An inexhaustible source of inspiration, the teachings of Bokar Rinpoche help to train the mind and discover the subtle domain of meditation without losing one’s way. Bokar Rinpoche in his teachings shows how suffering and happiness do not depend on external circumstances but on the mind itself. He offers ways to avoid suffering and develop happiness and peace using the practices of mental calming, superior insight, and mahamudra. “Distracted by sense objects or by the succession of thoughts, our mind never remains stable in its own essence. Knowing how to maintain our mind it its own nature, as it is, without being distracted by either outer phenomena or inner thoughts, is precisely what we mean by meditation.” –Bokar Rinpoche.In meditation our body, speech and mind rest in a state of natural ease.In meditation the mind is not preoccupied with the past, does not consider the future, but is settled in the present in a lucid, clear and calm state.Mental calming can be developed by many methods. For example, one can choose a support (explained below).One can also concentrate on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, (counting or just observing) or can rest the mind in a state of non-distraction without taking any particular object of concentration. Employing any of these methods will aid in learning to meditate.It is important to approach each session of meditation with a spacious, open mind. One should not fixate in the hope that the meditation will be good or the fear that it will not be good. The mind should be relaxed, free and vast.The meditator should be free of the hindrances of hoping for a good meditation or fearing a bad one.Question:Once thoughts are quieted, how can one avoid staying in a blank tranquility?Answer: To avoid the lack of clarity or becoming sleepy, one must increase one’s vigilance. However, vigilance should be judiciously regulated. If it is too tight, additional thoughts will be generated; if it is too loose, the result will be sleepiness or stupor. The right balance is necessary.In all circumstances one can maintain a serene, open and relaxed mind. This experience of ease and serenity is itself meditation.While one is learning to meditate, one uses supports to guide it to inner calm. Any external object can be used: a glass, a table, a light, a stature of the Buddha, or any object that pleases us. One then directs all one’s attention to the object, without distraction. It is simple attention which implies neither analysis nor commentary.If during this exercise, the appearance of the object (sight or sound) is clear and precise, it is a sign that our mind is truly concentrated. If, on the other hand, the object becomes blurred and imprecise in appearance, it is a sign that our mind is being carried away by other thoughts.When done regularly, this exercise, whatever the chosen object, will bring great benefit.Meditating on the mind means that one does not follow thoughts which lead toward the future, nor does one follow those that pull one back to the past. One leaves the mind in the present, as it is, without distraction, and without trying to do anything. In this way, a certain experience is born in the mind.When one meditates like this, one simply remains in the experience without adding anything. One abides without commentary.Nowadays, many people are interested in meditation, but few know how to meditate. Most of them believe that meditating is stopping all thoughts and remaining in that state. This is a mistake. In meditation, one does not try to stop thoughts. One keeps the mind open, relaxed and resting without distraction in the consciousness of the present. In this manner, thoughts can stop by themselves, but one does not do anything to constrain them in order to make them stop.In meditation, the body should be free of tension, at ease, at rest. One remains silent and breathes naturally. One keeps the mind open, relaxed, without any thoughts of past or future. The mind remains in a state of great openness and relaxation. No voluntary effort is made to do anything, simply to remain present. Under these conditions, meditation becomes very simple.While meditating, one should never give free reign to thoughts of the past or future. Meditating, in fact, will not present any difficulty if one has properly understood the method. We do not follow thoughts that concern the past or future. We maintain a relaxed mind, just as it is in the present moment. It is then very easy!Meditation should always be like this; not following thoughts of past or future, the mind rests in the present, relaxed and non-grasping.When one meditates like this, one rests for moments without thoughts; but our mind does not always remain in this state and then thoughts arise again.Many people believe meditation must necessarily be a state devoid of all thoughts; or if while they meditate thoughts appear, they conclude that they are incapable of meditating, that meditating is an exercise