Kamalasila’s Bhavana Krama, The Middle Meditation Stage
Kamalasila’s Bhavana Krama, The Middle Meditation Stage
Translated by Ven. Lhaktor and Lobsang Chophell
HOMAGE TO THE YOUTHFUL MANJUSHRI
I shall briefly explain the stages of meditation for those who follow the system of Mahayana sutra. Those who wish to actualise the all-knowing state extremely fast and those who possess investigative mind should make a deliberate endeavour to fulfil its causes and conditions.
Omniscience being produced without causes is not possible, because it would then imply that everything at all times would become omniscient. If things were produced without reliance on other things, they would not be liable to be obstructed at any place – there would then be no reason why everything would not become Buddha. Therefore, the possibility for becoming Buddha is one in a hundred and therefore all functional things depend purely on their causes. Omniscience is rare because it cannot be produced at all times and at all places, nor can everything be transformed into omniscience. This implies that
everything depends on causes and conditions.
Also out of these causes and conditions one should cultivate the correct and complete causes. If you practice wrong causes, then even if you work hard for a long time, the desired goal cannot be achieved. This is like milking a horn. Also the result is not produced when all the causes are not utilised. For example, if the seed or any other cause is missing, then the result, a sprout etc., is not produced. Therefore, those desiring a particular result should cultivate complete and unmistaken causes and conditions.
If you ask, what are the causes and conditions of the resultant omniscience? I, who am like a blind man, may not be in a position to explain. But I shall reveal the Buddha’s own words spoken to his disciples after his enlightenment. The Buddha then said “O holder of the secret doctrine! The root of the transcendental wisdom of omniscience is compassion, and it arises from the cause – the altruistic thought, bodhicitta. It is perfected by skilful means.” Therefore, if you are interested in achieving omniscience you need to practice these three: compassion, bodhicitta and skilful means.
When moved by compassion, bodhisattvas do certainly pledge to liberate all sentient beings.
Then by eliminating the view of self, they engage continuously in the very difficult practices of accumulating merit and insight with much reverence. Having entered into this practice they would certainly complete the actualisation of merit and insight. Accomplishment of all meritorious accumulations is as good as having the very omniscience itself in the palm of
one’s hand. Since compassion is the only root of omniscience, one should gain familiarity with the practice from the very beginning. The Compendium of Perfect Dharmas reads, “O Buddha; a Bodhisattva should not train in many practices. If a Bodhisattva properly holds onto one dharma and perfectly learns that one, he has all the Buddha’s qualities in his palm. And if you ask what that one dharma is, it is great compassion.”
The buddhas have achieved all the perfections for themselves, but they abide in samsara for as long as there are sentient beings. This is because they possess great compassion. They also do not enter the immensely blissful abodes of nirvana like the Hearers. By seeing the interests of sentient beings, they discard the peaceful abode of nirvana like a burning iron house. Great compassion alone is the inevitable cause of the non-abiding nirvana of the Buddha.
The mode and procedure of meditation on compassion will be taught from the initial stage of engagement. Begin the practice by meditating on equanimity. Try to actualise mental equality towards all sentient beings by eliminating attachment and hatred. All sentient beings desire happiness and do not desire misery. Think thoroughly that in this beginningless cycle of existence there is not one sentient being who has not been my dear one hundreds of times. Since there is no ground for being attached to some and hating others, I shall develop a mental equality to all sentient beings. Begin the meditation on equanimity with a neutral person and then consider persons who are friends and foes.
Meditate on loving kindness after the mind has developed an even thought towards all sentient beings. By the water of loving kindness moisten the mental continuum and prepare it like a ground with moisture. When the seeds of compassion are implanted on such a mind, germination will be swift, proper and complete. Meditation on compassion should be followed when the mind stream is fermented with loving kindness.
That compassionate mind has the aspect of wishing all suffering beings to be free from their suffering. Meditate on compassion for all sentient beings because the beings in the three realms are intensely tortured by any one of the three types of sufferings. The Buddha has said that the beings in the hell worlds, without exception, are constantly tortured by heat and other types of pain for a long time. He has also said that most of the hungry ghosts suffer intense burning pain of hunger and thirst and experience immense physical suffering. The animals are also seen suffering many types of misery like eating one another, ferocity, killing and violence. Human beings too are seen experiencing acute pain of various kinds. Not able to find the objects of their intense desire, they hate and harm each other. They suffer the pain of losing beautiful things and confronting the ugly ones as well as the pain of poverty.
There are those whose minds are bound by various fetters of afflictive emotions like craving desire. Others are in turmoil with different types of wrong views. These are all causes of misery, therefore they are only in intense pain like being on a precipice.
Devas suffer from the misery of change. For example, the minds of devas in the desire realm are constantly oppressed by the signs of death and their future downfall to unfortunate states. How can they be in peace? The pervasive misery is in the entity of being under the power of causes that are characterised by action and delusions. It is in the nature and characteristics of momentary disintegration and pervades all migrating beings.
