Geshe Tinley first visited Vilnius in 2009 and then used to come annually to give free teachings to the local audience. This one of his numerous conversations with Ignas happened drinking tea in the hotel room.


Let’s talk about meditation. More and more Europeans are learning this word. People perceive meditation as a valuable exercise, but in Tibetan Buddhism, it is a tool of an ancient spiritual tradition. Can meditation work if you just meditate without understanding other things?

People all over the world are trying to meditate to calm down. There is nothing wrong with that. Of course, Buddhism does not teach meditation to temporarily calm down, concentrate, or do some work better. Its purpose is different.

Meditation stems from philosophy. All religious traditions are similar in this respect. If you were to ask a true expert in the cultivation of the spirit, “What is the essence of religion?”

He, whether a Christian, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, would answer, “The purity of mind.”

Purity of mind?

Yes. The pure mind is healthy.

The darkness of our minds is like ailments. So, rounding the mind to purity, it recovers. Buddhism calls this level nirvana. Nirvana is a state of mind that is completely cleansed of darkness. Such a mind is perfectly pure and healthy.

This is the highest form of happiness. Once you understand what happiness is, you immediately start wondering how to achieve it. Prayers alone will not succeed. It is not enough to visit a church or temple. It is necessary to learn to fight the darkness and clear them from the mind. Why is darkness there at all? Because the mind is too engrossed in negative thoughts. So, we need to develop a method that tilts the mind from negative to positive thoughts.

Tibetan meditation seeks to accustom the mind to thinking positively. If we examine our sufferings, they all arise from angry, impatient thinking, from a mind polluted with darkness. As a result, we are not happy and prevent others from feeling happy. Meditation brings the mind closer to a positive mindset, and it slowly begins to change, to purify itself. We learn to control our negative thoughts, and we decide, “No, I don’t want to think that way.”

There are two ways to achieve it. The first is to focus on one point. Another way is analytical meditation, where we examine various phenomena in mind. We get rid of ignorance in this way. All the darkness stems from the beech, the misconception. Bluntness like fog does not allow the mind to see clearly. It attracts darkness.

We develop awareness by concentrating on one thing, and through analytical meditation, we realize our true nature. When the true nature is discovered, dullness recedes from the mind, and when there is no more dullness—darkness does not appear. In this way, we can reach a state of pure mind.

Do you say that it is useful to meditate without fostering higher aspirations?

Yes, this is possible. The Buddha taught not only those who aspired to perfect liberation. You can also meditate by caring for the latter life. It is beneficial even for the health of the body. You can meditate even for this life also to not have sickness. Doctors nowadays recommend a positive state of mind, too.

Well-known Russian business guru Efim Ostrovsky has written that using some practice without acknowledging the relevant spiritual tradition is the same as connecting to the electricity grid by bypassing the meter. Sooner or later, the police will catch up on it, and you will have to pay a fine. And you say that it is useful to meditate without even cultivating higher aspirations?

It would be a disaster, but it is possible to achieve this, albeit for a short time. I’m not saying no one should do that. Probably trying to meditate in this way would make more sense than doing nothing.

Another teacher might say that it is not appropriate to do so, but in my view, there is nothing wrong with this. Meditation develops attention and awareness. Maybe a person will make some progress in business or strengthen their health? Noticing that this method is beneficial, it will gradually move to higher aspirations. Taking care of yourself will no longer seem enough to him; there will be a desire to help all living beings. It would be unrealistic, impractical to expect this immediately, but step by step in this way can go a long way. I do not deny that.

It is said that it is important to analyze the temporality of one’s being while meditating. Does such meditation help to properly prepare for death?

It will not be handy for Europeans to think that death is inevitable and can happen at any moment because you do not have the necessary grounds. You must first consider something like this: one day, you will have to die, but is there life after death? And so on. This is very important. Anyway, there is no reason to say that there is life after death - it is just to spread superstitions.

In the same way, you would show that you were superstitious if you boldly claimed that there was no other life after death. Consider what grounds you have to argue in one way or another. Scrutinize this question like a merchant, considering: buy this product or not.

You will gradually become convinced that there are many reasons to believe in life after death.

Even scientists have discovered the law of material durability. When something is broken into small particles, the object becomes invisible, but the whole of its particles does not disappear. Every particle remains; it is impossible to destroy it. It is possible to change the shape and state of a particle, but it is impossible to terminate its existence. This is called the law of material durability.

