The Vajra Essence

Phase 1: Taking the Impure Mind as the Path

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Phase 1: Taking the Impure Mind as the Path


Identifying the Creator of All Phenomena as the Mind

BODHISATTVA BOUNDLESS GREAT EMPTINESS requested, “O Teacher, Bhagavān, please teach us the profound path that liberates disciples!”

He replied, “O son of the family, entrances to the city of great liberation appear as many avenues of skillful means and wisdom. But ultimately, taking the mind as the path is the quest for the true way. Then, once you have determined the ground, you may take ultimate reality as the path. Between these two options, first, here is the way to take the mind as the path.

“At the outset, disciples who maintain their samayas initially train their minds by way of the common outer preliminaries — namely, the four thoughts that turn the mind40 — and the seven uncommon inner preliminaries.41 Subsequently, the way to follow the progressive path of the main practice is like this: First, retreat to a secluded forest, pray to your guru, and, merging your mind with your guru’s, relax for a little while.

“O Boundless Great Emptiness, among your body, speech, [21] and mind, which is most important? Which is the main agent? Tell me, which is the immutable, autonomous sovereign? Then, to the great benefit of disciples, the acts of teaching and listening and the nature of the instruction will become perfectly clear.”

Bodhisattva Boundless Great Emptiness responded, “O Teacher, Bhagavān, the body is created by the mind. When matter and awareness separate at death, the mind follows after one’s karma, and then it delusively grasps at the appearance of a body once again. Moreover, one’s body in the waking state, one’s body while dreaming, and one’s bodies following this life are all16 created by the self-grasping mind. They are temporary transformations that have never existed except as mere appearances to the mind. Therefore, since the mind is the all-creating sovereign, it is of the utmost importance.

“A mindless body is nothing more than a corpse, so it has no power. When the body and mind separate, experiences of joy and sorrow — reaching up to the state of enlightenment or down to the three realms of saṃsāra — are all due to mental consciousness delusively engaging with objects.42 Therefore the mind is certainly the agent.

“Likewise for speech: Whatever appears to be voiced is nothing more than appearances [22] to the mind. Speech has no existence other than the conceptualizing mind’s creation of the appearance of vocal expressions, so the mind is most important. When the body, speech, and mind are separated, one by one, the mind continues, the body becomes a corpse, and the speech vanishes altogether. Therefore the mind is definitely the most important.

“Here is the way the body, speech, and mind are established as indistinguishable: In the practice of the stage of generation, your own body, speech, and mind are regarded as displays of the vajra body, speech, and mind of your personal deity. In this way, you purify them and attain liberation. If they were separate, both the immutable vajra of the body and the unimpeded vajra of speech would be left behind when the mind was drawn away. Then, when the assembly of the three vajras disintegrated, wouldn’t the deity perish? Therefore, rather than being separate, the many are determined to be of one taste. It follows that these three are none other than the mind: they are ascertained to be the mind alone, and this is the best and highest understanding.”

Establishing the Mind as Baseless and Rootless

Again the Teacher asked, “Do you, as the all-creating sovereign, have form or not? If you do, what type of being’s form does yours resemble? Do you, the sovereign, have eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, and a mind [23] or not? If so, where do they presently exist? What are they? Moreover, is your form round, rectangular, semicircular, triangular, many sided, or some other kind of shape? Are you white, yellow, red, green, or variegated in color? If you are, by all means let me see this directly with my eyes or touch it with my hands!

“If you conclude that none of these exist, you may have fallen to the extreme of nihilism. So consider saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, joys and sorrows, ­appearances and the mind, and all their17 substantial causes, and show me their real nature.”

Boundless Great Emptiness responded, “O Teacher, Bhagavān, the self has no form, so it is empty of form. Likewise, it has no sound, smell, taste, touch, or mind, so it is empty of each of these. It is devoid of shape and color, so it is empty of them. It is certain that the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and mind have no existence apart from lucid, clear consciousness itself. Without nihilistically reducing them to nonexistence, the indeterminate manifestations of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa [24] appear like an illusionist and his illusions. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the agent has only the quality of being unimpeded.”

