The Awareness of Meditation

Meditation is the art of breathing—breathing out and breathing in. The universe, which is beyond understanding and description, is always breathing out and breathing in. It breathes in our lives and then it breathes them out. It breathes in dimensions, beings, feelings, understandings, mind itself. It breathes it in and breathes it out. We could say that life is a cycle, but that implies there’s something that is observing it or that’s outside of the cycle. There’s really only breathing. It’s very simple, really.

Meditation is a process in which we’re essentially, at first, breathing out. We’re exhaling. We’re taking all the thoughts, impressions, feelings, vibrations, understandings, all the self-importance, attitudes, desires, loves, hates, passions, dispassions, meanings, lack of meanings, confused states, illumined states, bored states. We’re taking everything—the concept of everything; that which perceives everything, that which is beyond perception, that which is beyond perceiving—everything must go. We’re exhaling existence, taking it out of the mind, and the mind out of the mind.

After meditation, we inhale. We experience life. But we’ve changed. We’re different because in the purification process of meditation we have touched a deeper threshold within ourselves, of eternity. Mind appears to exist because of the diverse attributes of existence that it perceives as itself. Mind by itself is nothing. It’s colorless. It doesn’t have a substance or a form. Mind only comes into apparent existence through the action of perception. Mind appears to exist because it perceives. It perceives the perfection of existence. As it perceives it, it is that. But by and of itself, mind not separated from mind is qualityless.

The action of perception is inhalation. The action of perception is mind perceiving something as other than itself. The qualityless mind cannot perceive itself in that there’s nothing to perceive. Mind is an essence. It doesn’t take a formation. In other words, we tend to think of mind as who we are, “My mind, it’s what I think with, it’s what I experience with, it is my mind.” Some people are a little further in their understanding of mind, and they think, “Well no, mind isn’t a tool, it isn’t a CASE tool.7 Mind isn’t something that I think with. It’s not like my foot that I walk with. Mind isn’t just an appendage, it’s not brain, but I am mind. I am the mind. I who can think or perceive or even construe that a mind exists, that is mind. All that can be said to be existent is mind. There’s nothing else but mind.”

Someone a little further along in their cosmology would say, “Well, there is only mind. But truly, mind is qualityless.” This is the Tibetan Buddhist realization, that mind does not have any particular qualities or attributes of its own. It’s clear. We say that the mind is composed of clear light, “clear” indicating that it doesn’t have a definite shape, color or destination or point of origination. It is always existent. It is beyond cycles of existence. It will always exist. There’s only one mind, and that is infinity.

The perception of mind in its variegated states, the perception of mind as different roses—yellow rose, red rose, black rose, primrose, various roses—variegation, coloration shifts, subtle or great changes in intonation—that is mind perceiving other than mind. Mind, if it were only perceiving itself, cannot do so since there’s nothing there to perceive. It’s qualityless.

Now, this is hard to begin with; this is not easy. You’ve got to strain yourself a little bit to understand what I’m saying. This is not the easy course in meditation that gives you mediocre results. This is the hard course in meditation that gives you outstanding results. You have to follow along with me.

Now your mind has to follow my mind, which is qualityless. Your mind has qualities because in its apparent perception, it’s involved with a differentiation process that is not yet completed and it still perceives itself as other, whereas my mind does not perceive itself as other. It doesn’t perceive itself at all because it’s clear light. Intrinsically they’re the same. But in the act of working out perception—which we call structural being, or living, taking a body, incarnation, existence, multiplicity, duality—we perceive mind as separate and as having qualities.

One person’s mind is different than another’s. Bob and Sally are different because their minds are different. Their bodies may be different, but their minds are real different. But if mind is truly perceived as mind, it is qualityless; it doesn’t have form or shape. There’s no difference between anybody’s minds because there’s only one mind.

But yet we all have a sense of having a different mind. Your mind is different than somebody else’s mind. It isn’t really different. We are perceiving it as being different because the mind is perceiving qualities. It’s identifying with things that are not mind. And in doing so it makes a mistake; there’s an error in judgment. It perceives separativity, the mind as separate, and qualities appear to have a validity that they really don’t.

