Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs: How to Meditate

Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs: How to Meditate

Kagyu Gunchoe Teachings 2024 • Mikyö Dorje’s Hundred Short Instructions • Day 2
10 January 2024

On the second day, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued the teachings on the Instructions on Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs according to the Hundred Short Instructions of Mikyö Dorje, the topic for the Kagyu Gunchoe this year.

As he had explained the previous day, there are three main sections to the Seven Pointing Outs:

1. An homage pointing out the purpose and thus determining the nature.

2. A long explanation of the meaning of the text.

3. Concluding advice for others.

The second, the main section, is the long explanation of the meaning of the text, the Instructions on Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs with seven topics:

1. Instructions in shamatha

2. Instructions in insight

3. Instructions in freedom from elaborations

4. Instructions in the natural liberation of movement

5. Instructions in one taste

6. Instructions in continuous meditation

7. Instructions on putting meditation into practice.

The Karmapa gave the oral transmission of the instructions in shamatha previously, so today he would give some explanations of the actual text. He began with the three instructions on shamatha:

1. How to rest the mind

2. Sustaining it evenly without fabrication

3. Taking thoughts as the path

1. The First Passage: How to rest the mind

The Karmapa read a passage from Lord Yangönpa’s verse on how to rest the mind, explaining how the passage is composed in the form of a song.

Fortunate children who long to meditate,
Don’t look outside for meditation; look inside.
It won’t happen by placing it; let it go.
You won’t catch it by grasping; rest relaxed.

He then referred to two leaves of the Tibetan text, which he had used during the oral transmission, the first from the edition of Gyalwang Yangönpa’s Collected Works and the second from the Hundred Short Instructions. There are slight differences between the two. Since they are different manuscripts, the words to the song are slightly different:

He explained that this passage teaches the methods for how to rest the mind:

Fortunate children who long to meditate:

“Children” are the students who entrust themselves to their guru and consider him authoritative. For example, in a worldly society, the child who listens to their parents and does what he is asked is a good child. Here, child is the student who entrusts themselves to the guru. This is an example of good students: “fortunate” ones are diligent about practicing the profound path and long to meditate or have a very strong wish to develop meditation. They really want to meditate. They think they’d like to be able to meditate well so they have a strong interest to seek this out.”

             Don’t look outside for meditation; look inside.

Gyalwang Yangönpa says that if you want to develop meditation, meditation won’t come from looking outside. Turn your attention inward and give up attachment to external appearances and examine your mind.

It won’t happen by placing it; let it go.

The mind does not stay in one place or rest in a single place. Like an ant on a leaf being carried away by water, the ant has no control over where it's going, it will go wherever the water takes it. Likewise, thoughts won’t stay in a single place. It’s difficult for the mind to rest in a single place, many different thoughts occur, so if mind wants to go, then let it go. Like the ant on top of the leaf, the ant must let the water carry it wherever it will go since the ant doesn't have any control over the leaf. However, if it’s not careful and runs back and forth and jumps up and down, there's a danger the ant will fall into the water. The ant must be careful.

Similarly, you must be careful with your mind. Like the ant on the leaf, stay on the leaf: if you run back and forth and jump up and down, there’s the danger you will fall into the water. Likewise, you should never be without your mindfulness and awareness, and then in that way, let your mind rest comfortably when you meditate.

You won’t catch it by grasping: rest relaxed.

This means that when we think that the mind needs to stay stable someplace, or that it needs to stay on a single point, you must not let it go anywhere, that it needs to stay where you want it to stay; even if you work hard on this, it still won’t stay. The more you are afraid that thoughts will occur, the more thoughts you will have. There’s an even greater danger that you will get even more distracted. In brief, it will get worse. Instead of making much distinction between the meditator and what you’re meditating on, be in a state of non-distraction, be in mindfulness. Rest relaxed without specifically meditating or trying, just relax and loosen. Don’t follow the tracks of the past and don’t anticipate the future. Let the mind be as it is without altering or fixing. Just let it rest naturally.

This is the teaching on how to let the mind rest.

2. The Second Passage: Sustaining it evenly without fabrication.

If you wish to meditate, there are appearances
Of nonmeditation; look at them.
Do not cut meditation into chunks; rest evenly. T
he nature has always been meditation; don’t alter it with your mind.
Let it be: do not distort it with fabrication.
Deep-rooted clear meditation cannot be changed by circumstance.

