Note: This blog is part of a series sharing the teachings of the Atisha's Lojong Root Verses on Training the Mind as shared by Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo in London May 28 & 29, 2016. These are not transcriptions of the lectures, rather a collection of her thoughts sewn together.
1. The Supreme understanding is to realize the meaning of selflessness.
We are not who we think we are, and with some investigation we can find out.
"All genuine spiritual traditions recognize that we are far more than we recognize ourselves to be and our small self is blocking our realization of our true nature.” ~ Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
The ego solidifies everything, causing us to believe that we are unique, permanent and enduring. This concept of a ‘Me’ produces a sense of “not-Me” or “other”. This sense of separation causes suffering.
Yet the ego itself is not the problem. In fact, a strong healthy and balanced ego is incredibly useful and necessary in order to embark on any spiritual quest. The mischief simply comes when she is not in her correct place.
“The way we perceive our reality is based on delusion. We don’t see things as they really are.” ~ Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
We have a sense of “I”, but if we try to look for this ‘I”, It can never really be found. And yet, because of our attachment to our sense of ourselves, we are constantly trying to attract to us that which is pleasant and ward off that which is unpleasant. We become frustrated in this pursuit and are tortured by the phrase, “if only”. “If only I had more money, I would be happy.” “If only I were thinner, I would be happy.” “If only I was married (or divorced), I would be happy.” The “I” is given a concrete existence as a center of our state of mind.
There are four foundations of establishing mindfulness:
- Contemplation of the body
- Contemplation of the feelings
- Contemplation of consciousness
- Contemplation of the mental objects
With study of these four areas, we can come to see that there is no permanent or enduring state. Yet, because our single individual thoughts move at such a breakneck speed, it seems like there is a continuity, like we are watching a movie, and we are the star. The plot of “I” depends on a past and future, and yet the past and future are mental fabrications.
“The ego cannot live in the naked present.” ~ Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
The twist is that it is our egos who are walking the path. It is our sense of I and the belief that we can “better” ourselves that brings us to meditation retreats, sits us on the cushion, reads the teachings and such.
Therefore, while the whole spiritual practice is to dissolve the grip of the ego, our “progress” relies on it’s engagement. She is our primary tool and friend on the path.
Just like if we have a broken arm, we protect the arm and give all our attention to it, if our ego is injured or in pain, then our guard is up, we become obsessed, and we can think of nothing else.
So, step one is develop a strong sense of self which is good and helpful. “A happy balanced sense of self,” recommends Jetsumna.
We must become friends with ourselves so our ego has the courage to walk the path towards her own dissolution. As this happens, our obsession with ourselves begins to loosen and we can start to see more clearly. This dissolution happens naturally as we inwardly integrate.
Jetsumna suggests the samatha practice to feel whole and healthy, followed by the vipassana practice to begin the dissection.