GOING BEYOND MINDFULNESS - Meditation: The Journey Deeper into Pristine Mind - Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)

Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)


Meditation: The Journey Deeper into Pristine Mind

Perceiving who you really are is realization.

Abiding in who you really are is meditation.

—Mipham Rinpoche


IN PART ONE, I addressed how our fundamental nature is pristine, but it is obscured by the experiences of our ordinary mind—our thoughts, emotions, belief systems, and ideas making up the mental events that form our concept of who we are. We are stuck in our mental events and develop ego, an unhealthy sense of self that obstructs us from the true core of our existence. We have lost touch with our Pristine Mind.

In part two, I explained how, through Pristine Mind meditation, we can directly perceive, experientially, the pristine nature of our mind. We developed our understanding of three fundamental realizations of Pristine Mind: who we really are—our Pristine Mind; who we are not—our ordinary mind filled with transitory mental events; and the illusory nature of our mental events.

Now that we have an understanding of Pristine Mind and an experience of the true nature of our reality, it is time to journey more deeply into it, to become really familiar with Pristine Mind and the vast, profound experience of the pristine nature of our mind. This is the subject of part three.


First we must calm and stabilize the mind.

Initially, the winds of mental events blow through our minds incessantly with such strength that our minds are taken everywhere and anywhere by those rough winds. Before we can access Pristine Mind, we must quiet these gusty winds of thoughts and emotions. The technique for calming and stabilizing the mind is called calm abiding meditation, known popularly as mindfulness meditation.

The Buddha taught mindfulness meditation as a technique for beginners. It is a meditation practice that calms the mind by focusing on an object and abiding in the present moment. It is not the same as Pristine Mind meditation, but it lays a foundation for Pristine Mind meditation.

There are many forms of mindfulness meditation. One common method is to concentrate on the breath. To begin, sit down comfortably and relax your body, speech, and mind—this is the way we start any form of meditation. Then focus your attention on the sensation of inhalation and exhalation. When you inhale, focus on the sensation of inhaling. Do not focus on any other object or events of mind. When you exhale, focus on the sensation of exhaling and nothing else.

After ten or twenty minutes of continuously focusing on the present moment of the breath, the powerful inner winds that drive our mind in its chaotic activity soften, and the frequency and intensity of our thoughts and emotions decrease. Our mental events, while still present, slow down and are less all-consuming. Gradually, we are able to abide quite naturally in that more relaxed and stable condition. We become more present. This is the experience of calm abiding, which is the goal of mindfulness meditation.

Another, similar technique for mindfulness meditation is counting the breath. When we inhale, we silently count “one.” When we exhale, we silently count “two.” When we inhale again, we count “three.” When we exhale, we count “four.” We continue counting our breaths up to fifty or one hundred, or to whatever number we like, and then we start over again. If we lose track, we start again from the beginning or wherever we like. When we focus on counting the breath, our mind is focused on a single object and other mental events fall away. Our mind becomes more and more still.

Both of these methods, with practice, succeed in calming the mind and reducing the distorting mental events of our ordinary mind. As you will see, when your mind is fully focused on the breath as the object, other mental events have no opportunity to arise, and thus the mind is less vulnerable to the willy-nilly tendencies of the mind when it is left without a focus. Jealous thoughts, for example, cannot take hold in our mind because they need an object of jealousy. In the same way, unhappy thoughts cannot survive because they need an object of unhappiness if they are to flourish. All our mental disturbances in this concentrated state subside because we do not focus on the things that stir these emotions. When we remain with our mind concentrated on one thing, such as the breath, we experience our mind slowly becoming calmer and clearer.

Another technique for mindfulness meditation is to focus on a physical object, such as a flower, an image, or a letter. For example the letter A, B, or C can be used. The Tibetan letter Ah is traditionally used as an object of attention for this type of meditation. By remaining focused on the object, we do not let our attention go to anything else and do not let our thoughts move in any other direction. If we start having a thought that distracts us from the object, we just gently bring our attention back to the object, because if we follow the first thought, then another will come, then another, and we will completely forget about the object of our meditation. When the thought comes, we just recognize this fact and bring the mind back to the object.

With any of these techniques, we achieve the same goal: our mind slowly becomes more present and less distracted or obscured by mental events. We then have greater control over our mind. Without meditation, our mind is scattered and lacks sufficient discipline. It is very difficult to function truly effectively with this kind of disorderly mind no matter how hard we struggle. The chaotic functioning of our mind leads us to confused, ineffectual, and unhappy states of mind.

You will gradually begin to notice as you meditate more and more that anytime you are angry, unhappy, stressed, fearful, upset, or jealous, it is almost always because your mind is scattered, wild, and driven by impulses. As these mental events snowball, all kinds of information swirl around and all kinds of emotions are triggered. Patterns emerge and create repetitive tendencies based on what are really just disorganized activities of our minds. Thousands of emotions, hundreds of beliefs, millions of thoughts, emerge because our minds stray from the present moment. In this interior environment, it is almost impossible to find any calm, relaxation, joy, or clarity. Everything is chaotic. Most important, these mental activities, accumulations of thoughts and emotions, and habits cloud over the calm, tranquil state that we access in mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation techniques provide the antidote for this disorderly state of mind. If we do one of these forms of mindfulness meditation for ten, twenty, or thirty minutes every day, the mind soon becomes much calmer. For those who want to study these techniques further, many websites, books, and other sources of information are available. For our purposes here, however, it is simply important to understand that mindfulness meditation is a preparatory step in beginning to uncover our Pristine Mind through Pristine Mind meditation. As valuable as these techniques of calm abiding are, they stop short of the wonderful enlightened experience that is the Pristine Mind experience.