The Karmapa noted this second passage has six lines in the English translation and five lines in Tibetan.

If you wish to meditate, there are appearances
Of nonmeditation; look at them.

The Karmapa combined the first two lines of the English translation into one, as it appears in the Tibetan. Then he explained the line in the following way:

When you are meditating, you think, “I want to have a good meditation, I want to find a good meditation.” We all naturally have a hope like this, right? If we have that hope when we think about it, if we let the mind rest in appearances, we need to let the mind just relax. When you rest in that, between the time when the previous thought has ceased and the next thought starts, there's the mind that's not grasping at an appearance of objects. It is a very clear awareness. It is clear but unidentifiable. So, without any attachment you need to sustain the essence of that. That is what we call meditation.

When we have experience of good meditation, it is not something that has to be done separately. Non-meditation—or lack of meditation—is what we need to give up. Everything appears as meditation. Sometimes there are meditations that are not meditations, there are not any appearances that are not meditation. Everything is an appearance of meditation and see if there are any things that aren’t meditation. So, everything is an appearance of meditation. You can develop this sort of superior experience.

Do not cut meditation into chunks, rest evenly.

We think that there is a meditator and the object of our meditation. It is the object that we focus on, and the mind that we are looking at is very clear. We make distinctions, this is the subject, and this is the object. But when you make so many differences or distinctions, there is a problem. Instead of dividing and making a boundary, however the subject and object appear, you should rest evenly without altering them. Instead of dividing meditation, you should rest evenly with however they appear without altering them. This is a crucial point.

Also, when you feel good, you feel comfortable, or when you're not feeling well, you don't meditate. Sometimes you might feel you're meditating well in one meditation, but poorly in another meditation. Instead, you should have moderate diligence that never slackens. Just like when you're playing a guitar. The guitar string has to be tuned just right, not too tight, nor too loose, at a moderate tension.

Similarly, your diligence should be the same, it should be moderate. If it's too tight, your mind and your body will both get extremely tight, and easily exhausted. It should also not be too loose, or you will fall into slothfulness and laziness. Instead, meditate with a moderate level of tension. Sometimes you get too confined when meditating. Rest evenly, your mind relaxed and loose, and when the mind is resting, just stay with it. And if it's not staying, then you make that not resting, not staying, the focus of your meditation, but rest exactly with that without changing it.

The nature has always been meditation; don’t alter it with your mind.

There is a lot that could be said about this, but to explain it easily, the nature of the mind has always been free of elaboration. It is always staying and abiding in that fashion. When you are meditating, you need to rest in the nature of the mind and habituate yourself. Do not make something new, or change your mind, you shouldn’t try to fix it or distort it. The nature of the mind is the way that it is, it is free of elaboration, just experience that. Just rest right in that, get used to that, or habituate yourself. Basically, you should not be altering your mind.

Let it be: do not distort it with fabrication.

From the very beginning, the mind is self-aware and self-illuminating. You should just let it be as it is.  You just need to rest in that ordinary mind, without altering it.  People think that there's a massive difference between meditating and not meditating. Ordinary people think that it's something that we don't usually do but need to do. If we need to have something that really stays, we want it to stay better, we want it to be more luminous, we want it to be clearer. If it is not clear, we think it should be clearer. We specifically fabricate and contrive it to make it that way. All such meditations are like dead ends in meditation. They are faults that can occur when you are meditating.

Deep-rooted clear meditation cannot be changed by circumstance.

The nature of mind itself, the way that the mind actually is, is self-luminous and self-aware. So, when you're meditating, whatever your experience, whether high or low or over-agitation, you should not let these circumstances steal your meditation, or affect it.

If you have a good experience, you should not be attached to it. If it's a bad experience, you should not be displeased. It is important to be like this. The reason is that these experiences of bliss, clarity, or non-thought happen. They arise when they occur. But getting attached or fixated on experiences of bliss, clarity, and non-thought is the cause for rebirth in samsara again.

Likewise, you might have a bad experience when you feel like you have more appearances than you did before, or stronger afflictions that create hatred and division than before and become even stronger than before. These feelings occur, but they are not entirely bad, because they are enhancements to Mahamudra practice. It's not impossible that you can change them into something that will improve your meditation.

