Meditation: layers of instruction and insight

Milarepa is one of many enlightened human beings to have shared instructions with those who requested it. He is also one who always responded in song and verse. Rumi did similar – maybe without the melody – and one can almost hear cadence in the Tao te Ching.

Milarepa gave similar instructions over and over again, but rarely repeated a phrase. That’s amazing considering that Mila was said to spontaneously create over 1000 songs during his life. The Milarepa Kumbum (Thousand Songs of Milarepa) is a classic text in Tibet. Several songs are known by heart by the common folk, often for their humor, and various of them are used as meditation instruction in all four primary Tibetan Buddhist sects. The latter is because each phrase and line provide layers of meditation instruction for on and off the cushion, which is why we are using part of a song as well.

Milarepa’s guidance always a blends shamatha and vipashyana, serenity and insight. For example, each sentence in the current selection begins with direction to the practitioner to  “look.” “Look” implies perception, perceiver, and the object that one senses, perceives, or deduces. It is a vipashyana instruction. Looking should never be casual or simply a habit of consciousness. Instead, it could be a constant deconstruction of the habits of mind while simultaneously revealing the luminous emptiness of all that appears and appears to exist.

Next in each sentence, Mila instructs “practice meditation” in such and such a way. Each is designed to support tranquility/serenity while at the same time hold the practitioner accountable for all naming and labeling that are the constructs of common reality. For example, “without fringe or center.” Not only is the mind without such but, if one’s awareness-mind is not naming and labeling, looking for or rejecting what rolls around inside the mind, then mind can be experienced as without fringe or center. In fact, the idea of location, in and out, or other references of this type are recognized (“look”) as the bones of perception that they are. Other references are also, but this instruction focuses on those.

This is merely the outer and obvious level of instruction within this one sentence. There more refined layers and levels of instruction within each sentence.

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About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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