We progress from mindfulness to Pristine Mind meditation once our mind has calmed down. We no longer focus on our breath or any other object. All techniques of attention and focus on any object eventually dissolve, and we just rest in Pristine Mind.

To summarize, in the beginning we use a technique with an object, and then, after our mind is calmed and able to remain fixed on the object without distraction, we let go of the technique. Over time, as our mind becomes naturally calmer, we will need less mindfulness meditation before we switch to the unique features of Pristine Mind meditation.

In the famous work known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava gives lengthy, clear instructions about how we first practice mindfulness meditation to calm the mind, and then embark on Pristine Mind meditation. This process, originally introduced by the Buddha, is a tradition over twenty-five hundred years old and used over many generations to lead countless beings to enlightenment. First calm the mind with focus on the breath or another object; then, once the mind is calm, relaxed, and stable, move into the objectless meditation of Pristine Mind.

Is this two-step process the only way to embark on the Pristine Mind practice? Actually, you can follow this two-step process, or you can go directly to Pristine Mind meditation. Mipham Rinpoche tells us that in a world filled with so much stress, fear, and anxiety, mindfulness techniques such as focusing on the breath may not be effective in calming the mind. Instead, you can start directly with Pristine Mind meditation and get the benefits of both. As Mipham Rinpoche states:

When you practice meditation, you can accomplish it by focusing your attention on an external material object;

You can concentrate attention on the sensation of breath;

Or you can focus on symbols, letters, and the like.

As you become accustomed to this process, you accomplish your meditation.

But in this time of agitated minds and rough emotions—

Where frequent, intense stress constantly rattles like an aggressive snake about to strike—

Even if you try to halt your thoughts, the effect is greater chaos.

Then you may become discouraged and give up your meditation.

When you settle into the unfabricated mind in its own true condition,

You become aware of it and continuously abide in this awareness.

Then even the storm of emotional disturbance does not disrupt you, and you don’t follow it.

The nature of mind, like the sky, goes from clear to clearest.

Thoughts and emotions, like wind, go from calm to calmest.

Then the lake of your awareness becomes undisturbed, clear, and pristine.

You realize all qualities of the union of calm-abiding meditation and Pristine Mind meditation.


What distinguishes Pristine Mind meditation from other kinds of meditation? Unlike other practices, in Pristine Mind meditation, we do not focus on any object. We do not focus on the breath or any other kind of external condition or aid. Instead, we connect with the deeper part of ourselves beyond mental events. We experience our true, flawless mind without any distortions and see that it is a state that is always there. With meditation practice, we gradually realize in a very deep and compelling way that the mind is innately pristine, and we are able to more readily develop the capacity to remain in that pristine state.

In fact, staying in Pristine Mind without any other conditions, without any object or aid, is the actual Pristine Mind meditation. It is objectless meditation. The more we remain in Pristine Mind meditation, the more our Pristine Mind awakens and our experience of Pristine Mind expands and deepens, both during the meditation session and afterward, in daily life. Gradually, with more and more practice, as our experience of Pristine Mind widens and deepens, the difference between our experience in meditation and our experience when we are not in meditation dissolves, and we live more fully in the state of Pristine Mind.

This meditative experience expands into all other areas of our life. It may not happen right away, but gradually the experience of Pristine Mind infuses everything. Once we have allowed the obscurations created by our ordinary mind to dissipate, we directly experience who we really, naturally are.

When we begin Pristine Mind practice, we use the four-step technique given to us by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. Our practice with this technique is used to attain the three aspects of realization discussed in part two. We commonly refer to this as Pristine Mind meditation. Once our realization has taken firm root in our minds, then we abide in Pristine Mind; this abiding is the true Pristine Mind meditation.

Recognizing who we really are is realization. Abiding in our awareness of who we really are, maintaining that experience, is meditation. In Pristine Mind meditation, realization and meditation go together. As Mipham Rinpoche says, “Realization is like your eyes—they let you see who you really are; and meditation is like your legs—they get you from your realization to your ultimate awakening.” Together, realization and meditation are the journey into enlightenment.

The goal is ultimately to become free from all mental events, including all negative emotions, distortions, and pollutions of mind, and to awaken our innermost essence, our natural state of mind—and, in doing so, to uncover enlightenment.

When our awareness becomes completely pristine, then our mental events no longer have the power to divert us from that vivid, clear, flawless state. When we reach that point, there is no anxiety, suffering, or fear in our minds. Those former mental tendencies simply have no more strength. That is the goal of Pristine Mind meditation: to achieve the completely pristine state of mind.

Now I would like to point out a common misperception about the meditation process. While writing this book, I was also taking English lessons. One day my tutor inquired about my occupation, and I told her I was a meditation teacher. She asked, “When you meditate, isn’t it hard to stay awake when you are told to relax with your eyes closed?” I replied, “When we meditate, we don’t close our eyes. We stay alert.” This was quite a revelation for her. She was surprised because her idea was that meditation is a form of relaxation, in which we simply close our eyes and feel peaceful. While this may feel good or even have some health benefits, it is not what we are talking about, and it will not lead to the experience of Pristine Mind. Some forms of meditation are intended merely to relax the mind and reduce stress, but the forms of meditation taught by the Buddha are much more than that.

True meditation is not a temporary rest. When we are meditating only to pursue momentary peace, it is not a life-changing practice. It is really not much more than a good nap. When we talk about Pristine Mind meditation, it is much more than a nap. It is designed to access our mind in a way that transforms all areas of our life. When done properly, real meditation leads to unconditional happiness—a completely flawless and pristine state of mind.