So, if you have a good experience, and you get attached to it, it can be a fault. If you have a bad experience, and you're able to take it as the path, then it can be like an enhancement to Mahamudra, or a way to improve your Mahamudra meditation. It is possible for it to be beneficial.

Whether high or low, a good or bad experience, you should not think, something really good happened and be excited or something bad happened and be disappointed or unhappy.

3. The third passage: Taking thought as the path.

Without viewing conceptual mind as a fault
Or specifically meditating on nonthought,
Let mind be as it is and post a lookout.
Your meditation will reach the pith of shamatha.
The first line:

  Without viewing conceptual mind as a fault

When meditating, particularly when doing shamatha meditation, you often feel like you are having more and more thoughts. Your mind seems to feel more frenzied. We have this feeling that we are unable to rest peacefully, rest calmly. Suddenly a thought occurs, and you think you are not able to rest calmly. So, we worry. However, when a thought occurs, don’t see it as a fault. It is like a wave arising in the water. The thought, no matter how it arises, will naturally disappear. We don't need to follow the thought. We shouldn't think, “Oh, a thought happened. I'm terrible.” This is not okay. You shouldn't worry about that. You should understand that it's like a wave arising from water.

Milarepa sang a poem about meditating on the ocean. When you meditate on the ocean, the waves are like an emanation or a manifestation of the ocean, they are not separate from the ocean. The waves are like the manifestation of the water. Likewise, thoughts are like the appearance or manifestation of the mind. They are one of the infinite types of manifestations that the mind can make. They don't transcend the nature of the mind, they just let the mind be alone as it is and let them disappear on their own.

We shouldn’t specifically look at them as being a thought or try to focus on stopping thoughts or pacify our thoughts. If we meditate that way, it's difficult to overcome the thought of needing to pacify thoughts, and the thoughts become more and more numerous.

The next line is:

Or specifically meditating on non-thought

If you want to have a mind without any thought, without any investigation, you've got to hope for that, then specifically try to make your mind thought-free, non-conceptual. If you work at that, you have not transcended a dualistic thought.

So specifically meditating and trying to meditate with the hope that your mind will be free of thought is not good. You should not meditate in that way.

Let mind be as it is and post a lookout.

As the Karmapa said earlier:

You're supposed to look at it. You shouldn't specifically grasp that thought-free mind. You shouldn't specifically make an effort to have a thought-free mind. Don’t try too hard. You don't specifically abandon thoughts. That means if a thought occurs, if there's something you need to do to get rid of it, something you need to do to abandon it, you shouldn't do that either. Just let the mind rest as it is without changing at all, no matter what the mind is like, no matter what thoughts occur. Let it be as it is, in whatever its nature, in whatever situation it is. Leave it as it is. And when you leave it there, you should not let yourself be distracted. When you rest there, sometimes if our awareness is not clear, we get distracted, our mindfulness and awareness are not clear. That is not good. So instead of trying to change the mind, you need to relax, let it be as it is, with just mindfulness and awareness.

Your meditation will reach the pith of shamatha.

When all thoughts and afflictions naturally subside, and the mind naturally rests in a thought-free state, this is shamatha meditation.

The actual meaning is you need to receive instruction from someone who has experienced it. It’s not something I can teach. Also, instructions on such an experiential meditation should only be given to a few superior individuals. Otherwise, it won’t work. So that is the completion of the instructions on shamatha.

Then the Karmapa continued with the reading transmission of the section on insight from the Hundred Short Instructions:

The nonsense of, as is said these days, saying that the unaltered mind naturally settling is shamatha is the type of talk that makes all those who want the liberation of knowing the secret points of the true dharma cry and shed tears when they hear it.

The essence of the prajna or insight that becomes the path to buddhahood is engaging all that is knowable and, having engaged all that is knowable, fully discerning all phenomena. It focuses on and engages in the five sciences of Buddhist science, logic, healing, grammar, and the arts and crafts.

To classify it, there are two types of the bodhisattvas’ prajna, worldly and supramundane. They should be viewed, in summary, as three types: realization of the suchness of the knowable, being learned in the five sciences and the three categories and benefiting beings.

