- a westerners meeting with the magical and mystical Tibetan art of meditation
Introduction to the text
- an extract from "With Magicians and Mystics in Tibet" by Alexandra David-Neel
Kyilkhors are diagrams drawn on paper or material, or engraved on stone, metal or wood.
Then, the dot moves towards the man who beholds it and sinks into him. One must note the part of the body in which it seems to disappear. A period of meditation follows that exercise, which may be done again and again as many times as desired.
And into the mind they sink."
To be indifferent to all. Behaving like the dog or the pig that eat what chance brings them.
To consider with perfect equanimity and detachment the conflicting opinions and the various manifestations of the activity of beings. To understand that such is the nature of things, the inevitable mode of action of each entity and to remain always serene.
(Compare Dhammapada: "When the learned man drives away vanity by earnestness, he, the wise
one, climbing the terraced heights of wisdom, looks down upon the fools. Free from sorrow, he looks upon the sorrowing crowd, as one that stands on a mountain looks down upon them that stand upon the plain." The Dhammapada is a work belonging to the Buddhist canonic Scriptures in Pali language.)
We must make up our minds to accept an apparent chaos which is a natural result of the different individual tendencies and aptitudes which the gurus, adepts of the "Short Path," refuse to crush. "Liberty" is the motto on the heights of the "Land of Snows," but strangely enough, the disciple starts on that road of utter freedom, by the strictest obedience to his spiritual guide. However, the required submission is confined to the spiritual and psychic exercises and the way of living prescribed by the master. No dogmas are ever imposed. The disciple may believe, deny or doubt anything according to his own feelings.
I have heard a lama say that the part of a master, adept of the "Short Path," is to superintend a "clearing." He must incite the novice to rid himself of the beliefs, ideas, acquired habits and innate tendencies, which are part of his present mind, and have been developed in the course of successive lives whose origin is lost in the night of time.
(The word used by the author is khungs, which means the "source," the "origin." The quotation is taken from the work called The Lamp of the Way. A similar definition is found in the Yoga sûtras of Patanjali.)
of enabling oneself to reject all imaginative thoughts together with their seed."
It is said that the disciple is about to gather the fruit of this practice when he loosens the firm footing he had kept, till then, in his quality of spectator. He too — so he must understand — is an actor on the tumultuous stage. His present introspection, all his acts and thoughts, and the very sum of them all which he calls his self, are but ephemeral bubbles in a whirlpool made of an infinite quantity of bubbles which congregate for a moment, separate, burst, and form again, following a giddy rhythm.
"I keep the yaks
(Yak, spelt gyag. The Tibetan wild hairy ox that has been domesticated.)
on the hills," answered the man.
"All right," says the gomchen. "Meditate on a yak."
The novice repairs to a cave roughly fitted up to serve as a habitation — a few such shelters can always be found in the regions inhabited by herdsmen — and settles down there.
A stone or some other obstacle caused the man to fall, but so strong was his concentration of thought that the shock did not break it. He got up loudly apologizing:
(A native of Bhutan.)
lama. The joke is coarser than the former one and reflects the mind of the sturdy massive Dugpa hillmen.
Now, the bare ground alone remains and from it the novice must subtract the stones and the earth. The ground in its turn vanishes. . . .
Now the student will endeavour to make the "consciousness" leave its habitual abode and transfer it, for instance, to his hand, then he must feel himself to have the shape of five fingers and a palm, situated at the extremity of a long attachment (the arm) which joins on to a big moving structure, the body.
experience the sensation of thinking in their head, and I experience it in my heart, one may believe that it is quite possible to feel it in the foot. But all these are only deceitful sensations, with no shadow of reality. The mind is neither in the heart nor in the head, nor somewhere outside of the body, apart, separated, alien to it. It is to help one realize this fact that these apparently strange practices have been devised."
(Called Zen sect, in Japan.)
They express them in enigmatical sentences such as: "Lo, a cloud of dust is rising from the ocean and the roaring of the waves is heard over the land."
We are in doubt as to whether such ways of thinking have been imported into Tibet from India or from China. I may, however, state the opinion expressed by a lama: "The Bönpos," he said, "taught such things long before Padmasambhava came to Tibet.''
(This means before Buddhism spread into Tibet.)
Whether the heat be actual or subjective the exercise has more than once warmed my feet, and given me a refreshing sleep while spending the night under a tent — or even without any tent — outdoors in the snow. But unless one has been trained for a long time in the practice, it requires strenuous efforts which make it extremely tiring.
Nevertheless the disciple went through the prescribed ordeal without spilling a drop of water. Nothing offered to his eyes had been capable of producing the slightest movement in his mind. Janaka sent him back to his guru saying that he did not need any lessons.
Yes, all that is necessary, perhaps, even indispensable to the majority of novices, but as a preparatory drill only, the goal is elsewhere. Let us make haste and finish with the preliminary process.
and the very short time allowed for sleep. Often the recluse does not lie down and only dozes in one of those gomti which have been described in a previous chapter.
(See the end of Chapter II.)
Though the previous stages have taken long to be effected they may be considered the easiest part of the process. The following are much more arduous to attain, and only a small minority of novices meet with success.
"You have reached the desired goal," says the guru to his exultant disciple. "I have nothing more to teach you. You have won the favours of a protector mightier than I."
(A declaration continually repeated by Tibetan mystics.)