A short meditation teaching by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

FIRST, LOOK TO your posture: arrange the legs in the most comfortable position; set the backbone as straight as an arrow. Place your hands in the position of meditative equipoise, four finger widths below the navel, with the left hand on the bottom, right hand on top, and your thumbs touching to form a triangle. This placement of the hands has connection with the place inside the body where inner heat is generated. Bending the neck down slightly, allow the mouth and teeth to be as usual, with the top of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth near the top teeth. Let the eyes gaze downwards loosely. It is not necessary that they be directed to the end of the nose; they can be pointed toward the floor in front of you if this seems more natural. Do not open the eyes too wide nor forcefully close them; leave them open a little. Sometimes they will close of their own accord; that is all right. Even if your eyes are open, when your mental consciousness becomes steady on its object, these appearances to the eye consciousness will not disturb you.

For those of you who wear eyeglasses, have you noticed that when you take off your glasses, because of the unclarity there is less danger from the generation of excitement and more danger of laxity? Do you find that there is a difference between facing and not facing the wall? When you face the wall, you may find that there is less danger of excitement or scattering. These kinds of things can be determined through your own experience. . . .

TRY TO LEAVE YOUR mind vividly in a natural state, without thinking of what happened in the past or of what you are planning for the future, without generating any conceptuality. Where does it seem that your consciousness is? Is it with the eyes or where is it? Most likely you have a sense that it is associated with the eyes since we derive most of our awareness of the world through vision. This is due to having relied too much on our sense consciousness. However, the existence of a separate mental consciousness can be ascertained; for example, when attention is diverted by sound, that which appears to the eye consciousness is not noticed. This indicates that a separate mental consciousness is paying more attention to sound heard by the ear consciousness than to the perceptions of the eye consciousness.

With persistent practice, consciousness may eventually be perceived or felt as an entity of mere luminosity and knowing, to which anything is capable of appearing and which, when appropriate conditions arise, can be generated in the image of whatsoever object. As long as the mind does not encounter the external circumstance of conceptuality, it will abide empty without anything appearing in it, like clear water. Its very entity is that of mere experience. Let the mind flow of its own accord without conceptual overlay. Let the mind rest in its natural state, and observe it. In the beginning, when you are not used to this practice, it is quite difficult, but in time the mind appears like clear water. Then, stay with this unfabricated mind without allowing conceptions to be generated. In realizing this nature of the mind, we have for the first time located the object of observation of this internal type of meditation.

The best time for practicing this form of meditation is in the morning, in a quiet place, when the mind is very clear and alert. It helps not to have eaten too much the night before nor to sleep too much; this makes the mind lighter and sharper the next morning. Gradually the mind will become more and more stable; mindfulness and memory will become clearer.

Further advice on the Meditation Posture

The first step in meditation is correct physical posture. We commonly describe this in terms of a sevenfold physical posture called the "Seven Points of Vairocana." The position of one's body has a very direct and powerful effect on the state of one's mind.

There is a very strong connection between body and mind. At the subtle level, body consists of the outer and inner forms. The outer form is our physical body, and the inner forms are the channels and prana. It is said that if the body is straight or erect, the channels are straight; and if the channels are straight, then the wind-prana flows straight. When the channels and prana are straight, then mind becomes balanced, calm and clear. So having a correct and upright posture causes one's mind naturally to come to rest in a state of tranquillity or peace.

Preparation Of The Meditation Seat

First, one prepares a comfortable seat, consisting of a meditation flat meditation cushion or mat , and a small round or rectangular cushion to go under one's backside. The actual size, form and materials composing the cushions depend on what is comfortable for your particular body. The proper seat is extremely important.

1. Posture Of The Legs

The first posture discussed is the position of the legs. Either of two main postures are preferred. First, the most common posture, is sitting cross-legged with one foot just in front of the other, in what is called the "bodhisattva's posture." This posture is depicted in paintings of Tara and others. Second, the more demanding posture is called the "vajra posture," often referred to in the west as the "lotus posture," in which the feet are placed on the opposite thigh. This posture is depicted in paintings of Vajradhara and others. So the first point is the legs.

2. Posture Of The Eye Gaze

The second posture is the gaze of the eyes. The eyes are neither made to open wide, nor are they closed. Their lids are half-lowered, and the gaze is angled slightly downward in the direction of the tip of one's nose. The reason for this is that if one's eyes are wide open, and one is looking outward, then one's mind will tend to follow visual perception. On the other hand, if one's eyes are closed, one tends to become dull. This posture describes a happy medium between the two extremes of gaze.

3. Posture Of The Back

The third posture is the back, or spine. One sits upright and keeps the back straight, like an arrow.

4. Posture Of The Shoulders

The fourth posture is to keep the shoulders even and relaxed. One refrains from sitting with one shoulder higher than the other, holding the shoulders them at the same height.

5. Posture Of The Head

The fifth posture is bending or slightly hooking the throat, which actually straightens the back of the neck, but not to an excessive degree. The chin is tucked in slightly.

6. Posture Of The Mouth

The sixth posture is slightly opening one's mouth and leaving some space between one's upper and lower sets of teeth--enough that, if one had to, one could breath through the mouth. The mouth is not clamped shut.

7. Posture Of The Tongue

The seventh posture is to place the tongue so that the tip or front of the tongue touches the palate.

8.Posture Of The Hands

The placement of the hands is not part of the seven postures, but a few alternatives are taught. In the "gesture of meditation," one hand is placed palm upright in the other one, which is also palm upright. Alternately, the hands may be placed palm downward on the legs just behind the knees.