; they’re also translated as calm abiding and insight meditation. When we talk of meditation, we’re talking of one of these two. At present we’re looking at calm abiding, or shiney, and before embarking on shiney we need the preliminaries. This is what’s taught isn’t it? But we relate to the preliminaries as something we have to do in the beginning and can then forget about. We don’t feel that if we are doing the preliminaries well, we’re doing meditation. In truth, the preliminaries are the root of meditation, and are extremely important.

So we need to think about exactly how they’re related to meditation, which takes us right back to the beginning of this teaching and our seeing thoughts as the enemy, because they ruin our meditation. If we look at thoughts; well what thoughts are the enemy? It’s quite clear that not all thoughts are seen to be the enemy, because there are some ways of thinking we definitely need to bring to mind. For example, if we have a particular object or focus for our practice, we need to bring that to mind, don’t we? So there are things that should and shouldn’t be brought to mind, and it’s clear that not all thoughts are the enemy, obviously. Which thoughts are harmful to meditation? It’s those of agitation and dullness. Agitation is made up of averse and desirous thoughts. Thinking about things we like or dislike, and in that way our mind getting stirred up. Dullness is related to ignorance, or ignorant thoughts; ‘timuk’ in Tibetan, which is sometimes also translated as confusion or stupidity. Generally then, we can say that what harms our meditation is agitation and dullness, or thoughts based in the three mind poisons.

What do we need to understand to truly see agitation and dullness as dangerous and the enemy? How can we come to see that danger? Well, we come to see this through contemplating the teachings on karma, cause and effect. The very first thing touched on in that topic is thoughts related to the three mind poisons, and how, when motivated by the three mind poisons, we act negatively with our body, speech and mind. This is taught very thoroughly in the teachings on karma, cause and effect, which is one of the contemplations of the ‘four thoughts’, the very first area for our meditation on the preliminaries. We’ll spend a lot of time thinking about these, and through this we’ll come to recognize thoughts that are based in desire, aversion and ignorance. We’ll learn how to identify them and see how they are dangerous to our meditation, and therefore problematic. And the more we think about the topic of karma, cause and effect, the more confidence we’ll gain. We’ll come to really see their negativity. Clearly understanding that, we won’t let thoughts of the three mind poisons arise in our practice of shiney. We’ll recognize them straight away as no good, and our meditation can then actually become shiney. But, not recognizing the harm of thoughts, and the afflictions, we quite happily accommodate any agitation or dullness. That’s when we become this accommodating bodhisattva. This comes about because we haven’t gained certainty in the problems and the negativity inherent in thoughts of the three mind poisons, and because we haven’t thought well about the topic of karma, cause and effect, and the preliminaries. It basically boils down to our not having done that prior practice, the meditation on the preliminaries, well.

In truth, these four thoughts form the root of calm abiding, or shiney, and bring the understanding of what calm abiding is. It’s only by meditating on karma, cause and effect that we come to see exactly what the three mind poisons are and their harm. Alongside that we also gain an understanding of what virtue is and the good it brings. Gaining that understanding, we’ll do our best to stop thoughts that arise out of the three mind poisons, and do whatever we can to generate virtue. The very definition of calm abiding is, to remain, or abide, one pointedly in a state of virtue. So, in order to practice calm abiding meditation, we need to know what comes about through it, which in turn, is coming to know virtue and non-virtue. This is exactly why we spend so much time thinking about the preliminaries, to gain certainty. When we gain certainty regarding the afflictions, regarding the negative and positive mind-states, then we’ll put a stop to any non-virtuous mind-state we see arising, we certainly won’t be accommodating. This is the direct function of the preliminaries, and also why they are called the preliminaries, because they have to be done first. Once we’ve meditated on the preliminaries well, and assimilated those views, thoughts and ideas well, we are ready to go ahead and meditate on the actual practice. All of the texts teach this process, but we tend not to follow the order of things very well.