completely beyond their reach. This, a priori, is a mistake. Meditating is not eliminating thoughts.How should one approach this problem of thoughts?First, it is important to avoid two mistakes:– the first is to be conscious that thoughts produce themselves and then to follow them mechanically;– the second is to try to stop them.The correct view is, on the contrary, to be conscious of the production of thoughts but neither to follow them nor try to stop them and simply not to worry about them.Whether or not there are thoughts is not important; we simply remain relaxed.This is the way to overcome distraction: by keeping the mind relaxed in the present.The meditator should not have the sensation of being in a deed, dark gorge, clouded with fog, but rather on the summit of a mountain, where the altitude and limpidity of the sky permit one to see the entire horizon.The correct manner of placing the mind is essential.There is often a tendency to approach meditation in a very tense manner, in a state of forced non-distraction.One should know how to first relax one’s mind, leaving it open and content. This is a necessary condition.Ordinary people are perpetually in a state if mental distraction, their minds scattered. When one meditates, on the other hand, the greatest obstacles come from additional mental productions, from the commentaries one makes on oneself, and one’s preconceptions. Genuine meditation is avoidance of distraction as well as of any additional mental activity.Sleepiness and AgitationPracticing shinay (calm abiding meditation) one meets two main obstacles: sleepiness and agitation. They are the two enemies of shinay. Everyone meets them depending on one’s nature. For some, sleepiness will dominate, for others it is agitation that takes over. Everyone must see which difficulty affects him or her the most, and apply the corresponding remedy.When one has a tendency toward sleepiness, one needs to tense one’s mind, to open one’s eyes widely and to think that one is looking at the sky.When, at the other extreme, one is seized by agitation, carried away by many thoughts, one should relax, close one’s eyes and imagine that one is looking toward the ground.It is important to be conscious of these difficulties in our meditation and to know how to correctly remedy them, otherwise we risk increasing them. The person who is inclined to sleepiness, whose mind seems dull and obscure, and who, while meditating, tries to achieve a state of excessive relaxation, will attain only a profound sleepiness. This is not a meditation but mental dullness.At the opposite extreme, the one who is agitated by numerous thoughts and who approaches meditation in a tense manner, thinking obstinately, “I am going to meditate”, will only increase the production of thoughts, will not feel at ease, and in fact, will not be able to meditate either. This is why it is very necessary to diagnose one’s problem precisely.It seems that in Tibet and in the East in general, the tendency toward sleepiness dominates, while in the West agitation is the main problem. Whichever it is, when one practices shinay, it is important to place one’s body, speech and mind in a state of ease and openness. The mind should feel happy, without fighting. One should not feel a sensation of being in a narrow, closed room, but rather to have the feeling of being outdoors, in a pleasant place.It is indispensable to be at ease, relaxed and open.These are the cornerstones of meditation.In persevering, one acquires a certain habit of meditation and, with experience, thoughts become like a river which slowly flows into the plains. Finally, the mind is able to rest without thoughts, becoming an ocean without waves.One must understand that it is a progression, that one state will succeed another only after a long and regular practice of meditating. The beginner must not believe that her or she should, from the first session on, be able to access that state where thoughts are absent. This would be impossible for the beginner.It is not useful to think, “I absolutely must not have any thoughts while meditating- no thought should enter my mind!” One should simply maintain an attitude in which one considers that if thoughts arise, it is of no importance; if there are no thoughts, it is also not important.What is important is remaining non-distracted.When the mind calms down naturally and remains thought-free, this is shinay. Nevertheless, there is correct and incorrect shinay.The incorrect shinay if to be without thoughts, but at the same time to find oneself in a kind of obscurity. In fact, one is closer to sleep than shinay.The positive shinay, on the other hand, shares with deep sleep an absence of thoughts, but it differs by the disappearance of the obscurity. The clarity of mind has taken its place. The absence of thoughts combined with clarity is the true shinay. It is an experience that can only come naturally and progressively.It is important to understand this distinction