Therefore see all migrating beings as immersed in burning miseries. Think that they are all like oneself not desiring any misery. Alas! All my beloved sentient beings are in much pain. Think what can be done to liberate them from their sufferings and act as if you are afflicted by suffering. Focusing towards all sentient beings and wishing all beings to be free from their miseries, meditate on compassion at all times, whether you do single-pointed concentration or while engaging in any conduct. Begin the meditation towards friends and dear ones through seeing them experiencing the various sufferings as has been explained.
Then having seen all sentient beings as equal and without difference, one should thoroughly contemplate on the side of neutral sentient beings. When your compassion to them is the same as to your friends and dear ones, then meditate on compassion for all sentient beings in the ten directions.
Like a mother to her little, beloved and suffering son, when one develops an automatic and equal compassion to all sentient beings then one has perfected the practice of compassion. That then also gets the name: great compassion.
Meditation on loving kindness begins with friends and dear ones. It has the aspect of wishing sentient beings meet with happiness. Gradually extend the meditation to strangers and even to one’s enemies. Having gained familiarity with compassion there would be spontaneous generation of the wish to liberate all sentient beings. Through gaining familiarity with compassion as the root, meditate on the altruistic thought of bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is of two types – conventional and ultimate. The conventional bodhicitta is the cultivation of the first mind, having the aspect of wishing to attain the unsurpassable and perfectly consummated buddhahood in order to benefit all migrating sentient beings, which pledges to release all sentient beings from their suffering. Similar to the process described in the chapter on moral ethics, generate the mind through a scholar who abides by the bodhisattva vow.
After generating conventional bodhicitta, endeavour to cultivate ultimate bodhicitta. The ultimate bodhicitta is transcendental and free from all elaborations. It is the extremely clear object of the ultimate – stainless and unwavering, and is like a butter lamp free of disturbance by wind. This is achieved through constant and respectful familiarity with the yoga of calmabiding meditation and penetrative insight for a long time. From the Arya Samdhinirmocana Sutra, “O Maitreya, you must know that all the virtuous dharma of hearers, bodhisattvas or tathagatas, whether worldly or transworldly, are the fruits of calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight.” Since all kinds of concentrations can be subsumed into these two, all yogis must at all times seek calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight. Again the same Arya Samdhinirmocana Sutra says “The Buddha has said it must be known that the teachings of various types of concentrations sought by my hearers, bodhisattvas and tathagatas are all contained in calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight.”
Yogis cannot eliminate obscurations by mere familiarity with calm-abiding meditation alone. It only suppresses the delusions temporarily. Without the light of wisdom, the latent potency of the delusions cannot be properly destroyed, and therefore their complete destruction is not possible. For this reason Arya Samdhinirmocana Sutra says, “Concentration can suppress the delusion properly and wisdom can thoroughly destroy the latent potency.” Arya Samdhinirmocana Sutra also says, “Even if one meditates on such single-pointed concentration, that would not destroy the conception of the self and delusions would disturb you again; it is like Udrak’s single-pointed meditation. When the selflessness of phenomena are individually examined and meditations performed on the basis of that analysis, that is the cause of the resultant liberation; no other cause can pacify.”
Also the Bodhisattvapitaka says, “Those who haven’t heard these various teachings of Bodhisattva Pitaka and have not heard the vinaya teachings of the Superior One and think that single-pointed concentration alone is enough, will fall into the pits of haughty arrogance and as such cannot gain complete release from rebirth, old age, sickness, death, misery, lamentation, suffering, mental unhappiness and disturbances. Neither do they gain complete liberation from the cycle of the six migratory states nor from the suffering aggregates. Keeping this in mind the Tathagata has said that hearing in accordance with the teachings helps to gain liberation from old age and death.”
For these reasons, those who wish to attain the thoroughly purified transcendent wisdom by eliminating all obscurations, should meditate on wisdom while staying in calm-abiding meditation.
Arya Mahayanashrada Bhavana Sutra says: “If the sons of good families do not abide by wisdom, I will not speak about bodhisattvas’ faith in Mahayana or what comes about in relation to Mahayana. O son of good family, this is because bodhisattvas’ faith in Mahayana and all that arises in relation to Mahayana occurs by contemplating the perfect dharma and reality by a mind free of distraction. And it should be understood accordingly.”
A yogi’s mind would be distracted by the objects when there is only penetrative insight devoid of calm-abiding meditation. It would be unsuitable like a butter lamp in the wind. Since crystal clarity of transcendent wisdom would be missing, these two should be sought with equal emphasis. Therefore Arya Mahaparanirvana Sutra also says: “Hearers cannot see buddha-nature, because their single-pointed absorption is stronger and wisdom is weaker. Though bodhisattvas can see, but not clearly, this is because their wisdom is stronger and their single-pointed concentration is weaker. Whereas tathagatas can see all, because they possess equal levels of calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight.”
By the power of calm-abiding meditation, the mind is not disturbed by the wind of conceptual thoughts. It is like a butter lamp free of disturbing wind. Penetrative insight eliminates every stain of wrong views and thus you will not be affected by others.
Chandra Pradipa Sutra says:
“By the force of calm-abiding meditation, mind will become unwavering, and by penetrative insight it will become like a mountain.”