The first begins with ineffable selflessness of dharmas. It is resting in supreme peace when the truth is to be realized, being realized, or has been realized. It is thought-free, free of all elaborations, and engages the great universal characteristic of equality that is consequent to all phenomena. It has reached the end of knowledge and eliminated the two extremes of projection and denial. Thus, it is the path of the Middle Way.

The second is being learned in the five sciences and three categories—being learned in the categories of phenomena that are meaningful, meaningless, and neither meaningful nor meaningless. Benefiting sentient beings is the prajna of being skilled in the Mahayana activity of the great noble beings.

The capacity of such prajna or wisdom to permanently discard the seeds of the discards of seeing depends upon the prajna born of meditation elicited by the superior samadhi of shamatha. As the Great Regent said:

After achieving the utterly pure fourth dhyana,
One rests in thought-free wisdom.

Lord Milarepa said:

Without clinging to the pool of shamatha,
May the flower of insight grow.

Thus, the view of the prajna of listening and contemplation can suppress manifest discards but can never discard their seeds. Therefore, the Tokden Shamarpa said in a song:

No matter how fine your philosophical view,
It’s wrong about the nature of reality.

Then, regarding the prajna born of meditation:

The empty expanse of mind that cannot be identified;
The ways of awareness, unceasingly clear;
The empty, luminous nakedness free of intellect:
While letting this be, look at yourself.
Your meditation will reach the pith of insight.

In this way, once you have determined that all phenomena are nothing but mere mind and are not established by their own essence, you should consider whether this merely clear, merely aware mind exists as a thing or as nothing. If it exists as a thing, it is impermanent, because it functions. If it is impermanent, it must perish even as it arises, and if it perishes as it arises, then arising appears to occur even as it does not. Therefore, it is proven to be unborn. That which perishes as it arises cannot function, because it does not perform an action that is different from itself. If it perishes as it arises, it does not arise, so it also does not cease.

If it is nonexistent as nothingness, it is impossible for it to be knowable, but it is proven by the mind, experience, and self-awareness of ordinary and noble beings. The nonexistence of nothing is merely an object fixated on by projection, but nothingness cannot be seen or realized by anyone, ordinary or special.

Therefore, this destroys all categories for identifying the phenomenal nature of emptiness and the phenomenal natural luminous mind as being in essence, be it existent or non-existent, permanent or impermanent, thing or nothing, common or impermanent, resting in that which is, in terms of difference being negated, the same as this eradicates the seeds and latencies that was called the cause, expanse of object or family of all noble individuals.

Thus, the mind stream of indivisible awareness and expanse has been unceasing from the period of being a sentient being in beginningless samsara. When one awakens to unsurpassed, completely perfect buddhahood, the pure fruit of it transforms into wisdom that knows things as they are and in their multiplicity. It is the highest all-aware omniscience, unobscured, mirror-like wisdom of a luminous nature.

“The ways of awareness” means the infinite boundless ways of the body, samadhis and unhindered knowledges.

With this in mind, Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa said:

Nothing appears to the greatest of humans.
He knows all from the expanse of wisdom.

At such a time, from their own perspective, perfect buddhas are free of any cognition that engages or discards knowable objects and the knowing subject, so nothing appears to them, because it would by nature be the darkness of ignorance. “Luminous great emptiness” are merely synonyms.
“Nakedness” means that it is evident, free of any covering. Therefore, during the thought-free wisdom of the path of seeing, let the objects (the four truths) be, and look at yourself with the subject, the prajna realizes the selflessness of phenomena. As Maitreya said:

The internal sacred dharmakaya
Will be seen with the eye of wisdom.

At that point, the ability to display the twelve hundred qualities and so forth is merely in accord with the path of the transcendences. In terms of the path of seeing of the supreme siddhi of mahamudra, such qualities are hardly even a fraction of the causes, examples, or number.

These days, some claim, “I have realized the wide-open knowledge of the mahamudra path of means, but I don’t have any qualities, because I have not sought them out.” To you who, not believing in karmic cause and effect, seek material gain and fool yourself about the supreme human qualities, I say, “O dear, that is true. Accepting your faults out of your own deluded nature is to ruin yourself with everything ruinous.”