The Bhagavān asked, “O Vajra of Mind, tell me, when you first arose, what was your source? Did you come from the earth and water, from fire, and from air and space, or did you originate from the four cardinal directions, from the eight directions, or from above or below? Investigate whence you arose and that which arises, and analyze! Likewise, investigate where you are now and what you are, and analyze!

“If this so-called mind were located in the head, when a thorn pierced the foot, for instance, there would be no reason to experience a sharp pain. If it were located in the feet, why would there be pain even if the head and limbs were amputated? Suppose it were located in the body as a whole. In that case, if unbearable regret or misery were to arise in the mind when an external item, such as an article of clothing, a cup, a house, or some other possession, was taken away or destroyed by others, the mind would have to be located in it. If it were located inside the body, there would be no one who identified with things outside. If it were located outside, [25] there would be no one inside to grasp at and cling to the body. If it is presently located in the body, where will it be located when it separates from the body? On what will it depend?

“Directly point out the body, face, and location of the being who is present. Investigate the location and environment, along with the size and so forth, of this being who is in charge. Look! Finally, you must investigate the act of going and the being who goes. So observe the destination, path, and point of departure of the mind — the being doing everything — and watch how it moves. If you see the act of going and the being who goes, show me the size, form, shape, and color of the being who goes.”

Boundless Great Emptiness responded, “O Teacher, Bhagavān, I have no eyes, so there is nothing that appears to me as form. Likewise, I have no ears, so there is nothing that appears to me as sound. I have no nose, so there is nothing that appears to me as smell. I have no tongue, so there is nothing18 that appears to me as taste. I have no body, so there is nothing that appears to me as touch, either.

“Therefore, because I lack the five senses and their appearances, [26] there is no ‘I’ that arises. If the being who arises is not established as being real, then from this time onward, the so-called mind is not established as real either, and is therefore nonexistent. Until now, there should have been something bearing attributes called this being. Since I am unoriginated emptiness, the source of my origination is empty. As for seeking the source, earth is something I have created. Similarly, all phenomena, including water, fire, air, and space, are nothing other than apparitions of self-grasping alone. This implies that the ‘I’ that arises is nowhere to be found.

“I am the nonabiding nature of emptiness, so there is no place I dwell. As for the so-called body: Sores, swelling, goiters, ulcers, and so on may arise on the body that appears in the waking state, but they are not present on the dream body. And sores, swelling, goiters, and ulcers that appear to afflict the body and limbs in a dream are absent in the waking state. During the waking state, the body may be wounded or beaten as punishment by a king, but this does not appear on the dream body. If it happens in a dream, it is not present on the body in the waking state. Similarly, location, environment, and their possessor, whether they appear to be outside or are grasped as being inside, are all nothing more than my own appearances.

“Therefore, [27] I do not abide in either external or internal phenomena, nor do external or internal phenomena abide in me. They are apparitions of self-grasping, like conjury and illusions, but they are not created intentionally, as in the case of an illusionist and his illusions. The self arises, so external appearances arise automatically, but they have no location. Even if you investigate the agent and the destination, the being who moves and the destination have no objective existence, so they do not go with the nature of me and mine.

“All phenomena appear, yet they are not other than the domain of the self. Moreover, as the body, speech, and mind have never existed separately, their appearances are of the same taste. In all waking appearances, dream appearances, and appearances of the hereafter, the body, speech, and mind are indistinguishable from me. So this is certain: the being who goes and the destination are not established as real.”

The Bhagavān commented, “O Vajra of Mind, investigate the dimensions of your so-called mind; then determine and recognize its essential nature. Are external space and the internal mind the same or different? If they are the same, the essential nature of the mind must be space. If they are different, [28] you would have to agree that space in a dream, space in the daytime, and19 space after this life are not the same but different. If the earlier space ceases and the latter types of space arise, one after the other, each space would be subject to transformation, creation, and destruction. In that case, determine the causes and conditions from which they arise. If space actually appears in the daytime due to the sun rising in the morning, doesn’t the sun cause it to appear in a dream and after this life? Or is it the clear light of your own mind? Don’t just give this lip service; instead, penetrate it with certainty.”