Science tends to agree that the universe has no beginning. It continues continuously, without beginning and end. The big bang only gave the particle shape, creating a new universe. Following the same logic, the Buddha stated that it is impossible to create or destroy matter two and a half thousand years ago. It always goes on. It is also with our consciousness. It is impossible to re-create consciousness, it continues from the previous, and the latter from the even earlier. There is no beginning. To say that consciousness has a beginning would be a logical contradiction because everything has a reason, and in that case, the first moment would occur without any reason.

It is also logical that at the moment of death, our consciousness is not interrupted. There is no reason for it to stop going on. Death is the cause of the mind’s separation from the body, but it cannot interrupt the continuity of consciousness. Nor does it interrupt the continuation of the existence of matter. Even an atomic bomb does not destroy particles of matter, and it does not interrupt their continuity. The logic of Buddhism states that neither matter nor consciousness ends after death. There is no reason for this. This is a strong but powerful logic.

Good.

Based on this logic, you may think, “If I do not see particles of matter that continue to exist, then my invisible consciousness can also continue.”

Maybe it also continues to break down into some fragments?

No, it continues…

But after all, the body decomposes into particles after death.

Consciousness also continues, only in more subtle forms. It continues in the subtle energetic body, along with it. No soul or Ātman passes into another life. The subtle mind, together with the energetic body, forms the basis for such a thing as the self. Therefore, the “I” continues as well. The “I” is just the name we call the subtle foundations of the self.

But it’s not soul.

No. The soul is perceived in other religions as an eternal and indivisible phenomenon. And “I” is just a name given to subtle basics. Just as we call a forest a relevant composite phenomenon, so the word “I” denotes another composite phenomenon. There is no indivisible self, just as there is no indivisible forest.

The subtle consciousness continues, the subtle body also remains. Their rebirth depends on karmic imprints. When we cultivate a positive state of mind and do good deeds while living, we create positive karma impressions that help to be reborn at a higher level. If we behave badly while living, we damage our body, language, or mind by creating impressions of negative karma. They do not disappear. Each action leaves a corresponding trace, information. It penetrates the level of the mind.

Doctors are interested in what we eat because the information that comes with food remains in the body: useful food, harmful food - all have effects that can be detected at the cellular level. Ultimately, it has an important impact on the body’s health, making the body healthier or diseased from food. The Buddha taught us that our lives depend on our thoughts. Noble or angry thoughts do not disappear without a trace, they leave imprints on the mind, and eventually, life becomes happy or terrible.

When you believe that life does not interrupt after death, when you believe that we are not condemned at birth because we are making imprints of karma ourselves, you may begin to think that it is inevitable, and you may have to die any moment. Then remember that one day death will occur. Then there is a tremendous benefit.

First of all, by remembering the Buddha’s teaching, you will think about the future life. Second, you will begin to strive for merit, cleanse negative karma, and cultivate the mind. Third, you will do good work. Sincerely, pure. Fourth, as you think about the inevitability of death, your darkness will begin to shrink. Knowing that you are only guests on this planet, you will not be strongly attached to either friends or enemies. You will think that maybe the last time you see that person. Fifth, get rid of grief.

Buddhism states that remembering the inevitability of death is very important.

One student once asked a great spiritual teacher how he is continuously able to remain calm, no matter how terrible difficulties he faces. “You are always in a calm mind and a bright mood. What is the mystery of it?” The sage answered, “Why do you care about my mystery? I’d rather tell you if you want to.” The student rejoiced, “Yes, say it!” The teacher said, “Unfortunately, you will have to die in a week.”

The pupil was shocked by such knowledge. He began to think, “Oh, I only have a few days left in this world.” Things that used to seem so important have now become insignificant. No more worries about friends and enemies, what people think, or how to make more money. He thought of every acquaintance as the last one he met. It became enjoyable for everyone. Within a week, he almost got rid of the evil thoughts, wishing everyone the best.

As the week drew to a close, the disciple came to the sages again and said, “I have several hours left to live. Please bless me.” The teacher replied, “Why do you bless me? You have already received it.” The student was surprised, “When?” “A week ago, when I revealed your secret. Didn’t you feel anything?” Said the teacher. “Yes! I became another person,” the student confirmed. “Now you have experienced my secret. I live by remembering that death can happen at any moment,” he explained.

So, it is essential to think that everything is only temporary: both joys and worries. Reflecting on this, you don’t fly too much out of happiness and don’t grieve over failures. Achievements do not turn you arrogant. Disasters do not despair you. Realizing that everything passes quickly, you live in a balance of spirit. The mind calms down.

Thank you, I think these lessons are suitable for Europeans too.