Regarding the insight of seeing one’s nature, in the Kagyu tradition of Gampopa, seeing the nature of mind is the thought-free wisdom of the path of seeing, and merely seeing the mind’s surface is the wisdom of warmth on the path of joining. Some Dakpo Kagyu gurus call them the wisdom of experience and wisdom of realization. When compared with the unexcelled mantra, it would be acceptable to correlate them with the analogous wisdom and actual wisdom.

Following the wisdom of the path of seeing, are the nine levels of the path of meditation, the lesser, medium, and greater latencies of the cognitive and afflictive obscurations are all divided into three sets each and must be abandoned through the nine undefiled paths of no obstacles. For this reason:

Post undistracted mindfulness as a lookout.
Don’t alter the nature of nonmeditation.
Don’t wish to talk about inconceivable awareness.
Sustain experience giving it free reign, undistorted
By conceptual consideration and examination.
You will see meditation’s own, unelaborate nature.

In the samadhi of the equality of all phenomena having attributes, no characteristics, no origin, and no arising; being void, primordially pure, and unelaborate; lacking anything to accept or reject; being the same as illusions and so forth; and the indivisibility of real and unreal, post the lookout of undistracted mindfulness. This means having confidence in each instant in the foundation of mindfulness of the words, meanings, dharma, and dharanis of secret mantra within the inconceivable engagements of the manners of samadhi.

Without meditating on any attributes of samsara or nirvana, anything that is not the absolute is merely a projection on the nature. Because it is not the nature, it is not correct to change it with anything. It is not categorically unproduced in being a negation of being produced that cannot possibly cease. There is nothing in it to be known and thus nothing that knows, either. So, what could be known through words and thought? Instead of distorting the worldly post-meditation elicited by such equipoise by considering and examining it, sustain it freely, like an illusion or dream.

At that time, the mother-like wisdom of the sixth level and the child-like wisdom of the first five levels mix as a single flavor. Prajna eliminates the extreme of samsara, and compassion eliminates the extreme of nirvana, so through the equality that is free of all complications of existence and peace, you should not dwell in either extreme. On the sixth level, you can rest in equipoise in the great cessation of suchness free of the two extremes. As Chandrakirti writes:

On the Approach, their minds abide in equipoise,
And they approach the qualities of perfect buddhahood.
Here, they see the suchness of interdependence,
And, through abiding in prajna, will attain cessation.

On the seventh level, they have the great power to enter and arise from that cessation in each instant. As Chandrakirti writes:

Here on Gone Far Beyond, the bodhisattvas
Can enter into cessation in each moment.
They also attain blazing transcendent means.

Even for noble bodhisattvas, this meditation of the cessation of all elaborations about the highest truth is extremely difficult to attain.

These days, some have written a new song by Milarepa:

Marmots meditate on cessation.
Crows do the vajra recitation.

They assert that the absorption of cessation and the like are pitfalls for enlightenment and liberation. But there is no danger that such children of noble family will stray into such pitfalls by sustaining the crucial points in that way.

The Karmapa stopped the reading transmission at this point and began an explanation of what Mikyӧ Dorje had written regarding the Instructions on Insight.
According to the outline in the commentary by Bar Rawa Gyaltsen Palsang, this has two parts: 1. Teaching the nature; 2. Teaching how to look at it.

1. Teaching the nature

The empty expanse of mind that cannot be identified;
The ways of awareness, unceasingly clear;
The empty, luminous nakedness free of intellect:

These three lines teach the nature of insight.

The Karmapa then gave an explanation of these words:

The empty expanse of mind that cannot be identified.

Usually when we consider what something is like, we think about its shape, color, about scent, food, flavor, taste, or what it feels like to the touch.  If we ask if the mind is a thing that exists substantially, it is not. We can’t describe it like a phone, or shoes or clothes— it doesn’t exist like a thing. We might think it is a feeling. But it is not. A feeling is just a function of the senses without thinking about it, so that is not all it is. Pleasant or unpleasant feelings are functions of the faculties of the mind; it’s difficult to think of the mind as only that.

So, is mind just thinking and thoughts? The mind has other functions beside thinking, it has many different functions. It has vast aspects, so it is not merely thought and thinking, but we cannot identify it as “this is its real essence or nature,” or “this is its nature.” There’s nothing to be found, so in this respect it is emptiness. It is the emptiness of mind that cannot be identified. This is difficult, right?

It's difficult to identify the mind. We don’t need to speak about it in terms of science, we describe it in terms of experience.