Therefore, maintain a yogic practice of both of them. Initially the yogi should attempt to seek the prerequisites that can help actualise calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight quickly and easily. The prerequisites necessary for the development of calm-abiding meditation are: to live in a conducive environment limiting one’s desire and practicing contentment, completely avoiding too many activities; in possession of pure moral ethics and fully eliminating attachment and all other kinds of conceptual thoughts.
A conducive environment should be known by these five characteristics – having easy access to food and clothes; a good habitation free of evil beings and enemies; a good place free from disease; good friends who possess moral ethics and who share similar views; and visited by few people in the daytime and little noise in the night. Limiting one’s desire refers to not being excessively attached to many or good clothes, such as monks robes, etc. The practice of contentment means always being satisfied with any little thing, like poor quality monks robes, etc. Complete elimination of many activities refers to fully discarding inferior works like buying and selling; fully avoiding too close associations with house-holders and monks; and totally abandoning the practice of medicine and astrology, etc.
Purity of moral ethics refers to not being separated from the basis of both natural and prohibited negative deeds of the two vows. Even if transgressions occur due to carelessness, they should be quickly confessed with regret, according to the rules. It is said that the defeat (major transgression) of the moral discipline of the hearers cannot be reformed. Still (such faults) should be regretted and an awareness not to repeat them in the future must be maintained. The mind that has performed that action and all phenomena must be recognised as lacking true identity. That is what is known as perfect moral ethics. This should be realised from the text Arya Ajatshatrukaukritiya (Elimination of Arya Ajatshatru’s Regret). One must remove regret and make special effort towards meditation.
Being mindful of the various defects of attachment in this life and future lives helps eliminate the misconceptions in this regard. Some common features of both beautiful and ugly things in the cycle of existence are that they are all unstable and in the nature of disintegration. It is beyond any doubt that one would be separated from all of them without much delay. So meditate why the self should be excessively attached and so on to those things and then discard all misconceptions.
The prerequisites of penetrative insight are relying on holy persons, seriously seeking extensive hearings and proper contemplation. What type of holy person should one rely upon? One who has heard many (teachings), is clear in expression, endowed with compassion and able to withstand hardships.
What is meant by seriously seeking extensive hearings? This is seriously listening and respecting definitive and interpretative meanings of the twelve branches of the Buddha’s teachings. The Arya Samdhinirmocana Sutra says “Non-listening to superior beings’ teachings as one wishes is obstacle to penetrative insight.” The same sutra says, “Penetrative insight arises from its cause, perfect view, which in turn arises from listening and contemplation.” Arya Narayan Paripraccha mentions, “By possessing listening one gains wisdom and with wisdom delusions are thoroughly pacified.”
What is meant by proper contemplation? It is properly establishing the definitive and interpretative sutra. In this way when bodhisattvas are free of doubt, they can single-pointedly meditate. On the contrary, if they follow the path with doubt and indecision, it would be like a man at a crossroads, unable to follow either of the paths.
Yogis should at all times abandon fish, meat etc., eat with moderation and avoid nonconducive foods. Thus the bodhisattvas who have assembled all the prerequisites of calmabiding meditation and penetrative insight should enter into meditation.
When doing the meditation, the yogi should first accomplish all the preparatory practices. Go to toilet to answer nature’s call, and in a pleasant location free of any thorns or noise generate a positive thought wishing to deliver all sentient beings to the essence of enlightenment. Then manifest great compassion, the thought wishing to liberate all sentient beings. Pay homage to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions by prostrating the five limbs of one’s body.
Place images of buddhas and bodhisattvas in front, make offerings, and praise their virtues as best you can. Confess your negativities and rejoice in the merits of all other beings. Then sit in the Vairochana posture or half cross-legged posture on a comfortable cushion. The eyes should not be too widely open or too tightly closed. Let them focus on the tip of the nose. The body should not be bent forward or backward. Keep it straight and cultivate mindfulness. The shoulders should be in equal height (in their natural positions) and the head not to be bent on either side. It should be straight in line from the nose to the navel. The teeth and lips should also be kept in their natural state with the tongue touching the upper palate. Inhale and exhale very gently and softly without causing any noise, without labouring and without unevenness. Inhaling and exhaling should be done naturally and slowly without noticing.
Calm-abiding meditation should be achieved first. Calm-abiding is that mind which has removed distraction to external objects and spontaneously and continuously moves towards the object of meditation with proficiency and delight. What properly examines suchness from within a state of calm-abiding meditation is penetrative insight. Arya Ratna Megha reads, “Calm-abiding meditation is a single-pointed mind; penetrative insight makes individual analysis of the ultimate.”
