Thoughts Arise and Disappear at the Same Time
For a senior meditator, the primary activity of meditation is to be attentive to every conceptual thought and to seek to discover its true nature. In a state of deep concentration, can you detect your gross and subtle levels of thought and break your dualistic pattern?
Khenpo, during my meditation practice my thoughts are usually all over the place, and I’m not very successful. But sometimes I have some stillness and some awareness of the way my thoughts move. Frequently I find I still hold onto the thought that, “Now I’m meditating,” and that becomes another kind of a concept, a concept of meditating. I am wondering if you have some advice about that.
As far as practice goes, I have the perspective of having studied the Dharma for more than 30 years. I feel very happy that I have been able to study so much Dharma in my short lifetime. However, purely theoretical study is actually not enough. Genuine practice is of great importance. I myself haven’t devoted too much time to meditation and always seek to deepen my own meditation practice by going on retreat when I have the time.
Professor Bogin said he felt that he couldn’t go deeper into meditation, but I imagine that he’s probably being quite humble when he says that. Based on his teaching and theoretical experience, this is not hollow praise, as he unquestionably has a deep understanding of the Dharma. As for the question about the subtlety of thoughts in meditation, this is elaborated on in many texts of Vajrayana practice. If we cannot recognize the nature of the mind, then we still have the concept of the watcher and the watched. This is our habitual pattern.
But when we observe the nature of the mind, a conceptual thought that arises is usually like a rising wave, which even though it seems to be a separate object is made from the same water that is within the ocean. A rising thought disappears as immediately as it arises. It arises and disappears at exactly the same time. This is elaborated in great detail in the Dzogchen teachings. At first there are both gross and subtle levels of thought, like the water of a steep waterfall or that of a flowing river. Gradually it will be like the still water of a calm ocean. At that point, all the waves of thought are quieted down. Observing the nature of thought is a special instruction that can completely eliminate subtle thoughts. But this requires a long-term dedication to meditation.