Boundless Great Emptiness responded, “O Teacher, Bhagavān, the essential nature of my mind is definitely space. During the daytime, earth, water, fire, air, self, others, form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental objects are displayed in the domain of space, grasped by the conceptual mind. In dream appearances as well, the ground of the mind appears as space, and all physical worlds, their sentient inhabitants, and all sense objects are displayed as they were before. [29] In future lives, too, the essential nature of the mind appears as space, and in that domain all physical worlds, their sentient inhabitants, and all sense objects appear in the same way: they are held by the mind, and one is deluded over and over again.

“Therefore space, self, others, and all sense objects are of one taste — they are certainly not separate. Moreover, it is the luminosity of space itself, and nothing else, that makes appearances manifest. The essential nature of the mind and its ground is space itself. Various appearances occur in the realm of the mind — lucid, clear, ever-present consciousness. The displays of these appearances are like reflections in a mirror or images of planets and stars in a pool of lucid, clear water. Once lucid, clear consciousness has withdrawn into the central domain of pervasive, empty space, it has been directed inward. At that time, the mind and all appearances disappear as they completely dissolve into an ethically neutral, pervasive void. Through the power of self-­grasping, the essential nature of this great, pervasive vacuity — the ground space of awareness — arises as the mind and mental factors. This is certain. Since space and luminosity are nothing other than the mind, the mind itself becomes self and others by the power of the contributing circumstance of its radiant luminosity.” [30]

How Individuals with Specific Faculties May Enter the Path

“By taking the mind itself as the path, a person of superior faculties directly actualizes the nature of existence of suchness — ultimate reality — and realizes the consummation of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, achieving liberation in the pristine domain of absolute space. A person of middling faculties achieves certainty in the formless realm, and a person of inferior faculties experiences joy20 in the form realm. For a person of the lowest faculties, the path is experienced as happiness in the desire realm. Please, Teacher, explain how this occurs.”

He replied, “O Vajra of Mind, first merge this mind with external space43 and remain in meditative equipoise for seven days. Then fix your attention on a pebble, a stick, a physical representation of the Buddha, or a syllable, and remain in meditative equipoise for seven days. Then imagine a clear, radiant, five-colored bindu at your heart, fix your attention on it, and remain in meditative equipoise for seven days. For some, this places the mind in a state of bliss, luminosity, and vacuity. This experience, devoid of thought, like an ocean unmoved by waves, is called śamatha with signs.

“Some cannot calm their thoughts because the mind is so agitated, [31] and they experience uncomfortable pains and maladies in the heart, the life-force channel, and so on. Those with unstable minds, with a wind constitution, or with coarse minds may fall unconscious or slip into a trance. Such people should relax and let thoughts be as they are, continually observing them with unwavering mindfulness and careful introspection.

“Stillness without thinking of anything is called stillness in the domain of the essential nature of the mind. The movements and appearances of various thoughts are called fluctuations. Not letting any thoughts go by unnoticed, but recognizing them with mindfulness and introspection, is called awareness. With that explanation, come to know these points.

“‘Now, to remain for a long time in the domain of the essential nature of the mind, I shall be watchful, observing motion, keeping my body straight, and maintaining vigilant mindfulness.’ When you say this and practice it, fluctuating thoughts do not cease; however, mindful awareness exposes them, so you don’t get lost in them as usual. By applying yourself to this practice continuously at all times, both during and between meditation sessions, eventually all coarse and subtle thoughts will be calmed in the empty expanse of the essential nature of your mind. You will become still, in an unfluctuating state [32] in which you experience bliss like the warmth of a fire, luminosity like the dawn, and nonconceptuality like an ocean unmoved by waves. Yearning for this and believing in it, you will not be able to bear being separated from it, and you will hold fast to it.