Also from the Arya Samdhinirmocana Sutra, “Maitreya asked, `O Buddha, how should (people) thoroughly search for calm-abiding meditation and gain expertise on penetrative insight?” The Buddha answered, “Maitreya, I have taught the following teachings to bodhisattvas:
Chapter on Sutras
Chapter on Melody Of Praise
Chapter on Prophetic Teachings
Chapter on Verses
Chapter on Specific Instructions
Chapter on Controversial Subjects
Chapter on Spiritual Insight
Chapter on Legends
Chapter on Jataka Tales
Chapter on Extensive Teachings
Chapter on Impeccable Dharma
Chapter on Established Doctrine
Bodhisattvas should properly listen to these teachings, remember their contents,train in verbal recitation, and thoroughly examine with the mind. With perfect comprehension, they should go alone to remote areas and mentally attend to these teachings and continue to focus the mind on them. Therefore this is called mental engagement. Calm-abiding meditation is achieved when the body and mind attain pliancy through such repeated and prolonged engagement. This is how bodhisattvas search for calm-abiding meditation. With achievement of mental and physical pliancy and abiding in them (the meditator) eliminates mental distraction. The phenomenon that has been contemplated as the object of inner single-pointed concentration should be analysed and regarded as a reflection. The reflection-like object of single-pointed concentration should be thoroughly discerned as an object of knowledge. It should be completely conceptualised and thoroughly examined. Practice patience and take delight in it. With proper analysis observe and understand it. That is what is known as penetrative insight. Thus bodhisattvas are skilled in the (art) of penetrative insight.”
The yogis who are interested in actualising calm abiding should initially set their minds closely on the chapters on sutra, the chapters on melody of praise, etc., thinking that all these teachings are leading to suchness, will lead to suchness, and have led to suchness. One way of doing this meditation is to closely set the mind on the aggregates, as an object that includes all phenomena. Another way is to place the mind on the image of a buddha. Arya Samadhiraj Sutra mentions,
With his body gold in colour,
The lord of the universe is extremely beautifiil.
One who places his mind on the object.
That bodhisattva is referred to as one in meditative absorption.
In this way place the mind on the object of your choice and, having placed the mind, repeatedly and continuously place the mind. While in meditation, examine the mind and see whether it is properly focused on the object. Also check for dullness and see whether the mind is being distracted to outside objects. If the mind is found dull due to doziness and foggy mind or if it were feared that dullness is approaching, then the mind should attend to an image of a buddha – which is extremely delightful or the concept of light. In this process dullness should be eliminated and the mind should see the object very clearly.
Dullness prevails when the mind cannot see the object very clearly like being blind or in a dark place or like a person with closed eyes. This should be understood (while in meditation), when the mind chases the qualities of outside objects like form, etc. or attends to other phenomena or is distracted to the objects of past experiences or the fear of distraction approaching; then think that all composite phenomena are impermanent and also think about suffering and other things that can help generate renunciation. In this process, distraction should be eliminated and by the rope of mindfulness and alertness, the elephant-like mind should be fastened to the tree of the object. When the mind is found perfectly engaged on the object of meditation, free of dullness and mental excitement, it should be left naturally and exertion relaxed. At that time sitting can be continued as long as one chooses. It should be understood that calm-abiding meditation is actualised when the physical and mental pliancy is enjoyed through prolonged familiarity with the meditation object as it chooses.
After realising cahn-abiding meditation, meditate on penetrative insight and think as follows: all the teachings of the Buddha are perfect teachings and they directly or indirectly reveal and explore suchness with utmost clarity. When suchness is fathomed, all nets of views are shattered like darkness disappearing when light appears.
Mere calm-abiding meditation cannot achieve purified transcendent wisdom nor can it eliminate the darkness of obscurations. When suchness is properly meditated upon with wisdom, purified transcendent wisdom is realised. Since wisdom alone can realise suchness and can effectively eradicate the obscurations, I shall therefore search for suchness through wisdom while engaging in calm-abiding meditation. And I shall not remain content with calm-abiding meditation alone.
What is suchness like? It is the nature of all phenomena that ultimately they are empty of the self of person and the self of phenomena. This is understood by the perfection of wisdom and not otherwise. Arya Sandhinirmocana reads “O Tathagata, by which perfection do bodhisattvas grasp the identitylessness of phenomena?’ ‘Avalokiteshvara, it is grasped by the perfection of wisdom.” Therefore, meditate on wisdom while engaging in calm-abiding meditation.
Yogis should analyse in the following manner. A person is not observed separately other than by observing the aggregates, elements and the sense powers. And a person is neither in the nature of the aggregates and so forth, because aggregates and so forth have the entity of being many and impermanent. A person’s identity is imputed by others as permanent and single. Person as a phenomenon cannot exist except as one or many, because there is no other mode of existing. In view of these reasons, one must conclude that the assertion of the worldly “I” and “mine” is wholly mistaken.
Meditation on the selflessness of phenomena should be done in the following manner.
Phenomena can be subsumed as the five aggregates, the twelve sources of perception and the eighteen elements. The aggregates, sources of perception and elements in the ultimate sense are nothing other than aspects of the mind. This is due to the reason that when these are broken into subtle particles and the nature of the parts of the subtle particles are individually examined, there is no definite identity that can be found. Due to attachment since beginningless time to imperfect things like physical form, to an ordinary being these things appear separate and outside the realm of the mind. This is like physical forms appearing in dreams. In the ultimate sense, physical form and so forth are nothing other than aspects of the mind. These (contentions) should be analysed. Think that the three worlds are mere consciousness, and individually analysing consciousness is individually examining the identity of all phenomena. Analyse the identity of consciousness in this manner.