Now, we could get into a discussion, I guess, of the difference between that which can be perceived—in other words, if there is mind, and mind is qualityless, what the heck is that which we’re perceiving, which has qualities? If there is only mind, then how can there be anything out there to perceive? You see? But that really is tangential to our discussion. We just take it for granted that the universe is complicated and we’re not going to get it all in one night or one incarnation or one infinity. The universe doesn’t have to be sensible and doesn’t have to work out to our pleasing. It’s complicated; it has variant sides. And to try and think that in one unified field theorem of mind you can get it all is ridiculous, because it’s just not that way.

So we try and perceive it a section at a time—the section that we need, by necessity, is the section that we’re in. That’s karma. Karma relegates us to the reality that is currently extant for us because that’s where we are in our perception. In other words, we’re born into a world that’s suitable for where our mind is at, for what we’re working on. That’s the assignment that we’ve gotten.

So we perceive that action, an orientation of reality that is self-sufficient for us at any given moment. To go worrying about what we’re going to do next month when it’s not next month yet is kind of stupid. We stick with one thing at a time. We’re not going to worry about the qualities that are beyond perception or that are perceivable and confusing. Our aim is to have mind in its primordial, basic, perfect, pristine state, which is meditation.

Meditation, in other words, is mind perceiving itself as mind, without qualities. That’s perfect meditation. It’s simply perfect mind. Meditation is not an action. It isn’t something that you go and do. Rather, what it is, is just mind in its perfect state, without qualities, without confusion. You don’t have to go and meditate. That is mind. Mind is meditation.

Meditation is a word that we’re using to suggest something other than our normal perception, which is confusion. Confusion is the mind confusing itself and thinking that it’s something at all. It can only do that through the function of ego, the sense of “I am.” “I am” is the confusion. “I am” implies a quality or series of qualities, which we call self or being. That suggests that being and self are separate from qualityless mind, and this is where you get all screwed up.

So to start with, as I said, this is the hard course. To start with, to understand mind directly and meditation directly is to see that meditation is not something that we do. It’s not an action. “Susie meditated,” OK. Meditation is in that sentence a ____? (Rama asks audience. Audience responds.) It’s a verb. Right. OK. Meditation can never be a verb because meditation is qualityless. It is mind in its primordial state, and there’s no grammar in nonexistence. Grammar has qualities, shapes and forms. As a former English professor, I can assure you that grammar is the qualitative interpolation of language. Adjectives, pronouns, predicates, past pluperfect indicative ridiculous. It has to do with qualities, shadings, differentiations, rhythmic structures of symbolic meaning. Curiouser and curiouser, if you will.

So then, mind has nothing to do with any of this. Mind is the world of Alice In Wonderland. Alice is sitting up on the bank and she’s learning her lessons and she’s bored, and this little rabbit goes whipping by and down the hole and Alice says to herself, “Hmmm, wonder where the rabbit’s going?” So she slips down the hole and she ends up in Wonderland. Now in Wonderland, if you’ve read the book or seen the film, you know that nothing is the way it appears to be or it certainly wasn’t like it was before you fell down the hole following the rabbit. Caterpillars talk, Mad Hatters have tea parties, all kinds of things go on that don’t make a whole lot of sense to the rational mind that likes to work in the field of qualities.

The study of meditation is the entrance into the world of Wonderland. It has nothing to do with how you’d like it. You want a nice neat little study that’s easily understandable, that can be laid out with start, middle and end. But the end might be the start, the middle is all the time and there’s hardly ever anything but a beginning in meditation. You’re in Wonderland and it’s just not going to make sense. It’s just not going to do it. So you will either reject it, or you’ll go study TM.8 TM is logical, scientific, and will do very little for your complexion. It’s watered down meditation; it’s designed to pacify the mind. In other words, it’s very sensible, scientific—it makes sense. If it’s that, how can it be profound? Profundity suggests that the simple mind is immediately excluded from the audience.

Meditation is profound. It is mind and it is essence. So then, meditation is not a verb. It is the way mind is. That’s why in Zen they call it the natural state, which means that you don’t have to go and do anything to meditate. In effect, a person who is trying to meditate is doing something that’s impossible since meditation is not an action. Yet at the same time, if you don’t do something, you know you’re not going to be meditating. That’s the Catch-22 of meditation.

