Mahamudra meditators, I Have Questions for You

I know you all love your mahamudra and dzogchen, don’t you? There’s probably not one of you in this room who have not had an introduction to the nature of mind. So I have a question for you:

Who introduced the nature of mind to you? Who introduced mahamudra to you?

I’m sure immediately the name of a lama, or quite possibly, a number of lamas come to mind you know the answer. You didn’t even need to stop and think about it, ‘Huh, who was it again who introduced me to the nature of my mind?’

And it’s probably a good sign that you can bring these lamas to mind so readily.

Okay, so now I have a second question for you: Which lama introduced you to what desire is? To anger, to ignorance? Which lama introduced you to the mind poisons?

And now you have to stop and think about it, don’t you? You probably have no response readily at hand to these questions.

So what’s that about? What’s going on? Is it possible that you can recognise the mind without recognising desire? Is that possible or not? Is it possible to recognise the mind without recognising anger? Is it possible to recognise the mind without recognising ignorance?

An introduction to mahamudra that does not introduce us to the mind poisons – desire, anger, and ignorance – is most strange indeed.

Take this massive pillar here [in the Thrangu Gompa shrine room] as an example.

The pillar has its form, which is its size, whiteness, redness, the patterns carved upon it, and so forth. And this form of the pillar is equivalent to the afflictions, which are the form of mind.

But there is also the pillar’s substance, concrete, iron, and so on, and the substance is equivalent to the nature of mind, which is what is pointed out when mahamudra is introduced.

So the pillar’s tall and chunky form is equivalent to the form of mind, which is desire, anger and ignorance. And the nature of mind, the substance of mind, is mahamudra. That is what’s introduced when mahamudra is introduced. It’s the substance or material of mind, if you will.

The question is then, how can the substance of mind be introduced without the form of being having been recognised first?

You can’t think about the substance of something if you haven’t yet found its form.

For example, you can’t tell what substance a jug is made from, if you can’t see the form of the jug. To think that you can see the substance of a jug without seeing its form is madness. It’s impossible.

For example, if someone who has never spoke to me were to think, ‘I know that person very well.’ They are crazy, aren’t they?

Even if they have talked to me before, it’s still unlikely they will know who I really am. It is not simple to truly know someone is it. They could say that I am fat or that I’m a bombastic big mouth. They would be able to say that much, but they wouldn’t be able to say whether I am a good lama or not, for instance.

The point I am making is that someone who has chatted with me before, on seeing my fat form or on hearing my bombast could say, ‘That’s Karma Lhabu’. But they would not necessarily be able to recognise whether I am intelligent or not, or how clearly I can think about things, etc, because these aspects lie behind what is evident on the surface level.

But these days you find many people who would say that they have recognised mahamudra before they’ve understood the afflictions. And there are many people who are introducing mahamudra before they introduce the afflictions. This is happening a lot. And this way is only likely to exacerbate the afflictions. And lead people to think, ‘I’m a great meditator,’ feel like a card carrier of a very high level dharma.

So the point I’m making here is that you should think about things very carefully. Really look into things, analyse things. I ask these questions with the hope that they will encourage you to be thorough in your approach to understanding the mind.

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