“If you get caught up in bliss, this will cast you into the desire realm; if you21 get caught up in luminosity, this will propel you into the form realm; and if you get caught up in nonconceptuality, this will launch you to the peak of mundane existence. Therefore, understand that while these are indispensable signs of progress for individuals entering the path, it is a mistake to get caught up in them indefinitely.

“This is called ordinary śamatha of the path, and if you achieve stability in it for a long time, you will have achieved the critical feature of stability in your mindstream. However, know that among unrefined people in this degenerate era, very few appear to achieve more than fleeting stability. Nowadays, deities appear to some people, who settle their attention on them. Visions of buddhafields appear to some, and they stabilize and settle their minds on these. Some particularly experience bliss, luminosity, or nonconceptuality, and they settle on this. To others, images of their guru, rainbows, lights, and bindus appear, so they settle on these, [33] and so forth. Understand that due to the functioning of the channels and elements of each individual, experiences are not the same for everyone.”

How Meditative Experiences and Realizations Arise

Boundless Great Emptiness asked, “O Teacher, Bhagavān, please explain how meditative experiences and realizations arise as a result of such practice.”

He replied, “O Vajra of Mind, awareness is nakedly revealed in all the tantras, oral transmissions, and pith instructions of the past. Among them, I will not describe more than a mere fraction of the ways the signs of experience occur. Because individuals’ constitutions and faculties are unimaginably complex and their array of experiences is equally unimaginable, I know that there is no uniformity among them. So understand that I will speak only in the most general terms.

“The indeterminate, inconceivable range of experiences is inexpressible. But teachers with great experience, proficiency in the explanations of the grounds and paths, and extrasensory perception, owing to the strength of their great wisdom, are knowledgeable and clear. Also, although vidyādharas from matured vidyādharas to vidyādharas with mastery over life44 [34] might not have firsthand knowledge of the ways experiences occur, they know them directly by means of extrasensory perception. Even without this, they can free others from their experiences by adapting and interpreting the instructions.


“For example, devas,45 ṛṣis, brāhmins, ācāryas, and so on who practice samādhi cultivate it by focusing on various seed syllables. As a result, whatever purpose these syllables had in meditation, those who practice with them can recite them later while focusing on an illness to benefit men and women. Likewise, vidyādharas can intuitively identify all illnesses; or, by revealing techniques of meditation and recitation for that purpose, they can dispel all but a few diseases that are incurable due to past karma. This being the case, it goes without saying that they can guide a yogin’s experiences on the path.

“If foolish teachers lacking any of these qualities give instruction to students and say that all these experiences will arise in the mindstream of a single individual, they are deceiving both themselves and others, and the life force of their students will fall prey to māras. Why? Outer upheavals such as illusory displays of gods and demons, inner upheavals including various physical illnesses, and secret upheavals of unpredictable experiences of joy and sorrow can all arise. [35]

“When giving instructions on the mind’s nature, foolish, unintelligent teachers explain the causes for disturbing experiences; yet, when they occur, such teachers do not recognize them as such and mistake them for illnesses. Then they compound this by blaming these experiences on demons. They think anxieties portend death, and they insist that their students resort to divinations, astrology, and medical treatment. Then, if the students see the faces of demons and malevolent beings, they may turn to various rituals and other countermeasures. But whatever they do turns out to be completely detrimental, without bringing them an iota of benefit, and finally death is the only way out. In this way, the teacher becomes a māra for students, as if he or she had given them a deadly poison. Ponder this point carefully and apply skillful means!

“When meditation is introduced, with special terminology such as vipaśyanā and so forth, there are many explanations of the stages of the path. Here, on our own path, mindfulness is presented as being like a cowherd, with thoughts like cows. Their steady, vivid manifestation, without interruption by various expressions of hope, fear, joy, or sorrow, is called enmeshed mindfulness.