In the ultimate sense, the mind too cannot be true. The mind grasps physical forms etc. and their identity is false; and with various aspects appearing to the mind, how can it be true? Physical forms, etc. are false, and since the mind is nothing other than these things, it too is false. Physical forms, etc. are in various aspects and their identities are neither one nor many. Since the mind is nothing other than these things, its identity too is neither one nor many. Therefore, the identity of the mind is just like an illusion.
One analyses by thinking that just as the mind, the identity of all phenomena too is like mere illusion. In this way when the identity of the mind is individually examined by wisdom, in the ultimate sense it is perceived neither within or without. It is also not perceived in the absence of both. Neither the mind of the past, nor that of the future, nor of the present is perceived. When the mind is born, it comes from nowhere and when it ceases it goes nowhere because it is inapprehensible, undemonstratable and non-physical. If one asks, what is the entity of that which is inapprehensible, undemonstratable and non-physical? It is as Arya Ratnakuta states: “0 Kashyapa, when the mind is thoroughly searched, it cannot be found. What is not found cannot be perceived. And what is not perceived is neither past nor future nor present.” Through such analysis, the beginninglessness of the mind is not ultimately seen, the end of the mind is not ultimately seen and the centre of the mind is not ultimately seen.
All phenomena should be understood lacking an end and a centre, just as the mind does not have an end or a centre. With the knowledge that the mind is without an end and a centre, no identity of the mind is perceived. What is thoroughly realised by the mind too is realised as being empty. By realising that, the very identity which is established as the aspect of the mind, like the identity of physical form, etc., is also not ultimately perceived. In this way, when a person does not ultimately see the identity of all phenomena through wisdom he would not analyse whether physical form is permanent or impermanent, empty or not empty, contaminated or non-contaminated, produced or non-produced and existent or non-existent.
Just as physical form is not examined, similarly feeling, recognition, compositional factors and consciousness are not examined. When the object does not exist, its particularities also cannot exist. So how can they be examined? In this way when the person does not firmly grasp on to the entity of a thing as ultimately existing, having investigated with wisdom, then the practitioner engages in a non-conceptual single-pointed concentration. And thus identitylessness of a11 phenomena is also realised.
Those who do not meditate with wisdom by analysing individually the entity of things, but merely meditate on elimination of mental activity, cannot avert conceptual thoughts and also cannot realise identitylessness because one lacks the light of wisdom. If the fire of consciousness knowing phenomena as they are is produced from individual analysis of suchness, then like the fire produced by rubbing wood it will burn the wood of conceptual thought. The Buddha has said thus.
Arya Ratna Megha also mentions, “Those skilled in discerning the faults engage in the yoga of meditation on emptiness in order to get rid of all elaborations. Such a person, due to his repeated meditation on emptiness. when the identities of the objects wherein the mind is distracted or enchanted are thoroughly searched, they are realised as empty. When that mind is also examined, it is realised as empty. When the identity of what is realised by this mind is thoroughly searched, this too is realised as empty. Realising in this way one enters in the yoga of signlessness.” This shows that only those who have engaged in complete analysis can enter in the yoga of signlessness. It has been explained very clearly that through the mere elimination of mental activity without examining the identity of things with wisdom, it is not possible to engage in non-conceptual meditation. Thus concentration is done after the actual identity of things like physical form, etc. has been perfectly analysed by wisdom and not by abiding on physical form, etc. Concentration is also not done by abiding in between this world and the world beyond because physical forms, etc. are not perceived. It is thus called the non-abiding concentration.
One is then called a meditator of supreme wisdom because by individually examining the identity of all things through wisdom one has perceived nothing. This is as stated in Arya Gaganganj Sutra and Arya Ratnacud Sutra, etc.
In this way one who has entered in the suchness ofthe selflessness of person and phenomena is free from concept and analysis because there is nothing to be thoroughly examined and observed. One is free from expression and with one-pointed mental engagement one automatically enters in meditation without manifest discrimination. Thus one very clearly meditates on suchness and abides in it. While abiding in that meditation, the mind should not be distracted. When the mind is distracted to outside objects due to attachment, etc. such distraction should be noted. Quickly pacify the distraction by meditating on the repulsive side of the objects and swiftly re-place the mind on suchness. If the mind is seen as disinclined to that, then by seeing the advantages of single-pointed concentration, meditate to enjoy it. The disinclination should also be thoroughly pacified by seeing the defects of distraction as well.
If the function of the mind becomes unclear and starts sinking, or where there is fear of sinking due to being overpowered by mental torpor or sleep, then as before quickly attempt to discard sinking by focusing the mind on supremely delightful things. Then the object suchness should be held very tightly. At times when the mind is observed to be excited or tempted to distractions by memory of past events of laughter and play, then as in the earlier cases pacify the distraction by reflecting on things like impermanence, etc. which help to subdue the mind. Then again endeavour to engage the mind on suchness without applying counter forces.
