‧Written by Sheng-yen Lu‧
Once, the Sixteen Gyalwa Karmapa taught me, “Most people that practice meditative absorption find that they cannot still their minds. Their biggest dilemma is that their minds constantly waver back and forth. Thus, we should adopt the Seven-Point Posture of Vairocana, regulate our breathing, and practice the Ekagrata or One- Pointedness Meditation. This approach helps to focus the mind, so that it does not stray away. Thus it helps one enter into meditative absorption easily.”
The approach of the Sixteen Gyalwa Karmapa includes three other steps:
Contemplate on a buddha statue with our eyes. A buddha image is the most adorned form of purity. Whether the image is carved or painted, he is displayed in golden brilliance, an achievement through his meritorious actions, and his face emanates only compassion. His body, which is dressed in three robes and adorned with pearls and jade necklaces, is encircled with halos of light. When we single-mindedly contemplate on the magnificence of the buddha’s image, we are practicing Ekagrata or One-Pointedness focus on the buddha’s form. When we do this practice repeatedly over time, the im- age of the buddha stays constantly in our minds, and we will quickly attain the Purity of One-Pointedness.
Contemplate on the moon disc with our eyes – The crown of the buddha is often seen with the aura of a moon disc. We can focus on this light, for the moon disc symbolizes the grad- ual elimination of ignorance. The moon waxes and wanes, changing from a crescent to a full moon, which represents the cleansing of all dark karma. On the moon disc, there is usually inscribed the Sanskrit syllable HUM, which represents our self-nature and Buddha-nature. The light of the moon disc originates from the syllable HUM. When we focus our eyes on the light of the moon disc, we constantly think of this light shining upon us, entering through our crown chakra and filling us with pure light. As we constantly contemplate on this light, we attain the Purity of One-Pointedness in no time.
Contemplate on the seeds [relics] with our eyes – Most living buddhas who enter nirvana leave behind many relics or sariras after their cremation. These relics, which are bean-like or oval-shaped and resemble a limestone egg, come in dif- ferent hues. The Tibetan tulkus, or living buddhas, consider these objects as “seeds.” Tibetans are convinced that such objects are evidence of someone attaining sacred power and realizing his true nature. They are symbolic proof of the appearance of the truth body [dharmakaya] from the emanation body [nirmanakaya]. When we place these colored relics in front of us and contemplate on their radiance, that emits pure lights into our hearts, over time we shall attain the Purity of One-Pointedness.
These three kinds of contemplation are:
The sacred contemplation practice.
The light contemplation practice.
The seed contemplation practice.
I have been practicing Mahamudra for many years. Once, I met a teacher who taught me one particular method. In this practice, the practitioner installs a large mirror in front of where one usually sits in meditation, or wherever it is suitable. The mirror should reflect one’s whole body so that the practitioner can closely examine oneself. For example, when one is joyous, one should observe one’s smile and the happiness on one’s face. However, when one receives insults and slander, one’s face will naturally reflect unhappiness. These expressions of joy, anger, sadness, and happiness can be observed closely in the mirror. When the facial features are examined closely, one is able to discern the varied facial features, and the changes in expression as they develop each day. In principle, this contemplation is a form of self-reflection, that is also taught in Confucianism in which one sits still to constantly reflect on one’s misdeeds. However, in this case, a mirror is hung in front of one to examine one’s faults closely. This is similar to how others see us, and hence how we may look at ourselves.
In this respect, when we constantly reflect upon ourselves and observe ourselves, we shall understand the delusion of how others perceive us and how others attach to us.
In this way, we achieve the goal of breaking foolish grasping to our illusory physical bodies. This approach of installing a mirror to observe ourselves, helps us to recognize the fact that we are products of illusion that are no different from clouds and smoke, the reflection of the moon in water, an illusory dream, or a reflection of a flower in a mirror. When we achieve this state of Ekagrata or One-Pointedness, we attain the three contemplations of Void, Illusion, and the Middle Way.
When I was studying Taoism, my teacher, Taoist Master Qingzhen of the Qingcheng Sect, secretly taught me a method. His method starts with lighting up two sticks of incense that are about two-and-half feet directly away from one’s left and right eyes. Next, with eyes half closed, one rests on a cushion and stares at the burning red tips of the incense. Gradually, one can imprint the red tip image in one’s spiritual eye [the inner vision at the center of our head]. I feel that this method is very efficient because as our eyes lock onto the red tips of the brightly glowing incense, the image merges into one spot at the center of the spiritual eye. At this stage, a tingling sensation is felt around the spiritual eye, followed by a feeling of firmness in the area. All of our senses become concentrated at the spiritual eye, which corresponds with the key to mastering the “Major Practice of Meditation on Attaining Realization through the Spiritual Eye.”