When we say thoughts are harmful, or thoughts are no good, we need to think about how that is the case, in what way? Which thoughts are no good and harmful? By looking into it again and again, we’ll gain a feeling of certainty, and some experience in our mind. And the more experience and certainty we gain, the more we’ll be able to identify thought as it occurs. ‘Ah-ha, that’s a desirous thought…, that’s an angry thought.’ The whole situation will grow clearer and clearer until we are able to identify them as soon as they arise. At that point we are better able to put a stop to them and continue with our focus. But really, what we’ll see is that the practice of karma, cause and effect, and the practice of calm abiding are done in union. Thinking, ‘What is thought? How is it harmful?’ we’ll start to see, ‘Okay, yes, there it is…, look, there’s a virtuous thought…, that’s a non-virtuous thought,’ as they occur. And then we’ll start to think, ‘Well how does this harm me? What’s it actually doing?’ In looking like this, and becoming clearer about the harm they do, becoming clearer about the enemy, we’ll take more care around them, and be wary of them. Just naturally, when we have enemies we are wary of them, trying to avoid them. We may even try to kill them. We certainly won’t just accommodate them, or let them harm us as they wish. So when meditating, we need to look out for what brings harm and problems, and on seeing the troublemakers, think, ‘Right if that ever returns, I’m going to catch it straight away!’

This looking into thought and its problems is actually the meditation on karma, cause and effect, becoming clearer about virtue and virtuous thinking, and non-virtue and non-virtuous thinking. It’s the process of finding out exactly what they are, and that in turn becomes shiney, calm abiding meditation. This is the step prior to actually understanding calm abiding, but in this way, we see how they become a single practice and meditation, and are not distinct. Now, we’ll start to relate to the preliminaries in the correct way. By thinking a lot about karma, cause and effect, and gaining an understanding of it, we certainly won’t decide, ‘Well forget it, I’m not going to bother with that;’ which is the way many people think right now. They think it’s just something to be gotten out of the way. Most people now seem to have the idea that there are two distinct forms of practice; the preliminaries, where you have to think about the four thoughts, and then the type of practice where you don’t have to think about anything. And most decide, ‘Well I’ll do the practice where you don’t have to think anything.’ But the truth is we can’t do that, and when we try, we find ourselves thinking all the time. Either that or we fall asleep. But we can’t just stop the thoughts. We aren’t able to stop them, because we neither see the problem with them, nor the harm they bring. We are not able to identify them, because we haven’t done the preliminaries.

That’s not the correct approach then. The preliminaries are very important for us. When we are meditating on karma, cause and effect, we are examining exactly what the three poisons are, and the way they function and harm us. In becoming very clear about things, seeing why they are no good and problematic, and thus identifying them, means we’re able to do something about them. And in that way, meditating on karma, cause and effect, and calm abiding become a single practice. So the preliminaries are the root of our practice, not something just to be gotten out of the way.

The next topic of the preliminaries is the meditation on the faults of cyclic existence. This follows the contemplation of karma, cause and effect, where we learn about the three poisons and how dangerous they are. Now, when we’re thinking about the faults of cyclic existence, we think, ‘Wow they really are very dangerous, because this is what they bring, these are the consequences!’ We see that it’s the three mind poisons which cast us back into cyclic existence again and again. They are actually extremely dangerous! When we follow the proper sequence of things, we won’t end up thinking that cyclic existence, say being born in hell for instance, just happens without any prior causes and conditions, or that all of a sudden you just fall into hell. ‘Oops, how did that happen…, I didn’t do anything to end up here!?’ It’s not like that. For everything we experience there are prior causes and conditions. The main point here is to see just how dangerous the three mind poisons are, and therefore become more wary of them. That’s the approach.

Next we find the contemplation of impermanence, and within this contemplation there are more gross or general contemplations, and more subtle or finer contemplations. For example, we have all these thoughts spinning around inside our heads, mainly based in attachment and aversion. How is it that these thoughts of attachment and aversion occur? Well, to take an example, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about space, empty space. We don’t think, ‘Oh my space is going, I am losing my space.’ Instead, we spend all of our time thinking about, ‘My friend, my boyfriend, my girlfriend, my things.’ Basically all our thought is geared towards objects, stuff. Likewise, when we think about impermanence, most often we’re thinking about the impermanence of ‘stuff’, ‘This isn’t permanent…, this doesn’t have its own independent solid existence…, this isn’t lasting, or reliable,’ and when we come to see objects in that way, we’ll spend less time thinking about them. Just as we don’t spend time thinking about space, because we recognize that it lacks any solid, permanent reality. And recognizing, through our contemplations of impermanence, that this ‘stuff’ also lacks any solid, real existence, we’ll naturally spend less time thinking about it as well, just naturally our thoughts will go in that direction less. At that point, even if we are not directly doing calm abiding meditation, we are doing exactly the same thing in essence, because what we are doing is reducing our mental activity, our thoughts.