If and when the mind is spontaneously engaging in meditative equipoise on suchness free of sinking and mental agitation, at that time it should be left naturally and the efforts relaxed. If effort is applied when the mind is in meditative equipoise, it will distract the mind. But if effort is not applied when the mind becomes dull, it will become like a blind man due to extreme dullness and one will then not achieve penetrative insight. So when the mind becomes dull, apply effort and when in absorption effort should be relaxed.
When by meditating on penetrative insight excessive wisdom is generated and if the calm abiding is weak, then the mind will waver like a butter lamp in the wind and one will then not perceive suchness very clearly. Therefore, at that time meditate on calm-abiding. When calm-abiding meditation becomes excessive, meditate on wisdom.
When engaged equally in both (the types of meditation), stay without any activity as long as there is no harm brought to the body and mind. If the body, etc. is hurt see the whole world like an illusion, a mirage, a dream, a reflection and a blinder. And think that these sentient beings are very confused in the cycle of existence due to not understanding such dharma knowledge. Then manifest great compassion and the altruistic thought of bodhicitta thinking that I shall earnestly endeavour to help them understand suchness. Take some rest. Again engage in single-pointed concentration of all phenomena as non-appearing. If the mind feels very sad, take some rest. This is the path to engage in a union of calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight. This is known as focusing on the reflection with conception and nonconception.
At this stage, a yogi should meditate on just this (suchness) for an hour, or half a session in the night or one full session or as long as it is comfortable. This is the meditative stabilisation thoroughly discerning the ultimate, as taught in the Lankavatara. And then if interested, arise from that single-pointed concentration. While in lotus posture think that although ultimately all these phenomena lack identity, conventionally they definitely exist. If this were not the case, how would the relationship between cause and effect, etc. prevail? The Buddha has also said,
“Things are produced conventionally; but ultimately they lack intrinsic identity.”
These sentient beings with childish attitude perversely fabricate things as having selfidentity when they lack such an identity. And they are thoroughly confused in the cycle of existence for a long time. Think that in view of these reasons, I shall without fail endeavour to achieve the omniscient state by accomplishing the unsurpassable accumulations of merit and insight and help them realise suchness. Then slowly arise from the lotus position and make prostration to the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Make them offerings and sing in their praise. And make vast dedications by reciting Arya Bhadra Charya etc. Thereafter engage in conscious effort to actualise the accumulations of merit and insight by practicing generosity etc. which are endowed with the essence of emptiness and great compassion.
In this way, meditative stabilisation actualises the all-supreme emptiness. Arya Ratnacud Sutra states, “The person puts on the armour of loving kindness while abiding in the state of great compassion; practices meditative stabilisation to actualise the emptiness possessing all supreme aspects. What is the all-supreme emptiness? It is one that is not separated from generosity, not separated from moral ethics, not separated from patience, not separated from perseverance, not separated from meditative stabilisation, not separated from wisdom and not separated from skilful means.” Bodhisattvas must rely on virtuous practices like generosity as means to thoroughly ripen all sentient beings and for the perfection of the Buddha field, his bodies, followers and retinues.
If it were not so, what are the causes of the impeccable buddha fields etc. that are being taught’? The omniscient wisdom possessing a11 supreme aspects will be accomplished through generosity and other skilful means. Therefore the Buddha has said that the omniscient wisdom is perfected by skilful means. Therefore the bodhisattvas cultivate generosity and other skilful means and not emptiness alone.
Arya Sarvadharma Vaipulya also says “0 Maitreya, bodhisattvas thoroughly accomplish the six perfections in order to attain the consummated buddhahood. But to this those intellectually inferior ones comment that the bodhisattva should train only in the perfection of wisdom, and the rest of the perfections are unnecessary. They repudiate the other perfections. Maitreya, what do you think of this? When the king of Kashika offered his flesh to the hawk for the sake of a pigeon was it a moral corruption? Maitreya replied this is not so. The Buddha said, “Maitreya, bodhisattvas accumulated roots of merits through their deeds in conjunction with the six perfections. Are these roots of merits harmful?” Maitreya replied, “O Buddha, this is not so.” The Buddha further spoke, “Maitreya, you have correctly practised perfection of generosity for sixty aeons, perfection of moral ethics for sixty aeons, perfection of patience for sixty aeons, perfection of enthusiastic perseverance for sixty aeons, perfection of meditative stabilisation for sixty aeons, and perfection of wisdom for sixty aeons. To this those intellectually inferior ones comment that one mode alone can attain buddhahood. And that is the mode of emptiness. Their conduct cannot be thoroughly purified.” Such teachings are found in the text.
A bodhisattva possessing wisdom but not skilful means would be like the hearers, unable to engage in the deeds of buddhas. But they can do when supported by skilful means. As Arya Ratnakuta Sutra says, “Kashyapa, it is like this. For instance, the kings who are assisted by the ministers can accomplish all the purposes. Similarly, (when) the wisdom of a bodhisattva is thoroughly held (assisted) by skilful means, such a bodhisattva does all the activities of a buddha.” The philosophical view of the path of bodhisattvas is different and the philosophical views of the path of the tirthika (those believing in a wrong path and philosophy) and hearers are also different. Since within their philosophical view the tirthikas perversely observe self, etc., such a path is completely and always separated from wisdom. As such they cannot attain liberation.
