Karmapa's answer to the topic of visualization - 30.08.2020

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Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, continues to respond to students’ questions, this time on the proper understanding of all the colourful 'forms' and elaborate visualisations we have in Vajrayana.

If there is a purpose for these colourful ‘forms’, I see it as similar to child’s play, in the most genuine and respectful way.

Children do all sorts of things that don’t make sense to adults.

They pull funny faces.

They run and crawl like wild animals.

They produce screeching noises that are beyond our imitation.

We as adults, no matter how noble or sophisticated we think we are, deep down we are curious about children, as if they are some sort of aliens.

Curious about how these little beings can be that way.

Beneath our uptight demeanours, we would like to tread the children’s path.

But we dare not. No, no!!

That would be foolish, we think.

That would be embarrassing.

We would lose our dignity and divinity. How truly childish of us!

Granted, caring for the feelings of others is a code-like discipline for Bodhisattvas.

Bodhisattvas do respect society. That’s why, in general, Bodhisattvas carry themselves in society in a humble way.

It’s important not to mistake this point to mean that Bodhisattvas suppress their feelings in any way. They see that there is nothing inherent to suppress, so it is not a question of them feeling embarrassed if they were to express themselves openly. However, they behave respectfully and humbly out of care for others who may still have such notions and inhibitions.

But at least to themselves, the way they feel about themselves does not need to be restricted.

So perhaps the benefit of practicing Buddhism is that the methods of all of the yanas have the quality to liberate our own selves to be childish.

That’s the purpose of these practices, without a set goal.

That’s why, whether these colourful methods are colourful or not, to me they are interesting.

There are no set goals to come into contact with the Divine – such as the Buddhas – through mystical means.

Such means are not even mystical – they are just playful, childish means, if you like, to let go of our self-clinging.

Just look at what the trees are doing, and at what the clouds are doing – you just can’t ascribe a purpose to their play.

That’s what genuine meditators see.

They see them as guidelines.

We don’t have to be worried that we will somehow lose our Buddhist essence if we open up to our own self.

Seemingly pleasant experiences are not goals to hang on to.

No children do that.

They look like they enjoy one thing, and in the very next moment they move on to another.

Even if we feel that we have gained an idea about what they like to experience, that idea can’t really be re-used to please them, because they aren’t dependent on those pleasant experiences as a set goal.

Palaces of light - aren’t such points of view interesting?  

Palaces made of sand – or rather, ‘palaces of sand’, not ‘made of sand’, are truly palaces of light.

They are as bright and vivid as they can ever get.

Light and holographic, they can’t be grasped.

If you do grasp them, however, they vanish into miniature dunes.

That’s exactly what these visualisations and methods are like: they can’t be touched, even though they seem catchable.

That’s why or how we practice, gently guiding the sand into shapes, without fixed motives, letting them settle in whichever form they take, then letting them be.

To practice such methods in the comfort of our home or in our literal or symbolic caves.

Caves carved by this pandemic, if you will.

Boundaries that have no real boundary.

We meditate, we sync with the flow of our karma as day and night flows.

As the hours and the minutes and the seconds tick by.  

To see how creative or fluid we can become.

Without the worries to save others and ourselves, yet saving nonetheless, by not saving as a solid set goal.

Maybe this is the way that you and I can understand these colourful means.


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