“In general, these are some of the signs of progress for individuals who take appearances and awareness as the path: [36]


imgThe impression that all your thoughts are wreaking havoc in your body, speech, and mind, like boulders rolling down a steep mountain, crushing and destroying everything in their path

imgA sharp pain in your heart as a result of all your thoughts, as if you had been pierced with the tip of a weapon

imgThe ecstatic, blissful sense that mental stillness is pleasurable but movement is painful

imgThe perception of all phenomena as brilliantly colored particles

imgIntolerable pain throughout your body, from the tips of the hairs on your head down to the tips of your toenails

imgThe sense that even food and drink are harmful, as a result of being tormented by a variety of the 404 types of identifiable, complex disorders of wind, bile, phlegm, and so on

imgAn inexplicable sense of paranoia about meeting other people, visiting their homes, or being in town

imgCompulsive hope in medical treatment, divinations, and astrology

imgSuch unbearable misery that you think your heart will burst

imgInsomnia at night, [37] or fitful sleep like that of someone who is critically ill

imgGrief and disorientation when you wake up, like a camel who has lost her beloved calf

imgThe conviction that there is still some decisive understanding or knowledge you must have, and yearning for it like a thirsty person longing for water

imgThe emergence, one after another, of all kinds of thoughts stemming from the mental afflictions of the five poisons, so that you must pursue them, as painful as this may be

imgVarious speech impediments and respiratory ailments

“All kinds of experiences can occur — called meditative experiences because all thoughts are expressions of the mind, where all appearances of joys and sorrows are experienced as such and cannot be articulated — yet all experiences of joys and sorrows are simultaneously forgotten and vanish:

imgThe conviction that there is some special meaning in every external sound you hear and form you see, thinking ‘that must be a sign or omen for me,’ and compulsively speculating about the chirping of birds and everything else you see and feel

imgThe sensation that [38] external sounds and the voices of humans, dogs, birds, and so on are all piercing your heart like thorns 24

imgUnbearable anger due to having paranoid thoughts that everyone is gossiping about you and disparaging you

imgNegative reactions when you hear and see others joking around and laughing, thinking that they are making fun of you, and retaliating verbally

imgCompulsive longing for others’ happiness when you watch them, due to your own experience of suffering

imgFear and terror about weapons and even your own friends, because your mind is filled with a constant stream of anxieties

imgEverything around you leading to all kinds of hopes and fears

imgPremonitions of others who will come the next day, when you get into bed at night

imgUncontrollable fear, anger, obsessive attachment, and hatred when images arise — seeing others’ faces, forms, minds, and conversations, as well as demons and so forth, preventing you from falling asleep

imgWeeping out of your admiration and reverence for your gurus, faith and devotion to the Three Jewels, sense of renunciation and disillusionment with saṃsāra, or heartfelt compassion for sentient beings [39]

imgThe vanishing of all your suffering and the saturation of your mind with radiant luminosity and ecstasy, like pristine space, although such radiant luminosity may be preceded by rough experiences

imgThe feeling that gods or demons are actually carrying away your head, limbs, and vital organs, leaving behind only a vapor trail, or merely having the sensation of this happening, or experiencing it in a dream

“Afterward, all your anguish vanishes, and you experience a sense of ecstasy as if the sky had become free of clouds. In the midst of this, the four types of mindfulness46 and various pleasant and harsh sensations may occur.

“Spiritual mentors who teach this path properly must know and realize that these experiences are not the same for everyone, so bear this in mind! For a person with a fire constitution, a sense of joy is prominent; for one with an earth constitution, a sense of dullness is prominent; for one with a water constitution, a sense of luminosity is prominent; for one with an air constitution, harsh sensations are prominent; and for one with a space constitution, a sense of vacuity is prominent.


“After all pleasant and harsh sensations have disappeared into the space of awareness — by just letting thoughts be, without having to do anything with them — [40] all appearances lose their capacity to help or harm, and you can remain in this state. You may also have an extraordinary sense of bliss, luminosity, and nonconceptuality, visions of gods and demons, and a small degree of extrasensory perception. The channels and elements function differently from one person to the next, so those with dominant earth and air elements do not commonly experience extrasensory perception or visionary experiences. Extrasensory perception and visions are chiefly experienced by people with a prominent fire or water element.