In the Zen monastery we used to pound people on a regular basis whenever they thought they understood anything. Because if you think you understand, obviously you don’t, since mind is by its very essence qualityless. In qualityless, things are not understood. You can’t understand. You can’t understand since there’s nothing to understand and no one to understand, and understanding itself is a quality principle that is invalid. This is why not too many people meditate. Or if they do, they do TM, which is simply repeating a mantra over and over that has nothing to do with meditation.

In other words, they practice some form of meditation which is simplistic and not really meditation. It might someday lead to the awareness of meditation. Ah! There’s a key phrase—the awareness of meditation, the awareness of mind. We’re in Wonderland and sometimes a thing is the way it appears to be for a few minutes, and then it changes into something else. Nothing is the same in the world of mind.

At best we can say that mind does not have qualities. And what it appears to have as qualities—it’s confused, it’s identifying itself with something other than mind. And that’s not up for debate, it just is. If you debate the issues and the principles, that’s great, but you just get caught up in more qualities and there’s no meditation.

So then, in order to meditate, all we have to do is stop. If we stop, it’s perfect meditation because it’s perfect mind. That’s it. We just have to stop. Now what do we stop? Thought. Impressions, desires, aversions, states of consciousness, ideas of being, essence, substance, predicate adjectives—everything has to go. Final clearance, everything must go. Exhalation—we’re going to exhale everything, all qualities, all perceptions from mind until there’s only the perfect, pristine, clear light, which does not perceive itself as other.

Since we’re in Wonderland, that doesn’t imply that it doesn’t perceive. Just because it’s qualityless doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have qualities. This is Wonderland where anything can happen. Because it’s the essence of the void doesn’t imply it’s a vacuum. That’s just an idea that a person has.

Qualityless simply means that there’s no way to discuss it. There’s no way to pin it down. It could be anything at any given moment since infinity is not bound even by itself, nor by the words that human beings choose to try and talk around it. We’re dealing with something that’s very big here. It’s mind. It goes on forever. It’s endless. It’s perfect. It’s radiant. It’s enlightenment. Mind is enlightenment.

There are numerous ways to get into Wonderland. Once you’re in, it’s very hard to get out, fortunately. That’s the good news. Once you’ve become enlightened, it’s almost impossible to become unenlightened. There are as many ways to become enlightened as there are many roads that lead to McDonald’s. Once you get there, there’s the drive-up window or you can go in for the full experience. So meditation comes in many and variegated forms. The product is the same—when you go to the drive-up window at McDonald’s or whether you go inside, the product is the same. The double cheeseburger is going to be the same, the shake is going to be the same, but you might feel different in your car or in the McDonald’s. That’s a whole different issue. It doesn’t have much to do with what we’re talking about, but I just thought I’d point that out to you. You can get real lined-out in the McDonald’s—I mean the aura of the people who have been there before you, well, you understand. Of course your car, who knows? It’s hard to say.

So then, if you perceive meditation as something that you don’t have to do, it’s easier. It’s breathing out. What you have to do is simply breathe out everything in your mind. When everything is gone and there’s only mind, that’s meditation. See how easy that was? Whereas if we had done it any other way, you wouldn’t have arrived at this understanding. That’s why I had to go through all of that. It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s just that I’m qualityless, immaculate, perfect mind.

This is not easy. You want it to be easy. You’re Western. You want it to all fit in the microwave. You just want to mic it up and it’s done. No effort! Kick back. Sure, meditate. Sure, nothing to it. That’s why TM was such a big seller. They said it was effortless meditation. That doesn’t—I mean there’s no connection—effortless meditation! Effortlessness is a quality. Meditation is qualityless. You think I’m just fucking with you. You’re right! (Audience laughs.)

But we’re also discussing perfect meditation. It’s Wonderland; we can do both simultaneously. That’s the good news. We only have good news in Wonderland. We don’t print anything else.