The ways of awareness, unceasingly clear

Although the nature of mind is empty, the aspects or functions of mind can be unceasing. The emptiness of mind does not prevent the aspect or functions from occurring. The reason for this is that appearance is the same in essence as emptiness of the mind: it is merely appearing, its nature is empty. It is empty, like the back and front of an Indian roti. Emptiness also cannot be established outside of appearance. The difference between the essence and the aspect is like the two sides of roti, it is not like the right and left horns of a yak. They are not completely different things.

The empty, luminous nakedness free of intellect:

The actual nature of mind is as said in the “Ganges Mahamudra:”

The meaning beyond mind is not seen with mental dharmas.

Our present ordinary mind transcends everything. Such inseparable appearance and emptiness, the nakedness of the mind has no duality of subject and object, or the vivid clarity is what is meant here.

2. Teaching how to look at it

The two lines on how to look:

While letting this be, look at yourself.
Your meditation will reach the pith of insight.

This is the method of how to look at the mind. Whatever the nature or state of the mind itself, do not alter it, do not fabricate or be distracted, just rest naturally in that state, however it is, without mentally wandering. Without any division of “this is what I’m looking at; this is the looker.” There should be no distinction between the looker and what’s looked at. You must look at the nondual nature as much as you can. By looking in such a way, at some point you will see the dharma nature in a manner without any seeing, with clear insight, without the duality of subject and object. This is how you look during insight.

3. Meditation on Freedom from Elaborations

This has two topics: 1. Teaching undistracted meditation   2. Teaching that it is ineffable, inconceivable, and indescribable.

1. Teaching undistracted meditation.

Post undistracted mindfulness as a lookout.

The root text in Yangönpa’s Collected Songs reads, “Don’t lose the lookout of undistracted mindfulness.” The lines are a bit different. As explained in Yangönpa, rest naturally without altering it, whatever the nature is, however it is, without being distracted. In addition to resting naturally without altering, apply the power of mindfulness as a sentry against being distracted. You must not lose this lookout.  This is a level of mindfulness and awareness. You must not let that diminish. Whether your meditation is good or bad depends on whether it is caught by mindfulness or not. Mindfulness is extremely important. If you catch sight of the essence of meditation but do not catch it with mindfulness, there is the danger you will slip into ordinariness. In particular, during post-meditation, if you lack mindfulness, your mind stream will become ordinary, and you will not be able to take your actions as the path. Therefore, applying mindfulness and awareness is the foundation of qualities.

Don’t alter the nature of nonmeditation.

Aside from leaving the mind itself natural, there is no special focus of, “I need to meditate on this in my mind.” Rest evenly, free of the elaborations of mentally acting on the nature of the mind. Without specifically mentally fabricating something, or nothing, or changing anything. But instead, and without any alteration, rest and relax, letting go. Without any mental work, let it go completely. Without any antidote, relax and rest. Without any holding, rest freely. Without letting go, you should sustain the lookout of mindfulness. You should not be too tight or too loose. You need to have the perfect moderate attention in the mind.

2. Teaching that it is ineffable, inconceivable, and indescribable.

Don’t wish to talk about inconceivable awareness.
Sustain experience evenly, undistorted
By conceptual consideration and examination.
You will see meditation’s own, unelaborate nature.
   Don’t wish to talk about inconceivable awareness.

This means that, after sustaining the mind essence as above, do not speak much about the inconceivable nature of the mind, saying it's this or it's that. You don't need to think about that. Also, you don't need to speak a lot about that. If you think about it, and you think, “Is it this?” or “Is it that?” and you talk about it a lot, then there's a danger that you are going to make either projections or denials about the nature of how things are. It creates an obstacle to seeing the nature as it is.

Sustain experience evenly, undistorted
By conceptual consideration and examination.

With these instead of saying, “This is the mind, this is emptiness, this transcends mind, this is unborn, this is free of extremes,” if you think about it too much, then this is a pitfall of meditation. Don’t think of it as something “I need to do.”

Sustain experience, giving it free rein.
Undistorted by conceptual examination.