“Now, to classify the different levels by name, superior vision with single-­pointed mindfulness in which movement and mindfulness are united47 is called vipaśyanā. If a sense of stillness predominates at this time, it is called the union of śamatha and vipaśyanā. In what way is this vision superior? Previously, even if you watched with great diligence, your mind was veiled by subconscious movement and by laxity and dullness, so thoughts were hard to see. But now, even without exerting yourself very much, all thoughts that arise become apparent, and you detect them very well.

“As for the visionary experiences at this stage, some yogins see everything, wherever they look, as forms of deities and as vibrant bindus. Some see different seed syllables, lights, [41] and various other forms. Some perceive buddhafields, unfamiliar lands, melodies, songs, and the speech of various unknown beings, and a multitude of all sorts of vīras and ḍākinīs dancing and displaying various expressions. To some, all sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations appear as signs and omens. Some have the sense of clairvoyantly observing many entities with and without form.

“After meditating deeply in this way, any sense of joy or sorrow may trigger a unification of mindfulness and conceptualization. Then, like the knots in a snake uncoiling, all appearances dissolve into the external environment. Subsequently, everything appears to vanish by itself, resulting in a natural release. Appearances and awareness become simultaneous, so that events seem to be released as soon as they are witnessed. Thus, emergence and release are simultaneous. As soon as things emerge from their own space, they are released back into their own space, like lightning flashing from the sky and vanishing back into the sky. Since this appears by looking within, it is called liberation into the expanse. All of these are in fact [42] the unification of mindfulness and appearances, entailing the single-pointed focus of attention.


“After all pleasant and unpleasant visionary experiences have dissolved into the space of awareness, consciousness rests in its own stainless, radiant luminosity. Whatever thoughts and memories arise, do not cling to these experiences; do not modify or judge them, but let them arise as they rove to and fro. In doing so, the effort involved in vivid, steady apprehension — as in the case of thoughts apprehended by tight mindfulness — vanishes of its own accord. Such effort makes the dissatisfied mind compulsively strive after mental objects. Sometimes, feeling dissatisfied, as if you’re lacking something, you may compulsively engage in a lot of mental activity entailing tight concentration and so on.

“In this phase, consciousness comes to rest in its own state; mindfulness emerges, and because there is less clinging to experiences, consciousness settles into its own natural, unmodified state. In this way, you come to a state of naturally settled mindfulness. This experience is soothing and gentle, with clear, lucid consciousness that is neither benefited nor harmed by thoughts, and you experience a remarkable sense of stillness, without needing to modify, reject, or embrace anything.

“If you are not counseled by a good spiritual mentor at this time, you might think, ‘Now an extraordinary, unparalleled view and meditative state [43] have arisen in my mindstream; this is difficult to fathom and can be shared with no one.’ After placing your trust and conviction in this without discussing it with anyone, you may delude yourself for a while. Even if you discuss your situation with a spiritual mentor, unless that person knows how to listen critically and responds in a persuasive fashion, you will stray far from the path. If you get stuck here for the rest of your life, you will be tied down and prevented from transcending the realm of mundane existence. Therefore, be careful!

“In particular, the experience of luminosity may result in visions of gods and demons, and you may think that you are suddenly being assaulted by demons. At times this might even be true; however, by thinking you are clairvoyant and repeatedly fixating on gods and demons, eventually you will feel that you are being overcome by demons. In the end, by mentally conjuring up gods and demons and spreading the word that you are clairvoyant, your meditation will be all about demons, and your mind will be possessed by them. Then your vows and samayas will deteriorate and you will stray far from the Dharma, become lost in the mundane activities of this life, and befuddle yourself with magic rituals. As you pursue food and wealth without even a trace of contentment, your mind will be ensnared by clinging, attachment, and craving. [44] If you die in this state, you will be reborn as a malevolent demon. Having accumulated the causes of experiencing the environment and27 suffering of a sky-roving preta, your view and meditation will go awry, and you will remain endlessly deluded in saṃsāra.