All you need to do to meditate perfectly is to eliminate everything from mind that has a quality, and when there’s only mind, it falls back on itself and there’s no perception of other—which is why in true meditation there’s no perception. There can’t be perception. If you’re meditating and there’s a sense of the passage of time, if there’s the sense of otherness, of self—even if there’s no thought and there’s a sense of anything—you’re not meditating perfectly. There are still some qualities in the mind and you’ve got to get rid of them. You’ve got to breathe out more. When there’s no perception, mind is perfect—in its perfect state. It’s not confused. So meditation is simply the elimination of everything—in mind, in your mind. Everything that is in your mind goes.

Every time one thing leaves the mind, mind is more pure. It has one less quality and it’s more correct. So it isn’t really a hard thing to do, to meditate. It isn’t really something that we do. Rather, what we do is sit, and we allow the mind to fold into itself and to become perfectly still. Then, as the kundalini energy increases, as the energy of the psyche becomes more pronounced, which it does as thought becomes eclipsed by silence, all the variant mind states and all the stuff burns away. It just goes away, it breathes out.

In other words, we don’t even have to force it out. It’ll go by itself. All we have to do is to make the mind completely silent. If we stop thought, then everything will go away. The breathing out will be done for us by the stoppage of thought.

What meditation really is, is the science of stopping thought. When there’s no thought, it’s meditation. When meditation is meditation, then there’s only pure mind. Pure mind, of course, is ecstasy. All pain, suffering, difficulties and general life problems come from the confusion that occurs in mind, of perception, where mind is perceiving itself as something other than pure mind—of itself as a body, a person, a state, a plane, a being, a rock, frog, cosmic deity. This is all confusion. This is the duality of existence where we believe that we have a separate existence other than pure and perfect, immaculate mind.

Pure and perfect, immaculate mind, which is also referred to as nirvana, is not something, by the way, that’s cold, unfriendly or in any way related to what you call death. Death is simply a doorway that we go through in our experiences. In other words, mind is still confused. If you can die, you’re confused because death is a perception of something ending and something else obviously beginning, which means we’re still hung up in the qualities.

The wonder of immaculate, perfect, pure mind is that when it is in its perfect, extant state without confusion, it can be anything it wants to be. In other words, the riddle is that mind can still manifest itself forth in qualities but remain qualityless. Mind can perceive itself as qualityless in the middle of the qualities. But if you’re perceiving yourself as qualities, that’s the difference.

So the enlightened person, or whatever they are, enlightened shrew or anything, perceives itself as immaculate mind in the valley of qualities and can move through the qualities and even experience the qualities, but knows that it is not of them. Whereas nonenlightened simply means that you perceive yourself as qualities and enlightenment as something other than qualities. Enlightened mind simply means that you are enlightened mind. That’s all there is, and that’s all there could ever be. But you can be in the valley of qualities—in the Valley of the Jolly Green Qualities, right? And that’s fine, that’s not a problem.

In other words, to be pure, immaculate mind does not mean that you don’t exist. It doesn’t mean that you’re in a can somewhere on a shelf with some big guy who is green on the label. It has nothing to do with green giants and green valleys or anything that’s green whatsoever. It’s qualityless. Green is a quality.

You’re very serious people. I noticed that right away. I can tell that you’re people because I can see that you’re identifying with the body and the mind of humans. If you weren’t doing that, then you’d be enlightened, you see? Or you’d be asleep, dreaming. That’s different, of course. Then you’re simply seeing the qualities and identifying with the qualities in the astral as opposed to in the physical and the awakened mental.

When you’re enlightened or when the mind is void, vacuous and perfect, it doesn’t mean that you can’t sort of zip around, drive your car, read a newspaper, walk and have experiences. You can. Void, immaculate mind is all there is, so obviously it can do all those things. In other words, there’s an objective correlative to infinity that is a good trick, which suggests that (Rama talks like a nervous person), “Oh God, if I, if I was just void, immaculate mind, I wouldn’t be any more, Harold! It would be awful! Oh, I don’t want that! I just want, like, better everything! Who wants to get involved with all that cold nirvana? Oh, not good. I won’t be anymore. And who will feed the cat?” (Back to normal voice.) Well, since the cat is truly void, qualityless mind, free of all catness, I’m sure the cat is capable of finding a mouse. This is the peril of mice. This is why it is good not to incarnate as a mouse. Exactly. That’s the truth. You can choose these things.