The fourth contemplation is the difficulty of finding the leisure’s and opportunities, the precious human birth. Contemplating this brings us greater confidence, and makes us feel more capable. So often we find ourselves becoming discouraged saying; “Well I can’t do it, I am sick…, I’m not happy, I’m depressed…, I’m old, and I don’t have resources.” So often we find ourselves talking in this way, and lacking confidence. And dharma practice becomes a last resort. Only when we feel we can’t do anything else, do we turn to the dharma. But, the truth is that if we lack confidence, we aren’t able to achieve anything of great worth. When we lack confidence we lack strength, and therefore don’t accomplish anything major. So it’s through contemplating the difficulty of finding the leisure’s and opportunities, and this precious human life that we start to see what a special situation we’re in, and just how capable we are. Our body is special and our ability is special, and that breeds confidence.

In this way the four thoughts of the preliminaries are incredibly precious. That’s certainly how it was seen by the lamas of the past. In years gone by, people would meditate on these four thoughts for years. I heard about one lama; to receive a complete set of Dzogchen instructions from him, he had a very rigorous and complete program set up. Firstly he’d teach the four thoughts, and only that, for years, and the students would meditate on them for years in retreat. Then he’d teach the uncommon preliminaries; Refuge and Bodhichitta, Dorje Sempa… etc, and again he’d teach those for years, and again the students would meditate on them for years in retreat. And it’s well known that his students became special. It makes sense doesn’t it? When we think about their training and the way they went about things. If each step is done very thoroughly, it makes sense that things will go well. But these days, many of us just move on without setting in place a firm foundation. And that means whatever we go on to never really has much effect, or makes much difference, because it lacks the right foundation. We can see this for ourselves if we look. We don’t really believe in the problems that thoughts bring, so when we’re meditating and thoughts occur, we don’t think twice about it. We’re led astray by them again and again without seeing that to be a problem, or an issue. Whereas, if we had first gained the understanding of why thought is a problem, and what’s wrong with becoming distracted, then in our meditation, as soon as a thought or distraction occurred, we’d jump on it, ‘Ah there it is!’ Like that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be led astray, because we know what’ll happen. I mean, if you think about what I am saying right now, it‘s really quite logical.

That said, we also need to think about how we go about receiving instructions, the manner in which we receive them, and how we go about meditating on them. Just meditating on them for four years will of course bring benefit, but there are levels or degrees of benefit. Not everyone will gain the same amount of benefit. To give an example, in the last year there have been Samye Ling retreatants on Holy Isle and Arran, and they have received teachings over the internet from Nepal. They weren’t receiving the teachings right from the beginning of their one-year retreat, but started receiving them in January. They’d entered retreat in the November, so spent about three months not receiving any teachings. But from January onwards, they received teachings pretty much daily. And they themselves have said, so we can assume it’s true, that the period before receiving teachings and after they’d begun to, was like two different retreats. The difference was that stark. And both groups said that receiving teachings over the internet was very helpful. Whether they were telling the truth or not, or if Kunga translated correctly or not, I don’t know, I can’t understand them directly. Then before this one week retreat started, I was teaching them the practice for the next year, directly, face to face, and I asked them; “Is there a big difference between receiving the teachings over the internet and face to face?” And they all replied; “Yes there is a massive difference, it’s much better receiving the teachings directly.” Following that logic, and bearing in mind that I am not an experienced lama, that I don’t have mediation experience, a high level of renunciation, good bodhicitta, awakening mind, or a high view, yet even when an ordinary lama like myself is teaching, the benefit varies greatly according to these different situations. At least this is what the retreatants said, and we can imagine that it is most likely true.

Now let’s compare that to hearing the teachings from a lama who is a true bodhisattva, and has true experience. They have true renunciation and teach students who will rely on them for long periods of time, practicing whilst receiving teachings on a daily basis. What level of benefit could we expect to see there? You can imagine just how much more benefit there would be. And that’s what the situation between lamas and students used to be like. You would have amazing lamas, with very stable renunciation and bodhichitta teaching students who had strong faith and diligence daily, one to one. We can see that there is no comparison between that situation and ours, and so our progress is next to nothing compared to theirs; it is logical isn’t it, it makes sense. Here there’s me, a present day lama, nothing compared to some of those lamas from times gone by. And to find students with faith and diligence these days is difficult. But when you bring together the authentic lamas and students, and the situation of daily teachings, people can make rapid progress, and become really special. It’s difficult to find such an opportunity now, but certainly something to aspire to. And it’s important to know that those opportunities are hard to come by, and there’s a difference in what comes about through different circumstances, because after me talking about this Nyingmapa Lama and his way, someone might think, ‘Well I sent four years meditating on the four thoughts too.’ So this is to give some perspective and clarity regarding that.

