“Listening, contemplating, and meditating are known as the “three wisdoms.” Each of these practices is vital to actualizing our buddha-nature and our abilities to benefit others. First, listen carefully and closely to the teachings you receive. This should encourage and inspire you to make a joyful effort. Do not simply collect teachings—look into the implications and contemplate their meaning. Then, apply them to yourself so that what you’ve received does not merely penetrate your ear and brain. Really connect with the meaning behind the instruction, take it into your heart, and reaffirm the truth of each word with your own understanding. That is known as contemplation. By deeply contemplating the teaching, you will naturally actualize the result known as meditation. Meditation will help mature what you’ve learned so that your knowledge is not simply intellectual or conceptual. Results will ripen as you grow. Although all three are indispensable, meditation is the most important.
To apply these three practices, we must learn to recognize and release the tendency to indulge in distractions. This is especially true when we are first beginning, but distractions can be a serious hindrance at every stage of practice, especially during meditation. The Dzogchen teachings say, “There is no meditation. Non-distraction is the meditation.” In the Prajnaparamita teachings, Buddha Shakyamuni listed ten types of distractions that can occur during practice and prevent our progress, including conceptions of: (1) nonexistent nature, (2) existent nature, (3) exaggeration, (4) deprecation, (5) the conception of one, (6) the conception of many, (7) identity, (8) discrimination, (9) holding titles and names, and (10) conceptions of meaning.
Distractions come uninvited, so we need a clear, vivid mindfulness to undermine their influence and to practice effectively. This doesn’t always come easily, even if we have the right motivation and can sustain a joyful effort. Learn to listen undistractedly. Do not let attention wander during contemplation practice. Avoid clinging to ideas and images while in meditation. To avoid following thoughts, be mindful and observe with relaxed alertness.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1
Photo of Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche studying and contemplating in the 1990s.
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