So then, the key perception that we’re getting to here is that meditation is not what you think. Meditation is not an action; it’s not necessarily difficult. You just have to be very patient. It’s something that’s natural to all of us because we all are that. But it’s not easy to understand. You have to work at it. Meditation is coming back to your original self, if we can use self without a sense of self. It’s perfect, clear light; radiant, infinite mind of the universe, as it is, without identifying with qualities. That’s something that you already are.

It’s like amnesia. A person has amnesia and they walk around and they think that they’re somebody other than they are. They’ve forgotten who they were and they take on a new identity. They wake up one morning in the hospital, they just can’t remember. Somebody gives them a new name, they go out to get a job, pretty soon they have family, friends, and they’ve forgotten that before that hospital they were somebody else. That’s what birth is. Birth is a forgetting—not death. As Wordsworth said, birth is the forgetting. We forget who we were before birth, that we were in another body in this world or another world with another identity. Life is eternal.

Meditation is remembering. Meditation is not void. It’s not empty. It’s simply perfect, qualityless, clear light, which is the essence of all existence, and the substance, perceiving itself as such without anything else. That realization, when the clear light perceives itself as such, without qualities, which isn’t really a perception—it’s a way of trying to talk around it—then that existence always is and it can do whatever it wants. So really, what we’re just saying is that enlightenment, meditation, is really a shift in perception. It’s not a thing that you go and do or become, since you’re already that. But rather, what you are doing is becoming aware of something that you’re unaware of.

You’re waking up from the amnesia of birth, the forgetting of life, and you’re remembering. And remembering is a flood. Suddenly you remember billions of lifetimes. Suddenly you remember the perfect, immaculate nature of the clear light of mind. That’s what meditation really is. It’s not a state, it’s not a condition, it’s not an ecstasy, it’s not peace. Those are things you go through as you eliminate qualities, as you eliminate qualities from mind. It’s the identification. You experience ecstasy, peace, perfections, bliss, naturally, pain, and all those frustrations, desires. Everything goes away. All the things that are negative go away and then all the things that are positive go away until there is just clear light.

But don’t think that clear light is just clear light. In other words, you have a mental concept of what that is and it has nothing to do with it. That’s just a mental concept. Clear light is the extant, radiant, perfect knowledge that is reality. It takes all forms, which are all of us and all things that are extant in any universe, in any reality, in any dimension, in any samsara. And yet it’s beyond and above all these things, what you would call God, I guess, unless you think of God as having qualities—masculine, feminine, mean, friendly. But if God does not have qualities, if God just is beyond all consideration of the mind—God’s really big, you see, and your mind can’t quite—God does not have qualities. That’s the clear light. But that’s what we are.

That’s the message of all enlightened beings to all unenlightened beings, that we are God. We are the clear light and you really don’t have much to worry about. You just don’t know that right now. Someone who is enlightened has shifted their perception so that the clear light is aware of itself as such, without qualities. Yet it acts and exists and takes form. And that’s what you already are, but you just forget that.

Meditation is a remembering. And each time we meditate, we are remembering that simple thing. But it’s not a remembrance in the sense that it’s an intellectualization. It’s an actual experience. You the experiencer meld yourself with the qualityless, perfect light until there’s only the qualityless, perfect light, and you do that as much as you can, and that determines your advancement in meditation—how much you can melt into the light.

So meditation is melting into the light but what I’m suggesting is, the confusion is—you think that you are the person that is melting into the light. That’s what this whole explanation was about. Whereas truly, you are the light that is being melted into, but you don’t know that now, and I do. I don’t just mean “know” as a phrase meaning, “I accept that idea, I believe in it.” I mean it as an actual, visceral experience. You know it. Not just as a thought that, “Yes, I agree with that concept” or, “No, I don’t.” But knowing implies reality in Buddhism.

7. Computer-Aided Software Engineering, popular software tools in the 1990s.

8. Transcendental Meditation