The hearers are separated from great compassion and devoid of skilful means. Therefore, they single-mindedly endeavour to achieve nirvana. In the path of the bodhisattvas, they enshrine wisdom and skilful means so they endeavour to achieve non-abiding nirvana. The bodhisattva path contains wisdom and skilful means and therefore, (they) attain non-abiding nirvana. Because of the power of wisdom, (they) do not fall into the cycle of existence and due to the power of skilful means, (they) do not fall to nirvana.
Arya Gayasirsa says, “The bodhisattva path can be subsumed into two (aspects). The two are skilful means and wisdom.” The Arya Shriparmadhya also says, “The perfection of wisdom is the mother and expertise in skilful means is the father.”
Arya Vimalakirtinirdesa also says, “What are the bondages for bodhisattvas and what are the liberations? Upholding a life in the cycle of existence devoid of skilful means is a bondage for bodhisattvas. (But) to lead a life in the cycle of existence with skilful means is liberation. Upholding a life in the cycle of existence devoid of wisdom is bondage for bodhisattvas. (But) to lead a life in the cycle of existence with wisdom is liberation. Wisdom not conjoined by skilful means is a bondage, (but) wisdom conjoined by skilful means is liberation. Skilful means not conjoined by wisdom is bondage, (but) skilful means conjoined with wisdom is liberation.”
If a bodhisattva cultivates mere wisdom, (he) falls to the nirvana desired by hearers. Thus it is like a bondage. And (he) cannot be liberated to non-abiding nirvana. Therefore, wisdom separated from skilful means is a bondage for bodhisattvas. Therefore, just as a person afflicted by wind seeks comfort of fire likewise a bodhisattva cultivates wisdom of emptiness along with skilful means to eliminate the wind of distortion. (But he) does not (endeavour) to actualise like the hearers. Arya Dasa Dharmaka Sutra says, “O son of a good family, it is like this. For instance a person makes full use of fire. He likes fire and respects (its usefulness). He thinks that though he likes fire, respects it and makes drawings, he does not intend to fully hold it with two hands. This is because he thinks that this will give physical pain and cause mental discomfort. Similarly; a bodhisattva is aware of nirvana, but he does not engage to actualise it. This is because he thinks by this (actualising nirvana) he is turning away from enlightenment.
Cultivation of mere skilful means does not allow a bodhisattva to transcend the ordinary ground (level) and as such is an extreme bondage. Therefore, (he) cultivates skilful means along with wisdom. By the power of wisdom; bodhisattvas can transform even the delusions into nectar, like poison under a tantric spell. There is no need to express (the goodness) of generosity, etc. which naturally leads to higher results. Arya Ratnakuta mentions, “Kashyapa, it is like this. A poison under the power of tantra and medicine cannot cause death. Similarly, since the delusions of bodhisattvas are under the power of wisdom, they cannot cause the downfall (of the bodhisattvas).”
Because bodhisattvas do not abandon the cycle of existence by the power of skilful means, they do not fall to nirvana. Due to the power of wisdom, (they) eliminate all objects (grasping at true existence) and therefore (they) do not fall into the cycle of existence. Thus they attain the non-abiding nirvana of buddhahood alone.
Arya Gaganganj also says, “Because of wisdom consciousness, (bodhisattvas) eliminate all delusions and due to the consciousness of skilful means, they do not abandon sentient beings.” Arya Samdhinirmochana also says, “I have not taught that which is not inclined towards sentient beings and not thoroughly inclined in actualising the composite phenomena as a path leading to unsurpassable and perfectly accomplished buddhahood.” Therefore, those interested in buddhahood must cultivate both wisdom and skilful means.
Cultivation of generosity and other skilful means cannot be done while meditating on transworldly wisdom or while in deep meditative equipoise. But skilful means can be cultivated along with wisdom during the preparation and after the (sessions). That is the way of engaging in wisdom and skilful means in proper harmony.
Moreover this is the path of bodhisattvas where they engage in the union of wisdom and skilful means. This is cultivating a transworldly path that is thoroughly held by great compassion for all sentient beings. And while practising skilful means after arising from meditative absorption also one cultivates generosity and other skilful means with undistorted mind like a magician. Arya Shayamatrnirdesh says, “What is bodhisattvas’ skilful means and what wisdom is actualised? Bodhisattvas’ skilful means is thinking and placing the mind closely on sentient beings with great compassion while in meditative absorption. And engaging in meditative equipoise with peace and extreme peace is wisdom.” There are many more such references. Chapter on Subduing the Evil (Maradmanpariched) also mentions, “Furthermore, the perfect activities of bodhisattvas refers to conscious efforts by the wisdom consciousness and collection of all meritorious dharma by the consciousness of skilful means. The wisdom consciousness also leads to selflessness, non-existence (inherently) of sentient beings, life, sustenance and person. And the skilful consciousness leads to thoroughly ripening all sentient beings.” Arya Dharma Samgiti Sutra also mentions,
A magician endeavours
To emancipate the things in the illusory projection.