I have been practicing this method of concentration for many years, and it is a wonderful approach to focus the mind. Ekagrata Medita- tion can be performed according to one’s preferences. If you feel that a certain approach suits you better, then you should adopt that practice, so long as you achieve the goal of focusing the mind with self-control. If one is not interested in Ekagrata, then it would be a fallacy for one to claim that one has attained the Way. If an individual has not cultivated One-Pointedness Meditation, then one’s mind would be subject to the influence of one’s impure consciousness. One’s mind will fluctu- ate like waves in the great ocean that do not have a moment of peace or tranquility. One’s mind will be like a pail of water contaminated with color pigments and sewage that can never become clear. Thus, if a person cultivates the Way with a defiled mind, he will never attain anything.
The difference between the mundane mind and sacred mind is that the mundane mind tends to fluctuate, whereas the sacred mind is tranquil. The mundane mind is constantly engaged in discursive thoughts, craving wealth and sex only. In this way, the individual is constantly losing essence and vitality until old age and death. He or she is consumed with negative karma that draws him or her to the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals. Mahamudra, on the other hand, helps one to realize one’s self-nature. It raises the psychic heat, holds the mind in contemplation and stills the thoughts. Hence, it is a supreme practice that constantly turns the dharma wheel.
When a cultivator practices the Ekagrata Meditation, he or she eventually can reveal the “light of original nature.” It is like the moon’s reflection in clear water, untouched by all things and uncontaminated. One arrives at a point of unattachment to all external conditions, and one achieves the state of non-arising of thoughts.
At this time, there is no contamination arising from the six faculties of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, and one’s self-nature is untouched by the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought. Though a cultivator’s physical body may be in the world, he or she is not bound to the world. Thus, one abandons the perceptions of a self, a being, a life, or a soul. When one reaches this spiritual state, that which is considered the sun, moon, and stars are non-existent to one, and experiences of human emotions are non-existent as well.
When all phenomena cease to exist, one is close to attaining the great state of absorption.
When a cultivator practices One-Pointed Meditation, he works on focusing his mind. As the cultivator concentrates on one-point, the circulation of the qi or energy in the channels travel like an electrical current which feels like a pulse. This is called ‘qi ling’ or ‘the awakening of spirit’ [translator’s note: also known commonly as Kundalini Awakening]. If we learn to gain control over this process, then this spiritual current will definitely help to strengthen our body and cure us of illnesses. Thus, it certainly benefits us greatly. However, if we cannot achieve self-control, we will easily be subject to outside influences and be drawn into a psychotic state of mind. Therefore, it is my wish that anyone who practices this method should maintain a normal diet and have sufficient sleep. If you practice “the awakening of spirit” method to strengthen your physical body, then you should uphold a daily routine with each session lasting no more than twenty minutes. Do not over-exert yourself and do not crave spiritual powers. Then you shall have few worries.
When we practice Ekagrata Meditation and maintain our focus, spiritual experiences are likely to occur. If we do not experience the awakening of spirit, then we may experience various illusory visions and states in our absorption. These visions may arise non-stop. The practitioner may report these illusory visions to his guru and the guru, who is experienced with such conditions, will properly guide and instruct the practitioner with the best solution. You may also choose to completely ignore these visions and focus solely on absorp- tion, remaining unaffected by the visions. When you are unafraid, unworried, and unattached to these visions, you will naturally have no problems. If you are drawn and led by these illusory visions, it is highly probable that you will stray into the mara realms.
When a person sits for too long in the Seven-Point Posture of Vaiocana in the practice of Mahamudra, one’s body and mind may be- come fatigued, and one may tend to doze off and enter into a dream state. If one knows how to awaken one’s spirit, then one may move one’s body automatically to counter the sleepiness. If one does not know the art of awakening the spirit, then one should spend time climbing, enjoying the ocean, or looking at some picturesque sceneries to allow the body and mind to recuperate from fatigue. When our mind is comfortable, it is easier to enter into absorption. These are important points to take note of.
Ekagrata or One-Pointedness, can help one to reach the bliss of oneness of mind. Thus, it is a state of immovability, which reaches into the realm of nirvana. The teachings in my book, The Illuminated Way of Meditation [Book 45], are within the scope of Ekagrata Meditation. If one masters the meditation in the book, one will transcend the heavenly realm as well as the three realms. One will be in a state of birthlessness and deathlessness. It is certainly powerful.
Mahamudra is thus a unified practice, combining all practices. It is cultivated in stages before one reaches great attainment. By practicing Ekagrata, one attains purity of body, speech and mind, which together constitutes the supreme state of meditative absorption.(The End)