Kurukulla Center

Meditation: Making the Mind Positive

This article was part of a series published in Mandala Magazine (July-August 2000) about Ven. Choden Rinpoche. To learn more about Rinpoche's visit to Kurukulla Center, or to read more articles from this series, please go here.

To meditate means to become familiar with your positive thoughts, positive mind [the Tibetan word for meditation, gom, means to “familiarize”]. You try to increase the positive potentials of the mind and reduce the negative imprints in the mind. If you can’t do that it’s useless to just focus your mind on the breath. It’s meaningless. The main thing is to increase the positive potentials that are in your mindstream. That’s called meditation.

At the beginning you think over and over the various positive thoughts, and gradually the mind gets familiar with them, your mind becomes of that nature; then, you don’t even need to think or give a reason, the thought will rise spontaneously in your mind.

You practice the positive over and over, and when you’re able to eliminate the negative thoughts gradually, then this will cause realizations.

It’s impossible to get realizations quickly! We have been so habituated for many eons with negative thoughts, so we have to purify them first. If you’re able to purify all these, as soon as you purify them you’ll have genuine realizations.

Many lamas in the past did retreat for forty years, twenty years, some for twelve years, and they didn’t get any signs of realization. It’s possible. This is from the obstacles of negativities accumulated over many eons.

When Buddha came onto this earth, the disciples had less delusions and less negative thoughts than at the present, so for that reason they attained realizations in a very short period – within one or two days. Just upon receiving the Buddha’s teachings they would attain realizations.

Asanga, the great Indian pandit is a good example. He did retreat for twelve years, and he never received any sign. He finally left the cave, and when he went outside he saw a dog that had a open wound on its stomach. The wound was infested with maggots, and the dog was barking in anguish. Asanga developed extreme love and compassion towards that dog. He thought that if he left the dog it might die, but if he took the maggots off they would also die. So he cut some of his own flesh for the maggots to live on. He also saw that if he used his fingers to move the maggots they would die, so out of his great compassion he decided to use his tongue to move them. He closed his eyes and extended his tongue towards the dog, but he never reached it.

When he opened his eyes, he saw the Buddha Maitreya in front of him, who had taken the form of the dog. Asanga said, “I meditated on you for twelve years but couldn’t see you. Why didn’t you give me a sign in twelve years?” Maitreya replies, “I was always with you during these twelve years, but you couldn’t see me because of your negative obscurations. But because you generated great love and compassion, it eliminated all of your obstacles and you could see me.”

So our negativities obstruct our ability to obtain realizations, and this is why we need to purify in order to have the realizations.

Does working for the lama and Dharma centers purify negativities? That totally depends on your motivation. If you do this work to serve your guru and promote the Dharma, and think this Dharma will help more sentient beings and bring happiness to them; if you think this way it will definitely purify your negativities.

If you think only about this life, and think that you’re doing it to receive a salary or because you receive a nice house and good things to eat, then it’s not purifying the negativities. You have to generate the motivation that you’re working for others.

As soon as you wake up you should think, “I’m working in the service of my guru, and I’m working to preserve and promote the Dharma, and to help sentient beings. This will help bring happiness to sentient beings.” If you do this, your whole day will become positive. If you think only of the things of this life without thinking of anything else, this won’t increase the positive side.

This article first appeared in Mandala Magazine, July/August 2000.