Since he already knows the (nature of the) projection,
He has no attachment to it.
Similarly, the three worlds are like illusions;
The wise Buddha knows about it.
Long before he knew the sentient beings in these worlds
And had undertaken effort to help them.
Bodhisattvas are in earnest pursuit of wisdom and skilful means while abiding in cyclic existence. They also aim to attain the final nirvana.
In this way become familiar with generosity and other skilful means that are dedicated for the unsurpassable and perfectly accomplished enlightenment having the essence of emptiness and great compassion. In order to generate ultimate bodhicitta practice calm-abiding meditation and penetrative insight as much as possible at regular intervals. As taught in the Arya Gacharparishudhi Sutra, always familiarise with skilful means by closely placing mindfulness on the advantages of bodhisattvas who work for the welfare of sentient beings at all times.
Those who become familiar with compassion, skilful means and bodhicitta in this way undoubtedly will excel. Buddhas and bodhisattvas will always be seen in dreams and other pleasant dreams will occur and you will be protected by gods in appreciation. There will be immense accumulations of merit and insight every moment. Delusions and other obscurations will be purified. You will enjoy much happiness and mental peace at all times and a great many beings will be attracted. The body too will be free of diseases. You will attain supreme mental dexterity and thus you will achieve special qualities like clairvoyance.
Then one travels by miraculous power to innumerable worlds and makes offerings to buddhas and also listens to teachings from them. At the time of death also one undoubtedly sees buddhas and bodhisattvas. In future lives one will be reborn in special families and places such that one will not be separated from buddhas and bodhisattvas. One would be thus able to accomplish all accumulations of merit and insight effortlessly. One will have great wealth and a large following. Possessing a sharp intelligence, one would be able to ripen the mindstream of many beings. In all lives such a person will be able to recall past lives. Try to understand all such immeasurable advantages described in other sutras as well.
In this way if one meditates with much respect on compassion, skilful means and bodhicitta for a long time, the mindstream will gradually become thoroughly purified and ripened. This is like producing fire by rubbing together pieces of wood. And one will gain perfection of meditation on the perfect reality. One will thus achieve an extremely clear knowledge of the unfabricated dharma space and transworldly wisdom free of all impeding nets. The wisdom is stainless like an unfluctuating butter lamp free of disturbing wind.
Thus such a mind in the entity of ultimate bodhicitta included within the path of seeing, which apprehends the selfless nature of all phenomena is generated.
Through this achievement one enters into the path focusing on the reality of things and one is then born in the family of tathagatas, enters the bodhisattva category without flaws, turns away from all migrations, abides in the suchness of bodhisattvas and attains the first bodhisattva bhumi (spiritual level). Find more details on these advantages from other texts like the Dasabhumi Sutra. This is the meditative stabilisation concerning suchness as taught in Lankavatara. Buddhas enter into the meditation free of conceptual fabrications.
It is explained that you enter the initial spiritual level by faith and not by way of an expressed effort. Realising the transcendent wisdom comes through conscious means. Entering the first spiritual ground or bhumi and later meditating on the transworldly wisdom and the subsequent wisdom of the path of meditation and also gradually meditating on skilful means, one purifies the subtle and the most subtle kinds of defilements so accumulated. In order to attain the superior and the far superior extraordinary qualities, practice the lesser spiritual grounds thoroughly.
All purposes and objectives are completely fulfilled by entering the transcendent wisdom of tathagatas and by entering the ocean of omniscience. The mindstream is thoroughly purified through this procedure alone. Arya Lankavatara also explains this. Arya Samdhinirmocana too reads, “Train the mind into the higher and far higher spiritual ground like gold. Unsurpassable and perfectly consummated buddhahood can then be realised.”
Entering the ocean of omniscience, one possesses jewel-like impeccable qualities to sustain sentient beings and conducts according to previous positive prayers. The individual is then transformed in the nature of compassion possessing skilful means for instantaneous performance and works in the interest of all migrating beings by way of innumerable manifestations. In addition all marvelous attributes are perfected. With total elimination of all defilements and their latent potency, all buddhas abide to help every sentient being. Through such realisation, generate faith in buddhas, the source of all wonderful knowledge and qualities. Everyone should endeavour to actualise these qualities.
The Buddha thus said, “The all-knowing transcendent wisdom is produced with compassion as its root, bodhicitta as the cause and is perfected by skilful means.”
The wise are far from jealousy and other stains;
Their thirst for knowledge is not quenched.
Analyse the ocean-like knowledge
And retain only what is proper,
Like swans extracting milk from the water.
Thus the scholars should distance themselves
From divisive attitude and one-sided bigotry.
Even from a child
Good words are received.
Whatever merit I derive,
With exposition of this middle path,
I dedicate for all beings,
To actualise the middle path.
The second part of the stages of meditation by Acharya Kamalashila is completed.
Translated and edited by Indian Abbot Praja Verma and Yandhya Yeshi De.
Translated into English from Tibetan by Lhakdor and Losang Chophell.