With that I have said a little about the benefits of meditating on the four thoughts, the reasons for them, and how they are related to the actual practice. Unfortunately, the general approach to the preliminaries these days is to put aside the four thoughts and start doing prostrations. We start with the prostrations, all the while thinking, ‘Ahhh, my knees…,’ practising with this angst, ‘Ow, what’s going on with my back, I wonder if it’s been put out?’ There we are, sliding along, stressing and straining…, ‘Aaagh, I’ve hardly done any,’ creating even more stress. We have problems both physically and mentally, but all the time we think these are the rules, what you have to do. Each prostration becomes like that…, one…, two…, huffing and puffing and grumbling along. If we think about what’s actually going on though, our way of practicing, maybe we’d be better off without it, without the stress and the angst of that way of that way of practicing. But this is how we go about the preliminary practices, and what we feel is meant by the ngondro. We stress of thinking, ‘I have to finish, the lama said we have to finish this many,’ plus the physical and mental hardship of, ‘I have to do it.’ So, we don’t feel good about the practice mentally, physically we struggle, and yet this is how we go about it.

But, by contemplating the four thoughts, if we do them well, we’ll be very keen to practice the uncommon preliminaries. By thinking about karma, cause and effect we learn about virtue, we learn about merit, and the benefits these bring. Contemplating these again and again, we gain confidence and faith in virtue and merit, and their benefits. And like that, the more virtue we engage in, the happier we become. This is what’ll happen, if we have a good practice of the common preliminaries, we’ll become very enthusiastic for virtue. When we have the opportunity to do something of virtue, we’ll feel very happy and joyous. And the more we do, the happier we become, because we know its benefits we are now enthusiastic about it. Just like we are very enthusiastic about making money; thinking money is very good for us and has many benefits, when we make money, we become very happy about it. In the same way, when we know the benefits of virtue, we’ll become very happy about engaging in virtue.

The time has how gone. Tomorrow morning I’ll continue talking about this. If I don’t forget that is, then I’ll continue talking about the four thoughts and their relationship to meditation. How they are connected to meditation, and looking more at whether they are in fact calm abiding, or something different. I have to use these skilful methods to keep you here, to make you think, ‘It is worth coming back tomorrow because we’ll be finding out about…’

Q & A

Student’s Question:

What does it mean when one is asked to think about and meditate on ones Root Guru? Is this a specific person?


Rinpoche’s Answer:

There are two ways we can think about the term ‘Root Guru’, or ‘Root Lama’.
First if we look at the word ‘root’ in terms of the conditions. In other words the one who principally provides us with the conditions to progress and advance is called out Root Lama. Whoever helped us progress the most in the dharma, we can call our Root Lama. And of course there are many ways someone can provide us with the conditions to be benefited. Here what’s principally being talked about, is the one who introduced us to the way things are, or the exact truth of things; they are called our Root Lama.

Another way of looking at it is; the very nature of our mind, or the very nature of phenomena, is the Root Lama, because it is the truth that is able to protect us. We talk about refuge don’t we? Refuge is to receive protection, but in reality, it’s the truth that will protect us, when we really get down to it. This is talking about a really high view now. Because in the higher views, subjects and objects are not posited to be true, they’re not held to be the reality. Still, however, there is a protection that takes place, a refuge, and that’s called the actual state, or we could just say the truth.

But, we mainly what’s being referred to is that which provides the conditions to realize the truth of the actual state, and that is what we call the Root Lama, the provider of those conditions. However we look at it though, it’s not helpful when talking about the Root Lama to think of a particular object in terms of a person. We need to think more along the lines of a helper, that which is helpful to us. And it could be a man that helps us, it could be a woman, or food when we are weak, meditation when we are down, medication when we are sick. So if we think about it like that, about that which aids and helps us, and not about a fixed, definite, solid object, that’ll be a better way of looking at it.

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