Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on June 15, 2014

The last few blogs have been about the Self and how it responds to change and some of you have responded to the discussion. Now I would like to repeat something I blogged about recently that I feel didn't fully take, but is most helpful. Repetition in dharma concepts is not boring, but almost necessary for them to be absorbed. I want to go over those pith instructions of the great Mahasiddha Tilopa one more time, and I suggest you read it again as if for the first time. It is only a question of when they will sink in, not if. And when these very simple suggestions are incorporated (i.e. we actually do them), they are life-changing.

The Tibetan Buddhists point out, and from early on in their tradition, that the mind, like a tongue with a white coating, is covered over with a film of thought that obscures our true nature. And with every unrealized thought, that coating gets thicker. We hear this from every side in the teachings and it turns up in a great many of the essential Buddhist texts.

The pith extract called the "Six Words of Advice" (from the great Mahasidda Tilopa), which is said to be all we need for true realization, starts out with three kinds of thoughts we should let go of, and I have mentioned these three many times in my posts.

The first suggestion is to let go of any thoughts of the past we find ourselves having. "Don't Prolong the Past," is the traditional translation, but of course we Americans don't like "Don'ts," so it is may be more palatable for us if we just say" "Let go of the past" rather than " Don't dwell on the past."

This is easy enough, no? We can be mindful and catch ourselves when we get caught up in memories, nostalgia, or some kind of Déjà vu, and respond by just letting those thoughts go. Drop it. Let the thought vanish (and it will) and just rest in the present moment that remains. And we don't just do this once or twice, but make a habit of it. Do it as often as we can be mindful, all day long if we can.

Then Tilopa says the same thing about the future. Let go of any thoughts or speculation about what is to come. His words are "Don't invite the future." Let those thoughts also go and they will vanish, leaving us to allow our mind rest in the present. Also we can do this all the time or as much as we can manage.

And last, let go of thoughts and conceptions about the present moment. They say "Don't think about the present." Abandon thought ABOUT the present and just allow your mind to rest in the present. We can do this all day long. Note, they don't say to abandon this present moment, but just thoughts or conceptions about it.

So the past, present, and future are not something to overly think about, but in each case we just drop these thoughts and allow the mind to rest naturally in itself. That comprises the first three words of advice Tilopa offers us. He then adds two more qualifiers.

He suggests that we also let go of analyzing or trying to figure out anything, past, present, or future. And he then adds another, the fifth suggestion, that we let go of any efforts to make things happen. Don't try to make things happen; don't push or make effort in that direction.

And finally, Tilopa's sixth word of advice, the pithiest of his pith instructions is simply the suggestion to let the mind rest as it already is and always has been.

Perhaps these six words of advice are too simple and just go in one ear and out the other. We just read them and say "Yes" or "Of course" to them all and let it go at that. These six suggestions are meant to be examined and acted on, daily, hourly, and each minute, if we can. And we can.

By consistently learning to do this, to let go and drop all of these five kinds of thought, and to each of them apply the sixth suggestion, to rest in the moment after we have let them go, we will begin to remove that film of thought that obscures the true clarity of our mind.

In other words, we are not being hammered so much by the big karmic mistakes we make as much as we are literally buried by the inundation of the micro-karma from endlessly thinking, judging, comparing, etc. all day long – unnecessary thoughts.

And Tilopa does not say to block or otherwise stop thoughts -- not at all. He merely says to let them go and they will dissolve of themselves like a cloud vanishes in the clear sky.

If we practice letting go of these thoughts whenever we can realize we are having them, this particular kind of micro-karma stops accumulating and, gradually, we become clearer rather than more opaque. We are no longer endlessly coating our tongue, so to speak.

I am sure that there may be a better way to explain this, but I don't know how much more clearly I can present this very straight-forward message. Many Tibetan Buddhists point to Tilopa as where the great tradition of Mahamudra Meditation came from. And Tilopa did not leave that much writing for us. Tilopa's Upadesha (practical instructions), commonly called the "Ganges Mahamudra," is his main teaching and it is only a few pages. And then those few pages are reduced to Tilopa's "Six Words of Advice" mentioned here, which is said to be all we need to fully enlighten ourselves. That and a good teacher will help us actually realize this.

I can't imagine who among us could not begin to catch himself or herself in these kinds of thoughts, just let them go, and rest in what remains when these thoughts vanish. This is not rocket science.

Of course, if we practice this, it will be "practice." We have to learn the technique of being mindful and allowing these thoughts to vanish of their own accord. That will require some effort in the beginning, but it soon becomes automatic. Before we know it (hopefully with awareness) we will be resting in the nature of the mind (our mind) more and more of the time. At the very least we will be resting. And a huge amount of micro-karma, as described here, will not be accumulated. Our mental complexion will clear up.

I should not have to add, but I will anyway, that these instructions of Tilopa don't mean we never think about the past, like where we left our keys or of the future, like that we have a dentist appointment, etc. Instead it refers to the almost endless comparison, doubts, worries, fears, prejudices, likes, dislikes, and on and on that most of us succumb to. The amount to obscurations.

If we can just drop the unnecessary obsession on or dwelling in minutiae and just give it a rest, the rewards are great indeed. This technique is pure Buddhist mind training at its best and relatively easy to learn.

Your comments please.

[The ever-present violet is not so ever present. They come early and then they are gone.]