The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Monday Mindful Morsel: A Song for the King

by Lydia Anderson
January 13, 2014
Mon, 01/13/2014 - 10:39 -- landerson

Today's Mindful Morsel comes from A Song for the King: Sahara on Mahamudra Meditation by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Mahamudra is the basic meditation practice for many Tibetan Buddhists, particularly of the Kagyu tradition. It is particularly adaptable for modern people, since it involves no rituals and can be incorporated into all daily activities. Saraha’s “Song for the King” is a short verse text from classical India that is a basis for the tradition and is widely known in Tibetan Buddhist circles.

This excerpt is a commentary on the fourth stanza of the poem.

The Wisdom Realizing Emptiness Purifies Ignorance

4.  Though diverse, rivers are one in the ocean.
     Though myriad, lies are overcome by a single truth.
     Though darkness is manifold,
     The rising of a single sun clears it away.

The first of the three analogies refers to rivers: “Though diverse, rivers are one in the ocean” means that all rivers eventually flow into the ocean. This analogy points to the fact that we undergo a wide variety of experiences produced by ignorance. Yet these myriad states of happiness and sadness, in their almost infinite variations, all have the same fundamental nature.Therefore, through the pursuit of one path, any confusion, no matter how vast or various, can be resolved.

The second analogy concerns lies and the truth: “Though myriad, lies are overcome by a single truth.” This illustrates that no matter how many lies are told about something, once the truth is revealed, all those lies, even hundreds of them, are disproved and revealed as false. In one sense this example is an analogy, and in another sense it is a statement about the nature of confusion and realization.Whatever our ignorance and whatever our many varieties of confused appearances may be, if the true nature of phenomena is realized, then all our confusion can be removed, because ultimately it is false. In other words, realization of reality’s truth is overcomes all possible misperceptions about the nature of reality.

From the perspective of the vast sutra path, this means that through meditation on dharmata, confused and incorrect appearances can be effaced. From the perspective of the profound tantra, this means that through meditation on the nature of the mind, ignorance can be gradually eradicated. What is especially significant here is that the path has an effect: it actually brings us to fruition by eliminating ignorance.

The third analogy is of the sun and darkness: “Though darkness is manifold, the rising of a single sun clears it away.” No matter how dark a place is, no matter how vast an area darkness covers, and no matter how long it has been dark, once the sun shines upon it, the darkness is eliminated in an instant. This illustrates the relationship between what is true (the sun) and what is false (the darkness). No matter how much confusion we experience, how long we have been experiencing it, or whether it manifests as a state of happiness or a state of misery, if we cultivate the path of meditation on the nature of phenomena, this ignorance in all of its variety, intensity, and duration can be removed and the true nature can be realized.

In this fourth verse, Saraha states that based on his realization and experience, there is no doubt that the path of mahamudra can remove ignorance. He asserts this to assure his disciples that it is possible, thereby encouraging them to pursue the path. To follow any path and move from one place to another, we need a map, which is based on people having actually traveled on that path. For example, if we want to go from one city to another, we have to make sure that we know how to get there so we will not take the wrong road and get lost. To prevent this, we usually obtain a set of directions or a map. Looking at it, we learn what local roads we need to take in order to get to the right highway. In mahamudra, we use a map that was produced by generation after generation of mahasiddhas, all of whom began exactly like us, in a state of ordinary bewilderment. They pursued this path and achieved its result, the total elimination of ignorance and the full realization of mind’s true nature.Their description of the path allows us not to get lost while traveling upon it.

Some may wonder if actual and accurate instructions for traversing the path still exist. The answer is that they do, and they have not been lost or diluted over time. In fact, each generation of mahasiddhas has added further clarifications to the layout. This is the map that shows us how to find the path in the beginning, how to continue along the path once we have gained some degree of experience, and, finally, what kind of realization we can expect.We can find this spiritual map for the entire path in the books of instruction on the practice of mahamudra.

Learn more about A Song for the King here.

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