Two qualities to develop; resting and looking (from Heart Sutra 04) 00:00:00.00 - 00:13:35.50)
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This morning I talked about two qualities in meditation, resting and looking. They’re intimately related, and they’re both very important. Resting doesn’t mean sitting still. It doesn’t mean holding a posture. It means resting. It’s fine to work hard at your practice and to push yourself very, very hard. But only if there’s an element of softness in your practice. Once you become hard there is no quality of resting. And the consequence of that will be that something breaks. It’s not terribly good for things to break in practice. They’re quite hard, often impossible to repair. I know because I’ve seen enough of it.Kalu Rinpoche used to talk about how they stored liquids in Tibet. Store them in leather bags. Fill a bag with water and over time it would become hard. And when it started to become hard it was in danger of cracking, thus leaking. So when the leather became stiff and hard, before it cracked, it was reworked and became soft. Then you could carry water in it again without fear. Other leather bags were used for carrying butter. The oil and the grease from the butter gradually impregnated the leather, and the leather became very hard and very stiff. But no amount of kneading made it soft. When the bags came to that point they had to be thrown away. And he said, “Never let your mind become like that.” It’s very, very important.
So as long as there’s an element of softness, of resilience, not just hardness, then it’s fine to push in your practice. But when things become hard inside and outside then it’s a time to stop. Take a break. Rest. Yes?
Student: How do people see that themselves?
Ken: It’s a very important—how do people see that themselves—it’s a very important skill to learn. It’s very important to tell when you’re pushing too hard and to learn how to back off. And if you have ambition and little things like that in you, those parts of you can continue to run even when you’ve backed off, so it can get a little tricky. That’s why I’m mentioning it. Because I’ve seen enough of the harm which comes from this and it’s pretty serious. Resting also doesn’t mean just going [Ken gestures/acts]. There’s an awake quality in resting, and that form of resting is a more complete rest than being asleep. Quite literally, it’s more restful. So cultivating this relationship with resting is very important. But by itself it’s not enough.
We also have to learn to look. Because there’s an element of seeing, and you simply can’t see if you don’t look. Unfortunately, the way most people look falls into two categories so they’re somewhat related. One is to step back and look. Become the observer. This is not conducive at all. In mahamudra tradition in which I was trained, we make no use of the observer at all. We regard it as a distraction. I know in other traditions such as the Gelugpa and the Theravadan it’s regarded as very important. We regard it as a distraction. You have to learn how to look while you are in the experience. You aren’t looking at the experience; you are looking in the experience. That’s a little different.
The other problem that many people fall into with looking, we can call the attorney problem. No offence to any attorneys who may be here. I have several in retreat. They regularly take offence [unclear]…it works out…and among my students. Inexperienced and unskilled attorneys do not know when to stop asking questions. They ask too many questions. And that’s what often happens with people who look. Because we develop the quality of looking by asking questions. I asked a few questions today; they caused you to look in certain ways. But once you’re looking, the question doesn’t help you do any more. You rest in the looking. That’s very important.
So, I asked this morning, “What experiences all of this?” And you look. And it’s just like asking, “What’s that up there?” And people don’t go, “I wonder what that is up there? Hmmm?” You don’t think about it, you look. And that’s the quality that you want in the practice. You look; and then you rest in the looking. Putting those two things together is very, very important. When you can rest in the looking and look in the resting, then you’re practicing the perfection of wisdom. Because what do you see when you look? Anybody. What do you…what do you say there? Kent.
Kent: Yeah, not much.
Ken: Well, I think you have to go a little further than that. What do you see when you look? Not much.
Kent: I mean there’s nothing you can really identify. So just to look in itself…
Ken: What do you see when you look? I don’t think it is “not much.” What do you see?
Kent: I see you. [Laughter]
Ken: Look at your mind. What do you see? Anybody?
Ken: Nothing. You see nothing whatsoever. How long can you look at nothing whatsoever?