between true and false shinay in order to be able to recognize, in the future, whether one is on the wrong road or not. This does not mean that you should think you are able to establish yourself in the state of perfect shinay right now. You will not be able to, and if you expect to, you will be disappointed. One should accept meditation as it is presently: with or without clarity, without thoughts. What matters is to meditate and to persevere.Question:What is the effect on meditation of keeping the eyes open rather than closed?Answer:If one has a tendency to be agitated, it is better to close the eyes. It, on the other hand, one has a tendency to be sleepy, it is better to keep the eyes widely open.Question: What can one do to counter sleepiness?Answer: When one has a strong tendency to sleep, one has to verify whether the meditation posture is correct, in particular that one’s back is very straight. Secondly, one has to tense one’s mind slightly.Different methods will allow one to find a remedy to sleepiness when it occurs during meditation. However, one should also attempt to act on the deep cause of it. To dissipate the karmic veils which provoke sleepiness, one can do (purification) practice, and make offerings of light.Question: What would be the antidote to great agitation?Answer: When one has a lot of thoughts, it indicates that our mind is turned toward the things of this world. One thinks about material goods, about what one is going to eat, about friends, about places that are dear to one, about what one likes and does not like. Since our thoughts are directed toward that which makes up the world around us, it is necessary to understand that this world does not entirely deserve the interest that one places in it.If we are conscious of this we will be less attracted by the world, and we will have fewer thoughts.Question: Rinpoche has said that a good practice of shinay must be ‘open, clear, and stable’. What exactly does ‘open’ mean?Answer:‘Open’ means a mind that does not impose difficulties upon itself, that is happy, that experiences a feeling of ease. It is not like a person who is carrying a heavy weight, but like one who has dropped a heavy weight.Meditating with effort, with a tension of the will is meditating with a heavy weight on your back. One meditates, but it is very difficult because body and mind are tense. When one meditates with effort, one carries meditation like a weight. If during meditation one has an impression of inner difficulty and lack of ease, it is a sign that the meditator is in this situation. When one ‘puts down the weight’ one experiences by contrast a sensation of comfort, a pleasant feeling.The cornerstone of any meditation is to know how to place one’s mind. It is said in one manual:Good relaxation: good meditationMediocre relaxation: mediocre meditationBad relaxation: bad meditationWhich degree of relaxation would be best? It is true that excessive relaxation predisposes the mind toward distraction and dispersion. Without falling into this excess, one must make an effort to find the threshold of maximum effective relaxation. Abandoning all vigilance would lead to a collapse into confusion. One must maintain vigilance, however, with as little tension as possible.Mental calming implies as much clarity as possible, allied with a deep feeling of freedom.When we contemplate the sea at night, the surface of the water is dark and opaque, a massive shape, which does not allow our vision to penetrate it. In the same manner, a thick and gloomy mind, in spite of its appearance of stability, prevents meditation.When we contemplate the sea during the day, on the other hand, we can see stones and seaweed deep down through the clear water. Our meditation should have this same clarity, which allows us to be fully conscious of the present situation.Question: What should one do about a problem which comes back again and again?Answer: The resurgence of a problem comes from karma, from certain veils and faults which obscure the mind. The remedy is, therefore to purify oneself through the practice of Dorje Sempa, shinay, lhatong, by devotion to the lama, taking refuge, and having compassion for all beings. Once the negative karma is dissipated, the problem will not be able to present itself again because its cause will have disappeared.Our mind is imprisoned by the knots of ego, conflicting emotions and suffering. Praying to the lama, practicing Dorje Sempa, and uniting one’s mind to the lama’s mind allow one to release this grip and recover a state of relaxation and ease. This will greatly reinforce our trust in the Dharma, and will promote the spontaneous rise of compassion toward those who, deprived of the Dharma, do not know the nature of their mind.With meditation, even if it is necessary to receive some instruction at first, the important thing is to develop an inner understanding by meditating. It is then that we will be able to uncover that which is truly our own mind.