When it says: “Sustain experience, giving it free rein,” it means to let the mind go wherever it goes. Someday, you will see the elaborate nature of the mind. Do not examine it too much, thinking, “This is emptiness, this transcends mind, this is unborn, this is free of extremes.” Do not do much evaluation of it as “This is a pitfall. This must be accomplished.” “Giving it free rein,” means letting it go wherever it pleases. However, you must never be free of mindfulness. By meditating in this way, the superior experience of the unelaborate arises in your being.

The words in Yangönpa’s Collected Songs read, “The mother and child freedom from elaborations will meet.” This means that when meditating on the path, the wisdom realizing the freedom from elaborations and the unelaborate object will, like water poured into water, come together like a mother and child.

The Karmapa said this was a brief explanation of the text, and gave some details about Gyalwa Yangönpa’s life:

When Gyalwang Yangönpa was very young, he naturally had the prajna to meditate. He had a natural ability and started meditating at the age of five. He was able to rest in meditation and sustain the essence for a very long time. His father had guided him when he was very young, probably before he was even born. His mother and sister were extremely worried when they cared for him because a five-year-old was sitting like an adult. They thought he was possessed by a spirit, so something was wrong in his body, because his winds and pranas had gone wrong. They decided they would do anything they could to stop him meditating. Gyalwa Yangönpa himself said he hadn’t met an experienced lama to receive any experiential instructions. If he had, he would have immediately been able to sustain the essence of meditation, but his mother and sister became an obstacle to developing realization.     

The Karmapa then began to speak about insight and shamatha meditation generally and its connection with mahamudra meditation:

Firstly, it was necessary to speak about the union of shamatha and insight. He related how this topic was clearly explained in the life story of Lama Shang Tsondru Drakpa, founder of the Tsalpa Kagyu, and how he developed realization:

When Lama Shang was thirty-three, he met Gampopa’s nephew Dakgom Tsultrim Nyingpo. As soon as they met, Tsultrim Nyingpo gave him the pith instructions on co-emergent union. Co-emergent meditation is a little different from mahamudra, but he received this first. The co-emergent mahamudra instructions are at the beginning of Mikyö Dorje’s Instructions on the Seven Points.

When Lama Shang Tsondru Drakpa first meditated on this, he saw that he had flaws. What he saw was that until the time he was 33 years old, he had received teachings from many different gurus and done a fair amount of listening and contemplation. He had meditated a great deal. But he realized that all his meditation previously had been directed outward, so it was incorrect. He thought, “Now I need to determine what is the meditator.”

From a different perspective, he was delighted because he had received profound instructions. However, when meditating on co-emergent union, he could not distinguish the borderline between experience and realization, so he went to ask, “What is experience and what is realization?”  His guru replied, “Supplicate with extreme fervor. Supplicate the guru. I have the hope that this dharma of mine has the blessings of the guru to produce realization. Now you need to supplicate with great fervor. Then practice mahamudra.”

Then he was given instructions in mahamudra. When given the actual instructions on mahamudra, all the experiences were different from before. By meditating on that, a kind of prajna or wisdom occurred. He thought, “That’s how it is. It’s like that,” He asked the guru who said, “Don’t examine it. Examining it will obscure it.”

By continuing to meditate, as he went deeper, he realized that his previous ‘realizations’ were just thoughts, they weren’t actual true realizations. When he realized that, he stopped following them. He relaxed and rested without following them, and realization naturally arose from deep within. Unlike all his previous realizations, these were completely different.

The borderline between experience and realization became completely clear, and he understood that all his realizations had been mere understanding, examinations, and words. There was no difference from the earlier in terms of words, but he understood them as mere words, mere understanding, not real realization. He realized then that previously his mind and the meaning were not mixed, all his previous realizations were like the outer husk. There was a separation between subject and object, a distance between the two. As the outer husk, they were not the actual thing.

Now that they had mixed fully with the meaning, he developed certainty from deep within. How did this realization come about? While in a state of resting without altering the mind, many thoughts occurred. Instead of following them, he relaxed and rested, so those prajnas that were not real realizations disappeared on their own. He saw the nature of mind that is free of arising, ceasing, and enduring.

Only then did he have this subtle wisdom. This subtle prajna had become manifest and visible. Lama Shang Tsondru Drakpa was very well known in Tibet, and this is what he wrote in his own life story.

The Karmapa concluded the teaching by saying there was quite a bit to understand. He said this would be enough for the day and thanked everyone.