“When people of middling or inferior faculties enter this path, the signs of the path will surely occur; but if they cling to anything, they will be trapped again by that clinging. Knowing that such experiences are highly misleading and unreliable, leave your awareness in its own state, with no clinging, hope, fear, rejection, or affirmation. By so doing, these experiences will be spontaneously released into their own nature, like mist disappearing into the sky. Know this to be true!

“O Vajra of Mind, there’s no telling what specific types of good and bad experiences might arise. All techniques, from the achievement of śamatha until conscious awareness manifests, simply lead to experiences, so anything can happen. Therefore, understand that identifying all these as experiences is a crucial point and the quintessence of practical advice. Then realize this and bear it in mind!”

Why We Should Practice Meditation

Then Boundless Great Emptiness asked, “O Bhagavān, if all meditative experiences, whether pleasant or rough, are far from being the path to omniscience and bring no such benefit, why [45] should we practice meditation? Teacher, please explain!”

The Bhagavān replied, “O Vajra of Mind, when individuals with coarse, dysfunctional minds agitated by discursive thoughts enter this path, by reducing the power of their compulsive thinking, their minds become increasingly still, and they achieve unwavering stability. On the other hand, even if people identify conscious awareness but do not continue practicing, they will succumb to the faults of spiritual sloth and distraction. Then, even if they do practice, due to absent-mindedness they will become lost in endless delusion.

“The mind, which is like a cripple, and the vital energy, which is like a blind, wild horse, are subdued by tethering them to the stake of meditative experience and firmly maintained attention. Once people of dull faculties have recognized the mind, they control it with the reins of mindfulness and introspection. Consequently, as a result of their meditative experience and familiarization, they have the sense that all subtle and coarse thoughts have vanished. Finally they experience a state of unstructured consciousness devoid of anything on which to meditate. Then, when their awareness reaches the state of great nonmeditation, their guru points this out, so that they do not go astray. [46]

“For this to occur, first you undergo great struggles in seeking the path;28 you take the movement of thoughts as the path; and finally, when consciousness settles upon itself, this is identified as the path. Until unstructured path awareness, or consciousness, manifests and rests in itself, because of the perturbations of your afflicted mind, you must gradually go through rough experiences like the ones discussed.”

Bodhisattva Boundless Great Emptiness then asked, “O Bhagavān, are thoughts to be cleared away or not? If they are, must consciousness emerge again after the mind has been purified? Teacher, please explain!”

The Teacher replied, “O Vajra of Mind, the rope of mindfulness and firmly maintained attention is dissolved by the power of meditative experience, until finally the ordinary mind of an ordinary being disappears, as it were. Consequently, compulsive thinking subsides and roving thoughts vanish into the space of awareness. You then slip into the vacuity of the substrate, in which self, others, and objects disappear. By clinging to the experiences of vacuity and luminosity while looking inward, the appearances of self, others, and objects vanish. This is the substrate consciousness.48 [47] Some teachers say that the substrate to which you descend is ‘freedom from conceptual elaboration’ or the ‘one taste,’49 but others say it is ethically neutral. Whatever they call it, in truth you have come to the essential nature [of the mind].50

“On the other hand, someone with enthusiastic perseverance may recognize that this is not the authentic path; and by continuing to meditate, all such experiences defiled by clinging to blankness, vacuity, and luminosity vanish into the space of awareness, as if you were waking up. Subsequently, outer appearances are not impeded, and the rope of inner mindfulness and firmly maintained attention is cut. Then you are not bound by the constraints of good meditation, nor do you fall back to an ordinary state through pernicious ignorance. Rather, ever-present, translucent, luminous consciousness shines through, transcending the conventions of view, meditation, and conduct. Without dichotomizing self and object, such that you can say ‘this is consciousness’ and ‘this is the object of consciousness,’ the primordial, self-emergent mind is freed from clinging to experiences.

“When you settle into a spaciousness in which there is no cogitation or referent of the attention, all ph

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