A Torch to Illuminate Crucial Points
A Torch to Illuminate Crucial Points on the Path of Meditation
by Tsultrim Zangpo
Dharmakāya space, beyond arising and free from constructs,
Its unobstructed radiance, the sambhogakāya clarity,
And unbiased expressions, nirmāṇakāya manifestations—
To the guru who personifies these three kāyas, I bow.
Seeing the wisdom of empty basic space as the guru,
The nature of spontaneous presence as the yidam deity,
And compassionate energy’s radiant expression as ḍākinī—
May the essence of these three roots, our own awareness, prevail!
The ultimate, natural state of phenomena is nothing other than the naturally arising wisdom of mind-as-such. When this is actualised the natural state of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa is also actualised, because [the nature of mind] is nothing other than the actual nature of things.
In character, this is the nature of the phenomena of the universal creator, the emptiness that is freedom from limiting concepts. In its ultimate form, this emptiness is the empty quality, which, together with the essence of awareness, is the nature of mind. As long as you are cut off from this nature, there can be no realisation. Yet when the practitioner rests in meditation within mind-as-such, the phenomena of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa arise as the display of this emptiness-wisdom.
If there were an additional dharmatā nature, somehow independent from the nature of mind, any phenomena which had that nature would also be independent and distinct from mind-as-such. And this, in turn, would mean that they were truly existent. As their nature would not therefore be empty of true reality, this would make true existence the nature of things.
Therefore, since all expressive appearances are nothing other than the manifestation of pure awareness, whatever objects appear ‘out there’ do so within the mirror of awareness. It is not that there is some independent basis underlying their appearance. Pure and impure phenomena, therefore, arise through the power and strength of awareness. This means that if you settle in meditation on the wisdom that is empty of mind and realise that, all phenomena will arise as empty forms—appearing while lacking true existence.
Well then, you might wonder, what about the method for settling in the nature of mind?
Even the very state of mind that you have right now—in which thoughts unfold with clinging and conceptual references—has awareness as its essence, free from the sullying effects of grasping and never straying from a state that is all-penetrating. This is what you must actualize and settle in. Within the essence of this experience there is an empty quality, which is the absence of thoughts, and there is a stillness aspect, which is the absence of movement. There is also a quality of bliss to the experience, and an aspect of clarity, or discerning intelligence. These various qualities are present spontaneously, and have always been perfect, from the very beginning. And this means that when you actualize pure awareness it is impossible for these qualities not to manifest automatically at the same time. Whichever quality arises, therefore—whether bliss, clarity or whatever it might be—do not focus on it deliberately, and do not remain in the experience. Instead, settle naturally without contrivance, simply ensuring that you do not forget or lose the experience of the so-called “awareness quality”, the aspect of wisdom that is mere awareness, free from thoughts. To sustain the continuity of the experience in this way, by simply maintaining recognition, or not forgetting it, is the original, natural meditation that is unspoilt by any further, deliberate meditation. Continually abiding by this experience, without becoming distracted and without any deliberate focus, is “genuine, intrinsic mindfulness.” This is to be undistracted and not lose mere awareness (or mere ‘non-forgetfulness’), and, whenever you are distracted, to drop the distraction simply through recognising its essential nature.
These forms of mere awareness will converge inseparably and indivisibly—and this is said to mark the beginning of the dawning of thoughts and perceptions as wisdom. Do not make any separation, then, between the ‘looked at’ and the looker, the remaining and the remainer, the sustained and the sustainer. If you can maintain the continuity of the experience of settling, without deliberate effort, in the mere seeing of mind’s own essence, objects of distraction will fade away in the intrinsic nature itself, for they do not fall outside the nature of its all-encompassing space. Both within and between meditation sessions, allow all bonds of speculation and doubt—all thoughts of “Is it?” or “Isn’t it?”—to be released by themselves. This is what is known as “space-like yoga.”
You might wonder whether this quality of awareness transforms all that it knows into discerning wisdom (prajñā) and insight (vipaśyanā). All that it knows or is aware of is seen within the empty expanse of pure awareness itself, which has always been manifest from the very beginning. In fact, these objects of awareness have never actually gone beyond this expansive nature—not even for so much as a single instant. That is why, when we now settle in meditation, there is no need to apply the ‘patch’ of emptiness to pure awareness. Simply settling right into that pure awareness and leaving everything just as it is will swiftly bring about a realisation of emptiness.
The meditation in which you settle naturally in pure and vivid awareness is a means of sustaining ‘ordinary knowing’ (tha mal ba’i shes pa). It is crucial that you adopt a relaxed form of mindfulness, remaining in the experience of pure awareness while not chasing after objects.
Whether within or between meditation sessions,
As long as you do not waver from a mindful state,
That is the “great meditation of not meditating”.
Never forget this, but try to apply it at all times.
Though the merit if this, may all beings, my dear old mothers,
Swiftly attain the level of enlightenment, I pray.
The one named Tsul spoke this in response to the requests of Dongna Gyenlo and Tsunpa Yilo. May virtue and goodness abound, and may the teachings of the Great Perfection spread far and wide!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2016.
sgom gyi lam gnad gsal ba''i sgron me in sprul sku tshul khrims bzang po’i gsung ’bum. 16 vols. 2014 (TBRC: W3PD247), vol. 5, pp. 357–361